Trump’s horror show hides Clinton’s rotten agenda

Donald Trump is so despicable that no one is paying attention to what Hillary Clinton actually stands for. Elizabeth Schulte and Alan Maass think that should stop.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

DONALD TRUMP proved once again in the final presidential debate that he’s the secret weapon…of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

The nominee of what was once the leading party of American capitalism again went out of his way to piss off even Republicans who haven’t retracted their endorsement of him.

His own running mate repudiated his unhinged nonsense about the election being rigged against him–so Trump insisted Wednesday night that he couldn’t promise to abide by the results of the election. The audiotape of him bragging about sexually assaulting women has repulsed women voters especially, so Trump sneered about every allegation–and nonchalantly acknowledged that as president, he would pack the U.S. Supreme Court with right-wing justices who would overturn legal abortion.

We’re in uncharted territory–it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump will do worse on November 8 than any major-party candidate in modern political history.

But maybe even more incredible is the fact that the other major-party candidate on the ballot in three weeks’ time could be setting records herself if her opponent wasn’t Donald Trump.

As repellant as he is, lots of people seem ready to choose interstellar catastrophe over voting for Hillary Clinton. A recent poll of 18- to 35-year-olds inspired by the Twitter hashtag #GiantMeteor2016 found that one in four young respondents would rather a giant meteor destroy the Earth than see either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House.

The public demonstrations of hatred toward Trump are heartening–anti-sexist protesters in New York City and Chicago chanting “Pussy grabs back!” outside Trump skyscrapers, and culinary workers building their own “wall” of taco trucks at a Trump hotel near the debate site in Las Vegas.

But at the same time, every new outrage involving Trump means people pay less attention to the outrages of a Democratic presidential nominee whose top staff responded to the critique of a Black Lives Matter activist with the single word “Yuck,” as we know thanks to WikiLeaks.

The Democrats have happily stood silent while Trump’s gross behavior sets the terms of the debate. Clinton could easily take over the spotlight from Trump and challenge his reactionary bluster. But she’s infinitely more confortable with a campaign centered on how much she’s not like her opponent, rather than what she stands for.

You’ve probably heard from any number of Clinton supporters–your friends, your family, fellow unionists, members of the feminist organization you support–that this election isn’t about voting for what you believe in, but against what you definitely don’t believe in.

But each time the Trump campaign lurches and careens to the right, it takes the heat off the Clinton campaign to defend its candidate’s agenda.

So let’s take a break from the regularly scheduled Trump train wreck and talk about what Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party ought to be held accountable for. You heard about some of it in the debate last night, but if the Clinton campaign has its way, you won’t hear much more before November 8–as long as Trump cooperates with his ongoing horror show.

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A Friend of Immigrants in the White House?

Immigration came up in the debate last night, but for anyone who cares about the issue, it wasn’t much of a discussion–especially after Hillary Clinton avoided a question about free trade and borders by blaming the Russkies for hacking her e-mails again.

Clinton could have called out Trump’s deplorable racism. He began his campaign by calling Mexicans immigrants “rapists” and vowing to build a border wall. His latest xenophobia includes a promise to institute “extreme vetting” on Muslims who want to enter the U.S.

But let’s stick to our theme today: What about Clinton?

On enforcement, Clinton joins Republican and Democratic politicians alike in calling for tougher border controls. In 2013, she supported legislation that included a path to citizenship, as she said in the debate–but on the condition that billions of dollars be devoted to new surveillance equipment and fencing (otherwise known as a wall) along the Mexican border, along with 20,000 more border agents.

The consequences of these policies are deadly. Since January, officials say that fewer people attempted to illegally cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico, but more have died trying to make the journey. According to the Pima County medical examiner in Arizona, 117 bodies have been recovered along migration routes in southern Arizona so far this year, an increase over last year.

This is the true face of Clinton’s promise to “protect our borders”–death and misery for people fleeing persecution and poverty.

Clinton supporters focus on the nightmare of a Trump presidency for immigrants. But the nightmare is already happening. Trump may have blustered about the actual number, but it’s true that Barack Obama has presided over the deportation of well over 2 million people, more than all the presidents of the 20th century combined.

And forfeiting immigrant lives in the name of border security is hardly unique to the latest Democrat in the White House. It was Bill Clinton who imposed “Operation Gatekeeper” in 1994, pandering to the right wing by pouring more millions into border enforcement and, yes, wall-building.

With friends like these…well, you know the rest.

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What Clinton Told Goldman Sachs

Okay, okay, the real news story is how WikiLeaks got hold of e-mails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches, not what was in them. Clinton herself said the most important question of the final debate was whether Trump would condemn Russian espionage to hack her e-mails.

But hey, bear with us.

It’s not news that Clinton has deep ties to Corporate America going back decades. But with Clinton touring the country and telling her supporters that America is “already great,” it’s worth remembering who America is really great for.

In a speech at Goldman Sachs three years ago, Clinton did everything but apologize for the weak banking regulations imposed in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. “More thought has to be given to the process and transactions and regulations so that we don’t kill or maim what works, but we concentrate on the most effective way of moving forward with the brainpower and the financial power that exists here,” Clinton pandered to an audience of banksters.

Explaining that Dodd-Frank bill was passed for “political” reasons, Clinton assured the investment bank aptly referred to in 2010 as “a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” that she believes the best overseers of Wall Street are…wait for it…Wall Street itself.

“There’s nothing magic about regulations–too much is bad, too little is bad,” Clinton said, and one assumes that she emphasized the “too much is bad” part.

For all the working-class families who bore the burden of underwater mortgages during the housing crisis, Clinton has signaled, if anyone was still wondering, whose side she’s on–the parasites on Wall Street.

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The Return of Roe

Remember reproductive rights? It was pretty shocking to hear the words “abortion” or “Roe” and “Wade” uttered in last night’s debate. So far this election, we’ve heard precious little about this essential health care question for women.

It’s not for a lack of things to talk about–Texas shuttering its clinics becaue of punitive legislative restrictions, an Indiana woman facing murder charges for having a miscarriage, congressional Republicans smearing Planned Parenthood with fabricated video.

But you wouldn’t know about any of that from the two presidential candidates, including the Democrat who says she supports a woman’s right to choose.

Last night, Trump admitted that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who would, without doubt, overturn legal abortion. By comparison, Clinton seemed, well, actually human. But as a result, the limitations of her defense of the right to legal abortion, now and in the past, were overshadowed.

Clinton helped perfect the modern-day Democratic strategy of searching for “common ground” with conservatives on the issue of abortion–an issue on which any sincere defender of women’s rights shouldn’t find common anything with the right. She helped coin the slogan of “safe, legal and rare” as the goal of pro-choice Democrats.

The “common ground” arguments haven’t saved reproductive rights–instead, they’ve given up ideological ground to the right and made the pro-choice side weaker.

If you want to know how important reproductive rights are to Hillary Clinton, look at her vice presidential choice Tim Kaine. In 2005, he ran for Virginia governor promising to lower the number of abortions in the state by promoting abstinence-only education. The state’s chapter of NARAL withheld their endorsement because he “embraces many of the restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.”

But of course, nothing is getting in the way of the mainstream women’s organizations backing the Clinton-Kaine ticket to the hilt this year. They don’t care if reproductive rights are part of the debate. But a lot of women out there do–and many of them are fed up with the way the Democrats take them for granted at election time, and don’t lift a finger to stem the attacks when they come.

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Remember the $15 Minimum Wage and All That Socialist Stuff?

It’s almost obliterated from our memory, thanks to the monstrosity that is Donald Trump, but during the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton had to talk about some of the issues that supporters of the Democratic Party care about

The socialist message of the Bernie Sanders campaign put these questions in the spotlight and forced the most corporate of Democrats to address them–and also answer for her own terrible record on a number of things that didn’t come up at the debate. For a time, the brewing anger at corporate greed and the corrupt political status quo–given expression in grassroots movements like the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter–found a voice in the political mainstream.

With a few weeks to go before the election, that seems like a long time ago.

Part of the reason is Hillary Clinton, but another part is Bernie Sanders. He’s stopped his sharp criticisms of Clinton and tells his supporters that now is the time to stop Trump, not make demands on Clinton. In the debate, when Trump repeated one of his routine sound bites about Sanders saying Clinton had “bad judgment,” Clinton smiled smugly and pointed out that Sanders was campaigning and urging a vote for her.

There were many issues that Clinton had to address this year only because people mobilized to make sure they couldn’t be ignored–like anti-racist activists who made sure she was reminded of her support for Bill Clinton’s crime bills, or Palestinian rights supporters who confronted her support for Israeli apartheid.

Those issues were invisible at the October 19 debate, but so were many others that people care about. They don’t come up within the narrow confines of mainstream politics in the U.S.–where the politics of fear of what’s worse forces voters to settle for what’s hopefully less bad.

The two-party duopoly is organized to squash political debate and dissent outside the mainstream–which is why it’s up to us to raise both, before the election between Clinton and Trump is decided, and especially after.

Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer on War, Religion and Fighting American Neoliberalism

Posted on Oct 17, 2016

By Emma Niles

A handful of people gathered Monday at a private Los Angeles residence for an old-school salon to discuss contemporary politics with two great thinkers: Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer and acclaimed journalist and Truthdig contributor Chris Hedges.

Scheer opened the conversation by delving into war, the topic Hedges has spent much of his life covering. “In terms of my own journalistic career, the turning point was the Vietnam War,” Scheer said. As a journalist, he said, “My experience with war was sporadic. I could always leave,” although he noted that “the wounds don’t go away.” Then Scheer turned the conversation to Hedges’ “graduate education in war.”

Hedges told how he studied politics as a teenager before moving to South America to become a war correspondent. His most formative life experience wasn’t living in a fascist country—it was growing up in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston that, he explained, introduced him to institutional racism. “You can’t understand America if you don’t understand white supremacy,” Hedges said.

His time as a foreign correspondent left its mark, however. One of his first journalistic stints was in El Salvador, where he spent half a decade. “When you spend five years covering a war, it messes you up,” he said. “There were journalists who stayed longer than five years, but none of them were alive.”

Hedges spent decades reporting in various war-torn countries, and he developed a nervous tic and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of living in constantly stressful environments. “The sickness of war had become my own sickness,” he said. Finally, he became a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, where he broke numerous stories over the years. Ultimately, he was let go from the Times after a commencement speechhe gave garnered extreme criticism. Although he felt anxious about losing his job, Hedges realized that he “didn’t need The New York Times to tell me who I was.”

Hedges ventured into the broader topics of truth-telling and journalistic ethics. “Truth and news are not the same thing,” he said.

Scheer then steered the conversation to religion, and Hedges described what he sees as a form of the afterlife: He uses his voice for his late father’s words. “That, to me, is resurrection.”

“Without religion, we don’t have a ready weapon of accountability,” Scheer added. “Right now, what we teach in these universities is that careerism trumps everything.”

Hedges noted that many aspects of modern religion are problematic. “I think the Christian right is [composed of] heretics. I don’t think they’re Christians,” he said. “Jesus was a pacifist … [but] in the name of tolerance, [most Christians don’t] fight the battle they should fight.”

Hedges talked about teaching college courses in prisons. In one class, he led a handful of male prisoners in a play-writing workshop, which culminated in the creation of a play titled “Caged,” which Hedges is trying to bring to the stage in New York City.

The conversation broadened. “How do we stay compassionate in the face of constant global tragedy?” someone in the room asked. Hedges replied that he tries to maintain a constant relationship with the oppressed; this, he believes, keeps him accountable, despite his own privilege as a white male American.

The discussion turned to the current election. Hedges said we are watching the rise of fascism through neoliberalism in America. Trump is “imbecilic, idiotic, self-destructive, morally repugnant,” he said, and it says something about our country that Hillary Clinton “is only four points ahead” in the polls. Clinton, he said, “is basically Mitt Romney in drag.”

So how does the average American combat neoliberalism, if our current political process is such a shambles? For Hedges, it comes down to large-scale movements—such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the Dakota Access pipeline protestsand social justice movements that originated in Ferguson, Mo. “We can’t underestimate the power of living in truth,” Hedges said, “even though it’s outside of the formal mechanisms of power.”

These movements have the power to influence the political elite, he continued. “The only things they have to offer you in this election is fear,” Hedges concluded. “The moment you stop being afraid, they become afraid.”

An audio version of the full conversation will soon become available on KPFK. Various moments of the salon were captured using Evrybit—check out the multimedia story below:


Donald Trump: The Dress Rehearsal for Fascism

Posted on Oct 16, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at an event hosted by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, N.J., on Saturday. (Julio Cortez / AP)

Americans are not offered major-party candidates who have opposing political ideologies or ideas. We are presented only with manufactured political personalities. We vote for the candidate who makes us “feel” good about him or her. Campaigns are entertainment and commercial vehicles to raise billions in advertising revenue for corporations. The candidate who can provide the best show gets the most coverage. The personal brand is paramount. It takes precedence over ideas, truth, integrity and the common good. This cult of the self, which defines our politics and our culture, contains the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation, and incapacity for remorse or guilt. Donald Trump has these characteristics. So does Hillary Clinton.

Our system of inverted totalitarianism has within it the seeds of an overt or classical fascism. The more that political discourse becomes exclusively bombastic and a form of spectacle, the more that emotional euphoria is substituted for political thought and the more that violence is the primary form of social control, the more we move toward a Christianized fascism.

Last week’s presidential debate in St. Louis was only a few degrees removed from the Jerry Springer TV show—the angry row of women sexually abused or assaulted by Bill Clinton, the fuming Trump pacing the stage with a threatening posture, the sheeplike and carefully selected audience that provided the thin veneer of a democratic debate while four multimillionaires—Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, Clinton and Trump—squabbled like spoiled schoolchildren.

The Clinton campaign, aware that the policy differences between her and a candidate such as Jeb Bush were minuscule, plotted during the primaries to elevate the fringe Republican candidates—especially Trump. To the Democratic strategists, a match between Clinton and Trump seemed made in heaven. Trump, with his “brain trust” of Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, would make Clinton look like a savior.

A memo addressed to the Democratic National Committee under the heading “Our Goals & Strategy” was part of the trove of John Podesta emails released this month by WikiLeaks.

“Our hope is that the goal of a potential HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign and the DNC would be one-in-the-same: to make whomever the Republicans nominate unpalatable to the majority of the electorate. We have outlined three strategies to obtain our goal …,” it reads.

The memo names Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ben Carson as candidates, or what the memo calls “Pied Piper” candidates who could push mainstream candidates closer to the positions embraced by the lunatic right. “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to [take] them seriously.”

The elites of the two ruling parties, who have united behind Clinton, are playing a very dangerous game. The intellectual and political vacuum caused by the United States’ species of anti-politics, or what the writer Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics,” leaves candidates, all of whom serve the interests of the corporate state, seeking to exaggerate what Sigmund Freud termed “the narcissism of small differences.”

However, this battle between small differences, largely defined by the culture wars, no longer works with large segments of the population. The insurgencies of Trump and Bernie Sanders are evidence of a breakdown of these forms of social control. There is a vague realization among Americans that we have undergone a corporate coup. People are angry about being lied to and fleeced by the elites. They are tired of being impotent. Trump, to many of his most fervent supporters, is a huge middle finger to a corporate establishment that has ruined their lives and the lives of their children. And if Trump, or some other bombastic idiot, is the only vehicle they have to defy the system, they will use him.

The elites, including many in the corporate press, must increasingly give political legitimacy to goons and imbeciles in a desperate battle to salvage their own legitimacy. But the more these elites pillage and loot, and the more they cast citizens aside as human refuse, the more the goons and imbeciles become actual alternatives. The corporate capitalists would prefer the civilized mask of a Hillary Clinton. But they also know that police states and fascist states will not impede their profits; indeed in such a state the capitalists will be more robust in breaking the attempts of the working class to organize for decent wages and working conditions. Citibank, Raytheon and Goldman Sachs will adapt. Capitalism functions very well without democracy.

In the 1990s I watched an impotent, nominally democratic liberal elite in the former Yugoslavia fail to understand and act against the population’s profound economic distress. The fringe demagogues whom the political and educated elites dismissed as buffoons—Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudman—rode an anti-liberal tide to power.

The political elites in Yugoslavia at first thought the nationalist cranks and lunatics, who amassed enough support to be given secondary positions of power, could be contained. This mistake was as misguided as Franz von Papen’s assurances that when the uncouth Austrian Adolf Hitler was appointed the German chancellor in January 1933 the Nazi leader would be easily manipulated. Any system of prolonged political paralysis and failed liberalism vomits up monsters. And the longer we remain in a state of political paralysis—especially as we stumble toward another financial collapse—the more certain it becomes that these monsters will take power.

Fascism, at its core, is an amorphous and incoherent ideology that perpetuates itself by celebrating a grotesque hypermasculinity, elements of which are captured in Trump’s misogyny. It allows disenfranchised people to feel a sense of power and to have their rage sanctified. It takes a politically marginalized and depoliticized population and mobilizes it around a utopian vision of moral renewal and vengeance and an anointed political savior. It is always militaristic, anti-intellectual and contemptuous of democracy and replaces culture with nationalist and patriotic kitsch. It sees those outside the closed circle of the nation-state or the ethnic or religious group as diseased enemies that must be physically purged to restore the health of nation.

Many of these ideological elements are already part of our system of inverted totalitarianism. But inverted totalitarianism, as Sheldon Wolin wrote, disclaims its identity to pay homage to a democracy that in reality has ceased to function. It is characterized by the anonymity of the corporate centers of power. It seeks to keep the population passive and demobilized. I asked Wolin shortly before he died in 2015 that if the two major forms of social control he cited—access to easy and cheap credit and inexpensive, mass-produced consumer products—were no longer available would we see the rise of a more classical form of fascism. He said this would indeed become a possibility.

Bill Clinton transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. He pushed the Republican Party so far to the right it became insane. Hillary Clinton is Mitt Romney in drag. She and the Democratic Party embrace policies—endless war, the security and surveillance state, neoliberalism, austerity, deregulation, new trade agreements and deindustrialization—that are embraced by the Republican elites. Clinton in office will continue the neoliberal assault on the poor and the working poor, and increasingly the middle class, that has defined the corporate state since the Reagan administration. She will do so while speaking in the cloying and hypocritical rhetoric of compassion that masks the cruelty of corporate capitalism.

The Democratic and Republican parties may be able to disappear Trump, but they won’t disappear the phenomena that gave rise to Trump. And unless the downward spiral is reversed—unless the half of the country now living in poverty is lifted out of poverty—the cynical game the elites are playing will backfire. Out of the morass will appear a genuine “Christian” fascist endowed with political skill, intelligence, self-discipline, ruthlessness and charisma. The monster the elites will again unwittingly elevate, as a foil to keep themselves in power, will consume them. There would be some justice in this if we did not all have to pay.


Vice President Dick Cheney, speaks at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Thursday, April 10, 2008, in Washington.  Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

By Caitlan Johnstone

Remember when your parents used to do stuff to you that you swore you’d never do to your own kids? If you’re a parent, you already know where I’m going with this. You have your first kid, you’re all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, looking forward to helping create a better generation than your own, then you catch yourself doing that weird spit-clean thing to your son’s face you remember hating when you were little.

We all grow up to become our parents in some ways, but hopefully, we get more of their positive traits than their negative ones. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way, though, and it’s always heartbreaking to realize you’re now the embodiment of your mother’s temper or your father’s emotional incompetence. I wonder if that’s how Democrats are feeling now that they’re becoming the new Republican party?

Falling in Line

Bill Clinton once famously said that in every presidential election, Democrats want to fall in love, while Republicans just fall in line.

That’s because liberals are educated free-thinkers with critical minds who are cynical of abuses of power. Democrats needed to earn their vote. They are hard to herd. They are attracted to their candidate, not forced by shame, guilt or fear. Traditionally, anyway.

But the man people fell in love with this election cycle, Bernie Sanders, saw his campaign fatally sabotaged by the power-base of the DNC elites and their media puppets, and Democrats have fallen in line like good little soldiers behind a candidate nobody even likes.

The DNC/Media/Clinton achieved something remarkable this election cycle. They’ve created bullet-proof loyalty out of Democrats. There’s no sin that Hillary could commit that will sway Dem voters now. No leak will be shocking enough to lose their vote. Dems were appalled when Trump said he could shoot someone and his peeps would still vote for him, but we all know Hillary could too, now.

But they did it with good old traditional Republican fear and shaming tactics. Turns out you don’t have to be religious for those to work on you. Replace “the devil” with “Trump” and it works just fine. It works so well, Democrats have taken to disseminating an authoritarian-style propaganda, which takes us to our next point.

Media Brainwashing

One of the most annoying things about Republicans used to be how they would all regurgitate whatever party lines Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads on Fox News told them to say. Now Republicans are communicating almost exclusively in cartoon frog memes, so it’s fallen to the Democrats to spout vapid lines like “voting third party is a mark of white privilege” or “a vote for anyone but Hillary is a vote for Trump.” I swear the dialogues I have with Hillary supporters get less original every single day, because as I’ve mentioned once or twice, the corporate media is being used to misinform the public about what’s happening in this country, and during this election cycle that’s been entirely to the benefit of the Clinton campaign.

So now you’ve got unthinking automatons passing along bumper-sticker-sized sound bytes manufactured by the neoliberal think tank, just like you used to have Republican droids doing for the neocons. The simpler and more vacuous the idea, the faster the mind virus spreads.

Election Fraud

Democrats have been very vocal opponents of gerrymandering, the largely Republican-favoring process whereby voting districts are redrawn in a way that marginalizes the impact that poor and disadvantaged populations can have on elections. Dems have also been voicing outrage over the 2013 repeal of parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has given states the right to demand more stringent requirements from would-be voters before they can access the polls, a practice which again tends to work disproportionately against minorities and the poor.

And yet when the ruling elites of their own party actively conspired to thwart the nomination of a candidate with an unblemished record of powerful support for minorities, the poor and the oppressed, forcefully installing in his place a Wall Street crony whose family has a consistent record of catering to the one percent and pushing for expansion of the prison industrial complex while subverting welfare, Democrats have shrugged and gone along with it. Democracy was assaulted in America this year, but the party which takes its very name from democracy shuffled on in dissociated indifference.

It’s all fine as long as it’s your people doing it, right guys?

Institutional Ecocide

If you haven’t checked out WikiLeaks’ Podesta email number 4081, take a look. If you want to know where the real movers and shakers of the Democratic party stand on environmental issues, this is a perfect glimpse of what happens behind the curtain. In it, you see Clinton staff scoffing at Bernie Sanders’ opposition to fracking, calling him “irresponsible” and “whack,” while also discussing possible ways of appearing less pro-fracking than they are to the public.

You really could not ask for a clearer picture of where the Democratic party sits as a whole with the urgent matter of averting climate catastrophe. As Clinton assured her Wall Street bosses, there is most certainly a public position running alongside a very different private position. The public position is to convert to green energy as quickly as possible, the private position is to “watch our tone and not sound too pro-fracking” while continuing to use it as long as they like like as a “transitional energy.” The very idea of fracking as something dangerous which needs to stop is laughable to them.

Combine that cute little glimpse of their inner workings with the fact that Hillary Clinton is actively pushing for a war with a nuclear superpower, and you’ve got something that is far more dangerous to the earth than Dick Cheney’s wettest of dreams.


Democrats have become warmongers. The same people who protested in the streets over Bush’s war are now rallying behind Bush 2.0, Hillary Clinton, who actively supported all of Bush’s very worst decisions, including the Iraq invasion. Obama dropped 23,144 bombs on Muslim-majority countries in 2015 alone and has bombed twice the number of sovereign nations that Bush did. The Democrats, who assure progressives that they’re going to “hold Hillary’s feet to the fire” to ensure she honors a progressive agenda, are dead silent about Obama’s drone wars, which Noam Chomsky has called the worst terrorist campaign on the planet.

“Oh, we’re always at war, what’s one more?” a Clinton supporter recently asked me when I was on a tirade about Hillary’s blatant push toward a war with Russia. That sort of rhetoric is becoming more and more common in my interactions with these people, and it spooks me out every single time; it’s like talking to a serial killer or a vampire or something.

This is the same party that saw massive riots at the Democratic Convention in 1968 when they announced a hawkish nominee. The entire party nearly collapsed because of it, which is why they completely revised the process by which those nominations occur. The process which they completely violated this year, to the absence of any riots whatsoever.

Democrats used to be agents of change, all about demanding progress and taking the country forward for everyone, not conserving the status quo for the elites. In one year, that has been reversed and the Democratic voters have been co-opted by the forces of evil as a firewall against change.

Take a good, hard look at yourselves in the mirror, Democrats. Take a look at what you’re becoming. Do you see Cheney’s soulless mug leering back at you?

Democrats focus on sex scandal as conflict with Russia escalates


The great diversion:

15 October 2016

With media coverage in America dominated by allegations of sexual assault against the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, one would never know that the United States is on the verge of a massive escalation of operations against Syria and is preparing for a military conflict with Russia.

Friday’s wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s alleged sexual transgressions featured a speech full of moralistic outrage by First Lady Michelle Obama, a veteran of the cutthroat Chicago political machine. She melodramatically declared that a leaked tape of Trump making lewd remarks had “shaken me to my core.”

The entire media spectacle serves as a smoke screen for far-reaching plans by the present administration, with the full support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to implement deeply unpopular policies without public scrutiny. It serves as well to bury any discussion of substantive issues in the election campaign.

Behind a nearly total media blackout, the White House National Security Council held a closed-door meeting Friday to review the US military’s campaign in Iraq and Syria. The only major media advance report on the meeting, carried by Reuters on Thursday and then quickly dropped, noted that US officials were weighing “air strikes on Syrian military bases, munitions depots or radar and anti-aircraft bases.” Asked about the meeting at a press conference Friday afternoon, deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz refused to even acknowledge that it was taking place.

The meeting was held just one day after the US military dramatically escalated its role in the conflict in Yemen, launching cruise missile strikes against sites controlled by the Houthi militia. This followed less than a week after the US-backed Saudi military bombed a Houthi funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing at least 140 civilians and wounding more than 500 others.

Within hours of the meeting of Obama’s war council, NBC Nightly News led its Friday broadcast with an exclusive report, citing unnamed intelligence officials, that the White House is “contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election.”

This vague report sets a bellicose tone for scheduled discussions between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Saturday.

Britain, France and Germany, meanwhile, are agitating for military escalation in the five-year proxy war to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson declared Russia a “pariah” state and called for anti-Assad and anti-Russian demonstrations at the Russian Embassy in London.

Johnson is hosting a meeting with Kerry and European foreign ministers on Sunday to consider “more kinetic options, the military options” in the war in Syria.

Russian officials, for their part, threatened retaliation against any US strikes against Syrian government targets. “Any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson General Igor Konashenkov said last week.

He added, “Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality.” Konashenkov’s reference to ‘invisible’’ jets was a warning that the advanced Russian S-400 air defense systems are capable of downing fifth-generation fighters with stealth capabilities, such as the American F-22 and F-35.

Should US air strikes against Syrian targets lead to the downing of American fighters by Russian forces, the White House will come under immense pressure to retaliate, potentially setting off a chain reaction that could result in the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

In evident preparation for such an eventuality, Moscow sent nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to the Russian Baltic city of Kaliningrad on October 8. From Kaliningrad, the missiles can strike targets, including NATO bases, across Poland and the Baltic republics.

Pointing to the dangers posed by these developments, Numan Kurtulmus, the deputy prime minister of Turkey, warned this week that if the war in Syria continues, “America and Russia will come to a point of war.” He added that the “proxy war” in Syria has led the world to the “brink of the beginning of a large regional or global war.”

The war in Syria is just one flashpoint in what military strategists are increasingly warning will be an “inevitable” conflict with major military powers. Last month, the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, published a report titled The Future of the Army, which made clear that the US military’s primary concern is preparing to fight “major and deadly” wars between “great powers,” entailing “heavy casualties” and “high levels of death and destruction.”

At an October 4 meeting of the Association of the US Army in Washington, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said war between the US and global powers such as Russia and China was “almost guaranteed.” At the same conference, Gen. William Hix, a top Army strategist, declared that a conflict “in the near future” with a country like Russia or China would entail a level of violence “that our armies have not seen on a scale probably since Korea, if not in World War II.”

These developments make it clear that the threat to humanity of a war between nuclear-armed powers is greater now than at any time since the height of the Cold War. The sharp escalation of military tensions recalls the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which nearly led to full-scale war between the US and the Soviet Union.

At that time, the press was eagerly following every detail of the showdown between the US and the USSR, while the Kennedy administration was intently seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Now, the White House, driven by an unstable domestic situation and growing threats to its global dominance, is taking increasingly reckless measures, while the press virtually ignores the danger of a clash between the United States and Russia.

The media silence on the war threat is coupled with a drive, led by the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Party and the New York Times, to paint the fascistic Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as an agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By framing the November 8 election as a struggle against Russian subversion and the “dictator” Putin, Hillary Clinton is seeking to create the conditions for claiming a popular mandate for military escalation and a confrontation with Russia should she capture the White House.

Both big-business parties, despite their tactical differences, fully support the US war drive, while the Libertarian and Green candidates are largely ignoring the war danger. The Socialist Equality Party alone has put opposition to war at the very heart of its campaign in the 2016 elections.

Andre Damon

Leaked Clinton email admits Saudi, Qatari government funding of ISIS in Syria


By Bill Van Auken
12 October 2016

An email exchange between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta, posted Monday by WikiLeaks, frankly acknowledges that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is funded and supported by Washington’s chief allies in the Arab world.

The September 2014 exchange was contained in one of the 2,086 documents posted by WikiLeaks Monday, following up on the release a week ago of over 2,000 more of Podesta’s emails and attachments.

At the time of the exchange on ISIS, Podesta was a White House counselor to President Barack Obama. One of the most powerful figures in the Democratic Party establishment, he is the former White House chief of staff to Bill Clinton, the former chairman of the Obama transition and a corporate lobbyist for corporations like WalMart, BP and Lockheed Martin. For her part, Clinton had left her post as secretary of state over a year earlier.

The email acknowledges that the sources for the assessment of the Saudi and Qatari support for ISIS “include Western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region.”

The document calls for increased reliance upon the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga as a key proxy force for combating ISIS in Iraq, pointing to the Kurdish militia’s “long standing relationships with CIA officers and Special Forces operators.”

It adds: “While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

The email continues: “This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the [Kurdish Regional Government]. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious US pressure.”

The Obama administration has publicly embraced Saudi Arabia as its closest Arab ally and the ostensible leader of an “Islamic alliance” against terrorism. The Saudi regime is the patron of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which purportedly represents the so-called “moderate” opposition that is also supported by Washington in the more than five-year-old war for regime change against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Officially, the US administration has maintained that, while wealthy individuals in Saudi Arabia and Qatar had helped finance ISIS, the despotic governments of these oil monarchies were blameless.

This pretense was blown in October 2014, barely a week after the Podesta-Clinton email, when Vice President Joe Biden told an audience at Harvard University that the Saudi regime, along with other Gulf sheikdoms and Turkey, had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

“We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them,” Biden added.

The US State Department subsequently “clarified” the vice president’s remarks and Biden himself apologized for “any implication that Turkey or other Allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL [ISIS] or other violent extremists in Syria.”

The contents of the Clinton-Podesta email are supplemented by a separate email released by WikiLeaks that includes an excerpt from a secret speech delivered by Clinton in 2013 that was flagged as problematic by her staff. In it she claimed that US attempts to “vet, identify, train and arm cadres of rebels” in Syria had been “complicated by the fact that the Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons–and pretty indiscriminately–not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate, least likely, to cause problems in the future.”

And previously, WikiLeaks posted a secret State Department memo signed by Clinton in 2009 that affirmed: “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups.”

The Clinton camp has responded to the latest release of emails by ratcheting up its virulently anti-Russian campaign, claiming that WikiLeaks was acting as a pawn of the Kremlin and that the material released may have been altered to serve Moscow’s foreign policy purposes.

In her debate Sunday with her Republican rival Donald Trump, however, Clinton herself acknowledged the authenticity of the documents, attempting to defend a statement quoted in one of them from a speech to real estate investors in which she declared that in politics “you need both a public and private position.” She claimed that her inspiration for this approach was Abraham Lincoln.

The method of the “public and private” position is clearly in force in relation to Saudi Arabia, and for good reason.

Saudi Arabia remains a key pillar of political reaction and imperialist domination in the Middle East, with its ruling monarchy constituting the world’s chief customer of the American arms industry. Some $115 billion in US weapons and military support have poured into the kingdom since Obama took office in 2009.

More importantly, the Saudi government support for Al Qaeda, ISIS and similar Islamist militias has developed in close collaboration with the CIA, which coordinated the flow of arms, money and foreign fighters into Syria from a station in southern Turkey.

Moreover, such collaboration began long before the Syrian civil war, dating back to the US-orchestrated war against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where Al Qaeda got its start under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, who collaborated closely with the CIA and Pakistani intelligence.

The determination of the US ruling establishment to maintain a veil of secrecy over this collaboration was underscored by Obama’s veto–subsequently overridden–of legislation allowing Americans to sue foreign governments alleged to be responsible for terrorist attacks in the US. The clear target of the bill was Saudi Arabia, based on ample evidence of Saudi government involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

The overriding fear within the administration and US ruling circles is that any serious probing of the Saudi role in these attacks would uncover the complicity of elements within the US intelligence agencies themselves in the events of 9/11.

Another significant element of the Clinton-Podesta email is its welcoming of the ISIS 2014 offensive in Iraq. It states that “the advance of ISIL [ISIS] through Iraq gives the U.S. Government an opportunity to change the way it deals with the chaotic security situation in North Africa and the Middle East. The most important factor in this matter is to make use of intelligence resources and Special Operations troops in an aggressive manner.”

In other words, ISIS provided a pretext for launching a renewed US military intervention aimed at furthering the strategic goal of American hegemony in the Middle East under the guise of a struggle against terrorism.

The email exchange further exposes Hillary Clinton’s deep involvement in all of these crimes.

Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World

Exploring the origins and impact of the Internet

By Kevin Reed
8 October 2016

German filmmaker Werner Herzog’s new documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World was released in August at select theatres across the US and for home viewing from various on-demand services. The movie—which examines the origins and implications of the Internet and related technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things and space travel—has received generally favorable reviews following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in late January.

Lo and Behold

The work is divided into ten segments with titles like “The Early Days,” “The Glory of the Net” and “The Future,” with Herzog serving as narrator. Through a series of interviews, the director stitches his disparate topics together to explain something about how the Internet and World Wide Web were created and then to paint a troubling picture of the globally interconnected landscape.

The movie begins with a visit to the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the birthplace—along with the Stanford Research Institute—of the Internet. The first interviewee is Leonard Kleinrock, one of the research scientists responsible for the development of the precursor of the Internet called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network of the US Defense Department). At age 82, Kleinrock is obviously thrilled at the opportunity to describe how the first-ever electronic message was transmitted between two points on the network.

As he opens a cabinet of early Internet hardware called a “packet switch,” Kleinrock describes in detail the events of October 29, 1969 at 10:30 pm. As the UCLA sender began typing the word “login”—and checking by telephone with his counterpart at Stanford University—only the first two characters of the message were successfully transmitted before his computer crashed. Despite this seemingly failed communication attempt, Kleinrock explains that “Lo” was an entirely appropriate word for the accomplishment. “It was from here,” he says, “that a revolution began.”

With Herzog occasionally interjecting off-camera during the interviews, the director’s goal seems clear enough. He wants the audience to share his sense of wonder and amazement at the transformative impact of the Internet. This is reinforced by equally intriguing interviews with several others who participated in the birth of the Net. The enthusiasm—and clarity on complex topics—expressed by these pioneers leaves one with a desire to hear more of their stories of discovery and progress.

As the film goes on, however, it emerges that Herzog has another plan; he abandons any historically logical accounting of the Internet and begins eclectically focusing on its various byproducts and offshoots, limitations and negative consequences. Herzog’s interview with Ted Nelson—a philosopher and sociologist credited with theoretically anticipating the World Wide Web and coining the terms “hypertext” and “hypermedia”—becomes the starting point for these wanderings.

Werner Herzog in 2007 (Photo: Erinc Salor)

As a student at Harvard University, Ted Nelson began working in 1960 on a computer system called Project Xanadu that he conceived of as “a digital repository scheme for world-wide electronic publishing.” Nelson also wrote an important book in 1974 entitled Computer Lib/Dream Machines, a kind of manifesto for hobbyists on the social and revolutionary implications of the personal computer.

Although it is left unexplained in the film, the Internet is the technical infrastructure upon which the World Wide Web was developed beginning in 1989. Ever since the widespread adoption of the World Wide Web, Nelson has been a public critic of its structure and implementation, especially HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). He has called HTML a gross oversimplification of his pioneering ideas and said that it “trivializes our original hypertext model with one-way, ever-breaking links and no management of version or contents.”

Why is it that HTML and the World Wide Web emerged as the dominant graphical layer of the Internet as opposed to a competing set of ideas? Is it possible that a solution more comprehensive, expressing more completely the potential of the technology and more effective and useful could have been adopted instead?

One aspect of the rapid global adoption of the World Wide Web—originally created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 at CERN in Switzerland—was the open access policy of its inventor. As Berners-Lee, who is also interviewed in the film, has explained, “Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.” However, while the non-proprietary nature of Berners-Lee’s creation was a significant factor in its success, it does not automatically follow that the core technology of the World Wide Web represented an advance over the ideas represented by others such as Ted Nelson.

These are important and complex questions that have been repeated again and again in the evolution of the information revolution of the past half-century, the further exploration of which would point to fundamental problems of modern technology, i.e. the contradiction between “what is possible” versus “what is required” within the economic and political framework of global capitalist society.

Showing little interest in exploring these matters more deeply, Lo and Behold goes on to present Nelson—a gifted but socially awkward man—as something of a high-tech Don Quixote. Herzog concludes the interview with the quip, “To us you appear to be the only one around who is clinically sane.”

Lo and Behold

Having made nearly forty documentaries in his five-decade career, Herzog is accomplished at gaining access to people with compelling stories to tell. The interview with Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, raises important points. A consistently outspoken opponent of artificial intelligence, Musk makes the following warning: “[I]f you were running a hedge fund or private equity fund and all I want my AI to do is maximize the value of my portfolio, then AI could decide to short consumer stocks, go long on defense stocks, and start a war. Ah, and that obviously would be quite bad.”

This possible scenario under capitalism is not explored any further. While the US military is never specifically mentioned, it is remarkable that the only reference to war in the course of a 98-minute critical look at modern technology comes from a billionaire entrepreneur. Above all, Musk’s comments show that the new technologies by themselves bring no fundamental change to the class relations within capitalist society; indeed the Internet and artificial intelligence in the hands of the ruling elite enable a further and accelerated integration of financial parasitism and imperialist war.

Given that Lo and Behold is sponsored by Netscout Systems, a major corporate supplier of networking hardware and software, it is possible that such topics were off limits. However, the lack of a broader or coherent critical perspective is not something new for Werner Herzog.

While he made some interesting and disturbing fiction films in the 1970s (The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Stroszek in particular), the end of the period of radicalization had an impact on Herzog, as it did on other New German Cinema directors like R. W. Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and Volker Schlöndorff. There was always an overwrought element in Herzog’s work and an emphasis on physical or spiritual excess, without much reference to the content of the action.

In media interviews about his latest film, Herzog has been careful to explain that he does not blame technology itself for the aberrations depicted. “The Internet is not good or evil, dark or light hearted,” he says, “it is human beings” that are the problem. Following the advice of experts, Herzog suggests that people need some kind of “filter” to help them use the technology appropriately.

Leaving things so very much at the level of the individual does not begin to get at the source of the contradiction between the positive and destructive potential of modern technology. This contradiction, so clearly demonstrated during World War II with nuclear technology, is itself an expression of the alternatives facing mankind of socialism versus barbarism.

Lack of an understanding about—or refusal to acknowledge—the deeper social and class interests embedded in the forms of human technology leads to only two possible conclusions: (1) the utopian idea that technology develops automatically without wars and crisis toward the improvement of mankind, or (2) the dystopian belief that technological advancement always develops without any hope of revolutionary transformation of society in the direction of an existential threat to humanity. While Herzog and his producers believe they have provided a balanced perspective between these two, in the end, Lo and Behold comes down on the latter side.