Archive | March 2nd, 2020

Bloomberg’s Game

by JIM KAVANAGH

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

There are two things I feel compelled to say about Mike Bloomberg and his candidacy.

Thing One: Thank you, Mike!

In a few weeks, Mike Bloomberg—along with the Democratic Party and its allied media—has demonstrated the reality of class rule more clearly than reams of marxist analysis could.

Let’s see:

The Democratic Party, the one political instrument that purports to represent working people and the only one through which they are effectively allowed to pursue their interests politically, defined a set of rules for participation in debates that were designed to ensure that only candidates with a certain depth and breadth of support among voters and donors could participate. On the basis of strict (and some would say arbitrary) enforcement of those rules, the party serially winnowed out a number of candidates, including women and persons of color, with particular attention to excluding an antiwar woman of color (Tulsi Gabbard). Then, after it was clear that the candidate with the strongest working-class agenda was taking the lead, and after receiving an $800,000 donation from Mike Bloomberg, the party changed its rules to allow Bloomberg to participate in the debates.

That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who enforced a Jim-Crow policing policy in the country’s largest city. That’s the stop-and-frisk policy whose stated aim was to throw young black and Latino men up against the wall to intimidate them, the policy that stopped 700,000+ young men a year, 90% of them Black and Latino, literally making more stop-and-frisks of young black men than there are young black men in New York City. That’s the “walking while black” policy that, according to Bull Bloomberg, stopped “white people…too often, and nonwhites not enough.” That’s the policy he bragged about and defended until a month before he declared himself a candidate, and just (along with Joe Biden) lied about stopping.

That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who calls his women employees “fat broads” and “horse-faced lesbians,” tells pregnant women to “kill it,” and has settled dozens of lawsuits for sexual harassment and discrimination from women whom he still keeps silent under the discipline of NDAs.

That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who has “never been in favor of raising the minimum wage,” is in favor of cutting social Security and Medicare, and thinks the financial crisis was caused by a liberal Congress forcing banks to end redlining.

That would be the Mike Bloomberg who is the ninth richest person in the world, with more wealth than 125 million of his fellow citizens.

That’s the guy the Democratic Party, the Clintonite loyalists (men and women, white and non-white) who dominate it, and their allied media pundits on CNN and MSNBC welcomed—indeed, begged—to enter the race for their party’s nomination, and changed the rules so he could. The same people who are now saying the party must allow someone who did not get the most votes to become the nominee because, you know, you can’t change the rules.

So, thank you, thank you all, for confirming the marxist critique of liberal capitalist identity-politics and demonstrating conclusively—much more effectively than the leftists who have been saying it for four years—that the Democratic Party is not opposed to Donald Trump because of his racism, sexism, or reactionary economic views.

Yes, conclusively, since the candidate you’ve gone out of your way to make room for is demonstrably, unequivocally, worse than Donald Trump on all of those counts. Go ahead, try to change that “worse” to “at least as,” make your case that Donald Trump did something as bad as having an “army” of police throwing hundreds of thousands of black and brown kids per year against the wall for years, five million times, and demonstrate, conclusively, how bad and desperate your best argument is, and now phony your stated concerns about those injustices are.

Because it’s quite obvious that Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump are interchangeable.

In terms of political substance, if Michael Bloomberg had won the presidency in 2016 as a Republican—which he very well could have—the Democratic Party could very well be trying to run Donald Trump against him now. Why not?

The only differences between them are differences of style: Trump is crass, loudmouthed, impetuous plutocrat, Bloomberg a steel-eyed, cold fish plutocrat. Medium hot vs. medium cool narcissism and arrogance.

They both care nothing about party affiliation. Because they are both members of the class that is the fundamental support, and has the fundamental allegiance, of both political parties, they can in fact flit easily from one party to another, using either as needed for their purposes. Political parties are their disposable tools.

However differently expressed, their arrogance, in our polity, is entirely justified. It is the arrogance of the boss, and they are members of the class that is the boss of the political parties. Donald Trump reveled in saying as much throughout the 2016 campaign, reminding his Republican and Democratic opponents how he had bankrolled them. Mike Bloomberg is demonstrating it this year—not as verbally, but even more loudly. Money talks.

So what Mike Bloomberg is teaching us, with the help of Democratic centrists and pundits, is that what qualifies him—in our system and in their eyes—to be a president is his class status and allegiance, that he is a member of the ruling class who will prevent the slightest challenge to its rule.

It is a wonderful lesson in the marxist concept of class dictatorship, where “dictatorship,” of course, does not mean “one-man rule” but absolute political hegemony. For Marx, the class that has decisive control over the capital wealth of society also has ultimate political authority. A modern capitalist state is by definition a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie” (the capitalist class), even if that absolute political hegemony is exercised through a carefully-circumscribed apparatus of elections, parliaments, and rights.

Indeed, the capitalist class prefers to exercise its ultimate political control through agents recruited from outside the class and institutions and policies defined in ostensibly class-agnostic terms. At this stage of US capitalism, the game is becoming a little too obvious, with those recruited agents having to be rewarded with ostentatious wealth and ruling-class entrée (à la the Clintons and Obama), and, as social discontent increases, capitalist magnates are eliminating the middleman and intervening personally and explicitly (à la Trump and Bloomberg). With Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic Party is reminding us that it’s an agent of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Per Patrick Martin: “What dominates the Democratic Party, no less than the Republicans under Trump, is the politics of oligarchy. It is naked and shameless.”

Thing Two: Michael Bloomberg is not running to win the Democratic Party nomination, or to defeat Donald Trump.

Let’s take the last of those ostensible goals first, because it reveals a lot about the other one. Consider the question: If Bloomberg wanted to defeat Trump, why didn’t he primary him?

The answer, obviously, is that he could not defeat Trump in the Republican Party, among the Republican electorate, no matter how much money he spends, and he knows it. Bloomberg might do some damage to Trump, even enough to weaken Trump’s position in the general election, but he can’t defeat him. His money cannot buy enough votes.

But the same answer just as obviously applies in the Democratic Party. Michael Bloomberg cannot win the nomination of the Democratic Party, among the Democratic electorate, no matter how much money he spends, and he knows it. Maybe, in the depths of his arrogance, he imagines, as one might, that the Trump derangement syndrome running amok among Democratic voters, combined with a billion dollars in ad spending, would make his victory possible, but that would only work if Bloomberg’s record (as well as his repellent demeanor) could be thoroughly hidden and ignored, and there was no effective candidate opposing him. Social media and Bernie, et. al. make that impossible, especially since he’s entering so late. So, no, I think he knows he cannot win.

Bloomberg cannot win either the Republican or the Democratic nomination, or the general election, where Trump would run to the left of Bloomberg and eat him alive. And he knows it. And the Democratic Party knows it.

What Bloomberg can do is exactly the same thing he could do in the Republican primary, except worse: hurt the front-runner. What he can do is ensure that no one else wins the majority of delegates. And the front-runner and only “one else” he entered the race to hurt is Bernie Sanders.

Michael Bloomberg is not running to win the Democratic nomination or to defeat Donald Trump; he is running for one reason: to stop Bernie Sanders. But, given what he and the Democratic Party and everybody with eyes to see know, that means he is running to make sure that someone else—who cannot be him—wins the nomination.

Here’s the dilemma for the Democratic Party as a primary agent of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It must prevent Bernie Sanders from becoming the nominee, and it also must do all it can to prevent a widespread and radical rupture with the Democratic Party, which would imperil the two-party duopoly that’s been a crucial support of class dictatorship. (N.B.: Beating Donald Trump in the general election is not on this list of party “musts.” It would be nice and all, but important things first.)

We all know what’s coming. Bernie will likely have a plurality of delegates, but with Bloomberg’s help, the party can ensure that Bernie Sanders will not win the majority needed for a first-round victory. We know that, no matter how large a plurality Bernie has, on the second round of voting, deals will be made to combine superdelegates and other candidates’ delegates to elect a nominee other than Bernie.

That nominee, however, cannot be Michael Bloomberg, no matter how many delegates he has. Bloomberg cannot credibly be allowed to steal the nomination from Bernie, and he and the Democratic Party know that.

Stealing the nomination from Bernie for anyone will risk that radical rupture the party must try to avoid; stealing it for Bloomberg would guarantee that rupture. Bernie Sanders himself might withhold even pro forma support from Michael Bloomberg, and he certainly would not campaign for him as he did for Hillary. Bernie’s supporters would just leave the party, for good.

A large chunk of his voters will stay home, as Trump plays Mini-Mike’s racist, sexist, austerity tapes on a loop and wins by a landslide. The Democratic Party will be reduced to Pelosi, Schiff, and Schumer fishing around for Russiagate 4.0.

There must be a third candidate to whom the party can give the nomination, and it must be someone whom Bernie Sanders himself and a large chunk of his supporters might be persuaded to stay in the party and support.

There is only one such candidate: Elizabeth Warren.

Who else? Amy or Pete? Too ridiculous. Warren benefits from the fact that there are a whole lot of people who for a long time bought into the idea that Warren was on the same “progressive” side as Bernie. Though she’s largely destroyed that charade, there is still a remnant of Nation-type progs who promote it, and, with their help and MSNBC’s, she can resuscitate some zombie form of it. Bernie Sanders himself, I cringe to say, would support and campaign for Elizabeth Warren.

Nominating Elizabeth Warren—no matter how few delegates she has, getting the rest precisely from Bloomberg, et. al.—would still a lose a lot (most, I think) of Bernie’s supporters, and would also be a loser against Trump, but it carries the only hope of both stopping Bernie and preserving any semblance of “progressive” credibility for the Democratic Party.

We have seen, I think, the first act of this horror show in the Nevada debate, where Warren pivoted back left, leading the charge against outrageously sexist billionaire Bloomberg.

If I’m right, this will become the ongoing kabuki theater in the weeks ahead, in which Warren sets herself up as the non-socialist and therefore “effective” anti-billionaire candidate, luring “woke” professional-managerial “progressives” desperate for an “alternative” to Bernie.

This is the only way for Warren to revive her campaign and audition for the endgame: fake left, attacking Bloomberg and dragging on Bernie’s popular coattails.

Wow! Liz was tough. She’s back on our side! Did you see everyone tweeting about how we should consider her as Bernie’s VP again? She’s holding out a really nice apple.

But please watch Lawrence O’Donnell, after the “rough exchange” in which Warren smacked him relentlessly, pointing out that they had a “very cordial conversation…that was real” and “had absolutely nothing to do with everything else you saw on TV during the debate” Liz is socking it to Mike just as she did to Hillary, until she supported her. And Warren now has Hillary’s people running her campaign. Rough but cordial, these exchanges are.

Warren will really be Bloomberg’s +1. Given the 15% eligibility rule for delegates, the DNC will not want more than two other candidates, including Bloomberg vying for delegates against Bernie much longer. Bloomberg costs them nothing and can stay in forever, so the DNC will browbeat the other lame-ass candidates—Buttigieg and Klobuchar—into quitting quickly, and direct donors to Warren’s new Super-PAC. Re-energized by this money and her newly re-discovered anti-billionaire rhetoric—all of which just happened to appear as the prospect of a Bernie plurality loomed as inevitable—Warren will spend the rest of the campaign frontally attacking billionaire Bloomberg, while passively-aggressively sniping at Bernie’s “divisiveness,” and steering the critique away from class conflict.

Bloomberg and she will accumulate enough delegates to prevent a first-round convention vote victory for Bernie. Then, in the second round, the DNC will “persuade” Bloomberg and whoever else has delegates (and with bribes from him) to give their delegates to Warren. The party will triumphantly say “See, we’ve nominated the other anti-billionaire ‘leftist’.” Neither a billionaire nor a communist. Goldilocks.

Bloomberg will have spent a billion dollars to get Elizabeth Warren nominated, by being her whipping boy, and he will be happy to have done it. ‘Cause he will have “got done” what he wanted most: the defeat of Bernie Sanders and the leftist movement he inspired—in the Democratic Party, at least—and a tenuous preservation of the oligarchic party duopoly. Call it a sacrifice that’s a lesson to us all in class solidarity. Or call it chump change.

What will become of that leftist movement outside of the Democratic Party? Who knows, but it’s the right question to ask.

We’ll see quickly how it’s going to plays out. If Warren continues the rhetorical strategy from Nevada, money pours into her Super-PAC, and Pete and Amy drop out, it will become obvious that the process is unfolding toward the denouement I’ve suggested.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the road ahead to the nomination is less sinuous than I imagine. Maybe Warren won’t climb to the nomination on Bloomberg’s back, but will be crushed under his feet. Maybe Bloomberg will either run from the criticisms or really buy the whole thing up for himself. Maybe Bernie will stumble and not get a plurality. Maybe the Dems will come up with some deus ex machina candidate at the convention. (I’ve heard Sherrod Brown mentioned by a longtime Democratic operative.) But none of these outcomes will work as well for the Democratic Party’s purposes.

I think this Bloomberg-Warren Punch & Judy show, culminating in the victory of the strong woman against the arrogant billionaire is the only way the Democratic Party can both steal the nomination from Bernie and hope to keep any of his supporters (and possibly even Bernie himself) in the fold—or, indeed, to preserve any credibility for the two-party plutocratic system.

And the bonus: When Trump beats Warren, they can blame it on the people’s sexism rather than their rejection of the plutocracy. And, of course, mobilize #Resistance and #impeachment 2.0.

It’s a hell of a game, Snakes and Ladders.

Posted in USA, Campaigns0 Comments

Trump in Modi’s India

by KENNETH SURIN

Badge worn by supporters of Jamia protesters. Photo: Kenneth Surin.

I’ve been in New Delhi for over a week, attending a conference organized by the Muslim-majority Jamia Millia Islamia University. Jamia has been a focal-point of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which came into law in December last year.

The CAA provides a fast-track to citizenship for refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, who sought refuge in India prior to 2015. The CAA does not however include Muslims, while including Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi refugees.

Every non-Muslim Indian I spoke with at the conference said the CAA is patently discriminatory, and also violates India’s constitution, which stipulates that citizenship cannot be linked to religion.

Trump, accompanied by three members of his grifter family (daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared, with Melania tagging along as the perpetual afterthought) arrived for a state visit on my last day in India.

The routes taken by Trump’s motorcade were lined by hundreds of billboards with slogans such as “two dynamic personalities” (hardly describes Trump with the oodles of “executive time” he takes to watch Fox News and the aeons he spends on golf courses), “great democracies” (with two leaders doing their best to undermine those democracies), and so on.

In addition to Delhi Trump was also due to visit Ahmedabad, taking in Gandhi’s ashram near the latter.

Gandhi’s reputation is at a bit of an ebb in Hindu-nationalist India. He is deemed by more extreme nationalists to have been too “pally” with Muslims, and there are web-sites in India which glorify the memory of Gandhi’s ultra-nationalist and Muslim-hating assassin.

So is the decision of the Modi government to take a palpable scoundrel and rake like Trump to Gandhi’s ashram perhaps an ever-so-subtle attempt to besmirch further the reputation of the Mahatma by having the orange-hued villain set foot in a place revered by many Indians?

In any event, the slums en route to the ashram were shielded from Trump’s eyes by the simple expedient of building a tall wall.

An Indian academic joked with me: “Trump finally got his wall, courtesy of the Indian government, but not where he wanted it!”. An aside: “India paid for Trump’s wall, not Mexico!”.

Attempts to foster Trump’s aesthetic sensibilities are not being confined to wall-building around a slum.

Trump held a rally before going on to the Taj Mahal. He bragged that the crowd in a stadium with a capacity of 110,000 was “the biggest ever”. Someone should have reminded him that the crowd at Gandhi’s funeral was estimated at over 2 million.

When Trump visited the Taj Mahal, fresh water was pumped into the Sabarmati River in Gujarat and the Yamuna River in Agra, to produce the comforting impression that these usually noxious, sewage-filled, and malodorous rivers are anything but that.

The Taj Mahal was built by the Muslim Emperor Shah Jahan, though the Islamophobic Trump might have overlooked this because he probably thought it was built by Disney India.

Petty political gestures are not alien to Trump and Modi. Melania Trump was due to visit a school in Delhi with an innovative “happiness curriculum”. Delhi state is governed by the AAP, which trounced Modi’s BJP in recent state elections, and its chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia were due to welcome Melania Trump at the school (the curriculum had been introduced by the AAP government in 2018).

US officials informed Kejriwal and his deputy they had been dropped from the invitation list a couple of days before the visit, which had been organized by the US embassy. Modi’s office offered no comment, but it is clear the BJP central government had put pressure on American officials to exclude Kejriwal and Sisodia from the event.

Trump’s popularity in India far exceeds the ratings he gets in polls conducted in the US. A Pew Research poll conducted here shortly before his visit showed that 56% of those polled expressed “confidence” in Trump, almost matching the 58% achieved by Obama just before he left office.

The Times of India says of the Pew survey:

“As more Indians become familiar with Trump, his popularity is on the rise, says the survey, attributing the positivity in part to the Indian right-wing, pejoratively referred to as “bhakts” in liberal circles and often compared to Trump’s MAGA base.

“Those who associate more with Indian Prime Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are more likely than supporters of the Indian National Congress opposition party to voice confidence in Trump. (Those who are closer to the BJP are also more likely to offer an opinion”, the survey says….)”.

Trump will of course get a “bigly” ego-massage from these ratings, even if their basis is provided by a section of Indian society that is less educated and often poorly informed– not that he gives a rat’s arse about this!

Trump may tweet sitting atop a kitschy golden toilet, but the much less privileged, some affected by “Shit-Life Syndrome” with only a white identity to serve as their emblem of a presumed superiority, are precisely his source of support and solace.

Incidentally, Benjamin Netanyahu is another politician popular with the Right in India, of course for his viciousness towards the Muslim-majority Palestinians.

Meanwhile the Jamia students detained by the police for protesting against the CAA are regarded as “political prisoners” by their supporters.

The protests against the CAA are continuing, and each day brings new revelations about what happened during the disturbances at Jamia and Delhi’s other well-known left-leaning university, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The Times of India reports that 4 CCTV clips taken from the Jamia university library indicate that some Hindu-supremacist Jamia students, past and present, were with the thugs from outside campus who invaded Jamia on 15th December last year.

There had been news reports previously that the police simply stood around while students were beaten-up by the mob. The Washington Post reports that some cops joined in the attacks on students.

The Times of India article mentioned above also says that the CCTV clips show some policemen smashing CCTV cameras, presumably in a complicitous attempt to thwart the identification of rioters for later criminal charges.

Everyone I spoke with from Jamia (and JNU, see below) said it was clear the police were accomplices of the thugs on both campuses.

As mentioned, an attack by rightwing goons took place at JNU last month. Though the rioters at JNU were masked, some were recognized as members of a Hindu-nationalist student organization, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP), which is the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS has been around for a relatively long time—it was founded 94 years ago by fervent admirers of Mussolini.

Gandhi’s assassin was an RSS member, and the flavour of Modi’s politics is conveyed by the fact that he began attending meetings of the RSS when he was 8 years old (1958), and has been a member of it for 43 years.

gleichschaltung is taking place in Modi’s India.

The above-mentioned Washington Post article says that the Indian corporate media, with profit margins in mind, has fallen in line with the BJP, and sacked or sidelined those journalists who are critical of the BJP and its policies.

I had dinner with a Delhi-based fellow CounterPuncher. Our conversation focused on Indian politics, and touched on the CAA, due to come before the Indian Supreme Court, and Article 370 of the Indian constitution, conferring a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, which the BJP government had abrogated, and is also due to come before the Supreme Court.

My friend told me that Modi had tilted the Supreme Court towards the BJP. As if to prove him right, a couple of days after our dinner there was a media report in which Supreme Court Justice Arun Mishra, speaking at a conference, called Modi an “internationally acclaimed visionary” and a “versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally”.

Not even US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh would go in for such colossal arse-licking and describe Trump in these terms!

Academics who are BJP stooges are being made heads of universities, and given the task of making life wretched for their leftwing colleagues.

I met a professor at the conference who has taken out 3 lawsuits against the head (Vice-Chancellor) of his university. He’s just won the first case, and is fairly confident the other two will go his way.

Towards the end of 2019 the JNU administration attempted to turn the screws on Romila Thapar, professor emerita of Ancient Indian History at JNU, and doyenne of Indian historians, by asking her for a copy of her curriculum vitae (CV), to review her status as professor emerita.

The university authorities justified the move on the bogus grounds of changes in JNU’s rules and regulations regarding the continuation of a professor emeritus after turning 75.

This is a cock-and-bull rationale.

The title “Emeritus/Emerita” is bestowed for life on scholars of sufficient accomplishment upon retirement. It is purely honorary, carries no stipend, is for achievement up to the point of retirement, and so is beyond review after being conferred (unless hitherto unknown facts establishing the gross moral turpitude of the awardee come to light after their retirement, and so forth).

(I speak as an emeritus at my American university.)

In 2003 Thapar was appointed to the US Library of Congress’s Kluge Chair. Her appointment was opposed in an online petition containing more than 2,000 signatures, on the grounds that she was a “Marxist and anti-Hindu”, and that it was a “waste of US money” to support a leftist. The Library of Congress ignored the petition, and Thapar became its Kluge Professor.

As in the US, the teaching of history in India is a frontline for rightwingers, religious bigots, and racial and ethnic supremacists, as they seek to alter the content of textbooks to reflect their warped view of the past.

Professor Thapar has not minced words by in effect telling her Hindu chauvinist critics to crawl back under their rocks, hence their antipathy towards her.

The Hindustan Times had a piece on the head of Visva Bharati University, Kolkata, Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty, who caused controversy when he described Congress Party supporters wearing Nehruvian white caps ”as the country’s biggest thieves”. A video clip has also emerged of Chakrabarty questioning protesters about their opposition to the CAA. The man is clearly doing everything the BJP requires of a university head.

Modi is foisting a version of neoliberalism on India in the name of “development”, one which has benefitted the country’s plutocracy, but done little for its working-class economically.

Modi has provided the large Hindu majority with a Muslim enemy, thereby concealing his failure to deal with the abject poverty afflicting hundreds of millions of Indians— despite revising the definition of poverty to exclude those making 26 rupees/US 36 cents or more a day, 400 million Indians live below the poverty line.

Ordinary men and women are being instigated to blame Muslims and left-wingers for their economic predicament, while Modi and his crew of scoundrels are let off the hook.

Little wonder Trump and Modi, authoritarians both, get along like a house on fire.

The day Trump arrived in Delhi there were disturbances between pro- and anti-CAA protesters, involving stone-throwing, buildings being torched, stick-wielding police charges and the use of tear gas. Four people have been killed so far, including a police constable.

The Trump-Modi love fest will float tranquilly above the fray.

Trump’s visit will conclude with a state banquet, and it will be interesting to see what will be on the menu. Trump’s staple is the beefburger, and the BJP has been playing “beef politics” since it cam to power in 2014 by fostering an anti-beef ideology.

In some cases Hindu vigilante mobs have lynched people accused of eating beef, including a tragic case in 2015 in which a Muslim man was lynched for eating what turned out to be mutton.

Part of the animus against Romila Thapar comes from her research which shows that beef eating was common in ancient India.

So will Modi, the anti-beef-eating ideologue, feed Trump his beef customary beef burger?

Posted in USA, India0 Comments

Bernie Finally Puts a Number on Cutting Military Spending

by DAVID SWANSON

Anti-war protest in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2010. Photograph Source: Rrenner – CC BY-SA 3.0

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has published a fact sheet on how everything he proposes can be paid for. On that fact sheet we find this line in a list of items that collectively will pay for a Green New Deal:

“Reducing defense spending by $1.215 trillion by scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply.”

Of course there is an obvious problem or mystery about this number, namely, isn’t it too damn good to be true? The full cost of military spending including numerous agencies plus debt for past wars, etc., is $1.25 trillion a year. While one might like to hope that Bernie is intent on leaving the military only $0.035 trillion a year, it seems highly unlikely that he means that. It’s highly unlikely that he even thinks of military spending costing $1.25 trillion a year rather than the $0.7 trillion a year or so that goes to the one agency misnamed the Department of Defense.

Elsewhere, the fact sheet uses 10-year periods to refer to certain numbers, and 10 years is the most common random period of time used by people to confuse budget figures for no apparent reason. However, Bernie’s Green New Deal Plan, which has long been online, refers to “15 years” just prior to referring to cutting back military spending by an unstated amount. This makes it highly likely that 15 years is the clue to this particular obfuscation.

$1.215 trillion divided by 15 is $81 billion. And $81 billion per year is the super-conservative figure that a study estimated the U.S. spends “to protect global oil supplies.” I think we can safely conclude that Sanders is proposing to take $81 billion a year out of militarism.

Of course, $81 billion falls dramatically short of the $350 billion that progressive groups have proposed moving out of militarism annually, or even the $200 billion urged by Public Citizen, or even the high range of the $60 billion to $120 billion that the CATO Institute suggests saving merely by closing foreign military bases.

On the other hand, the Sanders campaign has finally revealed a number related to moving money out of militarism, but only in relation to paying for part of a Green New Deal. It’s possible to fantasize, in the absence of any information, that Sanders wants to move other bits of military spending to other human and environmental needs. Sanders has claimed he wants a “very different” military budget, dramatically reduced; he just hasn’t put any approximate number on it — at least not in recent years.

As Politico reported four years ago on Sanders, “In 1995, he introduced a bill to terminate America’s nuclear weapons program. As late as 2002, he supported a 50 percent cut for the Pentagon. And he says corrupt defense contractors are to blame for ‘massive fraud’ and a ‘bloated military budget.’” Those last bits are not really disputable facts, but the fact that Bernie has said them out-loud augurs danger for war profiteers.

The trouble is that presidents for the past couple of centuries have performed less well in office than their campaign platforms, not better. Secretly imagining that Bernie simply must want to significantly reduce militarism is highly unlikely to produce a President Sanders who works hard to reduce militarism — much less a mass public movement that works hard to compel Congress to do so. Our best chance at moving money in a major way our of mass-murder and into mass-protection-of-life is to demand that Bernie Sanders take a position now. Moving money out of the military and into human and environmental needs is a hugely popular position in polls and has been for many years. The corporate media doesn’t like it, but the corporate media is already all-in on trying to stop Bernie — it can’t get any worse. Taking a position now would be beneficial to Sanders and distinguish him from other candidates.

Let’s look at how Bernie’s fact sheet proposes to pay for things.

College For All –> Wall Street speculation tax.

Expanding Social Security –> Lifting the cap on Social Security.

Housing For All –> Wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent.

Universal Childcare/Pre-K –> Wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent.

Eliminating Medical Debt –> Income inequality tax on large corporations that pay CEOs at least 50 times more than average workers.

Green New Deal –>

– Raising $3.085 trillion by making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.
– Generating $6.4 trillion in revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Administrations.  This revenue will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.
–  Reducing defense spending by $1.215 trillion by scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply.
–  Collecting $2.3 trillion in new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.
– Saving $1.31 trillion by reduced the need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.
–  Raising $2 trillion in revenue by making large corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

Key Points:

By averting climate catastrophe we will save: $2.9 trillion over 10 years, $21 trillion over 30 years and $70.4 trillion over 80 years.
If we do not act, the U.S. will lose $34.5 trillion by the end of the century in economic productivity.

Medicare for All –>

According to a February 15, 2020 study by epidemiologists at Yale University, the Medicare for All bill that Bernie wrote would save over $450 billion in health care costs and prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths – each and every year.

Since 2016, Bernie has proposed a menu of financing options that would more than pay for the Medicare for All legislation he has introduced according to the Yale study.

These options include:

Creating a 4 percent income-based premium paid by employees, exempting the first $29,000 in income for a family of four.

In 2018, the typical working family paid an average of $6,015 in premiums to private health insurance companies.  Under this option, a typical family of four earning $60,000, would pay a 4 percent income-based premium to fund Medicare for All on income above $29,000 – just $1,240 a year – saving that family $4,775 a year.  Families of four making less than $29,000 a year would not pay this premium.
(Revenue raised: About $4 trillion over 10-years.)

Imposing a 7.5 percent income-based premium paid by employers, exempting the first $1 million in payroll to protect small businesses.

In 2018, employers paid an average of $14,561 in private health insurance premiums for a worker with a family of four.  Under this option, employers would pay a 7.5 percent payroll tax to help finance Medicare for All – just $4,500 – a savings of more than $10,000 a year.
(Revenue raised: Over $5.2 trillion over 10-years.)

Eliminating health tax expenditures, which would no longer be needed under Medicare for All.
(Revenue raised: About $3 trillion over 10-years.)

Raising the top marginal income tax rate to 52% on income over $10 million.
(Revenue raised: About $700 billion over 10-years.)

Replacing the cap on the state and local tax deduction with an overall dollar cap of $50,000 for a married couple on all itemized deductions.
(Revenue raised: About $400 billion over 10-years.)

Taxing capital gains at the same rates as income from wages and cracking down on gaming through derivatives, like-kind exchanges, and the zero tax rate on capital gains passed on through bequests.
(Revenue raised: About $2.5 trillion over 10-years.)

Enacting the For the 99.8% Act, which returns the estate tax exemption to the 2009 level of $3.5 million, closes egregious loopholes, and increases rates progressively including by adding a top tax rate of 77% on estate values in excess of $1 billion.
(Revenue raised: $336 billion over 10-years.)

Enacting corporate tax reform including restoring the top federal corporate income tax rate to 35 percent.
(Revenue raised: $3 trillion of which $1 trillion would be used to help finance Medicare for All and $2 trillion would be used for the Green New Deal.)

Using $350 billion of the amount raised from the tax on extreme wealth to help finance Medicare for All.

All of which suggests that Bernie thinks he can pay for much of what he wants to pay for without moving money out of the military. But he can’t reduce the risk of nuclear apocalypse, decrease wars, slow the environmental destruction of the most environmentally destructive institution we have, curtail the impacts on civil liberties and morality, or put a stop to the mass slaughter of human beings without moving money out of militarism. The money needs to be moved out, which as a side-benefit produces jobs, whether the money is moved to humane spending or to tax cuts for working people. Not only that, but a program of economic conversion needs to transition to decent employment those engaged in supplying weaponry to governments around the world. We need to demand that every candidate tell us now how much money they want to move out of militarism and what their plan is for economic conversion.

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How We Stay Blind to the Story of Power

by JONATHAN COOK

Artwork by Nick Roney

If one thing drives me to write, especially these posts, it is the urgent need for us to start understanding power. Power is the force that shapes almost everything about our lives and our deaths. There is no more important issue. Understanding power and overcoming it through that understanding is the only path to liberation we can take as individuals, as societies, and as a species.

Which is why it should be simply astonishing that no one in the media, supposedly a free marketplace of ideas, ever directly addresses matters of power – beyond the shadow play of party politics and celebrity scandals.

And yet, of course, this lack of interest in analysing and understanding power is not surprising at all. Because the corporate media is the key tool – or seen another way, the central expression – of power.

Very obviously, power’s main concern is the ability to conceal itself. Its exposure as power weakens it, by definition. Once exposed, power faces questions about its legitimacy, its methods, its purposes. Power does not want to be seen, it does not want to be confined, it does not want to be held accountable. It wants absolute freedom to reproduce itself, and ideally to amass more power.

That is why true power makes itself as invisible and as inscrutable as it can. Like a mushroom, power can grow only in darkness. That is why it is the hardest thing to write about in ways that are intelligible to those under its spell, which is most of us, most of the time. Because power coopts language, words are inadequate to the task of describing the story of real power.

Ripples on the surface

Notice I refer to power, not the powerful, because power should be understood more as an idea made flesh, an ideological matrix of structures, a way of understanding the world, than a set of people or a cabal. It has its own logic separate from the people who are considered powerful. Yes, politicians, celebrities, royalty, bankers and CEOs are part of its physical expression. But they are not power, precisely because those individuals are visible. The very visibility of their power makes them vulnerable and potentially expendable – the very opposite of power.

The current predicaments of Prince Andrew in Britain or Harvey Weinstein in the US are illustrative of the vagaries of being powerful, while telling us little meaningful about power itself. Conversely, there is a truth in the self-serving story of those in power – the corporate executives of an Exxon or a BP – who note, on the rare occasions they face a little scrutiny, that if they refused to do their jobs, to oversee the destruction of the planet, someone else would quickly step in to fill their shoes.

Rather than thinking in terms of individuals, power is better visualised as the deep waters of a lake, while the powerful are simply the ripples on the surface. The ripples come and go, but the vast body of water below remains untouched.

Superficially, the means by which power conceals itself is through stories. Its needs narratives – mainly about those who appear powerful – to create political and social dramas that distract us from thinking about deep power. But more fundamentally still, power depends on ideology. Ideology cloaks power – in a real sense, it is power – because it is the source of power’s invisibility.

Ideology provides the assumptions that drive our perceptions of the world, that prevent us from questioning why some people were apparently born to rule, or have been allowed to enclose vast estates of what was once everyone’s land, or hoard masses of inherited wealth, or are celebrated for exploiting large numbers of workers, or get away with choking the planet to the point at which life itself asphyxiates.

Phrased like that, none of these practices seems natural. In fact, to a visiting Martian they would look pathologically insane, an irrefutable proof of our self-destructiveness as a species. But these conditions are the unexamined background to our lives , just the way things are and maybe always were. The system.

True, the individuals who benefit from the social and economic policies that uphold this system may occasionally be held to account. Even the policies themselves may occasionably be held up to scrutiny. But the assumptions behind the policies are rarely questioned – certainly not in what we are taught to call the “mainstream”.

That is an amazing outcome given that almost none of us benefit from the system we effectively sanction every time we turn out to vote in an election. Very few of us are rulers, or enjoy enormous wealth, or live on large estates, or own companies that deprive thousands of the fruit of their labours, or profit from destroying life on Earth. And yet the ideology that rationalises all that injustice, inequality and immorality not only stays in place but actually engenders more injustice, more inequality, more immorality year by year.

We watch this all unfold passively, largely indifferently because we believe – we are made to believe – we are powerless.

Regenerating like Dr Who

By now, you may be frustrated that power still lacks a name. Is it not late-stage capitalism? Or maybe neoliberalism? Globalisation? Or neoconservatism? Yes, we can identify it right now as ideologically embedded in all of those necessarily vague terms. But we should remember that it is something deeper still.

Power always has an ideological shape and physical structures. It has both faces. It existed before capitalism, and will exist after it (if capitalism doesn’t kill us first). Human history has consisted of power consolidating and regenerating itself in new form over and over again – like the eponymous hero of the long-running British TV sci-fi series Doctor Who – as different groups have learnt how to harness it, usurp it and put it to self-interested use. Power has been integral to human societies. Now our survival as individuals and as a species depends on our finding a way to reinvent power, to tame it and share it equally between us all – and thereby dissolve it. It is the ultimate challenge.

By its very nature, power must prevent this step – a step that, given our current predicament, is necessary to prevent planetary-wide death. Power can only perpetuate itself by deceiving us about what it has done in the past and will do in the future, and whether alternatives exist. Power tells us stories that it is not power – that it is the rule of law, justice, ethics, protection from anarchy or the natural world, inevitable. And to obscure the fact that these are just stories – and that like all stories, these ones may not actually be true, or may even be the opposite of truth – it embeds these stories in ideology.

We are encouraged to believe that the media – in the widest sense possible – has authority alone to tell us these stories, to promote them as orthodoxy. It is the lens through which the world is revealed to us. Reality filtered through the lens of power.

The media is not just newspapers and TV news broadcasts. Power also exerts its hold on our imaginative horizons through all forms of “popular” entertainment, from Hollywood films and Youtube videos to social media and video games.

In the US, for example, almost all media is owned by a handful of corporations that have diverse interests related to power. Power expresses itself in our modern societies as wealth and ownership. And corporations stand at the apex of that power structure. They and their chief functionaries (for corporate executives do not really control power, it controls them) own almost all of the planet’s resources, they hold almost all of the wealth. They typically use their money to buy attention for themselves and their brands while at the same time buying invisibility for deep power.

To take one example: Rupert Murdoch’s power is visible to us, as are his negative personal qualities and occasionally the pernicious influence of his newspapers. But it is not just that his media outlets play a part in shaping and controlling what we talk about on any given day, for good or bad. They also control – all the time – what we are capable of thinking and not thinking. That is true power. And that role will never be mentioned by a Murdoch organisation – or any of his supposed rivals in the corporate media. It is the preserve of blogs like this one for very obvious reasons.

That makes media corporations a key pillar of the matrix of power. Their journalists are servants of corporate power, whether they know it or not. Mostly, of course, they do not.

The veiling of power

These thoughts were provoked by a rare comment from a prominent corporate journalist about power. Jonathan Freedland is a senior columnist at the supposedly liberal Guardian, and a British equivalent of Thomas Friedman or Jeffrey Goldberg. His job is to help make deep power invisible, even as he criticises the powerful. Freedland’s stock-in-trade is using the ephemeral dramas of political power to veil true power.

It was therefore intriguing to see Freedland actually try to define “power” in a recent column intended to dissuade people from backing Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee. Here is what he writes in reference to power:

“If recent events have reminded us of anything, it’s that in politics, power is the whole ballgame. …

“Most significant of all, a [political] party in power has the ability to create the conditions that ensure it keeps it. …

“It’s understanding the power of power, a truth so obvious that it should barely need stating, that is driving some battle-hardened veterans of past left campaigns to despair. ‘Nothing. Without power, there is nothing,’ fumed James Carville, who ran the last successful Democratic effort to oust a sitting Republican president when he masterminded Bill Clinton’s victory back in 1992.

“But the first step is to accept its importance, to recognise that winning power is the sine qua non of politics, literally the thing without which there is nothing.”

Notice that from the outset Freedland limits his definition of power in ways that are designed to assist power rather examine or scrutinise it. He states something meaningful – the importance of “understanding the power of power, a truth so obvious that it should barely need stating” – but then resolutely obscures the “power of power”.

What Freedland addresses instead is a lesser form of power – power as visible political drama, the illusion that we, those who currently have no real power, can exercise power by voting for candidates already selected for their ideological subservience to power, in a political and economic system structured to serve power, in a media and cultural landscape where those who try to address or challenge real power either end up being dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”, or “tinfoil hat-wearing” leftists, or crazed socialists; or end up being locked away as subversives, as a menace to society, as has prominently happened to Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

A small hint that Freedland is veiling power – from himself too – is his unthinking reference to Bill Clinton’s election adviser as running a “left campaign”. Of course, stripped of a narrative that serves power, neither Clinton nor his campaign could ever have been described as of the left.

While Freedland frets about how political power has moved to the right in the US and UK, he also indulges the deceptive consolation that cultural power – “the media, the Academy, entertainment”, as he refers to it – can act as a liberal-left counterweight, even if an ineffective one, to the right’s political power. But as I pointed out, the media and entertainment world – of which Freedland is very much part – are there precisely to uphold power, rationalise it, propagandise for it, and refine it so as to better conceal it. They are integral to the shadow play, to the veiling of real power. The left-right dichotomy – within the severely circumscribed limits he and his colleagues impose – is part of that veiling process.

Freedland’s seeming analysis of power does not, of course, lead him to consider in any meaningful way the most pressing and vital issues of the moment, issues that are deeply entwined with what power is and how it functions:

* how we might upend economic “orthodoxy” to prevent the imminent collapse of a global financial system fallaciously premised on the idea of infinite growth on a finite planet,

* and how, if we are to survive as a species, we might deal with corporate power that is polluting the planet to death through the aggressive cultivation of rampant, profit-driven consumerism.

These issues are only ever addressed tangentially in the corporate media, in ways that do not threaten deep power.

Glitches in the system

The kind of power Freedland focuses on is not real power. He is interested only in taking “power” away from Donald Trump to give it to a supposedly “electable” candidate for the Democratic party, like Pete Buttigieg or Michael Bloomberg, rather than a supposedly “unelectable” Sanders; or to take “power” from Boris Johnson through a “moderate”, pliable Labour party reminiscent of the Tony Blair era rather than the “alienating” democratic socialism he and his colleagues worked so relentlessly to undermine from the moment Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

In other words, for Freedland and the entire spectrum of the corporate media, the only discussion they care to have is about who might best serve a superficial, ephemeral political power – without actually defining or even alluding to real power.

There is good reason for this. Because if we understood what power is, that it depends on ideas that we have been force-fed our every waking moment, ideas that enslave our minds and are now poised to kill us, we might decide that the whole system of power, not just its latest pretty or ugly face, needs to be swept away. That we need to start with entirely new ideas and values. And that the only way to liberate ourselves from our current pathological, self-destructive ideas is to stop listening to the loyal functionaries of power like Jonathan Freedland.

The current efforts to stop Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination do at least help to open our eyes.

The Democratic party is one of the two national US parties whose role, like the corporate media, is to conceal deep power. Its function is to create the illusion of choice, and thereby keep the viewing public engrossed in the drama of politics. That does not mean that there are no differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. There are, and for some people they are meaningful and can be vitally important. But those differences are completely trivial from the perspective of power.

In fact, power’s goal is to magnify those trivial differences to make them look like major differences. But whichever party gets into “power”, the corporations will keep despoiling and destroying the planet, they will continue driving us into profit-making wars, and they will carry on accumulating vast wealth largely unregulated. They will be able to do so because the Republican and Democratic parties’ leaderships rose to their current positions – they were selected – by proving their usefulness to deep power. That is the power of power, after all.

That is not to say there are never glitches in the system. Mistakes happen, though they are usually corrected quickly. The system is not all-powerful – not yet, at least. Our situation is not necessarily hopeless, though the struggle is immensely difficult because most of us have not yet worked out what power is and therefore have no idea how it might be confronted.

Power has had to make historic compromises, to take defensive actions in the hope of maintaining its invisibility. In the west, it eventually conceded the vote to all adult men, then women, to ensure its legitimacy. As a result, power shifted from expressing itself through implicit or overt threats of physical violence to maintain order and moved towards manufacturing an ideological consensus – our current passivity to our imminent self-destruction – through education systems and the corporate media.

(The threat of violence is only veiled, and can be made explicit against those who doubt the legitimacy of power or try to stop its descent into self-destruction, as Extinction Rebellion will increasingly find the more it pushes for deep and systemic change.)

Power’s relentless drive to feed the insatiable appetite it has created for us as consumers, and its obsession with technological fixes as a way to maximise efficiency and profits, sometimes create these glitches. They open up new possibilities for exposing power. One recent example is the information publishing revolution embodied by social media. Power is now desperately trying to stuff that genie back into the lamp with self-serving narratives about “fake news” on the left (made more credible by conflating it with power-serving fake news on the right), as well as making drastic changes to algorithms to disappear the left’s rapidly emerging counter-narratives.

And most importantly, power is struggling to maintain the illusion of its benign nature, of normal service, in the face of real-world facts, such as the planet heating up, runaway fires in Australia, balmy winter temperatures in the Antarctic, the mass die-off of insects, and the tide of plastic choking the oceans. Its efforts to exploit the wealth-generating opportunities offered by the climate and wider environmental emergencies, while refusing to acknowledge that it is entirely responsible for those emergencies, may yet backfire. The question is not whether we wake up to the role of power, but whether we do so before it is too late to effect change.

The Sanders threat

Sanders is one of those glitches. Just like Jeremy Corbyn was in the UK. They have been thrown up by current circumstances. They are the first signs of a tentative political awakening to power, sometimes dismissed generically as “populism”. They are the inevitable outcome of the ever greater difficulty power faces in concealing its self-destructiveness as it seeks to remove every last limit to its voracious acquisitiveness.

Once upon a time, those who paid the price of power were out of view, in disenfranchised, urban slums or far-off lands. But the accelerating contradictions of power – of late-stage, global capitalism, if you prefer a specific name – have brought those effects much closer to home, where they cannot so easily be ignored or discounted. Growing sections of western societies, the central locus of power, understand that there needs to be serious, not cosmetic, change.

Power needs to be rid of Sanders, just as it previously had to rid itself of Corbyn because both are that rarest thing – politicians who are not imprisoned within the current power paradigm. Because they do not serve power cultishly like most of their colleagues, such politicians threaten to shine a light on true power. Ultimately, power will use any tool to destroy them. But power prefers, if possible, to maintain its cloak of invisibility, to avoid exposing the sham of the consumption-driven “democracy” it engineered to consolidate and expand its power. It prefers our collusion.

The reason the Democratic party establishment is trying to bring down Sanders at the primaries stage and crown a power-functionary like Buttigieg, Biden or even Elizabeth Warren – or if it must, parachute in a billionaire like Michael Bloomberg – is not because Sanders would on his own be able to end the globe-spanning power of pathological capitalism and consumerism. It is because the nearer he gets to the main shadow play, to the presidency, the more power will have to make itself visible to defeat him. (Language makes it difficult to describe this dynamic without resorting to metaphors that make power sound fancifully human rather than structural and ideological.)

As the other candidates increasingly look unsuited to the task of toppling Sanders for the nomination, and rigging the primaries has proved much harder to do covertly than it was hoped, power has had to flex its muscles more publicly than it likes. So narrative is being marshalled to destroy Sanders in the same way that the antisemitism and Brexit narratives were used to halt Corbyn’s grassroots movement in its tracks. In Sanders’ case, the corporate media is preparing a readymade Russia narrative against him in case he gets nearer to power – a narrative that has already been refined for use against Trump.

(Trump’s relation to power could be the basis for an entirely separate post. He is not an ideological threat to power, he is one if its functionaries. But he is a potential Harvey Weinstein or Prince Andrew. He can be sacrificed if needs be. The Russiagate narrative has served two purposes useful to power. It has tamed Trump’s ego-based politics to ensure he does not threaten deep power by making it more visible. And it has created a compelling political drama that channels and dissipates the “resistance” to Trump, satisfying much of the left’s own need to feel they are doing something, when in fact they are simply strengthening Trump and deep power.)

Caught in a trap

Late last week, as the landslide in Nevada for Sanders was imminent, the western media uncritically reported claims, based on unnamed “US officials”, that the Vermont senator is seen by the Russians as an “asset”, and that the Kremlin is trying to help either him or Trump to get elected. No one making that claim was identified, no explanation was offered of how Sanders could serve as an asset, nor was evidence cited for how the Russians might be able to help Sanders win. Power doesn’t need facts or evidence, even when its claims are self-evidently disruptive to the democratic process. It exists chiefly in the realm of narrative and ideology. This is a story, just like Corbyn’s “antisemitism crisis”, that is made true simply through repetition.

Because power is power, its narratives can defy the most elementary rules of logic. After all, how could an unverified, evidence-free narrative about Russian interference on behalf of Sanders’ campaign be more important than actual interference by anonymous “US officials” intended to damage Sanders’ campaign? How could such undemocratic, unaccountable efforts to interfere in the outcome of the US election be so readily peddled by the media unless the entire press corps is incapable or unwilling to engage their critical faculties in favour of the democratic principles they claim to uphold? Unless, in truth, they are not there representing us, the people, and our interests, but are instead simply servants of what amounts to a power-cult.

As I have documented many times before, Corbyn found himself caught in a trap of the kind now faced by Sanders. Any supporter (including Jews) who denied that the Labour party Corbyn led was antisemitic, or argued that the antisemitism claims were being weaponised to damage him, was cited as proof that Corbyn had indeed attracted antisemites to the party. Concluding that Corbyn’s Labour party was not antisemitic, based on the evidence, was treated as evidence of antisemitism. But as soon as Corbyn agreed under media and party pressure to accept the alternative – that an antisemitism problem had taken root on his watch – he was also implicitly forced to concede that something about him and his values had allowed antisemitism to take root. He found he was damned either way – which is precisely how power makes sure it emerges the winner.

Unless we can develop our critical faculties to resist its propaganda, power holds all the cards and can play them the way that best suits its interests. The Russia narrative can be similarly written and rewritten in any way needed to damage Sanders. If he dissociates himself from the Russia narrative, it can be cited as proof that he is in the Kremlin’s pocket. But if Sanders supports the claims of Trump’s collusion with Russia, as he has done, he confirms the narrative that Vladimir Putin is interfering in the election – which can then be twisted when necessary to present Sanders as another of Russia’s assets.

The Hill@thehill

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Let me tell this to Putin — the American people, whether Republicans, Democrats, independents are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our elections.”51111:15 PM – Feb 21, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy470 people are talking about this

The message is: A vote for Trump or Sanders will put Putin in change of the White House. If you’re a patriot, better to choose a safe pair of hands – those of Buttgeig, Biden or Bloomberg. (Paradoxically, one of the glitches might be a US presidential election campaign between two billionaires, a “choice” between Trump and Bloomberg. Should power become too successful in engineering the electoral system to serve its interests alone, too successful in allowing money to buy all political influence, it risks making itself visible to a wider section of the public than ever before.)

None of this should be seen as sinister or conspiratorial, though of course it sounds that way to those who fail or refuse to understand power. It is in the logic of power to exercise and consolidate its power to the greatest extent possible. And power has been accumulating power to itself over centuries, over millennia. Our failure to understand this simple truth is really a form of political illiteracy, one that has been engendered by our submission to, our worship of, power.

Those caught up in the drama of politics, the surface ripples – which is almost all of us, almost all of the time – are actors in, rather than witnesses to, the story of power. And for that reason we can see only other actors, the battles between the powerful and the powerless, and between the powerless and the powerless, rather than power itself.

We watch the drama without seeing the theatre in which that drama is unfolding. In fact, power is much more than the drama or the theatre. It is the unseen foundations on which the theatre is built. To employ another metaphor, we are like soldiers on the battlefields of old. We slaughter – or are slaughtered by – people no different to us, defined as an enemy, cheered on by generals, politicians and journalists in the service of a supposed ideal we cannot articulate beyond the emptiest slogans.

Power is the structure of the thoughts we think we control, a framework for the ideologies we think we voted for, the values we think we choose to treasure, the horizon of imaginations we think we created. Power exists only so long as we consent to it through our blind obedience. But in truth, it is the weakest of opponents – it can be overcome simply by raising our heads and opening our eyes.

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The U.S. Is the World Leader of Bio-Weapons Research, Production, and Use Against Mankind

By Gary D. Barnett

Global Research,

Those that prevent disease and expose virus creation are heroic, but those that create and purposely spread disease and virus are inhuman. Given the history of the United States government and its military industrial complex concerning biological and germ warfare, the use of these agents against large populations, and the desire to create agents that are race specific strains, these powerful entities have become compassionless purveyors of death to the innocent.

Manmade viruses meant for warfare, whether for economic destruction, starvation, or mass death, are the workings of the truly evil among us. Predation at this level is relegated to those in power; a president for example, could give the order to wipe out millions due to his inability to control a problem he caused and perpetuated, and then lay blame on the victims.

Who would ever have believed that modern warfare could be more brutal, more torturous, more painful, and more harmful to innocents, especially children, than past atrocities committed in war. Memories of millions sent to their deaths fighting in trenches, cities obliterated by atomic bombs, entire countries destroyed, and millions purposely left to starve in order to appease some tyrant or elected “leader.” I once thought that nuclear war would signal the end of life as we know it, but considering modern warfare and technology, I now think that uncontrolled and deadly viruses may consume the world population, as one after another poisons are released as acts of hidden war. There can be no end to this madness, as any retaliation in kind will result in the spread of worldwide disease; all created by man.

While tangible evidence is not available, the new Coronavirus, (2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) one in a line of many that could have been produced by man in laboratories, is affecting almost exclusively the Chinese at this point. This has seemingly opened the floodgates to speculation as to its exact origin. This virus has unique characteristics that have happened before with SARS and MERS, and has genetic material that has never been identified, and is not tied to any animal or human known virus. This should be troubling to all, because if this is manmade, it was manufactured as a weapon of war. So who is responsible for its release in China? It is possible that this virus was created in China and was “accidentally” released into the population, but that does not sound credible at any level. Do any think that the Chinese government would create a Chinese race specific virus and release it in their country?

Interestingly, in the past, U.S. universities and NGOs went to China specifically to do illegal biological experimentation, and this was so egregious to Chinese officials, that forcible removal of these people was the result. Harvard University, one of the major players in this scandal, stole the DNA samples of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens, left China with those samples, and continued illegal bio-research in the U.S. It is thought that the U.S. military, which puts a completely different spin on the conversation, had commissioned the research in China at the time. This is more than suspicious.

The U.S. has, according to this article at Global Research, had a massive biological warfare program since at least the early 1940s, but has used toxic agents against this country and others since the 1860s. This is no secret, regardless of the propaganda spread by the government and its partners in criminal bio-weapon research and production.

As of 1999, the U.S. government had deployed its Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) arsenal against the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Haitian boat people, and our neighbor Canada according to this articleat Counter Punch. Of course, U.S. citizens have been used as guinea pigs many times as well, and exposed to toxic germ agents and deadly chemicals by government. Keep in mind that this is a short list, as the U.S. is well known for also using proxies to spread its toxic chemicals and germ agents, such as happened in Iraq and Syria. Since 1999 there have been continued incidences of several different viruses, most of which are presumed to be manmade, including the current Coronavirus that is affecting China today.

There is also much evidence of the research and development of race-specific bio-warfare agents. This is very troubling. One would think, given the idiotic race arguments by post-modern Marxists, that this would consume the mainstream news, and any participants in these atrocious race-specific poisons would be outed at every level. That is not happening, but I believe it is due to obvious reasons, including government cover-up, hypocrisy at all levels, and leftist agenda driven objectives that would not gain ground with the exposure of this government-funded anti-race science.

I will say that it is not just the U.S. that is developing and producing bio-warfare agents and viruses, but many developed countries around the globe do so as well. But the United States, as is the case in every area of war and killing, is by far the world leader in its inhuman desire to be able to kill entire populations through biological and chemical warfare means. Because these agents are extremely dangerous and uncontrollable, and can spread wildly, the risk to not only isolated populations, but also the entire world is evident. Consider that a deadly virus created by the U.S. and used against another country was found out and verified, and in retaliation, that country or others decided to strike back with other toxic agents against America. Where would this end, and over time, how many billions could be affected in such a scenario?

All indications point to the fact that the most toxic, poisonous, and deadly viruses ever known are being created in labs around the world. In the U.S. think of Fort Detrick, Maryland, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas, Horn Island, Mississippi, Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, Vigo Ordinance Plant, Indiana, and many others. Think of the fascist partnerships between this government and the pharmaceutical industry. Think of the U.S. military installations positioned all around the globe. Nothing good can come from this, as it is not about finding cures for disease, or about discovering vaccines, but is done for one reason only, and that is for the purpose of bio-warfare for mass killing.

The drive to find biological weapons that will sicken and kill millions at a time is not only a travesty, but is beyond evil. This power is held by the few, but the potential victims of this madness include everyone on earth. How can such insanity at this level be allowed to continue? If any issue could ever unite the masses, governments participating in biological and germ warfare, race-specific killing, and creating viruses with the potential to affect disease and death worldwide, should cause many to stand together against it. The first step is to expose that governments, the most likely culprit being the U.S. government, are planting these viruses purposely to cause great harm. Once that is proven, the unbelievable risk to all will be known, and then people everywhere should put their divisiveness aside, stand together, and stop this assault on mankind.

“In vast laboratories in the Ministry of Peace, and in experimental stations, teams of experts are indefatigably at work searching for new and deadlier gases; or for soluble poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents; or for breeds of disease germs immunised against all possible antibodies.” George Orwell – 1984

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Cult-Like Ignorance is Death: Trump and the Coronavirus

by HENRY GIROUX

Trump’s lies, his disparagement of science and scientists, his claim that non-political civil servants are part of the deep state, his lack of credibility, his penchant for political opportunism over the needs of the nation, his pathological embrace of hyperbole, his delight in creating confusion, and his mistaking loyalty for public service puts the nation in grave danger in light of the growing pandemic. He has gutted the health services, slashed much needed revenue for public goods through tax giveaways to the ultra-rich, ousted, Tim Ziemer, one of the most trusted leaders in public health, and appointed a religious fanatic Mike Pence, to head the attack on the corona virus crisis. This is a politician who defunded Planned Parenthood, and once claimed that smoking does not kill people. Pence is not merely incompetent, given the policies he sanctioned during the opioid and HIV crisis while he was governor, he is also a walking testimony to the rise of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism and its move from the margins to the centers of power.

Trump has played down the urgency of the pandemic, blamed the media for distorting its seriousness, and believes that brown people are more of a threat to national security than real threats such as a pandemic and climate change. As a neoliberal on steroids, he is more concerned about the stock market than human lives. He trades in conspiracy theories, is addicted to brain dead propaganda outlets such as Fox News, and rewards full blown racist such as Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom, which in this case should be renamed the Medal of Stupidity. After all, Limbaugh did claim that the news about the virus is false and is being spread by the alleged deep state in order to sabotage Trump’s re-election. Evidence for such a charge was based on the claim that Dr Nancy Messonnier, who has worked for the CDC for 25 years, is the sister of former attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Someone should revoke Limbaugh’s high school diploma.  Trump and his ultra-nationalist, racist loyalists cannot fathom that transnational problems demand transnational solutions as is made clear in his flat earth denial of global warming.

This criminogenic administration poses a serious threat to the nation and the globe. If there is anything to learn from an earlier time about governments wedded to ignorance, racism, anti-intellectualism, racial cleansing, and the glorification of ultra-nationalism, it is now. Trump and his merry band of incompetent lackeys are symbols of a necropolitics that is wedded to destruction, violence, greed, falsehoods, and the needs of capital. Terminal idiocy, cult like absolutism, bottomless ignorance, and unbridled arrogance and narcissism have given rise to a form of neoliberal fascism and a culture of cruelty unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. This is what neo fascism looks like when it ignores social needs for the demands of cravenly loyalty and the accumulation of power and profits. Trump is a menace and danger to the world not just the United States. Obsessed with loyalty, he hates competing centers of power,  ravages public health services in favor of his free market, privatization, and deregulation while putting unqualified political hacks such as White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow in important positions of leadership. Ludlow recently claimed that the spread of the virus was almost airtight contained in spite of growing evidence to the contrary.

Nazi Germany once showed us what the end of humanity looked like. Trump and his followers have revived that threat. Trading on a culture of fear, lies, false promises, massive anxiety, and the demand for unconditioned loyalty, Trump thus far has managed to keep his neoliberal fascist administration, afloat, in spite of his repeated acts of domestic terrorism—violence waged against the populations he is supposed to represent. The coming crisis may prove his undoing. Let’s hope one byproduct of this crisis is what Walter Benjamin once called “profane illumination” leading to massive collective resistance. One place to begin might be to take seriously Bertolt Brecht’s argument that it is impossible to condemn fascism without condemning capitalism. According to Brecht, “But how can anyone tell the truth about Fascism, unless he is willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it forth?” In the shadow of this pandemic virus, we are witnessing the slow violence of capitalism and its resort to the defunding of the welfare state, government services, the regulatory state, and the public good. Under such circumstances, fascism sets the stage for increasing acts of barbarism that develop and accumulate into forms of political corruption, endless crisis, and the production of an eco-system of ignorance that is death dealing.

Posted in USA, Health0 Comments

Bernie Sanders and the Socialism Question

by ROB URIE

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Wherever Bernie Sanders’ campaign goes from here, the left critique of establishment politics is getting empirical backing through popular support for his candidacy. The establishment’s response— incredulity that the little people have the temerity to question their betters, is combined with a posture of victimhood, that blameless elites are being demonized by neo-collectivist malcontents who are too stupid to appreciate the blessing that four decades of neoliberalism has bestowed on them.

With all of the social finesse of Mitt Romney claiming that poverty can be solved by getting poor children to borrow money from their parents (to start a business), the establishment’s cluelessness regarding how most citizens live is matched by certainty that the virtue of its opinions, as opposed to its factual malgovernance, will be its true legacy. In fact, people describe different realities because they are living different realities. Outside of oligarch and PMC (Professional Managerial Class) ghettoes, the people want a better world.

Ironic— sort of, is the fear on the part of establishment Cold Warriors that Mr. Sanders is a real socialist versus the charge by the older left that he is an FDR-style savior of capitalist imperialism. Left unaddressed in both views is that environmental crises in multiple realms— climate, species loss and oceanic decline, point to a planet-sized hole in both right and left theories of capitalist development. As the accumulating evidence has it, capitalist exploitation is fundamentally incompatible with continued human existence.

What has changed is that whoever is elected president will govern within a trajectory of environmental decline that will make itself felt in inverse proportion to efforts to ignore it. Moreover, given its global dimension, an era of international cooperation— along with the wholesale abandonment of consumption-based political satiation, will either ensue or something like the American-led race to the bottom will spell our end. Absent a full-scale rebellion to support the left program, the latter is the most likely outcome.

For those who don’t yet see this, Bernie Sanders’ proposal for a Green New Deal with a job guarantee is 1) the only way to avoid environmental calamity, 2) a tool to transfer power down the class structure, and as such 3) a way to counter the power of the oligarchs. The history of environmental regulation is of regulatory efforts being successfully countered by capitalists firing millions of workers. With the new reality that dirty capitalist production must be ended, generous use of the public purse is the only politically viable way to get from where we are to where we need to be.

Through the implied establishment worldview, culpability for environmental destruction and responsibility for resolving it aren’t as self-evident as current politics suggest. Environmental ills began accumulating in the aftermath of WWII as the American industrial model was distributed around the world. The cause of environmental ills was / is industrial production, not political maladministration per se. With representative democracy premised on constituent service, the relevant political question is: which constituents get served? Several decades of Supreme Court decisions equating wealth with political speech have answered this question unequivocally.

Without something akin to class analysis, resulting social divisions are inexplicable, hence the centrist canard that billionaires are people too. Under liberal theories of the state, elected officials have a duty to protect citizens from grievous harm, but not necessarily when those harms are caused by the ordinary business of other citizens and the state. This is the long held view that busted unions for bosses, launched wars for arms merchants, undertook foreign coups for business interests and negotiated environmental agreements that leave polluters in charge of Western political economy.

The question of what socialism might look like in this political moment more likely than not means looking forward to where we must go, not back to the struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By broadening the concept of capitalist exploitation to include the natural world, the oligarchs and the PMC can be understood to be a murder-suicide cult determined to trade the future of humanity for a thirteenth flat-screen television and a ninth vacation home. Who, precisely, is victimizing the rich with environmental calamity?

Lest this be less than evident, this is still a history of the bosses— of the oligarchs and their professional managers. Most of the human beings caught up in this process have lived as scientific subjects, inputs into industrial processes to be optimized. The gig economy is the answer to the optimization problem: how does capital get workers to work more for less pay? Surveillance is the quest for total control. It provides the data needed for micro-optimization, exploitation down to the number of breaths per minute and heartbeats per hour to be allotted.

The New Deal represented a tradeoff between (selective) internal economic security and the business of global capitalist exploitation. While the internal civic righteousness of the Civil Rights movement was being brought to fruition, the CIA was ousting democratically elected leaders for American business interests abroad. FDR’s post-WWII military Keynesianism produced nuclear weapons and the machinery of death and destruction along with (temporary) employment security. In theory, this tradeoff was incidental, while in fact, it wasn’t.

The older questions of revolution versus a takeover of the state, the collective ownership of productive resources versus private ownership, and even the role of nation-states in delimiting political realms, are now confronted by a corporate internationalism. With environmental crisis underway, what power does the state have over the environmental practices of multinational corporations? How this has played out environmentally is that a large part of American liberal ‘success’ in reducing greenhouse gas emissions has come through outsourcing dirty production to China.

Multinational corporations, NGOs and stateless elites have long used national borders as realms of political control. As both fact and metaphor, environmental calamity has followed wherever these have gone. Since NAFTA was passed, Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses in trade agreements have transferred sovereign power over environmental issues to supra-national tribunals of corporate lawyers. Without looking past the rhetoric to see how actual political power is being exercised, effectively addressing environmental decline simply isn’t possible.

The Chinese political model, like the American of the last half-century, is state-capitalism with political quiescence bought with dismal employment paid in consumer goods. If anything, the American model is more intrusive, more insistent, and more likely than not, will be more difficult to dislodge. Current media chatter about the authoritarian government of China depends on the distinction between public and private authoritarian control. American corporations are authoritarian by design. This authoritarianism is expressed through control of workers, control of media and use of the surveillance state to manage political dissent.

A capital strike is the practice where business suddenly withdraws capital, employment and / or needed goods in order to leverage political goals. After Richard Nixon created the EPA in 1970, Ronald Reagan used the manufactured recession of the early 1980s to render environmental regulation politically untenable. Mr. Reagan used the sudden withdrawal of employment caused by the recession to successfully portray a tradeoff between jobs and environmental regulation. Establishment politicians intent on ‘proving’ that environmental resolution isn’t politically tenable need only end some dirty production without a safety net for displaced workers.

With recent UN environmental committee reports in hand (herehere and here), there is no configuration of circumstances under which ‘green growth’— the most politically expedient resolution to environmental ills, will solve them. Liberal proposals for a Green New Deal depend mostly or entirely on green growth, even though there is no evidence to support it as a solution. And even the UN committee solutions depend on untested and wildly speculative technologies to meet their environmental goals. These programs may be worse than doing nothing because they emerge from a logic of subtraction through more of the same.

Readers are encouraged to read the links in full. What is brought to the fore is that almost all of the proposals coming from Western officialdom and political hopefuls are based on ignorance of the scope and scale of environmental ills mixed with wishful thinking. Until recently, these were politically viable because the consequences of being wrong lay in an abstract future. But no longer. Not only has the American political leadership been negligent regarding environmental matters since the 1980s, but through this negligence problems have grown to the point where only radical economic reorganization offers real solutions.

Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates pay lip service to environmental crisis. They propose to re-sign on to the Paris Climate Accord, a non-binding agreement that the Obama administration did what it could to undermine before exploiting it as a feel-good political talking point. As the best estimates of the UN committees and environmental scientists have had it for some time now, this type of misdirection may serve short term political goals, but at the cost of making real resolution of environmental ills that much more costly in terms of social disruption and the amount of resources needed later.

The Paris Climate Accord illustrates a problem with narrow and targeted responses. Since it was negotiated, UN committees have identified species loss and the drastic decline of oceans as being causally related to climate change through industrial practices. Industrial methods carry with them the logic of economic exploitation. For example, trawl-net fishing uses only half or less of the marine animals it kills. Industrial agriculture likewise kills entire ecosystems to grow monoculture crops. As evidence of cognitive capture, monoculture planting (BECCs) of what remains of the earth’s surface is proposed as the path to meeting UN goals.

As the cliché goes, when we find ourselves in a deep hole, the only surefire strategy to not make the problem worse is to stop digging. The oligarchs and PMC who claim that the left is using environmental decline to push a wish-list of programs are promoting the fiction that the causes of social and environmental decline are unrelated to one another. NAFTA featured a framework and incentives to outsource labor and an ISDS clause to undermine environmental regulation. Both of these were brought to full fruition after China joined the WTO (World Trade Organization).

As long as national environmental accounts can be gamed by outsourcing dirty production to other countries, the politicians doing so are acting as functionaries for capital, not solving environmental woes. Additionally, the political value of the nation-state framework to capital is brought to the fore. Strategies to counter the power of multinational corporations require both admitting that it exists and building alternatives to it. Here the liberal political frame that ‘we are all in this together’ works in only one direction, to preclude the building of alternative centers of power.

The transition from capitalist to non-exploitative political economy fits the conception of either evolutionary or revolutionary political change. The bird-in-the-hand is an electoral choice (Bernie Sanders) who understands the conundrum well enough to put together complex programs that address both the problems in direct need of resolution and the political process that will most plausibly facilitate it. Without sidelining capitalism and the political power it wields, there is no path to environmental resolution. And without creating a countervailing power, there is no politically feasible path to sidelining it.

Any thought that Bernie Sanders could assume the power to affect the reorganization of capitalist political economy through electoral politics alone is delusional. The question isn’t: can we elect someone to enact the political programs to fix what ails us? The question is: how do we redistribute political power to make such reorganization possible? Without millions of people in the streets and the plausible threat that the best path forward for all involved is to sideline capitalist interests to make room for left programs, there is no chance of political success.

What is odd about this political moment — and a non-sequitur in political terms, is the sense of continuity emanating from the political establishment. ‘McGovern 1972’ already happened, with neoliberal warmonger Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump in 2016. The New Cold War finds credence with those who saw the old Cold War as an ideological endeavor— rather than the commercial enterprise that it was. The conception of socialism that perceives simulacra in young, self-described socialists, will have trouble broadening Marx’s theory of exploitation to account for the factual circumstances of environmental decline.

To quote Bob Marley, ‘social living is the best.’ Socialism, as it is being put forward in 2020, is a statement of social purpose in contrast to the alleged ‘pragmatic’ capitalism of neoliberalism. With no apparent sense of irony, this pragmatism is everywhere and always expressed as support for the rich. When George W. Bush declared that his fraudulent war against Iraq was ‘good for the economy,’ he meant that it was good for his economy— that of his rich patrons. When Barack Obama sold the commitment of $20 trillion in public largesse to bail out Wall Street to ‘save the economy,’ he meant the economy of Wall Street. Neoliberalism is an ethos of the rich that was sold the same way that trickle-down economics was— as a tide that lifts all boats.

In contrast, neoliberals were given four decades of virtually unfettered control over Western political economy. It benefitted a few beyond their wildest dreams of avarice, while lowering wages, raising economic insecurity, hollowing out public institutions, motivating murderous wars and greatly exacerbating environmental decline. The establishment grifters who suddenly see the possibility of being on the wrong side of power should have considered the possibility when they were cheerleading the creation of a winner-take-all society. Lucky for them, that isn’t the socialist vision. But you wouldn’t know it from hearing them squeal.

Posted in USA, Campaigns0 Comments

Bernie Sanders and the Socialism Question

by ROB URIE

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Wherever Bernie Sanders’ campaign goes from here, the left critique of establishment politics is getting empirical backing through popular support for his candidacy. The establishment’s response— incredulity that the little people have the temerity to question their betters, is combined with a posture of victimhood, that blameless elites are being demonized by neo-collectivist malcontents who are too stupid to appreciate the blessing that four decades of neoliberalism has bestowed on them.

With all of the social finesse of Mitt Romney claiming that poverty can be solved by getting poor children to borrow money from their parents (to start a business), the establishment’s cluelessness regarding how most citizens live is matched by certainty that the virtue of its opinions, as opposed to its factual malgovernance, will be its true legacy. In fact, people describe different realities because they are living different realities. Outside of oligarch and PMC (Professional Managerial Class) ghettoes, the people want a better world.

Ironic— sort of, is the fear on the part of establishment Cold Warriors that Mr. Sanders is a real socialist versus the charge by the older left that he is an FDR-style savior of capitalist imperialism. Left unaddressed in both views is that environmental crises in multiple realms— climate, species loss and oceanic decline, point to a planet-sized hole in both right and left theories of capitalist development. As the accumulating evidence has it, capitalist exploitation is fundamentally incompatible with continued human existence.

What has changed is that whoever is elected president will govern within a trajectory of environmental decline that will make itself felt in inverse proportion to efforts to ignore it. Moreover, given its global dimension, an era of international cooperation— along with the wholesale abandonment of consumption-based political satiation, will either ensue or something like the American-led race to the bottom will spell our end. Absent a full-scale rebellion to support the left program, the latter is the most likely outcome.

For those who don’t yet see this, Bernie Sanders’ proposal for a Green New Deal with a job guarantee is 1) the only way to avoid environmental calamity, 2) a tool to transfer power down the class structure, and as such 3) a way to counter the power of the oligarchs. The history of environmental regulation is of regulatory efforts being successfully countered by capitalists firing millions of workers. With the new reality that dirty capitalist production must be ended, generous use of the public purse is the only politically viable way to get from where we are to where we need to be.

Through the implied establishment worldview, culpability for environmental destruction and responsibility for resolving it aren’t as self-evident as current politics suggest. Environmental ills began accumulating in the aftermath of WWII as the American industrial model was distributed around the world. The cause of environmental ills was / is industrial production, not political maladministration per se. With representative democracy premised on constituent service, the relevant political question is: which constituents get served? Several decades of Supreme Court decisions equating wealth with political speech have answered this question unequivocally.

Without something akin to class analysis, resulting social divisions are inexplicable, hence the centrist canard that billionaires are people too. Under liberal theories of the state, elected officials have a duty to protect citizens from grievous harm, but not necessarily when those harms are caused by the ordinary business of other citizens and the state. This is the long held view that busted unions for bosses, launched wars for arms merchants, undertook foreign coups for business interests and negotiated environmental agreements that leave polluters in charge of Western political economy.

The question of what socialism might look like in this political moment more likely than not means looking forward to where we must go, not back to the struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By broadening the concept of capitalist exploitation to include the natural world, the oligarchs and the PMC can be understood to be a murder-suicide cult determined to trade the future of humanity for a thirteenth flat-screen television and a ninth vacation home. Who, precisely, is victimizing the rich with environmental calamity?

Lest this be less than evident, this is still a history of the bosses— of the oligarchs and their professional managers. Most of the human beings caught up in this process have lived as scientific subjects, inputs into industrial processes to be optimized. The gig economy is the answer to the optimization problem: how does capital get workers to work more for less pay? Surveillance is the quest for total control. It provides the data needed for micro-optimization, exploitation down to the number of breaths per minute and heartbeats per hour to be allotted.

The New Deal represented a tradeoff between (selective) internal economic security and the business of global capitalist exploitation. While the internal civic righteousness of the Civil Rights movement was being brought to fruition, the CIA was ousting democratically elected leaders for American business interests abroad. FDR’s post-WWII military Keynesianism produced nuclear weapons and the machinery of death and destruction along with (temporary) employment security. In theory, this tradeoff was incidental, while in fact, it wasn’t.

The older questions of revolution versus a takeover of the state, the collective ownership of productive resources versus private ownership, and even the role of nation-states in delimiting political realms, are now confronted by a corporate internationalism. With environmental crisis underway, what power does the state have over the environmental practices of multinational corporations? How this has played out environmentally is that a large part of American liberal ‘success’ in reducing greenhouse gas emissions has come through outsourcing dirty production to China.

Multinational corporations, NGOs and stateless elites have long used national borders as realms of political control. As both fact and metaphor, environmental calamity has followed wherever these have gone. Since NAFTA was passed, Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses in trade agreements have transferred sovereign power over environmental issues to supra-national tribunals of corporate lawyers. Without looking past the rhetoric to see how actual political power is being exercised, effectively addressing environmental decline simply isn’t possible.

The Chinese political model, like the American of the last half-century, is state-capitalism with political quiescence bought with dismal employment paid in consumer goods. If anything, the American model is more intrusive, more insistent, and more likely than not, will be more difficult to dislodge. Current media chatter about the authoritarian government of China depends on the distinction between public and private authoritarian control. American corporations are authoritarian by design. This authoritarianism is expressed through control of workers, control of media and use of the surveillance state to manage political dissent.

A capital strike is the practice where business suddenly withdraws capital, employment and / or needed goods in order to leverage political goals. After Richard Nixon created the EPA in 1970, Ronald Reagan used the manufactured recession of the early 1980s to render environmental regulation politically untenable. Mr. Reagan used the sudden withdrawal of employment caused by the recession to successfully portray a tradeoff between jobs and environmental regulation. Establishment politicians intent on ‘proving’ that environmental resolution isn’t politically tenable need only end some dirty production without a safety net for displaced workers.

With recent UN environmental committee reports in hand (herehere and here), there is no configuration of circumstances under which ‘green growth’— the most politically expedient resolution to environmental ills, will solve them. Liberal proposals for a Green New Deal depend mostly or entirely on green growth, even though there is no evidence to support it as a solution. And even the UN committee solutions depend on untested and wildly speculative technologies to meet their environmental goals. These programs may be worse than doing nothing because they emerge from a logic of subtraction through more of the same.

Readers are encouraged to read the links in full. What is brought to the fore is that almost all of the proposals coming from Western officialdom and political hopefuls are based on ignorance of the scope and scale of environmental ills mixed with wishful thinking. Until recently, these were politically viable because the consequences of being wrong lay in an abstract future. But no longer. Not only has the American political leadership been negligent regarding environmental matters since the 1980s, but through this negligence problems have grown to the point where only radical economic reorganization offers real solutions.

Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates pay lip service to environmental crisis. They propose to re-sign on to the Paris Climate Accord, a non-binding agreement that the Obama administration did what it could to undermine before exploiting it as a feel-good political talking point. As the best estimates of the UN committees and environmental scientists have had it for some time now, this type of misdirection may serve short term political goals, but at the cost of making real resolution of environmental ills that much more costly in terms of social disruption and the amount of resources needed later.

The Paris Climate Accord illustrates a problem with narrow and targeted responses. Since it was negotiated, UN committees have identified species loss and the drastic decline of oceans as being causally related to climate change through industrial practices. Industrial methods carry with them the logic of economic exploitation. For example, trawl-net fishing uses only half or less of the marine animals it kills. Industrial agriculture likewise kills entire ecosystems to grow monoculture crops. As evidence of cognitive capture, monoculture planting (BECCs) of what remains of the earth’s surface is proposed as the path to meeting UN goals.

As the cliché goes, when we find ourselves in a deep hole, the only surefire strategy to not make the problem worse is to stop digging. The oligarchs and PMC who claim that the left is using environmental decline to push a wish-list of programs are promoting the fiction that the causes of social and environmental decline are unrelated to one another. NAFTA featured a framework and incentives to outsource labor and an ISDS clause to undermine environmental regulation. Both of these were brought to full fruition after China joined the WTO (World Trade Organization).

As long as national environmental accounts can be gamed by outsourcing dirty production to other countries, the politicians doing so are acting as functionaries for capital, not solving environmental woes. Additionally, the political value of the nation-state framework to capital is brought to the fore. Strategies to counter the power of multinational corporations require both admitting that it exists and building alternatives to it. Here the liberal political frame that ‘we are all in this together’ works in only one direction, to preclude the building of alternative centers of power.

The transition from capitalist to non-exploitative political economy fits the conception of either evolutionary or revolutionary political change. The bird-in-the-hand is an electoral choice (Bernie Sanders) who understands the conundrum well enough to put together complex programs that address both the problems in direct need of resolution and the political process that will most plausibly facilitate it. Without sidelining capitalism and the political power it wields, there is no path to environmental resolution. And without creating a countervailing power, there is no politically feasible path to sidelining it.

Any thought that Bernie Sanders could assume the power to affect the reorganization of capitalist political economy through electoral politics alone is delusional. The question isn’t: can we elect someone to enact the political programs to fix what ails us? The question is: how do we redistribute political power to make such reorganization possible? Without millions of people in the streets and the plausible threat that the best path forward for all involved is to sideline capitalist interests to make room for left programs, there is no chance of political success.

What is odd about this political moment — and a non-sequitur in political terms, is the sense of continuity emanating from the political establishment. ‘McGovern 1972’ already happened, with neoliberal warmonger Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump in 2016. The New Cold War finds credence with those who saw the old Cold War as an ideological endeavor— rather than the commercial enterprise that it was. The conception of socialism that perceives simulacra in young, self-described socialists, will have trouble broadening Marx’s theory of exploitation to account for the factual circumstances of environmental decline.

To quote Bob Marley, ‘social living is the best.’ Socialism, as it is being put forward in 2020, is a statement of social purpose in contrast to the alleged ‘pragmatic’ capitalism of neoliberalism. With no apparent sense of irony, this pragmatism is everywhere and always expressed as support for the rich. When George W. Bush declared that his fraudulent war against Iraq was ‘good for the economy,’ he meant that it was good for his economy— that of his rich patrons. When Barack Obama sold the commitment of $20 trillion in public largesse to bail out Wall Street to ‘save the economy,’ he meant the economy of Wall Street. Neoliberalism is an ethos of the rich that was sold the same way that trickle-down economics was— as a tide that lifts all boats.

In contrast, neoliberals were given four decades of virtually unfettered control over Western political economy. It benefitted a few beyond their wildest dreams of avarice, while lowering wages, raising economic insecurity, hollowing out public institutions, motivating murderous wars and greatly exacerbating environmental decline. The establishment grifters who suddenly see the possibility of being on the wrong side of power should have considered the possibility when they were cheerleading the creation of a winner-take-all society. Lucky for them, that isn’t the socialist vision. But you wouldn’t know it from hearing them squeal.

Posted in USA, Campaigns0 Comments

Police Torture in Chicago

by: EVE OTTENBERG

The Chicago police department has a problem. They say it’s fixed, but local African American residents can’t be blamed for being skeptical. The problem is torture. And of course the Chicago PD is not one bad apple in the nation’s police departments, because when it comes to police brutality, the whole barrel is rotten. Chicago is just an extreme case.

“Between 1972 and 1991, approximately 125 African American suspects were tortured by police officers in Chicago,” Princeton anthropology professor Laurence Ralph writes in his new book “The Torture Letters: Reckoning With Police Violence.” More than 400 cases currently await investigation by the Illinois torture inquiry and relief commission, “which also gets three to five new torture claims each week.” From 2004 to 2016, Chicago police paid $662 million in police misconduct settlements. Torture has not been unusual in the Chicago PD and elsewhere, nor is the next level of violence – murder of suspects, of people stopped at traffic lights or just walking down the street. Stop and frisk often means stop and kill

For decades, Chicago’s Area 2, where officer Jon Burge’s seven-member “A-Team” took their suspects, was a notorious torture site. An anonymous police department whistleblower named Burge as a perpetrator in 35 torture cases, Ralph reports. “A total of 67 officers were identified by survivors as having direct knowledge of torture.” The torments included beatings, being shackled to a hot radiator, mock suffocations and electrocutions from Burge’s infamous black box. Once knowledge of this dreadful little machine seeped out and Burge was defending himself in the courts, he “is rumored to actually have thrown his torture device in Lake Michigan from his boat, named ‘Vigilante.’”

Another torturer was Richard Zuley, a Chicago police officer from 1977 to 2007, with a sabbatical as an interrogator at Guantanamo. Ralph sums up Zuley’s worldview: “Zuley said it did not matter to him whether this man was innocent or guilty. It didn’t matter because to Zuley, this was a bad guy.” And therein lies the problem: the good guy/bad guy mentality, which pervades all American police departments, the military and – to judge from Trump’s repetition of the phrase “bad hombre” – the executive branch of the U.S. government. Ralph argues that morally, no one, no matter what they have done, deserves the cruel and unusual punishment of torture. But many who consider the world riddled with bad guys disagree. That includes Trump and many in the former Bush administration. If torture yields a false confession, so what? The victim is a bad guy, and even if he’s punished for something he didn’t do, the reasoning goes, he was guilty of something. So instead of serve and protect, the Chicago police hunt and torture.

The good guy/bad guy dichotomy is the death of morality and the death of thought. It kills morality by eliminating justice based on an individual’s innocence or guilt of a specific crime. It kills thought, as “The Torture Letters” demonstrates, by recounting how police ignore leads and clues to the true perpetrator, because they already plan to ensnare one particular bad guy. Careful, patient, rational police-work goes out the window.

It’s also a quick step from seeing some people as bad guys to generalizing about groups and thence to racist stereotypes. Once the police regard young African American and Latino men as bad guys – the result of Bloomberg’s notorious stop and frisk policy – pretty much anything goes, including framing them for murders they didn’t commit, because they’re “bad guys,” who have committed other crimes anyway.

This diseased mentality stigmatizes whole communities. “Just because someone killed two police officers,” Ralph writes, “doesn’t mean that an entire community should be treated as if all members were murderers.” But that’s what has happened in Chicago. When a crime occurred, the police could pick whomever they wanted from this stigmatized group, regardless of evidence. The crime became an excuse to brutalize someone, anyone from the pool of those considered bad guys. This attitude goes to the top. When confronted with the lack of proof that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was planning attacks on Americans – the initial stated cause of assassinating him – Trump waved that away, said it didn’t matter, because Soleimani was a bad guy. But one person’s bad guy is another’s heroic soldier. This way of thinking is a highway to hell.

Burge’s “A-Team epitomized everything wrong with the Chicago police department: it is racist, it is secretive and…believes that the police department has the right to operate above the law,” Ralph writes. These are the same police videotaped “gunning Black Chicagoans down on the street,” like Harith Augustus in 2018, Paul O’Neal in 2016 and Laquan MacDonald in 2014. It is not even a short step from torture to murder; the two go hand in hand. No wonder African American residents are leaving Chicago in droves. Though one has to wonder – is this what the city’s powerful wanted all along?

Posted in USA, Human Rights0 Comments

Dem Insider: Party Bosses Choose the Nominee, Not Voters

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research,

The notion that America is democratic is a colossal hoax — falsely claimed by the US political establishment and press agent media.

Reality is vastly otherwise. Powerful interests run the country. Ordinary people have no say whatever.

If elections changed anything for the better, they’d be banned. The US political system is manipulated to assure continuity.

Monied interests are served exclusively, the vast majority of Americans exploited so they benefit, the way it’s always been from inception, notably since the neoliberal 90s.

On MSNBC, former Obama regime official Anton Gunn bluntly said “(t)he party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.”

Things are decided out of public view, voters deluded to believe otherwise, why elections when held are farcical.

Both right wings of the US one-party state operate the same way, by their own rules to assure no change in dirty business as usual.

In its Thursday edition, updated on Friday, the NYT reported that Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, and Bill Clinton warned about Sanders emerging as party presidential nominee in July — falsely claiming Dems could be wiped out in November.

According to the Times, Dem leaders are “willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance.”

The Times interviewed 93 out of 771 unelected superdelegates, comprised of high-level current and former Dem officials.

They expressed “overwhelming opposition to handing the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived with the most delegates but fell short of a majority.”

Claiming he’d lose to Trump and hand both houses to GOP candidates defies reality, polls showing otherwise.

According to Real Clear Politics, an average of polls conducted from February 14 – 27 showed Sanders is heavily favored to be Dem nominee with an 11.1 point edge over Biden, other Dem aspirants trailing him by wider margins.

An average of national general election polls conducted this month show Sanders defeating Trump handily by a 49.4 – 44.5 margin.

He may be more likely to defeat Trump than other Dem presidential aspirants, his rhetoric notably appealing to young and working-class voters.Is Moscow Aiding the Sanders Campaign? “Russia AgainGate”, But this Time in Favor of the “Progressive Dems”

If he fails to win a majority of delegates before the July Dem convention, superdelegates will likely choose an aspirant other than him as party standard bearer.

Wanting his chances undermined, anonymous US intelligence sources falsely claimed Russia is helping his campaign to “sow division” in the country — despite no evidence suggesting it because none exists.

Aspirant Tulsi Gabbard slammed the above rubbish, saying it “seek(s) to do two things:

“1. Create enough suspicion around Sanders, by falsely tarnishing him as a puppet of Russia, that he loses the election.

2. Or, at the very least, if Bernie wins the (Dem) nomination, force him to engage in inflammatory anti-Russia rhetoric and perpetuate the New Cold War and nuclear arms race, which are existential threats to our country and the world.”

Addressing her own campaign, Gabbard added:

“Am I going to allow myself to be manipulated and forced into a corner by overreaching intelligence agencies and the corporate media where, in order for me to win the presidency, I’m going to have to do what I know is not in the interests of the American people and world peace?”

“Or will I stand up to the corrupt neocon and neoliberal establishment, condemn their lies and smears, and act with the integrity and foresight necessary to forge a rational policy that will serve all our interests?”

She’s the only aspirant in the race worthy of public support because of her anti-war/progressive agenda, shown by her voting record, much different from Sanders, voting along Dem party lines most of the time.

It’s why party bosses and supportive media either smear or ignore her, assuring her marginal support as shown in polls, keeping her out of most debates to deny her a public platform for voters to know what she stands for.

Aspirants for the nation’s highest office aside, polls show most voters oppose same old/same old. Yet party bosses assure that’s what they get every time.

Candidate Trump pretended to be different. His record in office showed otherwise, exceeding the worst of his predecessors.

If Sanders becomes Dem nominee and defeats Trump in November, a long shot on both counts but possible, will he live up to his lofty campaign promises or follow in the footsteps of his predecessors?

It’s highly unlikely that he’d be permitted to become Dem standard bearer and president without having sold his soul to the system.

The only way he can win over powerful interests that run the country and be elevated to the nation’s highest office is by assuring that he’ll guarantee continuity.

That’s the price to become president or hold high-level congressional positions.

Throughout his near-40 years in politics, largely in Congress, he’s gone along to get along.

If elevated to the nation’s highest office, it’s virtually certain that he’d operate the same way — with a little wiggle room to throw crumbs at supporters, short of major policy changes like Medicare for all and other social justices programs.

While he’s not Trump, he’s part of the same dirty system that won’t change with him or anyone else as president.

That’s the disturbing reality of how the US is run — by the people who own the country, what John Jay, the first Supreme Court chief justice, long ago explained.

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