News We Need to Lose

4 Reasons the Corporate Media Refuses to Talk About Things That Matter

By Thom Hartmann/ Common Dreams/ January 10, 2019

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The media recently was all over Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for calling Donald Trump a “m@therf*cker” in the context of wanting to impeach him. It got lots and lots of coverage, over a period of several days, while the really big work the Democrats were doing in the House is largely ignored, along with most other consequential issues of the day.

Ever since the media began, in a big way in the 1980s, to ignore actual news and go for highly dumbed-down or even salacious stories, many of us who work in the media have been astonished by this behavior by the network and cable news organizations and the major newspapers.

They used to report the details of policy proposals in great detail (see this report from the 1970s about Richard Nixon’s proposal for universal health care, comparing his with Ted Kennedy’s, for example). But since the Reagan era, the networks have largely kept their coverage exclusively to personality, scandal, and horse race.

Why would that be? Why, since the late 1980s, has the “news” lost any semblance of actual news and detail, and degenerated into a cleaned-up version of the National Enquirer?

For example, on January 3, the House of Representatives passed one of the most sweeping political reform bills since the Nixon era, including automatic voter registration, 15 days of nationwide early voting, and an end to gerrymandering. Not to mention a totally revolutionary code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

But was there any coverage of these details—or even of the bill itself—in the media? Even though there’s no way it would pass the Senate, it’s worthy of discussion and debate.

This is just one example of dozens of events that happen every day and are completely ignored by the media in favor of “who’s up and who’s down” horse-race reporting, and gotcha or scandal coverage.

Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever.

Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever. Every issue is instead framed in the horse-race format of “who’s going to win this fight”—leaving Americans uninformed about the consequences to themselves of the issues being fought over.

But the networks love scandal and conflict. So, to get issues on TV, maybe it’s time to make them obscene.

Imagine if the Democratic Party were to enlist a dozen or so members of Congress to go on national TV and say things like:

Alas, it’s just a dream.

Even if the Democrats did this, the only dimension of it that would get covered would be how much political damage (or benefit) the profanity may be doing to the politicians who are the source or butt of it, as happened with Representative Tlaib. In other words, they’d turn the issues aside and focus on the personalities and the horse race.

Which brings us back to the media refusing to actually discuss or inform the American public about actual issues.

Why would it be this way in 2019, when there’s such a demonstrable thirst for issues-based discussions, as we can see with the ratings of the few top cable network shows that actually do discuss issues and don’t spend half their hour with a “panel”?

Trying to figure out why this is, I’ve come up with four possible reasons (none of which are mutually exclusive; it may be all or a combination of them). Let me know on Twitter or call into my show if you have additions to the list.

 

media

1. The End of the Fairness Doctrine

In 1987, Ronald Reagan ordered his FCC to cease enforcing the Fairness Doctrine. This much-misunderstood regulation required radio and TV stations, in order to keep their licenses, to “pay” for their use of the public airwaves (the property of We the People) with actual news. It was called “broadcasting in the public interest.”

Because of the Fairness Doctrine, every one of the networks actually lost money on their news divisions, and those divisions operated entirely separately from the entertainment programming divisions of the networks.

CBS, ABC, and NBC had bureaus all around the world and employed an army of reporters. At the little radio station where I worked in Lansing, Michigan, in the 1970s (WITL), we had, as I recall, five people staffing the newsroom, and it was a firing offense if we were caught hanging out with the sales staff. While stations lost money on news, the payoff was the much larger sums they could earn with entertainment during the rest of the hour or day.

The Fairness Doctrine also encouraged a discussion of the issues of the day with the “balanced commentary” (probably not the official name; it’s what we called it in the ’70s) requirement. This did not say that if a station carried an hour of Limbaugh, they’d have to balance it with an hour of Hartmann. “Entertainment” programming (see Joe Pyne, William F. Buckley, etc., etc.) could have any tilt it wanted.

But when a station ran an editorial on the air that conveyed the opinion of the station’s owners, they then had to allow a member of the community to come on the air and present a balancing and different perspective. If this provision was still in the regulations, every time Sinclair Broadcast Group requires their local stations to air their “must-carry” right-wing editorials, they’d have to follow them with a left-wing perspective rebutting their points.

2. The Rise of “Reality TV”

Reality TV grew out of the twin writers’ strikes of 1988 and 2001. In each case, the networks had to figure out a way to offer compelling programming with shows that didn’t require union writers. In 1988, they mostly did documentaries on policing like “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted”; in 2001 they rolled out the full-blown reality programming we know today, starting with “Survivor.”

The networks learned two big lessons from this. The first was that “reality” programming actually pulled an audience, and thus was profitable. Extremely profitable, in that it didn’t require union writers and generally didn’t even require union actors.

The second was that it was incredibly cheap to produce.

If you tuned into TV prior to the Reaganification of the news, you may still have heard “experts” discussing things, but there were several differences. First, they were usually actual experts on actual issues that were before Congress. Second, they were a very, very small part of the overall program.

In the years since the rise of reality TV, the news networks have discovered that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to have four or five or six “pundits” join a host for an hour and “discuss” the issues of the day than it is to pay for actual salaried reporters and news bureaus around the nation and the world.

So every hour, at least on the low-budget or weak-talent shows (notice what a contrast the Maddow show is to this truism), plan on hearing a half-dozen very, very familiar talking heads discussing ad nauseam the same four or five stories all day long.

So every hour, at least on the low-budget or weak-talent shows (notice what a contrast the Maddow show is to this truism), plan on hearing a half-dozen very, very familiar talking heads discussing ad nauseam the same four or five stories all day long. (One wonders why the networks don’t encourage their talent to do more of the kind of in-depth reporting and analysis found on Rachel’s show, particularly since it’s profitable and draws killer ratings. Perhaps the answer is found in reasons three and four.)

Guests like you see on the panels that fill daytime news programming start out working for free, and if they become an “analyst,” “contributor” or some other title for the network are paid between $500 and $2,500 an appearance. In a world where on-air personalities often start with seven-figure salaries, this is incredibly cheap programming.

Even cheaper for the networks is to have politicians on as guests—they show up for free!—which may be why they’re almost never held to account in any serious way. After all, if you piss off a politician on your network and they refuse to ever come back on the air, you’ve lost another bit of “free” talent. And if you piss off an entire political party, and your programming model doesn’t work without “balance,” you’re really screwed.

There’s a reason people all over America are screaming at their TVs every Sunday morning: the majority of guests are conservatives or Republicans, and much of what they offer as “fact” or “opinion” is merely lies and propaganda. Which leads us to number three.

3. Media Corporations Are Corporations, Too

It’s easy to postulate that the absolute lack of coverage of the death, at GOP hands, of net neutrality is because two of the big three cable TV networks are (or soon will be) owned by internet service providers (NBC/MSNBC is owned by Comcast, AT&T is trying to buy CNN), and other big corporations see all sorts of financial advantage if they can use their financial and programming muscle to dominate a newly sliced-and-diced corporatized internet.

Consider: When was the last time you heard an intelligent discussion on TV about taxing the rich? Or holding corporations accountable when they break the law? Or how destructive oligopolies and monopolies are to workers? Or how big pharma scams us about their R&D expenses and price fixing, buying up generic companies, etc.? The list could go on for pages.

Back in the day, the big joke in corporate America was, “You know it’s going to be a bad day when you get to work in the morning and there’s a ‘60 Minutes’ news truck outside the building.” The last time this was seriously considered was in the late 1980s, as in this article about “60 Minutes” doing an exposé of the meat industry. Now, not so much.

The simple fact is that TV “news” organizations are now for-profit operations, and, lacking regulation like the Fairness Doctrine, thus have the same natural and inherent biases toward protecting corporate power and privilege, and the wealth and privilege of their management and largest shareholders.

They also derive the bulk of their money from two sources—billionaire-funded political campaigns (have you noticed how there’s no in-depth coverage of the political spending of the Kochs, Adelsons, and Mercers of the world?), and giant transnational corporate advertisers.

They also derive the bulk of their money from two sources—billionaire-funded political campaigns (have you noticed how there’s no in-depth coverage of the political spending of the Kochs, Adelsons, and Mercers of the world?), and giant transnational corporate advertisers.

All those campaign ads represent hundreds of millions of dollars going right into the pockets of the networks and their affiliates, along with other corporate advertising revenue. Lacking a regulation like the Fairness Doctrine to require actual “programming in the true public interest news,” who’d bite those hands that feed them?

4. Corporations Like Republicans

The final possibility that occurs to me (and others in media with whom I’ve discussed this over the years) is that the large TV and radio news operations simply like what the GOP stands for. They also know that if GOP policies were widely understood, the Republican Party would fade into the kind of powerless obscurity it enjoyed for most of the FDR-to-Reagan era, when working people’s salaries were growing faster than management and the middle class was solid and stable.

TV networks don’t like unions or uppity workers or regulation any more than any other billion-dollar corporation. They’d prefer the salaries of their senior corporate management weren’t debated (or even known). They prefer to live in today’s semi-monopolistic system where they’re only minimally held accountable, and want to keep it that way.

This is the core of GOP ideology that media shares: Cut taxes on rich people, kill off the unions, cut welfare so more of that money can go to rich people’s tax cuts, deregulate big corporations so they can act without regard to the public good, and subsidize big corporations with government funds whenever and wherever possible.

But if any of these issues were ever explicitly discussed on TV, all hell would break loose. Can you imagine if Bill Kristol or Rick Santorum or any of the other dozens of right-wing trolls who inhabit cable TV were ever asked about their actual positions on policy?

Should we sell off (privatize) Social Security to the big New York banks as the GOP has wanted to do since the 1930s? Should we end Medicare and Medicaid and turn everybody over to the tender mercies of the insurance industry? Should we stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry? What should we do about the audit that found $21 trillion (yes, with a T) missing from the Pentagon? How do we break the stranglehold monopolistic drug corporations have on the pricing of our pharmaceuticals?

The networks are equally terrified of having actual progressives on to discuss actual progressive issues—because the majority of American voters largely supports these issues and, if well informed, will start to vote out Republicans and vote in progressive Democrats.

Similarly, the networks are equally terrified of having actual progressives on to discuss actual progressive issues—because the majority of American voters largely supports these issues and, if well informed, will start to vote out Republicans and vote in progressive Democrats.

Imagine how things would go down if the networks started having actual discussions and debates about free college education, free national health care, the environmental impact of big oil, how well publicly owned utilities and internet services (like Chattanooga) work?

The simple reality is that the media oligopoly and the GOP work hand-in-glove, and the Democrats (and particularly the progressives) have been locked out since the Reagan era.

Solutions

The solutions to these problems are not particularly complex, although the GOP will fight them tooth-and-nail.

Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, put back into place ownership rules, and break up the big media monopolies so there’s a diversity of voices across America. Overrule the Supreme Court’s (by legislation or constitutional amendment) Citizens United (and similar) ruling to regulate money in politics, diminishing the power of big corporations and billionaires (and foreign governments).

In other words, restore to America a rational media landscape.

Today, you can drive from coast to coast and never miss a moment of Hannity or Limbaugh on the radio, so complete and widespread is the nation’s network of corporate-owned radio stations that will only carry right-wing talk. You’ll be hard-pressed, outside of a few major cities, to find any progressive or even moderate talk programming.

This has corrupted America’s politics and led to a nation divided.

We can do better.

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Freefall Economy

The US is on the edge of the economic precipice – Trump may push it over

By Robert Reich/ The Guardian/ December 23, 2018

Dream

On Friday, Donald Trump said: “We are totally prepared for a very long shutdown.” It was one of his rare uses of the pronoun “we” instead of his preferred and in this case far more appropriate “I.”

The shutdown is indubitably his. Congress offered him a way to continue funding the government without the money to build his nonsensical wall along the Mexican border, but Trump caved in to the rabid right-wing media and refused.

Don’t count on American consumers to come to the rescue. Most Americans are still living in the shadow of the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009.

More Americans have jobs, to be sure, but their pay has barely risen when adjusted for inflation. Many are worse off due to the escalating costs of housing, healthcare and education.

Trump has added to their financial burdens by undermining the Affordable Care Act, rolling back overtime pay, hobbling their ability to join together in unions, allowing states to cut Medicaid, and imposing tariffs that increase the prices of many goods.

America’s wealthy, meanwhile, have been taking home a growing portion of the nation’s total income. But the rich spend a small fraction of what they earn. The economy depends on the spending of middle-, working-class and poor families.

The only way these Americans have continued to spend is by going deeper into debt. By the third quarter of this year, household debt had reached a record $13.5tn. Almost 80% of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

This isn’t sustainable. Even if the Fed weren’t raising interest rates — an unwise move under these circumstances — consumers would still be in trouble. Mortgage, auto and student-debt delinquencies are already mounting.

The last time household debt was nearly this high was in 2007, just before the Great Recession. Similarly, between 1913 and 1928, the ratio of personal debt to the total national economy nearly doubled. Then came the Great Crash.

See a pattern?

The problem isn’t that Americans are living beyond their means. It’s that their means haven’t been keeping up with the growing economy. Most gains have gone to the top. If the majority of households had taken home a larger share of national income, they wouldn’t have needed to go so deeply into debt.

Without wage growth, American workers can’t continue to buy without going into deeper debt. Unless they continue to buy, the economy can’t continue to move forward.

It’s the same sort of trap that preceded the 2008 and 1929 crashes.

After the 1929 crash, the government invented new ways to boost the wages of most Americans — social security, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, a minimum wage — the requirement that employers bargain with labor unions, and, finally, a full-employment program called the second world war.

By contrast, after the 2007 crash, the government bailed out the banks and pumped enough money into the economy to stop the slide. But apart from the Affordable Care Act, nothing was done to address the underlying problem of stagnant wages.

Ten years after the start of the Great Recession, we face another economic precipice.

It’s important to understand that the root cause of those former collapses wasn’t a banking crisis. It was the growing imbalance between consumer spending and total output brought on by stagnant wages and widening inequality.That imbalance is back.

Trump is making it worse.

trump budget

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$21 Trillion–Poof! It’s Gone.

The Pentagon Failed Its Audit Amid a $21 Trillion Scandal (Yes, Trillion)

By Lee Camp/ Truthdig/ December 18, 2018

gun

New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was ruthlessly attacked recently, and I feel a bit responsible. I might have accidentally tainted her Twitter feed with truth serum.

But that sounds weird—so let me back up.

A few months ago, I covered the story of the $21 trillion that has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon. That’s right—trillion with a T—an amount of money you can’t possibly come to terms with, so stop trying. Seriously, stop. It’s like trying to comprehend the age of the earth.

(The earth is 4.5 billion years old. To put that into context, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 11 years left to completely change our ways or climate change will make the earth uninhabitable. If you were to take the age of the earth and lay it out on the span of a calendar year, this means we would have less than a millisecond left on Dec. 31 to utterly change our ways or all is lost.)

Anyway, the $21 trillion includes $6.5 trillion unaccounted for at the Pentagon in 2015 ALONE. When I covered all this a few months ago, very few people were talking about it. David Degraw investigated it for his website (which has since been destroyed by hackers), and Mark Skidmore, the economist who discovered the unaccounted adjustments, co-authored a single Forbes articleon the subject. And by “discovered,” I don’t mean that Skidmore found a dusty shoebox in Donald Rumsfeld’s desk underneath the standard pile of baby skeletons. I mean that he took a minute to look at the Defense Department’s own inspector general’s report. So really he just bothered to look at the thing that was designed for the public to look at.

Anyway, my column on this topic went viral, as did the Forbes article, each garnering hundreds of thousands of views. Yet despite all that, still not a word from Congress, and not a word from the hacks at your mainstream media outlets. But then again, getting important news about the corruption of our military-industrial complex from the mainstream media would be like getting a philosophy lesson from a strip-club dancer (in that it would be most unexpected, and it’s not really why you’re there).

But just a few weeks ago, something significant happened. It took place in a quiet news dump during a Pentagon press conference that TRULY began like this:

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN: So you guys know why I came down here today?

REPORTER: To see if we ate the donuts?

Yes, Pentagon press conferences apparently begin in much the same manner as a “Three Stooges” sketch. (Unfortunately the subsequent bonks on the head usually involve Tomahawk missiles.)

During that wacky press conference, the deputy secretary of defense casually mentioned halfway through that the Pentagon had failed its first-ever audit.This is the first time the Pentagon has ever been audited, even though it has been legally required to do so since the early 1990s. Don’t you wish you could put off your tax returns for 20 years? (I once put them off for two years, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. It was simply the period of my life when I discovered that Netflix had every episode of “The West Wing.”)

After Shanahan dropped this bombshell, here was what followed:

REPORTER: What part did the Pentagon fail in the audit?

SHANAHAN: How about I give you, like, the technical version of that—there are a considerable number of areas where we kind of had a pass, then there’s some other ones where they went through and they said we went into your inventory system and we didn’t find these things; therefore that’s a finding, so you don’t have a clean assessment. So—and—in a lot of these audits, it’s the type of finding that matters.

Yes, the Pentagon’s official response to why it failed its audit is a word salad after it has gone through an industrial-grade militarized Slap Chop. It’s the type of response you get when a fraud has been filtered through a cover-up, then filtered through a publicist, then filtered through a public official who probably doesn’t know that much to begin with.

It’s the corrupt feeding the blind feeding the stupid feeding the disingenuous.

And yet even THAT didn’t get much press coverage. As far as I can tell, The New York Times didn’t report on the audit failure until two weeks later, and even that column contained this caveat:

But audits are hard work; most defense officials aren’t business experts; and to some, bookkeeping and other management operations just aren’t a priority in wartime, which since Sept. 11, 2001, has been a permanent state.

In the Times’ defense, there are different genres of reporting, and in this case, journalists were working in the genre of “shit reporting.” So should we really be surprised? If they want to learn what real reporting looks like on this same topic, they can read The Nation’s investigative exposé. That article stated:

For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher. … DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions … according to government records and interviews with current and former DoD officials, congressional sources, and independent experts.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. (The following page in the magazine was simply an image of a hand dropping a mic.)

So here’s how this fraud works: Every year, the Pentagon tells Congress how much money it needs. It submits the financial reports from the year before, filled to the brim with heaping, steaming bullshit. Trillions of gallons of bullshit, called “adjustments.” Those adjustments cover up the fact that it didn’t necessarily spend all the money the year before.

However, instead of returning such unspent funds to the US Treasury, as the law requires, the Pentagon sometimes launders and shifts such moneys to other parts of the DoD’s budget,” The Nation’s Dave Lindorff wrote.

And this is no mistake. This is straight-up fraud. How do you know when something is fraud? Well, one way is when the paper trail is covered up, as Lindorff noted:

Indeed, more than 16,000 records that might reveal either the source or the destination of some of that $6.5 trillion had been “removed,” the inspector general’s office reported.

Sixteen thousand records! By my calculations, such a cover-up would require multiple shredder operators working in shifts, only stopping once every five hours to use the bathroom and briefly giggle at their villainy.

One congressional staffer [said] … “We don’t know how the Pentagon’s money is being spent. … We don’t know how much of that funding gets spent on the intended programs, what things actually cost, whether payments are going to the proper accounts. If this kind of stuff were happening in the private sector, people would be fired and prosecuted.”

Here’s more analysis from The Nation:

The Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs: health care, education, job creation, climate action, infrastructure modernization, and more. Indeed, the Pentagon’s accounting fraud amounts to theft on a grand scale—theft not only from America’s taxpayers, but also from the nation’s well-being and its future.

But apparently, disappearing at least 16,000 documents wasn’t enough. Somebody might still connect the dots. So the Pentagon took the next step:

[T]he most recent report for the DOD on the OIG website … summarizes unsupported adjustments for fiscal year 2017. However, this document differs from all previous reports in that all the numbers relating to the unsupported adjustments were redacted. That is, all the relevant information was blacked out.

Right after The Nation article came out, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about it—basically saying that these unaccounted trillions at the Pentagon could help pay for “Medicare for all.”

Clearly things are ramping up. People are finding out about the $21 trillion, and that means it is now time for the true hacks—the military-industrial complex defenders—to jump in and chastise anyone who dares speak out about this fraud. Enter Vox-which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a cross between HuffPost and an NPR tote bag filled with rotting raccoon carcasses.

Vox ran an article titled, “The $21 trillion accounting error that can’t pay for Medicare-for-all, explained.” You know how to tell for sure that you’re a nitwit spraying idiocy like a Super Soaker? When you find yourself saying the phrase “$21 trillion accounting ERROR.

Error?! Yeah, and Timothy McVeigh just had a faulty carburetor.

Vox “journalist” Matthew Yglesias tried to push this idiotic justification: “The Pentagon’s accounting errors are genuinely enormous, but they’re also just accounting errors—they don’t represent actual money that can be spent on something else.”

Sorry, but no. These are not “accounting errors.” It’s impossible to have trillions of dollars of “accounting errors.” Since I have now saturated my keyboard with my anger-saliva, I’ll let Laurence Kotlikoff at Forbes answer this:

Let’s recall that this is not simply a matter of boring accounting. Trillions in unaccounted outlays, if that’s what’s involved here, is trillions of our tax dollars being spent without our knowledge. If that’s the case, we’re talking about the biggest government financial deception in the history of the country.

Long story short, this $21 trillion story is starting to gain traction. People can finally see the truth. And right now, it is the corporate media puppets who are trying to make sure you think, “It’s just a few accounting errors. Pay no mind to the fact that it amounts to the largest theft ever perpetrated against the American people.”

If you think this column is important, please share it. Also check out Lee Camp’s new comedy special, which one review called “the new standard for political stand-up comedy.” It’s only available at LeeCampComedySpecial.com.
This column is based on a monologue Camp wrote and performed on his TV show “Redacted Tonight.”

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for…

 

Yes, this is complicated. Here is another View: Washington Post fact-checker sees the numbers differently.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/04/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-trillion-mistake/?utm_term=.16f38afa242a 

We Report. You Decide.

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Teen Shames World Leaders

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TBPR Quote of the Day

“We have a deeply divided body politic in America. Half the people believe our system is broken. The other half believe it is fixed.”

–Swami Beyondananda

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Trump: Military Spending “Crazy”

Go With Your Gut, Mr. President: You Called US Defense Spending “Crazy,” and You Were Dead On

President Trump certainly isn’t known for ideological consistency, but he occasionally drops powerful “truth bombs” worthy of our attention.

by Maj. Danny Sjursen / AntiWar.com/ December 11, 2018

Military spending

When he’s right, he’s right. Look, I’ve been critical of this president too many times to count, but – unlike most mainstream media pundits – I’m willing to give credit when it’s due. Last week, in a surprise morning tweet, President Trump called U.S. defense spending, which topped out at a record $716 billion this year, “crazy.” Furthermore, he even hinted at talks with America’s two main military rivals, President Xi of China, and President Putin of Russia to stave o! what Trump referred to as “a major and uncontrollable arms race.” Of

course, we woke up this morning to the news that Trump seems – unsurprisingly – to have reversed course again, with administration o”cials stating that Trump will instead boost the Pentagon budget to $750 billion.

Still, it’s worth reflecting on Trump’s initial announcement. After all, I had to read the original Trump tweet twice. Was the candidate who promised to bomb “the shit out of” ISIS and to “bring back” waterboarding torture and a “whole lot worse” turning dove? Well, not exactly, but Trump was talking sense. And it’s not the first time he’s done so. Remember that candidate Trump regularlydeclared the 2003 invasion of Iraq “the single worst decision ever made.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Then, just before disappointingly announcing a troop increase in Afghanistan, Trump admitted his initial “instinct” was to “pull out.” Right again.

It seems that one of the only things holding Trump back from ushering in real change in America’s militarized foreign policy are his rather more mainstream advisors and bipartisan congressional war-hawks. Over and over again, media, especially conventional center-left “liberal” media, assures us that these folks – the Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kellys of the world – are the “adults in the room,” far more “responsible” than loose cannon Trump. And you know what, yea, that may occasionally been true. But on foreign policy these retired generals and their Republican and Democratic supporters on the Hill have been wrong at every turn over the last 17 years.

They, the “adults” in the Beltway crowd, have for two decades sold the American people the snake oil of increased military intervention, counterinsurgency dogma, and armed nation-building, achieving nothing more than destabilization of the entire Greater Middle East and the worst humanitarian catastrophes since World War II. They insist on ever-expanding military budgets – a lovely kickback to the American arms industry – and assure the public that they need “just a little more time” to win a “victory” of sorts in the perpetual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is long past time for some fresh thinking on military policy in the Middle East and common sense caps on runaway defense spending. And, if such good sense has to come from a man like Trump, then, well, so be it. Let’s give him a chance.

Military spending truly is out of control in the United States, and it has been

ever since the end of the Second World War. At least during the Cold War (1946-91) there was some, albeit exaggerated, justification for high defense budgets. Nonetheless, except for a brief dip during President Bill Clinton’s first term, military spending never slowed down. And, after 9/11, such outlays ran straight o!-the-rails. But it wasn’t necessary. Terrorism isn’t, and never was, an existential threat, or a danger on anywhere near the scale of a potential Cold War nuclear exchange with the Soviets. On the contrary, most of the post-9/11 spending and the concurrent on-the-ground military interventions in the Muslim world have been nothing but counterproductive.

And it’s all so needless. In 2017, US defense spending was equal to that of the next seven countries combined. Furthermore, five of those seven big spenders – Saudi Arabia, India, France, Britain, and Japan – are friendly US”partners.” So let’s not pretend that modest cuts to this bloated budget will pose some colossal threat to American homeland security. What all that spending and fighting and killing and dying has done is fill the co!ers of a domestic arms industry that is one of the last remnants of America’s once vibrant manufacturing industry. Those billions of dollars found their way into CEO’s pockets, the campaign nest eggs of compliant Democratic and Republican legislators, and the bloated salaries of revolving-door second jobs for retired military generals.

What such skyrocketing spending doesn’t do is benefit the average American. Military spending represented over 53% of total discretionary budget spending in 2015, and it’s only rising. That’s ten times the expenditure each on education and veterans’ benefits, about twenty times US spending on peaceful foreign aid, and fifty times the outlay for food and agriculture. There are, we must admit, some real opportunity costs inherent in such ballooning military spending. Five star general, West Point grad, and eventual President Dwight Eisenhower – a man whose stated policies on this topic would today place him to the left of both his own Republican Party and the neoliberal Democratic Party – parsed this out as early as 1953. That year, in his famous “A Chance for Peace” speech, Ike warned of the dangers of the growing military-industrial complex and opined on the lost opportunity costs of runaway spending,concluding presciently that:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Conservative or liberal, democratic socialist or libertarian, all ideologically consistent political groups should be touched by Eisenhower’s generations- old words and support President Trump’s modest call for spending cuts and arms control talks with Russia and China. Think of the good that the hundreds of billions spent on the merchants of death could do for everyday Americans. (Small c) conservatives and libertarians could have their tax cuts, balanced budgets, and fiscal discipline. True liberals and progressives could fight to shift some of that money to healthcare and education. No doubt, such groups would fight over the best use of those funds – and that’s a battle I’ll postpone for a later date – but the first step is agreeing on the need for common sense reductions and the demilitarization of the American economy. This is a fight that requires an alliance between principled, traditional opponents on the left and right. And, it demands a tough public battle with the bipartisan militarist consensus running Washington.

Consider this: in the wake of President Trump’s modest, and sensible call for reigning in “crazy” defense spending – to the tune of just a token $30 billion

cut – an array of bipartisan hawks both in and outside the administration lost their collective minds. Secretary of Defense Mattis told the Reagan National Defense Forum that cutting defense wouldn’t help the deficit (which sounds illogical) and insisted on the “critical need” for a $733 billion defense budget for 2020. Then, Republican defense-industry cheerleaders in Congress, Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, exclaimed that such modest cuts would be “dangerous” and have a “crippling e!ect” on the military. Really, a hefty $700 billion defense budget would be “crippling?” Me thinks the congressmen doth protest too much.

In spite of the inevitable protestations from mainstream bipartisan war hawks around Washington, Americans should support the president’s seemingly new inclination for arms control and defense reductions. This president, maybe more than most, feeds on public adulation and positive attention. Thus, the citizenry should back the president’s nascent sensible comments and proceed with cautious optimism, hoping that Trump pulls a Ronald Reagan and reverses his hawkish ways in favor of international negotiation. Remember that Reagan was elected as a Cold Warrior super-hawk in 1980, but later decided to work with Soviet Premier Mikael Gorbachev to cut nuclear and defense arsenals. That was the right call, though it’s important and instructive to remember that most of Reagan’s own cabinet and a majority of the Republican Party was initially skeptical, if not downright unsupportive.

Who knows if President Trump is serious about commonsense defense cuts and prudent arms reduction negotiations. After all the man has reversed and contradicted himself a time or too – even on this very topic. Still, if Mr. Trump pulls this o! it would be a surprise master stroke that would likely be applauded on Main Street but pilloried on K Street in D.C.

Should he surprise his critics, upset his corporate backers, and lessen international tensions even a little bit, well, then we’ll have to admit he has for once demonstrated his potential.

Now that’d be the “Art of the Deal.”

Danny Sjursen is a US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later

Drone

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Freshman Rep. Learns the Ropes

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Why His Base Loves Trump

Yale psychiatrist explains how devotion to Trump is based on emotional patterns most people grow out of by age five

By Tana Ganeva/  Raw Story/ December 3, 2018

 

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to heap praise upon his ally Roger Stone, who continues to maintain his refusal to flip — even as Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, who once said he’d take a bullet for the president, begged federal prosecutors to not serve jail time.

Stone might be Trump’s most infamous supporter—but there are millions of Americans who refuse to abandon the president regardless of the chaotic news cycle. A poll conducted over the summer found that many Trump supporters trust the President more than their own friends and family.

Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee on why the president’s
supporters show such undying devotion to a man who’s repeatedly reneged on promises
and whose tumultuous first term has been filled with shake-ups. (Lee speaks for herself,
not for Yale).

Raw Story: In your opinion, what are the emotions driving Donald Trump’s base?

Bandy X. Lee: The sense of grandiose omnipotence that he displays seems especially appealing to his emotionally-needy followers. No matter what the world says, he fights back against criticism, continues to lie in the face of truth, and above all is still president. What matters is that he is winning, not whether he is honest or law-abiding. This may seem puzzling to the rest of us, but when you are overcome with feelings of powerlessness, this type of cartoonish, exaggerated force is often more important than true ability. This is the more primitive morality, as we call it, of “might makes right,” which in normal development you grow out of by age five.

But, in this case, Trump appeals to that childlike degree of emotional development? Why?

Strongman-type personalities are very appealing in times of socioeconomic or political crisis, as the population is less able to think rationally but is rather overcome with fear, or desire to draw strength from fantastical ideas. This happens to normal people in times of stress, or to people whose development has been stunted because of emotional injury. The problem is, the person who promises the impossible and states, “I alone can fix it,” and gives himself an A+ on his performance, is not a strong person who can deliver but the opposite. So Mr. Trump’s “base“ looks for someone to rescue them and their intense yearning does not allow them to see through his deception, while Mr. Trump senses better than anyone their needs (they are his) and makes use of them for his own benefit—even as he disdains his supporters for being so gullible. In this manner, they fulfill each other’s emotional needs in a mutually unhealthy way.

What’s your biggest concern?

One concern I have, in my 20 years of studying this personality structure while treating violent offenders, is the disturbing societal trend. More and more of this personality type are taking on leadership positions, including of corporations, whereas 20 years ago one would mostly find them in jails and prisons. This also means there are a growing number of people who emulate them in the general culture, who become deprived from the structures that they create, and who become emotionally traumatized as a result of any of these consequences. People who are wounded this way continue to seek omnipotent parental figures as adults, and the vicious circle continues. Unable to find outer satisfaction for their inner needs, some keep pursuing ever greater power until they reach the highest positions, but since this is the opposite of proper treatment, their conditions only grow worse while society suffers a trail of carnage. It is actually a tragedy that Mr. Trump cannot receive proper care, even as his disorder is on display for the world to see, but is rather surrounded by those who enable his illness and make use of his weaknesses to their own destructive ends.

On the one hand, different demographics that have tended to support Trump in the past—let’s say white women and neo-Nazis—don’t have much in common. Are there psychological factors that unite them?

Well, he unites them through a common, mythological past that they can all be nostalgic for, and that might be his “talent.” We know from the former Yugoslavia that this past can be hundreds of years ago, not just decades, and is really a metaphor for discontent with the self in the present. Mr. Trump’s behavioral pattern is not that of leaders at all but rather of obsequious followers, as we have seen Mr. Trump become in the presence of even more successful strongmen, such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, or Rodrigo Duterte. We find in him a pattern of following exactly what his base is looking for—he has no intrinsic philosophy or ideology but is responding to an emotional need for adulation and approval, and so he will try anything that gets as many people on board as possible. He will also sense keenly those who will never go along with his pathological methods—that is, healthy people—and drop them instantly. That is why we see him desperately clinging to an ever narrower base with increasingly fringe ideas.

He also has to scapegoat groups in order to distract from his billionaire cabinet, tax breaks for the rich, and trade wars that hurt his base the most, and so his demonizing of other helpless groups will only increase with time. We were worried that he might lead us into a devastating war or stage a terrorist attack, but he actually managed to turn a humanitarian crisis of people fleeing violence into an invading army that required thousands of troops at the Mexican border. If this “feigned war” fails to distract, then he may yet stage a real war. With the special counsel’s investigations about to be released, after devastating midterm elections for him and in a vulnerable economy, he will experience loss of popularity as a terrifying threat to his inflated self-image. There will likely be no limit to the violence he is capable of, since destroying the world would be nothing compared to the shame and humiliation he might suffer.

By the way, I think we need to include a very different demographic group among his supporters, which is the richest one percent. This will be the more calculating, pragmatic group. How is such a minority able to control politics and to keep convincing 99 percent of the population to give up what it has so that it can grow richer still? It is by distracting and manipulating the 99 percent through advertising, hot-button issues such as abortion, Fox News, and reality TV, which explicitly employ psychological techniques to make the population more impulsive, irrational, and ill-informed. So when the federally-funded American Psychiatric Association, which heavily depends on the pharmaceutical industry, says that psychiatrists should not comment on the president’s mental instability, we have to question: is it protecting the psychological methods that are being used to manipulate the public so as to make it more unhealthy, while blocking information that might restore its health? If mental health professionals were allowed to educate and inform the public more about psychological matters, then the population would be empowered, and healing could start replacing the damage.

How does Donald Trump mirror and communicate with his base?

A big part of this is through Twitter. This is why Mr. Trump will not stop, no matter how undignified people said it was of a president from the beginning. He knows it is his psychological lifeline. I was recently asked in an interview to comment on Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, which I read for the first time, and it was clear that he violated it from the first line, but they were not able to deactivate his account, since they know the backlash would be severe. But the only way to manage someone with his condition is to set severe limits — and restrain and remove his access to weapons—and tweets are his psychological weapon, which he “shoots” in order to exert his power.

And the rallies?

Another way he communicates with his base is through his numerous rallies. He projects a lot. Projection is a psychological term for displacing thoughts or qualities in yourself you cannot tolerate onto someone else. He does this when he calls legitimate news “fake” and news agencies “the enemy of the people.” He is unconsciously telling us that he is himself “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” He also made up the clever slogan, “Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.”

And that is not accurate because … 

But if you look at the statistics, the majority of the “angry mobs” that commit violence and terrorism are right-wing, while Democratic policies almost always lower unemployment rates. And when he calls Hillary Clinton “crooked” and that we should “lock her up,” he is trying to disown his fraudulent tendencies and to block thoughts of seeing himself as someone we need to lock up. The extreme exaggeration, the inability to consider the possibility that it could apply to him, and the failure to test against obvious reality give away the fact that the opposite is true, but his obedient base is predisposed to believing his defenses more than their own observations.

Trump seems to have intuited how to communicate with his base, evading the filter of the media. What do you think about that?

You are right in that it is all intuitive, not rational or logical, which would have less emotional force. Emotional power can be helpful when healthy, but when unhealthy, it can overcome all healthy approaches. As mental health professionals, we have to watch the media continue to get played, and it still has not managed to catch up. There is a phenomenon called “shared psychosis” (also called “folie à deux”) that happens when an untreated sick person is in close proximity to, say, other family members within a household. In such a situation, normal people grow increasingly out of touch with reality and take on symptoms of the person who is unwell. It can also happen with an impaired president—once in power, he becomes not only the most urgent problem that needs to be addressed but a cause of widespread deterioration of health in a way that can become a “folie à millions.” Treatment involves removing the sick individual from the others, and very quickly, the others return to normal. It shows how powerful mental sickness is: the otherwise normal person becomes sick and not the other way around. His unfettered access to the people through Twitter is as dangerous as his unfettered access to the nuclear codes, since he is laying the groundwork for a culture of violence that can unleash epidemics of violence. This is why waiting for the next decision of voters in 2020 is itself dangerous and reckless in its lack of understanding of the present danger the president poses.

trumpee

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So Much Clutter, So Little Time…

Pathological Consumption Has Become So Normalized

That We Rarely Notice It

By George Monbiot/ monbiot.com/ November 14, 2018

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There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map.

They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.

The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production(2). We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.

People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smart phone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility(3). Forests are felled to make “personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets”. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.

In 2007, the journalist Adam Welz records, 13 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa. This year, so far, 585 have been shot(4). No one is entirely sure why. But one answer is that very rich people in Vietnam are now sprinkling ground rhino horn on their food or snorting it like cocaine to display their wealth. It’s grotesque, but it scarcely differs from what almost everyone in industrialised nations is doing: trashing the living world through pointless consumption.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes, deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask “spending on what?”. When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.

Grown men and women devote their lives to manufacturing and marketing this rubbish, and dissing the idea of living without it. “I always knit my gifts”, says a woman in a television ad for an electronics outlet. “Well you shouldn’t,” replies the narrator(5). An advertisement for Google’s latest tablet shows a father and son camping in the woods. Their enjoyment depends on the Nexus 7’s special features(6). The best things in life are free, but we’ve found a way of selling them to you.

The growth of inequality that has accompanied the consumer boom ensures that the rising economic tide no longer lifts all boats. In the US in 2010 a remarkable 93% of the growth in incomes accrued to the top 1% of the population(7). The old excuse, that we must trash the planet to help the poor, simply does not wash. For a few decades of extra enrichment for those who already possess more money than they know how to spend, the prospects of everyone else who will live on this earth are diminished.

So effectively have governments, the media and advertisers associated consumption with prosperity and happiness that to say these things is to expose yourself to opprobrium and ridicule. Witness last week’s Moral Maze programme, in which most of the panel lined up to decry the idea of consuming less, and to associate it, somehow, with authoritarianism(8). When the world goes mad, those who resist are denounced as lunatics.

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.

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www.monbiot.com

 

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With E-coli, Probably

soup 1

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