Yes, It’s Time to Come Home—Now

Actually ending the war in Afghanistan.

by: Andrew Bacevich

As Americans learned in Vietnam, the only way to end a war gone wrong is to leave the field of battle. (Photo: Sergeant Joseph R. Chenelly / United States Marine Corps)

As Americans learned in Vietnam, the only way to end a war gone wrong is to leave the field of battle. (Photo: Sergeant Joseph R. Chenelly / United States Marine Corps)

Let’s open up and sing, and ring the bells out
Ding-dong! the merry-oh sing it high, sing it low
Let them know the wicked witch is dead!

Within establishment circles, Donald Trump’s failure to win re-election has prompted merry singing and bell-ringing galore. If you read the New York Times or watch MSNBC, the song featured in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz nicely captures the mood of the moment.

As a consequence, expectations for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to put America back on the path to the Emerald City after a dispiriting four-year detour are sky-high. The new administration will defeat Covid-19, restore prosperity, vanquish racism, reform education, expand healthcare coverage, tackle climate change, and provide an effective and humane solution to the problem of undocumented migrants. Oh, and Biden will also return the United States to its accustomed position of global leadership. And save America’s soul to boot.

So we are told.

That these expectations are deemed even faintly credible qualifies as passing strange. After all, the outcome of the 2020 presidential election turned less on competing approaches to governance than on the character of the incumbent. It wasn’t Joe Biden as principled standard-bearer of enlightened twenty-first-century liberalism who prevailed. It was Joe Biden, a retread centrist pol who emerged as the last line of defense shielding America and the world from four more years of Donald Trump.

So the balloting definitively resolved only a single question: by 80 million to 74 million votes, a margin of six million, Americans signaled their desire to terminate Trump’s lease on the White House. Yet even if repudiating the president, voters hardly repudiated Trumpism. Republicans actually gained seats in the House of Representatives and appear likely to retain control of the Senate.

On November 3rd, a twofold transfer of power commenced. A rapt public has fixed its attention on the first of those transfers: Biden’s succession to the presidency (and Trump’s desperate resistance to the inevitable outcome). But a second, hardly less important transfer of power is also occurring. Once it became clear that Trump was not going to win a second term, control of the Republican Party began reverting from the president to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The implications of that shift are immense, as Biden, himself a longtime member of the Senate, no doubt appreciates.

Consider this telling anecdote from former President Barack Obama’s just-published memoir. Obama had tasked then-Vice President Biden with cajoling McConnell into supporting a piece of legislation favored by the administration. After Biden made his pitch, the hyper-partisan McConnell dourly replied, “You must be under the mistaken impression that I care.” End of negotiation.

Perhaps the Democrats will miraculously win both Senate seats in Georgia’s January runoff elections and so consign McConnell to the status of minority leader. If they don’t, let us not labor under the mistaken impression that he’ll support Biden’s efforts to defeat Covid-19, restore prosperity, vanquish racism, reform education, expand healthcare coverage, tackle climate change, or provide an effective and humane solution to the problem of undocumented migrants.

It’s a given that McConnell isn’t any more interested in saving souls than he is in passing legislation favored by Democrats. That leaves restoring American global leadership as the sole remaining arena where President Biden might elicit from a McConnell-controlled GOP something other than unremitting obstructionism.

And that, in turn, brings us face to face with the issue Democrats and Republicans alike would prefer to ignore: the U.S. penchant for war. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since the terror attacks of 9/11, successive administrations have relied on armed force to assert, affirm, or at least shore up America’s claim to global leadership. The results have not been pretty. A series of needless and badly mismanaged wars have contributed appreciably—more even than Donald Trump’s zany ineptitude—to the growing perception that the United States is now a declining power. That perception is not without validity. Over the past two decades, wars have depleted America’s strength and undermined its global influence.

So, as the U.S. embarks on the post-Trump era, what are the prospects that a deeply divided government presiding over a deeply divided polity will come to a more reasoned and prudent attitude toward war? A lot hinges on whether Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell can agree on an answer to that question.

An Unexpected Gift for “Sleepy Joe”

As his inevitable exit from the White House approaches, President Trump himself may be forcing the issue.

One of the distinctive attributes of our 45th president is that he never seemed terribly interested in actually tending to the duties of his office. He does not, in fact, possess a work ethic in any traditional sense. He prefers to swagger and strut rather than deliberate and decide. Once it became clear that he wasn’t going to win a second term, he visibly gave up even the pretense of governing. Today, he golfs, tweets, and rails. According to news reports, he no longer even bothers to set aside time for the daily presidential intelligence briefing.

As the clock runs out, however, certain Trumpian impulses remain in play. The war in Afghanistan, now in its 19th year, offers a notable example. In 2001, President George W. Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade the country, but prematurely turned his attention to a bigger and more disastrous misadventure in Iraq. Barack Obama inherited the Afghanistan War, promised to win it, and ordered a large-scale surge in the U.S. troop presence there. Yet the conflict stubbornly dragged on through his two terms. As for candidate Trump, during campaign 2016, he vowed to end it once and for all. In office, however, he never managed to pull the plug—until now, that is.

Soon after losing the election, the president ousted several senior Pentagon civilians, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and replaced them (for a couple of months anyway) with loyalists sharing his oft-stated commitment to “ending endless wars.” Within days of taking office, new Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller issued a letter to the troops, signaling his own commitment to that task.

“We are not a people of perpetual war,” he wrote, describing endless war as “the antithesis of everything for which we stand and for which our ancestors fought.” The time for accepting the inevitable had now arrived. “All wars must end,” he continued, adding that trying harder was not going to produce a better outcome. “We gave it our all,” he concluded. “Now, it’s time to come home.”

Miller avoided using terms like victory or defeat, success or failure, and did not specify an actual timetable for a full-scale withdrawal. Yet Trump had already made his intentions clear: he wanted all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year and preferably by Christmas. Having forgotten or punted on innumerable other promises, Trump appeared determined to make good on this one. It’s likely, in fact, that Miller’s primary—perhaps only—charge during his abbreviated tour of duty as Pentagon chief is to enable Trump to claim success in terminating at least one war.

So during this peculiar betwixt-and-between moment of ours, with one administration packing its bags and the next one trying to get its bearings, a question of immense significance to the future course of American statecraft presents itself: Will the United States at long last ring down the curtain on the most endless of its endless wars? Or, under the guise of seeking a “responsible end,” will it pursue the irresponsible course of prolonging a demonstrably futile enterprise through another presidency?

As Miller will soon discover, if he hasn’t already, his generals don’t concur with the commander-in-chief’s determination to “come home.” Whether in Afghanistan or Somalia, Iraq, Syria, or Europe, they have demonstrated great skill in foiling his occasional gestures aimed at reducing the U.S. military’s overseas profile.

The available evidence suggests that Joe Biden’s views align with those of the generals. True, the conduct and legacy of recent wars played next to no role in deciding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election (suggesting that many Americans have made their peace with endless war). Still, given expectations that anyone aspiring to high office these days must stake out a position on every conceivable issue and promise something for everyone, candidate Biden spelled out his intentions regarding Afghanistan.

Basically, he wants to have it both ways. So he is on record insisting that “these ‘forever wars’ have to end,” while simultaneously proposing to maintain a contingent of American troops in Afghanistan to “take out terrorist groups who are going to continue to emerge.” In other words, Biden proposes to declare that the longest war in U.S. history has ended, while simultaneously underwriting its perpetuation.

Such a prospect will find favor with the generals, members of the foreign policy establishment, and media hawks. Yet hanging on in Afghanistan (or other active theaters of war) will contribute nothing to Biden’s larger promise to “build back better.” Indeed, the staggering expenses that accompany protracted wars will undermine his prospects of making good on his domestic reform agenda. It’s the dilemma that Lyndon Johnson faced in the mid-1960s: You can have your Great Society, Mr. President, or you can have your war in Vietnam, but you can’t have both.

Biden will face an analogous problem. Put simply, his stated position on Afghanistan is at odds with the larger aspirations of his presidency.

At Long Last an Exit Strategy?

As a practical matter, the odds of Trump actually ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan between now and his departure from office are nil. The logistical challenges are daunting, especially given that the pick-up team now running the Pentagon is made up of something other than all-stars. And the generals will surely drag their feet, while mobilizing allies not just in the punditocracy but in the Republican Party itself.

As a practical matter, Acting Secretary Miller has already bowed to reality. The definition of success now is, it seems, to cut the force there roughly in half, from 4,500 to 2,500, by Inauguration Day, with the remainder of U.S. troops supposedly coming out of Afghanistan by May 2021 (months after both Trump and Miller will be out of a job).

So call it Operation Half a Loaf. But half is better than none. Even if Trump won’t succeed in reducing U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to zero, I’m rooting for him anyway. As, indeed, Joe Biden should be—because if Trump makes headway in shutting down America’s war there, Biden will be among the principal beneficiaries.

Whatever his actual motives, Trump has cracked open a previously shut door to an exit strategy. Through that door lies the opportunity of turning the page on a disastrous era of American statecraft dominated by a misplaced obsession with events in the Greater Middle East.

Twin convictions shaped basic U.S. policy during this period: the first was that the United States has vital interests at stake in this region, even in utterly remote parts of it like Afghanistan; the second, that the United States can best advance those interests by amassing and employing military power. The first of those convictions turned out to be wildly misplaced, the second tragically wrong-headed. Yet pursuant to those very mistaken beliefs, successive administrations have flung away lives, treasure, and influence with complete abandon. The American people have gained less than nothing in return. In fact, in terms of where taxpayer dollars were invested, they’ve lost their shirts.

Acting Secretary Miller’s charge to the troops plainly acknowledges a bitter truth to which too few members of the Washington establishment have been willing to admit: the time to move on from this misguided project is now. To the extent that Donald Trump’s lame-duck administration begins the process of extricating the United States from Afghanistan, he will demonstrate the feasibility of doing so elsewhere as well. Tired arguments for staying the course could then lose their persuasive power.

Doubtless, after all these disastrous years, there will be negative consequences to leaving Afghanistan. Ill-considered and mismanaged wars inevitably yield poisonous fruit. There will be further bills to pay. Still, ending the U.S. war there will establish a precedent for ending our military involvement in Iraq, Syria, and Somalia as well. Terminating direct U.S. military involvement across the Greater Middle East and much of Africa will create an opportunity to reconfigure U.S. policy in a world that has changed dramatically since the United States recklessly embarked upon its crusade to transform great swathes of the Islamic world.

Biden himself should welcome such an opportunity. Admittedly, Mitch McConnell, no longer fully subservient to President Trump, predicts that withdrawing from Afghanistan will produce an outcome “reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975.” In reality, of course, failure in Vietnam stemmed not from the decision to leave, but from an erroneous conviction that it was incumbent upon Americans to decide the destiny of the Vietnamese people. The big mistake occurred not in 1975 when American troops finally departed, but a decade earlier when President Johnson decided that it was incumbent upon the United States to Americanize the war.

As Americans learned in Vietnam, the only way to end a war gone wrong is to leave the field of battle. If that describes Trump’s intentions in Afghanistan, then we may finally have some reason to be grateful for his service to our nation. With time, Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell might even come to see the wisdom of doing so.

And then, of course, they can bicker about the shortest path to the Emerald City.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan0 Comments

The Nation’s New Crime Boss

BY JOHN DAVIS

Photograph Source: Dale Cruse – CC BY 2.0

A great deal of energy was expended recently to influence who would be the next president of the criminal enterprise that is the United States of America. The nation’s criminality was established historically by its extermination of indigenous populations inconvenient to its imperial goals and its enslavement of Africans expressly imported into the country under hideous conditions for the further ease and enrichment of the already wealthy. Although these were crimes initiated long before the formal constitution of the U.S., when the slave trade was belatedly outlawed in 1808, slaves were bred in the Upper South and driven in chains across the country or shipped down the Mississippi to be sold in the Deep South. There, they joined their brothers and sisters in an industrialized system of enforced labor cruelly driven by the whip. The expansion of cotton across the south required the removal of Indian tribes who lived on the land the plantation owners wished to cultivate. Their forced removal included documented acts of genocide.

The nation’s criminality continues into the present, most egregiously but not exclusively, by its refusal to make adequate reparations for these historical acts of inhumanity; by its acceptance of the violently racist policing of minority populations; by its ongoing program of mass incarceration of non-white men and boys; by its deportation of so called ‘illegals’ and by its frequent refusal to give asylum to those fleeing dire political, economic, and environmental conditions south of the border for which the U.S. is primarily responsible. Government sanctioned domestic executions, extra-judicial drone hits on foreign subjects, which may on occasion also kill American citizens, and numerous instances of psychological and physical torture inflicted on its perceived enemies, domestic and foreign, further impugn the probity of the state. A federally sanctioned health care system that is leveraged for corporate profit rather than human need represents a systematic attack on the well-being of large sections of the civilian population, and thus can be considered a crime against humanity. All the while, the nation’s nuclear-armed war machine, embedded in its planetary network of military bases, pursues declared and undeclared wars, creating a global backdrop to the nation’s domestic offenses.

The current president has done nothing to correct this underlying criminality. Indeed, he has exacerbated it by his personal corruption, his fostering of the inhumane treatment of migrants at the country’s southern border, his explicit support of racist, white nationalism and, arguably, his criminal mismanagement of the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The incoming president, however, is deeply enmeshed in the vicious turpitude of Empire, a condition to which he has either actively contributed or passively countenanced during his thirty-six years in the Senate and his eight years as vice president.

Now that the leadership decision has been made, most of the population is split between jubilation and anguish. On the other hand, I spent the long and fevered days of this election in a state of relative equanimity, invested in neither the continued leadership of the family currently at the helm nor in the now imminent installation of a family that not only has a long history of enabling this criminal enterprise but has also personally benefited from its association with the highest echelons of the Empire’s leadership. It would have been useful to have maintained the illusion that the recent contest was between private notions of corruption as practiced, for instance, in the world of casinos, real-estate development, hotels, private clubs and golf resorts, versus the public corruption of influence peddling as practiced, for instance, in the Empire’s outlands where it can be sold in markets awash with armaments and cold hard cash. But such distinctions are razor thin. Thus, there is little reason for either jubilation or anguish at the result. More meaningful perhaps, is to gauge the erstwhile contestants’ wider responsibility, as accessories to the maintenance of the establishment under which the broader sins of Empire are permitted to flourish.

In this time of a recalcitrant lame duck who, it is widely proclaimed, threatened and continues to threaten ‘democracy’ – the fig leaf of respectability under which the nation’s criminality festers – liberal triumphalism is shadowed by a residual anguish that rises to fever pitch when confronted by criticisms of Biden, or suggestions raised, in the enclaves of the enlightened, that he is not the savior whom we all seek. Those liberals whose egos are bound up in the defeat of the incumbent remain immensely fragile – their inner core beaten to a pulp by the ungainly, ungrammatical, incoherent, Trump, and their sense of propriety deeply wounded by the déclassé president.

In early November, sufficient ballots made their way into the hands of upstanding election officials for reliable confirmation that Trumpworld had foundered on the shores of the deep state. The president’s political insurgency is now forestalled, at least until 2024. But this is hardly cause for celebration when his defeat has resulted in the reaffirmation of business as usual, a business which, for half a millennium, has thrived on the exploitation of the great many for the enrichment of the very few, and which, in the modern state, is now expressed as neoliberalism – an ideology which comfortably accommodates the state’s criminal offenses. While this criminality is primarily predicated on an invidious taxonomy of human worth, the government’s gaping ethical void also allows for the relentless breeding, fattening and killing regimes of factory farmed livestock, and permits the gross, unsustainable exploitation of botanical, lithic, and chemical elements for industrial use. The nation’s vast historic and contemporary mining of fossil biomass and its conversion into cheap thermal energy has significantly contributed to the chemical restructuring of the Earth’s atmosphere and to the resultant global warming. The cheap energy of oil and gas has metastasized urban development and enabled rural monocropping which together have decimated the biological diversity of the U.S. land mass. These profoundly existential planetary ills exist as the ultimate brand extensions of the criminal enterprise that is the United States.

Almost four years of the Trump insurgency have not changed these fundamental realities, but they have shifted the terms of the debate. Generals, politicians, lawyers, financiers, the intelligence community, tech entrepreneurs, factory farmers and developers lay awake at night because one of the levers of power over which they believed they had some control was wrested from their hands by an uncultured, overweight, racist, loud-mouthed, sexist pig. For that we should be grateful, for it exposed a vulnerability that has rarely been evident in the almost impregnable bastions of wealth, power and privilege that exist at the core of this nation. It was, as so many in this country recognized and related to, a moment in which the cunning of the uncouth triumphed over the self-servingly venal noblesse oblige of the well-born, well-educated, well-dressed and well-mannered.

Now, we are about to return to a time when the evils of Empire operate with impunity, fully protected within the carapace of democracy, that shell of legitimacy that occludes its own fraudulence and shelters the broader larcenies of the state. The porcine face of corruption soon departs to be replaced by the establishment candidate who has, over his almost five decades in subaltern power, faithfully served the super-rich and the egregiously powerful whose interests are served by their government’s inhumane criminality.

Any euphoria experienced in Trump’s dismissal must surely be tempered by the depression that descends upon consideration of the impending elevation of Biden, poster-boy of the Peter principle, to the highest political post in the land. A career politician deeply mired in mediocrity, connivance and compromise; he reached his apotheosis in the eight years he served as Obama’s wingman. Infinitely less patrician and vastly less intelligent, he was nevertheless an appropriate ornament to Barack’s imperial presence, emphasizing the president’s blackness in ways unavailable to the man himself. Now, he will be assisted in his work of walking back every mildly progressive program blithely promised during his lackluster campaign, by Prosecutor Harris: younger, smarter, more ambitious and far more ruthless than her boss. Thus threatened, we can be sure that her role in the traditionally thankless task of vice-president will be further trivialized by ‘The Big Guy’ and reduced to a token signifier of his commitment to The Movement for Black Lives.

Biden’s elevation to the Presidency will critically constrain the development of a progressive agenda within the Democratic party for a further four or eight years and likely assure a more aggressive foreign policy. In the last half-century, there was never a military action, CIA assassination, or trade sanction against a foreign power that he meaningfully opposed. Despite campaign trail disavowals, we can expect a continuation of Obama’s criminal war in Yemen as well as the cessation of troop withdrawals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The generals will be back in charge.

Long-time recipient of thin blue line union support, Biden is incapable of delivering peace on our streets – which demands a defunding of their militarized police presence. The future president’s commitment to the continued success of the health insurance industry will fatally constrain the development of socialized health and welfare provisions. Wall Street will continue to be privileged over Main Street. Already reneging on his campaign promise to ban fracking, he remains supportive of the country’s oil industry and seems increasingly confident in his eschewal of the Green New Deal.

The nation’s new crime-boss-elect is a man of mind-numbing mediocrity, but he will, I suspect, be hugely successful in sustaining the criminal enterprise with which the electorate has entrusted him.

John Davis is an architect living in southern California. Read more of his writing at urbanwildland.org  

Posted in USA, Politics0 Comments

Roaming Charges: The Gang That Couldn’t Sue Straight

BY JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

+ There’s a certain poetic justice in Trump’s bizarre spasm of losing lawsuits (W 2 – L 32) that merely prolong his agony and force him to relive his defeat over and over again through the gray days of November. But kick me if I don’t see his refusal to concede as a “dangerous precedent” or “threat to democracy.” After all, Gore conceded, unconceded and then conceded again before “all the legal votes” had been counted. And Hillary immediately conceded (probably prematurely, though six months too late for me), then spent the next four years claiming she’d been cheated.

+ Many Democrats complained for years that 2004 election was stolen by Bush-friendly Diebold voting machines in Ohio. And Greg Palast wrote a recent book on how Trump was going to steal the 2020 election using the same techniques Trump now shrieks in his Tweets and legal filings were used against him.

+ Trump’s right, the electoral system is rigged, but not for the reasons he alleges. The system isn’t rigged to pick winners, but losers. The system is geared to preserve a certain class of political actors and keep out any rebellious interlopers. This doesn’t happen through the programing of voting machines or the stuffing of mail-in bailouts, through ballot harvesting or graveyard voters. The real rigging of the system is entirely (or almost entirely) legal: through PACs, dark money, gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, onerous ballot status requirements, the electoral college, extreme constraints on third and independent parties. Still, if Trump can bring further discredit to the current electoral system in his final weeks in office, it will be his greatest contribution to American political life next to withdrawing from Afghanistan and aborting the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

+ Trump is following the Gore 2000 legal playbook by asking for a partial recount in Wisconsin’s two most urban counties, Milwaukee and Dane, hoping to disqualify thousands of black voters. Bad news for Trump: the Supreme Court struck down this targeted approach in Bush v. Gore. Good news for Trump, the Court said its ruling should not be held as a precedent. Bad news for Trump: Trump’s appointee to the Court, Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a recent opinion Bush v. Gore should hold as precedent. Good news for Trump: Brett may have been drunk when he wrote it. Squi was in town for the weekend….

+ I played tenor sax on Kind of Blue!

+ One of Trump’s new lawyers, Sydney Powell, just blamed Hugo Chavez for Trump’s loss. Somehow Chavez, who has been dead for seven years, helped rig an election from beyond the grave. Powell is the lawyer that Cynthia McKinney praised Trump for hiring. You can see her point, I guess, if it’s to demonstrate the enduring power of the Bolivaran Revolution…

+ “It was created so Hugo Chavez would never lose another election, and he did not after that software was created,” Powell said. “He won every single election and then they exported it to Argentina and other countries in South America, and then they brought it here.”

+ Now that’s open source software you can believe in!

+ If you haven’t gotten your check from George Soros, clearly you didn’t vote often enough…

+ Historically, most failed coups end with the plotters in dungeons, exile, against walls or on gibbets. This one will probably end with more fist bumps from Kamala Harris ….https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NatCounterPunch&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1329490975266398210&lang=en&origin=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.counterpunch.org%2F2020%2F11%2F20%2Froaming-charges-the-gang-that-couldnt-sue-straight%2F&siteScreenName=NatCounterPunch&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

+ Powell: “the massive influence of Communist money” elected Biden.

+ Communists stock portfolios and mutual funds must have been performing pretty damn well during the pandemic…

+ Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis: “Your question is fundamentally flawed, when you’re asking, ‘where’s the evidence?’ You clearly don’t understand the legal process.”

+ Sidney Powell: “The entire election, frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NatCounterPunch&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1329549873516048387&lang=en&origin=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.counterpunch.org%2F2020%2F11%2F20%2Froaming-charges-the-gang-that-couldnt-sue-straight%2F&siteScreenName=NatCounterPunch&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

+ Voting is for chumps!

+ Either the Just for Men dye-job is running or we now have empirical proof that Rudy’s got shit for brains and he’s leaking…

$20,000 a day buys you this… From U.S. district court in Williamsport, Pa., one of the Trump campaign’s last legal battlegrounds, where Giuliani told the judge that Trump’s election observers had been “denied the opportunity to have an unobstructed observation and ensure opacity.”

GIULIANI: “I’m not sure what ‘opacity’ means. It probably means you can see.”

JUDGE BRANN: “It means you can’t.

GIULIANI: Big words, Your Honor.”

+ Having to prove the allegations would totally defeat the point of making them…

+ Honestly, I didn’t think Rudy could top his performance in Borat the Second. Then came the Four Seasons Total Landscaping episode. Now this…Giuliani is a living (one assumes he’s alive and not simply decomposing) contradiction of Fitzgerald’s maxim there are no second acts in American lives.

+ What if your electoral coup was quashed by the plotters getting infected with the very virus you claimed was disappearing?

+ The US isn’t a democracy and never has been. Give Trump credit for providing an object lesson in why that’s not the case…

+ By kneeling during the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick traitorously desecrated the flag of a nation that soldiers fought and died for in order to protect the right of Electors to overturn the will of the voters.

+ Maggie Haberman just got a huge book contract based on her unique ability to re-cycle this same paragraph in different contexts for the past 5 years and have millions of people still believe it…

+ It’s a little amusing that people are so anxious about Biden’s transition team not getting briefings from their counterparts in the Trump administration. When have capitalism and imperialism ever needed a briefing (or even briefing book) on how things are going?

+ Democrats: the party that eats its young, then, ever health conscious, worries that this act of political cannibalism will raise their cholesterol level…

+ I’ve seen more and more of these types of pieces percolating up from the foreign policy elites saying arguing Biden needs to tap a “big thinker” like Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski. But what was Zbig thinking big about? Escalating the war in Vietnam, arming a global network of anti-Soviet jihadis, and, according to Rick Perlstein’s Reaganland, arguing that the leaders of the student antiwar movement should be “physically liquidated” or “expelled from the country.”

+ Most of the glass ceilings broken by Michelle Flournoy, the leading candidate to become Defense Secretary under Biden, will be from above, by drone and cruise missile…

+ Tariq Ali: “Am getting fed-up reading posts that Biden is appointing or thinking of appointing rogues [warmongers, corporate backers] to his administration. Everybody knew he would be the same as Clinton or Obama. So please don’t feel betrayed. All that’s been betrayed is your illusions.”

+ Is anyone asking for this rapprochement, outside of weapons makers and the bond market?https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NatCounterPunch&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1328548667679252480&lang=en&origin=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.counterpunch.org%2F2020%2F11%2F20%2Froaming-charges-the-gang-that-couldnt-sue-straight%2F&siteScreenName=NatCounterPunch&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

+ Biden: “Unions are going to have increased power.” So sayeth the guy who just appointed the Uber lobbyist to his transition team…

+ This week Biden named Dana Remus as his White House counsel. Remus previously served as a clerk for Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, last seen giving a rabid harangue against liberalism at a gathering of the Federalist Society. Biden’s not even trying to placate progressives.

+ Just down the hall in the West Wing from Remus, you’ll soon find Steve Ricchetti, who Biden named as “counselor to the president.” Ricchetti is a K-Street corporate lobbyist for the regular folk at AT&T, Eli Lilly & Co. and the American Bankers Association…

+ Biden’s much more likely to prosecute someone for not wearing a mask in public, than to go after criminal wrongdoing by Trump and his cohort…

+ The old Willie Horton-style scare ads seem to be losing their punch. So, the new Willie Horton will the old pre-Willie Horton bugaboo… Karl Marx. And his “specter” will be invoked most ruthlessly against Democrats in the next two years by other Democrats. (Some will recall it was Al Gore’s smear machine who first dredged up Willie Horton.)

+ Jesse Lehrich: “I’m sure dead people did vote –– early voting began on Sept. 18 and 50,000 Americans have died from coronavirus since then.”

+ Not only did dead people vote, at least one of them, a Republican in North Dakota, got elected to office.

+ Finally, American pragmatism reasserts itself…voters are happier about a Trump loss than the Biden win.

+ According to Robert Kuttner, Bruce Reed, former executive director of the Bowles-Simpson Austerity Commission and longtime DLC leader, is being promoted to head the powerful Office of Management and Budget in a Biden White House. Reed oversaw the Clinton administration’s criminal justice policy, and worked closely with Biden to pass “tough-on-crime” legislation including the 1994 Crime Bill.

+ This is exactly where Biden’s desperate search for bipartisan deals will inevitably lead……”Around 2010, when the recovery hadn’t been complete for most people, there was this push to…worry about the deficit and cut spending,” Lara Merling said. “In the years that followed, there were spending cuts across the federal government.”

+ This is who they are when they think the cameras aren’t looking. Of course, Kamala’s hip. DiFi would have just hugged Graham, the man who made urgent calls trying to get black votes in Georgia thrown out…https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NatCounterPunch&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-3&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1328798071686377474&lang=en&origin=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.counterpunch.org%2F2020%2F11%2F20%2Froaming-charges-the-gang-that-couldnt-sue-straight%2F&siteScreenName=NatCounterPunch&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

+ .Does Tutar have a brother? Perhaps he could arrange an interview with Graham?

+ In the election of 1960, JFK carried Georgia by a higher plurality than he did Massachusetts…

Georgia: JFK won with 62.54%
Massachusetts: JFK won with 60.22%

+ Doing a DeBlasio: Closing schools but not gyms, bars and restaurants….

+ Just another day at the NYT, reducing BLM to the same level as QAnon….

+ Shortly after Trump nominated Bill Barr to run the Justice Department, agents investigating Barr’s client, Caterpillar, were told to discontinue their probes.

+ COVID-19 deaths…

South Korea (pop. 51.6 million): 501

South Dakota (pop. 885 thousand): 741

Source: Worldmeters.

+ Trust in sources of information about the pandemic, among Republicans who watch Fox News:

World Health Organization: 9%
State/local governments: 10%
State/local health agencies: 15%
CDC: 36%
Donald Trump: 58%

Source: PRRI.

+ Retailers that halted hazard pay for essential workers, as the pandemic soared to new levels of lethality:

Walmart – $15,600,000,000 (2020 profits)

Amazon – $14,100,000,000 (2020 profits)

Kroger – $2,000,000,000 (2020 profits)

Dollar General – $1,400,000,000 (2020 profits)

Albertsons – $870,000,000 (2020 profits)

Source: Public Citizen.

+ Capitalism is an ongoing criminal enterprise.

+ This may come as a shock to MAGAland but it appears that the US has mostly lost in Trump’s trade war with the rest of the world with the US’s trade deficits with mostly increasing over the course of Trump’s term.

+ 240 inmates and 18 staffers inside Fort Dix in Burlington County, NJ have tested positive for COVID-19, the second worst outbreak in the federal prison system. One prisoner with COVID-19 said the only medical care he’s received is a mandatory temperature check, where everyone is forced to line up and wait.

+ Texas, which now leads the nation in COVID cases, spent just $17 per person on public health in 2019, less than all but 10 other states….

+ West Virginia, which took 42 days to tally it’s first 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, is now averaging 1,000 new cases every 36 hours.

+ The 900 staff members of the Mayo Clinic recently diagnosed with COVID-19 equals over one-third of the 2,981 Mayo employees diagnosed since the start of the outbreak. When you add in staff who are now quarantined or taken offline in order to care for relatives, the clinic is currently experiencing a stable shortage of 1,500 staff systemwide…

+ Homo Toxicus … Research indicates that PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances), industrial chemicals that saturate the bodies of many Americans, may reduce the effectiveness of COVID vaccines.

+ $2: the hourly rate prisoners in El Paso are being paid to move bodies of COVID-19 victims.

+ For years, this man was operating on people’s brains. Now he’s numbing them…

+ Lawyers in Bill Barr’s Department of Justice are arguing in federal appeals court that the administration can murder American citizens without judicial review, if state secrets are involved. Of course, this follows and expands Obama’s precedent of droning US citizens without judicial review.

+ There’s something pathological about the way Obama absolves himself of responsibility for the human carnage inflicted by his drone warfare program, where he feels compelled to claim, ludicrously, that he was trying to save those he killed: “They were dangerous, these young men, often deliberately and casually cruel. I wanted somehow to save them… And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead.”

+ Obama’s confession of his conservative instincts is hardly breaking news from the man who picked Joe Lieberman to be his mentor in the senate and said he wanted to be a “transformative” president like Reagan: “What is true is that temperamentally I am sympathetic to a certain strain of conservatism in the sense that I’m not just a materialist…”

+ In his new memoir, Obama smears Lula as “having the scruples of a Tammany Hall boss.” It becomes clearer and clearer that Obama loathes anyone to his left, which means about two-thirds of the planet. No question he would have invited Bolsonaro to the White House and probably tried to hit him up for a smoke behind a shrub outside of Michelle’s view in the Rose Garden…

+ Anyone who still has U2 on their playlist is capable of droning a wedding party and blaming the victims for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

+ Recently released portions of the CIA IG’s report on death of detainee Gul Rahman further implicates torture-shrink Bruce Jessen in Rahman’s death, after advising ongoing “environmental deprivations” (eg. cold exposure), in a brutal attempt to force his cooperation during interrogations at a CIA black site near Kabul known as the Salt Pit. Rahman died of hypothermia while chained to a concrete wall in CIA custody.

+ Coalition of the Willing Executioners..In a new report, the Australian government finds that its soldiers committed 39 extrajudicial executions of civilians in Afghanistan. The report remains silent on the all of the other killings by its troops during this illegal war.

+ It’s hard to imagine even the most rabid Miami Cubans, who are after all the ones sending the remittances, support Trump’s mean-spirited new  policy to restrict remittances to Cuba from their family members in the states…

+ In one of her first acts as a sitting justice on the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett voted for the execution of a black man held in a federal prison in Texas. Neil Gorsuch’s first vote as a Supreme was also on a death penalty case. Casting a vote for an execution has become a kind of initiation ritual for new members of the Supreme Court.

2,378: the number of times Portland police used force during the first month of the BLM protests.

+ The NYPD has reduced or totally rejected recommendations for stern disciplinary action of officers in about 71 percent of 6,900 serious misconduct charges.

+ Between May and September, judges okayed requests by federal prosecutors to hold 62 defendants in jail until trial. Nearly half of these jailed defendants are Black. Many of them have been held in COVID-contaminated jails for months.

+ Update from the Dept. of Pre-Crime: The Pasco Sheriff’s Office in Florida keeps a secret list of kids it thinks could “fall into a life of crime” based on factors like whether they’ve been abused or gotten a D or an F in school, according to the agency’s internal intelligence manual.

+ Bernie, Bernie, Bernie: Let’s rephrase, because nobody I know who’s running for office talks about ‘defunding the police’; what we talk about is making police officers accountable and other reforms.” (Sanders, Sunday, on CNN’s State of the Union.)

+ Apparently Canada seized the UP on Trump’s watch and Hannity didn’t even raise the alarm!

+ The freedom-lovin’ goons who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer had fallback plan to takeover the Michigan capitol building with 200 combatants, who would stage a week-long series of televised executions of public officials, a plan which isn’t even a credible scenario for a Steven Seagal movie.

+ 7 in 10 Americans disagree with the statement that “immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background, “, while 67% of Republicans who watch Fox News think that’s true. (Wait till they start polling the OANN viewers.) Source: PRRI.

+ Speaking of OANN, let’s take a look at their big board, where it appears that a bunch of new states have been called for Trump, including Nevada, Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Keep your eye on Colorado, it may flip to Trump by tomorrow…

+ OANN’s startling reassessment of the the electoral results, awarding Trump 410 electoral votes, was based on its reports of the the U.S. Army conducting a raid in Germany to seize servers with election-related info revealing Trump as the true winner of the election. The reports were, sadly for the upstart network, spurious in every respect.

+ They used to call Maria Bartiromo the “Money Honey,” for fawning interviews with the vilest of Wall Street predators. Now she’s more like a less intelligent Diana Mitford, willing to take a twirl with any Oswald Moseley or Josef Goebbels left of the dance floor, while the rest of the fascist party flees for the exits…

+ Top this Biden! Billionaire gains since the election of billionaire (alleged) Donald Trump:

Bezos: $189 billion (+$121b)
Musk: $90 billion (+$79b)
Ballmer: $73 billion (+$44b)
Zuckerberg: $96 billion (+$44b)
Gates: $117 billion (+$35b)

+ Biden started out pledging to cancel  $50,000 in student across the board. That’s already down to $10,000 for the “economically distressed.” Pathetic: “The provision calls for the federal government to pay off up to $10,000 in private, nonfederal student loans for “economically distressed” borrowers.”

+ Tyson Foods, a serial offender, deserves the corporate death penalty: “Plant manager Tom Hart organized a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19.”

+ Using U.S. military geolocation data being made public for the first time, the U.K.-based watchdog group Airwars has pinpointed locations for hundreds of strikes on supposed ISIS targets in Syria that resulted in more than 1,400 civilian deaths.

+ The Kenosha shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, told the Washington Post that he used his stimulus check money to give to his friend Dominick Black in order to purchase the AR-15 rifle used in the August 25th shootings that killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum and injured Gaige Grosskreutz. Rittenhouse was not old enough to purchase the gun himself. Does this mean the NRA put its lobbying might behind the next stimulus bill?

+ Women in Mexico serve longer prison sentences than men, five years more on average

+ Trump disappoints again. It’s a drawdown, not a withdrawal. According to CNN:

“US military commanders are anticipating that a formal order will be given by President Trump as soon as this week to begin a further withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq before Trump leaves office on January 20th. The Pentagon has issued a notice on to commanders known as a ‘warning order’ to begin planning to drawdown US troops to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq by Jan 15, the officials said. Currently there are approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq.”

+ What it takes to get Mitch to stand up to Trump…any talk of leaving Afghanistan.

+ Etymologists at the OED scramble to redefine “hasty” in reference to Trump’s plans to reduce troops levels in Afghanistan….

+ How many days after he’s inaugurated will it take Biden to reinsert all the troops (and more) in Afghanistan that Trump draws down? Even NATO’s supremo is now threatening Trump over this modest adjustment of US forces.

+ Drawdown from Afghanistan, bomb Iran sounds like a very Trump thing to do….

+ 70 years later, General Robert Abrams, the US commander of forces in Korea, says it’s “premature” to even discuss an end to the war, withdrawal of US forces and the transfer of security operations to South Korea. They’ll be saying this about Afghanistan 50 years from now, if they don’t get all of the troops out before Jan 20.

+ A group of GOP Senators, led by the perpetually frothing Tom Cotton, are urging Trump to mark West Bank goods as “Made in Israel“…

+ So it’s the Pompeo Doctrine, now, eh? Reporters traveling with Secretary Pompeo were just given this readout of his trip to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank:

“The Secretary’s visit highlights U.S. government support of Israeli businesses in the West Bank to operate free from international sanctions as part of the Pompeo Doctrine.”

+ Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, the latest holier-than-thou populist who went to Stanford and Yale, attacked Claire McCaskill having “drifted way from Missouri” in 2018 and cited her DC condo as evidence. But now Hawley is using his sister’s address in Missouri, as he spends most of his personal time in Northern Virginia.

+ White House press secretary ignited howls of derision in the elite press corps this week when she described COVID guidelines for Thanksgiving “Orwellian.” I support anything that further diminishes the status of the MI-5 informer, George Orwell. Go, Kayleigh, go…

+ According to a survey instigated by Bernie Sanders, Walmart and McDonalds employ the most workers on food stamps and Medicaid. In the nine states that responded about SNAP benefits — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington — Walmart was found to have employed about 14,500 workers receiving the benefit, followed by McDonald’s with 8,780. In the six states that reported Medicaid enrollees, Walmart also topped the list, with 10,350 employees, followed by McDonald’s with 4,600.

+ Biden’s first climate appointment, Cedric Richmond, is one of the Democratic Party’s top recipients of fossil fuel industry money, raking in $340,000 in the last 10 years. Richmond has repeatedly voted with Republicans against Democratic environmental legislation and for bills to help oil and gas companies.

+ Before it smashed into Nicaragua, Iota became the first Greek alphabet Atlantic named storm to reach Category 5 intensity on record. Iota’s central pressure of 917 mb is lower than Hurricane Katrina’s central pressure (920 mb) during its strongest Gulf Coast landfall at Buras, LA. Lower pressure equals a stronger storm.

+ California’s Mountainview Fire, in Mono County, has grown to 28,879 acres in less than 24 hours as a result of extreme winds and low humidity. This has to be one of the largest wildfires ever (behind the Camp Fire) to start in the month of November in Northern California.

+ We’re casually watching the most precious things the planet has to offer disappear before our eyes, including hundreds of 500-to-1000 year old giant sequoias killed by the climate-fueled Castle Fire in the Sierras this summer…

+ According to research published this week the journal Global Environmental Change, 1% of people cause half of global aviation emissions and nearly all of those business trips weren’t necessary. The study defined elite frequent fliers as people who fly at least three long-haul flights per year, or one short flight per month.

+ Chevron has set aside less money for plugging oil wells ($3 million), than it spent lobbying California politicians and regulators in 2019 ($5.9 million).

+ More than 50,000 ships emit as much carbon dioxide as Germany — the world’s sixth largest polluter — and the shipping industry remains immune from any regulatory restrictions on its pollution and carbon emissions.

+ ‘Carbon Capture’ technology (boondoggle) is the equivalent of trying to design a tougher helmet that lets you survive playing Russian Roulette. The obvious 100% effective solution is to not shoot yourself in the head in the first place. (H/T, Manuel Garcia, Jr.)

+ Some of us have been making the argument for more than a decade that wolves should be the primary force controlling an outbreak of a deadly brain disease afflicting elk herds in the West. But wildlife agencies are funded by hunting fees and would rather practice “wildlife management” by shotgun and rifle, even though wolves do it better….

+ California’s recycling rate fell 9% during the months since the pandemic hit, meaning the state won’t meet its goal of 75% recycling in 2020.

+ The Washington Post speculated this week that Trump’s blizzard of last minute environmental rule and regulatory changes will make it hard for Biden to implement his green agenda. Actually, it makes things easy for Biden. He can explain his inevitable failure to fulfill his campaign pledges on the environment by saying that Trump tied his hands…

+ My work day is usually longer than the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s daily routine, but I don’t get nearly as much done as she did…

+ If you’ve watched the excellent Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, you might have noticed the brief discussion on the Freudian nature of chess, which the screenwriters almost certainly picked up from Cockburn’s great little book on chess (a game he detested), Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death.

+ For the past month or so, my head has been firmly lodged in 19th century Russia, perhaps because I can’t help feeling that as a nation we’re on an imperial retreat into the frigid heart of a unforgiving winter. I started by reading Zamoyski’s 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow, which rivals Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August as an account of the gruesome folly of wars between imperial powers. Not sated, I spent the next few weeks re-reading Aylmer and Louise Maude’s fluid translation of War and Peace, followed by watching Sergei Bondarchuk’s meticulously restored film of the novel, now available on HBO-Max.

+ Prince Andrei (definitely no wimp) in Bondarchuk’s film, masked against a typhus outbreak, as the Russian army retreats from Smolensk…

Still from War and Peace.

+ Still not ready to leave Russia, I watched Natalya Bondarchuk’s (Sergei’s daughter) 2006 film The Last Duel, which focuses on the investigation into the conspiracy around Alexander Pushkin’s death.

+ Pushkin, on his deathbed, after being gutshot by a French officer named d’Anthès serving in the court of the Tsar, who had made advances (perhaps even welcome ones) on his wife, Natalia, proclaims: “I’ve been in 21 duels before this one and none drew blood!”

+ The last act of Bondarchuk’s intriguing little film features a brief appearance by Mikhail Lermontov, who vows to avenge Pushkin’s death, an impetuous act which angers the Tsar, who himself had designs on Pushkin’s wife, and eventually gets him exiled to the Caucasus, which becomes the setting of Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, one of the high points of Russian literature. Lermontov himself was later shot in the heart and killed in a duel at the age of 26, after informing his opponent that he intended to fire his own shot harmlessly in the air.

+ Frustrated by not being able to find a movie version of Lermontov’s novel, I stumbled across the book’s fleeting presence in two of Ingmar Bergman’s best films, his grossly underrated The Silence and Persona. In The Silence, a 10-year old boy, played starkly by Jörgen Lindström, is shown reading the novel in his room, in a Central European city on the brink of a military invasion, as his mother and her older female friend act out an enigmatic sequence of a psycho-sexual encounters around him. Bergman’s next film, Persona, opens with a dreamlike montage featuring a crucifixion, the sacrifice of a sheep and human bodies in a morgue, one of which is that of a boy, also played by Lindström, who suddenly sits up on the trolley, puts on a pair of glasses and beings to read the same copy of the novel, as if the call of Lermontov’s prose had the power to raise the dead. What does it really mean? You tell me…

Still from Persona.

+ From Greil Marcus’ recent portrait of Robert Johnson in the New York Review of Books:

… the music that could produce the shock that runs from Son House in 1931 to Bob Dylan when he first heard King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961 (“From the first note the vibrations from the loudspeaker made my hair stand up. The stabbing sounds from the guitar could almost break a window…. I immediately differentiated between him and anyone else I had ever heard”), a shock that could seize up anyone discovering Johnson a hundred years from now. And there is no sense of what actually happens in the song at that moment when, emerging from the verses as if from sleep, Johnson’s voice rises, and then seems to rise again into an uncanny falsetto as a line comes out of nowhere and in the same moment returns to it, leaving the singer stranded, as if no one will ever hear him: “Oh babe”—and then slowly, each word standing alone—“my life don’t feel the same.”

Rudy, You Been Drinking Brew for Breakfast…?

https://youtube.com/watch?v=_iv3dbDpjCQ%3Ffeature%3Doembed

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Cheyenne Story: an Interpretation of Courage
Gerry Robinson
(Sweatgrass Books)

I’m Gonna Say It Now: the Writings of Phil Ochs
Phil Ochs (edited by David Cohen)
(Backbeat)

A Promised Land
Barack Obama
(Crown)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

A Love Supreme & Meditations: a Salvo Inspired by John Coltrane
A Love Supreme Electric (Vinny Golia, Wayne Peet, Henry Kaiser, John Hanrahan, Mike Watt)
(Cuneiform)

Pedernal
Susan Alcorn Quintet
(Relative Pitch)

Starting Over
Chris Stapleton
(Decca)

The Approaching Danger

“At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal power in the human soul: one very reasonably tells a man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of escaping it; the other, still more reasonably, says that it is too depressing and painful to think of the danger, since it is not in man’s power to foresee everything and avert the general course of events, and it is therefore better to disregard what is painful till it comes, and to think about what is pleasant. In solitude a man generally listens to the first voice, but in society to the second.” (Tolstoy, War and Peace)

Posted in USA0 Comments

The Real v. the Liberal Fantasy Obama Presidency

Two Excerpts from Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement

BY PAUL STREET

Photograph Source: J E Theriot – CC BY 2.0

What matters is not so much the color of your skin as the power you serve and the millions you betray.

– Franz Fanon

Introduction: A Dark Irony Amidst Pandemo-Fascist Horror

“The horror,” reads the flattering and (if I might say so) perfectly crafted (in September) back-cover description of my new short volume Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement, “is all around us. It proliferates our daily news. It dominates social media. The economy is in shambles. The COVID pandemic is spreading like wildfire while we face the strangest US election in modern history. If you want to make sense of it all, Hollow Resistance is required reading. In CounterPunch’s latest book, radical historian Paul Street recounts the Democrats’ culpability in the rise of Trump and explains how his neofascist horrors took root during the Obama years, and will live on even if Joe Biden is victorious in November.”

Well, Biden, Obama’s candidate, has won and the neo-/pandemo-fascist horrors most definitely live on. There’s big evil afoot. The coronavirus is raging across the land, beckoning accelerated mass death and poverty while the malignant, orange-brushed anti-president refuses to concede defeat. His long- shot constitutional and extra-constitutional coup plans are still not dead, causing anxiety in the highest reaches of financial and military power.

Trump’s pathological herd-immunitarian radiologist of a fake “coronavirus advisor” Scott Alas tells white nationalist militia and other lunatics to “rise up” against basic public health protections in Michigan, where far-right maniacs recently plotted the kidnap and murder of the state’s Democratic governor. Atlas shrugs over the prospect of grandparents being infected over Thanksgiving, explaining that old people are near death anyway.

The president plays golf and continues to blow-off coronavirus briefings, restricting his public comments to bizarre claims to have been denied victory by a giant election fraud for which no evidence exists. He has no plan to crush the virus that crushed his re-election. He never did, even though he was privately aware of the disease’s lethality early on.

Deluded backers of the anti-science Trump death cult spend their last moments denying that they’ve been killed by the virus their president told them was no big deal and would go away soon. A friend’s family was recently assaulted by a raging Trumpenvolk member and his police buddies in the Illinois countryside because they had the audacity to wear masks at a gas station.

These angry Amerikaners were no doubt among the 73 Americans who voted to give a second term to a president that the nation’s leading intellectual Noam Chomsky rightly described as “the most dangerous criminal in human history.”

Consistent with that description, Trump is blocking the transition, holding up critical information the Biden team would need to start running in the effort to save lives when and if Biden’s presidency begins. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will needlessly die before their time because of this vicious insanity, which is a perfect expression of Trump’s underlying instinctual fascism.

Trump has recently asked his military officials to look into how to start a war with Iran, this after removing a Defense Secretary (Mark Esper) who provoked his ire by opposing the deployment of federal combat troops to crush domestic anti-racist civil and human rights protest last summer.

The likely incoming Biden administration, Clinton-Citigroup-Obamanist in nature, is dedicated both to appeasing the ever more racist, authoritarian, and eliminationist Republicans and to defeating those in their own party who represent majority progressive public opinion by advocating necessary programs like Single Payer health insurance and a Green New Deal.

Even if the center-right Biden-Harris administration is predisposed or successfully pressured to advance progressive measures, it will be hemmed in by persistent Republican control of the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court in a preposterous minority rule constitutional order that grossly and absurdly exaggerates the power of the nation’ s most reactionary regions, donors, and voters.

Into this perilous and evil moment comes Barack Obama not with bold proposals for building on the George Floyd Rebellion and the defeat of Trump to construct a great progressive movement to rise out of this crisis and promote the common good over and against the nation’s inequality and oppression structures but instead with the first of two giant and ponderous memoirs for which he has been paid many tens of millions of dollars – a big part of his delayed financial reward (see Chapter 4 of Hollow Resistance, titled “Playing and Cashing In”) for his eight years of dedicated presidential service to the rich and powerful.

How, well, narcissistic. I will not read the first volume of A Promised Land – Obama’s third book about Obama, soon to be followed by a fourth. Myself also (like Obama) the author of three books on Obama (including one that predicted the entire regressive neoliberal, imperialist, and objectively white-supremacist trajectory of the Obama presidency), I have read enough of the 44th president’s dreary, pedantic, fake-progressive, and fake-poetic prose to last a lifetime. No more, please.

But let me offer a prediction: the first volume, which stops midway through his time in the Oval Office, is a whitewash of Obama’s militantly neoliberal, imperialist, and objectively white-supremacist presidency, which helped preserve and further the ongoing rightward drift of American society and seeded the ground for the Trump nightmare.

In a recent interview promoting the volume, Obama rightly if too mildly chides Donald Trump for man-childishly evading responsibility (ala “Richie Rich”) for fueling the spread of COVID-19 and other transgressions. But don’t look for Obama to take mature and manly responsibility for helping open the door for the orange-brushed fascist’s disastrous rise to power, still not fully cancelled. The Trump ascendancy was all just a big racist and “right-wing populist” misunderstanding and aberration, by Obama’s account, shared by most privileged liberals.

The historical reality is more complicated. That Trump and Trumpism are virulently racist at core is undeniable. But Trump and Trumpism are less “populist” than fascist (as Obama all too privately knew and knows). Trump was able to win the presidency simultaneously advancing racism, nativism, and sexism and posing as a “populist” thanks in no small part to the first technically Black U.S. president’s cringing and populace-demobilizing captivity and allegiance to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire.

At the same time, Obama did little to defend Black Americans during his presidency even while his presence in the White House provoked an insidious white backlash seen first in the rise of the Tea Party and then in the Trump ascendancy. Worse, Obama helped feed the backlash not just by supposedly proving that Blacks were getting ahead of whites and that racism no longer posed serious barriers to Black advancement and equality but by continuing his long habit of lecturing poor Blacks on their alleged personal and cultural responsibility for their continuing presence at the bottom of the America’s steep class-race hierarchies.

Those interested in the harsh class and race reality of Obama’s presidency rather than the childish liberal fantasy of the deeply conservative Obama’s administrations (and post-presidency) are encouraged to read my 2010 book The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Routledge) and my new book Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump and the Politics of Appeasement. It’s guaranteed to be a much shorter, more entertaining, and read than A Promised Land (working on a merely 50,000-word manuscript. I had plenty time to fight Trump and racism in the streets, dodging tear gas, flash bombs, and rubber bullets while Obama grew wealthy and reflected endlessly on his own greatness on his multimillion-dollar estate on Martha’s Vineyard).

Below I have inserted two excepts from Hollow Resistance’s third chapter, titled “Barack Von Obombdenburg.” The first excerpt reflects on Obama’s dedicated and tragic presidential service to the rich and powerful – and on two episodes in which ex-president Obama threw that service down Orwell’s memory hole. The second excerpt focuses on the depressing ways in which Obama’s presidency betrayed Black Americans, many of whom saw his ascendancy as a great symbolic victory for their race. That betrayal was a significant factor in the pivotal depression of Black voter turnout that helped Trump win the key battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina in 2016.

While the lion’s share of Hollow Resistance covers Obama’s post-presidential years, during which Obama stayed amazingly and depressingly silent about the horror of a president he privately knew to be a fascist, these excerpts focus on Obama’s presidency thanks to the subject matter of Obama’s first volume. As you read them, keep in mind one of the great ironies of Obama’s post-presidency, now poised to enter an undeserved golden age under his handpicked neoliberal successor and former vice president Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden: Obama is the most popular political figure in the nation today, his acclaim driven largely by the dystopian yet real-life awfulness of Trump, who Obama helped create and usher into power, Weimar-like. Obama’s image is burnished by the monster he did a lot to hatch. Trump has worked out very nicely for Barockstar Obomber.

In reading the first excerpt, please stop to smell the full stench of the “hollow man” Obama’s comments in 2017 at the Kennedy Presidential Library and The Economic Club of Chicago.

Excerpt 1 (pp. 85-95): “It Doesn’t Take Courage to Aid Those Who Are Already Powerful”

There’s an old working-class maxim worth keeping in mind when contemplating two of Barack Obama’s most stealthily audacious comments during Trump’s first year in office: “Don’t piss down my back and tell it’s raining.”

“You Have to Tend to This Garden of Democracy”

Fewer than five months after handing off the “baton” of freedom to a semi-human oligarch (a “feral wild animal” in the words of one of Trump’s most distinguished biographers) who he privately knew to be a “fascist,” and who he couldn’t bring himself to forthrightly oppose in public, Obama received a “Profiles in Courage” award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

“We live,” Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Kennedy Library, “in a time of great cynicism about our institutions…It’s a cynicism that’s most corrosive when it comes to our system of self-government, that clouds our history of jagged, sometimes tentative but ultimately forward progress, that impedes our children’s ability to see in the noisy and often too trivial pursuits of politics the possibility of our democracy doing big things.”

Nobody in the tuxedo- and evening gown-wearing crowd stood up to tell “Wall Street Barry” that the U.S. had no “system of self-government,” no real functioning democracy” to speak of. Nobody rose to observe that, as the mainstream political scientists Martine Gilens and Benjamin Page had shown six years into Obama’s presidency, the nation had for decades been “an oligarchy” where wealthy “elites” and their corporations “rule” and “ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does.”

Obama inveighed against those in elected office who showed cowardice by serving the wealthy few instead of the common good. “It actually doesn’t take a lot of courage,” Obama observed, “to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential.”

Seven months later, Obama gave his first major public address since Trump’s election at the posh and corporate Economic Club of Chicago—a fitting setting, given how his political rise had depended on his connections with Chicago’s wealthy and powerful elite.

“You have,” Obama told his well-heeled business class audience during a Q&A after the talk, “to tend to this garden of democracy. Otherwise,” Obama warned, “things can fall apart fairly quickly.

By “fall apart fairly quickly,” Obama meant, perhaps, that the country could descend into authoritarianism and even, though he did not use the word, fascism. The former president made a somewhat awkward and indirect but unmistakable reference to the rise of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich. “We’ve seen societies where that happens,” Obama said, adding this: “Now, presumably there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or ’30s that looked pretty sophisticated and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos…So you got to pay attention—and vote!”

It was quite an historical reference, rendered more ominous by Obama saying “here in Vienna.” In his first major public appearance since Trump’s election, Obama made an analogy to Weimar Germany, which gave way to fascism when Germany’s President Paul Von Hindenburg appointed Adolph Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, Chancellor in January of 1933. Von Hindenburg would honor Hitler’s “advice” by issuing the “Reichstag Fire Decree” on February 28, 1933. The decree nullified key German civil liberties, providing the “legal basis” for the imprisonment of non- and anti-Nazis, the suppression of publications considered unfriendly to the fascist cause, and the broad establishment of a one-party Nazi state in Germany.

A Blunt Neo-Weimarian Lesson About Power

It is difficult for anyone familiar with the actual record of the militantly corporatist and Wall Street-friendly Obama administration to read these comments without a sense of Obama’s truly audacious and Orwellian chutzpah.

Did Obama seriously think that nobody in his Kennedy Library audience knew that his administration had engaged in precisely the conduct he was now criticizing by acting “to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential”?

“Tend to” the “garden” of American “democracy”? Is that what Obama expected his listeners in Chicago to think he did while in the White House? Seriously?

Beneath expertly crafted fake-progressive imagery and branding, Obama rose to power in Washington with remarkable, record-setting financial backing from Wall Street and K Street election investors. As Obama knew, cultivating the gardens of popular self-rule was not the mission behind their investment. “It’s not always clear what Obama’s financial backers want,” the progressive journalist Ken Silverstein noted in a Harpers’ report titled “Obama, Inc.” in the Fall of 2006, “but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform…On condition of anonymity,” Silverstein added, “one Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’ The lobbyist added: ‘What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?’”

An answer to the lobbyist’s question came less the three years later: priceless. In his book Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (2011), the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind told a remarkable story from March of 2009. Three months into Obama’s presidency, popular rage at Wall Street was intense. The leading financial institutions were vulnerable and on the defensive. The nation’s financial elite had driven the nation and world’s economy into an epic meltdown in the period since Silverstein’s essay was published, and millions knew it. Having ridden into office partly on a wave of popular anger at the economic power elite’s staggering malfeasance, Obama called a meeting of the nation’s top thirteen financial executives at the White House. The banking titans came into the meeting full of dread, expecting that the new president would be angry at their monumental negligence and criminality, ready to initiate massive financial reform. Instead, they were pleased to learn that the new president was in their camp. Rather than stand up for those who had been harmed most by the crisis—workers, minorities, and the poor—Obama sided unequivocally with those who had caused the meltdown.

“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Obama told the financial oligarchs. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem. And I want to help…I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you…I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.” [Emphasis added.]

For the banking elite, who had destroyed millions of jobs and created junk mortgages that cost millions more their homes, there was, as Suskind puts it, “Nothing to worry about. Whereas [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had [during the Great Depression] pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said ‘I welcome their hate,’ Obama was saying ‘How can I help?’” As one leading banker told Suskind, “The sense of everyone after the meeting was relief. The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability. At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t—he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.”

The massive taxpayer-funded bailout of the elite banking sector would be only the first chapter in an ongoing story of super fat-cats directing the Obama administration’s actions. In coming years, Obama would show his worth to those at the top by doling out numerous forms of corporate welfare to the parasitic rich and powerful. This largesse was unaccompanied by any serious effort to regulate the bankers’ conduct or by any remotely comparable bailout for the millions evicted from homes and left unemployed by the not-so invisible hand of the marketplace. No wonder ninety-five percent of national U.S. income gains went to the top 1% during Obama’s first term.

It was a critical moment. With Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and an angry, “pitchfork”-wielding populace at the gates, an actually progressive President Obama could have rallied the populace to push back against the nation’s concentrated wealth and power structures by moving ahead aggressively with a number of policies: a stimulus with major public works jobs programs; real (single-payer) health insurance reform; the serious disciplining and even break-up or nationalization of the leading financial institutions; massive federal housing assistance and mortgage relief; and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have re-legalized union organizing in the U.S. But no such policy initiatives issued from the White House, which opted instead to give the U.S. populace what William Greider memorably called “a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn’t.” Americans, Greider wrote, “watched Washington rush to rescue the very financial interests that caused the catastrophe. They learned that government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it. ‘Where’s my bailout,’ became the rueful punch line at lunch counters and construction sites nationwide. Then to deepen the insult, people watched as establishment forces re-launched their campaign for ‘entitlement reform’—a euphemism for whacking Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Americans also watched as Obama moved on to pass a health insurance reform (the so-called Affordable Care Act) that only the big insurance and drug companies could love, kicking the popular alternative (single-payer “Medicare for All”) to the curb. Originally drafted by the deeply conservative Heritage Foundation and first carried out in MA by the arch-One Percenter Mitt Romney, the ACA was passed in Congress thanks to Obama’s leverage. And then “Wall Street Barry” further demonstrated his “dollar value” by offering the Republicans bigger cuts in Social Security and Medicare than they asked for, as part of his “Grand Bargain” extended during the elite-manufactured debt-ceiling crisis. It was at this point that hundreds of thousands of mostly young Americans demonstrated that they had had enough of Obama’s “blunt lesson about power.” They formed the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which sought progressive change through direct action and social movement-building rather than through corporate-captive electoral politics.

We will never know how far Occupy might have gone. It was shut down by a federally coordinated campaign of repression that was jointly administered by the Obama administration and hundreds of mostly Democratic city governments—even as the Democrats selectively appropriated Occupy’s rhetoric for use against the plutocratic Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans in 2012.

Obama closed out his presidency by steadily but unsuccessfully working to pass the corporate-globalist Trans-Pacific Partnership, a classically neoliberal and so-called free trade agreement that had been under secret construction by multinational corporate lawyers and corporatist government officials for at least a decade.

How was that for some “progressive neoliberalism?” How Weimar-Germanic and democracy-canceling was that?

Wolin’s Prophecy

In his brilliant 2008 book Democracy Incorporated: Corporate-Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, published just half a year before Obama was elected, the Princeton philosopher Sheldon Wolin laid out what was to come. “Should Democrats somehow be elected,” Wolin prophesied, they would do nothing to “alter significantly the direction of society” or “substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards…The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts,” Wolin wrote, “points to the crucial fact that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf.” The corporatist Democrats would work to “marginalize any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”

These were prescient words. Later that year, a nominal Democrat was elected president, and Democrats comprised the majorities of both houses of Congress. What followed under Obama (as under his Democratic presidential predecessor Bill Clinton) was the standard “elite” corporate and financial manipulation of campaign populism and identity politics in service to the reigning big-money bankrollers and their global empire. The nation’s first Black president advanced Wall Street’s control of Washington and the related imperial agenda of the ‘Pentagon System’ more effectively than stiff and wealthy white Republicans like John McCain or Mitt Romney could have done. The reigning U.S. system of corporate and imperial “inverted totalitarianism” (Wolin) received a deadly, fake-democratic re-branding. The underlying “rightward drift” sharpened, fed by a widespread sense of popular abandonment and betrayal, which Republicans promptly exploited as the Democrats depressed and demobilized their own purported popular base.

How Fascist Liars Get to Look “Authentic”

What does any of this have to do with the rise of Donald Trump? Quite a bit. In his important 2018 book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley demonstrated how Trump and a broad range of far-right political leaders around the world were using and subverting “democratic” electoral politics to gain power. Many American Democrats certainly read Stanley’s book with a sense of self-satisfied validation over his description of Trump and his party as fascists. This was a bad mistake. Not content merely to describe fascist politics, Stanley also explained the prerequisites essential to its success. Fascism’s taproot, Stanley argued, was harsh socioeconomic disparity:

“Ever since Plato and Aristotle wrote on the topic, political theorists have known that democracy cannot flourish on soil poisoned by inequality…the resentments bred by such divisions are tempting targets for demagogues…Dramatic inequality poses a mortal danger to the shared reality required for a healthy liberal democracy…[such] inequality breeds delusions that mask reality, undermining the possibility of joint deliberation to sole society’s divisions (pp.76-77)…Under conditions of stark economic inequality, when the benefits of liberal education, and the exposure to diverse cultures and norms are available only to the wealthy few, liberal tolerance can be smoothly represented as elite privilege. Stark economic inequality creates conditions richly conducive to fascist demagoguery. It is a fantasy to think that liberal democratic norms can flourish under such conditions. (p. 185)”

Particularly perceptive is Stanley’s intimate reflection on how the political culture of pseudo-democratic duplicity and disingenuousness that is generated by modern capitalist inequality and plutocracy creates space for fascist-style politicians who “appear to be sincere” and “signal authenticity” by “standing for division and conflict without apology.” As Stanley writes, “Such a candidate might openly side with Christians over Muslims and atheists, or native-born [white] Americans over immigrants, or whites over blacks…They might openly and brazenly lie…[and] signal authenticity by openly and explicitly rejecting what are presumed to be sacrosanct political values….Such politicians,” Stanley argues, come off to many jaded voters as “a breath of fresh air in a political culture that seems dominated by real and imagined hypocrisy.” Fascist politicos’ “open rejection of democratic values” is “taken as political bravery, as a signal of authenticity.”

That describes the jaded conditions that opened the door to malevolent far-right figures at home and abroad. The opening is provided by neo-“liberals” (in the U.S) and neoliberal social democrats and “socialists” (in Europe and elsewhere) whose claims to speak on behalf of the popular majority and democracy are repeatedly discredited by an underlying commitment to capitalist social hierarchies and oppression structures.

He did not say so, but Stanley surely knew that the corporate (“neoliberal”) Democratic Party of the late 20th and early 21st centuries partnered with Republicans to create a New Gilded Age characterized by extreme class disparity, which has further undermined democracy and encouraged intolerance among a large swath of Americans. For decades, the Democrats have participated in the richly bipartisan crafting of plutocratic policies that have shifted wealth and income so far upward that three absurdly rich people (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Jeff Bezos) now possess as much combined wealth as the poorest half of Americans. By the end of Obama’s second term in office, the top tenth of the upper One Percent had accumulated as much wealth as the nation’s bottom ninety percent.

This savage inequality has been administered with daunting doses of soul-numbing hypocrisy within the Democratic Party as well as within the Republican Party. Both parties/fundraising platforms have embodied the cold and disingenuous “manipulation of populism by elitism” that Christopher Hitchens aptly called, in a 1999 study of Bill and Hillary Clinton, “the essence of American politics.” Obama staffed his White House with representatives from the banking and corporate world and crafted policy in dutiful accord with the dictates of the nation’s big financial institutions. So had Bill Clinton, whose key campaign watchwords of “hope” and “change” as well as his strategies of running on “the economy, stupid” and the promise of universal health care were stealthily pilfered by Obama in 2007 and 2008.

Then came Hillary Clinton’s Obama-backed 2016 Goldman Sachs campaign, poisoned by the disconnect between her transparent allegiance to the nation’s top financial institutions and her admittedly tepid populist pretense. Clinton’s pretense was undermined further when she got caught calling Trump’s “flyover country” Republican supporters a “basket of” racist and sexist “deplorables” in a sneering commentary she delivered to rich Manhattan campaign donors. (Here, Clinton gave Trump something like the campaign gift that Romney provided Obama in 2012, when the Republican contender was heard telling rich donors that forty-seven percent of the country were lazy moochers).

This kind of disingenuous corporate-driven Democratic politics did a great deal to bring widely hated Republicans into the White House in both 2001 and 2017. The elitist fake-progressivism of neo-Weimar-liberals like the Clintons, Al Gore, and Barack Obama opened the door for hideous monsters like George W. Bush (who claimed to believe that God told him to invade Iraq) and the more genuinely fascistic Trump. These transparently inauthentic liberals made Republican candidates look comparatively authentic and served, too, to demobilize the Democrats’ more authentically progressive popular base—the latter a point which Stanley misses. In fact, deeply uninspired by Hillary Clinton’s tepid, elitist, and dismissive campaign, non-voting on the part of traditionally Democratic segments of the electorate was more critical to Trump’s victory than any imagined big wave of white working-class Trump votes.

True, no U.S. president has ever lied as voluminously and pathologically as the fascist Trump. A brazen practitioner of the totalitarian “permanent lie” (which Hannah Arendt defined as “the consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth”), Trump is off the historical charts when it comes to barefaced falsification. Still, the totalitarian would not have gotten into office without the more sophisticated establishmentarian disingenuousness of the party Wolin aptly called the “Inauthentic Opposition”—the dismal, demobilizing, depressing, and dollar-drenched Democrats.

Except 2: Blaming Black Victims of Racism (pp. 105-108)

Given Obama’s much ballyhooed status as the nation’s first Black president, one of the models of presidential conduct that Obama helped pass on to the racist Trump is profoundly ironic: a tendency to downplay the role of systemic racism and to emphasize the role of Black personal and cultural responsibility in the creation of the nation’s stark racial inequalities. As the Black scholar William A. Darity, Jr. noted in an incisive December 2016 essay titled “How Barack Obama Failed Black Americans,” President Obama trafficked heavily in the culturally white-supremacist claim that Blacks’ economic difficulties were largely the result of Blacks’ own “self-defeating or dysfunctional behavior.” In one of many examples of this recurrent Obama narrative, Obama told the 2013 graduates of historically Black Morehouse College that young Black men had “no excuses,” and placed blame for Black difficulties in America at the feet of absentee fathers. Darity wrote with barely concealed disgust about what he had seen and heard from a Black president who refused to advance policy solutions to the numerous and interrelated barriers to Black advancement and equality, barriers which were upheld by the nation’s deeply embedded structural and institutional racism: “It has been damaging to have Barack Obama, a black man speaking from the authoritative platform of the presidency, reinforce the widely held belief that racial inequality in the United States is, in large measure, the direct responsibility of black folk. This has been the deal breaker for me: not merely a silence on white physical and emotional violence directed against black Americans, but the denial of the centrality of American racism in explaining sustained black-white disparity.” Darity also noted the deep irony of the one and only Obama program designed specifically for Black Americans—a program rooted in the idea that racial disparity is largely about Black behavior:

“There is one major initiative that the Obama administration has inaugurated that is black-specific, but it is the exception that proves the rule. It exposes all the issues at play. My Brother’s Keeper is a program premised on the view that young black men constitute a social problem and need interventions that will alter their outlook and actions. The focus is on reforming young men rather than directly increasing the resources possessed by them and their families and removing the constraints they face. Again, the underlying ideological motivation is the belief in black cultural deficiency, and, again, this type of initiative is another expression of failure to pursue bold policies that confront the fundamental causes of racial disparity in American society.”

Obama’s failure to fight meaningfully for Black equality and racial justice beyond the symbolic fact of his own technically Black presence in the White House was all the more depressing in light of the unpleasant fact that his simple presence sparked a white racist backlash that could be counted on to target Black Americans who did not share the Obamas’ elevated economic status and protections. Obama did nothing, or close to it, to advance or protect Black Americans while setting them up for intensified hatred and assault from whites who sadly but predictably took Obama’s presidency to mean that Blacks and other non-whites were “taking over the country.” That was an absurd belief that Donald Trump was more than happy to fan and exploit.

“He Put in His Eight Years of Service” (to Rich Whites)

Obama’s role in the creation of the Trump presidency has been missed even by some who have properly criticized his quiescence on the Trump presidency from the portside. Read, for instance, the opening paragraph of David Magary’s understandably bitter 2020 rant, “Where the Hell is Barack Obama?” (quoted at length in the previous chapter):

“My patience with Barack Obama’s patience is at an end. Since leaving office at the beginning of 2017, the former president made it his priority to lay low. Under normal circumstances, no one could begrudge him that choice. He had just been president for eight years. He was tired. His family was tired. He had more than earned the right to fuck off and enjoy himself, especially given the endless stream of bullshit he had to endure as our first black president….These are far beyond normal circumstances and he no longer has that right.”

What Magary failed to grasp here was that Trump’s “abnormal” and apocalyptic presidency was to no small extent Obama’s production.

The same omission was evident in a May 2018 The Root article in which the angry bourgeois-identitarian Monique Judge argued that it was essentially racist for anyone to simultaneously be white and think it was incumbent on Obama to speak up against the Trump nightmare. “Obama,” Judge actually titled her foul-mouthed essay, “Doesn’t Owe This Country Shit.” By Judge’s judgement:

“Obama is doing exactly what he wants, and there is nothing wrong with that. He spent eight years serving the will of the American people. Now he gets to do what Barack wants…. His life is about him. We don’t own him. We aren’t entitled to him. You don’t own him. You aren’t entitled to him. The days of America benefiting off the free labor of black folks are long over. Obama did his time. He put in his eight years of service in the White House. He endured the criticism. He withstood the abuse lobbed at his wife and daughters. He smiled and waved and hugged and kissed babies and was the picture of dignity the entire time he was in office. He did his time, and he moved on. When he left, America voted in an ignorant, xenophobic, racist egomaniac who has spent his entire time in office doing everything in his power to tear down Obama’s legacy. And this country is sitting by and letting him do it. Obama is supposed to care about this country? Man, fuck this country. Obama doesn’t owe this country shit.”

Judge’s bitter assessment neglected to mention that Obama enjoys a $200,000 lifetime pension, free taxpayer-funded travel and business expenses, and the right to cash in on his many years of policymaking on behalf of the rich by becoming fabulously wealthy himself. As Judge also failed to note, Obama spent his eight years in the White House not “serving the will of the American people,” but serving the will of the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire in ways that helped open the door and hand the key of fascistic rule to Trump. The following chapter turns to the rewards that ex-president Obama has reaped for his service to the American ruling class—compensation granted and enjoyed as the nation descended into the fascist apocalypse he told his staffers and David Remnick wasn’t happening after Trump was elected.

It seems that no small portion of American “democracy” was already “falling apart” before Trump took charge. And Obama, along with his predecessors, had much to do with the demolition project that set the stage for Trump. Thanks, Obama!

Paul Street’s new book is The Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and Politics of Appeasement.

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The Lost Art of the Steal

BY MATTHEW STEVENSON

Photograph Source: Paul Sableman – CC BY 2.0

What’s the matter with Donald Trump and the Republican Party that they are making such a hash of stealing an election? Why are they making such a mockery of our finest political tradition? Have they no sense of history?

In 2000, even the hopelessly inept George W. Bush (“Is our children learning?”) figured out how, after 18,000 residents in Palm Beach county mistakenly cast their votes for Patrick Buchanan, the Supreme Court could deny an accurate recount of the errantly dimpled chads (“for the sake of our democracy…”) and grant him the presidency, as if part of an inheritance.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy decided that to win the presidency he would need, among his vote counters, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (“vote early and vote often…”) and Texas Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson (running as JFK’s vice-president).

In Cook County Chicago in 1960, Kennedy got almost 400,000 more votes than did the Democratic candidate in 1956, who was the former popular governor of Illinois, Adlai E. Stevenson II. Yes, I know: hard to imagine. Kennedy won Illinois in 1960 by a margin of 8,858 votes.

In Texas, Kennedy won by 46,266 votes. As JFK’s father liked to joke, imagining a telegram to his son: “Dear Jack: Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.” Presumably 46,266 was in line with LBJ’s budget.

And then there was the time, in the 1876, when 101% of the residents in South Carolina voted in the presidential election. In 2020 is Trump even trying?

Democracy in Action

In American history counting votes, honestly anyway, often has had little to do with who becomes president.

George Washington won the first two elections with 100% of the votes cast, and after that, the story of American presidential elections is one long account of sleights of hand, at least around the ballot box.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson needed a deal in Congress to be elected president, as happened in 1824 with John Quincy Adams (who defeated Andrew Johnson, thanks to the support of Henry Clay).

Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush are among those presidents who lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College, at times through backroom dealings.

Woodrow Wilson, Bill Clinton, and Abraham Lincoln all became president thanks to the presence in their races of third and even fourth party candidates.

When electoral fraud hasn’t worked to detour the results of an election, assassination and illness have done their part to ensure that the United States retains the best democracy that money can buy.

John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford all became president after non-electoral events.

In these great games, Trump, whining at the bar in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, looks like an apprentice.

When Voter Suppression Paid Off

In the 2020 election Trump adopted a strategy that pinned all of his comeback hopes on post-electoral lawsuits winding up in the Supreme Court, where presumably Brett and Amy would do him a solid.

In 2000, that ploy only worked as the election came down to the winner of one state, Florida, where the vote differential was less than 1,000.

Trump also put his reelection faith in the great game of voter suppression (purging the rolls in places such as Florida and Georgia), but it just made people angry.

The last time voter suppression paid off in a presidential election was in 1888 (Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison). In that contest both sides employed what were called “repeaters” (people who voted more than once in the same district) and “floaters” (they cast their second, third, or fourth votes elsewhere).

President Cleveland won the popular vote in 1888, but lost in the electoral college, largely because Harrison won in New York state.

How did Harrison, an Indianapolis lawyer, win New York, Cleveland’s home state? Harrison’s agents cleverly threatened Tammany Hall supporters with jail sentences if they were to cast “doubtful” votes, which “suppressed” the Democratic turnout.

The pious Harrison (his nickname was “The Human Iceberg”) said after the election: “Providence has given us this victory,” to which one of his political operatives quipped, “Providence hadn’t a damn thing to do with it.”

I Gave at the Office

Money, or more precisely the lack thereof, is another reason why Trump has been unable to steal the 2020 election, as at the moment the golfing-obsessed Trump is looking financially tapped out.

Coming into the home stretch of the election, the Biden campaign brought in $952 million while Trump raised $612 million, a gap that not even Deutsche Bank could bridge.

That cash differential not only edged Trump off the airways in several swing states (notably Michigan), but after the election it has forced Trump to implement his steal-it-on-the-cheap strategy.

In Wisconsin, for example, Trump is only recounting the votes in two counties (Milwaukee and Dane, for which the cost is $3 million) instead of recounting the entire state (for which the price tag was $7.9 million, paid up front, a bit like ransom money).

Part of the reason Trump lagged behind Biden in fund raising, I am sure, is because he can’t open his mouth without telling people that “I am really, really rich…” Who during a recession wants to send $250 to a candidate who says he’s worth billions?

Trump Applies for Legal Aid

Trump’s lack of liquidity, however, may explain his refusal to concede, as in the meantime he can bleed his base for more donations.

In theory the money now being raised is to be used for challenging the election results (“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election… They’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen…”), but in reality, if you read the fine print of the pleadings, the new money can be used to re-float the otherwise sinking Good Ship Trump.

Now that Trump has lost the election, the Republican Party wants nothing to do with picking up his padded expenses (all those jets for Eric and Don Jr., and expense money for Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lara Trump), especially for what it views as a lost cause.

Maybe if the electoral margin had come down to one state that was close (say, Georgia), Mitch McConnell and the Republicans might have stumped up per-diem vouchers to pay for some recount lawyers.

But as Trump needs to turn at least three states (if not more), the costly recount game isn’t worth the candle (at least not to Mitch), which explains why Trump is relying on The Legal Aid Society (Rudolph Giuliani, Esq., representing its indigent client) to press his long-shot cases.

The White Shoes Walk

Nominally the reason that many large law firms (Porter Wright among them) withdrew from Trump’s recount and certification claims is because they were getting pushback from their clients and partners, and because (this was unstated) they were worried about getting disbarred for advancing arguments they knew to be false.

A more logical reason for these law firm withdrawals might be that Trump is refusing to pay them, probably because he has no money.

When Porter Wright dropped Trump as a client in Pennsylvania, it left the file with a Federalist Society lawyer Linda Kerns. About a week later she was fired or quit so that Trump could pin his reelection prospects on Marc A. Scaringi, Esq., a Harrisburg “business and corporate” lawyer who “represents for-profit, non-profit and not-for-profit businesses and their principals, owners, directors and officers.”

In working for Trump, Solicitor Scaringi (who is also a conservative morning talk show host) would seem to be drawing on his not-for-profit experience.

Since without Pennsylvania Trump cannot hope to overturn the 2020 election, you do wonder why he’s betting on a morning talk-show lawyer who handles divorce cases. (I guess maybe Rudy’s his ventriloquist.)

No sooner did Scaringi take the Trump mandate than he was writing to his Twitter followers that, actually, the Pennsylvania cases were hopeless (as, I am sure, are his prospects of getting paid for his time in court).

At least when George W. Bush needed to steal an election in Florida, he had the good sense to retain presidential chamberlain and super lawyer James Baker. (Vice-President Al Gore countered with Warren Christopher, who approached the Florida recount knife fight as if it were an academic symposium.)

The Postman Always Votes Twice

You do wonder which very stable genius in the Trump universe (I have some ideas) came up with the strategy of contesting mail-in ballots—especially after election day—to somehow secure Trump reelection.

Not only did the rantings about mail-in ballots discourage Trump voters from voting remotely, but it forced them, during a deadly spike in a pandemic, to vote in person, which not everyone wanted to do.

Who knew that the greatest suppression of Republican voters would come from Republicans?

Ruthefraud B. Hayes

When it comes to stealing a presidential election, what works best is power and money, generally distributed, and having something to trade for off-balance sheet votes.

In the election of 1896, in which William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan, power broker Mark Hanna, flush with cash from corporate trusts (who feared Bryan and his silver platform), judiciously bought votes in a number of swing states, most of which went for McKinley, who otherwise (a bit like Harrison) would have thought that providence had delivered his victory.

In 1876, another contested election, it was Republican control of the Congress that allowed Rutherford B. Hayes (aka “His Fraudulency”) to defeat the New York governor Samuel Tilden, who had won the popular vote by several hundred thousand.

When it came time to send electoral votes to be counted in Washington, Republican governors in a number of southern states (then under federal military occupation) sent electors for Hayes, even from states where Tilden had won, resulting in the same kind of deadlock that today is Trump’s only hope for stealing the 2020 election.

It’s the scenario in which Republican legislatures go rogue and send in Trump electors, even though Biden will have won the popular vote in those states. And then it’s Vice-President Pence who would preside over the resolution of the deadlock.

In 1876, power brokers in Congress decided the election. Hayes was made the president in exchange for agreeing to the end of Reconstruction in the South, which allowed the Democratic majority there to impose segregation over the states of the former confederacy.

Trumpff unter allen

In 2020, what does Trump have to offer Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona in order to overrule the popular vote in those states and send electors for Trump to Washington?

The answer is: not much. For one thing, for all his spin, Trump doesn’t “do deals.” He runs scams, in which he alone is the winner.

Actually, the Republicans in Pennsylvania might be happier with the current results, in which, after getting rid of Trump, they get a conservative Supreme Court, a Republican majority in the Senate, and a corporatist, pro-fracking president who grew up in Scranton.

The so-called Compromise of 1877 worked because each side had something that the other wanted (Republicans wanted the presidency and the Democrats wanted the South), but in 2020 all Trump has to trade is bluster and unpaid legal bills, and nobody seems to want either.

This essay is part of a periodic series on the 2020 presidential election. Some earlier pieces can be found here.

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Trump and Giuliani Go Full IS in Attack on Biden and Democrats

BY DAVE LINDORFF

It’s often been noted that countries that go to war tend to adopt the behaviors of their enemies in fighting them, and then bring that war and the techniques they have appropriated home where they begin to apply them domestically.

For at least two decades, since the US in 2001 launched its so-called “War” on Terror following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, the US, under a series of three presidents, has waged a grossly illegal war around the globe against alleged terrorists, real or perceived, in countries as remote as Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. In this borderless, lawless “war” the US has turned to the same kind of terrorism that it accuses its enemies of using.

Not content to just drop bombs on militants, it has turned to drone execution by Hellfire missiles tipped with explosives that destroy countless innocent civilians in the interest, sometimes, of “taking out” just one purported terrorist. They then launch a second missile when people run to help rescue victims of such attacks, or wait until the funeral, and then attack that. (It’s a tactic called a “double tapping,” a term used by soldiers who illegally put a bullet in the head of a wounded enemy fighter instead of taking the person into custody and providing medical assistance as required by international law.)

These attacks on terrorist leaders are, in the lingo of the trade, referred to as “decapitations.” It’s the same term applied to what the Taliban in Afghanistan or IS fighters in Syria or elsewhere use to describe how they kill captives in their actions, which they, without an airforce or access to drone technology, dispatch in the old-fashioned way, with a large knife or a sword.

Now soundly and decisively defeated in his bid for re-election (Biden’s winning the national vote by 4% and by 6 million votes and counting, with only heavily Democratic New York State — and primarily even more heavily Democratic New York City — having a significant one-sixth of its votes in the form of absentee ballots left to count) and having won 306 Electoral College votes, 36 more than needed, Dear Leader Donald Trump is turning to IS tactics in his flailing effort to hang on to the White House.

Last night, on Fox News’s “Sean Hannity Show,” Rudy Giuliani, the head of Trump’s legal team that is filing dozens of lawsuits in so-called swing states that narrowly went for Joe Biden this year seeking to overturn those Biden victories, told Hannity that the Democratic Party had been taken over by “the Clintons,” and then added that the the leadership of that party “needs to be beheaded.” He made a hand-accross-the-neck gesture to emphasize his meaning.

Hannity cut the interview off abruptly at that point, but the Fox News shock-jock shouldn’t have been caught by surprise. Giuliani has been calling the recent election a “vast Democratic conspiracy” to steal the election since the day after the voting when it became evident that Biden was going to win handily. He echoes his boss, Pres. Trump, who says much the same thing all the time without specifically calling for beheadings, preferring the slightly tamer “Lock ’em up!” as his mantra.

But a man or a president is responsible for the actions of his hirelings including his choice of attorneys, and President Trump has not sacked his raving top lawyer Giuliani, even now that he is actively promoting the beheading of the opposition party’s leadership. By allowing Giuliani to continue in his post despite his latest felonious call for the beheading of the president-elect, Trump has fully brought America’s monstrous tactics from the “War” on Terror home.

If some whack-job cult follower of Trump’s now decides to carry out Giuliani’s Fatwa, the blame will fall squarely not on Giuliani’s but on Trump’s head.

The toxic stench of the “War on Terror” has already spread over the years to include many in both parties (remember Hillary Clinton’s suggestion, as Secretary of State, for a drone to “take out” journalist Julian Assange while he was holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy apartment?)

But Trump and the Republicans in Congress and Republican-run state legislatures who continue to meekly endorse President Trump’s mad efforts to overturn the election — most recently by appealing to Republican legislatures to move to replace elected Electoral College electors with pro-Trump electors even if their states’ voters went for Biden — have taken things to a qualitatively darker place. By perpetuating the fraud that the election was stolen and that it would be legitimate to toss out the results and substitute the will of those legislatures, they are, like Giuliani, encouraging IS-like behavior.

I’m the first to agree that the US electoral system is a cesspool and an embarrassment, terminally corrupted by money from large corporations and wealthy. But the reality is also that the corruption equally applies to Democrats and Republicans, not to one party. The reality too is that except in the fevered mind of fact-challenged conspiracy advocates, there is no fraud in voting machines and automated ballot-counting machines. The fraud in US elections happens before the voting starts and while it is happening in the form of orchestrated voter suppression, and at least these days, that kind of fraud is overwhelmingly the work of Republican-run states and county election districts.

What’s happening now is more akin to what we see routinely in Third World countries that hold periodic elections, and then screw around with access, ensuring that the autocrat and his (usually) acolytes an lackeys win their races. In many of those countries, like Byelarus, the coup leaders in Bolivia, and former dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile, violence against the opposition and its leadership is part of the game.

The amazing thing is not that Trump has adopted this troglodyte fascist approach to trying to cling to power. We have had ample experience with his authoritarian tendencies beginning with his 2016 campaign and through four ugly years of his madcap presidency to have been able to predict this. Just look at his backing for armed attacks on peaceful demonstrators by GI-Joe clad right-wing thugs like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, or for the propaganda-addled kid he has lionized who murdered two demonstrators and seriously injured a third an assault rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

What’s demoralizingly shocking is the 73 million votes Trump received on Nov. 3, at least half of which came from cultists who swoon over his fascism, and the other half of whom opportunistically support him because they hope he will back their personal minority-backed goals like outlawing abortion, preventing affirmative action, killing unions, destroying environmental regulations, etc.

In the end, come Jan. 20, President Trump will be removed from the White House one way or another, but the stench of his four-year tenancy will remain and will linger in the air of the US until the next government, hopefully, manages to disinfect the place by both punishing the president and his criminal abettors in advisory or administrative posts, and until voters oust the lackeys in Congressional and state legislative offices who enabled his crimes and offered support for them afterwards.

The stench will also continue in our collective nostrils until those Democrats who helped create the environment that made a Trump possible in the first place through their criminal wars and through domestic policies that have favored the wealthy and large corporations, while allowing ordinary Americans to struggle in poverty or to survive by borrowing on their homes trying to meet expenses on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis for years, are also ousted from power.

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Pandemic and Presidential Recriminations

BY EVE OTTENBERG

Photograph Source: Christine Warner – CC BY 2.0

The election is over, and we’re back to reality. Namely a lame-duck president until January20, who also happens to be a dangerous reactionary with a short fuse and a long list of fictitious grievances about how his throne was stolen. In the days immediately following Biden’s win, GOP senators displayed a singular lack of grace – only a handful congratulated Biden. He would do well to remember that. Blather about “reaching across the aisle” and bipartisanship mean nothing to Republicans, as they revealed long ago, for instance and very notably, with their lies about not calling a vote on Obama’s supreme court pick, Merrick Garland, because 10 months was supposedly too close to the 2016 election. But a little over 10 days to election 2020 wasn’t too close for them to ram through Trump’s radical right-wing SCOTUS choice. They are liars and hypocrites. Dems often are too, but they usually nod to propriety and conceal it better.

Biden has a soft spot for bipartisanship. This is a mistake, possibly an Achilles heel. It may work when the people across the aisle are capable of compromise and like to horse trade. It will not when they are rabid reactionaries fanatically determined to destroy anyone to the left of Benito Mussolini. Unfortunately, there are those in the Dem tent, centrist ideologues like former CIA employee and current Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger and recent Dem political migrant John Kasich, who have invented tales of how democratic socialists caused House seats to flip Republican.

The only problem here is that this is untrue. Every co-sponsor of Medicare For All won re-election. As Brian Kahn reported in earther, of the House’s 93 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal that ran for reelection, only one lost. Overall 99 percent of these agile Green New Deal sponsors won their races. Lots of down-ballot progressives and socialists triumphed. They surpassed arthritic centrists, who are allergic to reality: younger voters, the future, prefer progressives and leftists. They shun bipartisan war-party hacks to the right of Eisenhower.

But we’ve now entered an era where elections may be irrelevant. You watch. The Trump Show has been cancelled. It’s been replaced by the Warlord in the Whitehouse. This person refuses to concede an election he unambiguously lost and blocks release of information to the incoming team on such vital matters as the pandemic. People could die of covid because of this, but the Warlord in the Whitehouse is not concerned.

This warlord fired his defense secretary for, among other things, refusing to turn troops loose on civilian protesters. Then he fired the top civilian leadership at the defense department, causing the usually staid and tepid mainstream media to refer to this action as an institutional “decapitation.” Liberals fretted that this was an ominous fusillade; but it probably is not, in fact it appears to be a long overdue step toward ending America’s forever wars. But we can’t ignore the long shadows cast by trouble to come. This warlord is building a wall around the white house. He spouts lies about the election being riddled with fraud. He sacked the widely lauded head of cybersecurity at Homeland Security for daring to call the vote fair and clean. He unleashes his personal attack-dog justice department on the election certification process to halt it.

These are not the actions of a leader who respects the republic and its democracy. They are the actions of a demagogue recalcitrantly fixed on defying a legitimate election. Trump ain’t going anywhere. He’s dug in. He intends to raise the drawbridge and prepare for a siege. He doesn’t care if he causes a civil war and neither does Mitch McConnell. Trump is fully prepared to demolish America. The warlord got possession of the castle and he won’t let anybody take that away from him. Democrats worried that Trump would burn the house down on his way out; he’s perfectly happy to burn everything down, apparently even ready to incite insurrection, but he has no intention of exiting.

Very soon the U.S. may resemble a reverse image of Venezuela. There, Maduro’s duly elected and constituted government is harassed by a pretender, Juan Guaido, crowned in absentia by only a few other countries, including the U.S., aka regime-change central. Here, in North America, the duly elected government of Joe Biden can’t get in the white house door. Foreign governments have recognized Biden as the next legal president, but Trump the pretender, won’t stop trolling and harassing – and he won’t acknowledge his loss. Americans may well be treated to the spectacle of him being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the white house in January.

So two clouds hang sullenly over the U.S.: plague and the recriminations of a presidential sore loser. To cope with covid, Biden has appointed a coronavirus task force and called on citizens to wear masks. For him to proceed, next he needs access to transition funds. But a little-known Trump bureaucrat, Emily Murphy, chief of the General Services Administration, prevents that. She refuses to recognize Biden’s win. However, according to the Washington Post on November 16, she has applied for a new job, assuming she won’t be at GSA after Biden takes office. Interesting move for someone who says Biden lost. In addition, the Trump-appointed chief of USAID reportedly told colleagues not to assist the incoming presidential team. Will Biden set up a parallel government? That’s not as bonkers as it sounds. How else can he prepare to take charge, when Trump, with the institutional backing of the military, the police, the senate and the supreme court may try to lock him out of the palace? One poster out of Venezuela asks: “Who’s the Banana Republic Now?”

Meanwhile the virus burns through Trump country like nowhere else on earth. It also jumped from there and now rages across the rest of the nation. On November 13, the U.S. smashed records with over 181,000 new covid cases. Two days earlier, the U.S. had over 142,000 new cases, over 1500 additional covid deaths and 65,000 infected patients in hospital beds. On November 9, North Dakota hospitals burst through 100 percent capacity, so the governor announced that covid-positive nurses would stay on the job. Hospitals in other western states are full also. The U.S. has surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases and reached roughly a quarter of a million dead. Over a thousand deaths a day for weeks, and no end in sight. A thoroughly tested vaccine can’t come soon enough – but no matter how soon it comes, we could have close to one million dead by spring. This is what 73 million Americans voted for.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Birdbrain. She can be reached at her website.

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Trump’s election defeat: A near miss with despotic selfishness

Racist Trump
By Lawrence Davidson
Trump vs Biden

Donald Trump’s presidential days are numbered and the latest campaign in the culture war for control of the American lifestyle is drawing down to a shaky truce. The campaign waged by the Trump forces was particularly ugly. For the sake of ideologically shaped prejudices, which cut the believer loose from social responsibility, we got the following outcries: (1) “I don’t care if it sickens the community, I ain’t wearing that mask!” (2) “I don’t care if it takes away a woman’s control over her body, abortion has to be outlawed!” (3) “I don’t care if the environment goes to hell in a hand basket, entrepreneurial rights have priority.” And there are a lot more examples of the fractured “ethics” that characterised America’s “exceptional” democracy under the Trump administration.

Donald Trump spent four years glorifying and modelling this selfishness. His worst performance came with the COVID-19 pandemic. At that point, Trump played the role of the despotic Nero fiddling while the United States went down in the flames of a worldwide plague. That display of uncaring inadequacy may be the main reason he lost re-election in the recent 2020 matchup with Joe Biden.

It followed naturally that Biden ran a campaign that contrasted with Trump’s modelled selfishness. Biden repeatedly said that he would “restore decency”, “save the nation’s soul”, “build back better” and “make America America again”. Finally, Joe Biden repeatedly claimed that Trump and his narcissistic ways “is not who we are! We are better than this.” As heart-warming as these sentiments might be, they raise the question whether America has a single, agreed-upon standard for decent behaviour. What if Biden’s claim that Trump’s America isn’t the real America is wrong?

That possibility was set forth on 5 November 2020 by Jenice Armstrong, an opinion writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lays out a different reality: “the fact that roughly half of Americans voted to re-elect President Donald Trump, despite four years of watching his lying and hateful ways, shows just how wrong Biden is… This is who we are. And, unfortunately, we are not better than this.”

I think Armstrong has a strong argument here, and her conclusion is reinforced by the fact that presently, with Joe Biden having won the election, and no evidence of fraud or conspiracy revealed, millions of Americans continue to believe Trump’s claim that the Democrats stole the election from him. Nor do they recognise that Trump’s ploy is actually an attempt to steal the election from Biden. According to a recent poll by the respected Monmouth University Polling Institute, “44 per cent of Americans think we do not have enough information about the vote count to know who won the election. Nearly one-third believe Biden won only because of voter fraud.”

The near miss

For many among the slight majority of Americans who were glad to see Trump lose, this situation comes as a shock, because to side with Trump and his radicalised Republican Party, to excuse his moral depravity, racism, sexism and disregard for the public good, contradicts the stereotypical image of American exceptionalism – America as the land of good guys, the ones wearing the white hats, spreading democracy and so forth. As Armstrong points out, this image of American exceptionalism is historically false. “America has been on this [ethically indefensible] path since this country’s ignoble inception when our forefathers enslaved Blacks, exterminated Native Americans, denied women the right to vote.”

Yet, there have been recent efforts at redemption. In terms of human and civil rights, aspects of recent American history can be seen as an effort to drag the nation out from the gravity well of cultural depravity. One high point of that effort came in the 1960s with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programmes and the desegregation of the public sphere. However, it is probably the case that a significant number of American white citizens feared those reforms and never quite reconciled themselves to their implementation. Much of Trump’s support was fed by surviving underground resentment that goes back to Johnson’s efforts. Then came the present pandemic, which spurred a challenge to extreme personal “freedom” in the form of mask mandates and lockdowns. Trump became a hero of those who spurned the needs of public health.

Trump’s incompetence in the face of COVID-19 undermined his general support, and if indeed it cost him reelection, it can be seen as the basis of the country’s near miss with despotism. Yet consider the following: What would have happened if Trump had not botched the pandemic response? In that case, perhaps the large minority who supported Trump in 2020 would have turned into a sufficient majority to drown Biden’s “we are better than this” in a sea of reactionary impulses. The country did indeed dodge a bullet.

Conclusion

Jenice Armstrong of the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks that the divide that Donald Trump so dramatically brought forward is too wide for Joe Biden, who sees himself as a national healer, to bridge. As with the Palestinian search for accommodation with Israel, Biden has no “peace partner” among the opposition. Yet, according to Armstrong, the problem goes deeper. She believes the national divide is a permanent condition, “rooted in the fabric of America”. This means that Biden’s pledge to be “a president for all Americans” and unite the country may be nearly impossible.

Yet in the end, a majority of voters did choose Biden. And, in the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson’s success at reform did open up new and positive possibilities. In truth, Trump and his minions do not represent all of us, but just enough of us to frustrate continued progress in the nation’s social condition. And that is the way things will stay as long as the Republican Party is controlled by those allied to Donald Trump’s quasi-fascist worldview – and supported by 74 million voters. Also, Trump does not plan on simply retiring from politics, even though he will now vacate the White House. He sees himself as a once and future president and will spend the next four years planning for his political revival and vindication.

Presently, we are experiencing what Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labour and now Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, calls a “cold civil war”. He concludes:

We may have defeated Trump, but we haven’t defeated Trumpism. We must work to push the Biden administration to tackle the systemic conditions that allowed Trump to seize power in the first place.

Actually, that was what Johnson’s Great Society programmes were supposed to do. At this stage, some 60 years later and in the face of our near miss with Trump’s despotic selfishness, we might ask if Reich’s stated goal is achievable. If Janice Armstrong is correct, American democracy may not be up to the task.

Trump’s degeneracy and America’s moral angst

In “Home”

Truth vs Donald Trump

In “Home”

Donald Trump’s moment: Will it last?

In “Home”

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Trump Rejects Relief Bill

Mahmoud El-Yousseph

Inline image
Hi Sam, could you use this picture for my last letter. Thanx,Mahmoud
“Reach out for those who ignored you, give to the one who deprived, and forgive those who oppressed you.”~ Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him)

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‘Israel worst counter-intelligence threat to US in the Middle East’ – US Security Establishment

ALISON WEIR 

‘Israel worst counter-intelligence threat to US in the Middle East’ – US Security Establishment
The FBI & Justice Department have declared Israel the 2nd most aggressive nation running espionage operations against the US… the US security establishment has always regarded Israel as its number one counter-intelligence threat in the Middle East…
Israel sold U.S. war plans to the USSR…
US intelligence officers say Mossad is a ‘second rate’ operation… ‘Israeli intelligence assistance is often of dubious value… CIA is appalled at the lack of quality… They often give the US faulty, misleading intelligence…’

“Israel, Our Best Ally,” By Ron Estes, 2 January 2021

In 1987, Jonathan Pollard, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst, plead guilty to performing as a spy for Israel, providing Israel top-secret US classified information. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for violations of the Espionage Act. Pollard was the only American who has received a prison sentence for passing classified information to a US ally.

To set the stage, on October 25, 1985, Pollard was seen carrying a large bundle from his office to his wife’s car, and was consequently placed under surveillance.

On November 21 he was arrested as he approached the Israeli embassy in Washington and charged with espionage. After serving his 30 years sentence, Pollard was released November 20, 2015, and placed on parole in accordance with federal guidelines in place at the time of his sentencing. On November 20, 2020, the parole expired and all restrictions were removed. Pollard was a free man.

On 29 December 2020, Pollard and his wife left the United States and arrived in Israel on a private plane provided by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major funder and board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a pro-Israel lobbying group, and a billionaire supporter of the GOP, and both Netanyahu and President Trump. Upon disembarking from the aircraft in Israel, Pollard, who had never lived in Israel before, triumphantly kissed the ground, “We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years,” he said as he was greeted at the airport by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader jubilantly immediately presented Pollard, and his wife Esther, with Israeli ID cards, granting them Israeli citizenship.

Israel sold U.S. war plans to USSR

The American people must wonder why the prime Minister of Israel would meet at the airport a released American convict. According to a retired CIA station chief, in 1985, a month after Pollard’s arrest, the CIA director William Casey stated: ‘The Israelis used Pollard to obtain our war plans against the USSR – all of it: the co-ordinates, the firing locations, the sequences, and Israel sold that information to Moscow for more exit visas for Soviet Jews. Casey said CIA obtained that information from a CIA penetration of the Soviet Government.

The FBI and the Justice Department both have declared Israel the 2nd most aggressive nation running espionage operations in the US, against the US. China is 1st.

To support that contention, Pollard had also passed to Israel reams of reports gathered by US military attaches in the Middle East, identifying informants, and details of the radio frequencies being tapped by the US.

To put the Israeli, US relationship in perspective, the FBI and the Justice Department have both released statements declaring Israel the 2nd most aggressive nation running espionage operations in the US, against the US. China is 1st.

Israel spying major threat to U.S.

US politicians may prefer to express undying love for Israel, and hand over billions of dollars annually in aid, but the US security establishment has — at least, in private — always regarded Israel as an unfaithful partner.

Current and former CIA officials admitted that the US security establishment has always regarded Israel as its number one counter-intelligence threat in the Middle East.

At least two more Israeli spies in t he US have been identified in the past few years. In 2008 a former US army engineer, Ben-Ami Kadish, admitted that he had allowed Israeli agents to photograph secret documents about US fighter jets and nuclear weapons in the 1980s. And in 2006 Lawrence Franklin, a defense official, was convicted of passing classified documents to Israel concerning Iran.

Mossad, a second rate intelligence service, gave U.S. false intelligence

There is a mistaken impression in the American populace that Israeli intelligence is an important and necessary bulwark in US national defense. The truth is most intelligence professionals (in major intelligence services) consider the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, to be small, under-financed (compared to major power services) and second rate.

After the US Iraq invasion, the US Senate Intelligence Committee stated most of the intelligence Mossad had passed to the US was false. A former CIA officer who was part of the CIA representation at intelligence exchange liaison meetings with Israel said: “Israeli intelligence assistance is often of dubious value, and CIA is appalled at the lack of quality. Mossad doesn’t know its Arab enemies. Its Arab political reporting is lousy, laughably bad…it was gossip stuff mostly. They often pass faulty, misleading intelligence.”

Mossad has conducted some professional operations, mostly against the US target, but they can not be compared with the major intelligence services in the world. They are not effective against Islamic terrorist organizations, and they don’t target on them.

President elect Biden will face a political and national security problem when conducting relations with Israel. Support for Israel in the US is formidable, including highly effective Israel lobbies and Evangelicals who support unfettered US support for Israel for religious reasons, the Messiah will not return until God’s promise to the Jews of the Holy Lands is realized. But the President must balance those political considerations with the fact that many aspects of our relationship with Israel adversely affect our strategic interests in the Middle East.


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