HILLARY VOTERS OWE IT TO AMERICA TO STOP CALLING EVERYONE A NAZI AND START READING WIKILEAKS

NOVEMBER 11, 2016

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If you still believe that Donald Trump was elected because of racism, it is because you have remained willfully ignorant of what has been happening in your country. If you still believe that Trump’s election is indicative of a neo-fascist uprising in America, it is because you have not ventured outside of your self-reinforcing validation loop of fellow Clinton voters and your corporate media echo chamber. If you still, days later, think that Hillary Clinton’s loss is the fault of anyone other than Hillary Clinton, it’s because you haven’t been reading WikiLeaks.

This cannot continue. If the progressive revolution has any hope of mounting a meaningful counteroffensive at any time in the future, the people who supported Hillary Clinton need to stop calling everyone a Nazi long enough to do some actual research into the facts behind where they went wrong in 2016, humble themselves, and admit that they have been completely wrong about everything.

I’m not expecting them to admit it out loud, and I’m not expecting it to happen right away; people will need time to process whatever intense emotions are still ripping through their systems. But at some point, liberals are going to have to put down the bullhorn, stop blaming all their colossal blunders on everyone else, and start getting clear on the facts about the nation they call home and the candidate they voted for. That’s the only way we can begin moving this thing in a healthy direction.

Just so we’re clear, Democrats don’t get to blame the WikiLeaks documents on a subversive Kremlin conspiracy anymore. Julian Assange has confirmed that he didn’t receive the documents from Russia, there will be no more echo-chamber red-baiting now that we’ll be getting a president who has no interest in a conflict with Russia, and the concocted “blame Putin for everything” schtick has already faded into obsolescence now that it has no more place or relevance. It’s time to take accountability for your own understanding of what has been happening in your country’s government and start doing some real research.

I’ve seen people with perfectly good, functioning brains trying to compartmentalize themselves away from the furnace of cognitive dissonance that’s lurking right under the surface by saying completely indefensible things like “This is all because those stupid Bernie supporters wouldn’t support her,” and “The primaries weren’t rigged,” and even “Bernie wouldn’t have been able to win either.”

Right, guys. The candidate with the extremely popular platform and the relentlessly enthusiastic following, who was nearly able to defeat Clinton despite a media blackout and an outright conspiracy against him from the very people responsible for ensuring a fair election, who Real Clear Politics reports was crushing Trump by double digits in head-to-head polling, would not have fared better than the historically unpopular candidate who was under multiple FBI investigations. This is the kind of pants-on-head idiocy that will kill the Democratic party unless it stops.

Bernie, unlike Hillary voters, did his homework. He had his finger right on the pulse of what was happening in his country, and fifteen months ago he predicted the exact outcome of what would happen under an establishment candidacy, precisely as it went down. On August 28th, 2015, Bernie Sanders said the following at the DNC Summer Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Read it and tell me his accuracy doesn’t give you goosebumps:

“Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout.

With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old will not be successful.

The people of our country understand that — given the collapse of the American middle class and the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing — we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.

We need a political movement which is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which represents all Americans, and not just corporate America and wealthy campaign donors.

In other words, we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of it.”

He got it. Like those of us who supported him, Bernie Sanders understood the spirit of the times; he understood where America is at right now. But the elites of the Democratic party refused to allow us to act on that knowledge, so the American people elected the only other candidate who had his finger on America’s pulse, Donald Trump. Those elites, and every other factor that enabled this colossal political blunder to take place, need to be purged from the Democratic party to prevent such mistakes from repeating themselves.

And the first step is to move out of denial, to cease compartmentalizing so that we can all come out of the fog of cognitive dissonance and begin looking at the reality of what has happened and what is happening. You can’t fix a problem until you recognize and acknowledge it. Unless that happens, Democrats are guaranteed to lose in 2018, and again in 2020, until they lose viability as a political party and are replaced.

So read WikiLeaks. Turn off the TV. Use the New York Times to line your birdcage and start exploring alternative media. Read some of the things actual Trump supporters are saying so you can get a feel for their side of things, like this extremely popular Reddit post which has been “gilded” an extraordinary 38 times as of this writing, wherein the author voices frustration over the ways the political left misunderstands his position.

Hillary voters owe it to their country to finally discover the reality of what’s been occurring right under their noses this entire time in order for a true progressive revolution to become a real possibility and to ensure that the next time a golden opportunity like Bernie comes along, they don’t miss it.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3704461/hillary-voters-owe-it-to-america-to-stop-calling-everyone-a-nazi-and-start-reading-wikileaks/#oT7PxomXzHQ1pvDO.99

Leaked emails reveal Clinton campaign deception over Flint

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By James Brewer
2 November 2016

WikiLeaks’ latest release of Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails reveals that Clinton was furnished with a question from Flint resident Lee Anne Walters a day before the debate held in the Michigan city that is still enduring the effects of its lead-in-water catastrophe. The location of the March 6 Democratic primary debate between Bernie Sanders and Clinton was selected to make the most political hay out of the Flint crisis.

The emails in question were from then-CNN consultant Donna Brazile, now acting chair of the Democratic National Committee. Brazile sent an email to Podesta, and Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s director of communications, with the subject line, “One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash.” The body of the message said, “Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint.”

After reports emerged in the media yesterday that Clinton had been fed her question in advance, Walters responded on her Facebook account: “This is disgusting and appalling!!! This should be an automatic disqualification! You think she would have answered it better at the very least!”

A March 12 email from Brazile brought to light that her practice of feeding questions in advance to Clinton was not a fluke. The subject line, “Re: From time to time I get the questions in advance,” headed a message in which she referred to questions submitted by Roland Martin, anchor for cable network TVOne, who co-hosted a March 13 Town Hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio featuring Clinton and Sanders.

One of the questions appeared almost verbatim in Brazile’s email to Podesta as it was asked the following day on the televised event. When Brazile was questioned by Megyn Kelly from Fox News about her email to the Clinton campaign, she stonewalled: “As a Christian woman, I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted.” She said, “Podesta’s emails were stolen,” and accused Kelly of being “like a thief that wants to bring into the night the things that you found in the gutter.”

Ironically, Brazile actually owes her elevation from vice chair of the DNC to acting chairperson to a previous WikiLeaks release, which exposed the actions of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in favoring the Clinton campaign at the expense of challenger Bernie Sanders. Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, and Brazile was promoted to take her place.

Brazile resigned from CNN on October 14, just two days after the release of the Podesta emails by WikiLeaks. CNN spokesperson Lauren Pratapas said that Brazile had suspended her work with CNN last summer after becoming the DNC chairwoman. Pratapas told the Wall Street Journal, “CNN never gave Brazile access to any questions, prep material, attendee list, background information or meetings in advance of a town hall or debate. We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor.”

A measure of the cynical efforts of the Democratic Party operatives can be seen in a February 19 email to Podesta from campaign strategist Gina Glantz. It had the subject line “From afar – it is not the message; it is the perception of passion.”

Not surprisingly, what is more important to the politicians is not the content of their promises—which will be forgotten as soon as the election is over, but creating the illusion that they care: “I believe the real issue is the perception of passion—hers and her supporters. And it seems like that will just get worse after Nevada. The Bernie phenomenon comes largely from simplistic appeal of his message and from the size of his crowds. I see your work on undermining the former—all things to all people without consequences message.. . I thought the trip to Flint was brilliant. Getting ahead of him around ‘caring’ can be repeated.”

At the Flint debate itself, Walters asked both candidates, “After my family, the city of Flint, and the children in DC were poisoned by lead, will you make a personal promise to me right now that, as president, in your first 100 days in office, you will make it a requirement that all public water systems must remove all lead service lines throughout the entire United States, and notification made to the—the citizens that have said service lines?”

Clinton responded, “We will commit to a priority to change the water systems and we will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere,” referring to all lead sources, including paint and dust.

The Huffington Post reported Walters’ reaction the day after the debate: “I hated Clinton’s answer. To tell a Flint resident that we’ll handle this in five years is no different than what the city was telling us and what the state was telling us.”

WSWS

AT&T, Time Warner and the Death of Privacy

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OCTOBER 27, 2016

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

It has been 140 years since Alexander Graham Bell uttered the first words through his experimental telephone, to his lab assistant: “Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you.” His invention transformed human communication, and the world. The company he started grew into a massive monopoly, AT&T. The federal government eventually deemed it too powerful, and broke up the telecom giant in 1982. Well, AT&T is back and some would say on track to become bigger and more powerful than before, announcing plans to acquire Time Warner, the media company, to create one of the largest entertainment and communications conglomerates on the planet. Beyond the threat to competition, the proposed merger—which still must pass regulatory scrutiny—poses significant threats to privacy and the basic freedom to communicate.

AT&T is currently No. 10 on the Forbes 500 list of the U.S.‘s highest-grossing companies. If it is allowed to buy Time Warner, No. 99 on the list, it will form an enormous, “vertically integrated” company that controls a vast pool of content and how people access that content.

Free Press, the national media policy and activism group, is mobilizing the public to oppose the deal. “This merger would create a media powerhouse unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. AT&T would control mobile and wired internet access, cable channels, movie franchises, a film studio and more,” Candace Clement of Free Press wrote. “That means AT&T would control internet access for hundreds of millions of people and the content they view, enabling it to prioritize its own offerings and use sneaky tricks to undermine net neutrality.”

Net neutrality is that essential quality of the internet that makes it so powerful. Columbia University law professor Tim Wu coined the term “net neutrality.” After the Federal Communications Commission approved strong net neutrality rules last year, Wu told us on the Democracy Now! News hour, “There need to be basic rules of the road for the internet, and we’re not going to trust cable and telephone companies to respect freedom of speech or respect new innovators, because of their poor track record.”

Millions of citizens weighed in with public comments to the FCC in support of net neutrality, along with groups like Free Press and The Electronic Frontier Foundation. They were joined by titans of the internet like Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Arrayed against this coalition were the telecom and cable companies, the oligopoly of internet service providers that sell internet access to hundreds of millions of Americans. It remains to be seen if AT&T doesn’t in practice break net neutrality rules and create a fast lane for its content and slow down content from its competitors, including the noncommercial sector.

Another problem that AT&T presents, that would only be exacerbated by the merger, is the potential to invade the privacy of its millions of customers. In 2006, AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein revealed that the company was secretly sharing all of its customers’ metadata with the National Security Agency. Klein, who installed the fiber-splitting hardware in a secret room at the main AT&T facility in San Francisco, had his whistleblowing allegations confirmed several years later by Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. While that dragnet surveillance program was supposedly shut down in 2011, a similar surveillance program still exists. It’s called “Project Hemisphere.” It was exposed by The New York Times in 2013, with substantiating documents just revealed this week in The Daily Beast.

In “Project Hemisphere,” AT&T sells metadata to law enforcement, under the aegis of the so-called war on drugs. A police agency sends in a request for all the data related to a particular person or telephone number, and, for a major fee and without a subpoena, AT&T delivers a sophisticated data set, that can, according to The Daily Beast, “determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.”

Where you go, what you watch, text and share, with whom you speak, all your internet searches and preferences, all gathered and “vertically integrated,” sold to police and perhaps, in the future, to any number of AT&T’s corporate customers. We can’t know if Alexander Graham Bell envisioned this brave new digital world when he invented the telephone. But this is the future that is fast approaching, unless people rise up and stop this merger.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

AT&T-Time Warner merger to expand corporate, state control of media

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By Barry Grey
24 October 2016

AT&T, the telecommunications and cable TV colossus, announced Saturday that it has struck a deal to acquire the pay TV and entertainment giant Time Warner. The merger, if approved by the Justice Department and US regulatory agencies under the next administration, will create a corporate entity with unprecedented control over both the distribution and content of news and entertainment. It will also mark an even more direct integration of the media and the telecomm industry with the state.

AT&T, the largest US telecom group by market value, already controls huge segments of the telephone, pay-TV and wireless markets. Its $48.5 billion purchase of the satellite provider DirecTV last year made it the biggest pay-TV provider in the country, ahead of Comcast. It is the second-largest wireless provider, behind Verizon.

Time Warner is the parent company of such cable TV staples as HBO, Cinemax, CNN and the other Turner System channels: TBS, TNT and Turner Sports. It also owns the Warner Brothers film and TV studio.

The Washington Post on Sunday characterized the deal as a “seismic shift” in the “media and technology world,” one that “could turn the legacy carrier [AT&T] into a media titan the likes of which the United States has never seen.” The newspaper cited Craig Moffett, an industry analyst at Moffett-Nathanson, as saying there was no precedent for a telecom company the size of AT&T seeking to acquire a content company such as Time Warner.

“A [telecom company] owning content is something that was expressly prohibited for a century” by the government, Moffett told the Post.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in keeping with his anti-establishment pose, said Saturday that the merger would lead to “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” and that, if elected, he would block it.

The Clinton campaign declined to comment on Saturday. Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine, speaking on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” on Sunday, said he had “concerns” about the merger, but he declined to take a clear position, saying he had not seen the details.

AT&T, like the other major telecom and Internet companies, has collaborated with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its blanket, illegal surveillance of telephone and electronic communications. NSA documents released last year by Edward Snowden show that AT&T has played a particularly reactionary role.

As the New York Times put it in an August 15, 2015 article reporting the Snowden leaks: “The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.”

The article went on to cite an NSA document describing the relationship between AT&T and the spy agency as “highly collaborative,” and quoted other documents praising the company’s “extreme willingness to help” and calling their mutual dealings “a partnership, not a contractual relationship.”

The Times noted that AT&T installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs based in the US, provided technical assistance enabling the NSA to wiretap all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a client of AT&T, and gave the NSA access to billions of emails.

If the merger goes through, this quasi-state entity will be in a position to directly control the content of much of the news and entertainment accessed by the public via television, the movies and smart phones. The announcement of the merger agreement is itself an intensification of a process of telecom and media convergence and consolidation that has been underway for years, and has accelerated under the Obama administration.

In 2009, the cable provider Comcast announced its acquisition for $30 billion of the entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal, which owns both the National Broadcasting Company network and Universal Studios. The Obama Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission ultimately approved the merger.

Other recent mergers involving telecoms and content producers include, in addition to AT&T’s 2015 purchase of DirecTV: Verizon Communications’ acquisition of the Huffington Post, Yahoo and AOL; Lionsgate’s deal to buy the pay-TV channel Starz; Verizon’s agreement announced in the spring to buy DreamWorks Animation; and Charter Communications’ acquisition of the cable provider Time Warner Cable, approved this year.

The AT&T-Time Warner announcement will itself trigger a further restructuring and consolidation of the industry, as rival corporate giants scramble to compete within a changing environment that has seen the growth of digital and streaming companies such as Netflix and Hulu at the expense of the traditional cable and satellite providers.

The Financial Times wrote on Saturday that “the mooted deal could fire the starting gun on a round of media and technology consolidation.” Referring to a new series of mergers and acquisitions, the Wall Street Journal on Sunday quoted a “top media executive” as saying that an AT&T-Time Warner deal would “certainly kick off the dance.”

The scale of the buyout agreed unanimously by the boards of both companies is massive. AT&T is to pay Time Warner a reported $85.4 billion in cash and stocks, at a price of $107.50 per Time Warner share. This is significantly higher than the current market price of Time Warner shares, which rose 8 percent to more than $89 Friday on rumors of the merger deal.

In addition, AT&T is to take on Time Warner’s debt, pushing the actual cost of the deal to more than $107 billion. The merged company would have a total debt of $150 billion, making inevitable a campaign of cost-cutting and job reduction.

The unprecedented degree of monopolization of the telecom and media industries is the outcome of the policy of deregulation, launched in the late 1970s by the Democratic Carter administration and intensified by every administration, Republican or Democratic, since then. In 1982, the original AT&T, colloquially known as “Ma Bell,” was broken up into seven separate and competing regional “Baby Bell” companies.

This was sold to the public as a means of ending the tightly regulated AT&T monopoly over telephone service and unleashing the “competitive forces” of the market, where increased competition would supposedly lower consumer prices and improve service. What ensued was a protracted process of mergers and disinvestments involving the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs, which drove up stock prices at the expense of both employees and the consuming public.

Dallas-based Southwestern Bell was among the most aggressive of the “Baby Bells” in expanding by means of acquisitions and ruthless cost-cutting, eventually evolving into the new AT&T. Now, the outcome of deregulation has revealed itself to be a degree of monopolization and concentrated economic power beyond anything previously seen.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/10/24/merg-o24.html?view=mobilearticle

Noam Chomsky Unravels the Political Mechanics Behind His Gradual Expulsion From Mainstream Media

The prolific author and acclaimed MIT professor is never featured on major networks.

Photo Credit: Stuart Andrews / Flickr

Ralph Nader and leading linguist Noam Chomsky engaged in a much anticipated discussion in early October on Ralph Nader Radio Hour. The two raised questions about changing the media narrative in a totalitarian-like state, and how Chomsky got dismissed from the mainstream altogether.

“How often have you been on the op-ed pages of the New York Times?” Nader asked Chomsky.

For Chomsky, the last time was over a decade ago.

“[I was asked] to write about the Israeli separation wall, actually an annexation wall that runs through the West Bank and breaking apart the Palestinian communities… condemned as illegal by the World Court,” Chomsky told Nader.

Chomsky would later pen a similar piece for CNN on the 2013 Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But Chomsky has never been interviewed on the network; nor has he appeared on NBC, ABC or CBS.

“How about NPR and PBS, partially taxpayer-supported…more free-thinking and more tolerant [outlets]?” Nader wanted to know.

“I’ve been on ‘Charlie Rose’ two or three times,” Chomsky told Nader, adding that he had a curious story about a particular Boston outlet for NPR based in Boston University.

“They used to have a program in their primetime news programs All Things Considered some years ago at 5:25… maybe once a week or so, a five-minute discussion with someone who had written a new book and there’s a lot of pressure,” Chomsky began.

NPR was going to allow Chomsky to present his 1989 book, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies.

“I got a call from the publisher telling me when I should tune in and I never listened [before], so I tuned in [and] there was five minutes of music… I started getting phone calls from around the country asking ‘What happened to the piece?'” Chomsky remembered.

“I then got a call from the station manager in Washington who told me that she’d been getting calls and she didn’t understand it because it was listed… she called back saying kind of embarrassed … that some bigwig in the system had heard the announcement at five o’clock and had ordered it canceled,” Chomsky explained.

The irony of Chomsky’s media criticism being dismissed by the media is not lost on the former MIT professor, who remains in awe of America’s level of censorship.

“Any one of the former Bush-Cheney warmongers like Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton and others have gotten far more press after they’ve left federal positions; in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post,” Nader said.

And unlike Chomsky, “They’ve been on television public television, NPR and they have a record of false statements; they have record of deception, they have record of pursuing policies are illegal under our Constitution, under international law and under federal statutes such as criminal invasion of Iraq and other adventures around the world,” Nader pointed out.

But the media problem permeates other industries, like education and government.

“Now, a society that operates in a way where propaganda is not only emanating from the major media but it gets into our schools, the kind of courses are taught, the content of the history, is a society that’s not going to be mobilized for its own survival, much less the survival of other countries whose dictators we have for decades supported to oppress their people,” explained Nader.

Listen to Ralph Nader’s full program with Noam Chomsky:

This is not about Donald Trump: The age of decline, apple pie and America’s chosen suicide bomber

Voting for Trump, among other things, will be an act of nihilism, a mood that fits well with imperial decline

This is not about Donald Trump: The age of decline, apple pie and America's chosen suicide bomber
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall with the Retired American Warriors, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Herndon, Va. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)(Credit: AP)

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

This is not about Donald Trump. And I mean it.

From the moment the first scribe etched a paean of praise to Nebuchadnezzar into a stone tablet, it’s reasonable to conclude that never in history has the media covered a single human being as it has Donald Trump. For more than a year now, unless a terror attack roiled American life, he’s been the news cycle, essentially the only one, morning, noon and night, day after day, week after week, month after month. His every word, phrase, move, insult, passing comment, off-the-cuff remark, claim, boast, brazen lie, shout or shout-out has been ours as well. In this period, he’s praised hissecret plan to destroy ISIS and take Iraqi oil. He’s thumped that “big, fat, beautiful wall” again and again. He’s birthered a campaign that could indeed transport him, improbably enough, into the Oval Office. He’s fought it out with 17 political rivals, among others, including “lyin’ Ted,” “low-energy Jeb,” Carly (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”) Fiorini, “crooked Hillary,” a Miss Universe (“Miss Piggy”), the “highly overrated” Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle (“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”), always Rosie O’Donnell (“a slob [with] a fat, ugly face”), and so many others. He’s made veiled assassination threats; lauded the desire to punch someone in the face; talked about shooting“somebody” in “the middle of Fifth Avenue”; defended the size of his hands and hisyou-know-what; retweeted neo-Nazis and a quote from Mussolini; denounced the outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs and products while outsourcing his own jobs and products; excoriated immigrants and foreign labor while hiring the same; advertised the Trump brand in every way imaginable; had a bromance with Vladimir Putin; threatened to let nuclear weapons proliferate; complained bitterly about arigged election, rigged debates, a rigged moderator, and a rigged microphone; swore that he and he alone was capable of again making America, and so the world, a place of the sort of greatness only he himself could match, and that’s just to begin a list on the subject of The Donald.

In other words, thanks to the media attention he garners incessantly, he is the living embodiment of our American moment. No matter what you think of him, his has been a journey of a sort we’ve never seen before, a triumph of the first order, whatever happens on Nov. 8. He’s burnished his own brand; opened a new hotel on — yes — Pennsylvania Avenue (which he’s used his election run to promote and publicize); sold his products mercilessly; promoted his children; funneled dollars to his family and businesses; and in an unspoken alliance (pact, entente, détente) of the first order, kept the nightly news and the cable networks rolling in dough and in the spotlight (as long as they kept yakking about him), despite the fact that younger viewers were in flight to the universe of social media, streaming services and their smartphones. Thanks to the millions, billions, perhaps trillions of words expended on him by nonstop commentators, pundits, talking heads, retired generals and admirals, former intelligence chiefs, ex-Bush administration officials and god knows who else that have kept the cable channels churning with Trump on a nearly 24/7 basis, he and his remarkable ego and his now familiar gestures — that jut-jawed look, that orange hair, that overly tanned face, that eternally raised voice — have become the wallpaper of our lives, something close to our reality. If he were an action film, some Hollywood studio would be swooning, because never has a single act gotten such nonstop publicity. We’ve never seen anything like him or it, and yet, strange as the Trump phenomenon may be, if you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that there’s also something eerily familiar about him, and not just because of “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.”

In a world where so many things deserve our attention and don’t get it, rest assured that this is not about Donald Trump. It really isn’t.

In terms of any presidential candidate from George Washington to Barack Obama, Trump is little short of a freak of nature. There’s really no one to compare him to (other, perhaps, than George Wallace). Sometimes his pitch about America — and a return to greatness — has a faintly Reaganesque quality (but without any of Ronald Reagan’s sunniness or charm). Otherwise, I dare you to make such a comparison.

Still, don’t be fooled. As a phenomenon, Donald Trump couldn’t be more American — as American, in fact, as a piece of McDonald’s baked apple pie. What could be more American, after all, than his two major roles: salesman (or pitchman) and con artist? From P.T. Barnum (who, by the way, became the mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., late in life) to Willy Loman, selling has long been an iconic American way to go. A man who sells his life and brand as the ultimate American life and brand… come on, what’s not familiar about that?

As for being a conman, since at least Mark Twain (remember the Duke of Bridgewater and the Dauphin, who join Huck and Jim on their raft?) and Herman Melville (“The Confidence Man“), the charm of the — excuse the phrase under the circumstances — huckster in American life can’t be denied. It’s something Donald Trump knows in his bones, even if all those pundits and commentators and pollsters (and for that matter Hillary Clinton’s advisers) don’t: Americans love a conman. Historically, we’ve often admired, if not identified with, someone intent on playing and successfully beating the system, whether at a confidence game or through criminal activity.

After the first presidential debate, when Trump essentially admitted that in some years he paid no taxes (“that makes me smart”) and that he had played the tax system for everything it was worth, there was all that professional tsk-tsking and the suggestion that such an admission would deeply disturb ordinary voters who pay up when the IRS comes knocking. Don’t believe it for a second. I guarantee you that Trump senses he’s deep in the Mississippi of American politics with such statements and that a surprising number of voters will admire him for it (whether they admit it or not). After all, he beat the system, even if they didn’t.

Whenever I see Trump and read accounts of his business dealings, I’m reminded of what 1920s Chicago crime boss Al Capone told British journalist Claud Cockburn: “Listen, don’t get the idea I’m one of those goddamn radicals …. Don’t get the idea I’m knocking the American system. My rackets are run on strictly American lines. Capitalism, call it what you like, gives to each and every one of us a great opportunity if only we seize it with both hands and make the most of it.” Trump’s “rackets” are similarly “run on strictly American lines.” He’s the Tony Soprano of casino capitalism and so couldn’t be more American.

My father was a salesman. I grew up watching him make his preparations to sell. I existed at the edge of his selling universe and, though I thought I rejected his world, the truth is that, given the chance and under the right circumstances, I still love to sell myself. It’s addictive in the most American way. There was as well another aspect of that commonplace world of fathers I once knew and that I now recognize in Trump’s overwhelming persona: the bully. That jut-jawed stance, the pugnacious approach to the world, that way of carrying both one’s body and face that seems inbuilt and offers the constant possibility of threat — it was the norm of the world I grew up in. It was what fathers looked like (and must still in so many families). It was, in short, an essential part of the pre-Trumpian world, a manner, a way of being that The Donald has distilled into an iconically brutal version of itself, into not the commonplace bully — schoolyard variety — but The Bully. Still, at least to me, and I think to many Americans, it couldn’t be more recognizable and, I suspect, for people raised among the bullies, the thought of having such a bully in the Oval Office and speaking for you for once is strangely appealing.

Just in case you were wondering at this point, I’m serious: this is not about Donald Trump.

And yet, don’t believe that everything about The Donald is old hat and familiarly American. In this strange election season, there are aspects of his role that are so new they should startle us all. Begin with the fact that he’s the first declinist candidate for president of our era. Put another way, he’s the only politician in the country who refuses to engage in a ritual — until now a virtual necessity for American presidential wannabes, candidates and presidents: affirming repeatedly that the United States is the greatest, most exceptional, most indispensable nation of all time and that it possesses the “finest fighting force in the history of the world.”

Undoubtedly, that by-now-kneejerk urge to repeat such formulaic sentiments reflects creeping self-doubts about America’s future imperial role. It has the quality of a magic mantra being used to ward off reality. After all, when a great power truly is at its height, as the United States was in my youth, no one feels the need to continually, defensively insist that it’s so.

Trump broke decisively with this version of political orthodoxy and it tells us much about our moment that he is now in the final round of election 2016, not in the trash heap of American history. His claim, unique to our moment, is that America is not great at all, even if he (and only he) can — feel free to chant it with me — make America great again! Add to that his insistence that the U.S. military in the Obama era is anything but the finest fighting machine in history. According to him, it’s now a hollowed-out force, a “disaster” and “in shambles,” whose generals have been “reduced to rubble.” Not so long ago, such claims would have automatically disqualified anyone as a candidate for president (or much of anything else). That he can continually make them, and make the first of them his T-shirt-and-cap campaign slogan, tells you that we are indeed in a new American world.

In relation to his Republican rivals, and now Hillary Clinton, he stands alone in accepting and highlighting what increasing numbers of Americans, especially white Americans, have evidently come to feel: that this country is in decline, its greatness a thing of the past or as pollsters like to put it, that America is no longer “heading in the right direction” but is now “on the wrong track.” In this way, he has mainlined into a deep, economically induced mindset, especially among white working class men facing a situation in which so many good jobs have headed elsewhere, that the world has turned sour.

Or think of it another way (and it may be the newest way of all): A significant part of the white working class, at least, feels as if, whether economically or psychologically, its back is up against the wall and there’s nowhere left to go. Under such circumstances, many of these voters have evidently decided that they’re ready to send a literal loose cannon into the White House; they’re willing, that is, to take a chance on the roof collapsing, even if it collapses on them.

That is the new and unrecognizable role that Donald Trump has filled. It’s hard to conjure up another example of it in our recent past. The Donald represents, as a friend of mine likes to say, the suicide bomber in us all. And voting for him, among other things, will be an act of nihilism, a mood that fits well with imperial decline.

Think of him as a message in a bottle washing up on our shore. After all…

This is not about Donald Trump. It’s about us.

You Call That a Debate?

Posted on Oct 5, 2016

By By Michael Winship / Moyers & Company

  Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine shake hands after their debate. (Joe Raedle / AP)

Well, that was depressing.

Not because Vice Presidential Candidate X beat Vice Presidential Candidate Y in Tuesday night’s debate. Or vice versa.

READ: Tim Kaine Puts Mike Pence on the Defensive as Candidates Take on Issues, Each Other

No, it was dispiriting because it so vividly displayed the problem with our current system of debates. This is no way to run a democracy.

If last week’s Donald Trump free-for-all, freefall debate performance was one extreme – out of control and fact-resistant – this week’s vice presidential event showed another, a demonstration of the perils of being overcoached and overprepared with stock, canned answers repeated ad nauseum and infinitum.

So there was Republican Mike Pence stolidly behaving like a real-life version of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, shaking his head and bemoaning the fate of an America ruled by Hillary Clinton, and Tim Kaine as the overeager puppy eager to make his presence known, apparently told that the way to dispel the image some may have of him as too soft and nice is to keep interrupting; in effect, chewing the other guy’s new slippers.


Kaine may have started it, but in truth, the interruptions by each of the two were, as Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC, “maddening to the point of incomprehensibility.” The hectoring crosstalk did diminish some as the night wore on but it wasn’t conducive to any real dialogue or thoughtful discussion of the issues (the exchange on abortion at the end actually came somewhat close, thanks to Kaine).

And once again there was no talk of climate change or income inequality or education or infrastructure or healthcare, to name but a few of the topics that desperately need to be addressed. Instead, we got Pence running contrary to his running mate’s embrace of Vladimir Putin, calling the Russian leader “small and bullying” and Kaine repeatedly going after Pence for Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. No one would mistake Monday’s slapfest as a celebration of the Federalist Papers.

If, as many have suggested, the Clinton-Kaine campaign’s strategy was to put Pence on the defensive, denying that Trump has said a basket of deplorable things we all know he has said, then the evening may ultimately belong to them. We won’t know for sure until we see the impact, if any, of the fact checking that will appear over the next few days as Pence’s denials are thrown up against the videotape of Trump declaring exactly what Pence claimed he didn’t. Those facts certainly won’t change the magical thinking of the Trump-Pence base; perhaps it will affect the undecideds on the fence.

Rating by onstage performance and the response of the pundit class, Pence’s icy calm may have won out over Kaine’s hyper champing at the bit, and the Republican governor certainly has deftly positioned himself for 2020. But as Mark Twain said of Richard Wagner’s operas, Kaine’s attacks may have been better than they sound.

We’ll see. What’s for sure is that the clear losers were any Americans who hoped to hear something, anything, of real substance. Days to go: 33, and the republic is still adrift, with no sign of the lifeboats.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/you_call_that_a_debate_20161005