Tag Archives: 2016 elections

Why American Presidents are so Rotten

By F. William Engdahl
July 13, 2015
New Eastern Outlook

 

242342342What few people inside or outside the United States grasp is the fundamental transformation of US politics, especially since the 1970’s, from political parties with stable mass-based constituencies to two parties bought lock, stock and barrel by a handful of American oligarchs with one agenda—the advancement of the interests of those same oligarchs regardless of the social consequences. Next year, 2016 is a Presidential election year. Already so-called front-runners are being proclaimed by mainstream media. It has nothing to do with genuine voter support but rather with the money behind Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush.

To understand this transformation makes clearer why the United States and their Washington politicians have become some of the most despised and ridiculed in the world today and why recent presidents from Ronald Reagan through to Barack Obama have been so morally rotten.

A key part of the transformation of America has come from extraordinary Supreme Court rulings. The country has gone from a country and political system where bipartisan consensus and cooperation on legislation in Washington was the hallmark of Washington politics, to the present undemocratic state. Today ultimately there is not a dime’s difference between major candidates—Democrat or Republican. This is because there has been a series of Supreme Court rulings and laws that virtually eliminate what used to be strict limits on how much money individuals and special interest groups could give to get their candidate elected.

Creation of the American Oligarchy

Because of changes introduced in the 1980’s from the Bush-Reagan presidencies the amount of tax exemptions enjoyed by the highest income group has soared while burdens on what was once the stable middle class in income has been squeezed severely over the past three decades. As of 2010 the richest 400 Americans–people like Bill Gates, George Soros, Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, David Rockefeller—had more assets than half of all Americans.

While the average incomes of the top 20 percent in the United States grew by 43 percent in inflation-adjusted terms between 1979 and 2012, the average incomes of those in the middle 60 percent grew by only 10 percent, and the incomes of the bottom 20 percent actually fell by 3 percent. The top rapidly pulled away from the middle, while the bottom simultaneously fell further behind.

The financial crisis that exploded in 2007 with the bursting of the housing bubble devastated the middle class while tax laws enacted after 2008 helped the top 10%. The period since the first Ronald Reagan presidency in 1981 has seen the phenomenal rise of a genuine American oligarchy. The Greek word oligarchy means a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a few. It can be an oligarchy of royalty. In America today it is an oligarchy of wealth. This is the background to the dangerous developments in US election campaign financing.

No limits…

Since 1979 the US Supreme Court has handed down decisions that have literally opened the floodgates to the oligarchs’ takeover of elections.

After the Nixon Watergate campaign scandal in 1974 Congress passed amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. The amendments created a bipartisan Federal Election Commission (FEC), to oversee and enforce the law that initially set limits to total costs of federal campaigns. The act set up disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties, and political action committees of donations. On the surface all looked well and good. Political elections would be monitored strictly to prevent big money interests from buying elections.

Then in 1979 Congress made amendments to the FECA law that opened a giant financing loophole in the once strict FECA. A loophole allowed individuals, unions, and corporations to give unlimited sums to parties and national party committees for “party-building” purposes. These donations are known as “soft money.”

That was not enough for some special interests. They wanted to be certain they could push the “little man” out of politics with their money, along the motto “Who pays the piper calls the tune.”

In 2007 during the George W. Bush administration the Supreme Court took up the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life. The Court ruled, 5—4, that bans on ads paid for by corporations or unions in the weeks leading up to an election are an unconstitutional restriction on the right to advocate on an issue. “Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Then, in 2010 during the Obama first term, the Supreme Court ruled, 5–4, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the government cannot restrict the spending of corporations, unions, and other groups for political campaigns, maintaining that it’s their First Amendment right to support candidates as they choose. The US Constitution’s First Amendment in the Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.

In the majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the astonishing conclusion, “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” The decision gave rise to a proliferation of “super PACs” or Political Action Committees that opened the floodgates for unlimited amounts of money to be poured into political campaigns.

The consequences of these successive rulings has been the soaring costs of all public elections, meaning that only candidates who can woo the big money from Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, Monsanto and the agribusiness lobby and private billionaires have a chance to win. No chance for a maverick like Ron Paul or son Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders.

‘Dark money’ now has free speech right

Now the Republicans in the US Congress have just passed a new law that insures that so-called “dark money” will remain dark. Dark money refers to money that passes through supposedly non-political social welfare non-profit organizations, such as the Koch Brothers’ Crossroads GPS or the League of Conservation Voters, and is therefore free from disclosure.

On June 17, the House Appropriations Committee passed the 2016 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. It included provisions that ensure that the so-called “dark money” of elections remains very dark. Section 129 of the bill prevents the IRS from making any investigation whether these social welfare groups are acting exclusively for social welfare; Section 625 prevents the SEC from requiring disclosure of political donations for publicly traded companies; Section 735 prevents a rule that requires government contractors disclose their contributions to political groups, nonprofits, and trade unions.

A closer look at the various candidates for the 2016 Presidential nominations in both Republican and Democratic parties reveals the shocking reality that almost every single one has backing of one or more American billionaires—not millionaires, but billionaires.

The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, behind the controversial Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, neo-conservatives who sit on the board of the American Enterprise Institute think tank, have publicly vowed to spend nearly $900 million to influence election races in 2016. Billionaires George Soros and Alice Walton, a Walmart heiress, back the ‘Ready for Hillary’ PAC, backing Hillary Clinton. Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign was backed by billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, also a financier of Israel’s Netanyahu. Republican “golden boy,” Jeb Bush, is backed by numerous billionaires, many from Wall Street like Henry Kravis.

With the latest dark money law, most Americans will have no clue who is buying which candidate but we can be sure both candidates, Democrat and Republican, will be backed by the financial networks of this American money oligarchy. Little wonder that recent American politics—domestic and foreign have been so rotten. These days we get what they pay for…

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

Ten Ways Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush Are Basically the Same Presidential Candidate

By Jake Anderson
June 20, 2015
The Anti-Media, June 17, 2015

 

Now that Jeb Bush has officially announced his intention to run for president in 2016, the most corporate-funded presidential election in history is set to begin, headed by two prospective frontrunners with eerily familiar names. It’s Bush versus Clinton—again! With third party candidates certain to be relegated to back alleys, we see, yet again, two of the prized families of the great American oligarchy being trotted out as namesake party spokesmen and women. Their purpose: to create manufactured consent for a failed two-party system while furthering a pre-scripted, nationalist, and corporatist narrative.

Are there some differences between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush? Absolutely. Women’s rights are up there on the list, as Jeb Bush has an appalling history in that realm. While we are sensitive to the reality of Supreme Court nominees and the politics of personal identity, there can be no delusion that the most toxic dangers to our country are large sweeping economic and geopolitical doctrines that consolidate wealth into the hands of the rich elite, who promulgate wars abroad. Even on issues like the environment, while Clinton has a better record than Jeb, her support of corporations and trade agreements that derail environmental progress completely cancels out her hollow sound bytes about renewable energy.

The two candidates are almost identical on the major issues poisoning our republic.

1. They both have blatantly corrupt corporate ties

Like virtually all mainstream politicians in Congress, both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are beholden to corporations. This goes beyond simply receiving campaign funds from super PACs. We’re talking the marriage of corporate interests with the government’s foreign and domestic policies, from the military industrial complex to Big Pharma and “too big to fail” financial institutions. As we work our way down the list, corrupt corporate ties will resurface, but for now, let’s simply list these two politicians’ major corporate ties.

Jeb Bush has actually consulted 15 companies, seven of them for-profits: InnoVida Holdings, for which Bush was a board member and consultant, paid him $15,000 a month before collapsing into fraud and bankruptcy (the company’s CEO, Claudio Osorio, is serving 12½ years in prison); five of the companies for which Bush served on the board (or as adviser) have faced class action lawsuits. Some of these cases are ongoing and involve fraud or environmental damage.

Hillary Clinton’s corporate ties include her six-year stint as director of Wal-Mart, during which time the company aggressively fought to destroy union activity. In more recent times, Hillary showed her colors most spectacularly by hiring a former Monsanto lobbyist to run her campaign. She is also exceedingly cozy with some of the more corrupt Wall Street entities, which we’ll get into later. For now, suffice it to note that the Clinton Foundation has received donations of anywhere from $250,000 to $5 million from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America.

2. They are both major war hawks

In today’s America, anyone elected president who doesn’t want to go the way of John F. Kennedy has to serve the interests of the military-industrial complex. Even ostensibly non-hawkish presidents like Barack Obama (who won a Nobel Peace Prize shortly before authorizing military drone strikes that have killed almost 2,500 people) must keep the war machine going.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t even try to disguise her support for on-going war. Her complete embrace of what The Nation calls “destructive nationalist myths” has earned her the label of a “war hawk”. The moniker is well-deserved. She was a vocal supporter of the second Iraq War in 2003, despite the lack of clear evidence that military action was necessary (and, of course, we now know that the entire justification was a completely manufactured web of lies bent on taking advantage of the fear people felt after  9/11). She also supported military strikes on Afghanistan. These two wars took the lives of 174,000 civilians.

Despite finally admitting her vote for war was a mistake, Hillary has not lessened her push for war. As Secretary of State, she was instrumental in facilitating the use of U.S. airpower to decimate Libya. She then did virtually the same thing in Syria. “The results have been anarchy, sectarian conflict and opportunities for Islamist extremists that have destabilized the entire region,”  The Nation observed.

Jeb Bush, of course, supported all of the aforementioned wars and military actions with extreme bravado, then had the extra audacity to claim everything had gone decently in Iraq until Obama ebbed the surge. Hisrevisionism and whitewashing over the decimation of Arab nations post-9/11 is nothing short of pathological.

3. They both support the Patriot Act and NSA mass surveillance

Both Clinton and Bush supported the Patriot Act from the day it was secretly drafted, only days after 9/11. They both voted for its reauthorization in 2006.

This unconstitutional bill granted the government unprecedented powers of civilian detainment, as well as access to private data. When the FISA laws were updated by the Patriot Act, programs like PRISM enabled the NSA to collect millions of phone records from Americans with no suspected ties to terrorism.

Hillary Clinton has expressed concern over privacy issues, but when she has had the chance to take a real stand on  them, she has consistently avoided doing so. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush applauded President Obama’s expansion of NSA surveillance, proclaiming: “I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced.”

Fret no more, cynics of the American political system. When it comes to the erosion of civil liberties, bipartisanship is still possible.

4. They both support fracking

This one may strike some as surprising considering  Hillary Clinton has a fairly good record (maybe a C+) on environmental issues. Unfortunately, the fact is that both candidates support hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a practice used by oil and energy companies to extract gas and oil from shale rock by directing a high pressure stream of water, sand, and chemicals underground. The practice wastes incredible amounts of water and may contaminate groundwater with carcinogenic chemicals. Recent studies have also shown that fracking causes earthquakes in normally stable regions.

During a keynote speech at the National Clean Energy Summit, Clinton made it clear she wanted strong regulations on fracking, but as Secretary of State, she was responsible for promoting the practice in countries like Bulgaria, which are unlikely to enforce regulations. As it is, fracking is barely regulated in the United States.

5. They both support the Drug War

Hillary Clinton has been very vague—even evasive—about her stance on the Drug War. She supports the use of medical marijuana in some cases but has consistently spoken out against the decriminalization of marijuana, particularly in the lead-up to the 2008 election. She also made a mind-numbingly strange remark in regard to the black market trade, saying drugs couldn’t be legalized because “there’s too much money in it.

Jeb Bush has virtually the same history and position: support for marijuana use in extreme medical cases but absolutely no support for decriminalization. When push came to shove on an actual ballot initiative, Bush lent his support to opponents of a legalization bill.

Meanwhile, $3.6 billion is spent each year busting and prosecuting people for pot possession, ruining lives and families over a natural herb that has never caused a death. With black people four times as likely to be arrested over marijuana, the issue is a socio-political travesty.

6. They both aggressively support big banks and bailing them out

Unfortunately, despite the fact that their reckless derivatives trading nearly caused a complete global economic collapse, big banks and financial institutions have the complete support of both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Interestingly, if you remember Bill Clinton’s presidency, you may consider that it was his move to dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act, undoing the regulation of derivatives. His henchman on the repeal was former Goldman Sachs CEO Robert Rubin. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly signaled she will not change course on financial regulation. In fact, in 2013, Goldman Sachs paid her $400,000 for a speech in which she said that progressives and their anti-Wall Street rhetoric are “foolish.”

Meanwhile, the Bush family has a long and sickening history of colluding with big banks, starting with George H.W. Bush running a deregulation task force with a former Merrill Lynch CEO. The lax policy of bailing out banks has continued unabated. Jeb Bush is on record as a huge supporter of bailouts for the Big Six banks that collectively rig our economic system.

Any disagreement between Hillary and Jeb over this issue during the debates will be for show only—they are both puppets on strings when it comes to the banks.

7. They both support Monsanto and GMOs

This one is fairly obvious, seeing as Clinton hired a Monsanto lobbyist to run her campaign. She’s also a supporter of GMOs, which some evidence shows could be harmful to humans yet are found in the vast majority of the American food supply. Jeb Bush is also a GMO supporter and even opposes GMO labeling. Clinton has been unclear on her position on labeling but supports the idea of selling the whole idea to the public in a different context. During a speech, she openly brainstormed ways to use different kinds of propagandistic rhetoric—such as “drought-resistant” instead of “genetically modified.”

The support both candidates lend to Monsanto is deeply troubling as the multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation has monopolized the seed and food supply across the world withherbicidal and pesticidal toxins. They also use heavy-handed legal tactics and litigation to force local farmers to comply, even to the detriment to their communities.

8. They will both spend billions on the upcoming election

Hillary Clinton has openly stated her goal of raising $2.5 billion for her upcoming presidential campaign. To put that in perspective, in 2012, Obama and Romney combined spent over $2 billion, which is bad enough.

Jeb Bush and the GOP will, of course, match or surpass this number, which means the 2016 presidential election could cost $5 billion dollars. Meanwhile, most Americans are in debt and 14.5% of the nation—45.3 million people—live in poverty.

With super PACs and Citizens United allowing for a virtually unrestricted flow of corporate money into our elections, we are now seeing the full effects of a corporatocracy running our “representative democracy.”

9. They both support the secretive and dangerous TPP agreement

Though initially voicing her support for the ominous trade deal at least 45 times while Secretary of State, Hillary has backed off of her support for the TPP now that it’s become politically advantageous. Basically, she is still politically flip-flopping and will likely continue to do so a through the election.

Given that Clinton was a gung-ho supporter of NAFTA (an agreement that is almost universally agreed upon as being responsible for millions of jobs lost and higher income inequality), it is highly unlikely she will take a stand against TPP. If passed, it would essentially allow corporations to decide trade laws in private tribunals and strip down both worker’s rights and environmental protections. To her credit, Hillary has voiced concerns—and if she reverses course, I will be the first to gladly eat my own words.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush openly supports the agreement, which, one shouldn’t forget, is so pernicious it was kept secret for years. We only know about it because of a WikiLeaks cable. Bush once said, “We must push privatization [of government] in every area where privatization is possible.” TPP would accomplish that with extreme measures.

10. They both support the death penalty

This one may be surprising as well. Not for Jeb Bush, as he is a proud executioner. This was especially true in his earlier days, before he leaned back to the center of political posturing. He once clearly stated his plans on the death penalty: “I want to accelerate, not slow down, the enforcement of the death penalty in Florida.

In her earlier years as a constitutional lawyer, Clinton fought against the death penalty and the corrupt criminal justice system. In more recent years, she has lent it her “unenthusiastic support.” We will see if she hedges on this in the primaries, where she will face staunch death penalty opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Corporate Media Doublethink and the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq Connection

By Prof. James F. Tracy
May 25, 2015
Global Research

 

Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz“Doublethink,” George Orwell famously remarked, “means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The corporate news media similarly tend toward selective recall when approaching and interpreting crucial facts of national and world history. A recent example involves John Ellis “Jeb” Bush’s tentative May 10 admission that he would not have embarked on the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq had he possessed the information that his brother’s presidential administration willfully kept from the American public.

In fact, such information is but one small facet in an edifice of high crimes and subterfuge, including the George W. Bush regime’s complicity in the false flag terror attacks of September 11, 2001, or what one might otherwise term the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq connection.

pnac.org

In the midst of controversy surrounding Jeb Bush’s acknowledgement, major news media almost uniformly chose to toss the elder Bush brother’s involvement in the neoconservative Project for a New American Century as a signatory to its “Statement of Principles” down the memory hole.

As many will recall, PNAC’s 2000 document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” issued one year before the September 11 events, proclaimed how “the process of [foreign policy] transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

“A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure ‘regime change’ even before he took power in January 2001,” Neil Mackay observed in the Scottish Sunday Herald on the first anniversary of 9/11.

The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a ‘global Pax Americana’ was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W Bush’s younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The PNAC document supports a ‘blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests’.

This “American grand strategy” must be advanced for “as far into the future as possible”, the report says. It also calls for the US to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” as a “core mission”.

The historical amnesia is evident in a LexisNexis search for “Project for a New American Century” and “Jeb Bush” that yields almost no mention in print news media of the eerily prophetic, even incriminating document in the overall coverage of Bush’s admittance.

Cable news channel MSNBC was the only news outlet to (unintentionally) link PNAC to Bush’s disclosure. The reference was made by Salon.com‘s Joan Walsh on the May 14 segment of Chris Matthew’s Hardball program. The exchange is prefaced by Matthews’ remark concerning Bush’s difficulty distinguishing “himself from the ideology that took us into Iraq.”

During an exchange between Matthews, Walsh, Buzzfeed‘s McKay Coppins, and The Nation‘s Ben Goldberger concerning Bush’s present slew of “neocon” foreign policy advisors, Matthews curiously feigns ignorance of Bush’s PNAC involvement.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We were all supposed to answer hypothetical questions. Knowing what we know now, what would you have done? I would have not engaged, I would not have gone into Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I would not have gone into Iraq. It took [Bush] a while to say that … McKay, tell me why he`s had this hard time to separate himself from the ideology that took us into Iraq.

COPPINS: Well, it`s — I have a story coming out tonight where I talk to a half dozen former George W. Bush officials, neocon hawks, very pro- Iraq war at the time and still are. And they breathe two issues. One — I mean, it`s obvious that there`s still a lot of pressure from neoconservatives and Iraq hawks who don`t want him to, you know, wholly disown the Iraq [sic].

The other issue is that they — and they were all asking this question, when he was asked, you know, to put out a list of his foreign policy advisers, he came out this lengthy, kind of unwieldy list of 24 policy advisers — [sic]

MATTHEWS: But it had a few hard rights in it.

COPPINS: It had a lot of neoconservatives. And actually, I`m told that he had to scramble at the last minute to add people from the new generation. Initially, it was all –

MATTHEWS: So, what do you think he is? Do you think he`s his brother or his dad?

COPPINS: I think he`s probably, in his heart, angling more toward his dad, but I think there`s still many political pleasures within his party and, frankly, familiar pressures to not disown him.

MATTHEWS: The weird about [sic] this is the father/son thing?

WALSH: Yes, to both of them.

MATTHEWS: He railed against his father. We all know W. was the rebel, in a way that may have sort of led us into the war. We don`t know this psychological stuff.

WALSH: Right. We can`t get inside his brain.

But I mean, I think you`re making a great point. This may well be what he thinks. We don`t know what he thinks. But he was an early signatory to the project for a new American century document.

MATTHEWS: “W” was?

WALSH: No. Jeb was. Jeb was.

There are a lot of people in his orbit. Dick Cheney never said he made a mistake. They would do it all over again. They knew that WMD was a pretext in the first place.

MATTHEWS: Whose sales speech, Ben? It`s going to be an issue in the campaign. It`s the reason that Barack Obama is president over Hillary Clinton. We all know that central fight that he had, she wasn`t willing to push away the war issue. He was. He was clean [Emphasis added].

The almost complete erasure of the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq connection in the broader public discourse surrounding Bush’s admission may seem like yet another short-lived episode in US politics. Yet the omission demonstrates a type of censorship that is now at least as ideological as it is deliberate, particularly among professional journalists who tacitly recognize their roles in the political censorial process. “To know and not to know,” Orwell noted,

to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies … to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself.

Upon over a half century of unexplained political assassinations and phony wars on communism, drugs, and now “terror,” Western political leaders today appear scarcely interested in even explaining their policies, frequently because of the willful historical shorthand practiced by the journalistic institutions dependent on upholding the same political and ideational bulwark.

Overlooking the Bush-PNAC-9/11-Iraq connection requires an informational system akin to that of 1984; one committed to a relentless forgetting of the inner party’s profound criminality.

Jeb Bush’s “gaffe”: A revealing comment on the Iraq war

By Patrick Martin
May 16, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, in an interview with Fox News May 11, blurted out a politically inconvenient truth: that any of the Republican candidates in 2016, as well as their likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, would have authorized the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Asked by interviewer Megyn Kelly about the decision by his brother, President George W. Bush, to go to war against Iraq in March 2003, Bush replied, “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

Bush spent the rest of the week seeking to remedy his “gaffe,” which was failing to tell the now politically mandatory lie, that “if we had only known that the intelligence was wrong” connecting Saddam Hussein to weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda terrorism, the war would never have happened.

On Tuesday, Bush phoned into the Sean Hannity program on Fox to begin the process of retraction and correction, claiming that he had “interpreted the question wrong, I guess.” He added, “I was talking about, given what people knew then.” When Hannity repeated Kelly’s question about the 2003 invasion, Bush stalled, saying, “That’s a hypothetical.”

On Wednesday Bush was pressed for further responses to his “gaffe,” as five rivals for the Republican nomination—senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, and governors Chris Christie and John Kasich—all proclaimed that they would never have ordered the invasion of Iraq if they knew that Baghdad had no weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda.

At a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, Bush was publicly questioned by a liberal college student about the US war being the root cause of the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “Your brother created ISIS,” she said, pointing to the US dissolution of the Iraqi Army in 2003, which created a pool of jobless soldiers and officers who later joined insurgent groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS.

Bush again refused to answer the question of whether he would, in retrospect, still back an invasion of Iraq, calling it hypothetical, and suggesting that the very posing of the question was disrespectful of the soldiers who died in the war. “It’s very hard for me to say that their lives were lost in vain,” he said. “Their sacrifice was worth honoring, not depreciating.”

This is a typical cover-up for presidential war crimes, used by George W. Bush and Barack Obama alike. Any criticism of the “commander-in-chief” is smeared as an attack on the soldiers they have ordered to wage wars in violation of international law, using methods that trample on the Geneva conventions and US laws prohibiting torture and assassination.

The younger Bush finally settled on an outright reversal of his position, telling an audience Thursday, in Tempe, Arizona, “Knowing what we now know, what would you have done? I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.” While verbally disavowing the Iraq war of 2003, however, he enthusiastically endorsed the Iraq war of 2015, saying that the US should increase its military presence to fight the “barbaric Islamic threat,” adding, “I think we need to reengage and do it in a more forceful way.”

Aside from the remarkably broad language—“Islamic threat” could apply to the entire Muslim population of the world, some 1.6 billion people—Bush’s final declaration only confirms the actual unanimity within the US ruling elite on a program of global military aggression, whatever the claimed differences during the period of electoral competition between the Democrats and the Republicans.

The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial criticizing both Bush’s initial response and his subsequent backtracking, took the candidate to task for failing to defend the legitimacy of the two major military decisions of his brother’s administration: to invade and conquer Iraq in 2003 and to “surge” additional US troops into Iraq in 2007 after the outbreak of open civil war between Shiite and Sunni militias.

The editorial repeated the lie that has now become standard in apologias for the war in Iraq: “George W. Bush took the country to war in the sincere belief that Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction was a ‘slam dunk’ case, as then-CIA Director George Tenet believed.”

The truth is very different. Bush and Cheney took office in January 2001 at the head of an administration that was determined from the beginning to overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with an American puppet. The only question was to find the necessary pretext for overriding popular opposition to such a war. This was provided by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, although Iraq had nothing to do with them.

Within days of 9/11, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservative warmongers had begun the drumbeat for war with Iraq, suggesting connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Other administration spokesmen, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and secretary of state Colin Powell, were deployed to raise the supposed threat of “weapons of mass destruction.”

The atmosphere in the leading circles of the Bush administration was described by a British official close to them, who told Newsweek magazine in August 2002, “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In other words, the only difference was whether conquering Iraq should be followed up by war with Iran, a country of 75 million people.

The CIA merely supplied its political masters in the White House and Pentagon what they were demanding: supposed “proof” of Iraqi WMD and Saddam’s ties to Al Qaeda, to provide the casus belli. This manufactured case was used to push a war resolution through Congress—with the support, as Jeb Bush noted, of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and other leading Democrats.

Those responsible for planning, orchestrating and promoting the criminal war against Iraq have never been brought to justice. On the contrary, many of them are now among the principal foreign policy advisers of the Jeb Bush campaign, including Wolfowitz, Stephen Hadley and Michael Chertoff, who were among the architects of the war in Iraq. As for the Obama administration, it has merely continued and expanded the crimes of its predecessor.

To Those Who Believe in Voting

Thoughts on the Least Important Decision People Make Every Four Years

Bu Noel Ignatiev
May 12, 2015
Counter Punch

 

One morning years ago, as I entered the classroom for a course I taught on U.S. history, I found the students engaged in a discussion of elections. One of them, whom I knew to be a supporter of “progressive” causes and who had previously complained about student apathy, asked me in a despairing tone, “Why don’t people vote?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “To me, the more interesting question is, Why do they?”

Why do people vote? The individual voter does not choose the winner of the election; she chooses which lever to pull or which box to check on a piece of paper. Yet some people get angry at me and call me a shirker when I tell them I don’t vote. If you don’t vote, they tell me, you have noignatiev right to complain.

Why not, I ask. Where is that written?

Some point out that in the past people died for the right to vote.

That is true, I respond, but beside the point: people also died for the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies, but no one calls abortion a public duty.

Clearly, something is operating here besides logic.

The only explanation I can come up with is that people vote for the same reason they cheer or do the wave at an athletic competition—it makes them feel part of a community. Now, I respect the desire for community. In the good old Hew Hess of Hay, “citizens” choose people to
represent them. To vote is to participate in a community ritual. It begins in grade school, when children elect who among them will get to clean the blackboards.

Rituals reinforce the society that gives rise to them. By reenacting the voting ritual people reinforce a system that ensures their powerlessness. This is true regardless of whom they vote for.

The New Society is based on people acting in concert to shape their lives. Representative versus direct democracy. The Paris Commune. The Flint Sitdown Strike. The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Tahrir Square.

As someone who believes in both the necessity and possibility of a New Society, my goal is to draw a clear line between it and all efforts to “work within the system.” In pursuit of that goal, I pledge not to engage in any discussion of whether one party or candidate is worse than another, whether it is advisable to work for Democrats, whether it makes a difference which Democrat one works for, whether activists should limit their electoral efforts to Socialist candidates, whether it is possible to be both a Socialist and a Democrat.

I promise to share no wisdom about primaries and swing states.

Finally, since I believe that for most people whether or how they vote is probably the least important decision they make every few years, and that most of them know it and will recover their sense of reality as soon as the “silly season” is over, and that they will do what they want regardless of anything I say, I also pledge not to argue with anyone about voting.

One more thing, which may seem to contradict everything I have said above: There are two classes of people who are excluded from voting: the first consists of those convicted of what the state calls “crimes.” Their numbers run into the millions, they are important factors in the economy of the localities where they reside, and their votes could conceivably swing an election; the second group consists of those not counted as “citizens,” who perform a large and increasing amount of the drudge work of the country.

Those who take voting seriously could do worse than undertake a campaign to extend the right to vote to these two classes. Interrogate the candidates. Demand that they declare themselves publicly on these issues. Carry signs. Interrupt debates and election rallies. Do as the Abolitionists – many of whom did not believe in voting – did when they brought the issue of slavery to center stage.

Noel Ignatiev is the author of How the Irish Became White (Routledge, 1995), and co-editor, with John Garvey, of the anthology Race Traitor (Routledge, 1996).  He blogs here. He can be reached at noelignatiev@gmail.com

 

American Politics: A House of Mirrors

By Ulson Gunnar
April 25, 2015
New Eastern Outlook

 

H53534532222A house of mirrors is an immersive, highly distorted and intentionally confusing version of reality. Those walking its corridors are sometimes amused and sometimes frightened by the disorienting experience, but luckily for them, it is only temporary. There is an exit, and they will walk through it, back to reality.

But what if one existed their entire lives in such a distorted reality and knew of no exits? Would they convince themselves that these distorted images reflected back at them were in fact reality no matter how unnatural they appeared? Could they convince themselves to enjoy and even embrace this distorted reality?

One ponders such questions when looking from the outside-in on American politics. It too is a house of mirrors reflecting back a reality entirely distorted. Also like a house of mirrors, American politics have been intentionally constructed this way, to confuse, disorient and even frighten the American people when necessary to exercise mass persuasion over them. The final result is perpetual impunity granted to the powers that truly be, hiding behind the powers that allegedly were “elected,” and powers whose authority only exists in this house of mirrors and no further.

New Leaders, Old Wars 

Consider US President George Bush Sr. He launched the inaugural war of what he himself called a “New World Order.” Operation Desert Storm included multiple nations comprising of nearly a million soldiers who swept from the map one of the largest conventional armies (4th largest) in the world. Bush Sr., however, paused just ahead of sweeping the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power. His successor, US President William Jefferson Clinton would keep Iraq subdued with periodic bombing campaigns and the imposition of both crippling sanctions and no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq.

Clinton would serve 8 years in office and lock horns with Russia in Serbia in a proto-Ukraine-style conflict. In 2000, we should remember that George Bush Jr. ran on a platform opposed to global interventionism. For those trapped in the house of mirrors, this distortion of reality seemed very convincing. For those who understood the hegemonic mission of America’s special interests, those that transcend elections and political parties, they knew Bush Sr.’s desires for a “New World” endured and would manifest themselves in a yet revealed, muscular foreign policy that only needed the right impetus to be justified in the eyes of the American people.

Conveniently, the events of September 11, 2001 delivered just that. So began the 8 year “War on Terror.” So sick of wars were Americans at the end of those 8 years, that anyone promising to end them would likely win the 2008 elections. And so Barack Obama did and thus became “US President.” However, not only did the wars not end, and not only were they in fact expanded, new wars were begun. In fact, these new wars were all the planned wars Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. never got around to fighting.

Yet, no matter how unnatural this distorted reflection appeared in the American politics house of mirrors, those trapped perpetually within its mirrored walls found it perfectly acceptable for a Democratic president to continue Republican wars and start new wars the Republicans could only have dreamed of starting but couldn’t because of left-wing anti-war movements now silent because “their guy” was in office.

Hillary = Obama = Bush Jr. = Clinton = Bush Sr.  

With Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for office in 2016 with President Obama’s full endorsement, those infected with neo-liberalism and wandering the corridors of this house of mirrors see yet another distorted, ghoulish image staring back, but one they are yet again ready to embrace.

Here is a woman who as US Secretary of State laughed and mocked the Libyan people upon hearing their leader had been murdered by terrorists in what constituted by all accounts a war crime. Before that, she played an active role in selling the war upon Libya in 2011 to the American left (as the American right had already desired such a war for years and needed no convincing). By 2016 we may have yet another Clinton in office, and a Clinton fully dedicated to carrying on the wars of both the Democrats and Republicans that came before her.

To say this is continuity of agenda is a bit of an understatement. American foreign policy has been so singular in purpose and focus for the past several decades that it is clear that behind the distortions of this house of mirrors, something singular and very nasty has been there the entire time. Who or what could it be?

The Real President of the United States Lives on Wall Street, not Pennsylvania Avenue 

How about we look at the people who pay for the political campaigns to put these various spokesmen and women-in-chiefs into office in the first place? Or the immense interests driving lobbying efforts that target and control both sides of the political aisle in American politics? A single Fortune 100 corporation has enough money to buy out every relevant politician on Capital Hill and still finish up the fiscal year bloated with billions in profits. And what happens when these interests converge across various think-tanks they themselves have set up and created to generate the singular foreign and domestic policies we see carried forward from presidency to presidency, from congressional session to session?

We see complete control exerted over American politics as well as across the media, allegedly charged to serve as watchdogs and a check and balance, but instead turned into an echo chamber and instrument of mass persuasion by those who have clearly consolidated the summation of American politics in their pockets.

While policy might be debated over by these special interests, and groups moved in one direction or another to exert influence against competing special interests among this exclusive club, one thing is for sure, the American voter is the last voice considered in this process.

Since the American voter is incapable of seeing that they are in fact in a house of mirrors to begin with, and think they are “outside” in reality making real decisions, their decisions are completely irrelevant to those who really do live outside in reality and are actually making real decisions.

We must understand that for special interests that collectively control trillions of dollars in assets, profits and infrastructure all over the planet, the last thing they are willing to do is allow for the existence of a system that might actually put into power a form of authority above their own, that would set policy predicated upon the interests of the people, rather than their own. They have the money, the power and the ability to ensure policy is set to suit them, and them alone, and they clearly have done just that.

This is why US troops are still in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars are still being waged either directly or indirectly against Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Russia and destabilization targeting China and other targets of Washington and Wall Street’s special interests continues unabated, albeit distorted within the house of mirrors, regardless of who is president.

So Americans may think they are voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and those infected with neo-liberalism the world over may think another enlightened champion of their progressive cause has taken the reins of the free world, but they might as well have voted for another Bush. The reality is, that as along as Americans and those who look to America from abroad for leadership dwell in this house of mirrors, the special interests that intentionally built this carnival called “democracy” will have their way back in actual reality.

Instead of fumbling through another four years trapped inside this carnival attraction, let’s find the exits. Let’s leave this house of mirrors and breathe a breath of fresh air. Are we really going to listen to another round of campaign promises, holding our breath hoping that this time they mean it? Or will we begin divesting from this system and building our own, one that might actually truly represent us this time, far from the mirrored walls that held us for so long?

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

Are Leading Economists Corrupt, or Just Mind-Blowingly Ignorant?

By Eric Zuesse
April 24, 2015
Global Research

 

hillary-clinton 2016[This article pertains to political economists in the United States.]

Conservative economists favor Republican candidates because it’s the way for them to rise in power themselves, but what about ‘progressive’ economists: are they psychopaths, too; or do they instead blindly favor ‘Democratic’ candidates because of a sincerely oblivious belief that the mere ‘Democratic’ Party-label indicates that the given politician is actually progressive?

Apparently, the answer is the latter, if one is to judge from assertions by the most-famous ‘progressive’ economists. Even so-called ‘progressive’ economists say that corrupt ‘Democratic’ candidates who have clear records of lying should be judged on the basis of what they say they will do, not on what their conservative record shows they’ve actually done and the interests they have actually been serving and paid by.

For example, Joseph Stiglitz is trumpeted by economists and by the newsmedia as being a ‘progressive’ economist, and he was recently asked in a Huffington Post interview, regarding Hillary Clinton,

“Some people are skeptical as to whether she is really genuine, … whether or not this is a woman who is too cozy with Wall Street?”

And he answered, “Well, she’s clearly much better than the Republican candidates,” and he cited as supposed evidence for that, not just what she is saying to him, but what she is saying to Democratic Party voters in a Democratic Party primary campaign to attract liberal voters and so to win the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. He compares to that, such things as the Republican candidate Marco Rubio’s (who, of course, doesn’t consult with such ‘progressive’ economists) campaign statements, which are aimed to appeal to conservative voters and so to win the Republican nomination — as if the task for either candidate (Clinton or Rubio) at present is actually to win, instead, the general-election campaign and so to appeal to the entire electorate, both conservative and liberal. Is Stiglitz really that stupid? Of course not. He knows the difference between a primary campaign and a general-election campaign.

He simply ignored Hillary Clinton’s already established and lengthy record, which is that of a conservative in ‘Democratic’ rhetorical garb, just like Barack Obama (the continuer of George W. Bush’s Wall Street bailouts and most of his other substantive policies), or, for that matter, her own husband, Bill Clinton, who had ended the great Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s progressive legacy of the Glass-Steagall Act, which placed a firewall between, on the one hand, government taxpayer-insured bank-deposits and checking and savings accounts, versus, on the other hand, Wall Street’s risky gambles and bets to win high profits with proportionally higher risks — and, so, FDR basically blocked any continuation of Wall Street’s then-existing ability to gamble with Regular Joes’ money and so to leave the gambling losses to Regular Joes, while still reaping the outsized gambling profits, which then go to Wall Street’s banksters, alone.

The ‘Democratic’ President Bill Clinton in 1999 helped Republicans ram through Congress the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, all-Republican, bill (which is one of the most corrupt laws in U.S. history), to terminate the Glass-Steagall Act in order retroactively to legalize Citibank’s takeover of Travelers Insurance; and his Treasury Secretary (Robert Rubin) was then hired by Citigroup to help to lead this very same Wall Street firm that had lobbied the hardest for this Republican law to legalize that merger, which violated FDR’s progressivism and violated the American public. If this action by Clinton wasn’t corrupt, then nothing is, except perhaps Wall Street’s continuing lavish spending on the Clinton Foundation and on Hillary Clinton’s political career, first as Wall Street’s junior U.S. Senator, and then as an aspiring U.S. President.

A good summary of the reality about Hillary Clinton was Ben White and Maggie Haberman’s Politico article, on 28 April 2014, “Wall Street Republicans’ dark secret: Hillary Clinton 2016,” which noted that, “The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky would be Clinton.” It’s not that the fundamentalist Cruz or the populist Paul would fail to treat Wall Street fairly; it’s instead that Hillary Clinton would be even more subservient to that big-money than either Cruz or Paul would be — that she’s more corrupt. And she is.

Here is the list of top career donors to Hillary Clinton:

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.17.40 AM

That’s Wall Street and the firms which serve it. The ‘feminist’ EMILY’s List is also included, of women who still vote for Hillary for the same reason that Blacks still vote for Obama (despite their being pounded the worst by his economic policies), which has to do with gender or racial identifications instead of any progressive (or even practical) ideology at all, but Hillary is almost entirely Wall Street’s property — bought and paid for, and committed to delivering to them what they have paid for (advantages to big international firms at the expense of small firms and at the expense of consumers and of workers and of the environment), which is the types of services that such ‘Democrats’ as she, and her husband, and Barack Obama, have privately promised to them, and delivered to them. (Actually, Obama is the very worst: During his Presidency, the top 1% income share has soared, and he has been President in the years following an economic crash, which is precisely the period in the economic cycle when the norm has instead been for economic inequality to decrease, not increase. In order for a President Hillary Clinton to outperform his lousy record on inequality, she’d need to reject his policies and turn radically against Wall Street, which has financed her own rise. What you’ve just now read is all documented right there, at that link; any intelligent voter will want to examine it.)

America has become a corrupt country in a corrupt world, nothing unusual in this regard. The first step to America’s becoming less corrupt would be for its voters to recognize that they have been and are fooled by the decades-long big-money indoctrination into “the free market” (actually crony capitalism), and that their top priority should thus be to vote against it — to vote against (i.e., in the exact opposite direction from) the advertisements and ‘news’ media that pump what the super-rich want to be pumped into politics and into government, and so pump the popular votes that enable it all to be legal and ‘democratic,’ no mere oligarchy that mocks America’s anti-aristocratic Founders.

Stiglitz wants to be part of the game that Hillary Clinton, as Obama’s Secretary of State, was playing: working for Wall Street while pretending to be their enemy. He wants to be on Hillary’s team, perhaps even inside the White House. (Like President Obama himself told the banksters in secret, at the start of his Presidency, on 27 March 2009: “My Administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks. … I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you.” And, he fulfilled on that promise. But he doesn’t fulfill on the big ones to the contrary, that he makes in public, and to the public.)

If President Obama were sincere about his opposition to increasing economic inequality, he wouldn’t deceive people by saying that, as The New York Times summed up his propaganda in a headline on 3 February 2014, “In Talk of Economy, Obama Turns to ‘Opportunity’ Over ‘Inequality’.” He would instead acknowledge that equality of opportunity cannot increase while inequality of incomes is increasing, because opportunity depends very largely upon income: the bigger a person’s income is, the more economic opportunities that person tends to have. Instead of acknowledging this basic crucial economic fact, Obama, and the Clintons, and economists, hide it.

The lying permeates not only all of the Republican Party, but also the very top, the national, level of the Democratic Party. Democratic voters were especially deceived by Obama, and by Hillary, and by John Edwards, in the 2008 Democratic Presidential primaries, to think that their plan (it was all basically the same plan) for health insurance would produce “universal health care,” but all three knew that it couldn’t possibly deliver any such result. The percentage of Americans who had insurance then was 85.4% insured; 14.6% uninsured. Currently, it’s 87.1% insured, 12.9% uninsured. Their plan thus increased the insured rate by 87.1%/85.4%, or merely 2% above what it had been when they all started promising “universal coverage,” something which already exists in all other developed countries (100% of the population having health insurance). That’s how corrupt our country is. And they all promised also a public option, something which would enable anyone to opt out of the for-profit corporate model of provisioning healthcare services. But, Obama never really intended to deliver on that promise, either.

Leading economists are not mind-blowingly ignorant.

Perhaps the main reason why the turnout of Democrats at the polls is so poor is that the Democratic Party has sold out so much to Republican Party values, so that the Democratic Party’s voters are giving up hope and giving up on the Party itself as representing them and their interests. The reality now in the United States, has become that there is, now, a choice only between two conservative parties, with the only differences between them being ethnic and gender preferences in order to keep up the fraud that there exists a real political choice and not just a one-party, actually fascist, government, decorated, around the edges, with differences about how deeply into conservatism this nation ought to go.

And, so: what can be expected of the Democratic Party’s economists, except the hope that their next career-move will be upward, instead of downward?

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

The Election that Matters will Take Place in the Streets

By Rob Urie
April 19, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Be Gone Labor, Environment

Whether it is broadly perceived at present or not, an economic bomb was just dropped on the loose coalition of political and economic interests— Black Lives Matter, the $15 minimum wage movement, the residual of Occupy and the immigrants’ rights movement, by the political Party that a half-century or so ago nominally represented like issues, the Democrats. With President Barack Obama getting ‘fast-track’ authority for the uber-corporate friendly, anti-labor and anti-environment TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and establishment candidates Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush the likely contenders for President in 2016, both mainstream political Parties are doubling down on the neoliberal, neoconservative status quo.

As Mr. Obama most certainly understands, the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provisions of the TPP render ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ civil labor and environmental proposals moot— issues like a minimum wage and what type of fuels U.S. utilities can burn will be decided by corporate lawyers in tribunals outside of civil jurisdiction. Appeals to Hillary Clinton to oppose the agreement— Jeb Bush and Congressional Republicans have already signaled their support; illustrate the folly of political ‘lesser-evilism.’ Ms. Clinton is a committed neoliberal and any opposition she might offer would most certainly be an election ploy. Given the ‘political capital’ that Mr. Obama is expending to get the TPP passed, it is reasonable to assume that it represents the culmination of the neoliberal takeover that has consumed the Democrat Party for the last half-century.

hrcurie1

Hillary Clinton. Original image source: dailyoftheday.com.

Informing modern political theory, in the late nineteenth century the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey developed the ‘telos of becoming,’ the purpose (telos) that becomes evident through subsequent history. When applied to American politics a trajectory from Jimmy Carter’s neoliberal resurgence to Bill Clinton’s social capitulation accompanied by NAFTA and deregulating the banks led to Barack Obama’s current push for the TPP. With polls consistently showing the American public well to the left of mainstream Party policies, modern Republicans lack the finesse for the political long con. With the TPP as soon-to-be-accomplished fact, from bank bailouts to the revived unitary Presidency, from extra-judicial drone murders to endless wars, Barack Obama is the gifted salesperson for a new corporate totalitarianism.

The Rationale

By accounts Mr. Obama does have a rationale for his support of the TPP, a ‘strategic vision’ that illuminates the interests at stake— as well as the utter irrelevance of the electorate and the broader American people in the ‘deal.’ The logic goes approximately like this: multinational corporations— banks, arms manufacturers, oil and gas companies and various and sundry industrialists already rule ‘the world.’ The choice from this point forward is between ‘our’ corporations and Asian, mainly Chinese, state-sponsored corporatism. The problem for the rest of us is that this is an updated eighteenth century European ‘royalist’ view— it is neutron bomb politics where the 99.9% of us who also occupy the planet, and the planet itself, have been assumed away. The ghettoization of the political and economic ‘leadership’ classes has facilitated a deeply delusional internal logic in policy ‘circles.’

From within this view the rest of Mr. Obama’s policies make sense. The bailouts of banks and bankers were to keep the ‘real’ players in the game. U.S. sponsored chaos across the Middle East is a contest for regional, and global, dominance where the lives of the ‘little people’ who are its casualties are irrelevant to the ‘higher purpose.’ Obamacare expands the proportion of the domestic population tied to the corporate model of social relations. Domestic surveillance is the hierarchical model of corporate control applied to a network of engineered social relations— technology defines the realm of social possibility through the inclusion and exclusion of broader social possibility. Left apparently unconsidered is that this unchecked corporatism seems at present the quickest path to mass extinction of most living things on the planet.

Group Hug in Hell

For Democrats in particular the election cycle revives the preference for religious imagination with increasingly toxic results. This imagination has been joined with the capitalist idea of progress through embedded history presented as the new and improved product line. If only we elect a ______ to the Presidency the world will be right. Had these aspirations ever borne meaningful relation to actual outcomes the conceit might make some sense. Margaret Thatcher demonstrated that a woman can force a hard-right turn as well as any man. Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court because he proved himself useful to the institutional hard-right by throwing tens of thousands of hard-fought anti-discrimination lawsuits by the poor and disenfranchised into the dustbin without review. Absent a miraculous end-of-term conversion the neoliberal, neoconservative Barack Obama is set to make Jimmy Carter into a retrospective Democrat hero.

puppetsurie2

Puppets negotiate a trade agreement in hell. Original image source: pinterest.com.

It is more than a bit ironic that in a country with nominally democratic aspirations the quest for a leader who will deliver ‘the people’ from their bonds becomes abdication, infinite ‘progress’ that never quite relates last year’s savior to this year’s bonds. Coincident is the want for more emotionally satisfying incantations, better explanations for the facts that are their opposite. Neocons and neoliberals are statespersons and responsible economists when the Blue Party is in office and war-mongers and readers of economic goat entrails when the Red Party is in office. The totality of the ideological distance between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton can be found in the few names that don’t overlap on their contributor lists. The pragmatists hoping for ‘a seat at the table’ don’t appear to have realized that they are once again on the menu.

The root of this electoral delusion lies in the contradiction between political and economic democracy. Posed as compatible, even complimentary, American democracy was conceived in plutocracy and slavery, in the three-fifths a chattel person slaves accrued to those who owned them. Two centuries before the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizen’s United’ ruling the owner of fifteen slaves held the political ‘personhood’ of nine slaves (3/5 = 0.6 X 15 = 9) plus himself. Fealty to legislative and judicial precedence has antique white guys in fact and spirit communing with the social facts of past centuries that have been so skillfully reconstituted in modern social technologies. ‘Private’ contributions to political campaigns approximate the distribution of income. Representative democracy has the same representatives representing the interests of factory owners and ‘their’ employees. Labor leaders who are paid like bosses act like bosses.

devilurie3

The devil you think you know. Original image source: cinehouse.blogspotuk.com.

The recurring ritual of liberal and progressive commentators pleading with Democrat candidates to consider their policy prescriptions conveys the well-padded chairs in well-appointed offices that will greet their ritual humiliation once the votes have been counted. Self-important distinctions between REDBLUE voters and the ‘irrelevant’ left will be on public display until the first Presidential ‘compromise’ hits the news. The first few compromises will be ‘pragmatic,’ a signal that HILLBUSH wants to ‘reach across the aisle’ to accrue political capital for the important votes. The next few will be accedence to the Conservative / Christian temperament of the voters whose divided vote called for small ‘c’ change. And the next few still will signal the inability for transformative organization by the liberal-left until the current savior needs to rouse the troops for the next election.

The (Corporate) People Will be Heard

For those occupying less hospitable environs, a/k/a the overwhelming preponderance of persons on / in the world, the pageantry of radical irrelevance which is electoral politics retains some entertainment value from the distance. The perpetual chide that not voting accedes political power to those who do accepts at face value that political power is gained at the ballot box. The only major Democrat to win in the 2014 mid-term elections, Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, just put forward the most radically neo-liberal state budget in modern history. While ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has been partially exorcised from the utterly corrupt Pennsylvania state legislature due to bad press, Democrat Wolf’s election victory brought back the ALEC platform without the political baggage. Who says voters don’t have a voice?

While Tom Wolf is but one Governor and Pennsylvania but one state, the tie between the mainstream political Parties and impossible-to-dislodge political and economic interests transcends local politics. The class dynamic at work in Pennsylvania is mirrored nationwide: a group of moderately literate, self-interested neoliberal opportunists are using the residual agrarian / urban, state / city frame to enrich themselves by looting the cities under the cover of neoliberal ideology. How many privatized school cheating scandals, misbegotten student debts and industrial sewers that used to be town water supplies need exist before the distance between words and deeds is obvious?

cowboyurie4

Foreign policy the American way. Original image source: pixels.com.

The political dynamic being brought to the fore is rapidly increasing class antagonism. Those either too busy or disinterested to understand exactly how far down the neoliberal rat hole the Democrat Party has descended will be seeing it in their paychecks and health insurance premiums in coming weeks and months. With fortune (Machiavelli’s ‘fortuna,’ not banker script) in play, the TPP may be Hillary Clinton’s undoing. It places the Democrat Party so decisively in the pockets of the corporate-totalitarian right that the more prescient forces of the liberal-progressive establishment might choke on their continuing support for Democrat policies. Republicans are ‘worse’ in the sense of being less skilled at selling corporate interests as those of ‘the people.’ But given that the actual policies of both Parties are close to identical, the political choice is either for the existing system or against it without the faux distinctions of Party politics.

The present amorphous coalition of Black Lives Matter, the $15 minimum wage movement (why not $21 plus benefits?), the residual of Occupy and the immigrants’ rights movement embody the political with economic issues that sum to true political opposition to the heavily cloistered political mainstream. Crude materialist theories of political interests, the first ______ President, etc., have been the tools of cynical political opportunists selling similar policies with carefully circumscribed difference for some decades now. Barack Obama has his reasons for pushing the TPP. But if you believe that they are ‘your’ reasons you haven’t read the fine print. The only politics likely to matter in the next few years will be decided in the streets, not at the ballot box.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. The images that accompany this piece are his iteration of previously existing images. This approach derives from a social theory of art.

Republican presidential hopeful proposes means testing of Social Security

By Patrick Martin
April 15, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

chris christie weight loss surgeryIn a speech Tuesday in New Hampshire, site of the first US presidential primary, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called for transforming Social Security into a means-tested welfare program and for raising the retirement age from 67 to 69.

Means testing would be introduced by reducing Social Security benefits for seniors with incomes over $80,000 a year and eliminating benefits entirely for individuals making $200,000 and up.

The purpose of this change is to undermine political support for Social Security among sections of the upper middle class, making it an easier target for subsequent cuts. Moreover, with any significant level of inflation, benefit cuts would soon affect much broader sections of retirees.

Presenting himself as someone willing to tell hard truths to the American public, Christie declared, “Washington is afraid to have an honest conversation about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with the people of our country. I am not.”

In addition to raising the age of eligibility for retirement benefits under Social Security, Christie called for raising the age of eligibility for Medicare, which provides health insurance for the elderly, from 65 to 67. He also called for dismantling Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for low-income families, and turning it into a program run entirely by the states, with limited federal funding. All told, Christie’s plan would cut social spending by $1 trillion over 10 years, aides said.

Christie, who is expected to announce his presidential campaign later in the spring, is the first Republican presidential hopeful to openly target Social Security for major cuts. The speech is a political signal of the direction of social policy for the whole ruling elite in the United States.

It comes as Democrats and Republicans in the Senate overwhelming passed a plan Tuesday previosuly passed by the House to expand the level of means-testing within Medicare, part of a bill that raises reimbursement rates for health care providers under Medicare while giving providers financial incentives to deny costly treatment to elderly patients.

While congressional Republicans have repeatedly targeted Medicare and Medicaid for massive cuts and/or privatization, they have avoided Social Security, in part because of the overwhelming popular support for the program.

It was the Obama White House that took the lead in raising Social Security in budget talks in 2011 and 2012, calling for $100 billion in cuts to planned future benefit increases. No deal was reached, however, because of Republican opposition to proposed tax increases on the wealthy.

Now, Social Security is being openly targeted in the presidential campaign. Christie will certainly not be the last candidate to propose major attacks on the program. The New Jersey governor’s attack on Social Security was at least in part an effort at refuting right-wing attacks on his supposed “moderation,” which have driven down his poll numbers among likely Republican primary voters.

Other candidates will take up the issue now that Christie has laid down a marker, and will seek to outbid him in advocating “entitlement reform.”

Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination April 7, has called for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget every year, which would force massive spending cuts, as well as sharp cuts in food stamps, in part to finance tax cuts of $700 billion a year, which would go disproportionately to the wealthy.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who declared his candidacy April 13, focused his announcement largely on foreign policy, denouncing the Obama administration for its proposed deals with Iran and Cuba, while calling for stepped-up US military intervention in the Middle East. But his campaign web site highlights “the need to reduce spending” beginning with cuts in Social Security and Medicare, whose exact nature is left vague.

As for the Democrats, frontrunner Hillary Clinton and any challengers who emerge will posture demagogically as defenders of Social Security and Medicare, the standard Democratic Party campaign strategy for many decades. This will not stop a Democratic administration from carrying out major cuts in these programs once the election is concluded, as the example of the Obama administration has already demonstrated.

Hillary Clinton announces presidential campaign

By Andre Damon
April 13, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

Former First Lady Hillary Clinton officially announced Sunday she would seek the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in the 2016 election.

In addition to being the Democratic frontrunner, Clinton, having served as Secretary of State under Obama, is the candidate most closely tied to the incumbent administration. Given the centrality of the Clinton campaign to the 2016 election and the American political system, the announcement sets the tone for the entire election.

Eschewing a traditional speech at a campaign rally, Clinton made her announcement in a two-minute online video that is almost entirely devoid of political content and noteworthy for its striking banality, even by the standards of American politics.

The first minute and a half of Clinton’s announcement video consists of actors (or people who seem to be actors) portraying “ordinary” Americans speaking about their plans in the coming years. This includes one anonymous couple declaring, “We’ve been doing a lot of home renovations, but most importantly we just want to keep our dog from eating the trash.”

Three quarters of the way through the video, Clinton makes her first appearance, declaring, “I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president.”

In other words, Clinton is declaring her bid for an office from which she could, at virtually her sole discretion, incinerate most of mankind in a nuclear apocalypse, in almost the same breath as random people talking about their dogs.

That the most significant candidate in the election chooses to announce her candidacy in such entirely vacuous fashion is an expression of the well-advanced decay of democratic norms in the United States, and the enormous chasm that exists between official politics and the sentiments and concerns of the great majority of the population.

That her candidacy is announced without calling for any particular policies underscores the fact that the election is not about the American people deciding the course of policy, but rather the vetting of candidates to serve the interest of the financial oligarchy.

Indeed, the utter lack of political content in the announcement is a testament to how little voters actually mean in an election decided by a handful of billionaires, together with the military/intelligence apparatus.

The purpose of the saccharine video is not to convince the population that Clinton represents their interests, but rather to mobilize her base among the affluent upper-middle class while making no statements that would draw criticism from the Republican right.

The remaining content of Clinton’s campaign announcement, in its entirety, is as follows: “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.

“So you can do more than just get by, you can get ahead. And stay ahead, because when families are strong America is strong. So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote, because it’s your time, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

There is, of course, no acknowledgment that Clinton was part of an administration that oversaw and continues to oversee the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to “those at the top” in US history.

Clinton’s new campaign website is equally empty. There is not a single word on the entire site about what the nominee stands for, only a brief biography of Clinton with personal and family photos and forms to donate and volunteer.

Referencing the content of video, Politico commented that Clinton “is under intense scrutiny, however, to show that she has learned lessons from her unsuccessful prior run, in which she was seen as out-of-touch with middle-class sensibilities.”

In June 2014, Clinton told the Guardian she is “unlike” the “truly well off,” despite the fact that she had made $5 million in speaking fees over the previous 15 months, putting her within the top 0.1 percent of income earners.

Earlier that month, Clinton told ABC News she and her husband Bill Clinton “came out of the White House… dead broke.” Yet between 2000 and 2007, Bill and Hillary Clinton earned a combined $109 million in speaking fees, charging as much as $300,000 per appearance.

The video fails to note Clinton’s record as Obama’s secretary of state between 2009 and 2013. But as Time magazine wrote last year: “As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues—Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid—Clinton took a more aggressive line than Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.”

The benign, motherly posture of Clinton in the video does not quite square with the cold-blooded character of the former secretary of state who upon hearing of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi’s lynching by US-backed Islamic fundamentalist forces laughingly told a reporter, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Among the main aims of the video announcement is to portray Clinton, a multi-millionaire who is well-connected with the highest echelons of the military and intelligence apparatus, as an “ordinary” American, who is “in touch” with the “middle class.” It is entirely telling that Clinton attempts to convey this phony message without addressing any of the realities of American life, from mass unemployment to falling wages, police killings and the danger of war.

The end result is something that resembles a life insurance commercial more than a political statement, and stands as a testament to the sclerotic character of American politics.