Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Smashing The Neoliberal Democrat Echo Chamber

The chart above is a real-time illustration of one of the most beautiful events in American political history: the official waking-up of the majority of the American left. Up until very recently, most Democrats didn't seem to care about the corruption within their party. For the most part, liberals did not speak out when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. They did not abandon the belief that Obama represented real progressive change when he supported Bush's Wall Street bailouts as a senator. They did not work vigorously to replace the Democratic Party's current leadership throughout the decades-long saga of warmongering, neoliberal policies, and unconstitutional surveillance perpetrated by Democrats. And yet in 2016, they finally became willing to embrace a genuinely progressive option, with Bernie Sanders having had more support among Democrats than Hillary Clinton at one point during the race and then won the nomination in the alternate universe where the Democratic primaries weren't fraught with voter suppression and electoral fraud.

But while the majority of liberals have stepped up, that majority is for now a very narrow one. At the most, Sanders was found to have been winning against Clinton nationally by two points, and while that number would doubtless be many times larger had it not been for the anti-Sanders tactics that I mentioned, a little less than half of Democrats remain loyal to their party's status quo.

And this claim is backed up by polling of Democrats on other issues. 54% of Democrats feel represented by their party, a number which, while no doubt bigger than it would be if all of the Democrat-leaning independents who have Demexited in recent years still considered themselves Democrats, is a disappointingly high one. All of the potential establishment Democratic candidates included in the latest 2020 Democratic nomination poll (Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Al Franken) enjoy the combined support of 46% of the Democratic electorate, though the survey also shows Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner. In other words, almost half the left still does not understand the nature of corporate power and the grip that it holds over their party, and convincing them otherwise is an important step in revolutionizing Democratic politics.

Easier said than done.

Occasionally on my online browsings of the political landscape, I've encountered people on social media who represent that 45% or so of liberals who still think the Democratic Party and its leaders represent their interests. And aside from the occasional sensible-or moderate, if I may-member of this bunch, they show themselves to be extremely closed-minded and hostile towards anyone who questions their party. When I've criticized Obama for refusing to adequately reform the banking system and thus setting us up for a new Wall Street crash, they've correctly accused me of "thinking I know more about this than the president." When I've shown Hillary Clinton supporters who incredibly knew nothing of their candidate's legendarily destructive foreign policy record a comprehensive history of it from a credible source, they responded by calling it lies and right-wing propaganda. When I most recently showed a supporter of the DNC's new chairman Tom Perez an article about how their leader enabled massive tax breaks for hedge fund mangers as Secretary of Labor, I was told that this wasn't the case because "Democrats don't vote for tax cuts."

I could go on for maybe three more paragraphs recounting the impressive efforts that I for one have seen loyal Democrats take to maintain their belief that their party and all of its members (except, of course, for the Berniecratic ones) are reliable defenders of progressive values. And when they do, on the rarest of occasions, acknowledge an illiberal action that a Democrat has taken, they re-frame it by saying progressives who criticize the given Democrat are looking for purity, or worse, that the given Democrats' action is completely acceptable. It's a seemingly impossible task to convince the typical pro-establishment liberal that they're wrong in supporting these "liberal" corporatists-or, more often, that they're supporting corporatists in the first place.

"I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to bring up a legitimate concern about the Democratic establishment in a debate with a party loyalist and been told that I’m crazy or ridiculous because it’s a concern they’d never encountered before" Caitlin Johnstone vents in her own essay on the problem of what she calls the neoliberal echo chamber. "Whether I’m discussing a WikiLeaks release that didn’t get much coverage or the fact that Hillary Clinton really seemed to be gearing up for an all-out war with Russia, I have never, ever been met with sincerity or had my concerns directly addressed in an earnest debate of ideas with a Hillary voter. Not once. Not one single time, ever, to this day. And I’ve spoken to a lot of them." As she also said, "We now live in a society where sources that don’t confirm one’s bias are immediately dismissed as 'fake news,' and nothing is considered true unless Wolf Blitzer says it. This is killing political discourse in America, and it’s turning us all into idiots."

It's also hurting the success of a genuinely progressive movement at a time when it's needed most, both by depriving this movement of members and distracting its members with hours of unsuccessful efforts to change the minds of party loyalists who refuse to listen to facts. In this essay, I'm going to avenge the frustrations of me, Johnstone, and no doubt millions of other Sandersists by attempting to provide a guide to changing the minds of the seemingly unreasonable.

I say "seemingly" because as is evidenced by the massive amounts of superstitious, bigoted, and just plain strange beliefs that most human beings on the planet have been able to give up over the last several centuries, decades, and even years, people are generally much more capable of reason than they appear. Prior to 2010, most Americans did not support gay marriage, and now 61% of them do according to the latest public opinion poll on the issue. Just a few years ago, most Republicans denied climate change in spite of all evidence being against their belief, and then in 2015, a narrow majority of Republicans were found to now acknowledge climate change. A similar shift in consciousness can happen among the "fauxgressives," and there are several ways you individually can bring it about.

While this piece doesn't contain some sort of fool-proof guide to immediately converting every Clintonist you see towards the Sanders revolution, it does include the next best thing. Namely, a guide to setting these individuals on a path that ultimately leads to them changing their minds.

Enter the case of Michael E Sparks. His story is probably a common one among the millions of former loyal Democrats who were transformed into revolutionaries during last year's primaries: prior to around the middle of 2015, he was someone who deeply cared about bringing change, but was largely clueless about how to do so. He always assumed Democrats represented a threat to the status quo. He planned to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. He even exemplified the behavior of watered-down, pro-establishment liberalism in that he was convinced recycling would help the environment despite the exact opposite being the case. "I was delusional…" he  wrote in his confession of this period in his life. "And I was enjoying my delusions. I really have no one to blame but myself." But at some point in the early stages of the 2016 election, he then says, he had an awakening.

"I was blissfully ignorant," he writes, "just trying to make up my mind which amazing Democrat to vote for when my friend sent me a text. 'I notice you post a lot of pro-Hillary stuff. As an ally, how do you feel about the idea that Hillary only shifted her stance on gay rights, now that it is political suicide for her not to?' I was so ignorant. I replied 'Hasn’t she always been for gay rights?' My friend started sending me links and videos.
After about 20 minutes, my head was swimming. 'How was this possible?!' Hillary sounded like a Republican. And it wasn’t just recent comments she had made before The Senate. She had toured the country in support of DOMA. How did I not know this? I listened to NPR. I took reusable bags with me to the grocery. I was a hardcore liberal. How did I not know this?!?!"

What followed was a powerful account of how, after this incident, Sparks went down a slippery slope that his friend had set him on. He started looking into other potentially surprising parts of Clinton's record and found things about her he never would have guessed; she'd voted for the Iraq War. She had deep and secretive ties to Wall Street. In almost every way, it seemed, she had betrayed the values of the progressives who were keeping her campaign alive, and Sparks' newfound awareness of this fact ultimately led to him not just adopting a nuanced view of the Democratic Party, but declaring it to be the exact opposite of an ally. "We are all being duped by a Republican in disguise," he wrote at the end of his story.

The bad news is that I don't know if this can happen with every remaining Democratic loyalist. As Sparks notes earlier in his account, he had signed a petition asking Bernie Sanders to run for president and was thus already theoretically open to choosing Sanders over Clinton. Sparks is also a generally very inquisitive and open-minded person. That doesn't seem to be the case with a great deal of Clintonists, including a Hillary supporter and close friend of his that he later recounts having one time tried and failed to convert. His friend, like seemingly most other Democratic loyalists, was simply unwilling to listen to evidence that goes against their beliefs. The good news is that as I said, all human beings are capable of reason, and Sparks has put together a guide to bringing that reason out of anybody.

Sparks' guide to successfully smashing any given echo chamber, as he lays out in a piece from  earlier this month, is genius, because it so closely resembles what his friend did two years ago to turn him into a Sanders supporter: give up on trying to change the other person's mind. By this I mean that while in an argument with a Clintonist or anyone else, your goal should be not to completely transform their worldview on the spot, but to simply try to open their mind, through patience, respect, and then an offering of some but not too many arguments for your position. This will likely make the other person very much open to accepting other aspects of your viewpoint. Again, you won't be able to radically change someone's worldview with this approach, but you will be able to change it just enough that they'll be inclined to start further looking into your view on their own. At that point, as was the case with Sparks' own experience, the formerly ardent Democratic loyalist will be on a slippery slope where the more they learn about the true history and dynamics of their party and its leaders, the less they'll like it.

Please read Sparks' article in full, and try to apply the methods it details on every Democratic loyalist you encounter. As the political pendulum swings away from Trump and the GOP, the Democratic establishment and its allies in the Deep State are using every means at their disposal to regain power in these next few years, quite possibly culminating in the new Cold War-entailing election of guess who in 2020. And the continued allegiance of much of the Democratic electorate is essential in their terrifying quest for the establishment of an Orwellian state of never-ending war and autocracy.

We must win over the Democratic loyalists, or else when they do all eventually turn against their leaders, it will be too late for them to avert disaster.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why I Fear The Democratic Establishment Just As Much As I Fear Trump

People's interest in the book 1984 has been more prevalent than ever this year. The reason for this isn't hard to guess; they're correctly getting the sense that with the rise of Trump-or rather the far smarter and scarier figures who rule from behind his throne-our government is set to try to eliminate the pretense of freedom and democracy. The reason I'm participating in this spontaneous movement to read Orwell's warning, though, having finally begun to look at a copy of it, has to do with more than fear of the Trump administration. It also involves my similarly present fear of the Democratic Party establishment.

That's right. I view the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party as just as dangerous to democracy and independent thought as I do the Trump regime. And the object of my fear isn't as non-threatening as it appears; as the political pendulum thankfully begins to swing away from the interests of Trump and the GOP, neoliberal Democrats are doing everything they can to use this as a means to regain power. And in the meantime, they're able to do a lot of damage by partnering up with the Trump government to advance their shared goals of economic exploitation, perpetual war, and governmental efforts to fight dissent through mass surveillance, state censorship, and the persecution of whistleblowers.

So in the following paragraphs, I'm going to be providing in depth why I see the Democratic establishment as nearly or just as fascist as the Trump regime. I'll do this by breaking up into three parts the troubling actions that Democratic elites have taken in these last two years.

Part 1: the primaries

It at first seemed like nothing more than a healthy and interesting political game. And indeed, the contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was in many ways a beneficial process, with the Democratic Party, for the first time in a very long while, having the opportunity to question whether it's on a good path. Due to that aspect of the primaries, Rolling Stone wrote: "Hillary and Bernie have waged campaigns full of vision, ideas and promise — and have shown us the best in American politics."

What ultimately turned things dark and nasty, though, was that this contest was not simply a rivalry between the politics of idealism and the politics of compromise. This was much more complex and serious than that polite, mutually pleasing assessment of Bernie vs Hillary; this was a fight between the belief that economic injustice, warmongering, and other atrocities are somehow acceptable if they're perpetrated by one's own party, and the belief that these things are acceptable under no circumstances. While most of Clinton's supporters liked to think otherwise, the contrasts between the two candidates made this fact objectively clear; Clinton's campaign was funded by many of the country's most powerful (and dangerous) corporations and oligarchs, while Sanders' campaign was funded almost entirely by his largely lower-class supporters. Clinton's record was filled with support for "free trade" deals, Wall Street bailouts, and other such crimes of the neoliberal era, while Sanders had none of these past demons to reckon with. Clinton had been instrumental in bringing about many of America's legendary recent foreign policy missteps, while Sanders, despite not having a record that was exactly anti-war, would right now be on his way to ending America's paradigm of perpetual war if he were allowed to become president.

I say "allowed" because so much was at stake in this primary election, and the powers invested in maintaining the status quo had so much potential to influence the contest's outcome, that Sanders was deprived of becoming the nominee in a truly Orwellian affront to democracy. The subtle coup against Sanders, as I like to call it, started with the Democratic National Committee's efforts to deny Sanders useful exposure by arranging a minimal amount of Democratic presidential debates. As the months went by, this proved to be the least of the institutional obstacles that had been put in front of Sanders-and I'm not just talking about the contest's eleven closed primaries and the corporate media's blackout of the Sanders campaign. As I've illustrated, through numerous instances of voter suppression and electoral fraud, Iowa, Nevada, Massachusetts, Missouri, Arizona, New York, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and California were stolen from Sanders, while his victories in Oklahoma, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Indiana were manipulated to be smaller than they would have been if they were run fairly. It's more than reasonable to say that if all of those tactics had not been employed to sabotage Sanders, he would have come out as the primary's landslide winner.

The truly Orwellian aspect of what happened, however, was not so much the fact that Democratic elites rigged the primaries, but the fact that they denied doing so. The Democratic establishment's main media gofers at The New York Times responded to the cries of fraud from Sanders supporters with the egregiously condescending headline: Bernie Sanders and Rigged Elections: Sometimes You Just Lose. Such efforts to bury the true history of the 2016 Democratic primaries have since then been participated in by many others, even one of Sanders' supporters Bill Maher, who said in his post-California primary episode of Real Time that Clinton had beaten Sanders "fair and square." Sickeningly, the show's audience applauded at this remark.

When I look back on things like that, I can't help thinking of the power that the government had in 1984 to revise the past in any way it wanted. The Party, as it was called, could claim that it had invented the airplane or produce a completely absurd version of history, and no one could disprove its lies because all of the world's books, newspapers, and other means of information were stealthily revised whenever the government found the need to change the public's view of the past. Thanks to this tactic, whenever the Party did a historical revision, the true facts existed only in the minds of those who cared to remember them, and those people were readily denounced and vaporized if they questioned the new narrative. So is the case with the Democratic Party's campaign to pull the wool over the public's eyes as to the rigging of the 2016 primaries, and to denounce anyone who still brings up the true version of what happened as a "sore loser" and a "conspiracy theorist." And usually, of course, these denunciations are followed up by vaporization in the form of censorship imposed upon the offending individual.

Regardless of whether it has me denounced and vaporized, I'm continuing to the next phase of this report on the Owerllianism of the modern Democratic Party.

Part 2: the general election

After the "Democratic" primaries ended, and things moved on to the "Democratic" convention, a great deal of new Orwellian actions by the Democratic establishment appeared at one time. Foremost among them the emergence of the party's modern-day McCarthyite campaign.

In the wake of the not-so-shocking revelation on July 22 by Wikileaks that the DNC had actively conspired to bring down Bernie Sanders, the first thing many Democrats did was to jump to the at-the-time murky and still very much uncertain conclusion that Putin's hackers gave Wikileaks the emails. This move, as Current Affairs' Nathan Robinson wrote on July 27, clearly had an ulterior motive: "It should be noted, first, that all of these figures are supporters of the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and that the hack of the DNC emails proved deeply embarrassing for the Clinton campaign. The shift from discussing the emails themselves to discussing who leaked them is tremendously helpful in taking negative attention away from the DNC and Clinton. As one BuzzFeed writer put it, 'Now Russia is the story.'"

When reading that, I can't help thinking of the tactics that the Party used in 1984 to distract the public from its evils by re-directing attention towards hatred for whatever nation the fictional country of Oceania is currently at war with.

As we would learn later, this was just the beginning of the Democratic establishment's new Cold War. But in the meantime, the Democratic convention in Philadelphia was filled with its share of Orwellian aspects. There was the display of clearly ant-semitic Bernie Sanders t-shirts at the convention, as pictured above and as documented on Reddit, near posters that made Hillary Clinton look like a North Korean dictator. There were efforts from the evidently anti-Sanders organizers of the convention to put the thumb down on Bernie by giving his delegates a deliberately unpleasant experience, having after a certain point used any excuse they could find to throw out people with anti-war signs, anti-TPP signs, and anyone else who seemed to oppose the party's status quo. Speaking of which, perhaps the most disturbing part of the convention were the fascist cries of "USA! USA" in response to general John Allen's militaristic DNC speech. All of these incidents display a grotesque culture within the Democratic Party's establishment of autocracy, conformity, and barely-veiled contempt for outsiders, and they foreshadowed well the things that this Big Brother-esque entity would do next.

The time between the convention and the election was filled with a series of intense efforts from the Democratic elite to crush progressive dissent. Namely the demonization of the Green Party, and the demonization of anyone who generally criticized Hillary Clinton in a way that was deemed to be related to Russia. The former propaganda campaign was explained in August by Counterpunch's Margaret Kimberly as follows: "The screeds have become more and more extreme and defy the run of the mill rationales that progressives use to justify remaining within Democratic Party lines. Holding one’s nose and voting for the 'lesser evil' democrat is passé. So is fear of Republican judicial appointments. Concern for abortion rights doesn’t cut it anymore. Liberals are no longer going through the motions of criticizing the Democrat. Instead they openly show love for Hillary Clinton and disdainfully pile on Stein and Baraka with fury. The blog Wonkette called Jill Stein 'cunty' and 'a mendacious nihilist piece of shit.' The site Very Smart Brothas declared that a vote for Stein was akin to putting it in the trash. They also threw in a dig at Cornel West because he dared to criticize Barack Obama. The Huffington Post chose to deride Green Party convention delegates because they ate at McDonald’s. Gawker tried to link Ajamu Baraka to holocaust denial. His unassailable human rights credentials didn’t mean much when the media decided to go into attack mode."

That's some hard-core hostility towards those who dared to question the Democratic Party, reminiscent of the events put together by the Party in 1984 that consisted of getting a crowd of people together and having them express two minutes of pure, wild hatred towards the enemies of the status quo. So was in other ways the case with the McCarthyism exercised so frequently by establishment Democrats throughout those months.

In her recent article looking back on the rampant Russia-related scapegoating of establishment Democrats throughout the general election, particularly that of Rachel Maddow, Caitlin Johnstone writes: "There’s no public figure who’s been such a virulently Russophobic nutcase and so relentlessly aggressive in their attacks upon third parties as one Rachel Anne Maddow. The photo in question [of Jill Stein sitting at a table years ago with Russian leaders], of course, was taken long before Americans were being told every single day by every talking head on TV that the Russian president was someone they’re supposed to hate and fear. It was taken in 2015 when Stein took a trip to Moscow to attend an event at which Putin spoke, during which, as the phenomenal Glenn Greenwald reported last year, she made a video in which she 'criticized Russia for diverting scarce resources into military spending while its people suffered.' This somehow got twisted into an act of treason in which Americans were duped into imagining that Russia was a nation they'd considered an enemy back in 2015 in an incredible feat of revisionist Orwellian doublethink."

The fake Democratic campaign to blame the Russians, for which the stories above are just a sample, served as yet another foreshadowing to what this terrifying cabal of "liberal" fascists would do post-election.

Part 3: November 9 to the present

When one really thinks about it, it becomes reasonable to construe that a Hillary Clinton victory would have spelled a similarly Orwellian future to the one spelled by a Trump victory. If Clinton were president right now, I believe the United States would be quickly inching towards a new Cold War with Russia that could easily turn hot, while anyone who disagrees with the president's course of action would be frequently labeled a Kremlin puppet. None of this is to say, though, that Clinton's allies haven't done their best to bring about that scenario regardless of Trump's victory.

Establishment Democrats wasted no time in blaming all the convenient scapegoats for their spectacular 2016 failure. As also reported last year by Glenn Greenwald, Democratic elites pushed all the responsibility for their loss onto hypothetical Russian hackers, third party voters, and even Bernie Sanders. And they then, naturally, proceeded to use their flimsy evidence against the former scapegoat as an excuse to go on with the new Cold War idea for as long as they still had control over the White House. In the last months of Obama's term, he capitalized on the Russia narrative to expand the Deep State's power, push sanctions on Russia, and, most Orwellianly of all, essentially establish his own Ministry of Truth.

No matter that the latter action gave Trump even more power as soon as he took office. By the calculations of the establishment Democrats and the Deep State, it seems, allowing Trump to have their tools was worth the risk, as he certainly won't dismantle those tools, and giving him access to them is a small price to pay for them being able to resume power in 2020 with all the assets they put together for themselves in 2016. At that point, assuming all has gone well for them, their long-planned war against Russia will be able to finally commence. And in the meantime, they're doing a great job at consolidating and expanding the base of people who would potentially support this project.

Once again, Orewellianism is deeply present in the recent actions of establishment Democrats. With the help of the "liberal" echo chamber that Democratic elites began to lay the goundwork for nearly a decade ago, Rachel Maddow and the other gofers for this masked brand of fascism have been constructing a powerful and resilient political machine. They're attempting (thankfully so far with little success) to have their useful gofer David Brock create a "Brietbart for the Left" which expands on the Thought Police-esque army of pro-Clinton internet trolls that Brock set up during the 2016 election. They're using their staggering amount of influence over public discourse in America to get the relatively small but substantial facet of the population that still supports them to denounce and vaporize (in this case through purely social means) anyone who stands up to the Democratic establishment. And they're continuing to try to revise the public's view of history, namely by pushing the narrative that the the Democratic Party's status quo shouldn't change because it's already a mechanism for helping the lower classes. (For instance, Democratic apologist David Greenberg wrote in December after listing a laughable series of easily refuted lies and exaggerations about how the Democratic Party has consistently stood up for the 99% that "The calls for Democrats to become more 'populist' seem to amount to a matter of tone — marshaling an emotionally satisfying us-against-them rhetoric that blasts banks, big business and the 1%.")

The truth of the matter, as most Americans have thankfully by now found out, is that the Democratic Party in its current form is not an ally but a dissent-crushing, cruel cabal that's been a reliable tool of the oligarchy since the Carter administration. And in many ways, it's even more useful to the oligarchy than the Republican Party is, because it's capable of masking its corporatist and power-serving agenda behind a nauseatingly hypocritical veil of populist-sounding rhetoric about how its leaders are "fighting for us." So naturally, it's very much capable of employing fascist tactics like the ones documented in the event of a brewing public rebellion against it. And as just such an anti-Democratic establishment movement has emerged throughout these last two years, the Democratic establishment has responded in a predictable way. As HA Goodman wrote in 2015, George Orwell would not have voted for Hillary Clinton, and he no doubt wouldn't have approved of what Clinton and those who share her political brand have done since then.

The good news is that as wasn't the case with the Party in 1984, the Democratic Party establishment hasn't been able to make it so that its opponents have almost no opportunities to mobilize. Without asking the approval of David Greenberg, Bernie Sanders and his vast coalition have ignited a movement post-election to overwhelm the neoliberal Democrats, and they're so far for the most part successful, with Berniecrats having taken over numerous state and local aspects of the Democratic Party. Will this ultimately lead to a transformation of the entire party? That's no guarantee, given how Debbie Wasserman Schultz clone Tom Perez is about to be undemocratically appointed by Democratic insiders to the DNC chairmanship. But no amount of the Democratic establishment's tactics can change the fact that it's trying to do something that can't be done, which is to endlessly elevate a state of oppression within society. History has shown that revolt among the public is inevitable in the event of a state-perpetrated consolidation of power, especially one which involves increased economic inequality, and the Democratic establishment is experiencing just such a revolt.

For now, though, I remain scared.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump Is Right About The Major Media Being Fake News. There, I Said It.

As a strong believer in the Trump administration's ability to do great harm to our democracy, I was naturally left with an ominous feeling when, during a press conference three days ago, the president demonized the media for more than a little often portraying him negatively. When I witnessed the reactions that this incident typically received from the representatives of the media establishment itself, though, I started to get a similarly uneasy feeling.

The narrative that the major media and its fans have consistently and slyly tried to promote following Trump's remarks is one which has left little room for nuance. Outlets like CNN and The New York Times, we've been told in ways subtle and not almost every time we've been exposed to talk of Trump's comments, are obviously very reliable sources if Trump attacks them. How dare he call organizations like these fake news, the aghast TV pundits have said, earnestly frowning at this egregious offense while conversing on split screens (I'm talking about something I actually saw, by the way). Perhaps to protest the injustice of it, they'll organize a "National Freedom of the Press Day" where everyone tries to constantly read and watch the information that they provide.

If you're someone from my target audience, you no doubt know why I'm refusing to defend the major media. And if not, you can read Caitlin Johnstone's brilliant and righteous explanation for why she isn't defending these organizations either. But whether or not you insofar agree with me, I think we ought to revisit some of the things the major media outlets have done to lose the respect of me and more than two-thirds of the rest of the American public.

Again, I'd like to make it clear that not all of what these media outlets produce can't be trusted, or that the way Trump attacked them isn't petty and hyperbolic. But the fact remains that in spite of all the hand-wringing about the freedom of the press being endangered, we already have a mainstream media that's been manipulated towards being a tool for narrow, power-serving interests. By this I of course mean that virtually all of the major American news organizations are controlled by powerful corporations.

It hasn't always been like this. Before corporations and the super rich pulled off their coup within the U.S. government around forty years ago, more than 50 companies controlled the majority of American media sources. But by the time Bill Clinton signed the infamous Telecommunications Act, that number had been cut into a fifth of what it had once been, with Clinton's 1996 deregulation law acting only as an extra push to the rolling snowball of media consolidation that had been happening for decades. So it was no surprise that by the early 2000's (when 5 corporations controlled the majority of the media), these news organizations famously showed a staggering amount of bias towards the interests of the corporate state, with the major media having made no effort to question the Bush administration's WMD claims prior to the Iraq War, purposely taken down the campaign of Howard Dean, and generally acted as propaganda outlets for the White House and its agenda.

Since then, the concentration of media ownership has gotten even worse if that's possible, with 5 companies controlling 90% of U.S. media outlets. This has naturally made it so that the mainstream media's behavior during this last election cycle, which I'll mainly be focusing on in this article, has been stunningly power-serving.

I'll of course start with big media's coverage of the early months of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Sanders himself has found it worthwhile to review the way he was treated by the corporate media in his book Our Revolution, wherein he rightfully complained about the media blackout which surrounded him during that time. Just as the major media goes out of its way to cover things like sports and celebrity gossip rather than things like climate change and economic injustice, wrote Sanders, it predictably went out of its way to cover things like Donald Trump and trivial political gossip rather than Sanders and the issues he was trying to bring to the table. He recounted his experiences with the major news networks wherein the interviewers, reporters or debate moderators tried to steer clear of focusing on Sanders' message and instead asked him questions like "Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?" (he was really asked that, by the way). He cited the incredible statistics about just how much effort the major media put into avoiding giving him exposure, such as the fact that as of December 2015, Jeb Bush had received 56 minutes of combined network news coverage compared to Sanders' 10 minutes.

The media blackout of the Sanders campaign was undeniably prevalent, and it greatly tipped the scales against him. However, what I find the most notable about the media's treatment of Sanders is not the instances where it ignored him and his ideas, but the instances where it directly attacked his anti-corporate agenda. As Thomas Frank assessed in his essay Swat Team about how the people who run outlets like the Washington Post viewed Sanders' goals, "As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views. He seems to have represented something horrifying, something that could not be spoken of directly but that clearly needed to be suppressed."

And so in a great deal of cases, the corporate media decided to skip the step of simply pretending like Sanders' ideas weren't relevant to the political scene and go straight to attacking them. This may have first been apparent in December 2015, when The New Yorker published an article titled What Hillary Clinton Gets (and Bernie Sanders doesn't) About Wall Street. The piece's author, who revealingly says that they work in the financial sector, attempts to distract from the fact that a new financial crisis is now inevitable because the economy has been largely turned over to a handful of mega-banks whose business model is based on debt accumulation and fraud by discussing the relative decline of profits on Wall Street in recent years, while not addressing the now greater-than-ever financialization of the economy. "So why is Sanders so obsessed with Glass-Steagall and the big banks?" they wrote after making this evasive counter-argument. "It seems to be a matter of personal style and historical tradition: as a socialist, Sanders is echoing political ancestors who railed against Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Everything. He also appears to be fighting the last war, of the 2008 financial crisis, out of a conviction that the 'too big to fail' banks still pose a systemic risk to the economy."

And as the campaign went on, the efforts from the Big Media (does my use of that term make me a "socialist" too?) to paint Sanders' agenda as something absurd continued. Also in December of 2015, recounts Frank in Swat Team, the New York Times published an article that criticized Sanders' focus on the hollowing out of the middle class by declaring that "Americans are more anxious about terrorism than income inequality." You can stop with the class rhetoric now, Senator, most of the 7 in 10 Americans who have less than $1000 in savings just don't have money on their minds anymore. This condescending presumption about the beliefs of Americans, along with the slander that Sanders is a socialist, were both echoed, as Swat Team said, with a January Post article titled Nominating Sanders Would Be Insane which stated that Sanders couldn't win because "socialists don’t win national elections in the United States." Indeed, socialists probably don't. But non-socialists whose views are shared by the vast majority of Americans most certainly do.

And on and on went the barrage of neoliberal propaganda. Stop Reviling TARP, Frank recounts one Post editorial read regarding Sanders' opposition to the disastrous Wall Street bailouts before giving a simplistic and inaccurate history of the cause and aftermath of the financial crisis. Level With Us, Mr. Sanders, Frank says a headline piece in the Post blared indignantly before denouncing Sanders with the familiar charge of his ideas not being practical. And in some cases, as Frank wrote, the Post's attacks on Sanders got so nakedly pro-corporate that they were one step away from a literal endorsement of an oligarchic model for society:
The paper’s piling-up of the senator’s faults grew increasingly long and complicated. Soon after Sanders won the New Hampshire primary, the editorial board denounced him and Trump both as “unacceptable leaders” who proposed “simple-sounding” solutions. Sanders used the plutocracy as a “convenient scapegoat.” He was hostile to nuclear power. He didn’t have a specific recipe for breaking up the big banks. He attacked trade deals with “bogus numbers that defy the overwhelming consensus among economists.” This last charge was a particular favorite of Post pundits: David Ignatius and Charles Lane both scolded the candidate for putting prosperity at risk by threatening our trade deals. Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer grew so despondent over the meager 2016 options that he actually pined for the lost days of the Bill Clinton presidency, when America was tough on crime, when welfare was being reformed, and when free trade was accorded its proper respect.
Hostility towards real Wall Street reform and a defense of the bailouts. The assertion that economic inequality isn't much of a problem. The lie that anyone who doesn't subscribe to the corporate ideology is on the political fringe. The implication that there isn't a plutocracy right now in America. The endorsement of neoliberal trade deals, mass incarceration, and neglecting the needs of the poor. When you pay close attention to the nature of the corporate media's attacks on Sanders throughout the campaign, it becomes clear that the oligarchs who control outlets like the Times and the Post aren't shy to use them as tools to promote their self-serving views.

And the media's offensive towards the Sandersist political brand has continued beyond the day that the media itself helped get Sanders out of race by declaring Clinton had clinched the nomination right before the California primary. To make extra sure that a non-corporate candidate wouldn't win in 2016, the corporate media started a smear campaign against the Green Party's Jill Stein after the convention, prompting Counterpunch's Peter Lavenia to write regarding the motivations behind this decision: "Marx once opined that 'the ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class,' and in an era of (potential) mass political upheaval, the media plays an active role in silencing dissent to those ideas. Indeed, they are linked to the continued profits generated by the political order." To assure themselves that a non-corporate candidate couldn't have won in 2016 in any case, neoliberal columnists have been writing op-eds saying Sanders wouldn't have beaten Trump. And to make sure a non-corporate candidate doesn't win the next time around, the Washington Post has lately been slandering Tulsi Gabbard.

"Keep in mind," writes Caitlin Johnstone in another piece telling the corporate media to get over being called fake news, "this is the mainstream media crying victim right now. These people wear suits that cost more than I make in a year, and right now, they’re mopping up their crocodile tears with a sleeve that would feed both our families for a month. Somewhere along the line they’ve taken up the Taylor Swift challenge of loudly playing the victim card while quietly stealing the spoils, which is pretty much the whitest thing a person can do. Remember that these people were responsible for relentlessly broadcasting the WMD story, a fake news invention that sent the world in a war-driven death spiral from which we have not recovered. They’ve published so many pernicious lies as truth over the years that those reporting a great deal of trust in the mainstream media is now below ten percent. They invented the pejorative specifically to destroy alternative media, but now they’re all Scarlett O’Hara 'Hand me the smelling salts!' about it being used anywhere in their vicinity? Yeah, I’m not buying it."

When you see Trump and these news organizations dramatically clashing, you are witnessing a side show designed to keep you unaware that both of them depend on the other to keep their respective charades going. Trump needs the Democratic Party establishment that the corporate media represents to keep up his easy job of having a weak political opposition, and even Trump is smart enough to know it seeing as he preferred to be running against Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders. And the establishment Democrats need Trump's utter awfulness to keep up their role in the public eye as the "not exactly perfect" but necessary lesser evil.

It's time for the American people to stop buying into the kinds of manipulative, power-serving political theatrics that we're seeing with this outrage over the corporate media being accurately called fake news. And to include yet another article from Johnstone, that's exactly what they're doing.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

It's As If Trump And Friends Are Itching For A Terrorist Attack To Actually Happen

You've probably heard sometime recently about a book, published in 1935 by one Sinclair Lewis, titled It Can't Happen Here. It's a piece of political science fiction which tells of how Berzelius Windrip, a self-styled populist who turned out to be a corporatist dictator, won the 1936 Republican presidential nomination and defeated the incumbent Franklin Roosevelt on a wave of nationalism and contempt for the establishment. Thankfully, no one resembling Windrip appeared in the 1936 election, and Roosevelt would probably still have defeated them if they had because of how grateful the vast majority of Americans were for the New Deal. But especially after taking a good look at the events of this past month, it becomes clear that Lewis' prediction wasn't wrong; it was just eighty years off.

The first thirty days of the Trump administration, aside from some menacing statements from the president and his aides about the press being their enemy and a series of overreaching executive actions, have not quite been qualifiably fascist. But throughout these last few weeks, the president and/or his top aides have made some remarks which seem to very strongly imply they have an intention to take things much, much further. At one of his strange campaign-esque rallies today, Trump invoked the politically self-beneficial specter of a terrorist attack regardless of whether he was talking about a real event, having vaguely referred to a terrorist incident that happened "last night in Sweden."

Okay, you'd think. He said another ridiculous thing. Why make it into a provocative headline? Well, it's established a trend that Trump and Friends have developed of fabricating terrorism incidents for their own political leverage. Last month, as you know, the Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway referred multiple times to a nonexistent "massacre" in Bowling Green, Kentucky that was perpetrated by foreign Muslims to use as an argument for the thankfully now independent court-blocked Muslim ban. Days later, Trump himself cited a wide series of unsubstantiated terror incidents that he said the media was covering up. And now we've seen a remarkably similar piece of rhetoric coming from the highest office.

One explanation for this bizarre pattern is that Conway's the kind of counselor that tells her patients to listen to rather than ignore the voices in their heads. Another is that Trump and his inner circle have privately decided that focusing on terror attacks, real or not, is a way to create political capital for themselves out of thin air.

To be clear, I'm not going to pander to any "false flag" suspicions in this piece. I don't believe the Trump administration is plotting a terrorist attack any more than I believe Bush was behind 9/11. But I do have some solid reasons to suspect the Trump administration would welcome, and is even preparing for, the enormous position of power they'll be given in the event of a major terror attack during their term.

A Trump supporter gives his interesting take on this situation.
We've all seen the ghastly political shock waves that terrorism tends to have. 9/11 brought about one of the darkest periods in American history for our country's constitutional and democratic values, allowing the Bush administration to create a surveillance state, violate human rights, and tear apart the middle east for profit all while the vast majority of Americans backed the president out of "national unity." Most recently, the 2015 ISIS bombings in Paris that killed 130 people let the French government declare a prolonged state of emergency which threatened the country's pretense of democracy. And in the Trump era, as Phil Torres writes today after referring to the president's Islamophobic rhetoric, attacks on the judiciary, and demonization of the media, we are in greater danger than ever of losing our democracy because of terrorism:
So the dominos are in place for a major, sudden constitutional crisis. What’s frightening about this unstable equilibrium is that another terrorist attack will almost certainly happen within the next four years, if not the next year or coming months. It’s not so much a matter of if but when this takes place, as terrorism scholars unanimously agree. And once this does happen, those who still believe in American democracy will need to be vigilant and proactive in defending the only branch of government [the independent courts] that currently stands between democracy and autocracy.
And so when I see Trump and his top aides regularly fabricating terrorism incidents to strengthen their case for the persecution of Muslims, the dangers of a free press, and the expansion of the executive branch's powers, I get the impression that they're scratching an itch they have, consciously or not, for the things a real terrorist attack would let them do. Indeed, many in Trump's cabinet are anticipating, with an unsettling amount of conviction, the event of a terror attack and/or civilizational war between America and the Muslims of the world. Michael Anton, Trump's senior director of strategic communications, apparently expects Islamic terrorists to attack the U.S. with a nuclear weapon "any day now." And Steve Bannon insists that in accordance with a dubious, cycle-based view of history wherein world conflict is scheduled to peak around every eighty years, an epic global war is sure to come very soon.

The irony of this is that as has been the case with the Islamic fundamentalists who believe they're on the verge of winning a coming apocalyptic war between good and evil, Trump, Bannon and the rest are beginning to realize their visions of turmoil and the end times regardless of whether these expectations are based purely on myth. And both of these forces are helping the others' similar aspirations be brought about, with the middle east power vacuum that Obama's unnecessary military involvement created now showing hints of being filled as members of the Islamic State hail the things they're gaining from Trump's anti-Muslim actions. And the Trump administration, obviously, is using the Muslim extremists to further its own ends of gaining partisan advantage, consolidating economic and political power, and the allegiance of the American people.

I almost can't blame Bannon for believing in the eighty-year cyclical view of history, because so many disasters that developed in the 1930's are repeating themselves now. But in this case, things are in many ways far worse than they were eight decades ago. Instead of just the Dust Bowl, there's a global and irreversible environmental catastrophe. The economic inequities and corporate control over society now surpass in magnitude the similarly plutocratic conditions of the early 21st century. In addition to a new Great Depression that's expected to hit this year, we now have an unprecedented coming era of natural resource scarcity to deal with. And as wasn't the case eighty years ago, the new rise of fascism has occurred in not just Europe but in the United States.

And as long as we're talking about parallels, here's one of the songs in praise of Windrip's regime from It Can't Happen Here, which I suspect will soon be a very accurate description of the state of the country:
Bring out the old-time musket,
Rouse up the old-time fire!
See, all the world is crumbling,
Dreadful and dark and dire.
America! Rise and conquer
The world to our heart's desire!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Get Over It, Establishment Democrats

Hillary Clinton in December after giving a speech on the problem of fake news. Because there's no time in her schedule these days to focus on things like the political ineptitude of the current Democratic Party.

What upsets me the most about the benefactors of the current political and economic system is not that they support environmental, economic, and social exploitation. It's the fact that they deny their support for these things. If someone is poor, the elites figure, it's not because they've been denied the path to success by an economic system that's massively slanted to benefit the already successful-it's always because they've made bad choices. If the planet is becoming ecologically crippled, it's not because of environmentally destructive actions on the part of corporations-it's because the interests of the natural world aren't as important as business interests. If large portions of the electorate are rendered unable to vote by archaic voter ID laws and limited opportunities for coming to the polls, it's not because they're the victims of an electoral process designed to shut out poor people and minorities-it's because these groups haven't earned their right to vote or are too lazy to vote.

So it's no surprise that when those who don't hold this worldview tried to gain control of the political system last year with the Bernie Sanders campaign, the same people who believe the things above didn't acknowledge that the process was massively rigged against us. A corporate media blackout on Sanders' campaign, a Hillary Clinton-helping debate schedule, a grossly unfair Nevada Democratic caucus, a disgustingly Clinton-slanted Nevada Democratic State Convention, closed primaries in eleven states, and widespread instances of voter suppression and electoral fraud in Iowa, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Michigan, Missouri, Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and California didn't mean a thing to Clinton's supporters. All claims of bias in the primary process from Sanders supporters have been met by establishment Democrats with denial, or at the very least significant downplaying, and accusations of us being sore losers.

Get over it, the Clintonists have said time after time. We rigged the contest fair and square, and we and our friends in the corporate media are never going to admit it, so you might as well accept the falsehood that you're in the minority and unite behind us.

Now, of course, the tables have been turned. The Democratic establishment's political viability has been utterly repudiated with Clinton's coming-from-in-front loss to Trump last year, and it's now an undeniable reality that corporatist "liberalism" is not supported by the vast majority of the American people. Except the corporatist liberals are denying it.

The excuses that Hillary Clinton supporters have come up with for their candidate's loss are almost completely without basis and often sound far fetched in and of themselves. The notion that the Russian government "hacked" the election by providing Wikileaks with the DNC emails is backed up by no real evidence and is very likely no more than a tool for the McCarthyite campaign that Democrats have been running. The grievances about an online epidemic of fake news having hurt Clinton's reputation with false scandals would no doubt be unnecessary if Clinton hadn't made herself a vulnerable target for such attacks, baseless or not, by having recently provoked an FBI criminal investigation. The case for James Comey's actions right before the election having swung it for Trump is very hard to make. The claim that third party voters tipped the election is simply not supported by the numbers. And as for the assertion that Bernie Sanders is responsible for Clinton's loss...well, there's a reason most of even the most ardent Clinton apologists don't seem to believe that.

And establishment Democrats' denial has naturally included a baseless view that most support their political brand in addition to their claims about the election being rigged against them. In December, Nancy Pelosi infamously said that she doesn't think Democrats want a new direction, in spite of the fact that 46% of Democrats do not feel represented by either party. And that number would doubtless be well above 50% if it were to include the tens of millions of people who have left the Democratic Party since the days of false hope and change in 2008.

Corporate Democratic congressman Adam Schiff said in January in regards to the Democrats' relationship with the electorate: "Did we lose because we were too far to the left and we had too small a tent, or did we lose because we are too mainstream and didn’t energize the base?" This was in contradiction to the fact that the left's tent makes up the vast majority of the American population, meaning what he considers to be "mainstream" is anything but.

And perhaps most absurdly in this collection of elitist fantasies is the claim from neoliberal Democrat Al From that economic populism based on promises of increased governmental intervention can't be effective because "Too many in the forgotten middle-class have already lost faith in government’s ability to help them." By that logic, we should simply ignore the wishes of the 86% of Americans who think government should do more to fight poverty because they know the government is currently too corrupted by corporate and billionaire interests to be able to do so.

It isn't 1992 anymore, and every aspect of the political landscape is hostile towards the old "Third Way" Democratic brand. And yet its supporters continue to cling to the belief that it remains robust, and that the Democrats' staggering losses throughout these last eight years are due to anyone but themselves. This is what being a sore loser looks like. This is what turning to conspiracy theories when one doesn't get their way looks like. This is what being naive looks like. The elegant irony of the situation is that everything the Clintonists accused the Sandersists of being last year, the Clintonists themselves are now perfectly exhibiting.

So as establishment Democrats continue to chastise Sanders supporters for not overlooking the fact that last year's primaries were enormously tilted towards one candidate (the latest attempt to bury what happened is a piece titled Shame On Bernie Supporters Who Claim The Primary Was Rigged), I'd like to do a little chastising of my own for something that's in this case legitimate. I'm calling out all of the old guard Democrats who refuse to accept that their candidate lost fair and square, and thus that their political brand is not accepted by the vast majority of the American people.

The Democratic elites lost because they ran into the battlefield with a political bomb strapped to their chest, and they'll lose again in 2020 if they're allowed to run into the battlefield again with that very same bomb. That's why in the meantime, the Sandersist majority will be working to change the Democratic Party's leadership at every level so that the old guard won't be able to steal the 2020 Democratic primaries from our new candidate. At that point, the system of economic exploitation, environmental destruction, rampant militarism, and violations of the democratic process will quite possibly have come to an end, regardless of whether its defenders believe there's a problem with it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Toeing The Line Between Revolt Against Trump And Revolt Against The Democratic Establishment

I've got some bad news: the 2016 election is still going on, and it will probably keep going on for a while. All that's changed since November 8 is that the contest now takes place in the general political realm instead of presidential politics. Trump and his team of proto-fascists continue to throw out absurd and dangerous disinformation so as to bend the fabric of publicly accepted reality to their liking. Sleazy corporatist "liberals" continue to use shaming, scapegoating, and failing all else outright lying so as to hold onto the little public support they still have. And as was also the case in 2016, the majority of Americans who aren't buying into the self-serving political brands of either of these two forces are in agony while trying to navigate the tedious and grotesque game that they've been forced into.

Like it or not, the fascists and the sleazebags are in almost full control of the political establishment right now, and before they're hopefully replaced in the following elections, all we can do is work to tie them down best we can. What complicates our hopes for doing so is that instead of being in one piece and thus easy to oppose, these two groups are in competition. This gets in the way of our ability to oppose them because in this situation, attacking them has become a double-edged sword.

Caitlin Johnstone explains this problem in a recent piece:
Every time I write an article suggesting that progressive rebels should focus on attacking the Dem establishment instead of Trump, I get a deluge of comments and messages saying “We can fight both! We can walk and chew gum at the same time!” No you can’t. You cannot do that. You will fail. You will fail because this is a media war, a war of perception, a war of narrative. It is impossible, in our current political climate, to feed into the “Trump is a monster” narrative without simultaneously feeding into the “any Democrat would be better” narrative, because the establishment Democrats are doing everything they can to use anti-Trump narratives to elevate themselves so that they can take back control of the government without espousing a real progressive agenda. 
The national narrative determines how people vote, and they will vote with the Democratic establishment if we support the Democratic establishment narrative by collaborating with their desire for us to focus on Trump.
Going by that, it would seem that the solution is to simply focus on bringing down the corrupt Democratic cabal instead of feeding into its slyly self-elevating narrative about the monstrosity of Trump. But while I'm otherwise an enormous fan of the messages that Johnstone works seemingly every day to spread, I see some big flaws in the approach she's advocating. Namely that putting aside the Democrats' fear campaign, Trump absolutely should be feared.

Johnstone argues in her case for the counter-productiveness of revolting against Trump that while he and his cabinet are certainly very scary and power-hungry people, there's no danger they'll be able to circumvent the larger systems within our government's structure. "The Deep State goes very deep," she writes, "and the power structures entrenched therein are very old. The POTUS faces a long, hard, uphill slugfest of a battle in his attempts to restructure America’s power systems, and the majority in both parties openly or secretly hate him and his stated agendas."

She's partly right. What with said Deep State already being in full-on battle mode against Trump, I don't expect him to take very much control over it, even if he pounds away at its power structure every day for the next eight years. But that Deep State is mainly located within America's military and intelligence agencies, which can only contain Trump to an extent. Many other political facets exist which aren't so impervious to the influence of the president, and they alone may well be what enables his continued rise to power. While this will sound hard to believe, what I'm talking about is the Congress, the Senate, the governorships, the state legislatures, and the American public in general. Yes, the White House does have a way to expand its influence into these areas, and it runs through the last event that brought about an era of president-worship and grotesque nationalism in America: a major terrorist attack.

If and when the U.S. is attacked during Trump's term, the tables are going to be turned in his relationship with America's power structures. As the president, by default he'll become the main figure people will want to be loyal to amid a moment of great uncertainty and grief, and this will give him unparalleled power. With the newfound backing of the majority of the public, he'll easily be able to make the members of lesser elected offices, whether or not they hate him, go along with his agenda out of "national unity." It's then that Steve Bannon and the other terrifying Trump puppeteers will move in for the kill, suppressing dissent, going on reckless military ventures, and generally laying waste to the constitution and our democratic institutions. If you think I was led to believe this by the eager-to-fearmonger establishment Democrats at the Vox or The Washington Post, just look at what the avid Democratic Party critic Chris Hedges thinks about what will happen under this administration.

In short, Johnstone may be right for the moment in assessing that revolting against Trump is an act which feeds into the narrative of the larger threats at work, but that very likely won't be the case a year from now after circumstances allow him to take far more control. So returning to this article's main point, what's to be done about all this? Every time we attack Trump, we're inadvertently helping the Democrats. And every time we attack the Democrats, we're inadvertently helping Trump. The paradox that people like me find ourselves in when faced with this dynamic is maddening, and it's no doubt provoking a lot of us into hopelessness and apathy.

Rest assured, though, there is a solution. And it's as uplifting as it is simple: rather than spending all our effort on attacking our opponents, which, in spite of its partial importance, is ultimately an act which feeds into the revolution-strangling dynamic of the two-party system, we mainly try to build up alternatives. The hidden weakness in the system of mutually controlled opposition that the Trumpists and Clintonists have created is that ultimately, in spite of their over-emphasized differences, they serve the same interests. Which is to say the interests of the corporations and oligarchs that prop up both of them. If we can take away, for just one example, the ability of Goldman Sachs to lobby and donate to political candidates, Trump and the neoliberal Democrats, who are both deeply influenced by the bank in different ways, will lose massive amounts of money to run their campaigns and organizations. Then they'll be forced to rely on individual contributions from their ordinary supporters, who largely have far more positive desires than those of Goldman Sachs, or else be politically flattened by the dynamic small-dollar funding operations of the Berniecrats.

In this and many other respects, fighting the system of predatory capitalism is a highly effective way to kill these two big, ugly birds with one stone. Another is to advance leaders, organizations and ideas which represent our agenda. This approach may have proved ineffective when the 2016 election was in presidential campaign mode because of the deep institutional obstacles faced by Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, but in this new political landscape, we have a lot more options. We can run candidates in state and local level races, where it's a lot harder for the neoliberal order to rig the game against us than was the case with the presidential election. We can build organizations and movements from outside of electoral politics, putting us in an excellent position to enact change where it matters: in the bottom-up. And we can force the political establishment to work in our interests by making clear to it, with strikes and boycotts and calls to political offices, that an uprising is coming if they don't start working for the people.

None of this is to say attacking the Trump administration and the Democratic establishment directly won't often be necessary. But if we can refrain from making it a central priority, and focus on ending the neoliberal status quo in general, their card house of controlled opposition will fall down.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Oligarchy Inches Towards Implosion

The New York Stock Exchange After Trump's executive order to partially bar Muslims from entering the U.S. caused markets to dip.
Following the death last year of the infamous noliberal trade deal the Trans-Pacific Partnership, its creators are now trying to bring it back in a new and even more dangerous form. The Trade in Services Agreement, in addition to including the TPP's aspects of allowing corporations to sue governments over lost profits and making it so that still more American jobs would be shipped out, expands on the TPP's unreasonably extended copyright laws in that it calls for the elimination of internet neutrality. In other words TiSA is the Christmas list of an oligarchy that didn't get what it wanted last year. And the worst part of this is that Donald Trump, the supposed champion of a fairer American trade model, may well be the one who passes it.

Trump, in addition to having rather suspiciously still not revealed his stance on TiSA, seems likely to pass it because he's deeply tied to one of the interests that would benefit from him doing so, by which I mean (you guessed it) Goldman Sachs. While Trump didn't take any money from the bank throughout his campaign, he's just as beholden to it as Hillary Clinton was, with much of his cabinet being made up of former Goldman executives. Telling from this, one could speculate, Goldman Sachs has pulled off a cruel bait and switch on the Rust Belt voters who decided the 2016 election. They've presented to these economically insecure whites a candidate that seemed far more likely than his opponent to prevent more U.S. jobs from being shipped out, and then made it so that he would sign a trade deal that posed even more of a threat to the livelihood of (for now) working people.

Assuming all of that is the case, the benefactors of the neoliberal order have stooped to a new low in their forty years-running quest for more. They've presented the victims of their plunder, tauntingly it seems, with a completely false way out of the vicious cycle of economic inequality. And their next power grab will be even more extensive and vicious.

As quickly and shrewdly as possible, the Trump administration is working towards full control over society for both the alt-right and the corporate state. Already, Trump and his far more sinister and intelligent puppeteers have begun to dismantle some of the fundamental facets of our democracy, having worked to dis-empower dissenting forces within the government as many of their lower-ranking allies have attempted to take away the public's right to peacefully protest.

And this is just a hint of what's coming. Throughout the following months, the Trump government, with the help of a terrorist attack for which they'll be inadvertently responsible, will conduct a staggering coup within the U.S. government. Opposition to the state and its ideology will be silenced. Mass incarceration and the authority of police will be expanded indefinitely. The glorification of nationalism, war, and violations of human rights that we experienced after 9/11 will repeat itself, this time to a far greater significance. The increased consolidation of economic and political power that's occurred for the past half-century will become turbocharged, along with the effort to suppress dissent from the public.

That is, if the public doesn't disable the state's authority do so so beforehand.

The resistance-by which I mean the resistance against not just the Trump regime but the neoliberal order in general-has gotten off to a more than respectable start. Around a third of the days since Trump's election have seen protests against him, organizations like Justice Democrats and the ACLU have experienced a massive surge in donations, and the various strikes and boycotts planned for Trump's term are gaining great momentum. But despite the massive energy we've seen building in opposition to the coming autocracy, I fear not enough is being done to avoid the fate mentioned above.

Too often do I see my fellow progressives dismissing the notion that Trump poses a threat to the republic as fearmongering spread by neoliberal Democrats. Too many Americans continue to regard Trump and his agenda as fairly nonthreatening, with just 46% opposing Trump's partial ban of Muslims, only 53% trusting a federal judge more than the president to decide the fate of a law, and a far too low 49% (citing a poll from last May) viewing Trump as a fascist. And most discouragingly, just 25% of Americans, and that's including just 40% of Democratic women, intend to become more politically involved.

And without a vast majority of Americans being firmly behind the resistance, its cause stands a good chance of failing. "We don’t have much time," one of this movement's leaders Kali Akuno is quoted as saying last week when talking to Chris Hedges. "We are talking two to three months before this whole [reactionary] initiative is firmly consolidated. And that’s with massive resistance."

The irony of all this, though, is that all the time, with every appalling action Trump and Friends take, they move themselves closer to a political black hole. And they may draw themselves into it within the time frame that Akuno mentions.

For the last eight years-or perhaps far longer-the world economy has been heading towards a crash that may be the 21sy century Great Depression. This lurch towards collapse has been due to a wide series of problems with how our economy is structured, most ominously among them the wind down of oil production that's been happening for the last several decades and will continue to happen, to disastrous effect, throughout the several decades to come. But in the shorter term, this depletion of resources has mainly been causing trouble in how we've chosen to order our economy.

Following the 1970's recession largely brought on by 1972's all-time peak in oil production, the advocates of a more elite-oriented economic system were provided with an opening for pushing their agenda. The political establishment, persuaded by the pitch that money needed to be saved amid the economic downturn, abandoned the model of restrained capitalism introduced by FDR and took on an economic worldview of free market fundamentalism. As a result, the economy has grown highly unstable since then, with a refusal on the government's part to provide a level economic playing field having increased poverty and stunted growth while lack of sufficient taxation on the wealthy has driven up the national debt. This unsustainable dynamic of a top-heavy economy, which has been present for the last forty years in not just the U.S. but in most other major countries, is setting us up for a repeat of the crash of 1929 (which, predictably, was also caused by extreme economic inequality). And this Judgement Day for neoliberalism is approaching very quickly.

As was also the case with the Great Depression, the next financial crisis will be set off by an American banking system that's come to be based on fraud. For the past twenty years, our economy has become more and more controlled by more and more corrupt financial institutions, starting with Clinton's Wall Street deregulations. After the crash that resulted from those policies, the government, incredibly, took an even more destructive course of action, having allowed the big banks to become further consolidated and powerful. Now the economy is in a better position than ever for failure, being highly financialized in addition to the two other problems I mentioned. And Donald Trump, with his tendency to disrupt markets and economically destabilizing ultra-neoliberal policies, is sure to speed up the arrival of the new financial crisis, which is expected to come sometime this year regardless.

When Trump and the neoliberal order push the economy off a cliff, though, it's possible they'll go right down with it. A great deal of those who for now remain politically apathetic, along with many current supporters of Trump and the status quo he represents, will no longer be willing to stand by when the consequences of the establishment's self-serving actions culminate in a sudden hollowing out of the middle class. Amid the staggering disappearance of wealth, a political vacuum will form in the ruins of Trump's coalition. And it will be filled by a movement to take the country back from moneyed interests that's strengthened by the newfound support of millions of the regime's former supporters.

From the start, the oligarchy has been gradually setting things up for its own demise. And it's reasonable to expect that very soon, the conditions will become right for a transition towards a sustainable and just society.