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Rob Urie takes a good run at explaining some of the problems with the United States polity.  The infusion/revolving door of money and politics means that society is being run for the benefit of tiny minority of people.  They have two ‘choices’ in the electoral sense, but it does nothing to halt this malformation of democracy and democratic values.

 

Even with the realization of late that money determines political outcomes, the distribution of income and wealth is considered economics while the use that these are put to in the political arena is considered politics. The unvirtuous circle of capitalism, where concentrated income and wealth are used to affect political outcomes so as to increase concentrated income and wealth, ties economics to politics through the incompatibility of capitalism with democracy.

Modern electoral politics replaces this relationship of economics to politics with color-coded branding— red or blue, where ‘our guy’ is what is good and true about America. The other party exists to pin ‘our guy’ into a corner that prevents him / her from acting on this goodness. Barack Obama was prevented from enacting his ‘true’ progressive agenda by Republican obstructionists. Donald Trump is being persecuted by deep-state, snowflake, socialists.

Left unaddressed and largely unconsidered has been the persistence of class relations. The rich continue to get richer, the rest of us, not so much. For all of the claims of political dysfunction, when it comes to bailouts and tax cuts, wars and weaponry and policing and surveillance, these opposition parties can be counted on to come together to overcome their differences. Likewise, when it comes to the public interest, partisan differences are put forward to explain why nothing is possible.

The unitary direction of this government response in favor of the rich may seem accidental, a byproduct of ‘our system’ of governance. In fact, the defining political ideology of the last half-century has been neoliberalism, defined here as imperialist, state-corporatism, controlled by oligarchs. And contrary to assertions that neoliberalism is a figment of the imagination of the left, its basic tenets were codified in the late 1980s under the term ‘Washington Consensus.’

What the Washington Consensus lays out is the support role that government plays for capitalism. Its tenets are short and highly readable. They provide a blueprint that ties Democratic to Republican political programs since the 1980s. They also tie neoliberalism to the Marxist / Leninist conception of the capitalist state as existing to promote the interests of connected capitalists. Left out, no doubt by accident (not), was / is a theory of class struggle.

When Donald Trump passed tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the rich and corporations, this was the Washington Consensus. When Barack Obama put ‘market mechanisms’ into Obamacare and promoted the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), this was the Washington Consensus. When Bill Clinton tried to privatize Social Security, this was the Washington Consensus. The alleged ‘opposition parties’ have been working together from a single blueprint for governance for four decades.

The intended beneficiary of this unified effort is ‘capitalism,’ conceived as multinational corporations operating with state support to promote a narrowly conceived national interest. An ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) clause was included in NAFTA when Bill Clinton promoted and signed it. An even more intrusive ISDS clause was included in the TPP when Barack Obama promoted it. The intent of these ISDS clauses is to give the prerogative of governance (sovereign power) to corporations.

It is no secret in Washington and outside of it that multinational corporations pay few, if any, taxes. The logic of this is two sided. On the one side, the neoliberal / Washington Consensus premise is that corporations can put the money to better use than government. The other is that the role of government is to support capitalism, not to constrain it. Barack Obama’s consequence-free bailouts of Wall Street, often at the expense of ordinary citizens, possessed an internal logic when considered through this frame.”

Could this be a method to work within the system to change the system? This snippet from a Counterpunch article by Rob Urie is interesting because its hard to argue against the notion that sharing economic power *wouldn’t* be a benefit for a democratic society.  Push-back for lightyears from those who currently hold the levers of power, but what could they say directly to the notion?  The masses are too ignorant and don’t know what is good for them?  The current standard of living is so amazing right now that it would be foolish to address and change the current (im)balance of economic power?

This notion, I think, is a should be a genuine concern to the establishment parties in the US, because both parties are defenders of a system that is essentially “make the 1% greater even more, no matter what the economic and social cost”.  One can’t reasonably defend that notion.

I hope that AOC and her ‘squad’ continue to stay the course and force a new narrative into the poltical sphere in the US.  It is probably the only way America will go forward successfully in the future.

 

      “The subtext of these establishment machinations is that the American political system exists to provide cover for rule by capital. The posture of the political center as the locus of reason is belied by the willingness of establishment forces to risk killing everyone on the planet with nuclear weapons, environmental decline, genocidal wars and dysfunctional economics. It is this political center that is extreme, willing to risk everything to maintain control.

While it may be simplistic to posit a singularity of capitalist interests, is it also true that the manufacture of nuclear weapons is a business, that environmental decline is a by-product of capitalist production, that wars are undertaken both to control resources and to use up military inventory and that the level of economic dysfunction is proportional to the concentration of income and wealth amongst the oligarchs.

One could grant— improbably, that the collective ‘we’ were brought to this place in history honestly, that the world is complicated and that through genocide, slavery and wars too numerous to count, we did the best we could. But this wouldn’t have one iota of relevance to where we take it from here. In this sense, ‘the squad’ exists amongst the potential heroes of this moment.

Possibly of value here is Noam Chomsky’s functional definition of class as who it is that gets to decide. Capitalism has always been ‘authoritarian,’ with owners and bosses doing the deciding. Ironically, from the bourgeois perspective, politics finds these same authoritarians determining public policy through their surrogates in the political realm. Donald Trump’s existence is an argument against concentrated power, not who wields it.

An argument could be made that ‘the squad’ was elected on precisely this point. Policies that promote economic democracy are the best way to achieve political democracy. Conversely, the greatest threat to political democracy is concentrated economic power. The Federal government spent at least a few trillion dollars on gratuitous wars in recent years, and several trillion more on bailing out financial interests. The money has always been there to meet social needs.”

Political theatre is interesting to observe.  Not so much when the strongest nation on earth continues to dable with proto-fascist notions and leaders.  The Democrats in the US will shortly (again) be showing their allegiance to the corporate interests that support them.  Let’s hope they can’t obstruct Sanders this time as well.  Paul Street writes in Counterpunch about this phenomena:

 

“A critical part of Joe “Anti-Populist” Biden’s media-crafted appeal is his “get things done” claim to be able to “reach out across the aisle” in the famous, hallowed, and CNN- and “P”BS-honored “spirit of bipartisanship.” That’s a shame. Why should we want a president who promises to team up with the widely loathed and creeping fascist white-nationalist Republican Party? And what has the holy bipartisanship that Biden is celebrated for embracing wrought for We the People over the years? Not much. As Andrew Cockburn wrote last month at Harpers:

“By tapping into…popular tropes—‘The system is broken,’ ‘Why can’t Congress just get along?’—the practitioners of bipartisanship conveniently gloss over the more evident reality: that the system is under sustained assault by a [bipartisan] ideology bent on destroying the remnants of the New Deal to the benefit of a greed-driven oligarchy. It was bipartisan accord, after all, that brought us the permanent war economy, the war on drugs, the mass incarceration of black people [Biden backed Bill Clinton’s ‘Three Strikes’ crime and prison bill – P.S.], 1990s welfare ‘reform’ [Biden backed the Clinton-Gingrich abolition of Aid for Families with Dependent Children], Wall Street deregulation and the consequent $16 trillion in bank bailouts, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and other atrocities too numerous to mention. If the system is indeed broken, it is because interested parties are doing their best to break it” (emphasis added).

Biden even took his embrace of the supposedly sacred virtue of bipartisanship to the grotesque level of forming close friendships with vicious southern white racists like Republican Senators Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, not to mention the frothing warmonger John McCain.

With Biden as with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and a long line of dismal dollar Democrats in the neoliberal era, there’s an accurate translation for “reaching across the aisle to get things done:” joining hands across the two major party wings of the same corporate-imperial bird of prey to make policy in accord with the wishes of the rich and powerful.”

It would be nice if they would stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  I have my doubts though.

In the second part, start at 10:05 for that, if Bernie actually means this, then he should be the next President of the United States.

If he has an actual commitment to justice, and this isn’t just rhetoric… this may indeed be me looking to the east by light of the fifth day.

American foreign policy seems to be carefully insulated from the majority of the American population.  I’m thinking that, outside the respective frenzied political bases, the general populace has little or no taste for international misadventures and the inevitable blowback that accompanies imperial meddling in the affairs of other states.  Yet here we be, because the venerated elite have decided that Venezuela’s impertinence (questioning and moving against the US sphere of influence in Central/South America) is distinctly unpalatable and, indeed, *something* must be done.

The kowtowing to this interventionialist narrative crosses party lines and speaks to the amount of power wielded by the power brokers that set the tone for US political discussion.  David Rosen writes:

“While the Republicans led the fictitious chant for a “hard coup,” the Democrats were divided, split over a “hard” vs a “soft” coup and – for a growing number — a “no” coup. Will Trump’s ham-fisted effort to topple Maduro split the Democratic Party?

***

South Florida’s three Democratic Congresswomen — Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell – are among the strongest supporters of the administration’s campaign to overthrow the Maduro government.

Donna Shalala – a classic liberal, Pres. Bill Clinton’s formerSecretary of Health and Human Services and leading Hillary-for-president supporter – has taken an unequivocal stand: “And all of us are waiting to see what the military will do and to make sure that we send very clear messages of our support for the people of Venezuela, for the acting president as well as for military leaders that are prepared to step up and bring down the Maduro government.”

This no-nonsense interventionist position is shared by other Democrats, most notably the (undeclared) presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who said: “The international community must support Juan Guaidó and the National Assembly. It is time for Maduro to step aside and allow a democratic transition.” The declared candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) shouted, “Maduro has to go.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has taken up Trump’s call to oust Maduro:

He [Guaidó] knows how much the Venezuelan people have suffered, how the Maduro regime bankrupted the nation and destroyed its democracy and its economy, and how desperate the people of his country are to rejoin the community of democracies.  I told him we in the United States stand ready to help, and the Venezuelan people need our help to rebuild their country’s democracy and economy and to help the millions of Venezuelan refugees safely return home.

Some Democratic presidential candidates seek cover in the “soft” coup approach.  A spokesperson forSen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she “supports working with our allies to recognize Juan Guaidó – who was legitimately elected – as the interim president under the Constitution until Venezuela can hold new elections.”  And Sen. Amy Klobuchar whimpered, “I support the people of Venezuela standing up against Maduro, installing a new leader, and restoring democracy in Venezuela.”

But those who appear to oppose a “hard” coup, including U.S. military intervention, don’t want to come out and say it explicitly. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), another undeclared presidential candidate, lambasted the Trump administration’s “loose talk of possible military intervention” as “reckless and irresponsible.”  But then fell back on the “free and fair elections” – or soft coup – stand.  “We should work with our allies and use economic, political and diplomatic leverage to help bring about free and fair elections, limit escalating tension, and ensure the safety of Americans on the ground,” he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared presidential candidate, shares Brown’s half-hearted stand.  She has strongly opposed the use of sanctions and then intones: “The Venezuelan people deserve free and fair elections, an economy that works, and the ability to live without fear of violence from their own government.” Dah?

Unremarkably, the Democrats who take either a hard or soft position regarding a coup in Venezuela present themselves as “progressives.” In the good-old-days of American politics, say 2010, Democrats were “liberals,” “moderates” and – with rare exception – “radicals” (i.e., secret socialists, even Marxists). Unfortunately, today every Democrat claims to be a “progressive.”

A handful of Democrats have come out against U.S. intervention, no matter whether hard or soft.  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), another declared president candidate, has taken the strongest, most unequivocal stand opposed to intervention.  She said, put simple: “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela.”  She tweeted, rejecting Trump’s recognition of Guaidó as president: “Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders — so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”  Like no other politician, she went to heart of the issue, tweeting:“It’s about the oil … again,”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a declared presidential candidate and self-declared democratic socialist, has been criticized for his rather wimpy stand on Venezuela.  However, he’s reframed Gabbard’s statement about the role of oil, recognizing the core driving force of U.S. imperialism.  “However, we must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups – as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic.”  Driving the point home, he insisted: “The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries; we must not go down that road again.”

Some critical voices are out there, but sadly, not enough to derail the interventionalist narrative that is dominating the discourse.

 

  What’s going on in the US is chilling by nature.  The democratic underpinnings of their society are being being eroded at frightening rate as misinformation, lies, and propaganda replace the space once reserved for reasonable public discourse.  This process of disintegration isn’t new, but is hastened by the current republican administration’s dedication to a post-truth version of reality exemplified by their leader whose internal process seems to be this:  “I am right because I am always right”.

Scary stuff.  Arnold Isaacs, writing for Tom’s Dispatch catches a glimpse into the post-truth world that much of the American leadership seems to be mired in.

 

“President Trump looks like a quite different case. He clearly lies consciously at times, but generally the style and content of his falsehoods give the impression that he has engaged in a kind of internal mental Photoshopping, reshaping facts inside his mind until they conform to something he wants to say at a given moment.

A recent report in the Daily Beast described an episode that fits remarkably well with that theory.

As told by the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, at a March 2017 White House meeting between the president and representatives of leading veterans organizations, Rick Weidman of Vietnam Veterans of America brought up the subject of Agent Orange, the widely used U.S. defoliant that has had long-term health effects on American soldiers and Vietnamese villagers.

As Suebsaeng reconstructed the discussion, Trump responded by asking if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie” — a reference evidently to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. Several veterans in the room tried to explain to the president that the scene he remembered involved napalm, an incendiary agent, not Agent Orange. But Trump wouldn’t back down, Suebsaeng recounted, “and proceeded to say things like, ‘no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.'” His comment directly to Weidman was, “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie.”

What makes the Daily Beast report particularly revealing is not just that Trump was ignorant of the facts and would not listen to people who clearly knew better. That behavior is all too familiar to anyone even casually aware of Trump’s record. The argument with the veterans was different because his misstatement did not arise from any of the usual reasons. He was not answering a critic or tearing down someone who frustrated him or making an argument for a policy opinion or defending some past statement.

Sticking to his version of Agent Orange was purely a reflection of his personality. On a subject one can safely assume he had not thought about until that moment, he seized on a fragmentary memory of something he’d seen on a screen years earlier, jumped to a wrong conclusion, and was then immediately convinced that he was correct solely because he had heard himself saying it — not only certain that he was right, but oblivious to the fact that everyone he was talking to knew more about the subject than he did.

In effect, this story strongly suggests, Trump’s thought process (if you can call it that) boils down to: I am right because I am always right.

Lots of people absorb facts selectively and adapt them to fit opinions they already hold. That’s human nature. But the president’s ability to twist the truth, consciously or not, is extreme. So is his apparently unshakable conviction that no matter what the subject is, no one knows more than he does, which means he has no need to listen to anyone who tries to correct his misstatements. In a person with his power and responsibilities, those qualities are truly frightening.

As alarming as his record is, though, it would be a serious mistake to think of Trump as the only or even the principal enemy of truth and truth-tellers. There is a large army out there churning out false information, using technology that lets them spread their messages to a mass audience with minimal effort and expense. But the largest threat to truth, I fear, is not from the liars and truth twisters, but from deep in our collective and individual human nature.”

It’s easier to believe a familiar lie than the uncomfortable truth – this is our human tendency – but now, more than ever, we need to seek out that uncomfortable space where we see ourselves and our situations for what they are, not what we want them to be.

 

This excerpt is from counterpunch article reviewing Michael Moore’s new film.  I think the reviewer rightly tagged it, along with all the rest of the comedy late night satirists as (I’m paraphrasing now) just more furious fiddling while Rome continues to burn.  It appears that the US Democratic party are subscribing to the notion that as long as they look like they are a party in opposition that is enough for people to vote for them.  US dissident commentators have been correctly remarking decades that the US has two business class political parties that share roughly the same platform and set of policies.  That is sort of a problem if you are trying to get the poor and average people to vote for you and your pro-business/pro-elite (albeit with different window dressings) political positions.

The ‘problem’ that the Democratic party is facing is described below by Louis Proyect:

“Can we expect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be more like Rosa Luxemburg, as the DSA would have you believe, or like Hermann Müller? The jury is still out.

When she was on Jake Tapper’s show on CNN the other day, the host grilled her about how she would come up with the forty trillion dollars needed to fund Medicare for all, housing as a federal right, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college, and canceling all student loan debt.

She hemmed and hawed in her reply to the point that Tapper told her that he was assuming that he was not going to get an answer. Instead of her saying something as mealy-mouthed as this: “And, additionally, what this is, is a broader agenda. We do know and we acknowledge that there are political realities. They don’t always happen with just the wave of a wand. But we can work to make these things happen.”

In 1968, I was selling subscriptions to a “socialist rag” door-to-door in Columbia University before the sit-in began. I was also supporting the candidacy of Fred Halstead and Paul Boutelle who if given the opportunity to be interviewed on CNN would have said something like this. “To fund these badly needed programs, we have to start with closing every single military base in the world starting with South Korea. Why are we still formally at war with a country that only resorted to a nuclear defense program to ward off an attack by the USA? The Senate just passed a bill that provides the military with $716 billion for 2019. That should be cut by 90 percent at least. We would also re-introduce progressive taxation measures that would not only be in line with the 90 percent under Eisenhower but exceed it. We would also make sure that Apple and other corporations could not use tax havens in Ireland or Caribbean islands anymore.”

However, this would mark her as a flaky radical that would be an unreliable ally in Congress. What is needed now, according to leading Democrats, is a common sense, progressive, pragmatic approach of the sort Andrew Cuomo prescribed in a press conference after he defeated Cynthia Nixon by 30 points. He wrote off people like Ocasio-Cortez as a “ripple” in the Democratic Party and whose electoral victory in Queens was a “fluke”.

Oh, did I mention what she told Jake Tapper when asked about her attitude toward the corrupt and neo-liberal Governor who just treated her like dirt? “And what I also look forward to moving forward is us rallying behind all Democratic nominees, including the governor, to make sure that he wins in November.” If she is okay with Cuomo, how can we expect her not to urge a vote for Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg or even John Kerry in the next election?”

So, being a flaky radical seems to be something of a no-go.  What identifies one as a ‘flaky-radical’?  Apparently the willingness to examine and tackle the systemic issues of the US imperial system that are making like shitty for the majority of those who live there.  Much better to stick to the common sense, progressive, pragmatic approach.  Also known as maintenance of the status-quo.

It must be tough having to rally against the system by supporting the system…

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