Paul Krugman: The economy of race prevents Medicare and Obamacare expansion

White voters “don’t like the idea of helping neighbors who don’t look like them”

Paul Krugman: The economy of race prevents Medicare and Obamacare expansion
Paul Krugman (Credit: AP/Heribert Proepper)

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued Monday that the opposition of red states like Texas to accepting federal money to fund Medicaid expansion isn’t based, as claimed, on a commitment to smaller government and the superiority of the free market so much as it is the politics of race, and who would receive those funds.

Medicaid expansion, Krugman noted, disproportionately benefits nonwhite Americas, and voters in red states — particular the white ones — “don’t like the idea of helping neighbors who don’t look like them.” Instead, they elect politicians who paper over racism with the thin clapboard “fiscal responsibility” and deny access to healthcare to millions in their states.

Moreover, in so doing they’re also tanking their own economies:

[W]e’ve lately seen strong evidence from the states that refutes this small-government ideology. On one side, there’s the Kansas experiment — the governor’s own term for it — in which sharp tax cuts were supposed to cause dramatic job growth, but have in practice been a complete bust. On the other side there’s California’s turn to the left under Jerry Brown, which conservatives predicted would ruin the state but which has actually been accompanied by an employment boom…

Read the rest at The New York Times…

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

Nothing revolutionary about Sanders’ “Our Revolution”

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29 August 2016

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders launched the successor organization to his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination with the rollout August 24 of “Our Revolution.” Despite the pretentious name and the slick video introduction on the group’s web site, there is nothing revolutionary about Our Revolution.

The video invokes “the idealism and the energy and the intelligence of millions of people” and suggests that their actions will be in line with a long tradition of popular struggle going back hundreds and even thousands of years. But according to the perspective laid out by Sanders in his live-streamed speech, this supposedly mighty river of struggle will deposit its waters into the cesspool of the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Our Revolution “will focus on three distinct areas of work,” according to email and Facebook announcements: “(1) bringing millions of working people and young people into the political system; (2) inspiring, recruiting and supporting progressive candidates across the entire spectrum of government—from school board to the US Senate; (3) educating the public about the most pressing issues confronting our nation and the bold solutions needed to address them.”

What this means in reality is (1) registering people as Democrats and encouraging them to vote for the Democratic Party; (2) supporting candidates in Democratic Party primaries and Democratic candidates in general elections; (3) conducting propaganda to portray the reactionary capitalist and imperialist politics of the Democratic Party as the solution to the social problems confronting working people.

Every one of the candidates endorsed on the Our Revolution web site is a Democrat, including such longtime party standard-bearers as former Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who is seeking his old job after being defeated in 2010 by a right-wing Republican; incumbent Democratic representatives Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio; and a slew of Democratic candidates for Congress and state and local office.

The only even nominally “independent” candidate associated with Our Revolution is Sanders himself, who resumed that purely token status when he returned to his post as a US senator from Vermont. Our Revolution thus reinforces the political monopoly of the two-party system, which enables the American financial aristocracy to control and manipulate the political life of the country.

While only a few hundred people attended the official launch in Burlington, Vermont, Sanders addressed an audience of some 2,600 house parties and over 200,000 Facebook Live viewers. In the four days since, the launch video has been viewed nearly 200,000 times on YouTube. These figures suggest that Sanders continues to attract considerable interest among working people and youth after a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in which he won 22 states and 13 million votes.

The speech Sanders delivered differed little from the threadbare platitudes of his stump speeches, except that it was even more tame. Not once did he mention the words “socialism,” “capitalism,” “working class” or “capitalist class.” He made no reference to the “millionaires and billionaires” whose political influence he regularly denounced during the primary campaign, but whose support may be required to sustain Our Revolution.

As was the case throughout the primary campaign, Sanders made no mention of the growing threat of war and no criticism of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, including the escalation of US warfare in Syria and Iraq, the widespread use of drone-fired missiles to assassinate those targeted by the CIA and Pentagon, and the continuing military buildup against Russia and China. The “Our Issues” section of the Our Revolution web site lists 17 subjects, every one of them related to domestic concerns. There is not a single reference to foreign policy or war.

Sanders’ silence on war was all the more striking since that very morning the Syrian conflict was dramatically expanded by the entry of Turkish ground troops, who crossed the border with the aid of US air cover and began to seize Syrian territory.

While making no reference to this ominous development, which increases the risk of direct military conflict between the US and nuclear-armed Russia, Sanders repeated his claim that the Democratic Party platform he negotiated with Hillary Clinton is the “most progressive” in history. That platform endorses the Obama administration’s war with ISIS, including its illegal intervention in Syria, as well as the US-NATO buildup along Russia’s western border and the Obama-Clinton “pivot” to Asia, which will place 60 percent of US naval and air forces within striking distance of China.

Answering critics who note that Democratic Party platforms are routinely ignored by Democratic presidents and their administrations, Sanders said, “If anybody thinks that that document and what is in that platform is simply going to be resting on a shelf somewhere, accumulating dust, they are very mistaken.”

When it comes to the tepid social reforms listed in the platform, Sanders’ statement is false, and he knows it. If Clinton wins the election, the promises of expanded healthcare, a massive jobs program, free college education and a $15 minimum wage will be unceremoniously scrapped. The platform’s pledges, on the other hand, to build the strongest possible US military and use it in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific region will certainly be on Clinton’s agenda.

Sanders made only a single criticism of the Obama administration, and that was Obama’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that seeks to mobilize Asian, North American and South American countries under US leadership against China—which is excluded from the agreement. Sanders wants an even more nationalistic economic policy, echoing the rabid anti-China chauvinism of Republican Donald Trump.

Of Our Revolution’s 15 original staff members, eight quit after Sanders named his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as president. There were objections to his decision to seek 501(c)(4) status, which allows the group to collect large contributions and keep donors secret.

The entire operation underscores the real political function of the Sanders campaign from its outset. It was not the political expression of the growing anti-capitalist sentiment of workers and young people in the US, but rather the response of a section of the ruling class to this alarming development. Sanders very consciously offered his services as a political lightning rod, using talk of a “political revolution” against the “billionaire class” to channel mass anger against social inequality and the domination of the political system by Wall Street back behind the Democratic Party, where it could be strangled and dissipated.

Sanders himself was shocked by the mass response to his rhetoric and the entire financial aristocracy was aghast when his claim to be a “democratic socialist” proved to be a powerful point of attraction.

The formation of Our Revolution shows that Sanders seeks to continue his services to the capitalist two-party system. But the conditions of capitalist crisis, unemployment, poverty, inequality and war that fueled the political radicalization of which Sanders was a temporary and initial beneficiary will not go away after the elections. The outcome of the contest between the fascistic billionaire Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of Wall Street, the Pentagon and the CIA, will be a further lurch to the right and a vast escalation of US military violence internationally.

In the impending mass struggles of the working class, it is critical that the lessons of the Sanders campaign be assimilated. The fight against war and inequality cannot be carried out within the framework of capitalist politics. There is no avoiding a direct assault on the wealth and power of the ruling class. The working class must break free of the Democratic Party and bourgeois politics as a whole and build an independent political movement to fight for workers’ power and socialism.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/08/29/pers-a29.html

Noam Chomsky: How Obama Has Ushered in ‘a New Era of International Terrorism’

Chomsky and Emran Feroz talk Obama’s political legacy in the Middle East, the deal with Iran and the refugee crisis.

Noam Chomsky.
Photo Credit: screenshot via Democracy Now!

The following is a recent interview with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East and the Obama Administration’s policies towards Syria, Egypt and Iran, and the rise of right-wing extremism and nationalism in Europe.

Emran Feroz: Barack Obama’s presidency is coming to an end. With reference to the political situation in the Middle East, what remains of his historical speech in Cairo and what of his Middle East policy in general?

Noam Chomsky: At the time I felt that the speech was pretty vacuous. I didn’t expect anything from it, so I wasn’t disappointed. One positive aspect of his policy is that there have been no major acts of aggression like the vicious invasion of Iraq, which in my opinion was the worst crime this century. And I suppose you could describe the negotiation of the agreement with Iran as positive too. But it could have been done much earlier. Still, better an agreement with Iran than no agreement.

Obama’s major legacy in the Middle East is the US drone campaign, which is ushering in a new era of international terrorism. I predict that its impact will be wide reaching. Drone technology will not only expand, it will also become a useful tool for all kinds of different terrorist groups in the near future. In the case of the Arab Spring, Obama – and his allies – supported the established dictators as long as it was possible. Moreover, they also tried to shore up the old systems even after the revolutions had started.

EF: We are still witnessing these brutal dictatorships, in Egypt particularly, but also in Syria. Has the Arab Spring been a total failure?

NC: That’s hard to say. Some progress has been made, but there is still much to be done. There have been significant changes which could have formed the basis for something. In Egypt, for example, the labour movement, which is an important and leading part of the Arab Spring, did make some substantial gains. I don’t think the Sisi dictatorship is capable of dealing with Egypt’s mammoth problems. I suspect this is just another stage of many as the country edges towards democratisation and freedom. Syria is a different story. The country appears bent on self-destruction. Anything that might be done to mitigate the situation simply leads to another disaster.

EF: To what extent is the US administration responsible for Syria’s implosion?

NC: It’s hard to say. The Assad regime is absolutely monstrous and responsible for a large majority of the atrocities. IS is another monstrosity. The al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front is not much better than IS, while some of the other major groups are closely linked to it. The Kurdish groups have succeeded in defending their own territory and establishing a more or less decent system within. And then there are various other groups – local militias and parts of the original reform movement and some other more democratic elements.

To what extent they still exert any influence is debatable. The veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk claims they no longer exist. Others say they are a substantial force. It’s a patchwork of many different groups. At the moment, there are some small signs of progress that might possibly lead to a ceasefire or some kind of negotiated agreement. We can be sure that this will be pretty ugly. But it’s still better than suicide.

EF: You already mentioned the deal with Iran. Many people say it’s one of the biggest successes of the Obama administration, while others say it will lead to the nuclearisation of the Arab Sunni states. Why do you think it is a success?

NC: I think the deal was a success, but I also think there is a problem with how the issue has been presented. It would have been a major step had those involved accepted Iranian, Arab and, in fact, global opinion and moved towards establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the region. Indeed that is what Obama promised. The deal is a small step in the right direction. We – and that includes the US intelligence agencies – don’t know whether Iran was planning to develop nuclear weapons. I think we can be fairly confident that it was planning to develop nuclear capability. On the other hand, any nation with nuclear power or technology can be said to possess this capability. Considering, however, the restrictive conditions in which it was reached, the agreement was a step forward.

EF: On the subject of success, to what extent can we say there’s been any in Israel and Palestine?

NC: We’ve seen zero success there. If we put aside words and look at actions, the Obama administration has been the most supportive administration of Israeli expansion so far. While the rest of the world condemns the illegal settlements, the US is still supporting the Israeli government in this point. There is still military, diplomatic, economic and even ideological support for continuing the settlement programme. Obama’s most remarkable move, one of the few that actually received some public attention, was his veto of the UN security council resolution in February 2011 which literally endorsed official US policy. The resolution called for limiting settlement expansion while the Obama veto claimed it was a drawback to peace. In fact, we’re currently seeing negotiations with Netanyahu over increasing extensive US aid, which basically feeds settlement expansion. Gaza has just been subjected to brutal and savage attacks by Israel with US support.

EF: We’re seeing a rise in nationalism and right-wing extremism in Europe at the moment. First and foremost the hatred is being directed at the refugees fleeing the chaos in the Middle East. With the rise of Donald Trump, a similar picture seems to be developing in the United States. Do you think that the fear-mongers are winning?

NC: It’s very interesting to look at the so-called refugee crisis. In Austria, for example, a neo-Nazi is on the verge of political victory. Austria has taken in a very small number of refugees. One of the most forthcoming countries in Europe, I suppose, is Sweden, which has taken in some 160,000 refugees. Sweden is a rich country with a population of 10 million, so now refugees make up about 1.5 per cent of the population. But this is still a very small number compared to a poor country like Lebanon, which has no role in generating refugees. But refugees currently make up 40 percent of its population; 25 percent of those are Syrians. Jordan has also taken in a huge number of refugees, while most European countries have apparently absorbed very few.

But where are the refugees coming from? Most of them come from the Middle East, but some are also coming from Africa. Europe has a long history in Africa. For centuries, Africa suffered devastation and destruction, which is still one of the reasons why people are fleeing from Africa to Europe. In the Middle East, there are many causes for the crisis, but one major and overwhelming cause is the American and British invasion of Iraq, which virtually destroyed the country. Iraqis are still fleeing, at the moment mostly from a sectarian conflict that barely existed before the invasion. Look more closely and it is clear that there are countries that have generated refugees throughout their history – and they include the US, Britain and a number of European countries.

Interview conducted by Emran Feroz

Emran Feroz is the founder of the Drone Memorial.

 

Alternet

 

The unpopularity contest: Clinton and Trump

With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump setting new lows in trustworthiness according to polls, it’s good to know you don’t have to settle for voting for the “lesser of two evils.”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

HILLARY CLINTON and Donald Trump may be trying to seem as different from each other as possible, but they have one thing in common that they can’t escape: how unpopular they are.

Months before the November 8 election, opinion polls showed that Clinton and Trump might be the most disliked and distrusted pair of politicians ever to face each other in a U.S. presidential election.

After Trump’s one-after-another bungles and blunders over the summer, Clinton is favored to win–she holds a 10 percentage point advantage and more in some polls. But beneath those numbers lie an avoidable truth: People deserve a better choice.

And they know it–especially younger voters. According to two Washington Post-ABC News surveys in August, among voters under the age of 35, 72 percent said they have an unfavorable view of Trump, and 49 percent said the same of Clinton. When asked what they thought of the choice itself–Clinton versus Trump, 68 percent said they were dissatisfied.

The first half of Election 2016 was very different–mainly because of the campaign of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Though he was always the longest of long shots to actually win, Sanders brought issues that actually concern most voters, like inequality and corporate greed, into the political spotlight. He gave millions of people an opportunity to register their disgust with the two-party status quo.

Now, it’s back to the same-old, same-old for American presidential politics: evil versus evil, maybe different in degree, but still the same main ingredient.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AFTER THE party conventions in July, the Clinton campaign couldn’t have been more confident.

It had it in the bag–endorsements from big business billionaires like Warren Buffett, former five-star generals and a significant number of disaffected Republicans. The already tested and proven status quo candidate was clearly on her way to the White House.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump seemed to be competing in his own personal Olympics that awarded gold medals for xenophobia and ignorance. Even when his own advisers claimed Trump would make a shift toward being more “presidential” and less, well, Trumpadential, Trump kept on spewing vile hate toward Muslims, immigrants and other targets.

After he criticized family members of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq who spoke at the Democratic convention, the outraged backlash should have convinced Trump to shut up. Instead, he doubled down on his Islamophobia and a couple weeks later plugged a plan for “extreme vetting” of Muslims wishing to emigrate to the U.S.

Among his proposals is an ideology test for new immigrants arriving in the U.S. “Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country,” Trump declared.

Good thing for Trump that he isn’t trying to get into the U.S. under a President Trump.

Faced with the choice between Clinton and Trump, some voters say that they may choose to sit this one out.

“I’m not going to vote. I’m just not,” Dustin McKindsey, a 26-year-old handyman in Madison, Wisconsin, told the Washington Post. “This is the first time I’ve felt that way…A choice between two stones that’ll sink.”

McKindsey is part of the generation where the discontent is concentrated. A GenForword poll, for example, found that 7 in 10 voters aged 18-30–including majorities of Blacks, Asians and Hispanics–say they are unsatisfied with the contest between Clinton and Trump, and want the option of a third-party candidate.

This is a sharp contrast to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, which generated excitement in large part because he appeared to come from outside the political establishment and offer the hope of change. He would become the first Black president in a country founded on slavery and still steeped in racism.

With her decades as a leading figure in the Democratic Party, a senator, a secretary of state–and her long record of helping to demolish welfare, pass draconian crime bills, defend imperialist wars, and green-light right-wing coups–Clinton is without a doubt a candidate of American capitalism’s status quo.

If she was running against anyone other than Trump, the Democrats would have a lot more to worry about.

Where Trump has won support, it’s because his campaign message acknowledges that living conditions and economic prospects have declined for all but a minority of people at the top of the income ladder. He focuses the blame on scapegoats like immigrants and Muslims, but the discontent he seeks to exploit is real.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has “more or less openly offer[ed] herself as the complacency candidate,” as left-wing author Thomas Frank wrote. When the “alternative” to Trump has nothing but platitudes about how America is already great to say in response, it allows Trumpism to metastasize and grow.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

DISSATISFACTION WITH Clinton and Trump is leading some voters to turn elsewhere. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, one-quarter of younger voters say they would support a third-party candidate.

Right now, the biggest share of the third-party vote is going to the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, a right-winger who is, as Travis Richard Sweatte put it in an article for Jacobin, the candidate of “America’s third capitalist party.”

On the left, however, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is galvanizing those who want to a choice beyond what the Democratic Party will allow. Her message against corporate greed, environmental destruction and endless war has won her a significant level of support for an independent left candidate.

For her running mate, Stein chose Ajamu Baraka, the founding executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, with decades of experience fighting for Black liberation and championing struggles against U.S. imperialism’s crimes in the Middle East, Central America, Africa and elsewhere.

SocialistWorker.org has been very critical of some positions taken by Stein and Baraka–in particular, Baraka’s open support for the brutal repression carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria against a popular pro-democracy uprising now more than five years old. Baraka–and Stein to a lesser extent–promote a view disappointingly common on the left that must be confronted with clear anti-imperialist politics that reject all forms of authoritarian rule.

In general, the Stein campaign has stood out for its strong left-wing message and uncompromising commitment to creating a left alternative independent of the Democratic Party. She has set an example of how to withstand the accusation that voting for anyone but Clinton is helping the Republicans.

Asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week if she was afraid of she might “lose the election for Clinton,” Stein said, “Politicians do not have a new form of entitlement. They are not entitled to our vote. They have to earn our votes. And Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have not earned our vote.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IF YOU’VE been told that you have to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, no matter how much you hate everything she stands for, in order to stave off the Trump disaster, first, you aren’t alone; and second, you should definitely reconsider.

The Trump campaign is despicable. It has advanced anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate into the national political debate and given an opening for those even further to the right to gain a hearing for their hate.

The truth, however, is that Hillary Clinton won’t do anything about Trump. She won’t challenge the Islamophobic and anti-immigrant bigotry of the Republican candidate, because she and the Democratic Party rely on their own versions of this scapegoating and scaremongering.

As on so many other issues, we need to organize a left-wing response to these attacks that doesn’t compromise by supporting a Democratic hawk over a Republican monster. Earlier this year, activists in Chicago showed how to set the racists back on their heels when they came together–immigrant, Latino, Arab, Muslim, Black, white–to protest Donald Trump, and sent his campaign packing.

For too long, people who support something left of the Democratic Party have felt pressured to put off their hopes and aspirations to settle for whatever the “party of the people” promises, and with no intention of delivering.

As so many people seem to have already included, we deserve better. You can take one step for building an independent left-wing alternative by voting for Jill Stein on November 8.

But there is a larger project of building resistance to austerity, war and oppression that needs to take place on November 9 and every other day of the year.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/08/24/the-unpopularity-contest

Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?

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The Nader-baiting continues untrammeled and was even on display with the CNN Green Party Town Hall. I have previously written about this but would like to articulate an addendum that few have yet to discuss.

The basic fact is this, Al Gore threw the fight with George W. Bush over Florida’s bizarre electoral process. It had nothing to do with Nader and everything to do with the transformation of the Presidency by Clinton, our first post-Cold War president. Clinton’s reckless economic policies and utopian visions of neoliberal paradise made Gore behave like the Black Sox.

For confirmation of these points, I would advise readers consult economist Robert Pollin’s very useful book Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity, an analysis of the Clinton economy and the first two years of the Bush tenure. On page 78 is a key paragraph that should be etched in stone above any Green Party threshold:

Amid such talk of unending good times, it came as a jolt to most observers when the Republican Vice Presidential candidate Dick Cheney announced on a television talk show on December 3, 2000 that “we may well be on the front edge of a recession here. There is growing evidence that the economy is slowing down.” After Cheney’s statement, George Bush also began interjecting gloomy economic prognostications into his public statements. This was the time when Bush and Cheney, along with Gore and the Democrats, were still fighting over who actually won the election. It would be another week before the Supreme Court threw the victory to Bush. The timing is important: Bush had some obvious political motives for turning negative on the economy at this point, after having been almost entirely upbeat throughout the election.

Pollin’s book describes how the Clinton-Greenspan economy was nothing more than a series of bubbles that were generated in a ten year period, roughly 1992 to 2002, when the United States lived in a massive utopian delusion about the nature of capitalism as a system of political economy.

Clinton’s “new economy” was based in the neoclassical economic coordinates of a post-capitalist order and therefore the abnegation of class warfare, a fantasy that was reinforced by the end of the Cold War and our installation of a puppet regime in Russia. In simpler terms, the Soviet Union had collapsed, proving that Marxism was false (although Marx’s theories had almost nothing to do with Gorbachev’s shortcomings), and thus Western media began a decade-long mythological narrative of life in the post-Soviet states as fantastic (all while in reality Jeffrey Sachs and fellow members of the neoliberal cadre were turning Eastern Europe into a neo-feudal colony of Wall Street where the life expectancy of Russian men dropped by four years).

But by the end of 2000, the delusion stopped working and the Democrats were facing the prospect of responsibility for an economic downturn. Why bother with such a hassle when it would be much easier to blame it on the neocons and their village idiot puppet President? By throwing the contest in a fashion akin to a bribed prize fighter, right in the heat of battle when the American public was revved up by a media drama that made Days of Our Lives seem uneventful, it would make the Democratic Party come out looking like winners instead of losers, perhaps like the end of ROCKY where the Italian Stallion technically is beaten ends up a champ.

And what was responsible for this downturn? Or in fact who?

Pollin does not reach for this conclusion in his book, but it seems pretty likely to me that, given the role Goldman Sachs played in the Clinton Treasury, we can lay the responsibility at the feet of one policy pivot at a key moment, which in turn was caused by one woman, namely Monica Lewinsky.

Recall the masterful essay by Robin Blackburn, How Monica Lewinsky Saved Social Security.

Robert Rubin and Larry Summers are the neoliberal economic policy gurus who have defined the New Democrats and their fiscal conservatism for three decades now. Both men are longtime proponents of the privatization of Social Security, and given their Wall Street connections, it is logical to assume that the next bubble meant to follow the dot-com one was going to be inflated by the influx of Social Security’s capital.

But then along came the intern in the blue dress.

Clinton’s pivot to the left and advocacy of “saving” Social Security rather than privatizing it was a defensive posture taken up to consolidate support within the Democratic base as he faced the inquiry of Ken Starr. But prior to the development of the Lewinski scandal, he had begun to make moves towards privatization at a moment when the public perception of the “magic of the market” was hegemonic among the white middle class, a period when 60 Minutes was featuring stories about stay-at-home day traders who, using recently-premiered world wide web and a proliferation of consumer-grade stock broker websites, were fashioning themselves into a veritable cottage industry of people who were so crazy they thought they would become millionaires with mouse clicks! Things were looking so dire that Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot published an entire book, titled Social Security: The Phony Crisis, that began with this passage:

“We have a chance,” said President Clinton, to “fix the roof while the sun is still shining.” He was talking about dealing with Social Security immediately, while the economy is growing and the federal budget is balanced… The roof analogy is illuminating, but we can make it more accurate. Imagine that it’s not going to rain for more than 30 years. And the rain, when it does arrive (and it might not), will be pretty light. And imagine that the average household will have a lot more income for roof repair by the time that the rain approaches. Now add this: most of the people who say that they want to fix the roof actually want to knock holes in it.

But because of Bubba’s pivot, he was unable to provide the soap to inflate the next bubble. As a result, when the dot-com bubble began to collapse, there was nothing to replace it and a recession, caused by Democratic policies, would have been what a Gore presidency would have inherited. Why not quit while you are ahead?

Clinton’s behavior here, combined with how his staff went to absurd lengths to vandalize the White House offices as the Republicans moved in for revenge over the impeachment proceedings, has become the modus operandi of the post-Cold War presidencies, leaving the country in as bad shape (or perhaps worse) then when you found it. We have seen nearly a quarter century of White House tenures, in economic terms, looking like waves on the high seas, peaks and valleys that correspond with entrances and exits. There has been no ethic of leaving things better than when you found it. When Eisenhower took office, the country was in the midst of a Red Scare that destroyed a generation of activists while, in domestic transit terms, the postwar population was effectively still living in the nineteenth century. When he gave the country to John Kennedy, he had spent massive amounts on the construction of an interstate highway system that revolutionized how Americans moved around the country and creation of civic infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, that we still (rather embarrassingly) depend on daily and which is remembered as the golden era of American labor irregardless of the purging of the Communists.

So, with all this in mind, can we start blaming Gore for what he has done to America via his proxy George W. Bush? “Say it ain’t so Al!

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?

Is Trump the Manchurian Candidate?

Themes in the 1950s classic don’t seem so far-fetched in 2016 America

Richard Condon’s iconic 1959 book uncannily anticipated the Trump-Putin bromance

Is Trump the Manchurian Candidate? Themes in the 1950s classic don't seem so far-fetched in 2016 America
Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey in “The Manchurian Candidate;” Donald Trump (Credit: MGM/AP/Richard Shiro/Salon)

Last week, Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, said we should ask “real questions” about whether Donald Trump “is just a puppet for the Kremlin.” By that time, Audible.com was already giving away free audiobooks of “The Manchurian Candidate,” Richard Condon’s 1959 book (transformed into a classic thriller starring Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra in 1962 and a worse remake with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep in 2004) about communists controlling an American presidential candidate.

Hmm. Trump’s advocacy of dismantling NATO over unpaid bills, his continuous and effusive praise of former KGB chief Vladimir Putin (amply reciprocated), his bizarre request of Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, his coming perilously close to supporting Russia’s annexing of Crimea, and his campaign’s redaction of the Republican platform plank in support of arming Ukraine against Russia can’t help but raise suspicions of a hard quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Donald Trump Jr. has said outright that Russians finance much of Trump’s empire, which is also hugely in debt to the Bank of China, while his father continues to hide what we might learn from his income tax returns.

Then there’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s lobbying for Russian oligarchs and the deposed Russian-allied Ukrainian president (all former big-time communists), while Trump foreign policy adviser Ret. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn takes money from — and appears on — RT, the English-language cable-news network that beams Russian propaganda around the world.

To be clear, I’m not a Trump-style conspiracy theorist. I’m not suggesting that Trump has somehow been secretly brainwashed by communists; he isn’t “programmed” to do anything but run his mouth and demagogue the election. Hair wash, yes. Brain wash, no. (Or as Eugene McCarthy said, after George Romney’s 1967 claim that the military “brainwashed” him in Vietnam, “a light rinse would have been sufficient.”)

But some “Manchurian Candidate” themes resonate powerfully in this year’s campaign. Condon exposed the cynicism behind right-wing politics for the Cold War Eisenhower years and chillingly his book’s narrative applies today. By articulating how “brainwashing” symbolizes the mass process of humiliation and repetition that the American working-class experiences at the hands of cynical right-wing leaders, the book and film anticipate a time when the radical right subverts American democracy.

Condon’s page-turner features the right-wing mastermind Eleanor Iselin, a red-baiting Republican senator’s wife who works hand in glove with the Kremlin. During the Korean War, Russian and Chinese scientists brainwash a group of American POWs so that they provide Eleanor with an assassin, her son Raymond Shaw, to unwittingly murder his mother’s enemies while in a hypnotic state and eventually turn the White House over to an alliance of right-wingers and communists.

Before Trump’s candidacy, President Ronald Reagan’s sale of arms to Iran and President Richard Nixon’s and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s idolization of Mao, the book called attention to a worldwide power elite that, regardless of surface ideology, work in cahoots. Like Trump today, members of this elite see ideology solely as a means of gaining power. It’s no accident that Trump has changed his political party at least six times.

“The Manchurian Candidate” uncannily anticipated the Trump-Putin bromance. Explaining the affinity between McCarthyite Republicans and Kremlin operatives, Condon, with his signature iconoclasm, wrote that red-baiters and reds alike share “the conviction that the Republic was a humbug, the electorate rabble, and anyone strong who knew how to maneuver could have all the power and glory that the richest and most naïve democracy in the world could bestow.” Six decades later Trump and Putin thrive by convincing resentful voters to embrace fact-free realities. “Paranoiacs make the great leaders,” Condon wrote. “Resenters make their best instruments.”

Fringe conservatives are more prone than impassioned liberals to becoming “Manchurian candidates” because liberals do not think the government of the republic is a “humbug.” The right, distrusting of government, does not see the dangers of toying with it. After all, McCarthyism ultimately undermined U.S. national security by forcing the most capable diplomats out of the State Department on trumped-up charges, leaving no one to check the folly of the Vietnam War.

Like the brainwashing of soldiers in “The Manchurian Candidate,” Trump and the right hold the media and electorate captive through verbal humiliation and repetition. It is not Trump who has been brainwashed. He is not the Manchurian candidate. The American people are.

The communists humiliate Raymond to such a degree that he can only find peace in totalitarian control. Similarly, Trump’s economically and culturally humiliated working-class heroes believe in a leader who believes in nothing.

As a former Hollywood Disney publicist who promoted “Dumbo,” “Fantasia” and many other golden-age Dream Factory products, Condon saw the dangers of Hollywood PR applied to politics. For instance, Eleanor picks 57 as the number of communists in the State Department because “Heinz 57” made that number resonate. The notion that someone could perform a total “brainwashing” as depicted by Condon has long been debunked by experts, but the phrase evokes the malign influence of mass PR first identified in the 1950s.

Despite its dystopian theme, Condon’s novel offered a resolution that the film versions left out: reprogramming the assassin.

In the 1959 book, Raymond is programmed to kill the 1960 Republican presidential nominee so that his stepfather, vice presidential nominee Senator Johnny Iselin, can blame the Soviets, be elected president and then rule together with the Soviets.

In the novel, Raymond’s comrade, Major Ben Marco (the Sinatra character), not only discovers his brainwashing and recovers his sanity. He believes his own memory loss reflects the crisis that America is in. To thwart the conspiracy, Marco reprograms Raymond to shoot his mother, stepfather and self.

Can we Americans reprogram ourselves to a better end?

Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

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(Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP)

As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.

 

The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by “the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.

Theoretically, one could say that these regimes — among the most repressive and regressive in the world — are donating because they deeply believe in the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation and want to help those in need. Is there a single person on the planet who actually believes this? Is Clinton loyalty really so strong that people are going to argue with a straight face that the reason the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Emirates regimes donated large amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation is because those regimes simply want to help the foundation achieve its magnanimous goals?

Read the full article at The Intercept.

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian USand Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the PowerfulGreat American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.