Aldous Huxley put himself forever on the intellectual map when he wrote the dystopian sci-fi novel Brave New World in 1931. (Listen to Huxley narrating a dramatized version here.) The British-born writer was living in Italy at the time, a continental intellectual par excellence.
Then, six years later, Huxley turned all of this upside down. He headed West, to Hollywood, the newest of the New World, where he took a stab at writing screenplays (with not much luck) and started experimenting with mysticism and psychedelics — first mescaline in 1953, then LSD in 1955. This put Huxley at the forefront of the counterculture’s experimentation with psychedelic drugs, something he documented in his 1954 book, The Doors of Perception.
Huxley’s experimentation continued right through his death in November 1963. When cancer brought him to his death bed, he asked his wife to inject him with “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular.” He died later that day, just hours after Kennedy’s assassination. Three years later, LSD was officially banned in California.
By way of footnote, it’s worth mentioning that the American medical establishment is now giving hallucinogens a second look, conducting controlled studies of how psilocybin and other psychedelics can help treat patients dealing with cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug/alcohol addiction and end-of-life anxiety. The New York Times has more on this story.
For a look at the history of LSD, we recommend the 2002 film Hofmann’s Potion(2002) by Canadian filmmaker Connie Littlefield. You can watch it here, or find it listed in our collection of Free Movies Online.
It feels like a bomb went off in Washington. In less than a year, the leaders of both major parties have been crushed, fundamentally reshaping a political culture that for generations had seemed unalterable. The new order has belligerent outsider Donald Trump heading to the White House, ostensibly backed in Congress by a tamed and repentant majority of establishment Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss, meanwhile, has left the minority Democrats in disarray. A pitched battle for the soul of the opposition party has already been enjoined behind the scenes.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won overwhelming youth support and 13 million votes during primary season, now sits on one side of that battle, in a position of enormous influence. The party has named him “outreach chair,” and Minnesota congressman and Sanders political ally Keith Ellison is the favorite to be named head of the Democratic National Committee. This is a huge change from earlier this year, when the Sanders campaign was completely on the outs with the DNC, but many see Sanders’ brand of politics as the Democrats’ best shot at returning to prominence.
Sanders’ rise is a remarkable story, obscured by the catastrophe of Trump’s win. When I first visited with Sanders for Rolling Stone, 11 years ago, for a tour of the ins and outs of congressional procedure, he was a little-known Independent in the House from a tiny agrarian state, an eccentric toiler pushing arcane and unsexy amendments through Congress, usually on behalf of the working poor: expanded access to heating oil in the winter, more regional community health centers, prohibitions against regressive “cash-balance pension plans,” etc.
His colleagues gently described Sanders as a hardworking quack, the root of his quackery apparently being that he was too earnest and never off-message, even in private. He had fans among Republicans (some called him an “honest liberal”) and many detractors among Democrats, who often grew weary of his lectures about the perils of over-reliance on donations from big business and Wall Street.
In other words, Sanders was a political loner, making his recent journey to the top of the Democratic Party even more remarkable. He has been put in this position not by internal patronage but by voters who are using him to demand that Democrats change their priorities.
At his Washington office a week after the election, I sat down with Sanders and his wife, Jane, just after the release of his new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. When he offered to get me a copy, I told him I’d already read the e-book, at which he frowned. “Does that have the pictures?” he asked. He was relieved when I told him it did, including black-and-whites from his youth in Brooklyn.
Sanders’ experiences growing up in the hardscrabble Flatbush neighborhood still seem central to the way he looks at the world. All the adults in his neighborhood voted Democratic. The loss of the support of those kinds of people still eats at Sanders, like a childhood wrong not yet corrected. Thus the opportunity he has now to push the Democrats back in that direction is something he doesn’t take lightly. He’s spent his whole life getting to this point.
The senator and his staffers were obviously sorting through a variety of emotions, and it was hard not to wonder what might have been. But Sanders admonished himself once or twice not to look back. “It’s not worth speculating about,” he said.
Instead, Sanders laid out the dilemma facing the Democratic Party. The Democrats must find their way back to a connection with ordinary people, and this will require a complete change in the way they do business. He’s convinced that the huge expenditure of time and mental effort the Democrats put in to raise more than $1 billion for the Clinton campaign in the past year ended up having enormous invisible costs. “Our future is not raising money from wealthy people, but mobilizing millions of working people and young people and people of color,” he says.
On other issues, he was more careful. The senator’s sweet spot as a politician has always been talking about the problems of the working poor: the economic struggles, the anomalous-across-the-industrialized-world story of a decline in life expectancy among rural Americans. But those same voters just lost any sympathy many Democrats might have had by electing the race-baiting lunatic Trump. Exactly how much courting of such a population is permissible? Is trying to recapture voters who’ve made a racist choice in itself racist?
Sanders believes it is a mistake to dismiss the Trump movement as a monolithic expression of racism and xenophobia. Trump’s populist appeals, sincere or not, carried the day, and Democrats need to answer them. Trump pledged not to cut Medicare or Social Security, promised to support re-importation of prescription drugs from other countries, and said he’d reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act. Sanders insists he and his staff are going to try to hold him to all of these promises. How they’ll manage that is only a guess, but as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders could easily force the Republicans into votes on all of these issues by introducing amendments during the budget resolution process, which begins in January. “Were those 100 percent lies that [Trump] was telling people in order to gain support?” he asks. “We’ll find out soon enough.”
Sanders seems anxious to communicate a sense of urgency to young people. No more being content with think-tank-generated 14-point plans that become 87-point plans in bipartisan negotiation, and end up scheduled to take effect in 2040. People want change right now. To survive Trump and turn the tide, Sanders says, he needs help. “You don’t have to run for president,” he says. “Just get people involved.”
After the election, you called the anger Trump connected with “justified.” When did you first recognize that sense of discontent and alienation was big enough to have the impact it did this past year?
I’ve seen it for years. I’ve seen a media, which has basically ignored the declining middle class, that doesn’t talk about poverty at all, and has no sense of what is going on in the minds of millions of ordinary Americans. They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who’s going to be running 18 years from now for office. Meanwhile, people can’t feed their kids. That’s something I knew.
Talking about those issues, seeing that they resonated, that did not surprise me. How quickly they resonated did surprise me. How weak the Democratic establishment was, and how removed they were from the needs of ordinary people, that also surprised me.
President Obama talked after the election about winning Iowa by going into counties even if the demographics didn’t “dictate” success there. This seemed to be a criticism that the party had decided to ignore big parts of the country.
I talked about that in the book. That’s exactly what we did. We had 101 rallies in that small state. That’s grassroots democracy. You speak to three-quarters of the people who end up voting for you. In New Hampshire, we had just a zillion meetings – far more people came out to our meetings. If you had the time to do that around the country, the world becomes different. The assessment has got to be that not only did we lose the White House to the least-popular candidate in perhaps the history of America, certainly in modern history, but we’ve lost the Senate, we’ve lost the House, we’ve lost two-thirds of the governors’ chairs in this country. We’ve lost 900 seats in state legislatures throughout the country in the last eight years. Maybe it might be time to reassess?
Is there any way to read that except as a massive repudiation of Democrats?
No. I can’t see how any objective person can. It speaks to what I just mentioned; we cannot spend our entire life – I didn’t, but others do – raising money from wealthy people, listening to their needs. We’ve got to be out in union halls, we’ve got to be out in veterans’ halls, and we’ve got to be talking to working people, and we’ve got to stand up and fight for them.
This is how screwed up we are now. When you have a Republican Party that wants to give huge tax breaks to billionaires, when many of their members want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when they don’t believe in climate change, when they’ve been fierce advocates of unfettered free trade – I’m talking about pre-Trump – why would any working person, when they want to cut programs for working people, support them?
I think we know the answer. We know what the Karl Roves of the world have been successful in doing. They’re playing off working-class people against the gay community, or African-Americans, or Latinos. But that only works when you have not laid the foundation by making it clear to those workers that you are on their side on economic issues.
Look, you may not be pro-choice. But if you know that your congressman is fighting for you and delivering the goods in terms of education, health care and jobs, what you’ll say is, “I disagree with him on that, but I’m going to vote for him.” We’ve seen this in Vermont. We have seen the conservative parts of the state where there are many people who have disagreed with me. But they vote for me, because they know I’m fighting for their rights.
In your book, there are a lot of moments where you say things like, “Look at products like the iPhone. These are American inventions, but they’re not made in America anymore.” Some people will say, “This is nationalism. Why shouldn’t liberal-minded people care about raising the standard of living for poor people in China, in India?”
I heard them. We ran into that big-time from corporate liberals. Two things here. I would say there are very few people in the United States Congress who have a more progressive outlook than I do in terms of global politics and international politics. I am deeply concerned about poverty in countries around the world, and I believe that the United States and other major countries have got to work to address those issues. But you do not have to sacrifice the American middle class in order to do that. I find it ironic that the billionaire class says, “We’re worried about the poor people in Vietnam, and that’s why we’re sending your job to Vietnam.” That’s the billionaire class talking.
Clearly we know what that is about. And you have some “liberals” who echo that point of view. I would like to see the United States government and the rest of the industrialized world work harder, with sensible policy to improve the standard of living, to help people create jobs, and sustainable jobs, not wipe out agricultural sectors. In Mexico, for example, NAFTA devastated, as you know, family farms when people could not grow corn to compete with American corn manufacturers.
How you create a sustainable global economy that protects the poorest people in the world is a very important issue for me. But you surely do not have to do that by wiping out the middle class of this country. I think we have a right in this country to hold corporate America accountable for gaining the benefits of being an American corporation, while at the same time turning their backs on the American working class and the consumers who helped create their profits and their wealth.
What about the criticism you got a lot last year, including from former President Clinton, that this idea that we can do anything about these globalist trends is unrealistic, that all we can do is “harness the energy” of the change?
Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of politics. Let’s give the guy credit where credit is due. No one thought . . . he started off as a joke, right?
Trump’s corporate takeover of federal agencies
“Trump has converted the GOP into a populist working-class party,” Trump advisor and far-right economist Stephen Moore told Republican members of Congress at a caucus meeting.
Well, advisor Moore, meet the Trump transition team.
“We are witnessing not a populist, working class revolution, but the wholesale takeover of government by an extremist faction of the corporate class.”
The leader of the would-be populist working-class party has invited rogues’ gallery of insiders—corporate lawyers, investment fund managers, corporate executives and wonks hailing from corporate-backed think tanks—to populate the “landing teams” that are doing the nitty-gritty work of transitioning government agencies from control by the outgoing Obama administration to the incoming Trump regime.
It turns out that nearly three-quarters of the landing teams come from the corporate world or corporate-affiliated think tanks, according to a Public Citizen review.
And, although the Trump team has kicked registered lobbyists off the transition, at least 13 of the 71 landing team members have been registered lobbyists in the past, some as recent as last year.
What does the purportedly “populist working-class” transition team look like? Take a look:
- Paul Atkins is in charge of financial regulation for the Trump transition and on the landing teams for the Elizabeth Warren-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) . He is the CEO of Patomak Global Partners, a consulting firm that advises financial services companies on compliance issues. Atkins formerly served as a Republican commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he was viewed as being largely opposed to regulation.
- Joel Leftwich is the staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry. He was a lobbyist for PepsiCo from 2013 to 2015, and in 2010 was a lobbyist for DuPont.
- There are 10 people on the landing team for the Department of Defense. More than half work now or previously for defense contractors, including Mira Ricardel, a former vice president for Boeing known for advocacy of space laser weapons.
- Michael Dougherty is on the landing team for the Department of Homeland Security. He is the CEO of Secure Identity & Biometrics Association, a trade group that represents the interests of member corporations whose business is security screening technology for airports and border crossings. Previously he worked for Raytheon, a security contractor and, before that, as a Homeland Security official under President George W. Bush.
- Doug Domenech is on the landing team for the Department of Interior. He is directorof the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, whose self-proclaimed purpose is to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.” He also worked for 12 years for the Forest Resources Association, a national trade association representing the forest products industry.
- There are 9 people on the landing team for the Department of Justice, predictably drawn heavily from the ranks of corporate law firms. Two thirds of them are involved in corporate criminal defense work!
There are policies that could be put in place to address the revolving door problem—individuals leaving government and going to work for the industries they formerly regulated, and from regulated industry into government positions. President Obama took important steps in this direction with an executive order at the outset of his administration but only addressed registered lobbyists. The solution is to change the focus from registered lobbyists to those with financial conflicts of interest—people from or who work for regulated industry should not be able to move seamlessly into jobs as the regulators.
But what’s going on with the Trump administration is beyond fixing with clear policies. We are witnessing not a populist, working class revolution, but the wholesale takeover of government by an extremist faction of the corporate class.
It has become conventional wisdom in Washington that “personnel is policy”—that the people appointed to key positions will make the policy decisions, and are therefore even more important than any particular policy choice. At no time is this more true than now, with a president-elect with minimal interest in policy details.
So, take a look at the current list of landing team members and their prior affiliations, and you’ll see exactly where things are heading under a Trump administration. Trump voters hoping for anti-establishment, anti-insider politics are in for a rude awakening. It’s party time for Corporate America.
29 November 2016
Three weeks after the US presidential election, the political crisis triggered by the initiative to recount the vote in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—three states that helped ensure Trump’s victory over Clinton—is escalating. This initiative coincides with the continued growth of Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote, which now stands at more than 2.2 million. This is, by far, a historically unprecedented margin for a candidate who did not also win in the Electoral College.
Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, initiated the recount campaign last week following a media report featuring University of Michigan professor and cyber security expert J. Alex Halderman. In a thoroughly unprincipled use of right-wing arguments to legitimize the recount effort in the eyes of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party—which did not intend to contest the election results—Halderman claims that a team he leads found persuasive evidence that electronic voting machines in these three states may have been hacked by Russia, a statement that he repeated in an affidavit supporting Stein’s petition for a recount in Wisconsin.
On Saturday, the Clinton campaign announced that it would participate in the process begun by Stein. Trump responded on Sunday by not only denouncing the recount but also charging, without any factual substantiation, that he also won the popular vote if the “millions” of illegal votes for Clinton were discounted.
The demand for a recount is a legitimate political response to a situation in which the votes in the states in question were particularly close (a Trump margin of 22,000 in Wisconsin, 10,000 in Michigan and 68,000 in Pennsylvania).
Much more is involved, however, than a technical procedure in these three states. The recount campaign has exposed political fissures within the ruling elite, complicated efforts to carry out a seamless transition to a Trump administration, and intensified the mood of popular discontent and crisis that has been building since Election Day.
The response of the Obama administration to the recount says a great deal about its indifference toward basic democratic principles. In comments to the New York Times reported on Sunday, a senior White House official insisted on the “overall integrity of the electoral infrastructure,” which ensured results that “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”
This is obviously untrue. The election of Trump does not represent the “will of the people.” He lost the popular vote by a substantial margin. Moreover, Trump campaigned on the basis of demagogic lies, portraying himself as a defender of the working class.
The Democratic Party is far more worried about provoking opposition among workers and youth than it is about the tactical differences it has with the Republicans and Trump. On basic elements of class policy, the two parties are, as the CIA agent-in-chief Obama put it, “on the same team.”
The Green Party, rather than denouncing the undemocratic character of the election process, is justifying its recount initiative with the claim that Russian hacking may have affected the outcome of the vote. Instead of seeking to raise the democratic consciousness of the voters, the Greens—in a manner typical of capitalist political parties—employ reactionary arguments that are pitched toward the interests of the ruling class. In effect, the Greens are arguing that they are seeking a recount not to prevent Trump from stealing the election, but rather to stop Putin from interfering in American politics.
There is an unstated premise in the Green Party initiative—and Stein has said nothing to contradict this—that the election of Clinton would have spared the United States all the unhappiness that will follow from Trump’s victory. This is an exercise in political deception, which portrays Trump as some sort of dreadful and accidental departure from the familiar grooves of American democracy.
It does not seem to occur to the Greens that the result of the 2016 election is, in objective terms, the expression and outcome of a profound crisis of American society. Even if Trump fell short of Clinton in the popular vote, the fact that he received 62 million votes is a devastating condemnation of everything that the Democratic Party and the Obama administration represent. What level of social distress and dysfunction could lead so many millions of people, including many workers, to give their vote to this reactionary charlatan?
In what way would a Clinton presidency contribute to surmounting the economic, political and social crisis that provided the objective impulse for the rise of Trump? Trump’s election is the product of twenty-five years of unending war and fifteen years of the “war on terror,” accompanied by historic levels of social inequality and the erosion of basic democratic rights. It is also a verdict on eight years of the Obama administration, whose policies Clinton pledged to continue.
The Greens, far from advancing an alternative to the Democratic Party, are positioning themselves as its most consistent defenders. Backed by a host of organizations that operate around the Democratic Party and supported the Greens in the elections, Stein is seeking to elevate the role of the Green Party as a political instrument of the ruling class in containing and smothering social opposition.
Under conditions of a historic crisis of capitalism, the working class must advance its own perspective and not allow itself to be corralled behind one or another faction of the ruling class and its political representatives.
Whatever the outcome of the recount, the election of 2016 has inaugurated a new period of convulsive political upheavals within the United States and beyond its borders. Even in the very unlikely event that the votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are overturned, who can seriously believe that such an outcome would be accepted by Trump and his most ruthless backers?
There is no easy way out of the crisis of American and world capitalism. The critical question for workers and young people is to break completely with the entire political apparatus of the ruling class and advance an independent response based on a socialist, internationalist and revolutionary program.
Joseph Kishore and David North