Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda

California’s big pushback:

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and progressive legislators are fighting back against the Trump agenda

California's big pushback: Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda
Donald Trump; Xavier Becerra (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Donald Trump’s shocking meltdown on Tuesday afternoon, it’s even clearer that progressives need effective strategies to blunt the effect of having a conspiracy-theory-driven, racist authoritarian in the Oval Office, backed by a congressional majority that is still too afraid to offer meaningful checks on his worst behavior. The good news is that some of the nation’s biggest cities and states remain controlled by Democrats. Activists and politicians in those states are looking for meaningful ways to throw wrenches in the Trump agenda.

At the top of that list is California, which not only has the largest population of any state but is controlled by progressive Democrats (relatively speaking) who seem ready and eager to fight Trump, especially on the issues of climate change and immigration. (New York is the next biggest state controlled by Democrats, but intra-party warfare has crippled the ability of progressives to get much done.)

California fired a significant shot across the bow at Trump on Monday, when state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declared that the state would sue the Trump administration over threats to withdraw law enforcement grants if the local and state police refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport immigrants. The lawsuit will be joined with an earlier one filed by the city of San Francisco.

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said during a press conference announcing the suit. California received $28 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government this year, money it could lose if the police prioritize actual crime-fighting over federal demands that they focus their resources on deporting people.

“The government’s plan for deporting millions of people in this country is to coerce local law enforcement to be their force-multipliers,” explained Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California.

Pasquarella noted that most deportations currently occur because of an encounter with local law enforcement. By resisting pressure to step up efforts to persecute undocumented immigrants, she said, California can make it safe for people to “access basic services that are vital to our state and communities without fear of deportation, like schools and hospitals and libraries and health clinics.”

Some Democrats in the state are trying to take this idea even further, backing SB 54, titled the California Values Act. According to The Los Angeles Times, the bill would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.”

While SB 54 is still being worked over in the legislature, California has already made progress in resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal Obama-era actions to fight climate change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill extending a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions until 2030. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in both the State Assembly and Senate.

Many environmentalist groups have come out against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Still, compared to the federal government’s evident retreat, it’s progress in the right direction. California has the largest state economy in the country, and demonstrating that climate action does not have to undermine economic growth could go a long way towards convincing other states to take similar action. This, in turn, could help the country meet the goals set by the Paris Accords, defying Trump’s efforts to pull the United States out of the historic climate change agreement.

This strategy to resist right-wing policies and protect California residents predates Trump, to be clear. While much of the country was experiencing an unprecedented rollback of reproductive rights — with numerous red states passing alarming new abortion restrictions while anti-choice activists fought insurance coverage of contraception in the courts — California moved to make birth control and abortion easier and safer to get.

In 2013, responding to research showing that abortions provided by nurse practitioners and midwives are safe, Brown signed a law giving those groups authority to offer abortion services. Brown has also signed off on three provisions to make it easier for women to get birth control: Letting pharmacists dispense it without a doctor’s prescription, requiring that health care plans cover contraception without a co-pay, and allowing women to get a full year’s worth of birth-control pills at a time.

These policies were already in place before Trump’s election, but they are all the more necessary now that the president is backing conservative efforts to make contraception more expensive and harder to get. It has also helped create a model for progressive cities and states to resist reactionary policies pushed by the federal government, which is already inspiring Democrats in other states. Chicago, for instance, is also suing the federal government over the threat to sanctuary cities.

There’s a deep philosophical irony here, because for decades now conservatives have claimed they wanted to reduce the power of the federal government and hand more decision-making authority to the states. That was always a disingenuous pose, of course. This conservative “principle” was largely invented to justify state resistance to Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation legalizing abortion, desegregating schools and protecting voting rights.

Still, it’s nice to see states like California calling the Republican bluff and showing that their supposed devotion to “small government” dries up the second states and cities move to protect human rights, instead of to attack them. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has always held himself out to be a small-government conservative, for instance. But his reaction to state and local officials who claim the power to set law enforcement priorities for themselves has been to accuse those officials of being law-breakers. This hypocrisy is already obvious, and it may soon be exposed in court.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

Trump’s defense of Nazi violence: The mask comes off

17 August 2017

Donald Trump’s remarks on Tuesday defending violent Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators have torn the already threadbare mask from the face of American capitalism. The president of the United States stood before the media to give his support to the “very fine people” involved in the rally in Charlottesville this past weekend, while attacking supposedly “violent” left-wing protesters.

The response of the president to the violence in Charlottesville cannot but have the most far-reaching consequences internationally and within the United States. World War II, which established US hegemony over the world capitalist system, was presented as a war against fascism. Every war over the past quarter-century, justified with the rhetoric of “democracy” and “human rights,” was supposedly waged to overthrow one or another head of state described as the modern incarnation of Hitler. Now, the supposed leader of the “free world” has revealed his fascist sympathies.

Within the United States, Trump’s comments will fuel growing social and political anger. Millions of people already view the state and its institutions with hostility and contempt. While Trump and pro-Nazi advisers such as Stephen Bannon seek to exploit political confusion and alienation to develop an extra-parliamentary far-right movement, there is not yet a mass constituency for fascism. The mobilization of neo-Nazis from across the country to Charlottesville drew only a few hundred people, compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out to protest Trump’s inauguration.

Nevertheless, the events in Charlottesville and the response of the White House must be taken by the working class both in the United States and internationally as a sharp warning. In the absence of a mass independent movement of the working class against both parties and the entire political establishment, there is a real danger of a growth of fascism in America.

The exposure of the authoritarian outlook not only of Trump, but of the financial oligarchy he personifies, is at the center of the political crisis within the ruling class. A growing list of CEOs announced their resignation from Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum and his Manufacturing Council, prompting the president to disband both panels yesterday afternoon. Leading congressmen, Democratic and Republican, have condemned the president and his remarks. Former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as four members of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued statements opposing racism.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who helped implement torture programs and NSA spying, called Trump’s comments a “national disgrace” that will put “our national security and our collective futures at grave risk.”

The actions and statements of these representatives of the ruling class constitute an exercise in hypocrisy and cover-up. As if the fascistic proclivities of Trump were not clearly established! According to many reports, Trump vented his pro-fascist views to his top aides on many occasions. This means they were known throughout Washington and in the media, which sought to conceal them from the public.

An article by Mark Landler posted on the New York Times website on Wednesday (“Trump Refuses to Set a Moral Standard, Abandoning a Tradition”) lays out the real concerns motivating the ruling class. Landler complains that Trump has “abdicated what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: to set a moral course for the nation.”

As examples of the “moral standard” set by previous presidents, Landler cites Reagan’s farewell address in 1989, George W. Bush’s address to Congress following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Barack Obama’s appeal “to the best in Americans through a heartbreaking succession of police shootings and racially motivated killings.” Other presidents had “moral shortcomings,” Landler concludes, “but until now no president has rejected the very concept of moral leadership.”

According to this conception, all the problems of American society and politics stem from the individual failings of Trump. As the New York Times put it succinctly and crudely in its editorial on Wednesday: “The root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top.”

But Trump, for all his disgusting personal traits, is the outcome of a long political evolution. The past half-century has seen a staggering process of political decay and degeneration, overseen by the “moral guardians” cited by the Times.

Nixon was brought down by the Watergate scandal, amid revelations of the criminal activities of American imperialism all over the world. Carter launched the US proxy war in Afghanistan that led to the creation of Al Qaeda. Reagan initiated a social counterrevolution while presiding over an illegal and secret war of subversion in Nicaragua run from the basement of the White House. George H. W. Bush invaded Panama and carried out the first invasion of Iraq. Clinton repeatedly bombed Iraq and imposed brutal sanctions that killed thousands of Iraqis. He followed this up with the air war against Serbia. George W. Bush, who came to power through the theft of an election, initiated wars that killed more than a million people and sanctioned torture as an instrument of policy. Obama, the candidate of “hope” and “change,” institutionalized drone assassinations and domestic spying, while handing out hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street.

The Times and the political and media establishment prefer that the criminal policies of the ruling elite be clothed in democratic phrases about human rights and brotherly love.

The election of Trump was a turning point. He is attempting to incite and legitimize the development of a fascist movement that appeals to the growing desperation and alienation of broad sections of the population. But his defense of Nazi violence reflects not simply the backward and reactionary outlook of one individual. With Trump, all the crimes of the financial aristocracy that runs the United States have erupted onto the surface of political life for all the world to see.

The media presents the statements of CEOs and military and intelligence officials such as Brennan as if they are the political antidote to the virus of Trump. In fact, the ever-greater political influence of the military and intelligence agencies—to which the Democrats have directed their entire appeal since the election of Trump—is another form of the breakup of American democracy. It is one more symptom of the same disease.

The fight against Trump must be developed from below—through a movement of the working class—not through the methods of palace coup.

The working class must intervene with its own socialist and revolutionary program. It cannot allow the fight against the Trump administration to be subordinated to any faction of the ruling class. Opposition to authoritarianism and fascism must be connected to opposition to war, social inequality, unemployment, poverty and the attack on health care and public education. The vast wealth of the financial oligarchy must be seized and the giant banks and corporations that exercise a dictatorship over social and economic life turned into public utilities.

The diseased government of oligarchs and generals, the cockpit of conspiracies to wage war and impose dictatorship, must be replaced by a genuinely democratic workers’ government.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/17/pers-a17.html

Bernie Sanders, and the Unexpected Socialist Revival

CULTURE
Bernie Sanders proved socialism isn’t dead—and some young people are even open to the banished ideas of Karl Marx.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Since his grassroots presidential campaign took the world by storm last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders has been widely credited with bringing socialism back into the mainstream of American politics and introducing an entire generation to left-wing politics. As a major presidential candidate who unabashedly identified as a democratic socialist, Sanders essentially resurrected an idea that has been considered off limits in our political discourse for many decades: that there is an alternative to capitalism and the status quo.

This radical idea has become less taboo in recent years, and today an increasing number of millennials say they reject capitalism, while a majority of Americans support “socialistic” policies like universal health care (for the first time in a long time, single-payer is gaining mainstream momentum). Clearly, Sanders deserves the credit he has received for shifting the Overton window and reintroducing a form of left-wing class politics to America. It is safe to say that no single person has done more to revive the American left than the Vermont senator.

But Sanders’ political rise did not happen in a vacuum, and it’s unlikely he would have achieved much success had the social and economic conditions not been ripe. Though the 75-year old senator played an essential role in demystifying socialism to the public and instilling a radical spirit in the progressive movement, the current resurgence of class politics on the left has been in the works for many years, going back to the 2007-08 financial crisis.

It hasn’t been white-haired socialists who have provided the foundation for this resurgence, but young people who grew up in the era of neoliberalism. This was evident last week, when progressive millennials flocked to Chicago for the biannual Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) convention, where delegates came together to vote on various resolutions for the party. In the past year, the DSA has tripled its membership, and what is particularly telling about this growth is that the average age of DSA members has dropped by half virtually overnight, from 64 in 2015 to just 30 today.

This trend has led to a cottage industry of think pieces speculating about why millennials have embraced old school leftists like Sanders and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, but it is hardly a great mystery. Millennials came of age during the worst capitalist crisis in 80 years and live in a time when income and wealth inequality have reached historic levels — as evidenced by the fact that the eight richest men in the world (seven of whom are white American men) own as much wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion people.

Millennials inhabit a planet that faces ecological collapse, and most grasp the threat of climate change on a visceral level. Young people are also crippled by record levels of debt and despite being better educated than their parents earn 20 percent less than baby boomers did at this point in their lives. Finally, millennials have grown up in a time when moneyed interests have completely infiltrated the political process, creating an oligarchic form of government that serves the economic elite rather than the majority.

In other words, millennials are increasingly ambivalent about capitalism because it is a system that has failed their generation. Not surprisingly, this has led to a significant number of young intellectuals who have also rediscovered the works of Karl Marx, the great diagnostician of capitalism’s ills. Around the same time that the Occupy Wall Street protests erupted around the country in 2011, Bhaskar Sunkara founded Jacobin, the left-wing quarterly that has grown rapidly over the past five years, publishing the work of many millennial Marxists.

Of course, it is one thing to call yourself a socialist (or a “democratic socialist”) in America, and another thing entirely to identify as a Marxist. For the past century Karl Marx has been the ultimate intellectual bogeyman in the United States. For the majority of Americans who have no first-hand familiarity with the 19th-century thinker and his work, the term “Marxism” is synonymous with Stalinism and totalitarianism.

As with the millennial embrace of an elderly democratic socialist, this Marxist revival has predictably confounded many liberal and conservative critics, who assume that youngsters simply don’t know their 20th-century history. “That Marxism is not viewed with a similar horror as Nazism is one of the greatest failings of contemporary education,” tweeted Claire Lehmann, editor of the libertarian-leaning publication Quillette magazine, last month.

One of the greatest failings of contemporary education, one might counter, is that critics of Marxism know next to nothing about Marx or Marxism, other than the fact that some unsavory historical figures identified themselves with the term. This is obviously not a new phenomenon, and more than 50 years ago the American sociologist C. Wright Mills attempted to provide an objective account of Marx’s ideas in his 1962 book, “The Marxists,” meant to counteract the propaganda efforts of Cold Warriors. Mills’ book is just as useful today when it comes to explaining why Marx remains relevant in the 21st century. (Some might argue he is even more relevant today than in the mid-20th century, as capitalism has conquered the globe). In order to uncover what makes Marx’s work so valuable, Mills makes an important analytical distinction between the philosopher’s methodology/model and his theories:

model is a more or less systematic inventory of the elements to which we must pay attention if we are to understand something. It is not true or false; it is useful and adequate to varying degrees. A theory, in contrast, is a statement which can be proved true or false, about the casual weight and the relations of the elements of a model. Only in terms of this distinction can we understand why Marx’s work is truly great.

Marx’s model, argues Mills, “is what is great; that is what is alive in marxism. [Marx] provides a classic machinery for thinking about man, society, and history. That is the reason there have been so many quite different revivals of marxism. Marx is often wrong, in part because he died in 1883, in part because he did not use his own machinery as carefully as we now can, and in part because some of the machinery itself needs to be refined and even redesigned. . . . Neither the truth nor the falsity of Marx’s theories confirm the adequacy of his model.”

Marx’s model looked at the structure of society as a whole, as well as that “structure in historical motion,” and the German philosopher and economist employed this model to examine and reveal the dynamics of capitalism. This largely explains why there has been a renewed interest in Marx’s work in recent years, especially among millennials who have lived their entire lives under a global capitalist order. Marx’s model of looking at the world, along with his exhaustive analysis of capitalism, helps us to understand our own contemporary reality and where we are headed.

While Marx’s model is essential to understanding modern society, another fundamental aspect of Marxism is, of course, the merging of theory and practice. As Marx famously declared, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

This remains the ultimate goal for millennial Marxists and socialists. Although capitalism has never been more globally dominant than it is today, this has also engendered social and economic conditions that are ripe for left-wing political movements. As the Marxist economist Richard Wolff recently said during an interview on Fox Business:

Socialism is in a way the shadow of capitalism. Nothing guarantees the future of socialism so much as capitalism, because socialism is capitalism’s self-criticism.

The Extinction Event Gains Momentum

Photo by Bryan Alexander | CC BY 2.0

“In the next few decades we’ll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than we should be,” Dr. Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist, Duke University.

“It is quite possible that the baby boomer generation is the most impactful generation that this planet has ever seen,”(Source: Racing Extinction directed by Louie Psihoyos, Discovery Channel, 2015).

The Great Suffocation

Imagine for a moment that phytoplankton, the foundation of the aquatic food web startlingly dies off. All of a sudden gone! Phytoplankton feeds everything from microscopic zooplankton to multi-tonne Blue Whales (the largest animal on Earth). But first and foremost, every 2nd human breath is oxygen produced by phytoplankton. Without phytoplankton, life dies.

According to Dr. Boris Worm, marine research ecologist at Dalhousie University and head of the Worm Lab study of marine biodiversity: The planet has lost 40% of plankton production over the past 50 years, primarily as a consequence of climate change/global warming. “We are changing the geology of the planet. We are changing the ocean chemistry… The anthropocene means that what happens to this planet is now in our hands.” (Boris Worm, et al, Global Phytoplankton Decline Over the Past Century, Nature Vol. 466, Issue 7306, July 29, 2010 and interview in Racing Extinction)

“Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.” The study claims an increase of water temps of six degrees Celsius, which could occur as soon as 2100, could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton. (Source: Global Warming Disaster Could Suffocate Life on Planet Earth, Research Shows, University of Leicester Press Office, Dec. 1, 2015).

Deadly Ocean Acidification

When cars, trucks, planes, and factories emit carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, it doesn’t all stay there. The ocean absorbs one-third up to one-half. In turn, CO2 reacts with water and forms carbonic acid resulting in a more acidic ocean, prompting the question: What is the problem with acidic ocean water? Answer: Drop seashells in a glass of vinegar. Over time, the shells dissolve.

For a real time example of changing ocean chemistry, professional hatcheries of shellfish in America have already experienced too much ocean acidification. Ocean water intakes for inland shellfish hatcheries killed off shellfish larvae because of excessive acidity.

Taylor Shellfish Farms (100 years of farming the World’s Best Oysters) Bill Dewey claims: “The rate of change that we’re seeing in the ocean and the changes it’s going to create in our food chain, it’s going to be dramatic and it’s going to be in our lifetime. The things that we’re used to eating may not be available any more, and we’ll need to transition to eating jellyfish or something like that.” (Source: Racing Extinction)

Bon appétit, tonight’s menu: Boiled Jellyfish.

“No one knows exactly how marine life around the world will fare as the seas continue to sour, but fear is spreading. ‘People who are aware are panicked,’ said Dewey, who recently traveled to New York to speak at the United Nation’s first Ocean Conference. ‘The level of awareness is increasing rapidly and the story is getting out there.” (Source: Lisa Stiffler, Investigate West, Climate Change Turns Puget Sound Acidic and Region’s Signature Oysters Struggle to Survive, July 10, 2017).

It is very discomforting (and then some) to read Dewey’s prophetic words: “People who are aware are panicked.”

Skyrocketing CO2

“The rate of carbon dioxide growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Peter Tans, atmospheric scientist at ESRL, said in a press release. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” (Source: Brian Kahn, Carbon Dioxide Is Rising at Record Rates, Climate Central, March 2017).

According to Dr. Jen Veron, former chief scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science: “There’s been five mass extinctions… there’s been one common factor in all, a massive increase in carbon dioxide, and we’ve never had a carbon dioxide spike like we’re having now” (Source: Racing Extinction)

Unfortunately, growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is accelerating, not decelerating or holding steady, even though CO2 from fossil fuels has barely grown over the past three years. Ouch! In 2016 CO2 grew by more than 3.00 ppm, a new record and considerably higher than the rate in 2015. This is deeply troubling. The reasons are multi-fold but significantly, it is believed the oceans have turned from carbon sinks to new sources of CO2 emission. “Oceans appear to have turned from sinks into sources of CO2, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.” (Source: Accelerating Growth in CO2 Levels in the Atmosphere, Arctic News, Feb. 25, 2017).

It is mind boggling how much science-based evidence exists about the destructiveness of human-generated carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The world community knows this. Otherwise, why did 195 countries adopt the Paris Agreement in 2015?

Interestingly, Trump’s exit strengthens the Paris Agreement. Several governing details have not yet finalized. Negotiators will be working between now and 2020, committing those details to paper. If the U.S. had stayed in the agreement, Rex Tillerson’s State Department would have veto power in the talks, likely weaken the agreement even more than it already stands.

Still, with/without Trump, too little too late remains the major question mark overhanging the Paris Agreement, and furthermore, it’s not properly structured to stop the extinction event.

Postscript: “One saw a bird dying, shot by a man. It was flying with rhythmic beat and beautifully, with such freedom and lack of fear. And the gun shattered it; it fell to the earth and all the life had gone out of it. A dog fetched it, and the man collected other dead birds. He was chattering with his friend and seemed so utterly indifferent. All that he was concerned with was bringing down so many birds, and it was over as far as he was concerned. They are killing all over the world… Man is the only animal that is to be dreaded.” Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian Philosopher

More articles by:

Trump’s Main Business—Golf—Is the Symbol of All That Is Retrograde and Exclusionary in American Life

CULTURE
For successful greedheads and their wannabes, golf is the most “sacred” of sports.

Photo Credit: Jurvetson / Flickr

While waiting for Trump to jump the tracks, let’s savor the day when his inevitable train wreck first passed through a critical safety switch. On June 9th, President Trump alienated his true base — the reactionary rich — by driving his golf cart onto the green at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. In doing so, he committed an unpardonable sacrilege in the high church of capitalism. It was time to start counting the days until he dropped off the scoreboard.

For successful greedheads and their wannabes, golf is the most sacred of sports, the symbol of all that is retrograde and exclusionary in American life. There’s far more to golf, however, than mere inequality or a history of institutional racism and sexism. Golf is also a waste of space and water, and a sinkhole for chemicals poisoning the local aquifer. Think of all the organic vegetables that could be grown on those swards or the walking trails and wildlife sanctuaries that could be established. Think of the affordable housing that could be built on that land. There has to be a better use for the millions of dollars that will be squandered this year on overpriced golf duds and equipment, lessons, playing fees, and memberships in the latest trendy clubs (that these days often have you-know-who’s name on them in large golden letters).

Golf is marketed as a test of character — especially of those business school values of focus, perseverance, and self-improvement. A golf course is laid out as a hero’s journey.  You strike out from the tees (usually at different distances from the hole for men and women) onto a long carpet called a “fairway” that winds among natural “hazards” to be avoided: small ponds, sand traps, patches of undergrowth representing the oceans, deserts, and jungles that must be colonized or conquered on your 18-hole journey to capitalistic triumph.  (Golf nomenclature, including “par” and “lie,” which is where the ball comes to rest after a shot, is too vulnerable to mockery to be addressed here.)

The fairway, of course, leads to the green, a small, manicured area that contains the hole, the winner’s circle, the C-suite, the gated community, the Oval Office. It was onto such a green that Trump drove his cart — he looks to be in no shape to walk the course — and that is not only considered a moral crime in the world of golf, but an obvious defacement of grass meticulously preserved so a competent player can “read the green” and plan his or her final putts.

Trump is unquestionably a competent golfer, way better than average. He’s also an avid golfer and has, in the past, enjoyed the rarified company of such criminal media celebrities as O.J. Simpson and Bernie Madoff. As the Juice’s successful parole hearing was coming up recently, the former football hero told a friend, “We’ll be playing golf again soon.” Possibly as soon as October O.J. may be back home in Florida, maybe even golfing at Mar-a-Lago. (He was, after all, a guest at Trump’s wedding to Marla Maples.)

As for Madoff, long before his Ponzi scheme was busted, he was known for his oddly consistent, too-good-to-be-true golf scores. Trump, who knew Madoff from Palm Beach, crowed about refusing to invest with him and later called him “a scoundrel without par.” It takes one…

To understand golf is to understand Trump. He uses golf as a social lubricant for business, which is its most important function in American culture. Since it operates on the honor system, golf is convenient for lying cheats. As the joke goes, the difference between boastful golfers and fishermen is that golfers don’t have to produce proof. Golf jokes, invariably evoking sex or religion, are a staple of stale pale-male humor. The locker-room quip for which “golf” is an acronym — “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden” — may no longer be totally accurate but it certainly captures the sensibility of the game. And as a perfect complement to Trump’s own relentless boasts about his wealth, the most popular ranking of professional golfers has always been “the money list.” There are no batting averages in golf. It’s all about prize money and endorsement fees.

Trump is more than a golfer. He owns and operates golf courses. The Trump Golf website lists 18 “iconic” ones in “the world of Trump Golf,” stretching from upstate New York to Dubai. And yet none of the domestic ones even made the list of Golf Digest’s 100 top American courses. Despite widespread protests last year about his 2005 pussy-grabbing remarks, the U.S. Women’s Open was held this July at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, course, also the site of his green desecration. Only recently was it revealed that The Donald had threatened to sue the United States Golf Association if it dared move the event as some in the Ladies Professional Golf Association had evidently suggested.

For him, golf isn’t just a sideline presidential activity, it’s central to his plutocratic vision of his presidency and of the promoting of the Trump brand (clearly synonymous in his mind). His golf courses, after all, are considered a critical part of his family’s revenue stream, although typically, actual financial information on them is scanty and may eventually reveal less profit than he claims.

Recent American presidents have certainly sought out fortunes after their time in office, but Trump is certainly our first president to promote his fortune so centrally while there.  He has, for instance, reportedly spent 21%of his presidential time at one or another of his golf clubs, making himself a living billboard for the brand and the business.  (As he took office, the fee to join his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida doubled to $200,000.)  And it’s a business that desperately needs a presidential gold seal of approval.  The golf industry hit its financial high mark in 2003, and its numbers — golf courses, players, profits — have sagged ever since. In response, there has been a concerted effort to speed up the game for distracted millennials and to make it friendlier to women and children, while cutting costs by vigorously fighting property assessments and other tax regulations.

No wonder one of Trump’s early executive orders not only attempted to reverse Obama’s environmental progress in general but, as the Associated Press noted, called “for a review of a rule protecting small bodies of water from pollution and development,” which was “strongly supported by golf course owners who are wary of being forced into expensive cleanups on their fairways.” It seems that no future hazard is too small for our golfing president to avoid.

Duffers in Chief

Actually, it may be through golf that Trump has scored his most significant victory so far in dismantling the Obama legacy.  After all, during his first six months in office he’s probably managed to play golf far more often than his predecessor, whom he criticized repeatedly on the campaign trail for his time on the course.  (Precise comparable statistics are unavailable because Trump aides have been secretive about his golfing schedule.)  As it happens, there’s hardly been a president since William Taft who didn’t hit the links.  So let’s give Trump this: his golfing may be the most presidential, possibly the only presidential, thing he’s done so far.

Since Taft, who was criticized not only for playing badly but for playing while fat (a kind of shaming now tolerated only for Trump’s sometime pal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), golf has been the presidential sport of choice. Dwight Eisenhower, a good golfer, gave the game a boost when he had a putting green installed alongside the White House in 1954.

An expert on the subject, ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta, Jr., wrote in his 2003 book, First Off the Tee, that, despite his bad back, John F. Kennedy was the best presidential golfer. Kennedy, however, felt he had to sneak off to play because, while campaigning, he had relentlessly derided Ike for golfing too much, calling him “the Duffer-in-Chief.” (Sound familiar?)  In the end, Kennedy had to own up to his golfing habit, given rumors that his unexplained absences were not due to playing a round, but playing around.

Bill Clinton tops the “hail to the cheats” section of Van Natta’s book, with Richard Nixon, Warren Harding, and Lyndon Johnson trailing behind.  Having played with Clinton and granted him many “Billigans” (that is, “mulligans,” or replays of bad shots with no penalties), Van Natta wrote: “He followed the rules for about a hole and a half. Then he let down his guard and started taking these do-over shots, gimme putts and, at the end of the 18 holes, it took him about 200 swings to score an 82.”

Soon after the 2016 election, Golf Digest anointed Trump the all-time top presidential golfer, citing his low handicap and passion for the game. While still a college junior, he began playing at a public course near Philadelphia that he claimed was teeming with “more hustlers than any place I’ve seen to this day.” By his account, he learned a lot about gambling from golf, thinks of the sport as “aspirational,” and considers it a mistake to try to sell it as an everyman’s game. After all, people should be trying harder to get rich in order to join great golf clubs like his and earn their way onto the course and into the proud sport of the one-percenters.

Arnold (“The King”) and Tiger (“The Chosen One”)

The creation myths of golf are murky, but it seems that the modern game took root and was codified in Scotland by the seventeenth century. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century, however, that it became a fixture in American sports. By the Depression, there were more than 1,000 golf clubs in the country and one of the reigning sports superstars of the Roaring Twenties was Bobby Jones, a lawyer revered by the media and the masses both for being a southern gentleman and an amateur in a SportsWorld that was increasingly turning pro. Jones founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and its most famous event, the Masters Tournament, which became the High Holy Days of the Church of Golf.

That club managed to keep black golfers off its course until 1975 when Lee Elder qualified for the Masters and had to be allowed to play. (That was the year the Justice Department and the Trump family business — of which The Donald was by then president — settled a lawsuit over discrimination in its New York rental properties.) There would be no black members at the Augusta club until 1990 and no women members until 2012 when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited in.

That was ten years after a feminist activist, Martha Burke, called the male-only policy “sexist.” At the time, club chairman William “Hootie” Johnson declared that the “moral and legal rights” of a private club trumped any concerns over sexism and civil rights. In the controversy that followed, CBS broadcast the 2003 and 2004 tournaments without commercials. The Masters was that important to the network and Augusta was that rich.  The sport of plutocrats indeed.

By that time, Tiger Woods, “the Chosen One,” had replaced Arnold Palmer, “the King,” as the TV presence who would make golf great again. In the 1950s and 1960s, Palmer, the handsome, charming son of a Pennsylvania golf club groundskeeper, was the leading man in the process of making golf spectatorship, if not actual participation, a national phenomenon. Palmer, who died last September, was present in 2015, along with The Donald, daughter Ivanka, and son Eric, for the unveiling of the Arnold Palmer Villa, one of eight deluxe guestrooms at the Trump National Doral Miami.

Palmer had by then long been replaced as America’s favorite golfer by Woods, the mixed-race son of an Army colonel who groomed him for his golfing future from tot-hood. Tiger was, arguably, the best golfer ever as well as one of the greatest product endorsers in all of sports. As surly as Palmer was convivial, he was protected by the golf and sports media, being its bread-and-butter, until his post-2009 decline, which seemed to be as much about a lifetime of emotional constriction and overload as his tawdry infidelity, one-car crash, divorce, and bad back.

That didn’t stop Trump from inviting him for an extended visit. Last December, at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, Tiger played a round with the President-elect, writing on his blog, “What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash. Our discussion topics were wide-ranging; it was fun. We both enjoyed the bantering, bickering, and needling.”

Trump is reportedly an accomplished on-course trash talker, who likes to mock his male golfing partners by telling them that they should be hitting from the women’s tees. Luckily for Tiger, with all his other problems, he’s not working on any Trump golf courses, where contractors are still getting stiffed. Just recently, a South Florida judge ordered Trump Endeavor, one of his Florida corporations, to pay a Miami paint store $282,950 for work done two years ago on that Doral course with its Arnold Palmer Villa. Trump had held back payment of $34,863 on a $200,000 job. Penalties add up.  (Trump should, in fact, be credited for his lifelong efforts to increase American inequality, not just via the game of golf, but by stiffing, or underpaying, every kind of worker he’s ever hired — from waiters, bartenders, and small businesspeople to undocumented laborers.)

Meanwhile, we await the Trump train wreck, an inevitable outcome of the president’s rich-boy sense of entitlement, his jock culture need for domination, and the sad (Sad!) reality of his incompetence as a human being.

Poor Donald. Evidently nobody told him that no man can drive onto the greens, not even the plutocrat who owns them. It’s part of the DNA of the reactionary rich. So he jumped the shark, screwed the pooch. The customs of golf, like the practices of any gaudy, useless, swollen sect, are all that hold it together.

Trump makes an appeal to the fascistic right

4 August 2017

As the political warfare in Washington escalated, President Trump went to Huntington, West Virginia Thursday night for a campaign-style rally bringing together the fascistic themes that the White House has been developing over the past several weeks.

Posturing as the defender of coal miners and other working people against immigrants, environmentalists and unnamed “special interests,” Trump welcomed the Democratic governor of West Virginia, billionaire coal boss Jim Justice, who announced his switch to the Republican Party at the rally.

Trump invited other Democrats to support his right-wing policies and drop their campaign, backed by the military-intelligence apparatus, over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. “The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda and no vision,” he said.

This characterization of the Democratic Party is accurate as far as it goes. The maniacal focus of the Democrats on the Russia investigation leaves a political vacuum in which there is no opposition within the official political system to Trump’s right-wing rampage against democratic rights and the social gains of working people.

Trump seeks to exploit this rhetorically with demagogic boasting about the (nonexistent) revival of the coal industry and the (fictitious) growth of manufacturing jobs. The real content of his economic program is revealed in the “achievement” to which he gave first place in his litany of supposed successes: “the all-time-high stock market,” which enriches billionaires like Trump and Justice, but comes at the expense of the jobs and living standards of workers.

Trump combines bogus claims to stand up for working people with vicious law-and-order and anti-immigrant demagogy, featuring the usual list of villains: “radical Islamic terrorists,” “drug smugglers,” “human traffickers” and “vicious, violent gangs.” Of those actually responsible for the terrible conditions of life in areas like West Virginia—the giant corporations and banks overseeing mass layoffs, wage-cutting and the opioid plague that has ensued—Trump said not a word.

The visit to Huntington is the latest in a series of public appearances through which the White House has carried out a step-by-step campaign to mobilize support from the police, the military, Christian fundamentalists, white racists and outright fascists.

While there has been an authoritarian thrust to the Trump administration going back to his inaugural address, what has unfolded over the past two weeks is a calculated political maneuver, beginning with Trump’s July 22 speech to a naval audience at the christening of the new aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford.

Trump spoke last week before an audience of uniformed police on Long Island and urged them to be “rough” in treating people they arrested, particularly those involved in Latino immigrant gangs.

There have been open appeals to racism and anti-gay bigotry: Trump tweeted his decision that transgendered individuals will not be “permitted to serve in any capacity in the US military.” The Justice Department has taken the position that anti-gay discrimination by employers does not violate civil rights laws, and there are reports that it is preparing to charge that universities with affirmative action programs are engaged in “anti-white” discrimination.

On Monday, the new White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John F. Kelly, was sworn into office, replacing Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and putting a military man in the top White House job for the first time in nearly half a century.

And on Wednesday, Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller appeared at the White House press briefing to announce Trump’s support for legislation that would cut the number of legal immigrants by 50 percent while enacting an openly racist standard favoring speakers of English and those desired by corporate employers, rather than family members.

Increasingly, the administration’s political appeals are separated from any legislative or electoral agenda. The focus is on the persona of Trump himself and the building of a political movement around him.

Miller’s re-emergence Wednesday, after being sidelined for several months due to the initial debacle of Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban, brought the most openly authoritarian of Trump’s top aides before the public and the press once more. He engaged in a widely publicized clash with Jim Acosta of CNN, in the course of which Miller inadvertently revealed the direct connection between the Trump White House and the fascist right.

In an exchange involving the famous poem by Emma Lazarus, embossed on the Statue of Liberty (which includes the line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”), Miller declared that the poem “was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.” As both the Washington Post and the Jewish Daily Forward have pointed out, Miller’s remark was not original to him, but reproduces positions circulating in the fascist and neo-Nazi right, voiced at different times this year by Rush Limbaugh of talk radio, Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Trump and his closest aides are seeking to exploit the widespread hostility to the Democratic Party as the party of the liberal economic elite, including large sections of Wall Street, with an entirely bogus posture as the advocate of the “forgotten man”, as Trump put it during the election campaign and again on Thursday night. But Trump lacks even the semblance of an economic program to address the spread of mass impoverishment and social misery.

The Democrats are saying nothing about Trump’s fascistic appeals. Instead, they are doubling down on their anti-Russia campaign. There were reports Thursday that independent counsel Robert Mueller has convened a special grand jury in his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.

Leaks from within the White House and the intelligence agencies continue at an unprecedented level; most recently, the Washington Post published transcripts of Trump phone conversations with leaders of Mexico and Australia, giving an embarrassing glimpse of the president’s bullying and double-dealing approach to his foreign counterparts.

These attacks are motivated by differences within the ruling elite over foreign policy. While Trump has sought to accommodate his critics, most recently by signing a stringent new sanctions bill directed against Russia, he is also seeking to mobilize his ultra-right base and push back against his ruling class opponents.

The Democratic Party will do nothing to oppose Trump’s effort to mobilize ultra-right and fascistic elements to attack the working class and destroy democratic rights. Their criticism of Trump is entirely within the framework set by the national-security establishment: he is soft on Russia, erratic overall, and preoccupied with his family’s personal financial interests rather than the interests of Wall Street and American imperialism as a whole.

At the same time, the Democrats are leaving open the possibility of working with Trump, particularly on a “tax reform” that will lead to a new windfall for the corporate and financial elite.

The struggle against the ultra-right and in defense of democratic rights is a struggle to unite all sections of the working class—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and immigrant—on the basis of common class interests, to defend jobs and living standards and oppose the growing danger of imperialist war. This is possible only through the independent mobilization of working people against the two big business parties, the Democrats and Republicans, to fight for a socialist and internationalist program.

Patrick Martin

The Democrats Are A Lost Cause

There they go again.

Hillary was a two time loser. Weirdly, her people are still in charge of the Democratic Party. Clintonista militant moderates haven’t learned a thing from Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump — so they’re trying to sell Democratic voters on more of the same.

Remember what happened when Hillary ran on “never mind your crappy low wage job, vote for me because ‘first woman president’”? Now we’re supposed to get excited about center-right California Senator Kamala Harris because she ticks off two boxes on the identity politics hit parade.

Remember the ugly optics when Bill and Hillary took their excellent fundraising adventure to the Hamptons? Kamala 2020 is already doing the same thing.

Remember how it well worked out when Hillary snubbed Bernie and insulted his progressive supporters, then ran a tack-to-the-right general-election campaign that targeted Republicans who were never going to vote for her? Here comes Kamala with rhetoric that makes her sound like a Rand Paul Republican: “I agree we must be talking about wasteful spending in our country…we must be talking about tax reform.” Also lots o’ tasty “tough on crime” (since she’s black it can’t possible be the racist dog whistle it sounds like).

The DNC is still partying like it’s 1999: Third Way/DLC/center-right triangulation is king. Dick Morris, call Kamala.

Memo to the Dumocrats: Trump’s polls are in the toilet. Still, Trump (or, if Trump gets impeached, Pence) might beat the Dems again in 2020. “Double haters” — voters who hated Trump and Clinton — were a deciding factor in 2016, accounting for “3% to 5% of the 15 million voters across 17 battleground states,” according to political author Joshua Green. They broke for Trump.

They — and Bernie voters snubbed by Hillary who sat home on election day — cost Hillary the 2016 election.

To be fair, some establishment Democrats know how to count. “American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people,” Chuck Schumer wrote in The New York Times yesterday.

Sounds great. So what exactly is in Chuck’s stillborn (Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate) Better Deal?

“Rules to stop prescription drug price gouging… allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers… giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs.”

These are good ideas.

But they’re so small.

If enacted, the Dems’ Better Deal wouldn’t do a thing about the problems that afflict most voters.

The #1 problem is the economy. There aren’t enough jobs. The jobs there are don’t pay enough. Bosses have too much power over workers.

A massive new WPA-like program, in which the federal government hires millions of Americans to rebuild our crumbled infrastructure, would create jobs. A $25/hour minimum wage — that’s about what it would be if raises had kept up with inflation — would guarantee that a full-time job yields full-time pay. Abolishing America’s inhuman, archaic “at-will” employment, which gives employers the right to fire you without a good reason, would restore balance to labor-management relations. The U.S. is the only nation with at-will.

The #2 problem is healthcare. Attempts by Republicans to repeal Obamacare have made the ACA more popular than ever. Most Democrats want single-payer, where the government pays for healthcare — why doesn’t the Democratic Party?

The answer, of course, is that the party leadership is owned by Wall Street, the Fortune 500 and big-monied special interests in general. Figures like Harris and Schumer and Clinton will never give the people what we want and need because their masters will never allow it. The question for us is, when do we stop giving them our votes — and start organizing outside the dead-end of the electoral duopoly?

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/26/the-democrats-are-a-lost-cause/