29 December 2016

President Trump: the End of Pax Americana?

As we now know, Angry White People (AWP) voted in droves for Donald J Trump because they believed that he was going to make America Great Again.

Now, this is a slogan The Donald plagiarized borrowed from Ronald Reagan and already this fact gives you a clue about the likelihood of America being great again.

Let me make a bold prediction.

Not only will America not become great again but Trump's presidency will hasten the end Pax Americana. And will prepare the way for the rise of Eurasia as the new power center.

Allow me to explain.

What the US needed for this election cycle was a president like Bernie Sanders or Elisabeth Warren, a Keynesian who would push for income redistribution. Real wages declined or stagnated for several decades (in fact since Reagan, save for a few short Clinton years), household debt is staggeringly high and savings are non-existent. Most Americans cannot afford to retire comfortably and cheap and comprehensive health care eludes middle class families.

If this trend is not reversed, the shrinking purchasing power of Americans will lead to a major contraction of the economy.

Contrary to what AWP believe, the current US economy is arranged to benefit the One Percenters. Look at its leading segments: Finance, Defense Industries, High Tech and Cultural products. Any openings for non-college graduate middle aged guys?

Moreover, according to American Society of Civil Engineers the US infrastructure is crumbling. They give it an overall grade of D+ and estimate the amount to be spent by 2020 would need to be as high as $3.6 trillion. It is not just the roads and bridges but transit, levees, aviation and of course the whole electricity grid.

Education is broken with the US students posting middling to dismal results compared to most developed countries. Public schools are under-funded and they have a hard time finding qualified teachers. College tuition has risen sharply and at $1.3 trillion, student debt is crippling many young adults. And many middle class families are unable to send their kids to college.

America's defense spending is unsustainable. At $598 billion, it represents 54 percent of the country's discretionary expenditures.The military industrial complex and its allies want to "freedom bomb" more and more countries to maintain the US in a permanent state of war.

One Percenters and companies that suck the system dry do not wish any of these funds diverted to climate change prevention. So they simply deny that it is happening.

I could go on.

Since borrowing costs are essentially negative for the US, the country needed a president who would spend a lot domestically to fix these problems and make peace abroad to get military spending in check.

Instead they got The Donald.

When you look at his cabinet you realize that he does not want to reverse these negative trends, he is set out to reinforce every single one of them.

One Percenters' Cabinet

Department of Health and Human Services is given to Tom Price who is a vocal opponent of Affordable Care Act (ACA, sometimes known as Obamacare). He has vowed to repeal it.

His choice of Education Secretary is billionaire Betsy Devos, called ""the most ideological, anti-public education nominee" since the position became a cabinet position." She is there to gut public schools and give the money to denominational institutions.

The Department of Labor will be headed by Andrew Puzder, the CEO of a fast food chain who opposes minimum wage laws and overtime compensation.

Department of Energy will be run by former Texas governor and Dancing With The Stars contestant Rick Perry. In 2011, he declared that if he was elected president he would abolish the Department of Energy. Except he couldn't remember its name. Now he is going to manage it.

Justice Department is relegated to Jeff Sessions whose candidacy to the federal bench was once rejected by the Senate "over allegations that he made racist comments and praised the KKK while criticizing the NAACP and the ACLU." He thinks Voting Rights Act is intrusive and NAACP and ACLU are un-American.

Steve Bannon is the Chief Counselor to the President and as such the most powerful person in the White House. He is a former Goldman Sachs banker and CEO of Breitbart and a white nationalist who hates all minorities, including Jews.

Department of the Interior will be managed by Ryan Zinke, a climate change skeptic who favors drilling everywhere. "Zinke "frequently votes against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling" and received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters."

Department of the Treasury will be run by Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive who made his fortune by buying mortgage lender IndyMac and selling it for a yuge profit. His appointment came as a bitter surprise to some Trump supporters whose houses were foreclosed by his bank.

Department of Defense goes to James "Mad Dog" Mattis a retired general who never passed any opportunity to "freedom bomb" some place in his long career. He calls himself a warrior-monk for having devoted his life to the army. He is an implacable enemy of Iran.

Another retired general, Michael Flynn, was appointed National Security Adviser. He is a white supremacist with a penchant for making up facts. His time at the head of the military's clandestine branch Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was characterized as "Scorched-earth leadership." He believes that the infamous Pizzagate stories about a pedophile ring ran by Hillary Clinton were true. He is a rabid Islamophobe and he hates Iran. And he knows and likes Putin and had dinner with him once.

Trade Council chief will be Peter Navarro, "an economist known for his extreme anti-China stance who has accused the Asian superpower of waging an economic war against the United States."

Finally, the Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil. He made many deals in Russia and Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship in 2012. He opposed sanctions to Russia after the annexation of Crimea and border conflicts in Eastern Ukraine.

What about his Vice President, you might ask, the guy most likely to govern on Trump's behalf? He is something else. He hates gays and women.
Mike Pence also signed a “religious freedom” bill that allowed businesses to explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ customers. And he backed several “personhood bills” that granted legal status to zygotes (zygotes!) and which would effectively ban abortion outright—along with some types of birth control. Pence also wanted women seeking abortions to have to undergo forced ultrasound exams where the provider would “describe the embryo in detail to her.” And of course, there’s also that law he signed requiring women to bury or cremate their aborted fetuses.
I left a few people out like billionaire Wilbur Ross (Commerce) the CEO of Rothschild Inc or Elaine Chao (Transportation) former Labor Secretary and wife of Mitch McConnell or Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development) who believes that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, but you get the overall picture.

Collectively, the members of the Cabinet are worth $4.5 billion. That is without counting Trump's own $3.7 billion or Army Secretary Vincent Viola ($1.8 billion) or Deputy Commerce Secretary Todd Ricketts ($5.3 billion) or Small Business Secretary Linda McMahon ($1.16 billion).

If you add all up, the grand total (excluding mere multi-millionaires like Chao) is $16,460,000,000.

Very populist indeed.

As you can see from the list above, the cabinet, besides billionaires who aim to run their portfolios to the ground, is composed of hawkish generals, white supremacists, homophobes, Islamophobes, climate change deniers, China haters and people with special ties to Russia.

It is not much of a stretch to assume that they will work to make life more difficult for low income people and minorities. Social services will be dismantled, household income will plummet, minimum wage will no longer be applicable, health care will once again be a rare commodity, charter schools and vouchers will replace many of the public schools and women's reproductive rights will finally be eliminated.

It is also quite likely that vote suppression measures will be introduced and voter ID laws will become more restrictive.

And of course, despite Obama's last ditch efforts to ban drilling in the Arctic and elsewhere, oil exploration and mining activities will increase, climate change regulations will be rolled back. There are at least nine cabinet members who deny global warming is caused by human activities.
The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for Nasa, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change, in a signal of the president-elect’s determination to embark upon an aggressively pro-fossil fuels agenda.
AWP will be angrier. And more destitute.


But as bad as things are domestically, the real danger is in the foreign policy area.

The World According to Trump

There are four crisis points for the Trump Administration.

Middle East

Middle East used to be the most challenging region in the world even for highly knowledgeable and skilled politicians. This was before Putin turned it into an even more complicated place.

Shia-Sunni proxy war is always on the brink of engulfing many players. Shia Iran is the ascending super power while Sunni Turkey, the previous regional power, is in disarray.

Sunni Saudi Arabia that had been bankrolling all kinds of conflicts and Jihadi efforts has serious economic woes and its military is stuck in an expensive and unpopular quagmire in Yemen.

Putin formed an alliance with Iran and Syria and effectively destroyed any chance of Sunni powers creating Pipelineistan which was meant to get Qatari natural gas pipeline to Europe. In the process, he put Turkey in its place and made it subordinate to his plans.

He helped liberate Aleppo and dealt a significant blow to Islamist opposition groups. The end result of his engagement in Syria was to bolster Assad's government and reverse the course of the civil war.

Perhaps his most significant achievement was to prevent the US and EU countries to play a relevant role in the conflict. He brought together Turkey and Iran under Russia's leadership as the group with the final say. This clever move not only made the Geneva talks pointless, kicking the US off the table but also brought together the two regional powers, one Sunni, the other Shia.
President Vladimir Putin had said earlier they were in the process of organizing new peace talks that would exclude the United States and the United Nations and that such talks could be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. “All efforts by the United States and its allies to coordinate their actions have failed. None of their moves have really affected the situation on the ground,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
Donald Trump now faces a Middle East where Putin gets to decide almost everything and he has no way in.

Worse still, senior members of his cabinet wants to have a military conflict with Iran. While this might temporarily please Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries, they will be more than upset by Trump's choice of ambassador to Israel and the imminent collapse of the two-state solution.

David Friedman is an extremist who wants Israel to annex West Bank outright. He is a vocal supporter of settlers. He called a liberal Jewish group J Street "worse than Kapos" referring to Jewish collaborators of Nazis. He labeled Obama an anti-Semite, a man who signed off on the largest military aid package ever to Israel. You can be sure that his actions will stir a lot of resentment in the Arab world.

Perhaps more importantly, Trump's blind support for right wing Israelis will force Netanyahu to take steps that even he deemed too radical and will push Israel down the racist road of one state solution.

China and the Pacific Region

As for the Pacific region, Trump has been provoking China with his words and actions. Calling Taiwanese President or suggesting he might end One China policy or selecting Peter Navarro as his Trade Tzar are all designed to get a reaction out of China.

The problem is that the US is in no position to put pressure on China.

Trump Administration is dealing with a very determined Chinese President who sees the Pacific region as China's backyard. Xi Jinping's impunity in militarizing South China Sea gives a good idea about how little he things of America's opinion on his actions. China already announced that it would ignore the UN Conference on Sea Arbitration for its dispute with the Philippines.

Trump's pledge to abandon Trans Pacific Partnership, which excluded China, put China in an even better position. It might even be a factor -besides chemical imbalance- in Duterte's decision to scrap his country's alliance with the US and establish closer ties with China. Given Trump's early actions, most of the region is likely to follow suit.

There is also a thorny issue of North Korea and its nukes. Reportedly, Dear Fat Leader is racing to get his nuclear weapons by next year. China is the only country with any influence in North Korea. Do you really believe that the Orange Man will succeed to persuade Xi Jinping to do America's bidding with his late night tweets?

Finally, China is part of Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has a military component. And Putin is part of that alliance. An actual confrontation with China would end in humiliation for the US or in a dangerous nuclear chicken game.

Either way, it would hasten the rise of Eurasia as the new center of power.


During his campaign, Trump frequently stated that he might abandon NATO unless member states paid the US more for its protection. You might call it the Don Corleone doctrine of protection. In fact, he specifically mentioned Article 5 for NATO members: "he suggested that, if one of them was attacked, the US would be entitled to ask "have they paid?" before deciding to go to their assistance."

Needless to say, this Mafia/landlord approach to collective defense is Putin's wet dream. He has been working to stop the expansion of the alliance and the inclusion of former Soviet states or satellite countries.

He has even been trying to lure Turkey out of NATO and into Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). You may be surprised to find out that Turkey, a non-member country, was invited to assume the chair of the Energy Club of SCO for 2017.

What happens if Trump begins to question America's commitment to NATO and its members?

This could open the way for Putin to throw Russia's weight around. There are the vulnerable Baltic countries. Georgia is another possible target. And obviously Ukraine would be on a very short list.

Even if outright annexation of these countries might not be in the cards, in terms of enlarging Russia's zone of influence this would accelerate the rise of Eurasia.

Trump Brand Under Attack

The fourth issue is what happens when Trump's brand is targeted.

Recently Tom Engelhardt wrote about an interesting scenario. An ISIS suicide bomber blows himself up in Trump Towers in Istanbul. Trump policies in Asia and Middle East result in terrorists targeting his properties, hotels, golf courses and resorts around the world, destroying the Trump brand, his most (perhaps only) valuable asset.
Next, take into account what you already know about Donald Trump, a man inordinately proud of his brand and hypersensitive beyond belief.  Now, try to imagine -- and in Trumpian terms we’re talking about a truly dystopian world here -- what American foreign policy might look like if, amid the fears of resort-goers, golfers, business types, and the like, that brand began to tank internationally, if raising those giant gold letters over any city immediately ensured either mind-boggling problems or staggering security costs (and, at a minimum, a life of TSA-style lines for consumers). 
Under these circumstances Engelhardt is convinced, and I agree, that the US diplomatic and military resources will be used extensively to salvage his brand.
Don’t for a second doubt that, under such circumstances, American foreign and military policy would end up being focused on saving the Trump brand, which, in turn, would be a nightmare to behold.
If that happens, the Trump presidency will become indistinguishable from a regular fascist dictatorship.

The problem is that his supporters will not see this as a dystopian setting as Engelhardt believes. They will think that he is making America great again.

Until it isn't, that is.

When I wrote:
Do you really believe that the Orange Man will succeed to persuade Xi Jinping to do America's bidding with his late night tweets?
I was being sarcastic. Well, he already did it.

First he claimed that Dear Fat Leader could be stopped from developing long range missiles, fully knowing he has ne way to stop him other than relying on China.

Then he chastised Xi to do his bidding with this highly persuasive tweet.

I think they should simply close down the State Department, Trump can handle diplomacy.

03 December 2016

The Man Trump Consults the Most

You might have seen the phone call and the subsequent tweets and the Chinese reaction to Trump's latest Reality TV Show episode.

If you don't know what I am talking about, you can find out using the links. But what is important is that it looks like a harbinger of his foreign policy.

What I retained is this:
A spokesman for the US National Security Council said afterwards that government policy had not changed but Mr Trump's team did not inform the White House before the call.

When Donald Trump was asked during his campaign to name the person he consulted most often on foreign policy, he said: "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things." 
Saying that we are in uncharted waters doesn't even come close to describing the situation.

30 November 2016

Silence of the Lambs: Corporate Media on Trump

Something funny happened after the US presidential elections.

The corporate media that focused almost exclusively on "crooked" Hillary's email servers (560,397 articles in one year) and her ties with the Clinton Foundation throughout the campaign suddenly discovered that the new President-elect was a white nationalist, misogynist, ignorant buffoon. And a yuge walking conflict of interest.

Who knew?

It's not like Breitbart CEO the renowned bigot Steve Bannon had anything to do with his campaign. Oh wait, he was its chairman.

Trump the White Nationalist

A week after the elections, Washington Post ran a piece about how Bannon courted Donald Trump for more than a year and convinced him to align his views and policies with the alt-right movement.
In those exchanges, a dynamic emerged, with Bannon often coaxing Trump to agree to his viewpoint, whether on climate change, foreign policy or the need to take on Republican leaders in Congress. (...)
He flattered Trump, praising his negotiating skills and the size of his campaign crowds. 
The conversations marked a coming-together of Trump, who at the time was a pariah among many top Republicans, and the alt-right, a loosely defined term describing a far-right ideology that includes opposition to immigration and “globalism” and had found a home in the Breitbart News empire. 
Curiously, they did not feel the need to mention any of this before people cast their votes.

Similarly, the media also discovered fake news items from FaceBook and other outlets only after the elections, even though they knew of this meeting in May:
Sixteen prominent conservatives met with Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg Wednesday to air concerns about allegations of political bias at the world’s largest social network, in a session several attendees said was a productive start to a dialogue that should continue.
[Besides Brent Bozell, president of conservative media watchdog the Media Research Center other] attendees included Donald Trump adviser Barry BennettJim DeMint, a former Republican senator from South Carolina and now president of the Heritage Foundation; American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks and Mitt Romney’s former digital director, Zac Moffatt. The group also included television host Glenn Beck and CNN commentator S.E. Cupp.
Within days, FaceBook acquiesced to their demands and got rid of its human editorial board and implemented an algorithm that started sending out biased and fake news items that included Pope Francis endorsing Trump and Obama confessing his Kenyan birth.

It turns out that most of these news items were produced by close Trump allies and advisers, the same people who asked Zuckerberg to give them the key to the empire.

Here are some of them:

- There was a video in FaceBook that claimed that Clintons arranged for John F Kennedy Jr's plane crash
- Voting machines were rigged by a Soros-owned company
- UN, backed by Obama administration, had a secret plan to take over local police departments
- Hillary Clinton's staff is involved in occult rituals
- Obama had changed the American flag in the White House logo to a "white flag" to signal America's readiness to surrender to its enemies
- Muslims were ordered to vote for Hillary
- Illegal immigrants were encouraged to vote without fear of reprisals

In case you are wondering these items all received tens of millions of views.

LifeZette, run by Laura Ingraham is one of the main sources for FaceBook items and their JFK plane crash video got 14 million views. Liftable Media, managed by a Trump consultant Floyd Brown, had multiple tabloid sites, one of which, Western Journalism, has 13 million unique visitors every month. Another one, called Conservative Tribune, had 19 million monthly unique visitors.
During the last three months of the campaign, Buzzfeed News found that the top 20 best-performing hoax stories related to the election had more Facebook engagement than the 20 best-performing stories from major news outlets.
As for Breitbart, "it's Alexa online ranking puts it above the LA Times, the New York Post, Vox, Slate and the New Yorker, not to mention CBS, NBC and ABC's news sites."

And its monthly audience is more than 19 million people.

Since the elections, the BBC ran six pieces on "fake news" propagated by FaceBook and Breitbart and other alt-right outlets. This, this, this, this, this and this.

Before the elections: nothing.

This is what I mean by Oh Dearism.

Trump the Walking Conflict of Interest

Despite what you may have heard about Trump being a real estate developer, he is actually in the business of selling his brand. Which is his name. In the past, whenever he tried the development thing, he went belly up. Now, he mostly licenses his name and makes a killing. He also owes a lot of money to a lot of foreign banks.

Yet, before the elections, with the exception of a couple of articles in the New York Times, the media was mainly interested in petty stuff. The fact that he pocketed campaign contributions by renting out his properties and by selling his stuff to his own campaign, or that he donated $25,000 to a group supporting Florida's attorney general to influence her decision on Trump University.

One of the media's biggest preoccupations was Trump's crass product placement stunts, you know Trump water, Trump wine, Trump steaks being prominently displayed during press conferences. The problem is that most of these products were bogus, as the fake news program Daily News revealed. But very few media outlets cared about Trump Towers in Istanbul or Manila or his hotel project in the Old Post Office Building in Washington.

In late August Mother Jones ran a piece entitled "Donald Trump Has a Huge Conflict of Interest That No One's Talking About" to tell the story of the Post Office Building. What is interesting is that Trump overbid on the project and he has been trying to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. Now he can as he is both the landlord and the tenant.
Jessica Tillipman, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in government ethics, said the Old Post Office deal poses a massive conflict of interest for a President Trump. "You'd be kidding yourself if you don't think the president of the United States has influence over this," she says. "And he's taken no affirmative steps to separate himself from this conflict of interest. I don't know how this is not a bigger issue. It's crazy."
But it wasn't a bigger issue. In fact, when the New York Times tackled the problem of Trump owing money to foreign banks, this is how they presented it:
For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.
So Trump owing almost a billion dollars to Bank of China is tied in, within the same sentence, to Hillary Clinton receiving $675,000 in speaking fees. You know, both sides do it.

Now that he is President-elect, the Times is focusing on his international ties around the world:
Situations like these are already leading some former government officials from both parties to ask if America’s reaction to events around the world could potentially be shaded, if only slightly, by the Trump family’s financial ties with foreign players. They worry, too, that in some countries those connections could compromise American efforts to criticize the corrupt intermingling of state power with vast business enterprises controlled by the political elite. 
So does BBC and NBC News and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post and countless others.

Who knew?

It is not like Trump altered his positions to save his businesses. Or did he? We learned this after the elections.
 And in Turkey, officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, demanded that Mr. Trump’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. More recently, after Mr. Trump came to the defense of Mr. Erdogan — suggesting that he had the right to crack down harshly on dissidents after a failed coup — the calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped, fueling worries that Mr. Trump’s policies toward Turkey might be shaped by his commercial interests.
Trump's partner in Manila is the new Philippine ambassador to the US. And a week after the elections he met his partners in India, as the Times put it:
Several of Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India are being built through companies with family ties to India’s most important political party — making it more likely that Indian government officials will give special favors benefiting his projects. 

I think Tom Toles has the best summary of the situation.

Whitewashing White Supremacy

Another funny thing happened after the elections.

New York Times published an article entitled "Critics See Stephen Bannon, Trump’s Pick for Strategist, as Voice of Racism" which started with this sentence:
A fierce chorus of critics denounced President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday for appointing Stephen K. Bannon, a nationalist media mogul, to a top White House position, even as President Obama described Mr. Trump as “pragmatic,” not ideological, and held out hope that he would rise to the challenge of the presidency.
The man Southern Poverty Law Center called ""the main driver behind Breitbart [News] becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill" is now only a nationalist.

As Atrios put it:
Labeling Bannon a "nationalist" instead of a "white nationalist" isn't just covering for racism, it's racist itself, removing any distinction between nationalism, which many people just read as a strong form of patriotism, and white nationalism, which explicitly seeks to create a whites only nation.
And he is not such a plain old racist, he is also an anti-Semite. This is a man who said this:
An ex-wife of Bannon said he expressed fear of Jews when the two battled over sending their daughters to private school nearly a decade ago, according to court papers reviewed this summer by The Associated Press. In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Mary Louise Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he "didn't want the girls going to school with Jews." 
Yet in the normally vigilant corporate media when it comes to anti-Semitism, there was nary a peep.
I long thought anti-Semitism was a step too far in bigotry in the US, that it was something the US media would "monster" in a way that they're capable of even if they don't admit it. I guess even that is only unequivocally bad if "both sides" agree it is. If one side goes full racist and full anti-Semite, then, well, it's just just a one side/other side controversy. Let the readers decide but let's make it as hard as possible for them to do so by not adequately describing the situation! 
Then the Associated Press reported this:
Under Bannon's tenure, Breitbart pushed a nationalist agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right - a movement often associated with white supremacist ideas that oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values." 
Nationalist agenda, not white nationalist agenda. We also learned that Bannon's rhetoric was just populist, not something out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as some sensitive souls might suspect.
Bannon, who became campaign CEO in August, pushed Trump to adopt more populist rhetoric and paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a global conspiracy made up of the political, financial and media elite, bankers bent on oppressing the country's working people - a message that carried Trump to the White House but to some, carried anti-Semitic undertones. 
The piece congratulated Trump for "history making" moves to inject diversity in his cabinet.

I can tell you that Trump is making history but not for diversity.

Let's go through the list: Bannon, the anti-Semite and white supremacist was made the equal of his Chief of Staff, which makes him the most powerful man in this administration.

Education will be handled by the heir to Amway fortune Betsy DeVos "who has been trying to gut public schools for years".

National Security is given to Mike Flynn, a rabid Islamophobe known for making up facts.

Health is relegated to Tom Price a sworn enemy of Obamacare and women's reproductive rights.

And Laura Ingraham, the woman who produced many of the fake news items through LifeZette, well, she is the leading contender for Press Secretary.

Oh Dear!

I forgot to mention. It turns out that the media is failing to explain Trump's recklessness.

Who knew?

15 November 2016

Trump Presidency: A Century Old Prediction

This is what a good friend of mine sent today.


Trump Presidency: "Make America White Again"

These are the Trump voters and this is the kind of material FaceBook peddled in this election.

These images summarize perfectly the trends behind Trump's victory, namely the new misogyny, angry white folks generated by GOP, Fox and FaceBook and tribal politics.

Zuckerberg must be proud of his fake news algorithm and its outcome.

And this is what Trump's slogan really means.

This is an Episcopal church in Silver Spring, Maryland with a heavily immigrant congregation.

This is downtown Durham, North Carolina

This is Minnesota Maple Grove high school, the blurred section reads "F*ck n*gg*rs

Also this,
There were the fifth-graders in Ventura, Calif., chanting “Build a Wall!” and walls in Durham, N.C. defaced with “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does Your Vote.” Confederate flags fluttered at a Veterans Day parade in Petaluma, Calif. 
Women in hijabs reported having them yanked off in public, and a disturbing note to a Muslim elementary school teacher in Georgia told her to go hang herself with her headscarf. A student at the University of Michigan was told she would be set on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab.

13 November 2016

Why Trump Won

The Orange Man is now Mr. President.

No one predicted this outcome, including your humble contrarian.

But now that it has happened, I think I know why he won and I am here to tell you that it had very little to do with the so called voter anger.

The Donald won because he was at the fulcrum of three converging trends.

Before I discuss those trends let me first say that I am actually happy that he won.

Or rather, as I noted in my last post, I am happy that she lost.

For her sake, that is. Not ours.

Sure, defeat is painful, as you can see on her face, but now her legacy would be that of an extremely capable woman candidate who was snubbed by a reactionary electorate.

Had she won, with the House and the Senate in Republican hands, her record (as probably a one-term president) would have been terrible, and she would have likely been remembered as one of the worst president in US history.

That would largely be because the Republicans in Congress would never have confirmed anyone she nominated, nor would they have allowed her to enact any policy initiatives.

And given the deep suspicion even her party members harbors about her, the malleable Democrats would have given a hand to the GOP to destroy her.

It would also be because her every move would have been scrutinized by the media, she would have been portrayed "as coming across as" cold and untrustworthy and she would have been hounded more relentlessly than Bill Clinton ever was.

With this personal contrarian note out of the way, let me turn to the three trends that made the short-fingered vulgarian the President of the United States.

The first is the global backlash against women.

The New Misogyny 

Barely a month before the US elections, there was the UN Secretary General (SG) selection process.

Women's groups like WomanSG led a very public campaign to ensure that, for the first time in UN history, a woman would be selected as the next SG. If you followed the process through this blog, you know that women candidates were consistently at the bottom of the list and eventually another white guy was appointed as the new SG.

I think it is fair to say that both the SG process and the US presidential elections were a slap on women's face.

In the former, the world pretended that there were no qualified candidates who could do as good a job as Gutteres.

In the latter, a reality TV show star was deemed more qualified than Hillary Clinton who was more prepared for the job than any previous presidents, including her husband and the incumbent.

Throughout the campaign, the "omigod, the first woman President" narrative was pointedly missing. Whereas, "omigod, the first black President" meme was ever-present in 2008.

The message is clear: as a woman, it doesn't matter how qualified you are, you do not get a man's job.

I view this as part of a global backlash against women. Women's right are under attack in every sphere and everywhere.

I will give you two examples.

First. employment. Look at their decline in world labor statistics.

Secondly, violence against women is on the rise everywhere. And in some case this violence is so horrific that even patriarchal or macho societies are taken aback.

It must be indicative of something fundamentally wrong that the gang rape and murder of a young woman in India or the savage murder of a young woman in Turkey were explained by the perpetrators as a reaction to these women defending themselves. The obvious subtext is that they should allow men to use them as they please and if they refuse they die. And die horribly.

There is also the unspeakably brutal murder of a teenager in Argentina, which was so emblematic that women in South America decided to go on strike.

In that sense, politics is just a reflection of a very worrisome state of affairs. And Donald "lock her up" Trump was riding on men's open hostility to Clinton.

The second element behind Trump's victory is the conservative strategy to generate angry men. A process that started decades ago but is now reinforced by this backlash against women.

Generating Angry Men

Whatever else they may claim, the Republican Party is in the business of income redistribution. Bottom to top, that is.

In that vein, they give huge tax breaks to the One percenters, make free trade deals to break unions and increase corporate profits and "starve the beast," which means cutting services and social safety net.

Since pursuing this goal and winning elections is hard to do, they came up with an ingenious strategy.

The basic idea is to (a) obfuscate these policies with Ayn Rand inspired euphemisms or bogus trickle-down economic correlations like "wage increase = job killer" and (b) blame the resulting misery and poverty on lazy "welfare queen" Blacks, job stealing Latinos, culture destroying gays, enemy of traditional values liberals, terrorist Muslims and of course, those terrible countries like China which made competition impossible for honest and hard working Americans.

What was known as the Southern strategy under Nixon gradually became "Fifty percent plus one" under Bush's lizard brain Karl Rove.

Consequently, as I discussed before, race-baiting dog whistles, so called culture wars on the minority du jour, cynical fights to limit women's reproductive rights and xenophobia and Islamophobia have been the bread and butter of the Grand Old Party.

They have been helped in that endeavor:

By a fact-free echo chamber called Fox News which have been feeding the increasingly impoverished American electorate this toxic diet of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and hatred of "other."

By hundreds of right-wing media outlets, like Infowars or Breibart that generate more traffic than any corporate media sites.

By Facebook, the main source of news for most Americans, which have been sending completely fabricated stories to hundreds of millions of inboxes.

And last but not the least, by the corporate media which have been refusing to counter these lies as it is terrified of being accused of liberal bias.

In that sense, contrary to what the GOP establishment claim, Donald Trump's outlandish statements are not outlier positions. They are not shiny objects he put in front of the unwashed masses to distract them in order to steal their votes.

They are the central tenets of the Republican party's philosophy and have been since 1972.

As Mitch McConnell famously said, the Republican Party is in the business of generating angry white men. And he was worried that they were not generating enough of them to stay in business.

Well, the Donald did find a way. He generated enough angry men (and even some women) to win the election.

He knew what they wanted to hear and he simply spelled it out as clearly as possible.

And he made them even angrier by discarding the dog whistle and amplifying the message.

That is why the vision of "Never Trumpers" like Mitt Romney or Andrew Sullivan or Max Boot fretting now, fills me with -admittedly petty- schadenfreude.

They did not lift a finger when Koch brothers created and financed the Tea Party or when the Tea Baggers removed every moderate Congressman or Congresswoman from the GOP roster through nasty and well financed primaries or shut down the federal government over culture wars.

If Trump is the monster, the GOP establishment is Dr. Frankenstein.

What is remarkable is the fact that it is a winning formula and it is infinitely adaptable.

Look at Britain and the decade preceding the Brexit vote.

Cameron and the Tories inflicted ideologically motivated unnecessary budget cuts, got rid of over a million public sector jobs and reduced government services by at least 25 percent. The top one percent got richer and the bottom 99 percent poorer.

To explain the massive unemployment and needless misery they created and the double digit in weekly wage drop suffered by the British public, they claimed that the country's resources were being syphoned off by Brussels, its jobs were taken over by European immigrants and its services were plundered by unwanted refugees.

Their version of the welfare queens and job stealing Latinos and terrible China.

Lacking their own Fox News, they did the next best thing and planted completely fabricated stories in sympathetic media outlets and accused anyone who questioned them with treason.

And when people voted to get rid of Brussels, immigrants and refugees, everyone feigned shock and surprise.

As to be expected, we now have countless Brexit and Trump parallel anger stories all over the places.

But no one mentions why and how people got so angry in the first place and who was responsible for kindling and stroking their anger through false information and cynical finger-pointing.

Oh Dear, indeed.

The third element behind the Donald's ascension to power is the rise of tribal politics.

The Rise of Tribal Politics

What is tribal politics, you might ask and why are we talking about tribes?

Well, these are virtual tribes to which people affiliate themselves. They are different from regular identity groups which exist in a multipolar society and cover a multitude of overlapping identities.

These new tribes divide the world neatly into "us" and "them" and every fact, every action, every event is seen through the prism of that tribe. All other identity categories like gender, race, religion and socio-economic status are secondary to the tribal identity.

There is no right and wrong or good and evil. Everything the leader of your tribe does is right and good and everything the other side does is wrong and evil.

In fact, they don't even have to do anything, everything your leader tells you that they do is wrong and evil.

This is different from political polarization as there is only one group that self-identifies with a tribe, the "others" in society and external enemies are just a bunch of disparate groups unable to form a second pole to justify the term polarization.

Since facts and rational discourse are irrelevant, the tribe has two motivations, to exalt the leader no matter what he does and kick the other side in the teeth.

In 2009, a blogger explained this with a vivid analogy:
Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.
Actually, you can take the analogy as one side being insane or literally. It works both ways.

If you take it literally, what that means is that the reason one side offers tire rims and anthrax is not because they believe they are delicious; but because they cannot stand the possibility of the other side to eat anything better they are willing to swallow anthrax.

In policy terms, that means that they will forgo cheaper health insurance, because it might benefit the other side. The will make do with backstreet abortions and get them banned to prevent the other side to have access to them. They will resist tax increases on the wealthy, which might lower their own taxes but they do not lower the taxes of the other side.

I could go on.

Roy Edroso calls this "the age of Il Douche," referring to the rise of the strongman and his populist support, which I find very funny.

But I prefer the term tribal politics coined by Atrios because fascism is a tricky concept and I don't want to go there. (h/t Atrios)

Let me give you three recent examples.

You must have read that a majority of American women voted for Hillary Clinton. Did you know that 53 percent of white women sided with Trump against Clinton?

Think about that for a minute. A majority of white American women chose a man who said this:
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.
“Grab them by the p---y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
Some even went this far.

You might be surprised to find out that Trump was favored by a four point margin by white women with college degree, a group that was supposed to have been solidly behind Clinton.

There is more.

In exit polls,
18% of respondents who felt that Mr Trump was not qualified to be president nonetheless voted for him, as did 20% of those who felt he did not have the necessary temperament.
Do you see what I mean by nothing matters beyond sticking with the tribe and kicking the other side?

Here is the laundry list:
  • This is a man who mocked John McCain for his POW ordeal. 
  • He insulted a Gold Star family. 
  • He used the most common male put down against a popular TV presenter Megyn Kelly. 
  • He told his supporters to shoot Hillary Clinton
  • He made fun of the weight of a Hispanic beauty pageant as Miss Piggy and implied that she was a cleaning lady because of her heritage.
  • He boasted about sexually assaulting women. 
  • When others came forward he said that they were not attractive enough for him to assault them.
  • His debate performances showed he was unprepared and had no knowledge of the issues.
  • He changed his position on almost every issue and his flip flops covered a huge spectrum.
None of it mattered.

200 newspapers endorsed Clinton and 20 sided with Trump. Yet these 20 were at best lukewarm about Trump but this is what they liked about him:
What they did like was the fact that he had "all the right enemies: the pundits, the 'social scientists', the Beltway insiders, the academics and the righteous mongers of failed policies." (...)
Trump's victory, then, was a brutal kick in the teeth for those loathed pundits, insiders and "righteous mongers". But it was also a humiliation for the thousands of journalists who had spent months trying to warn the public about Donald J Trump. 
This was one almighty, two-fingered salute to much of the "mainstream media"
See what I mean?

In fact, after telling his supporters he would repeal Obamacare on day one, the bete noire of the Tea Party wing, he simply stated that he is actually keeping it as he likes it.

And the infamous wall? Well, not gonna happen but there might be fences in some places.

Deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants? Well, up to 3 million Latinos with criminal records might be targeted. The rest stays put.

What will be the consequences of this complete about face two days after the election?


Because the evil bitch lost and that's what that matters.

Welcome to post-modern tribal politics.

06 November 2016

Why People Dislike Hillary Clinton

One of the more curious things about this election cycle is the fact that a misogynistic and racist bully has managed to have a very tight race with a highly competent and bright person who is running on a historic ticket of being the first woman POTUS.

Every single punditry piece I came across lamented how lackluster and unlikeable and terrible the candidates were. The Clinton hatred was so palpable that as Atrios put it, it wiped out the "holy shit we're about to have our first woman president" narrative.

People I know, who are ordinarily quite intelligent and informed, kept telling me she was "corrupt and greedy" or "not very trustworthy" or "had shady dealings with shadowy characters" through her husband's foundation.

None could provide a single example other than "you know" and "email server" and "pay for play shenanigans."

The First Jewish President?

It occurred to me that if Bill Clinton was the first "Black President" Hillary Clinton should be called the first Jewish President.

Bill was given the moniker because he was relentlessly investigated during his tenure, as is the case with all black politicians.

In Hillary's case, the constant insinuations and wink, wink, nudge nudge accusations remind me of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, whereby Jews are behind a global conspiracy for world domination through the control of media and financial systems.

I am making the analogy because the mechanism is the same. The stupid Jewish world domination through media and finance myth is something most Gentiles believe to this day, in the same, "you know" and wink, wink, nudge, nudge manner.  (One of these days, I will write about how these myths were created.)

They have been repeated so many billion times that in their minds the charges became axiomatic.

The same is true for Hillary Clinton.

First there is a category of lies that I call the Blood Libel type. Really outrageous, logically impossible accusations people seem to believe without question. You know, the kind that stuck to a religion that shuns blood.

Hillary is said to have killed 46 people including, of course, Vince Foster. Did you know that she was having an affair with him and she had him murdered to cover that up?

She and Bill Clinton ran a drug ring in Arkansas and continued to operate from the White House.

Despite her affair with Foster, Hilary is a lesbian and Huma Abedin is her lover.

This last one has the advantage of explaining and excusing their respective husbands' dubious extramarital activities. That is how Trump put it in a now deleted Tweet.

But the whole thing is much more devious than you think.
In a recent film, Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party - the top-grossing documentary in the US this year - conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza even argues that Hillary Clinton encouraged her husband to sleep with other women. 
"She orchestrated all of this!" he says, in the film's narration. "She used his addiction to make him dependent upon her!"
When you believed this premise your only conclusion could be that she will do anything for power:
"It also reinforces the idea that she is so power-crazed that she's unmoved by normal human drives like love, loyalty and jealousy." 
The next step is to declare her non human and evil.
"She's a creep, she's a witch, she's turned over to evil," Jones said, referring to Clinton, in a special broadcast during the Democratic Party convention.
"Look at her face… All she needs is green skin."
Even if you do not believe the outlandish charges, after a while, you think that she must be a cold, calculating and ambitious bitc..er woman.

Clinton Crimes

Especially since she is constantly accused of more plausible-sounding crimes. Kinda like the idea that Hollywood is being controlled by Jews, even if all the major studios are owned by large conglomerates like Sony or Viacom or Fox.

The granddaddy of them is Whitewater, a failed and bankrupt investment scheme that became the most investigated political scandal in US history. Tellingly, when it failed to uncover any wrongdoing after eight years of intense digging, people simply assumed that Hillary was just too clever to leave any evidence behind.

Because she just could not be innocent.

The same holds true for recent claims. Benghazi was investigated by a Republican Congress and despite numerous attempts, they failed to connect her to Ambassador Stevens' death. But people still say Benghazi and roll their eyes and that is enough.

My friends are fixated about her email server thingy. Surely, they say, this must be illegal.

Well, it isn't.

In fact, State Department has no legal requirement to have an in-house mail server and all previous Secretaries did whatever they pleased. And she did it because she remembers how every single White House staffer was deposed during Bill's presidency and how every document they produced was subpoenaed.

In fact, what most people do not remember is this: There is and was such a legal requirement for the White House. And during W's administration, they simply disregarded that and had the RNC host White House emails. Yes, the Republican Party was handling White House emails and that was a violation of the Presidential Record Act of 1978.
Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails. “It’s about as amazing a double standard as you can get,” says Eric Boehlert, who works with the pro-Clinton group Media Matters. “If you look at the Bush emails, he was a sitting president, and 95 percent of his chief advisers’ emails were on a private email system set up by the RNC. Imagine if for the last year and a half we had been talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails set up on a private DNC server?”
Yes, imagine that.

More damningly, there were long periods during which Dick Cheney's office appeared to have no emails. They corresponded to the run-up to Iraq war and the US Attorney dismissal scandal. They deleted them all.

And when Congress subpoenaed related emails the Bush White House and its Attorney General simply ignored their request and refused to submit them.

As for the media reaction to these clearly egregious breaches of law versus the Clinton email setup, well,
The media paid some attention to the Bush email chicanery but spent considerably less ink and airtime than has been devoted to Clinton’s digital communications in the past 18 months. According to the Boston social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, which ran a study for Newsweek, there have been 560,397 articles mentioning Clinton’s emails between March 2015 and September 1, 2016.
Do you know how much reporting was done on the Bush email scandals?
When the Bush administration was discovered to have erased millions of emails illegally sent by 22 administration officials through private, RNC-owned accounts, in order to thwart an investigation into the politically motivated firing of eight US attorneys, just one talk show covered it that Sunday.
Half a million articles on a crime that does not exist. Almost nothing on an actual crime and its blatant cover-up.

Such is Hillary Clinton's fractious relation with the corporate media.

Okay, you might say, what about the Clinton Foundation pay-for-play shenanigans?

Hasn't the New York Times recently uncovered a major scandal involving a Foundation request to issue diplomatic passport to a Bill Clinton aide. The article has an ominous sounding title "Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation Ties to State Dept."

Wow! That is indeed terrible.

If it were true.

Read the article.

It turns out that the Foundation asked for a diplomatic passport for someone who was going to accompany former president Bill Clinton on a 2009 mission to free two American journalists detained in North Korea.

Remember this?

And you know the clincher? The state Department refused to issue that passport.

Look at the enormity of the scandal.

New and very troubling questions about Clinton Foundation ties to State Dept, indeed.

Why in the world the bastion of liberal media published an article that had no point other that the insinuation in the title?

Subliminal Presentations

Even though the Times piece is typical, to me, the worst cases are the very subtle ones.

Let me give you an example.

On 22 October BBC News ran a piece about Trump attacking Michelle Obama because of her ties to Clinton campaign.

The second paragraph read:
He also accused the first lady of attacking Hillary Clinton in 2007 by invoking a line she had said about fitness to run the White House. 
The Obama campaign had denied the line referred to Mrs Clinton. 
That doesn't sound good. Of course the Obama camp is going to deny it. Clearly there is a fire behind that smoke.

Right after that, there was this picture of Hillary Clinton in Ohio. Look at it.

Can you tell if this is a disdainful politician or a sick woman in pain? The two Republican narratives about her.

In paragraph 11 the article repeated the claim and the denial :
The New York businessman was referring to a remark Mrs Obama made in 2007 while campaigning for her husband, who was running against Mrs Clinton.
Mrs Obama said: "If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House". 
Some critics asked whether the comment had been aimed at Mrs Clinton's relationship with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Then further down, the article mentioned this:
"So, we've adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he's traveling around, I do day trips," Mrs Obama continued in her 2007 speech. 
"That means I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, I get them off, I go and do trips, I'm home before bedtime." 
In other words, they knew that the phrase had nothing to do with a swipe, as in the original talk the very next line was about the Obama family. Yet they repeated it twice and did not mention the fact that it could not have been about Hillary right away and waited until almost paragraph 20 to disclose it.

You think this was editorial oversight? I have news for you.

On 28 October, the same BBC News ran a new article about Hillary and Michelle. You know what it stated?
But the tensions of 2008 have long evaporated. Mrs Obama had taken what was widely perceived as an indirect swipe at Mrs Clinton then, telling voters: "If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."
This is how zombie lies about Hillary Clinton are perpetuated.

Next time you read that Clinton comes across as cold, calculating, bitchy or whatever, please remember that is not a question of "coming across" it is a matter of how she is being portrayed and presented by almost every media outlet and especially the liberal ones.

As for the reasons behind it, one of the best explanations for this highly peculiar phenomenon was provided by Susan Faludi.

Read the whole piece, it is worth it.

On Tuesday, for our sake, I hope Hillary wins because the Orange Man is a thin-skinned buffoon and he would destroy whatever is left of America's democracy.

But for her sake, I hope she loses because, if history is any indication, her presidency will be hellish for her.

Besides, people should be governed by the rulers they deserve.

Let the short-fingered vulgarian place his tiny hands on the nuclear button.


Google Hillary and lies and you will get a million links.

Did you know that Hillary Rodham Clinton was ranked by fact checkers the second most honest prominent politician in the country, with Obama being the top person?

Do you know who was the last by a country mile?

Next time somebody tells you how Clinton is not trustworthy send them the chart.