Obama

SYNDICATED COLUMN: So What if President Trump is an Asshole? All the Presidents Have Been Assholes.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 4:03am in

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President Trump is under fire and we’re all shocked shocked SHOCKED that his shithole mouth called the (predominantly black) nations of Africa “shitholes,” helpfully comparing them to (predominantly blonde) Norway to make sure nobody missed the point. To drive home just how pissed off people are about this (and rightly so), Trump’s shithole comment overshadowed news that the government accidentally told the citizens of Hawaii they were about to get nuked. As George W. Bush would say, that’s some weird shit.

This is a big deal unless you’re reading this more than a few days after this writing, at which point Trump will have raised more hell with some new idiotic utterance that makes us forget about this one.

Speaking of hell-raising: I managed to raise a few social-media hackles recently when I posted the following: “I honestly don’t understand why people are so depressed about Trump. Policy-wise, he isn’t much different than Obama. Trump is truth in advertising: he is an asshole, our country acts like an asshole. No need for phony smiles, PC rhetoric.”

This led to a discussion comparing Trump not just to Obama, but other American presidents. There were lots of great comments. Still, I was struck by something that few people seem to be aware of — America’s rich history of presidential assholery. Given how wicked smart my readers are, I was surprised to hear some of them refer favorably to Trump’s predecessors.

Trump is a thieving, lying turd. In that respect, he is as presidential as it gets. Going back to Day One, the United States has been led by white males behaving badly.

Trump gets attacked for using the presidency to line his pockets, and rightfully so. Yet The Donald has nothing on the Father of Our Country.

George Washington was worth more than half a billion in today’s dollars — riches he accumulated in large part by exploiting his political influence to loot federal coffers. He joined the Masons, married well, scored a few lucky inheritances and invested the loot in real estate along what was then the Colonies’ western frontier in Indian territory that he came across as a young land surveyor.

GW’s acreage was on the wrong side of the Appalachian mountains — but not for long. Talk about conflict of interest: as commander of the revolutionary army and president, he promoted settlement of the west by whites that pumped up the value of his early investments. The fact that those whites were engaged in genocide bothered Washington not one whit.

Even on the Left, some Americans point to Lincoln as a pillar of moral rectitude. But Honest Abe suspended the ancient writ of habeas corpus; in 2006, a militaristic asshole named George W. Bush relied on Lincoln’s 1863 precedent to abolish it altogether.

Since nothing in the Constitution bans secession, Southern states enjoyed the legal right to leave the Union. Defying the Constitution, Lincoln went to war — illegally — to bring them back. Not only was the Civil War a bloodbath, it left us with a nation that remains politically and culturally fractured to this day. Blacks were 13% of the population of the Confederacy. Had Lincoln chosen peace, a slave uprising might have brought down the Old South — and killed a lot of racists.

Lincoln cheated in the 1864 election by playing both sides of the secession. To justify the war, he claimed the breakaway states were still part of the Union, yet didn’t count Southern electoral votes because they would have cost him reelection.

You name the president, I’ll name at least one unforgiveable sin.

FDR? The New Deal was a grand achievement. But if trying to stack the Supreme Court isn’t impeachable, what is? When World War II broke out, Roosevelt played footsie with Vichy France while snubbing the Resistance. He turned away Jewish refugees and refused to bomb the Nazi infrastructure used to murder Jews. He dragged his feet taking on Hitler so that the Soviet Union would take the brunt of Nazi savagery.

Folks are already saying: “Barack Obama will be inducted into the league of Great Presidents.” Obama, most Democrats have already forgotten, broke his promise to try for a “public option” in the Affordable Care Act. He went on languid vacations while the global economy was collapsing, handed trillions to bankers no strings attached and did nothing to help the unemployed and people whose homes were stolen by the banks. And he slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians with drones — people who represented zero threat to anyone — just for fun.

If that’s a great president, give me a shitty one.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The Second Coming of ‘Yes, We Can’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/12/2017 - 6:40am in

Doug Jones’ convincing victory in Alabama is a hallelujah (and Hanukkah) moment for Americans who refuse to truckle under to the vicious, knuckleheaded maniac in the White House — not for one reason but for every decent reason a democratic majority can muster. But the Jones tide that washed over Alabama is more than cause for a day of exuberance. It points toward a solution for the wrecking-ball tendencies that have afflicted the Democrats since the election — and before.  Continue reading

The post The Second Coming of ‘Yes, We Can’ appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Book Review: We: Reviving Social Hope by Ronald Aronson

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/12/2017 - 10:19pm in

Tags 

Obama, US politics

In We: Reviving Social Hope, Ronald Aronson takes stock of the current state of US society, attributing the rise of Donald Trump to a steep decline in participatory democracy throughout the twentieth century and offering a blueprint for restoring hope to the body politic. This is an intellectually rigorous analysis, writes Jeff Roquen, that will contribute to a broader debate about how to reposition the pursuit of a ‘common good’ as the central aim of politics today.

We: Reviving Social Hope. Ronald Aronson. University of Chicago Press. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

On 4 November 2008, nearly a quarter of a million people flocked to Grant Park in Chicago to watch Barack Obama accept his victory in the presidential election. After more than two centuries of slavery and another 150 years of racial exclusion, many in the audience openly wept with joy at the sight of the first African-American US President. To a worldwide television and radio audience consisting of tens of millions, President-Elect Obama announced:

This is our moment.  This is our time […] to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, We Can.

After generations of struggle, sacrifice and ‘The Audacity of Hope’ undertaken by countless Americans against ignorance, intolerance and the politics of division, Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office on 20 January 2009. Seven years later, voters in the United States elected Donald Trump – an anti-liberal populist. What explains the abrupt and radical political departure?

In We: Reviving Social Hope, Ronald Aronson utilises the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) to explain the rise of Trump as a consequence of the steep decline of participatory democracy in the United States and offers a blueprint to restore hope to a seemingly enervated body politic.

During the Second World War, Sartre – a Parisian savant – joined several anti-fascist organisations and revamped the concept of existentialism in both a philosophical tome (Being and Nothingness, 1943) and in an accomplished novel (The Age of Reason, 1945). For existentialists, ‘[Humankind] is condemned to be free’ (Sartre), and truly authentic individuals accept that they alone create and re-create meaning in their lives by making self-conscious value judgements and rejecting the fate and inevitability contained in both ideological systems (i.e. fascism and communism) and religious dogma.  As Sartrean existentialism provided a formidable methodological tool to sweep away oppressive traditions, delegitimise expedient behaviour and challenge the power of elites, it appealed to coteries of intellectuals under Nazi occupation in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.

Only a few paragraphs into the opening essay of this book, ‘Hope in Trouble’, Aronson immediately identifies the expansion of near-unbridled capitalism into the realm of culture as the most corrosive force debilitating the once vaunted idea of ‘the common good’ as expressed by Obama and other politicians.  Instead of a nation bound by shared aspirations (i.e. widespread prosperity, equal rights for women and minorities, measures to combat climate change and reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, etc.), the United States, according to the author, has devolved into a disunited assemblage of self-absorbed, acquisitive and career-focused individuals due to the permeation of ‘market logic and metrics […] in government, education, culture, and the law’ (9).

Image Credit: (J E Therlot CC  BY 2.0)

As a result of this ‘privatization of hope’ – or the deterioration of hope in solving the problems of civil society by democratic means – the twenty-first-century temper of American life now pivots on a ‘crude, aggressive, and cynical’ form of individualism. Consequently, a wave of ‘seriality’ – a Sartrean term to describe apathy and disconnectedness among people – now reigns from New York City to Los Angeles (19, 22-23). Although many readers will challenge Aronson’s bleak assessment, the consistency and cogency of the core elements of his case deserve due consideration.

Over the course of the third, fourth and fifth chapters, Aronson also delivers a scathing critique of contemporary notions of ‘progress’ as being antithetical to human flourishing. Despite an impressive thirty-year increase in life expectancy (49 to 79 years from 1900-2016) and an unparallelled record of wealth creation from 1945-75 in the US, the author nevertheless attacks the modern idea of progress as a transmogrified, elitist-driven, capitalist enterprise bent on overdevelopment and maximising profits at the expense of both workers and the environment (80-81, 131-35).

Is Aronson correct?  During the Great Recession (2008-12), the US middle class, which had already endured a 35-year drought in wage gains, contracted significantly. While the economy has rebounded to some degree, many workers, who still face working longer hours and paying higher premiums for health insurance than the previous generation, lack the financial means to purchase big ticket items (home and cars) or save for retirement. Partly as a result of corporate influence on politics, the richest one per cent now control ‘more than 20% of all U.S. income’, and the steady transfer of wealth from the middle classes to the upper classes since the 1980s has led to a surge in the numbers of working poor and impoverished.  In respect to the environment, the decision of the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 may prove to be a watershed moment in history. Due to the failure to rein in manufacturers from the excessive production of greenhouse gases and continued denial of the scientifically proven impact of human activity on climate change, warmer temperatures, declining sea levels, decreased crop production, less potable water and more episodes of extreme weather will invariably cause mass dislocations and global distress in the near and long-term future.

How and why, then, can individuals break their seriality and revive a sense of hope?  In Chapter Two, ‘What Hope Is’, Aronson employs one of Sartre’s famous anecdotes from his later and somewhat controversial Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960). At a bus stop, commuters sit or stand in silence and remain in their private worlds. What would occur, however, if the bus failed to arrive after a considerable length of time? Most likely, a dialogue would begin among several (if not all) of the previously isolated individuals to determine whether to continue waiting or to locate other means of transportation. In defining hope as a collective group (or a ‘We’) resolving to alter the status quo for the betterment of all, Aronson squarely links hope to a leftist-progressive project to overcome socio-economic inequality through solidarity. Hence, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring as well as campaigns for equal marriage and against sexual harassment all constitute genuine expressions of hope – as hope requires action for the ‘common good’ (48-59).

In Chapter Six, ‘We’, Aronson furthermore lauds the presidential campaign of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders as evidence of the resilience of hope. By mobilising the latent idealism of millions of young people around policies anchored in the ‘common good’ (i.e. universal health care, tuition-free college education and the public financing of elections to remove the corrupting influence of corporate donations), the progressive movement behind Senator Sanders stands as a potent, countervailing force to the ‘anti-hope’ political currents of ‘Trumpism’ (176).

If conservative and mainstream critics simply dismiss We: Reviving Social Hope as an outdated, leftist screed, their evaluation will be at least partly mistaken. Through an intellectually rigorous analysis, Aronson has contributed to our understanding of modern America by illuminating how social and economic cynicism generates disillusionment and seriality (passive silence) across the political spectrum. At the same time, his investigation yields tangible insights into the decline of empathy in the United States over the past few decades.

To create a more just and socially responsible country, it will be necessary for Americans to once again embrace the virtues of hope, civility, citizenship and persistence for the benefit of both the United States and the entire world.  As such, We: Reviving Social Hope will hopefully be only one of a number of forthcoming critical monographs seeking to stir a robust debate on how America can rediscover its raison d’être as ‘We The People’ and re-establish ‘the common good’ as both a means to and an end of politics.

Jeff Roquen is an independent scholar based in the United States. Read more reviews by Jeff Roquen.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.


When it comes to domination—whether of race, class, or gender—there are no workarounds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/12/2017 - 7:41am in

Thomas Edsall says some frustrating, historically shortsighted things in this interview with Isaac Chotiner.

After calling for the Democrats to be more moderate, to trim on issues that divide the country—the presumption being that moderation in one party breeds moderation in the other or that moderation in one party checks the extremism of the other (we’ll come back to that)—Edsall brings up the infamous Boston busing battle of the 1970s. This exchange ensues:

Q: So what do you draw from the busing controversy then? What advice would you have given racial justice advocates in the 1970s?

A: The goal of school integration was a crucial and important one. The mechanism to achieve it—of pitting working-class whites against working-class blacks—was not the way to achieve it. Liberals in the 1970s should have struggled intensely for cross-county busing, and they should have tried to legislate that. Instead, all busing was done within single urban areas. It created extraordinary disruptions.”

Where to begin?

First, liberals did in fact push for cross-county busing. They were stopped dead in their tracks. By conservatives.

Cross-county busing, where you bus kids from the cities to the suburbs and vice versa, produced an infamous Supreme Court case, Milliken v. Bradley (1974), in which a 5-member majority of the Court (all Nixon appointees), ruled that the courts couldn’t order that kids be bused across district lines unless they could show that the suburbs and the city—or the state government—had maintained, through formal laws of segregation (de jure segregation), racially segregated school districts or what is called “dual systems” of education: one for whites, one for blacks. Such laws were fairly uncommon in the North in the postwar era.

There were many other ways that state and local governments in the North kept the suburbs white. As the plaintiffs in Milliken showed, and as Justices Douglass and Marshall pointed out in their dissents, state agencies in Michigan (the case came out of the Detroit metropolitan area) were involved in redlining, restrictive covenants, concentrating black neighborhoods in certain areas, and so forth. One of the mayors of Detroit’s surrounding white suburban ring had said, “Every time we hear of a Negro moving…in, we respond quicker than you do to a fire.” But the Court rejected that argument. So that was the end of the vision Edsall is talking about. Not because liberals didn’t try it, but because it was stopped by five Republican justices on the Supreme Court.

And while Edsall says liberals should have also pursued this vision legislatively, the facts of Milliken—where politicians in the North, Republicans and Democrats (the Dearborn mayor quoted above was a Democrat), were so actively involved in maintaining segregated schools—gives you an inkling why that never got off the ground.

Second, the notion that if the Court had approved the plan in Milliken, integration would have gone easier in the North, is questionable. The mere fact that the cross-county desegregation plan was opposed so strongly in the North should tell you something about the politics of these things. Edsall seems to believe that had liberals done cross-county busing, elite northern white liberals would have been participating in the same experience working-class whites were participating in. Instead, he says, they asked working-class whites in the cities—not elite white liberals in the suburbs—to do the work of desegregation.

Now, as a proposition of political morality, Edsall is absolutely right. And he’s also right that this is how busing should have been done. But Edsall is not making a moral claim; he’s making a strategic claim. That somehow the shared experience of busing across social classes would have softened the political blow. Because everyone’s participating, you get more buy-in.

Yet the very language Edsall uses belies the gauzy communitarianism of his vision. Elite white liberals, he says, bore “none of the costs” of busing. That’s true. But the fact that he uses the word “costs” indicates the depths of white hostility to integration, regardless of social class.

The notion that cross-county busing, across the urban/suburban divide, would have made things less rather than more explosive is fanciful. Whether you think whites moved to the suburbs in the postwar era because of race, the schools, crime, or property values, it’s hard to think how any of those factors would have produced a less ferocious battle if black kids were bused from the Bronx to northern Westchester (where I grew up) and white kids were bused from northern Westchester to the Bronx. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been done, but you can’t claim that the reason to have done it was that it would have massaged things politically.

(I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t an implicit political sociology behind this vision. Not Edsall’s per se—based on his shrewd reporting before the election, I definitely don’t believe he thinks this way—but among people in the media and elsewhere who might agree with his argument. A fair number of elite white journalists think wealthier whites in the professional classes are more liberal and socially tolerant. Perhaps the idea is had they been involved in this grand experiment of the 1970s more directly and personally, the forces of trickle-down morality would have made their way into working-class white communities.)

But the biggest problem with Edsall’s interview is the essential assumption that I already flagged: that moderation breeds moderation. Edsall has been pushing this argument, particularly when it comes to race, since the 1980s. And one could argue that he played a considerable role in shifting the Democratic Party’s positions to the center, beginning with the rise of the DLC and Bill Clinton. In the interview, Edsall cites Clinton positively—he knew how to “find middle ground”—and Obama—”he tended to be reasonable”—for these reasons.

But what has that moderation, that reasonableness, produced? Did the GOP get less moderate under Clinton, despite his move to the right on race and other matters? I think we know the answer to that.

And what about Obama, whose immigration policies Edsall praises? Obama took the border seriously, Edsall says, pushing hard on immigration enforcement. What did that do to the GOP? We now have a Republican Party adopting the most overtly anti-immigrant positions—and being led by the most anti-immigrant president—since the days of Johnson and Reed.

Edsall tries to blame this on Hillary Clinton not being as draconian as Obama was on immigration, but that merely sidesteps the issue. Obama’s attempt to meet the anti-immigrant sentiment of the Republican Party halfway did nothing to bring the Republican Party closer to the center—and nothing to avert the nomination and election of a candidate who took the positions Trump did.

When it comes to any program of the left—whether it’s racial or gender or class equality—there are no workarounds. Anyone who thinks you can eliminate domination, on whatever axis of social life, without a backlash and volatile resistance, is dreaming. The only way through it is through it.

Michael Flynn’s Indictment Exposes Trump Team’s Collusion With Israel, Not Russia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 6:17pm in

by Max Blumenthal, via Defend Democracy Press When Congress authorized Robert Mueller and his team of lawyers to investigate “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” opponents of the president sensed that sooner or later, hard evidence of Trump’s collusion with the Russian government would emerge. Seven months later, after three indictments that did little, if anything, to confirm the grand collusion narrative, Mueller had former National Security Council advisor Michael Flynn dragged before a federal court for lying to the FBI. The Russia probe had finally netted a big fish. As the details of the Flynn indictment seeped out into the press, however, the bombshell was revealed as another dud. To the dismay of many Trump opponents, nothing in Flynn’s rap sheet demonstrated collusion with Russia. Instead, the indictment undermined the Russiagate narrative while implicating another, much more inconvenient foreign power in a plot to meddle in American politics. According to plea agreement Flynn signed with Mueller, Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about …

Today's winner of the "I Feel Good About Myself and What I Do for a Living" award is …

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 02/09/2013 - 10:04pm in