It’s hard to avoid a sense of schadenfreude over the unexpected triumph of Donald Trump, who has become, for all practical purposes, the Republican candidate for the U. S. presidency. The discomfiture of the Republican bluebloods is palpable. They do not know what to do any more than their predecessors did in 1964, when Senator Barry Goldwater and his followers seized the Republican Party and made him the candidate.
Surely they must realize that they themselves created Trump’s natural constituency. They have been cynically preaching to the uninformed that all their troubles have been caused by liberals, that the government is the problem, not the answer, and that deficit spending takes away our children’s future, since the nation will have to pay the debt off someday. This has been accompanied by appeals to racism and demonization of immigrants as scabs, depriving true Americans (code word for white people) of employment. Trump has called them criminals who commit most of the crimes here in the US.
Every one of these accusations is factually false, and the Republican elite are well aware of their falsity. In fact, their actions, as opposed to their propaganda, clearly demonstrate that they don’t believe a word they say. The government and the deficit have grown far more when the Republicans were in charge than when the Democrates ruled. They denounce Keynesianism but practice it when in power. Republicans have historically favored immigration because it holds wages down and because illegal immigrants, fearful of exposure and deportation, are compliant and accepting of working conditions that not only violate the law but which no American citizen would tolerate for a minute.
The Republican elite, who personally hold few racial prejudices, have tapped into and quietly exploited the unspoken racism that underlies political loyalties, economic participation, social relations, and religious affinities in the former Confederacy. Since Nixon, the Republican sub rosa message has been “We are like you. We are the party of whites. Blacks are freeloaders and the Democrats are the party that takes our tax money and gives it to blacks.” The ruse has been successful.
As one who has been following national politics starting with the election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, I have become more and more convinced that without the effort of an enlightened citizenry actively working for justice, the common welfare, domestic tranquility and the common defense, the arc of the republic will bend not upward but downward, towards corruption, inequality, class warfare, an increasingly powerful and unaccountable military establishment and, ultimately, destruction.
I have watched it all. Occasionally, the arc seemed to be bending upward, but eventually it resumed its downward journey. JFK, for all his faults—he had many—elevated for a few years the zeitgeist of the nation towards intellect, culture, justice, and even real peace. We later learned that he unknowingly saved us from nuclear war when he faced down the Joint Chiefs of Staff and refused to order the invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis.  Shortly before he was assassinated, he had signed orders to begin the withdrawal U. S. military personnel from Vietnam, which would have spared us a war against the Vietnamese people that left more than 40,000 American servicemen and millions of Vietnamese dead.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, used his considerable political power to pass Medicare, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The arc moved up for a time but again turned downward, as Johnson pushed the nation deeper and deeper into an unprovoked invasion and then occupation of Vietnam with conscripted troops who despised fighting in tropical rain forests and rice paddies against a hostile population, all for the nebulous purpose of defeating world communism.
The war divided the nation like nothing else in recent history. College students were incensed at being drafted to fight in a war they hated. Robert Kennedy, brother of JFK, was assassinated, as was civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Conservatives were terrified of what was portrayed in the mass media as anarchism running amuck.
The nation had previously rejected the arch-conservative warmonger, Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964, but in 1968 it elected Republican Richard Nixon, vice president under Eisenhower, who claimed to have a secret plan to end the war (which lasted another 6 fears).
Nixon began almost immediately to seduce the Deep South from the Democrats with subtly racist appeals. Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Bill, so southerners were already predisposed favorably towards the Republicans. They began to vote for statewide Republican candidates, almost all of which strongly resembled conservative, “Yellow Dog” Democrats of yore. Often it was the same person who had merely changed parties.
More significantly, Nixon appointed Supreme Court justices who, while they sustained for the most part the gains of the civil rights era, were selected for their tender feelings towards large corporations and businesses in general. They slowly began to dismantle the reforms of the New Deal, especially the ones that kept financial institutions stable and large corporations honest and non-predatory. The arc bent further downward.
People saw what was happening but few understood where it was leading. The three branches of the U. S. government seemed to be in agreement about civil rights, but with the exception of a few liberal Republicans and Democrats, the economic playing field began to tilt in favor of employers and owners of capital and against employees and their unions. While the mass media concentrated on the Culture Wars between liberals and conservatives over abortion, affirmative action, and busing of school children to achieve racial integration, the power elite, as Chomsky calls them, quietly began a concerted effort to roll back the provisions of the New Deal that protected workers and the public from the predatory practices of the wealthy and powerful.
Ford and Carter furthered this project, but it was only after the ascension to the presidency of Ronald Reagan, former third-rate actor and governor of California, that the wholesale dismantling began. Over the next 30 years, the web of statutes, regulations and judicial decisions that had prevented financial crashes, kept the economy stable for 40 years, and forced businesses to stay reasonably honest and treat their employees fairly, was under attack. One by one, time-tested restraints on corporations and financial institutions were repealed, hailed by the media as a victory for the entire nation. Each time, another opportunity opened for the rich to extract more money and resources from the poor and middle-class. The Democratic Party, once the protector of the common man and woman, joined in the game of seeing how many benefits they could bestow upon the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the public.
The arc was bending downward.
But the public either didn’t understand or didn’t pay attention. Many had no desire to understand. The changes seemed highly abstract and we were told over and over again that these “reforms” would unleash the genius of the market and bring prosperity to all. Even if an average person read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, without a reasonably sophisticated knowledge of economics and finance he or she would not have been able to see through the media smokescreen put up to conceal financial reality from the masses.
And what was happening? While the attention of a large portion of the public was distracted by the culture wars and other controversial issues, the real masters of the nation were fixing in place an economic regime deliberately created to suck wealth upward to enrich the few at the expense of everybody else. It was as clever a ruse as can be imagined, and it was successful almost from its very beginning, which coincided with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. The Savings and Loan crisis was the first consequence of deregulation.
A useful research project for a graduate student in psychology would address the question of why blue collar workers, whose prosperity rested mainly upon laws and institutions established in the 1930s as part of the New Deal, voted into office a Congress and president that watered-down or outright repealed the statutes and dismantled the very institutions that preserved that prosperity.
The entirely predictable result of the neoliberal policies of Reagan and every single one of his successors, bar none, has been the progressive impoverishment of the middle and lower classes and the enrichment of the top one percent, as was intended. Up to now all this has been tolerated by the 99% because they have been lied to and kept ignorant of the knowledge they needed to see what was actually happening. All they knew was that their standard of living was going down and their credit card debt was going up. If most citizens had possessed even a rudimentary knowledge of modern history, political science, and economics, the con job that has made life so hard for so many people would have been impossible to pull off.
People are awakening, sort of. They are slowly coming to realize that our leaders, while distracting us by pandering to our prejudices, have not been acting in our interest. They are angry, but their anger is unfocused, because in the dark cloud of ignorance that has been imposed upon them, they are unable to recognize in front of their very noses the cause of their undoing.
The Trump phenomenon rests upon Trump’s deeply authoritarian personality and the yearning of millions of Americans for simple, easy solutions that will restore their self-respect, their prosperity, and protect them from the seemingly arbitrary forces surrounding them.
On a darker note: if the free-floating anger upon which Trump has capitalized turns into abject hopelessness, then the hopeless follower will become what Eric Hoffer termed the “true believer,” the man or woman that desires above all else personal annihilation as an individual and incorporation into a mass movement that will bring the nation to greatness, led by a charismatic leader lacking all conscience. This is nothing new. In the twentieth century, fascists and communists took over substantial areas of the globe. In the 21st Century, we are having to deal with suicide bombers, for which the desire for personal annihilation is more than a psychological peculiarity.
There is a downward slope from prosperity and security, to social and economic insecurity, to deprivation and desperation, to abject poverty and hopelessness. As a person is pushed down this slope by circumstances not of his own making, his susceptibility to increasingly toxic varieties of political snake oil grows, along with his capacity to perform unspeakably evil acts to further a transcendental cause.
Americans are not yet so desperate that they are willing to sacrifice their souls and bodies to an authoritarian ruler who promises to restore the greatness of “das Volk,” or lead them to the promised land, but many of them are fearful at seeing their dreams crumble as the power elite turns the neoliberal screws tighter and tighter in order to extract as much wealth as possible from the losers, as Trump calls them.
Trump fits the description of an authoritarian leader and social dominator:
Social dominators … admit, anonymously, to striving to manipulate others, and to being dishonest, two-faced, treacherous, and amoral. It’s as if someone took the Scout Law (“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, …”) and turned it completely upside down: “A ‘winner’ is deceitful, manipulative, unfair, base, conniving, …” Furthermore, while the followers may feel admiration bordering on adoration of their leaders, we should not be surprised if the leaders feel a certain contempt for their followers. They are the suckers, the “marks,” the fools social dominators find so easy to manipulate.
See Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, pp. 167–168
Trump’s followers have many of the attributes of authoritarian followers:
Authoritarian followers usually support the established authorities in their society, such as government officials and traditional religious leaders. Such people have historically been the “proper” authorities in life, the time-honored, entitled, customary leaders, and that means a lot to most authoritarians. Psychologically these followers have personalities featuring:
1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society;
2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3) a high level of conventionalism.
Because the submission occurs to traditional authority, I call these followers right-wing authoritarians. I’m using the word “right” in one of its earliest meanings, for in Old English “riht”(pronounced “writ”) as an adjective meant lawful, proper, correct, doing what the authorities said. (And when someone did the lawful thing back then, maybe the authorities said, with a John Wayne drawl, “You got that riht, pilgrim!”)
In North America people who submit to the established authorities to extraordinary degrees often turn out to be political conservatives, so you can call them “right-wingers” both in my new-fangled psychological sense and in the usual political sense as well. But someone who lived in a country long ruled by Communists and who ardently supported the Communist Party would also be one of my psychological right-wing authoritarians even though we would also say he was a political left-winger. So a right-wing authoritarian follower doesn’t necessarily have conservative political views. Instead he’s someone who readily submits to the established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional. It’s an aspect of his personality, not a description of his politics. Right-wing authoritarianism is a personality trait, like being characteristically bashful or happy or grumpy or dopey. Altemeyer at p. 9 (footnotes omitted)
Trump has the personality of a fascist dictator. He has discovered that he can control the masses of his followers however he wills. In different times, I believe he would be perfectly comfortable ordering his brownshirts into the streets to intimidate the population. His followers fit the profile of authoritarian followers: they have found a leader that will lead them to victory over whatever he says in the enemy. His character weaknesses mean less than nothing to his followers. He always speaks the truth. He always tells it how it is. He is very wise. Get the picture?
It’s not a pretty picture, is it? This is what often happens when people formerly in comfortable circumstances become destitute and hopeless. If Trump didn’t energize them, then someone else would. Our times are not yet those times. But if things continue as they are it is only a matter of time.
I have not mentioned global warming because it is not the subject of this article. Global warming, however, is the joker in the deck. If it is really severe, elections won’t make much difference. If it is only moderately bad, we will all be moving to Canada as quickly as possible, that is, if they don’t build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants. If it’s not too bad, we will have to stay out of the sun and be injected with several dozen vaccines for tropical diseases carried north by birds, bugs and ballast.
The plan to impoverish the American People described above is succeeding because, first, the neoliberal elites quietly succeeded in virtually eliminating history and economics from the public school curriculum many years ago. Ignorance of political and economic history deprives a person of one of the most precious attributes a person can possess: perspective. Knowing next to nothing about 20th Century snake oil, the average citizen under 50 is unable to recognize the repackaged and rebranded 21st Century version as exactly the same poisonous brew that previously led directly to a deep and painful economic depression, followed by a world war.
As philosopher George Santayana once observed “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Without the perspective that comes from knowing what has happened yesterday, today’s events make little sense. Many are angry, but few have any idea of who or what caused their problems, or at whom their anger should be directed. We are repeating the errors of the past and things are working out about the same as before.
The Tea-Partiers were rightfully angry at an administration that bailed out the big banks and allowed the criminals to go free. The Tea Party, however, was in actuality an astroturf organization, founded and sustained by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers, who skillfully redirected that entirely legitimate anger against clear heads in favor of political candidates who, once elected, betrayed their constituents in a number of different ways, including shutting down the US government in an effort to blackmail the nation into adopting a balanced budget, which, if it were adopted. would have plunged the nation into another Great Depression.
In addition to founding Astroturf organizations like the Tea Party, the same elites established and patiently nurtured conservative propaganda mills, misnomed “think-tanks,” that distributed repackaged snake oil in support of conservative political candidates. Little by little they used their vast wealth and power to push their right-wing beliefs into the media, the educational system, fundamentalist churches, and the minds of the receptive. Now they have reached the zenith of their influence and power. They honestly believe they are no longer accountable to the American people, because they move among the unaccountable. Their obscene wealth insulates them from us, the invisible.
Obama is the grand prize of these elites. As the first black elected to the presidency with a moderately progressive platform, and reputably a decent man, he found it necessary to become a neoliberal almost as soon as he took the oath of office, to the great disappointment of progressives. It is beginning to look as though the passage of that neoliberal abomination, the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) by Congress will be his legacy. Not something he can be proud of.
But there is trouble in River City. Or perhaps a disturbance in The Force. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both rose unexpectedly from political insignificance to genuine contenders, and in the process have altered the trajectory of both parties. Indeed, Trump was so effective at tapping into the seething cauldron of people’s anger that he has become the candidate presumptive of the GOP. 
Sanders’s achievement on the left is strong evidence that the millenial generation has seen enough of neoliberalism to know it doesn’t like it, whether or not it knows exactly what it is. A rotten egg by any name smells awful. They don’t have to define neoliberalism with philosophical exactness in order to see how much it has already stolen from the American people by stealth. They are coming to understand that if the neoliberal project remains unchecked, it will assuredly rob them and their children of their future.
It is a powerful omen that Bernie Sanders managed to do so well against the entire Democratic establishment, including DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman, a fervent Clinton supporter. Sanders raised an enormous amount of money in small contributions, whereas Clinton depended mostly on the rich and the powerful that form her natural constituency.
Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal. Her husband, Bill, is a neoliberal and was a neoliberal when he was president. To list all his official acts in support of the neoliberal program is outside the scope of this article, but the low points are his successful support for the passage of the North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the gutting of an already inadequate welfare safety net, and his signing the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, that allowed commercial banks to gamble with depositor’s money and arguably helped to bring about the crash of 2007.
Hillary Clinton is cut of the same cloth. Having received $200,000 for delivering two speeches to überbank Goldman-Sachs, the transcripts of which she refuses to disclose, she is obviously beholden to Wall Street. She has also demonstrated a preference for military action over diplomacy that has the potential to further deplete the resources of the nation and the lives of our soldiers for no reason other than the enrichment of the defense industry. Exhibit 1 is Libya, a failed, chaotic state for which she was directly responsible and for which she has still not accepted responsibility.
She also had ordered an insecure email server installed in her residence through which all her supposedly unclassified official and personal email passed. It is is now the subject of an FBI investigation.
That said, she is an intelligent, attractive candidate with executive experience at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, and without doubt the most qualified of all the Republicans and Democrats who threw their hat into the ring this year.
So, it looks like it will be a choice between Trump and Clinton in November. I don’t like either of them very much.
John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946). British economist, whose monumental work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), upended classical economics by demonstrating that business recessions can be mitigated or even eliminated by governmental deficit spending. This is exactly what Republican administrations have done since WWII. Most of the time Republican deficit spending has been done by tax cuts for the very rich, who invest it in securities, rather than spend it on goods. Giving money to the rich usually has little or no stimulus effect on demand. ↩
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, assassinated in Dallas, Texas, October 22, 1963] ↩
We later learned that the Soviets had secretly introduced tactical nuclear weapons into Cuba and local commanders had been given the discretion to use them. Had the US invaded, they would probably have used them. That would have, in all likelihood, set off a nuclear war. ↩
When a conservative politician, Republican or Democrat, advocates reform, hold tight to your wallet, because reform means something entirely different to him. ↩
Neoliberalism – A political-economic theory, widely accepted by elites, that regards markets as the touchstone of virtually all human values and thought. It has many variations, nearly all of them advocating few, if any, restraints on the market, minimum government intervention in the workings of the market, the personhood of corporations and a strong belief that the answer to market failure is more markets. A good history and analysis of the doctrine is Philip Mirowski’s Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown ↩
“Grassroot” is a metaphor for an organization founded by ordinary citizens, who form the “grassroots,” and build their organization from the ground up, in contrast to an organization designed to resemble a grassroot movement but actually founded, directed and bankrolled by well-heeled political organizers, and typically described as an “Astroturf organization” after the artificial grass used on football fields ↩
In fairness to Obama, it is fairly obvious that he did much of what he did because he had to. He let slip not long ago that he did not want to end up like Martin Luther King. King was assassinated in Memphis where he had gone in support of a garbage workers’ strike. It is possible, even likely, that the reason for his assassination was his turn from racial justice alone to supporting social justice. ↩
It is remarkable that the other contenders for the GOP nomination were so lacking in personality and substance that Trump turned out to be the most attractive. I found myself cringing in embarrassment when Rubio and Bush tried to answer simple questions, or when Carly Fiorina bragged about her executive experience. Cruz and Christy came across as empty windbags. Kasich, by far the most intelligent among the Republican contenders, resembled nothing so much as a corpse. Trump, on the other hand, brought passion, spoke bullshit, and prevailed. ↩
NAFTA required Mexico to eliminate tariffs on most goods, including corn. As a consequence, subsidized corn from the U. S. flooded the Mexican markets and drove the price of corn below the local cost of production. Since corn was the main source of income for Mexican farmers, most of them lost their farms and migrated to the large cities. There they found no employment in a flooded job market, so in desperation they came to the U.S. In short, the U. S. created the influx of immigrants by imposing NAFTA on Mexico.
In addition, NAFTA enabled many manufacturing firms to move their factories just across the Mexican border, where wages are but a fraction of US wages and employers didn`t have to bother with pesky unions. That move and the move to China just about killed manufacturing in the industrial belt and put millions of skilled laborers on the street. For a vivid and heart-breaking movie about how General Motors moved its factories to Mexico and parts even farther away (sometimes in the middle of the night), watch the film Roger and Me, by Michael Moore. ↩
The legislative session that recently ended is positive proof that otherwise moderately intelligent and presumably sane persons can assemble together to form a perfectly insane corporate body. What has this legislature accomplished worthwhile? If a reader of this blog (and alas there are not many of them) can think of any laws, any appropiations, any resolutions, or any other beneficial actions that the solons accomplished, the reader is invited to list them in the comments below.
The damages wrought this year by our legislature in league with a governor whose limitations are painfully obvious, have been legion. Let me count some of the ways:
* With estimated revenue inadequate to fulfill the minimum functions of state government, it appropriated over half a billion dollars for business tax breaks;
* State income tax is slated to be drastically reduced over the next six years. The wealthy puppetmasters of our Republican legislators have been pushing for years to eliminate the only progressive tax the state collects and it appears that they are going to get part of their wish. Total taxes in Mississippi are already regressive. For example, using the latest available figures for state and local taxes (2015), families in the second income percentile ($15K-$26K) pay 10.8% of their income in state taxes, including sales and income taxes, whereas families in the top 1% ($306,000+) pay ony 6.3%. Eliminating the state income tax will worsen this disparity.
* The “Protecting Preedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act” is probably the silliest law passed this season. It immunizes persons who violate the civil rights of anyone whose sexual orientation violates their religious beliefs. It is clearly unconstitutional and will fall as soon as it comes before a federal judge.
Our legislature paid itself untold sums of taxpayers’ money debating and enacting a law immunizing almost any form of discrimination against almost anyone a person believes should be the object of discrimination (in most cases this will be a person not a white heterosexual, anglo-saxon, right-wing, self-proclaimed Christian, so long as the discrimination is required by a "sincerely held religious belief.
The state superintendent of education has been threatened by the governor and a number of Republican legislators with losing her job if she follows the Federal guidelines. This places her in an impossible position, for if the Department of Education follows the Mississippi statute, the state stands to lose around $700 million in federal funding for education. Smart.
* The legislature made a brazen takeover of Medger Evers Airport by creating a new airport authority, called the Jackson Metropolitan Area Airport Authority. Again, this was undoubtedly motivated by racial prejudice, because there was little criticism of the current administration of the airport from any quarter. Look at the composition of the new board:
1. The Adjutant General of the Mississippi National Guard, or his designee;
2. The Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority, or his designee;
3. One (1) commissioner appointed by the Mayor of the City of Jackson appointed for an initial term of one (1) year;
4. One (1) commissioner appointed by the City Council of the City of Jackson appointed for an initial term of two (2) years;
5. One (1) commissioner appointed by the Board of Supervisors of Madison County appointed for an initial term of three (3) years;
6. One (1) commissioner appointed by the Board of Supervisors of Rankin County appointed for an initial term of four (4) years;
7. Two (2) commissioners appointed by the Governor from the City of Jackson appointed for terms of (5) years one of whom shall be the holder of a valid pilot’s license or certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration; and
8. One (1) commissioner appointed by the Lieutenant Governor from the City of Jackson appointed for a term of five (5) years.
Count’em. A real coup. There is some question, however, as to whether the change requires FAA approval and whether the FAA would approve the transfer.
There is also talk that Mark Baker, R-Rankin County, is drafting legislation to authorize the state to take over government of the City of Jackson, much like the Governer of Michigan has taken over the City of Flint. How this could not be motivated by racial prejudice is hard to imagine. Jackson residents would be wise to keep testing their water. We can see how Flint turned out.
Perhaps Mr. Baker can promise Jackson that the state will actually do something, like filling the potholes, funding our public schools at a reasonable level instead of starving them with the snake oil of charter schools, and promoting job formation in the city. You know how likely that is. The attitude of the Republicans in our legislature is that Jackson and Hinds County vote Democratic, so screw them.
Dear People of the Great State of Mississippi,
Hello! I am a fourth grade student in North Carolina. In fourth grade, we do state reports and I have chosen your state! I am very excited to learn more about the great state of Mississippi as I work on my report.
Most of the information that we get for our reports will be from books and web sites. We also like to get information from people who live in the state, too. This is why I am writing to you. I was hoping that you would be willing to send me some items to help me learn more about the best things in your state. It could be things like postcards, maps, pictures, souvenirs, general information, this newspaper article, or any other items that would be useful. You can mail items to the address below. I really appreciate your help!
Azure & Leyla
Mrs. Dodds’s Class
Charlotte Latin School
9502 Providence Road
Charlotte, NC 28277
Hillary Rodham Clinton
HRC certainly has the intelligence and experience to be president, No other candidate comes close by these measures.
(and it's a big BUT) (no pun intended),
1) She has revealed herself to be a tool of Wall Street and the financial sector (think Bankruptcy Bill). She has a stable of economists from which to choose her advisors. These will undoubtedly be the same very serious persons that brought us, or failed to predict, the crash of 2007.
2) She is an enthusiastic hawk who voted for Bush and Cheney's Iraq invasion, knowing (as all of us with eyes and more that half a brain knew) that the evidence to support the invasion was cherry-picked by the Bush administration to deceive the public. As Secretary of State, she must bear most of the responsibility for the human and political tragedy that Libya is today. Hawks, especially chickenhawks, are the bought and paid-for pawns of the defense industry, advocating military action because that is the only thing that keeps their owners in business. An acquaintance who worked for the World Bank in the early '90s overheard the CEO of a large defense contractor admit in private that Desert Storm kept his company in business for 1.5 years;
3) HRC hasn't come clean on the personal mail server in her home. I've been worked in IT off and on since 1967, and there's something missing from the story that worries me. I can't imagine that HC would have had a server installed in her home without military-grade security. Who installed the server? Did the installers have security clearances? Was the installation physically secure, or was it stuck in a closet? Did she pay for the server and installation herself? Why did she need it? It's easy to send personal email free. Although it lacks military-grade security, traffic is securely encrypted between user and servers, which is sufficient privacy for personal messages. Her home mail server is a mystery for which I don't have even a clue to the purpose stronger than mere conjecture and speculation. When voting for a candidate under these circumstances, it is wise to assume that HRC is concealing something that would seriously damage her chances of being nominated and elected, or might even expose her to criminal liability.
It's a harsh evaluation, but we are engaged in choosing the occupant of the most powerful office in the world for the next four years. No examination or evaluation can be too harsh under these circumstances.
I really like Sanders (unfortunate initials), and agree almost completely with his New Deal philosophy. He is right about the evil of extreme inequality. He is right that the largest banks are a threat to the entire world and should be broken up. He is right that health care, education, decent housing, parental leave, sick leave and generous vacation time are basic human rights and ought to be enacted into law. He wants changes to make elections fair and representative. He opposes trade agreements that benefit only large corporations and the extremely wealthy--it has turned out that every single trade agreement over the past 35 years has done exactly that. He advocates a doubling of the minimum hourly wage, whereas I believe it should be set to the same purchasing power of its highest historical level and then indexed to the earnings of the 90th income percentile, including capital gains. He would probably agree, but consider it politically impossible. By all accounts, Sanders is honest, incorruptible, intelligent, and likable.
1) He is 74 years old, an advanced age for a president. He will be 79 when his first term ends, so unless he has the luck and stamina of Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, as well as extraordinary popularity, he will serve one term. He can resolve doubts about his advanced age by choosing a young, vigorous, democratic socialist. He has zero chance of being elected if he fails to do this.
2) Considering the current and probable makeup of Congress over the next four years, Sanders will not be able to change the present political system without a electoral miracle. The best he can hope for is to change the things that most desperately need to be changed and do his best to convince the American people that if the neo-conservative, neo-liberal, climate change denying, plutocratic, austerity-mongering, corrupt, and race-baiting Republican Party, along with a significant minority of the Democratic Party, continue to dictate our destiny, we might as well resign ourselves, along with our surviving descendants, to a poverty-stricken, disease-ridden, inhospitable planet, plagued with unstable and lethal weather, and a political system so dysfunctional and oppressive that our current republic (already an empire) will seem like a paradise in comparison. HRC would have the political power and influence to accomplish far more than Sanders, but there is no evidence from her past that she will have the slightest inclination to do so.
3) Sanders proposals lack specificity. He gives the impression that he has not thought through them sufficiently. HRC has compared Sanders’ plans unfavorably to her already-drawn-up plans. Elections for high office, however, are not held for the purpose of who has the most detailed, or even the most, plans.
Most voters are abysmally ignorant of the important issues of the day. The issues they are familiar with are the ones they learn from the evening news, their preacher at church, and their drinking buddies. They want to know what kind of a person a candidate is. They want a candidate whose values are close to their own. They want their candidate to be intelligent, capable, and experienced, if possible. Most of all, they want to know where the candidate’s heart is--and what kind of future the candidate envisions.
Experience just isn't all that important this year. Since 1988, no elected (or appointed) president has assumed office with any federal executive experience. Being regarded as the outsider bestows an advantage, even if the outsidership is a complete fabrication. To be seen as the choice of the establishment--an insider--is usually a handicap. The voters are looking for vision; competence comes second, or even third, behind sincerity. Certainly not bureaucratic expertise, which is HRC's forte.
My conclusion: Time will tell. The candidates will hopefully reveal to us the kind of persons they are before the nomination is locked up. It's too early to make the choice. I really like Bernie, but at this moment I put my money on Hillary.
We Americans, on the other hand, are succumbing to fear and uncertainty—cowardice, in other words—over an enemy thousands of miles away.
Our Mississippi governor is in the front ranks of those who would turn away refugees from Syria. He panders to fear. He invokes the worst in us. He awakens the deep currents of racism in Mississippi whites—yes, dammit, whites—that has plagued this benighted state for centuries.
Our Mississippi culture holds fast to the belief that compassion—Christian compassion included—only applies to people like us: WHITE FUNDAMENTALISTS. I omit the word Christian because this rationing of compassion is utterly unchristian. How many passages from the gospels have you read that justify the turning away of refugees? Name just one. How many of the words of Our Lord would I have to read to you for you to understand that rationed compassion is no compassion at all. It only means “I got mine.” Like the parable of the rich fool.
Certain natives of India catch monkeys by cutting a small hole in a coconut which they fasten to the ground. The hole in the coconut is just large enough for a monkey to insert its hand through the hole. They place a nut or other attractive object in the coconut. The monkey approaches the coconut, thrusts his hand through the hole and grasps the nut. When it tries to withdraw his hand from the hole while holding the nut, he finds that he cannot. His fist is too large. When a human approaches, the monkey, instead of dropping the nut and running away, refuses to drop it and is easily captured.
We humans do the same thing. We grasp tightly to our “nut”—our version of what kind of world we want to live in—and we are caught. No matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the conditioning of our racist culture without letting go of the “nut” we are grasping, our “southern way of life,” that rests upon a deeply unjust class system based on race. We cannot open our hearts and minds and at the same time tightly grasp the very thing that is doing us in. We must first let go of the nut.
The only reason for this intransigence seems to be that the Affordable Care Act was passed by the Democrats during the Obama administration. The Republicans’ dislike of Obama has become so intense (racial prejudice is the only explanation that fits) that they have shamelessly abandoned any sense of responsibility for the well-being of the state and its people, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.
Screwing the poor, especially those of color, has been the policy of the power elite of this state since statehood. A large pool of extremely poor unemployed workers has kept wages below subsistence level since the Civil War, and they aim to keep it that way, because cheap labor boosts profits. It has also resulted in our state being the poorest in the nation. Refusing to expand Medicaid is just another method of squeezing the poor and forcing them to pay more of their income for necessary medical care.
An overwhelming majority of our legislators call themselves Christian, but it is patently obvious that either they have never cracked the pages of the Good Book or taken its teachings seriously. Catholic philosopher Jaques Maritain calls such people “practical atheists,” because pretending to believe is socially advantageous in a Bible-thumping society. A ravenous wolf can wear sheeps’ clothing and be thought a fine Christian in this environment.
I would prefer to spend my time with confessing atheists, for at least they are honest.
An article in Mother Jones prompted this column: Red States Spent $2 Billion in 2015 to Screw the Poor
The Mother Jones article was based on a Kaiser Family Foundation study. http://kff.org/report-section/medicaid-enrollment-spending-growth-fy-2015-2016-issue-brief/ Scroll down to Figure 5. The study did not break out the data by state (except with maps), but by Medicaid expanders and non-expanders.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
October 9, 2015 | By Jeremy Malcolm
The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared
Today's release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn't survive to the end of the negotiations.
Since we now have the agreed text, we'll be including some paragraph references that you can cross-reference for yourself—but be aware that some of them contain placeholders like “x” that may change in the cleaned-up text. Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter, but analyses of the impacts of other parts of the chapter have been published by Wikileaks and others.
Binding Rules for Rightsholders, Soft Guidelines for Users
If you skim the chapter without knowing what you're looking for, it may come across as being quite balanced, including references to the need for IP rules to further the “mutual advantage of producers and users” (QQ.A.X), to “facilitate the diffusion of information” (QQ.A.Z), and recognizing the “importance of a rich and accessible public domain” (QQ.B.x). But that's how it's meant to look, and taking this at face value would be a big mistake.
If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever.
Another, and perhaps the most egregious example of this bias against users is the important provision on limitations and exceptions to copyright (QQ.G.17). In a pitifully ineffectual nod towards users, it suggests that parties “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system,” but imposes no hard obligations for them to do so, nor even offers U.S.-style fair use as a template that they might follow. The fact that even big tech was ultimately unable to move the USTR on this issue speaks volumes about how utterly captured by Hollywood the agency is.
Expansion of Copyright Terms
Perhaps the biggest overall defeat for users is the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years (QQ.G.6), despite a broad consensus that this makes no economic sense, and simply amounts to a transfer of wealth from users to large, rights-holding corporations. The extension will make life more difficult for libraries and archives, for journalists, and for ordinary users seeking to make use of works from long-dead authors that rightfully belong in the public domain.
Could it have been worse? In fact, yes it could have; we were spared a 120 year copyright term for corporate works, as earlier drafts foreshadowed. In the end corporate works are to be protected for 70 years after publication or performance, or if they are not published within 25 years after they were created, for 70 years after their creation. This could make a big difference in practice. It means that the film Casablanca, probably protected in the United States until 2038, would already be in the public domain in other TPP countries, even under a life plus 70 year copyright term.
New to the latest text are the transition periods in Section J, which allow some countries a longer period for complying with some of their obligations, including copyright term. For example, Malaysia has been allowed two years to extend its copyright term to life plus 70 years. For Vietnam, the transition period is five years. New Zealand is the country receiving the most “generous” allowance; its term will increase to life plus 60 years initially, rising to the full life plus 70 year term within eight years. Yet Canada, on the other hand, has not been given any transition period at all.
Ban on Circumventing Digital Rights Management (DRM)
The provisions in QQ.G.10 that prohibit the circumvention of DRM or the supply of devices for doing so are little changed from earlier drafts, other than that the opposition of some countries to the most onerous provisions of those drafts was evidently to no avail. For example, Chile earlier opposed the provision that the offense of DRM circumvention is to be “independent of any infringement that might occur under the Party's law on copyright and related rights,” yet the final text includes just that requirement.
The odd effect of this is that someone tinkering with a file or device that contains a copyrighted work can be made liable (criminally so, if willfulness and a commercial motive can be shown), for doing so even when no copyright infringement is committed. Although the TPP text does allow countries to pass exceptions that allow DRM circumvention for non-infringing uses, such exceptions are not mandatory, as they ought to be.
The parties' flexibility to allow DRM circumvention also requires them to consider whether rightsholders have already taken measures to allow those non-infringing uses to be made. This might mean that rightsholders will rely on the walled-garden sharing capabilities built in to their DRM systems, such as Ultraviolet, to oppose users being granted broader rights to circumvent DRM.
Alongside the prohibition on circumvention of DRM is a similar prohibition (QQ.G.13) on the removal of rights management information, with equivalent civil and criminal penalties. Since this offense is, once again, independent of the infringement of copyright, it could implicate a user who crops out an identifying watermark from an image, even if they are using that image for fair use purposes and even if they otherwise provide attribution of the original author by some other means.
The distribution of devices for decrypting encrypted satellite and cable signals is also separately proscribed (QQ.H.9), posing a further hazard to hackers wishing to experiment with or to repurpose broadcast media.
Criminal Enforcement and Civil Damages
On damages, the text (QQ.H.4) remains as bad as ever: rightsholders can submit “any legitimate measure of value” to a judicial authority for determination of damages, including the suggested retail price of infringing goods. Additionally, judges must have the power to order pre-established damages (at the rightsholder's election), or additional damages, each of which may go beyond compensating the rightsholder for its actual loss, and thereby create a disproportionate chilling effect for users and innovators.
No exception to these damages provisions is made in cases where the rightsholder cannot be found after a diligent search, which puts the kibosh on ideas for the introduction of an orphan works regime that would cap remedies available against those who reproduce these otherwise-unavailable works.
One of the scariest parts of the TPP is that not only can you be made liable to fines and criminal penalties, but that any materials and implements used in the creation of infringing copies can also be destroyed (QQ.H.4(12)). The same applies to devices and products used for circumventing DRM or removing rights management information (QQ.H.4(17)). Because multi-use devices such as computers are used for a diverse range of purposes, this is once again a disproportionate penalty. This could lead to a family's home computer becoming seized simply because of its use in sharing files online, or for ripping Blu-Ray movies to a media center.
In some cases (QQ.H.7), the penalties for copyright infringement can even include jail time. Traditionally, this has because the infringer is operating a business of commercial piracy. But under the TPP, any act of willful copyright infringement on a commercial scale renders the infringer liable to criminal penalties, even if they were not carried out for financial gain, provided that they have a substantial prejudicial impact on the rightsholder. The copying of films that are still playing in movie theaters is also subject to separate criminal penalties, regardless of the scale of the infringement.
The severity of the earlier language on trade secrets protection has not been abated in the final text. It continues to criminalize those who gain “unauthorized, willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system,” without any mandatory exception for cases where the information is accessed or disclosed in the public interest, such as by investigative journalists or whistleblowers.
There is no evident explanation for the differential treatment given to trade secrets accessed or misappropriated by means of a computer system, as opposed to by other means; but it is no surprise to find the U.S. pushing such a technophobic provision, which mirrors equivalent provisions of U.S. law that have been used to persecute hackers for offenses that would otherwise have been considered much more minor.
Top-Down Control of the Internet
ICANN, the global domain name authority, provoked a furore earlier this year over proposals that could limit the ability for owners of domain names to shield their personal information from copyright and trademark trolls, identity thieves, scammers and harassers.
The TPP has just ridden roughshod over that entire debate (at least for country-code top-level domains such as .us, .au and .jp), by cementing in place rules (QQ.C.12) that countries must provide “online public access to a reliable and accurate database of contact information concerning domain-name registrants.”
The same provision also requires countries to adopt an equivalent to ICANN's flawed Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), despite the fact that this controversial policy is overdue for a formal review by ICANN, which might result in the significant revision of this policy. Where would this leave the TPP countries, that are locked in to upholding a UDRP-like policy for their own domains for the indefinite future?
The TPP's prescription of rules for domain names completely disregards the fact that most country code domain registries have their own, open, community-driven processes for determining rules for managing domain name disputes. More than that, this top-down rulemaking on domain names is in direct contravention of the U.S. administration's own firmly-stated commitment to uphold the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. Obviously, Internet users cannot trust the administration that it means what it says when it gives lip-service to multi-stakeholder governance—and that has ramifications that go even even deeper than this terrible TPP deal.
The provisions on ISP liability (Appendix Section I), as we previously found in the last leaked text, are not quite as permissive as we hoped. It will still require most countries to adopt a version of the flawed U.S. DMCA notice-and-takedown system, albeit with a few safeguards such as penalties for those who issue wrongful takedown notices, and allowing (but not requiring) a Japanese-style system of verification of takedown notices by an independent body of ISPs and rightsholders.
It is true that Canada's notice-and-notice regime is also allowed, but effectively only for Canada—no other country that did not have an equivalent system as of the date of the agreement is allowed to benefit from that flexibility. Even in Canada's case, this largesse is only afforded because of the other enforcement measures that rightsholders enjoy there—such as a tough regime of secondary liability for authorization of copyright infringement.
Similarly Chile's system under which ISPs are not required to take down content without a judicial order is explicitly grandfathered in, but no other country joining the TPP in the future will be allowed to have a similar system.
In addition, although there is no explicit requirement for a graduated response regime of copyright penalties against users, ISPs are still roped in as copyright enforcers with the vague requirement (Appendix Section 1) that they be given “legal incentives…to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials or, in the alternative, to take other action to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyright materials”.
Quite honestly there are no parts of this agreement that are positively good for users. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's not improved over the earlier, horrendous demands of the U.S. negotiators. Some of the areas in which countries rightly pushed back against the U.S., and which are reflected in the final text are:
• The exhaustion of rights provision (QQ.A.11) that upholds the first sale doctrine of U.S. law, preventing copyright owners from extending their control over the resale of copyright works once they have first been placed in the market. In particular, this makes parallel importation of cheaper versions of copyright works lawful—and complementing this is an explicit authorization of devices that bypass region-coding on physical copies of such works (QQ.G.10, though this does not extend to bypassing geoblocking of streaming services).
• A thoroughly-misguided provision that would have extended copyright protection to temporary or "buffer" copies in a computer system was one of the earliest rightsholder demands dropped by the USTR, and rightfully so, given the damage this would have wreaked to tech companies and users alike.
But we have struggled to come up with more than two positive points about the TPP, and even then the absence of these tragic mistakes is a pretty poor example of a positive point. If you look for provisions in the TPP that actually afford new benefits to users, rather than to large, rights-holding corporations, you will look in vain. The TPP is the archetype of an agreement that exists only for the benefit of the entitled, politically powerfully lobbyists who have pushed it through to completion over the last eight years.
There is nothing in here for users and innovators to support, and much for us to fear—the ratcheting up of the copyright term across the Pacific rim, the punitive sanctions for DRM circumvention, and the full frontal attack on hackers and journalists in the trade secrets provision, just to mention three. This latest leak has confirmed our greatest fears—and strengthened our resolve to kill this agreement for good once it reaches Congress.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
The newsletter exulted in the fact that every Republican in Congress voted against the agreement. It also made clear that the lemming-like support of Republicans for Israel played a great part in their decision to vote against it.
I seem to recall that Our Lord made His position on the issue of war and peace very clear: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9. In light of the fact that Iran hasn’t attacked anybody in hundreds of years and has now submitted to an inspection regime that our own government would reject in a second, one is compelled to ask “exactly what is this “Christian” Coalition all about, anyway? It’s hard to discover anything Christian about it. It supports a policy vey likely to lead to war, not a policy that would enhance our national security.
Sadly, The Christian Coalition has acted as merely another propaganda wing of the Republican Party, intended to pander to fundamentalist Christians by supporting unthinkingly whatever the Israeli government does, no matter how evil. And all for the purpose of inveigling ignorant and gullible Mississippians to vote into office the very representatives that have held back the state for more than a hundred years.
We elected lemmings. Let us congratulate ourselves for electing these moral idiots.
I just read an article in Counterpunch magazine that is highly critical of your policy position regarding the Middle East. You are venturing into areas in which you clearly have no expertise.
Suggestion: before you make any more statements about what our mid-eastern policy should be, get a real expert on board. This is a very serious business, and your opponents will take you apart if you continue with the same policy recommendations you are putting forth now. You would be wise to consult Dr. Juan Cole at the University of Michigan on the middle east in general. For Syria, specifically, Josh Landis at the University of Oklahoma would be a good choice.
The administration’s middle east policy is a mess, chiefly because neither the Obama or Bush administrations really knows or knew very much about the middle east and didn’t seem to want to know. Obama has enough sense to resist the pressure to become deeply involved in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, and a knowledgeable candidate who can speak with authority on this issue will, if nothing else, reinforce the president’s spine and help him keep the neo-cons, who are dying to put other people’s boots on the ground, at bay.
A president is only as good as his advisors. The same goes for a presidential candidate. Having good and forthright advisors is the key to wise governance.
The “politically correct” problem is the debt racked up by Greece to the European banks (mostly German) since its admission to the Euro Zone, and the assumption by the national governments of that debt in 2012, thus letting the banks off the hook and saddling the governments and international financial institutions with potential losses of € 323 billion ($352.7 billion).
Reckless lenders are at least, if not more, culpable than reckless borrowers, because lenders are usually in a better position to evaluate the creditworthiness of the latter. The Germans have not yet been willing to accept any blame at all, despite this obvious truth. In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made political hay by characterizing the Greeks as lazy freeloaders who ought to be forced to pay back the money loaned by the virtuous, industrious Germans.
By thus characterizing the Greeks, Merkel has painted herself into a corner. She cannot now be honest with her nation and tell them the truth: those debts are bad debts; Greece cannot pay its debts to Germany and will never be able to pay its debts, and that the austerity that has been forced on Greece has wrecked the Greek economy and made it even less likely that it will be able to pay the debt, ever. A debt that cannot be repaid will not be repaid.
Haven’t Merkel and her ministers learned from their history classes to know what a mindless insistence on reparations did the last time it was tried?