Donald Trump

Iranians March Against Trump’s UN Speech

This is a very short clip from Telesur English showing the people of Iran marching in protest at Trump’s belligerent speech attacking their country at the UN. It’s only about 23 seconds long, but it does show the range of people on the march, from older men dressed in traditional Islamic garb to young women in chadors and people in western-style, ‘modern’ dress.

I remember the great demonstrations in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, in which thousands of people turned up chanting ‘Margh bar Amrika! Margh bar Thatcher!’ – ‘Death to America! Death to Thatcher!’ I wasn’t impressed with those demonstrations, but having read a little more about the political situation in Iran and foreign exploitation of the country by Britain and America under the Shah, I now understand why the Revolution broke out, and what motivated the marchers to come onto the streets.

The election of Rafsanjani a few years ago seemed to indicate that relations between the West and Iran had thawed. It’s true that the country still has a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, and claims they can’t rescind the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, a claim I find frankly incredible. However, people can move freely between the two nations, and there have been some cultural exchanges. For example, the Young British Artists – Damian Hurst and the rest of them – went to Iran to open an exhibition of their work, and the British Museum also leant the Cyrus Cylinder, documenting the conquests of the great Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the 5th century B.C. to go on display.

John Simpson in his book on the country also points out that Khomeini and the other theocrats were careful to distinguish between America, Ronald Reagan and the American people. They denounced Reagan and America, but not ordinary Americans. He also states that, with the exception of the demonstrations at the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, in one of which he was nearly torn apart by the crowd, he always knew he was perfectly safe. He describes covering one such demonstration where the crowd were chanting slogans against the ‘great and little Satans’ – meaning America and Britain. He then stepped into the crowd and walked up to one of the demonstrators, and introduced himself. The man greeted him, and said, ‘You are very welcome in Iran, Agha.’ That said, I do know Iranians, who have said the opposite, that you are certainly not safe during these marches.

Trump’s speech has had the effect of making relations between the west and Iran much worse. But it’s very much in line with the policy of the neocons, who defined and set the agenda for American foreign policy in the Middle East back in the 1990s. They want Iran and Syria overthrown. They see them as a danger to Israel, and are angered by the fact that Iran will not let foreigners invest in their businesses. It’s an oil producing country, whose oil industry was dominated under the Shah by us and the Americans, and which was nationalized after the mullahs took power. One of the holidays in the country’s calendar commemorates its nationalization. I’ve no doubt that the American multinationals want to get their hands on it, just as they wanted to steal the Iraqi oil industry.

Iran is abiding by the agreement it signed with Obama not to develop nuclear weapons. This is confirmed by the Europeans and the Russians. The real issues, as I’ve blogged about previously, are that they’re supporting Syria, sending troops into Iraq to support their fellow Shi’a there, and are allied with the Russians. It’s all about geopolitical power.

Iran’s an ancient country, whose culture and history goes back thousands of years, almost to the dawn of western civilization in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. It’s a mosaic of different peoples and languages. If we invade, as the Trump seems to want, it’ll set off more ethnic carnage similar to that in Iraq. And I’ve no doubt we’ll see the country’s precious artistic and archaeological heritage looted and destroyed, just as the war and violence in Iraq has destroyed and seen so much of their history and monuments looted.

Iran is an oppressive theocracy, and its people are exploited. You only have to read Shirin Ebadi’s book on the contemporary situation in Iran to know that. But if Trump sends in the troops, it’ll be just to grab whatever he can of the nation’s wealth for his corporate masters in big business. It certainly won’t be to liberate them and give them democracy.

And the ordinary people of America and Britain will pay, as we will be called upon to send our brave young people to fight and die on a false pretext, just to make the bloated profits of American and western big business even more grossly, obscenely inflated. Just as the cost of the war won’t fall on big business, but on ordinary people, who will be told that public spending will have to be cut, and their taxes raised – but not those of the 1 per cent – in order to pay for it.

Enough lies have been told already, and more than enough people have been killed and maimed, countries destroyed and their people left impoverished, destitute, or forced in to exile.

No war with Iran.

As they chanted during the First Gulf War – ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or Aramco, Halliburton or anyone else.

We need peace, so let’s get rid of Trump.

Belabored Podcast #135: How Single-Payer Went from Margin to Mainstream, with Michael Lighty

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/09/2017 - 5:56am in

Medicare for All has moved from radical to mainstream in a span of just months. Michael Lighty of National Nurses United joins us to talk about the role of healthcare workers in the fight for single-payer.

Hope Not Hate Infiltrates the Alt Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/09/2017 - 8:30pm in

The anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism website and magazine, Hope Not Hate, has posted up a piece by their contributor, Patrik Hermansson, describing his year-long mission to infiltrate the Alt Right both in Britain and in America. Mr. Hermansson is a young, gay and very anti-Nazi Swede. During his year amongst the assorted Nazis and Holocaust deniers, he met and became close to the far right London Forum and its leaders, Jez Turner, Stead Steadman and Mick Brooks. He also encountered smaller, associated Nazi groups like the Extremists Club and various Nazi Odinist groups, which worship the Norse gods.

He also met the Traditional Britain Group and its founder, Gregory Lauder-Frost. This has links, as has the London Forum, with the Nazi publisher, Arktos Media, and has hosted meetings, whose speakers have included other members of the international New Right such as Alex Kurtagic and Tomislav Sunic, John Morgan, formerly of Arktos, now working for Greg Johnson’s Countercurrents, Marcus Willinger of Generation Identity, and Richard Spencer and Mark Tait of the Alt Right. The Traditional Britain Group has also had links to Breitbart. The TBG has also hosted events attended by the UKIP MEP Gerard Batten, and Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who later apologized for attending.

Johnson has also set up groups like the London Forum in New York and Seattle. Guests and speakers at these events have included the anti-Semitic editor of the Occidental Observer, Kevin MacDonald, and the British Alt Right vlogger Colin Robertson, who vlogs under the monicker ‘Millennial Woes’. In Seattle, he also met the infamous Nazi ceramicist, Charles Krafft. Amongst other things, Krafft makes teapots of Adolf Hitler, one of which is shown. The Seattle Forum is Whites only, and is attempting to purchase land on which to found an all-White colony, Cascadia. He also met Jason Reza Jorjani, the co-founder of Alt Right Corporation and editor of Arktos Media, who later resigned his position at both to concentrate on overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran. Jorjani’s middle and surname suggest that he’s of Iranian heritage, so it’s no surprise that he wants to destroy the Islamic Republic and create an Indo-European world order. Many of the Iranian languages, like the majority language, Farsi, are Indo-European, the same as the Indian languages derived from Sanskrit. The father of the former Shah decided on renaming his country Iran, instead of Persia, following a suggestion from the Nazi ambassador in the 1930s. ‘Iran’ is derived from ‘Aryan’.

These groups attempt to offer a complete, parallel society to that of the mainstream, so that the people within it not only attend political events with their fellow Fascists, but also socialize and go to and organize cultural events with them.

They also have links to the White House, and its current denizen, Donald Trump.

The article also includes a diagram of the various groups and organisations making up the Alt Right, and the links between them.

Hermansson also describes how he found the year within the movement emotionally numbing. These are viciously racist groups, with a violent and genocidal hatred of Jews, non-Whites, gays and feminists. They deny the Holocaust and joke about the murder of the Jews by the Nazis. They also cheered at the new of the Orlando shooting, when a sexually repressed and conflicted gay Muslim took out his anger and self-loathing by murdering people at a gay nightclub, many of whom were Latinos/Latinas. Hermansson describes how meeting and immersing himself in this milieu every day has the effect of normalizing their extreme and disgusting views. He states

I learnt a huge amount about how people and groups are connected, how the movement operates and what it was planning. I found out how the movement interacts internationally and how important the social aspect of activism is in radicalising and retaining members. These groups attempt to become all-encompassing organisations that go far beyond politics, into art, religion and social life making them incredibly difficult to leave. Tragically I’ve seen how social pressure inside these groups can make ordinary people support genocide.

The far right is often treated with complacency. Should we let them into the public debate? Their views might be different, but aren’t they just other opinions

What’s obvious after a year inside the alt-right is that we cannot become complacent. These are not just opinions. These are organisations that actively foment hate and promote violence towards large groups of people. They are dangerous and their dangerous ideology must be confronted, wherever it appears.

The article concludes with his description of the events in Charlottesville.

In addition to the diagram, there are also numerous photographs taken by the author.

Letter to the Editor: America Deserves Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/09/2017 - 3:59am in


Donald Trump

In Mr. Moyers’ interview with Robert Jay Lifton last week, Lifton says, “Something has gone wrong with our democratic system in electing a man with all these characteristics that make up Donald Trump. Now we have to struggle to sustain the functional institutions of our democracy against his assault on them.”

I think quite a few more things than our “democratic system” have gone wrong for us to elect a person like Trump as our president. We have allowed the creation of an effective oligarchy, which leads to neglect and resentments.

RELATED: Democracy & Government

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers on ‘A Duty to Warn’

BY Bill Moyers | September 14, 2017

We have allowed the state, distracted with its own welfare, to neglect our health, education, housing, jobs, security, infrastructure and environment.

We have become a nation that hardly respects wisdom, learning or compassion, but largely worships fame and conspicuous wealth. And we have a media that often shovels out crass slop as entertainment and entertainment as news.

Perhaps as important as all these in making a Trump presidency possible is our ignorance or denial of our own history. We believe in our innocence and our goodness, our grand “destiny” and our exceptionalism.

These beliefs are not supported by our history, which includes genocide; slavery; racism; lynchings; massacres; drummed-up hysterias; judicial and penal injustice; sterilization campaigns; the death penalty; interference in other countries’ elections; destabilization of still other countries; support for dictators and autocrats who persecute and impoverish their own people; wars of aggression and war crimes without accountability; a militarized, spying state; unbridled avarice; destruction of land, water and air; and an unquenchable lust for power.

Many of our fellow citizens are in a state of denial — or ignorance, real or feigned.

If we can deny these facts about ourselves, we can also accept someone who believes unquestioningly in his own greatness and who believes in (or pretends to believe in) a great American past, a past that rarely if ever existed in the clean, simple way many like to imagine. Many of our fellow citizens are in a state of denial — or ignorance, real or feigned.

In some ways, Trump seems to contain all the worst characteristics found in Americans, if not humans in general. Perhaps we (gulp) deserve him.

One tragedy in all of this is that there are many, many psychologically healthy, basically kind, fair-minded, peace-loving, creative and productive (in the best sense) Americans, most of whom are suffering from nervous exhaustion, praying that the psychotic break that is Trump doesn’t lead to nuclear disaster and/or hasten climate change, increasing the already surplus suffering of beings everywhere.

May any god help us, and may we find ways to deliver ourselves from this time, recover from it, and compensate for it — it and our less than lustrous past.

— Celine Grenier, Capitola, California

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The Real News: American Nuclear Inspector Says Korean Nuclear Weapons Capability ‘Gross Exaggeration’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/09/2017 - 10:40pm in

Trump’s extremely belligerent speech this morning threatening the North Koreans, and Iran and Venezuela, for that matter, with utter destruction is terrifying. It’s the ranting of a lunatic, who seems determined to push his country, and the world, to the brink of nuclear war. After all, when he first got into power he asked his general staff why America didn’t use its nuclear weapons on its enemies.

Trump is, however, responding to claims by the North Korea itself to have developed a hydrogen bomb and the missiles capable of delivering one to the US. This comes from an underground nuclear test that North Korea carried out on the 3rd of this month, September 2017. But this report by Sharmini Perez of the Real News argues that their claims of nuclear capability is ‘grossly exaggerated’.

In the video below, Perez interviews Robert Kelley, a member of America’s Atomic Energy Authority, and one of the UN weapons inspectors, who were sent to Iraq and Iran. Kelley makes the point that while North Korea is capable of building an atomic bomb using nuclear fission, it is highly debatable whether it has a hydrogen bomb, which uses nuclear fusion. The explosion, which Pyongyang claimed was a hydrogen bomb, occurred in a large underground cavern. They only have the North Koreans’ word that it was a fusion bomb. It could well have been an ordinary atomic bomb. It will only become clear which of the two the bomb was, when low level radioactive material leaks out of the cavern to be detected from the spy drones overflying the country.

The cavern is also so large, that it’s possible that the bomb that was used was actually to large to fit in the warhead of an ICBM. As for the picture of Kim Jong Un peering at a nuclear bomb, surrounded by various scientists and aides, the weapon shown could also be fake. It looks like a nuclear bomb, but the casing could be turned out by any metalworker’s shop within a few days. Kelley also observes that the device also has mistakes, which would indicate that it’s a mock-up, not a real weapon.

The missiles North Korea has, which it claims will be able to reach America, actually aren’t terribly convincing as weapons either. There’s a reason why North Korea has launched them straight into the air during tests: that’s the only way they can monitor their progress. The missile they launched that flew over Japan carried on for another 1,000 miles before disintegrating over the Pacific. But the North Koreans themselves had no way to monitor its progress, and only knew that it had because the Americans had, and had told them. They also don’t seem to have any real ability to guide the missile, so that if they did launch one in America’s direction, it could easily miss and hit Canada to the north or Mexico to the south.

Kelley states that while the country doesn’t appear to have a missile with a nuclear warhead capable of hitting America now, that doesn’t mean he isn’t worried that they could develop one. But for the present, they don’t seem to. He also explains the work of the two international atomic energy authorities, which have the task of monitoring the trade and use of nuclear materials.

The video also begins with a speech by Vladimir Putin expressing sentiments, which I’m sure the readers of this blog totally share: that the proper response to North Korea’s threats about nuclear weapons should be diplomacy, a view which Sharmini Perez also states at the end of the video.

Looking at this, it seems that Trump is threatening to start of another bloody war, if not a nuclear assault, because of a threat which seems to be mostly boasting by the Pyongyang dictator. Which doesn’t inspire confidence in him. He’s dangerously unstable, and should never have been given control of America’s nuclear arsenal. Perhaps it’s time he was ousted on medical grounds, before he can turn the world into a charred, nuclear cinder.

The Growing Danger of Dynastic Wealth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/09/2017 - 4:36am in

This post originally appeared at Robert Reich’s blog.

White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs, said recently that “only morons pay the estate tax.”

I’m reminded of Donald Trump’s comment that he didn’t pay federal income taxes because he was “smart.” And billionaire Leona Helmsley’s “only the little people pay taxes.”

White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs, said recently that ‘only morons pay the estate tax.’

What Cohn was getting at is how easy it is nowadays for the wealthy to pass their fortunes to their children, tax-free.

The estate tax applies only to estates over $11 million per couple. And wealthy families stash away dollars above this into “dynastic” trust funds that escape additional taxes.

No wonder revenues from the estate tax have been dropping for years even as wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands. The tax now generates about $20 billion a year, which is less than 1 percent of federal revenues. And it applies to only about two out of every 1,000 people who die.

Now, Trump and Republican leaders are planning to cut or eliminate it altogether.

There’s another part of the tax code that Cohn might also have been referring to — capital gains taxes paid on the soaring values of the wealthy people’s stocks, bonds, mansions and works of art when they sell them.

If the wealthy hold on to these assets until they die, the tax code allows their heirs to inherit them without paying any of these capital gains taxes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this loophole saves heirs $50 billion a year.

Dynastic wealth runs counter to the ideal of America as a meritocracy. It makes a mockery of the notions that people earn what they’re worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them.

The estate and capital gains taxes were originally designed to prevent the growth of large dynasties in the US and to reduce inequality.

They’ve been failing to do that. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Many of today’s super rich never did a day’s work in their lives. Six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive today are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

Rich millennials will soon acquire even more of the nation’s wealth.

America is now on the cusp of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate, and then leave the bulk of them — which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable — to their own heirs, tax-free.

After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand families.

Dynastic wealth runs counter to the ideal of America as a meritocracy. It makes a mockery of the notions that people earn what they’re worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them.

It puts economic power into the hands of a relative small number of people who have never worked, but whose investment decisions will have a significant effect on the nation’s future.

And it creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy that is antithetical to democracy.

The last time America faced anything comparable to the concentration of wealth we face now, occurred at the turn of the last century.

Then, President Teddy Roosevelt warned that “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” could destroy American democracy.

Roosevelt’s answer was to tax wealth. The estate tax was enacted in 1916 and the capital gains tax in 1922.

But since then, both have been eroded. As the rich have accumulated greater wealth, they have also amassed more political power, and they’ve used that political power to reduce their taxes.

Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, helped create a movement against dynastic wealth. Trump and today’s congressional Republicans will not follow in his footsteps. I doubt even today’s Democrats would do so if they had a chance. Big money has become too powerful on both sides of the aisle.

But taxing big wealth is necessary if we’re ever to get our democracy back, and make our economy work for everyone rather than a privileged few.

Maybe Gary Cohn is correct that only morons pay the estate tax. But if he and his boss were smart and they cared about America’s future, they’d raises taxes on great wealth. Roosevelt’s fear of an American dynasty is more applicable today than ever before.

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How Corporate Capitalism Looted Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/09/2017 - 1:57am in

This post originally appeared at The Nation.

The party of Trump is being torn to pieces by its own crackpot, bigoted leader, and Democrats are eagerly feeding on the carcass. But we can already see that the Democratic Party is astride its own contradictions.

One problem for Democrats is they can’t tell the truth about their own past. Despite bleeding-heart rhetoric, the party has been directly complicit with corporate capitalism in generating the retrograde policies that effectively dismantled the country’s widely shared prosperity. Income inequality, we might say, was partly manufactured in Washington, DC, and both parties did their part.

Of course, economists would explain that faceless economic forces flattened labor wages and generated the awesome gap between fabulous wealth and the everyday people struggling to get by. But these events were not an act of nature. Political actors and political interests were at the wheel and steering at every turn, starting with Ronald Reagan’s reactionary tax cuts and anti-government slogans in the early 1980s. The Democratic Party got walloped by the Gipper, and was so traumatized that it began to imitate the Reagan mantra: “Big government is the problem, not the solution” became Bill Clinton’s famous “The era of big government is over.” Jimmy Carter struck a similar pose with his mania for deregulation.

From Clinton to Obama, Democratic administrations took their cues from Wall Street financiers and the multinational corporations that were gutting US jobs and wages.

From Clinton to Obama, Democratic administrations took their cues from Wall Street financiers and the multinational corporations that were gutting US jobs and wages. Dems too often dismissed these dislocations and stagnant wages as unfortunate but temporary. For better wages, workers simply needed more education. But the displaced didn’t need an economist to figure out what was happening to them. They saw it in their pay stubs and swollen credit-card debt. A lot of them voted for the crackpot last fall.

If you strip away the magical claims of Reaganomics (“cutting tax rates will yield more revenue and balance the budget”), you can see that the real purpose of “supply side” theory was to shift the tax burden down the income ladder—away from the high incomes. This is the operative objective: Tax work instead of wealth. That has been the practical result of favoring capital’s returns on stocks and bonds over wage income. The pivot was a landmark political reversal, and it continues to this day.

Returns on capital used to be known as “unearned income,” since it did not involve personal labor by the shareholder. Starting in the Reagan era, cutting taxes on unearned income has become a favorite way for politicians to reward the upper middle class and wealthiest citizens but especially to benefit multinational corporations, which have enormous influence in electoral politics.

Back in 1981, only a handful of principled senators voted against Reagan’s original tax-cutting measure. Many similar measures have followed over the years, strewn across the political landscape like posies for the well-to-do. Bill Clinton’s administration reduced the tax on capital gains from 28 percent to 20 percent. George W. Bush came along after Clinton and cut capital gains from 20 percent to 15 percent. Imagine if government had cut the tax rate on wages nearly in half.

Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn.

Trump’s so-called “tax reform” legislation is more accurately called “tax forgiveness.” He proposes post-facto rate reductions that allow corporations off the hook on hundreds of billions in back taxes they already owe on their overseas profits. Imagine if workers could legally dodge taxes so brazenly. The fundamental fraud of Reaganomics — that everyone will benefit if rich people get — is the same argument Trump is making for his bogus “tax reform.” It was the big lie in 1981, and it’s still the big lie in 2017.

Meanwhile, after years of center-right moderation, the Democratic Party has discovered the angry working class. Or so it claims. Some party operatives arranged a private workshop on how to talk to pissed-off white guys. Other Dems are organizing grass-roots rebellions against old leaders. Good for them.

This summer the party’s congressional leaders jointly produced a “Better Deal” agenda of worthy liberal reforms — ideas the party had routinely ignored if they sounded too much like “big government.” The agenda described the symptoms of economic distress but not the root causes, since that might implicate Democrats themselves. Still, the emphatic gesture did demonstrate the party’s solidarity with struggling families. That’s promising.

But can we believe them? Not yet.

Democratic leaders, it appears, still want to have it both ways. They are offering solace and useful ideas for helping injured and angry working people. But party influentials won’t come clean on their own contributions to the pain and suffering (see Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign).

And the same party leaders who express sympathy for working stiffs are talking favorably about doing a fabulous tax deal for America’s leading corporations — about helping these titans of capitalism to dodge hundreds of billions in federal taxes they owe on their overseas operations (a nifty loophole allows them to defer paying taxes until they bring the money home). The titans owe some $600 billion, which they refuse to pay unless and until Congress reduces the tax rate on past profits as well as future profits. No surprise, Trump supports the corporates. The issue will be a first test of whether Democrats have changed.

The corporate lobby has already gathered an impressive group of Democratic supporters, including Senate leader Charles Schumer, House leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Ron Wyden.

The corporate lobby has already gathered an impressive group of Democratic supporters, including Senate leader Charles Schumer, House leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which will write the tax-forgiveness legislation.

For several years Schumer has been coaxing senators of both parties to sign on. Give the multinationals what they want — a monster tax break — and they can bring back their capital to finance the nation’s backlog of infrastructure projects. Likewise, Pelosi and Wyden are enthusiasts for deal-making with Trump, though nobody is settled on the details. Pelosi has said Trump’s proposed tax reduction on corporate profits is too severe, but “we could split the difference.”

A similar approach was actually enacted by Congress back in 2004, when President George W. Bush and his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, agreed on a one-time, bargain-basement tax rate of 5 percent. The corporations got the money but double-crossed the politicians and spent the windfall on themselves, boosting stock prices for their shareholders.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren famously called Schumer’s so-called reform “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers.” Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed a simpler solution: End the deferral of corporate taxes on overseas profits. Make them pay what they owe — now.

Many Democrats have remained coy on the issue of a corporate tax holiday, and that arouses my skepticism. They like to pound on rich individuals for not paying enough in income taxes, but they are strangely silent about the corporate tax dodge. Are we witnessing a kind of slow-motion sellout, in which Congress generously feeds the corporate beast our public money while posing as a tight-fisted reformer? Suspicions could be quickly squelched if elected officials simply stated their positions explicitly.

This tax hustle is a particularly ugly example of how our corrupted democracy can be looted by corporate capitalism more or less in broad daylight. There is no obvious crime here, but then we aren’t talking about bucket-shop swindlers. These tax dodgers are the best and brightest and often most profitable names in American manufacturing: General Electric, Verizon, Boeing and Priceline paid no federal tax at all over a five-year period. Other big dodgers include Apple, Pfizer, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Cisco. The top 50 US corporations owe more than $600 billion on $2.4 trillion in profits.

The companies put this squeeze on Washington: We won’t pay a dime, they tell elected representatives, until you cut the corporate tax rate sharply on the billions we already owe the government and our future profits as well.

Collectively, the companies put this squeeze on Washington: We won’t pay a dime, they tell elected representatives, until you cut the corporate tax rate sharply on the billions we already owe the government and our future profits as well (forget the 35 percent corporate tax rate that companies whine about — that’s another lie, since almost none of them pay at that rate).

I gently teased a friend who works for one of the high-powered tech companies known for its hardball politics and flagrant tax dodging. Was he embarrassed? Not at all. “We can go either way,” he said. “Cut the tax rate and we will bring the money home and you get some revenue. Or don’t cut the tax rate and you get nothing from us. Take your choice.”

This is an accurate description of the dilemma his company and the other multinationals have created for politicians. It resembles a threat from the mob: “Give us the money or we break your legs.” Sounds like extortion. American capitalism creates many situations that sometimes resemble criminal behavior but are perfectly legal, as the hustlers like to say.

Yet here is the good news. The old status quo is breaking down before our eyes. People are fed up with both parties, but at least some Democrats can glimpse a new era struggling to be born. Republicans have the money and the hardball strategies to prevail for now, but they are defending a vanishing America that is changing and facing profoundly different threats. Sooner or later, Republicans either lose or change their minds.

My optimism is simply a crude restatement of the national history. Some political conflicts have sputtered on at a stalemate for decades, even generations, until one day the weather changes abruptly. Or war or economic circumstances force a change. More and more people have lost patience with the old order because it is so absurdly mistaken about what people want and need. I think we may be headed for a “market correction.” And that could be good.

I have focused on the twisted political values expressed in the tax system because the absurdity is so obvious. The nation has just experienced a generation of stagnation and swelling inequality, with millions losing personal status, but also their hopeful sense of the future. What does the political system propose in response? More tax breaks and tax forgiveness for the rich and powerful, for the ambitious managers and investors. More disappointment and inequality for citizens down below. And more looting of government.

The Democratic Party has to turn away from the bankers and the multinationals and restore the multihued party of workers and imaginative reformers.

Rebellion may be required within the Democratic Party. It has to turn away from the bankers and the multinationals and restore the multihued party of workers and imaginative reformers. Refreshing the field of battle with new faces and original ideas risks losing the next election or two, but intramural contests can energize skeptical voters and redefine fundamental principles.

The rebels within the ranks may be a minority, but as the GOP discovered in previous decades, a purposeful minority can agitate and educate and change party direction in fundamental ways. Party elders might have more campaign money, but Democratic challengers can employ a device that worked wonderfully for right-wing, anti-tax Republicans: Ask primary candidates to take the “pledge,” then target those establishment incumbents who refuse to do so. For Democrats, the pledge would be a promise to fight any measure that cuts taxes for corporate dodgers as well as any measure that refuses to support expansion of Social Security or Medicare. Politicians who try to cheat on their pledge should be targeted and taken down. After incumbents see a few supposedly safe colleagues get wiped, they will get the message.

Polling by Hart Research for Americans for Tax Fairness suggests that the Democratic Party’s base is already on board for a different agenda. “There is no significant constituency for reducing corporate tax rates,” the polling firm found. “Seven in ten voters (69 percent) say wealthy corporations paying their fair share of the taxes is more important than cutting the taxes for American business to make them more competitive in the global economy,” the survey concluded.

In other words, Americans have “progressive values” on taxation. They are more worried that Republicans will cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Perhaps the most significant finding is that people no longer believe what Reagan taught Americans 35 years ago. The supply-side theory argued falsely that tax cuts for business and for rich people would benefit everyone by stimulating the economy and creating jobs and rising incomes.

“What’s different now,” said Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness, “is people don’t believe in ‘trickle-down economics’ or that tax cuts benefit them.”

Clemente asked this question: “Are Democrats going to be united with their base on opposing corporate tax cuts?”

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A New Trump?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/09/2017 - 11:16pm in

This post originally appeared at Project Syndicate.

It’s generally agreed in Washington, DC, that President Donald Trump’s presidency is entering a new phase. Defining that phase is proving to be problematic.

The widespread expectation was that the removal of Stephen Bannon — the former White House chief adviser and resident avatar of white American nationalism — would make the administration run more smoothly, mitigate (though not eliminate) infighting, and reduce the number of leaks. The internal warfare may be quieter since John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff and imposed more order in the West Wing. But so long as Trump is president, orderliness will not be the White House’s chief characteristic. In fact, Trump remains in frequent contact with Bannon, who is back in charge at Breitbart News.

So long as Trump is president, orderliness will not be the White House’s chief characteristic.

Inevitably, by early September, after Kelly had been on the job for all of five weeks, Trump was chafing under his new chief of staff’s restrictions. Kelly has imposed tight controls over who may enter the Oval Office, listens in on most of Trump’s phone calls during office hours, and controls what pieces of paper reach the president’s desk, thus eliminating the highly ideological screeds that some staff members used to slip him.

The problem is that Trump likes disorder; that’s how he had run his business, and he doesn’t take well to being managed. He liked having favored people wandering into his office as they chose, and it’s been his managerial creed to play people off each other. Nor does he bother to control his temper when dealing with aides. Even Kelly, an ex-Marine Corps general, has come under the lash of Trump’s tongue. Observers now take bets on when Kelly will decide he’s had enough.

I’ve never known a White House where so much depends on who has incurred the president’s ire. Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president and chief operating officer who serves as Trump’s chief economic adviser, is the latest to be frozen out. Cohn’s sin was to let it be known publicly that he almost resigned following the violence last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Trump equated white supremacist and neo-Nazi demonstrators, many of them armed, with those who opposed them.

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Actually, one can have some sympathy for a president with an aide who wants to have it both ways, as Cohn did — letting his apparent anguish be known without acting on it. But there can be problems when a president chooses to disregard his chief economic adviser. Cohn has been seen as one of the administration’s more moderate voices, and he has wanted to succeed Janet Yellen as chair of the US Federal Reserve.

Speculation about the possibility of a “new Trump” peaked in early September, when the president suddenly cut a deal with Democratic congressional leaders. Trump agreed with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and her Senate counterpart, Chuck Schumer, on how to increase the federal debt limit, which Congress must raise each year as spending increases, and extend appropriations to keep the government running (because Congress routinely fails to write appropriations bills on time). Both items were tied to a special appropriation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to pay for recovery efforts. (The larger Hurricane Irma hadn’t yet hit.)

In the midst of the discussion at the Oval Office meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump interrupted Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as he was defending the Republicans’ position that these issues should be put off for 18 months, until after the 2018 congressional elections. The Democrats had argued that the increase in the debt ceiling and extension of appropriations should last for only three months, thus forcing the Republicans to take electorally risky votes before the 2018 elections.

Before the meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan had adamantly rejected the Democrats’ proposal. But suddenly, without notifying even his own aides, Trump went for it. The author of The Art of the Deal had accepted the Democrats’ opening position.

Commentators went into overdrive, imbuing the episode with broad significance: Trump was now not a Republican but an independent. He might start a third party. His move marked the beginning of a new way of governing.

In fact, Trump merely saw an opportunity and took it. With no real legislative achievements to claim, he did something. The Republican congressional leaders, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had been in bad odor with Trump for a while, because they had been unable to deliver on his legislative agenda. He was embarrassed and angered at their failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. (Trump didn’t recognize his own contributions to the debacle.) On many issues, Trump lacks a governing majority in the Senate.

Overlooked in all the excitement over Trump’s lining up with Democratic leaders was that the issue at hand concerned legislative timing, not substance. And the subsequent fevered discussions about Trump’s core beliefs — maybe he was a crypto-Democrat, who had, after all, donated to Democratic candidates at one time and sympathized with Democratic positions (such as on abortion) — missed the point. Trump harbors no particular political philosophy; he’s an opportunist who craves publicity and praise.

But his maverick behavior might turn out to be self-perpetuating. For all his contempt for the “dishonest media,” Trump was ecstatic about the positive press coverage his bipartisan move received. And that might lure him to try for more.

(Copyright Project Syndicate, 2017)

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Sean Spicer Is Honored Because — As Bush Officials Have Shown — D.C. Elites Always Thrive

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/09/2017 - 8:10pm in

Sean Spicer’s playful, glamorous appearance at last night’s Emmy Awards and being honored as a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School (the honorific which the CIA vetoed for Chelsea Manning) has prompted a mix of shock and indignation. Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau wrote: “Harvard fellowships, Emmy appearances, huge speaking fees: there’s just gonna be no penalty for working in Trump’s White House, huh?” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie added: “The degree to which Sean Spicer has faced no consequences is a glimpse into the post-Trump future.”

There should be nothing whatsoever surprising about any of this, as it is the logical and necessary outcome of the self-serving template of immunity which D.C. elites have erected for themselves. The Bush administration was filled with high-level officials who did not just lie from podiums, but did so in service of actual war crimes. They invaded and destroyed a country of 26 million people based on blatant falsehoods and relentless propaganda. They instituted a worldwide torture regime by issuing decrees that purported to redefine what that term meant. They spied on the communications of American citizens without the warrants required by law. They kidnapped innocent people from foreign soil and sent them to be tortured in the dungeons of the world’s worst regimes, and rounded up Muslims on domestic soil with no charges. They imprisoned Muslim journalists for years without a whiff of due process. And they generally embraced and implemented the fundamental tenets of authoritarianism by explicitly positioning the president and his White House above the law.

We’re supposed to all forget about that, or at least agree to minimize it, in service of this revisionist conceit that the United States has long been governed by noble, honorable, and decent people until Donald Trump defaced the sanctity of the Oval Office with his band of gauche miscreants and evil clowns. Many of the same people who, just a decade ago, were depicting Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Paul Wolfowitz — remember them? — as monsters of historic proportions are today propagating the mythology that Trump is desecrating what had always been sacred and benevolent American civic space.

Not only were all Bush officials fully immunized from the legal consequences of their crimes — in D.C., that’s a given — but they were also fully welcomed back into decent, elite society with breakneck speed, lavished with honors, rewards, lucrative jobs, and praise. Those same Bush officials responsible for the most horrific crimes are now beloved by many of the same circles that, today, are expressing such righteous rage that Spicer is allowed onto the Emmy stage and a classroom at Harvard.

The speechwriter who churned out some of George W. Bush’s worst lies and most obscene justifications, David “Axis of Evil” Frum, is a senior editor at The Atlantic, a CNN contributor, and one of the most beloved and cited commentators by the self-styled, anti-Trump “Resistance.” With a straight face, he wrote a long, somber Atlantic article earlier this year, which the magazine put on its cover, in which he postured as someone qualified to warn of the dangers of authoritarianism when his only real qualification would be to write a manual on how to implement it.

The Sean Spicer of torture and the Iraq War, Ari Fleischer, is a regular CNN contributor and makes many millions of dollars on the speaking circuit and providing communications consulting advice to large corporations and sports teams. One of the most vocal proponents of torture, former Bush and Rumsfeld speechwriter Marc Thiessen, was hired as a columnist by the Washington Post shortly after his torture-advocating book was published, and he remains employed there.

John Yoo, author of the memos justifying torture and lawlessness, is on the faculty of Berkeley Law School, where he holds an endowed chair. Condoleezza Rice, who literally chaired the meetings inside the White House where torture was choreographed to the last detail and crusaded for the invasion of Iraq, is not only on the faculty of Stanford but serves on the boards of multiple Fortune 500 corporations and is virtually universally beloved.

Darth Cheney himself, after leaving the Bush administration, made millions from a book that he was able to promote by being welcomed onto all major television networks, where he was treated like a wise, old statesman. When a marble bust of him was unveiled at the Capitol, Joe Biden — whose administration had previously immunized Bush officials from prosecution for war crimes — attended to pay homage and heap praise on his predecessor, gushing: “I actually like Dick Cheney.”

The rehabilitation of George W. Bush has been as widespread as it has been nauseating, culminating with a recent appearance on the talk show of liberal icon Ellen DeGeneres, who hugged him, hailed him as a personal friend, invited him to denounce Trump for sullying the office which Bush served with such honor, and then posted warm and loving pictures of the pair to her 48 million followers on Instagram.

Hillary Clinton, in her new book, fondly recalls how “George [W. Bush] actually called just minutes after I finished my concession speech, and graciously waited on the line while I hugged my team and supporters one last time. When we talked, he suggested we find time to get burgers together.” She added: “I think that’s Texan for ‘I feel your pain.'” We’ve put all that Iraq War, torture, and rendition unpleasantness behind us — just some good-faith policy disputes — and now see him as a nice, kind, decent, and honorable statesman.

In a recent interview with Vulture, the weekend MSNBC host Joy Reid, a former Obama campaign aide, gushed about the favorable views she now holds about, and the alignments she has now formed with, the Bush-era neocons who helped justify and usher in some of the most repugnant abuses and war crimes in American history:

Vulture: On the flip side, it has to be a bit heartening that some conservatives who used to be sort of MSNBC “villains” are now on your network trashing a Republican president.

Reid: One of the most amazing outcomes of the Trump administration is the number of neo-conservatives that are now my friends and I am aligned with. I found myself agreeing on a panel with Bill Kristol. I agree more with Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and Max Boot than I do with some people on the far left. I am shocked at the way that Donald Trump has brought people together. [Laughs.]

So if initiating an aggressive war (which the Nuremberg Tribunal called “the supreme international crime”), instituting an international torture regime (which Ronald Reagan called “an abhorrent practice” that no circumstance can justify), and embracing the full model of presidential lawlessness does not result in ostracization, sanction, or exclusion from polite society, why on earth would anyone expect that Sean Spicer would face any sort of actual recrimination or consequence?

If you’re someone who employs David Frum or hires Ari Fleischer or treats Bush-era war criminals as respectable and honored sources, you really have no standing to object to the paradigm that has ushered Spicer into the halls of elite power. This is the precedent of elite immunity that has been created, often by the same people who are now so upset that Sean Spicer and his fellow Trump functionaries are the beneficiaries of the framework they helped to install.

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Guardian Plugs War Criminal’s Book

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/09/2017 - 11:00pm in

by Kit Nobody should be surprised to learn that Alistair Campbell, the former Blair PR guru, suffers from psychological problems. Obviously, lacking empathy to the extent that you can start an illegal war with a peaceful country, for the lone purpose of enriching corporate interests, would be a red flag to any psychiatrist worth his salt. Even supposing you weren’t entirely psychopathic beforehand, the associated guilt-rotting of the soul, after the fact, would surely be enough to drive one mad. Just look at Blair. Look at his mummified, rictus grin and tell me that’s not a man whose evil has stained his face. No, no one is surprised that Alistair Campbell has mental problems. And, sadly, no one is surprised that the Guardian gives him column inches – not just to whine about the stress involved in coordinating (among other things) mass-murder – but also to plug his book. I will not name it or link to it here, it doesn’t deserve the clicks. In any right-thinking society, this man would be in prison for …