Category Archives: Today in USA

What does Trump want?

Many are breathing a sigh of relief this week because the Trump administration has taken a step to play down its escalation of tensions with China, and has even suggested it will have to accept the comprehensive agreement with Iran for the removal of sanctions and normalization of relations. But although we may not be facing the apocalypse this week, we should not consider that we are out of the wilderness.

The threat is not merely that Trump will start some other military conflict up elsewhere, but also that the very manner in which he governs will guarantee a systematic breakdown in the United States that will be a tremendous threat to the United States and to the world.
We first have to understand the breakdown in American politics and governance which led to Trump’s victory.

It is not the case that a madman suddenly and mysteriously took control of the United States. Rather the entire structure by which policy is made and implemented in the United States has become so decayed that anyone who showed sufficient audacity, and who actually wanted the position, could seize it. Policy making has been outsourced to private consulting firms and investment banks. Whereas half of the graduating class from Harvard Law School went to work in government back in the 1960s now it is closer to 5%. Government is increasingly administered by corporations and what government employees remain lack the self-confidence to resist increasingly barbaric politics.

Trump’s success in the 2016 election can be read like this: imagine you had a solemn cathedral built of solid stone and someone started running up and down the stairs pounding the walls with his fists. Everyone would take him for a madman and dismiss any possibility that he had any authority. But then, suddenly, his fists started going through the stone walls and the entire cathedral started to shake and crumble from his tiny blows. At that moment the madman takes on a magical power because he is able to tear apart institutions which were assumed to be solid. In fact, Trump’s political antics proved that the entire government in the United States has been reduced to a shell over the last twenty years of privatization and that it can be easily torn apart.

And tear apart is exactly what Trump intends to do. He and his people, like corporate raiders, intend to strip off all the assets from the United States for their own profit and leave behind a rotten carcass.
He has appointed a cabinet full of vultures and hyenas whose function is not to run the government, but rather to tear it apart. His chief adviser Steve Bannon has stated explicitly that he is like Lenin in his desire to destroy the state. But Bannon is just the tip of the iceberg. Secretary of Educatio Betsy Devos is dedicated to destroying public education, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is a climate change denier who is deep in the pocket of big oil, as is the Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump could care less if he is impeached. His intention is to make as much of the commons into his private possession as quickly as possible.

The radical and rapid decay of the United States federal government has implications that go far beyond the challenges facing American citizens. As the American system falls apart, America’s problems are going to become the world’s problems.

End of the Republic and the beginning of the empire

The time has come for people to start to get over their shock and assess the United States as what it has become, not what we want it to be.

You may have noticed that despite all the noise in the media, not a single a politician has drafted articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, despite multiple illegal actions.

They are not doing anything at all. Congress is just a show. No action. The congress has become an institution like the Queen of England, an elegant historical relic.

And the State Department, which once played such an important role, now has been permanently stripped of ambassadors, and lies there like a castrated gazelle.

What has happened? Well, the great scholar Chalmers Johnson predicted all this a long time ago. He said it was the end of the Republic and the beginning of the empire.  He predicted exactly this.

 

The problem is not really about Trump at all:

 

 

Chalmers Johnson wrote:

 

 

The collapse of the Roman republic in 27 BC has significance today for the United States, which took many of its key political principles from its ancient predecessor. Separation of powers, checks and balances, government in accordance with constitutional law, a toleration of slavery, fixed terms in office, all these ideas were influenced by Roman precedents. John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams often read the great Roman political philosopher Cicero and spoke of him as an inspiration to them. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, authors of the Federalist Papers, writing in favor of ratification of the Constitution signed their articles with the name Publius Valerius Publicola, the first consul of the Roman republic.

The Roman republic, however, failed to adjust to the unintended consequences of its imperialism, leading to a drastic alteration in its form of government. The militarism that inescapably accompanied Rome’s imperial projects slowly undermined its constitution as well as the very considerable political and human rights its citizens enjoyed. The American republic, of course, has not yet collapsed; it is just under considerable strain as the imperial presidency — and its supporting military legions — undermine Congress and the courts. However, the Roman outcome — turning over power to an autocracy backed by military force and welcomed by ordinary citizens because it seemed to bring stability — suggests what might happen in the years after Bush and his neoconservatives are thrown out of office. Read more of this post

George Washington is rolling over in his grave tonight

I have been reading through Washington’s farewell address. He writes very succinctly about the problems that the United States faces today as a result allowing itself to be seduced into this imperial structure of alliance. He notes the internal corruption that results from external engagements. It seems as if the United States is beyond any simple cure at this point. 
 
Washington notes:
 
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
 
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
 

Read more of this post

What exactly is the crime of the New York Times?

The New York Times is one of the most misleading journals in the world. The New York Times promotes a dishonest neoliberal tale of human affairs aimed at educated readers throughout the United States. They use a very sophisticated approach to journalism in which they employ a vague literary language that flatters the reader by making him or her feel that he is sophisticated because he or she follows its allusions to a shared elite cultural tradition. At the same time, the New York Times presents extremely misleading, or outright dishonest narratives about domestic or foreign policy that sound like they are sophisticated, sympathetic and infinitely progressive in a practical sense. Moreover, the New York Times employs complex algorithms to determine just how much critical journalism they must mix in with the fodder provided by political consulting firms and corporate PR representatives in order to fool the reader into believing that they are actually reading news.

There are very reliable algorithms that allow you to judge just how much solid reporting you have to add in order to get the educated reader to swallow a load of reactionary and self-interested crap. The global media makes wide use of such algorithms, although this process is never discussed.

This process defines the income-generating business of the New York Times. The newspaper takes the agenda dictated by corporations and adds a bit of liberal content to make it more palatable, then feeds it to the readership of lawyers, businessmen, government officials and professors to convince them that totally irrational and reactionary policies are somehow normal.

The sale of newspapers is far less important. You could say the New York times is a public relations company. I do not think it represents the government. The government is as good or bad as the people it is made up of.

Rest in Peace

May 15, 2016

 

Here is a rather political cartoon that I drew today. I have to admit I am not much of an artist. As for the humor…well it also is a bit of an acquired taste.

 

 

Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace

 

Students response to Emanuel’s dismissal from the University of Illinois (April 20, 2004)

Students response to Emanuel’s dismissal from the University of Illinois

(April 20, 2004)

The department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at University of Illinois formed a committee to determine Emanuel’s third year review as assistant professor in December, 2003. Although none of the member of the committee ever met with Emanuel, they  delivered a final judgement in April of 2004 that he was not qualified to have his contract renewed.

Although none of his fellow faculty members spoke to him about this decision, or expressed any opinion at all, the graduate students of the department drafted and signed a letter that appealed this process and presented the letter to the department head, Professor Jerry Packard. Read more of this post

Bernie Sanders hugs Muslim Student at George Mason meeting

I do not know if you saw this particular video, but personally I think it was a very strong statement: a bit of politics with real significance.

 

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Let us solve the problem of money in politics with…. more money in politics

When I received this email, which I consider as akin to spam, from a group known as “End Citizens United” I was more than a little disgusted.

This organization keeps asking me for money and to fill out forms on-line that they have produced. But for me, or for you, people with real experience, perhaps more experience than the people writing these mailings, there is no way to participate. The entire process is a dictatorship. What American politics needs is a way for ordinary people, or specialists, to participate in the decision-making process of the political campaign. There is no such option available.

 

 

Jeb Bush SuperPAC Smashes Record: Raises Over $1OO Million

The 2016 Election will be unlike any before in the history of the United States.

Jeb Bush’s SuperPAC just released a truly disturbing number: they’ve already raised more than $1OO million. It’s never been done this early.

Right-wing groups are going to spend hundred of millions of dollars to buy this election. We’re determined to do all we can to fight back — but first, we need your help and your voice.

Emanuel, will you take 1 minute to take our 2016 Election Survey?

http://act.endcitizensunited.org/2016-survey

Thank you!

-EndCitizensUnited.org

 

But, above all, I was reminded of the famous phrase of Albert Einstein,

 

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

 

Oddly, it appears many Americans think that they can respond to the domination of money in the political process by simply giving more money to good candidates. But the  remains assumption  that politics is just about money. This note from “End Citizens United” offers us no way to communicate with them, no way to offer our opinion, no way to participate in some form of democratic practice. If that is the case, then we are not any closer to the solution of the problem. Unless we assume that putting some friendly dictator in place will be the solution. We have seen this flaw in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, a campaign that also offers some sort of transparency and accountability, but insists that the only thing the citizen can do is to donate money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitt Romney’s Retreat and the Rise of a Post-Corporate World

Mitt Romney’s Retreat and the Rise of a Post-Corporate World

Emanuel Pastreich

February 2, 2015 

Mitt Romney’s Retreat and the Rise of a Post-Corporate World

Journalists across the board have failed to identify the significance of the decision of Mitt Romney not to seek the  Republican nomination for president.

It is no accident that the announcement was made after the brothers David and Charles Koch held their annual winter retreat at Palm Springs on January 25 and announced their intention to spend a staggering $889 million in the 2016 election (probably a fraction of what they will actually spend). These billionaires have been deeply involved in politics for some time, but they are taking the game to a new level by inventing a form of coronation. The Brothers Koch invited three Republican candidates to the retreat to make their arguments for why he should be the candidate: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

The New York Times announced the decision of the previous Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who was conspicuously uninvited, just three days after the event.  If you look at this New York Times article you will note that the Koch brothers are not even mentioned.

There have been jokes made that there are now three parties: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the Billionaire’s Party. But I fear that such comments fail to grasp the full significance of this shift in the political economy.

Interestingly, at almost the same time as the Koch gathering, the US media has closed ranks to present Hillary Clinton as the unassailable candidate for the Democratic Party. An interesting development in that many political analysts see her as a rather weak candidate and there are plenty of voters who would like to see her challenged in the primaries. Elizabeth Warren is generally tossed about as the most likely opponent, but in fact there are certainly other Democrats who think they have a shot if there is a level playing field.

Note that the Time magazine cover “Who Can Stop Hillary” came out exactly on January 27–immediately after the Koch event.

clinton

But the Koch brothers gathering and the promotion for Hillary has effectively eliminated the primary system in American politics. After all, Romney would normally drop out somewhere around the Michigan primaries, and certainly not before the primaries have even started.

Reducing primaries to a ritual is in a sense removing power from the political parties themselves. Political parties are after all made up out of people and have their own bureaucracies and their own inertia. It makes perfect sense that the Koch brothers would want their campaign to remake America start by remodeling the political party to match their own vision for the future.

Particularly valuable reading for understanding this transformation of American politics is the recent book by Darrell West, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust (Brookings Institution). I had the chance to talk with Darrell at great length when he worked more on science policy about four years back. This book provides some critical insights into how the transfer of wealth that Thomas Piketty has identified in his recent book Capital in the Twenty-First Centuryis transforming the world. West notes that the top one percent in the United States own one third of all assets and that globally the top one third own some 40% of all assets. West identifies a growing “wealthification” of politics and policy in which all decisions are made in within this billionaire’s club. West also provides a useful guide to who the billionaires are and what their political leanings are.

The important lesson we can learn from Romney’s retreat and especially from the analysis by West and Piketty of the rising importance of inherited wealth is that the corporate model of political power, so favored by conspiracy theorists to explain the world, is rapidly changing in its nature. It is no longer corporations, organizations that are bound together by rules and codes of conduct, but rather individual billionaires and billionaire families that are directly pulling the strings in politics.

The final dénouement of this transformation may be ultimately something rather akin to feudalism. Such a system will no doubt feature a new ideology where in it is explained that these billionaires are the wisest and most just of masters for a foolish and ignorant world.

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

    June 7, 2013 

5:21 P.M. PDT

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA

AND PRESIDENT XI JINPING OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING

Sunnylands Retreat

Palm Springs, California

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it gives me great pleasure to welcome President Xi back to the United States.  We first met during my visit to China in 2009, and I had the opportunity to welcome him to the Oval Office last year when he was still Vice President and a guest of Vice President Biden’s.

     I think some of you may know that President Xi is no stranger to the United States.  He’s remembered fondly in Iowa, where he once visited and stayed with a local family, and on his trip last year, he had a chance to come to California — including, I understand, going to a Lakers game, which I was very jealous of.  (Laughter.)

     President Xi just took office in March.  Our decision to meet so early, I think, signifies the importance of the U.S.-China relationship.  It’s important not only for the prosperity of our two countries and the security of our two countries, but it’s also important for the Asia Pacific region and important for the world.

     And the importance of this relationship in some ways is reflected with this somewhat unusual setting that we are hosting the President in.  Our thought was that we would have the opportunity for a more extended and more informal conversation in which we were able to share both our visions for our respective countries and how we can forge a new model of cooperation between countries based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  I think both of us agree that continuous and candid and constructive conversation and communication is critically important to shaping our relationship for years to come.

     And for my part, this will give me an opportunity to reiterate how the United States welcomes the continuing peaceful rise of China as a world power and that, in fact, it is in the United States’ interest that China continues on the path of success, because we believe that a peaceful and stable and prosperous China is not only good for Chinese but also good for the world and for the United States.

     Of course, as two of the largest economies in the world, we’re going to have a healthy economic competition, but we also have a whole range of challenges on which we have to cooperate, from a nuclear North Korea — or North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs — to proliferation, to issues like climate change.

     And the United States seeks an international economy and international economic order where nations are playing by the same rules, where trade is free and fair, and where the United States and China work together to address issues like cybersecurity and the protection of intellectual property.

     In addition to the strategic concerns that we share and the economic challenges that each of our countries face, I will continue to emphasize the importance of human rights.  President Xi has spoken of a nation and a people that are committed to continuous self-improvement and progress, and history shows that upholding universal rights are ultimately a key to success and prosperity and justice for all nations.

     So I want to again welcome President Xi to the United States.  We’re very glad that he’s here.  Inevitably, there are areas of tension between our two countries, but what I’ve learned over the last four years is both the Chinese people and the American people want a strong, cooperative relationship, and that I think there’s a strong recognition on the part of both President Xi and myself that it is very much in our interest to work together to meet the global challenges that we face.  And I’m very much looking forward to this being a strong foundation for the kind of new model of cooperation that we can establish for years to come. 

     So welcome, and thank you very much for being here.

     PRESIDENT XI:  (As interpreted.)  Honorable President Obama, it’s my great pleasure to meet you.  We’re meeting with each other earlier than people might have expected.  They thought that we might have to wait until the Saint Petersburg G20 summit to meet with each other, but here we are.  I want to thank you for your invitation, and it’s my great pleasure to meet you here at Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate. 

This is a wonderful place, a place of sunshine, and it’s very close to the Pacific Ocean.  And on the other side of the ocean is China.  When I visited the United States last year, I stated that the vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for the two large countries of China and the United States.  I still believe so.

     And, Mr. President, we’re meeting here today to chart the future of China-U.S. relations and draw a blueprint for this relationship and continue our cooperation across the Pacific Ocean.

     And this reminds us of what happened over 40 years ago when the leaders of China and the United States, with the strategists’ political courage and wisdom, realized a handshake across the Pacific Ocean and reopened the door of exchanges between China and the United States.  And in the more than 40 years since then, the China-U.S. relationship has gone through winds and rains and it made historical progress.  And our two peoples and the people elsewhere in the world have reaped huge benefits from this.

     And at present, the China-U.S. relationship has reached a new historical starting point.  Our two countries have vast convergence of shared interests, from promoting our respective economic growth at home to ensuring the stability of the global economy; from addressing international and regional hotspot issues to dealing with all kinds of global challenges.  On all these issues, our two countries need to increase exchanges and cooperation.

     And under the new environment, we need to take a close look at our bilateral relationship:  What kind of China-U.S.  relationship do we both want?  What kind of cooperation can our two nations carry out for mutual benefit?  And how can our two nations join together to promote peace and development in the world?  These are things that not just the people in our two countries are watching closely, but the whole world is also watching very closely.

     Both sides should proceed from the fundamental interests of our peoples and bear in mind human development and progress.  We need to think creatively and act energetically so that working together we can build a new model of major country relationship.

President Obama, I look forward to having in-depth communication with you on major strategic issues of common interest to deepen our mutual understanding and to push forward all-round cooperation.  I’m confident that our meeting will achieve positive outcomes and inject fresh momentum into the China-U.S. relationship.

     Thank you.

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

 

(thanks to Chris Nelson for providing this text)