|The Democratic Party Surrenders to Nostalgia
By Bill Blum
March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – Now that the Michigan Democratic primary is over and Joe Biden has been declared the winner, it’s time to read the handwriting on the political wall: Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president, and Bernie Sanders will be the runner-up once again come the party’s convention in July. Sanders might influence the party’s platform, but platforms are never binding for the nominee. Sanders has lost, and so have his many progressive supporters, myself included.
I am nothing if not a realist. The idea that Sanders might have become the Democratic candidate was always a fantasy, not unlike my youthful dreams of one day becoming an NFL quarterback. Even after Sanders’ triumph in the Nevada caucuses, I never thought the party establishment would ever allow a socialist — even a mild social democratic one, such as Sanders — to head its ticket.
Funded by wealthy donors, run by Beltway insiders and aided and abetted by a corporate media dedicated to promoting the notion that Sanders was “unelectable,” the Democratic Party never welcomed Sanders as a legitimate contender. Not in 2016 and not in 2020. In several instances, it even resorted to some good old-fashioned red-baiting to frighten voters; the party is, after all, a capitalist institution. Working and middle-class families support the Democrats largely because they have no other place to go on Election Day besides the completely corrupt and craven GOP.
Now we are left with Donald Trump and Biden to duke it out in the fall. Yes, it has come to that.
In terms of campaign rhetoric and party policies, the general election campaign will be a battle for America’s past far more than it will be a contest for its future. The battle will be fueled on both sides by narratives and visions that are illusory, regressive and, in important respects, downright dangerous.
Of the two campaigns, Trump’s will be decidedly more toxic. The “Make America Great Again” slogan that propelled Trump to victory in 2016 and the “Keep America Great” slogan he will try to sell this time around are neo-fascist in nature, designed to invoke an imaginary and false state of mythical past national glory that ignores our deeply entrenched history of patriarchal white supremacy and brutal class domination.
The fascist designation is not a label I apply to Trump cavalierly. I use it, as I have before in this column, because Trump meets many of the standard and widely respected definitions of the term.
As the celebrated Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote in 1935, fascism “is a historic phase of capitalism … the nakedest, most shameless, most oppressive and most treacherous form of capitalism.” Trumpism, along with its international analogs in Brazil, India and Western Europe, neatly accords with Brecht’s theory.
Trumpism similarly meets the definition of fascism offered by Robert Paxton in his classic 2004 study, “The Anatomy of Fascism”:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
Trump and Trumpism similarly embody the 14 common factors of fascism identified by the great writer Umberto Eco in his 1995 essay, Ur Fascism:
Joe Biden is not a fascist. He is, instead, a standard-bearer of neoliberalism. As with fascism, there are different definitions of neoliberalism, prompting some exceptionally smug mainstream commentators like New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait to claim that the concept is little more than a left-wing insult. In truth, however, the concept describes an all-too-real set of governing principles.
To grasp what neoliberalism means, it’s necessary to understand that it does not refer to a revival of the liberalism of the New Deal and New Society programs of the 1930s and 1960s. That brand of liberalism advocated the active intervention of the federal government in the economy to mitigate the harshest effects of private enterprise through such programs as Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That brand of liberalism imposed high taxes on the wealthy and significantly mitigated income inequality in America.
Neoliberalism, by contrast, deemphasizes federal economic intervention in favor of initiatives calling for deregulation, corporate tax cuts, private-public partnerships, and international trade agreements that augment the free flow of capital while undermining the power and influence of trade unions.
Until the arrival of Trump and his brand of neo-fascism, both major parties since Reagan had embraced this ideology. And while neoliberals remain more benign on issues of race and gender than Trump and Trumpism ever will be, neoliberalism offers little to challenge hierarchies based on social class. Indeed, income inequality accelerated during the Obama years and today rivals that of the Gilded Age.
As transformational a politician as Barack Obama was in terms of race, he too pursued a predominantly neoliberal agenda. The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s singular domestic legislative achievement, is a perfect example of neoliberal private-public collaboration that left intact a health industry dominated by for-profit drug manufacturers and rapacious insurance companies, rather than setting the stage for Medicare for All, as championed by Sanders.
Biden never tires of reminding any audience willing to put up with his gaffes, verbal ticks and miscues that he served as Obama’s vice president. Those ties are likely to remain the centerpiece of his campaign, as he promises a return to the civility of the Obama era and a restoration of America’s standing in the world.
History, however, only moves forward. As charming and comforting as Biden’s imagery of the past may be, it is, like Trump’s darker outlook, a mirage. If Trump has taught us anything worthwhile, it is that the past cannot be replicated, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.
Bill Blum is a former judge and death penalty defense attorney. He is the author of three legal thrillers published by Penguin/Putnam (“Prejudicial Error,” “The Last Appeal” and “The Face of Justice”) and is a contributing writer for California Lawyer magazine. His nonfiction work has appeared in such publications as Crawdaddy magazine, In These Times, The Nation, The Progressive, the ABA Journal, the Orange County Register, the San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and Los Angeles magazine. https://www.truthdig.com/author/bill_blum/
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March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” US District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ordered whistleblower Chelsea Manning released from detention on Thursday, a day after she attempted to take her own life. However, he did not release her from the fines she incurred as punishment, which total a quarter of a million dollars.
“Upon consideration of the Court’s May 16, 2019, order, the motion, and the court’s March 12, 2020, order discharging Grand Jury 19-3, the court finds that Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose,” Judge Trenga wrote in a Thursday court order. “The court further finds that enforcement of the accrued conditional fines would not be punitive but rather necessary to the coercive purpose of the court’s civil contempt order.”
“According, it is hereby ordered that Chelsea Manning be, and she hereby is, immediately released from the custody of the attorney general,” he wrote.
However, the judge denied Manning’s request to have waived $256,000 in fines she had accrued since the previous May, which he added as an additional coercive measure to try and force her to testify.
The decision comes a day after Manning attempted to end her life while in Virginia’s Alexandria Detention Center and a day before she was due to appear in court regarding a February 19 motion for her release. She has been in detention since March 2019 for her refusal to testify before a grand jury about her interactions with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who helped her publish a trove of stolen US government documents in 2010 revealing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning, then a US Army intelligence analyst, was tried and sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for that crime, but released in 2017 when departing US President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.
Her detention has been protested by tens of thousands of activists, academics, politicians, and sympathetic persons, including the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, who wrote a letter to the US government in November denouncing her treatment and calling for her release.
On Wednesday, Melzer wrote on Twitter that Manning’s suicide attempt was “typical for the confusion, dehumanisation & suffering deliberately inflicted through prolonged psychological torture.”
Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom a month after Manning was detained, and the US Department of Justice revealed he was charged with 18 counts relating to his publication of Manning’s documents. The first round of Assange’s extradition hearings in London happened last week, which could see him shipped to the US for trial.
Anti-War Activist Chelsea Manning Attempted Suicide in Prison
She has been pressured to cooperate with an investigation against journalists who expose government misdeeds.
March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – Former U.S. Army Intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning attempted suicide on Wednesday at a detention center in Virginia, where she has been incarcerated since March 2019 for her refusal to give testimony before a grand jury convened to investigate and prosecute journalists whose work threatens to expose government misdeeds.
The anti-war activist, who is currently recovering her health at the hospital, was scheduled to appear before a judge regarding a motion seeking to end the civil contempt sanctions she faces.
“Ms. Manning is still scheduled to appear on Friday for a previously-calendared hearing, at which Judge Anthony Trenga will rule on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from her May 2019 refusal to give testimony before a grand jury investigating the publication of her 2010 disclosures,” Manning’s lawyers said.
U.S. prosecutors have kept Manning in jail under “coercive confinement”, which means that she will be held in jail until she agrees to cooperate and testify about her association with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Coercive confinement is considered a violation of international law, but the U.S. authorizes its use to enforce cooperation with grand jury subpoenas…
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Since Chelsea will never betray her principles, her confinement is not coercive, but punitive, and must not continue,” organizations supporting the anti-war activist said.
Before being at the Alexandria Detention Center, Manning served seven years in a military prison on the same charges that are currently being brought against her.
These coronavirus tips will help you stay healthy as COVID-19 spreads
Knowing and following coronavirus tips is crucial to staying healthy as COVID-19 continues to spread across the world.
COVID-19 is spreading at a fast pace. As of March 12, there are over 127,750 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide and 1,323 in the US. The government has instituted a coronavirus travel ban against non-authorized people who have departed from 26 European countries (not including the UK).
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If coronavirus has made its way to your community, you may be concerned that you or a loved one are at risk of catching the disease.Here are essential tips for staying safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Wash your hands the right way
The CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve been in a public place and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Also wash your hands after you’ve been to the bathroom and before eating.
To time handwashing to 20 seconds, you can sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Or try singing the chorus to Toto’s Africa or Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. There’s now a coronavirus handwashing meme based on a site called Wash Your Lyrics. You can make your own infographic with the lyrics to your favorite song, timed to 20 seconds, like so:
If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Make sure to cover the entire surface of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
2. Use a tissue for coughs and sneezes, or your elbow
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away afterward. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.
(Note: Sneezing is not a common symptom of COVID-19, but better to develop healthy habits.)
The main mode of coronavirus transmission is through respiratory droplets. Either people breathe in those droplets or people touch a surface that the droplets landed on. It’s unknown how long droplets of the new coronavirus remain infectious, but according to WHO, similar coronaviruses can survive on surfaces from a few hours up to a few days, depending on the environment. For more information about this, read this guide by LiveScience.
3. Engage in social distancing
Avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick. The CDC recommends that you maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets into the air, which may contain the virus. If you’re too close, you could breathe in those droplets.
4. Practice other good health habits
Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat nutritious food. Take vitamins.
And if you’re worried about going to the gym, there is actually a lower risk of picking up coronavirus at a gym than a church service (that’s what Dr. David Thomas, a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told The New York Times).
Many gyms, like Equinox and YogaWorks, are taking additional steps to clean equipment and surfaces. Dr. Thomas does recommend bringing your own alcohol wipes to swab equipment before using it.
5. Disinfect surfaces
Clean and disinfect computers, telephones, doorknobs, switches, handles, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other commonly-touched surfaces in your home and at your workplace.
6. Prepare your household in case you get sick or are quarantined
Experts suggest that you stock a 30-day supply of your prescription medications and make sure you have other health supplies on hand, such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes and vitamins. Also replenish your cleaning supplies (like bleach and laundry detergent) and isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Here are the best coronavirus cleaning products according to the EPA.
Also consider stocking up with a two-week supply of food. And no, it doesn’t have to be just canned beans and rice. Electricity will still work, so you can also get frozen foods. There are also food delivery apps, grocery delivery services, meal kit delivery services like Hello Fresh. Many of these services are introducing contact-less delivery, so the order will be dropped off outside the door.
Here’s a complete coronavirus checklist of what to buy to keep yourself safe.
7. Don’t wear a mask unless you’re already sick
The CDC and infectious disease specialists do not recommend face masks if you’re healthy. If you are sick, wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you’re healthy, don’t stock up on face masks. Save them for the people who really need them.
8. Stay home if you’re sick
If you’re not feeling well, protect other people from infection by being extra cautious if you are not feeling well.
The most common coronavirus symptoms are fever and dry cough, followed by fatigue and shortness of breath. If you experience any of these, stay at home. Do not go to work, do not take public transportation, do not go to the grocery store, do not take your kids to school. Contact your employer to figure out how to best manage your work responsibilities. Here are the best home office tech and supplies to work from home.
If you do get sick, contact your health care professional to get advice and treatment options.
|In a struggle between oligarchy and democracy, something must give
By Michael Hudson
February 26, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – To hear the candidates debate, you would think that their fight was over who could best beat Trump. But when Trump’s billionaire twin Mike Bloomberg throws a quarter-billion dollars into an ad campaign to bypass the candidates actually running for votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, it’s obvious that what really is at issue is the future of the Democrat Party. Bloomberg is banking on a brokered convention held by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in which money votes. (If “corporations are people,” so is money in today’s political world.)
Until Nevada, all the presidential candidates except for Bernie Sanders were playing for a brokered convention. The party’s candidates seemed likely to be chosen by the Donor Class, the One Percent and its proxies, not the voting class (the 99 Percent). If, as Mayor Bloomberg has assumed, the DNC will sell the presidency to the highest bidder, this poses the great question: Can the myth that the Democrats represent the working/middle class survive? Or, will the Donor Class trump the voting class?
This could be thought of as “election interference” – not from Russia but from the DNC on behalf of its Donor Class. That scenario would make the Democrats’ slogan for 2020 “No Hope or Change.” That is, no change from today’s economic trends that are sweeping wealth up to the One Percent.
All this sounds like Rome at the end of the Republic in the 1st century BC. The way Rome’s constitution was set up, candidates for the position of consul had to pay their way through a series of offices. The process started by going deeply into debt to get elected to the position of aedile, in charge of staging public games and entertainments. Rome’s neoliberal fiscal policy did not tax or spend, and there was little public administrative bureaucracy, so all such spending had to be made out of the pockets of the oligarchy. That was a way of keeping decisions about how to spend out of the hands of democratic politics. Julius Caesar and others borrowed from the richest Bloomberg of their day, Crassus, to pay for staging games that would demonstrate their public spirit to voters (and also demonstrate their financial liability to their backers among Rome’s One Percent). Keeping election financing private enabled the leading oligarchs to select who would be able to run as viable candidates. That was Rome’s version of Citizens United.
But in the wake of Sanders’ landslide victory in Nevada, a brokered convention would mean the end of the Democrat Party pretense to represent the 99 Percent. The American voting system would be seen to be as oligarchic as that of Rome on the eve of the infighting that ended with Augustus becoming Emperor in 27 BC.
Today’s pro-One Percent media – CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times have been busy spreading their venom against Sanders. On Sunday, February 23, CNN ran a slot, “Bloomberg needs to take down Sanders, immediately.” Given Sanders’ heavy national lead, CNN warned, the race suddenly is almost beyond the vote-fixers’ ability to fiddle with the election returns. That means that challengers to Sanders should focus their attack on him; they will have a chance to deal with Bloomberg later (by which CNN means, when it is too late to stop him).
The party’s Clinton-Obama recipients of Donor Class largesse pretend to believe that Sanders is not electable against Donald Trump. This tactic seeks to attack him at his strongest point. Recent polls show that he is the only candidate who actually would defeat Trump – as they showed that he would have done in 2016.
The DNC knew that, but preferred to lose to Trump than to win with Bernie. Will history repeat itself? Or to put it another way, will this year’s July convention become a replay of Chicago in 1968?
A quandary, not a problem
Last year I was asked to write a scenario for what might happen with a renewed DNC theft of the election’s nomination process. To be technical, I realize, it’s not called theft when it’s legal. In the aftermath of suits over the 2016 power grab, the courts ruled that the Democrat Party is indeed controlled by the DNC members, not by the voters. When it comes to party machinations and decision-making, voters are subsidiary to the superdelegates in their proverbial smoke-filled room (now replaced by dollar-filled foundation contracts).
I could not come up with a solution that does not involve dismantling and restructuring the existing party system. We have passed beyond the point of having a solvable “problem” with the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That is what a quandary is. A problem has a solution – by definition. A quandary does not have a solution. There is no way out. The conflict of interest between the Donor Class and the Voting Class has become too large to contain within a single party. It must split.
A second-ballot super-delegate scenario would mean that we are once again in for a second Trump term. That option was supported by five of the six presidential contenders on stage in Nevada on Wednesday, February 20. When Chuck Todd asked whether Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar would support the candidate who received the most votes in the primaries (now obviously Bernie Sanders), or throw the nomination to the super-delegates held over from the Obama-Clinton neoliberals (75 of whom already are said to have pledged their support to Bloomberg), each advocated “letting the process play out.” That was a euphemism for leaving the choice to the Tony-Blair style leadership that have made the Democrats the servants’ entrance to the Republican Party. Like the British Labour Party behind Blair and Gordon Brown, its role is to block any left-wing alternative to the Republican program on behalf of the One Percent.
This problem would not exist if the United States had a European-style parliamentary system that would enable a third party to obtain space on the ballots in all 50 states. If this were Europe, the new party of Bernie Sanders, AOC et al. would exceed 50 percent of the votes, leaving the Wall Street democrats with about the same 8 percent share that similar neoliberal democratic parties have in Europe (e.g., Germany’s hapless neoliberalized Social Democrats), that is, Klobocop territory as voters moved to the left. The “voting Democrats,” the 99 Percent, would win a majority leaving the Old Neoliberal Democrats in the dust.
The DNC’s role is to prevent any such challenge. The United States has an effective political duopoly, as both parties have created such burdensome third-party access to the ballot box in state after state that Bernie Sanders decided long ago that he had little alternative but to run as a Democrat.
The problem is that the Democrat Party does not seem to be reformable. That means that voters still may simply abandon it – but that will simply re-elect the Democrats’ de facto 2020 candidate, Donald Trump. The only hope would be to shrink the party into a shell, enabling the old guard to go away so that the party could be rebuilt from the ground up.
But the two parties have created a legal duopoly reinforced with so many technical barriers that a repeat of Ross Perot’s third party (not to mention the old Socialist Party, or the Whigs in 1854) would take more than one election cycle to put in place. For the time being, we may expect another few months of dirty political tricks to rival those of 2016 as Obama appointee Tom Perez is simply the most recent version of Florida fixer Debbie Schultz-Wasserman (who gave a new meaning to the Wasserman Test).
So we are in for another four years of Donald Trump. But by 2024, how tightly will the U.S. economy find itself tied in knots?
The Democrats’ Vocabulary of Deception:
Sanders & Socialism: Debate Between Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman & Socialist Economist Richard Wolff