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The greatest (election) show on earth

March 13, 2016

One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”
Donald Trump

The US pre-election season is eventful and entertaining like never before thanks to the genius of New York real estate magnate Donald Trump.

Trump has drawn fervent support as well as criticism for his calls to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, to impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, to replace Obamacare with universal health care, to end common core in favor of local education standards, and to improve relations with Russia. Most of his statements are blunt, controversial, often outrageous and disgusting, always unconventional, sometimes surprisingly on point, certainly demagogic and populistic.

Trump’s Chicago rally had to be called off when fighting broke out between protesters and backers. At Dayton International Airport in Ohio, Secret Service officers rushed on stage to protect Trump and hurled away a man who tried to approach him.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s email-scandal is simmering and her ties to Wall Street and for-profit education companies are in the open. This may offer new hopes for Bernie Sanders.

When I looked at the pictures to choose for this blog post, it appeared to me that Hillary Clinton with age more and more resembles the incarnation of Margaret Thatcher. Will Hillary Clinton be another “Iron Lady”?

The following text fragments are excerpts from a discussion which I had in the comment section of consortiumnews.com.

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I’m not a US citizen but follow the US presidential election campaign 2016 with interest because the outcome will effect me as it effects everybody else in the world. Following the various reports I tried to make up my mind and this came out:

Is Donald Trump inevitable? Is he bearable? Is he maybe even the lesser evil compared to Hillary Clinton? We simply don’t know, unlike Hillary, he didn’t have the chance until now to turn comparatively stable countries (Libya, Syria) into failed states.

A “Peace Index,” published by the Israel Democracy Institute, shows that 61 percent of the Jewish public thinks that Trump’s positions are friendly to Israel and that 48 percent agree that Arabs should be expelled or driven out of Israel, an idea which bears strong resemblance to the racist messages Trump preaches.

Trump is disgusting, narcissistic, vulgar, but he shows occasionally flickers of common sense, something which is completely missing in the other presidential candidates. He also doesn’t use a teleprompter, so there must be some abilities of intuition. His awkwardness at least appears to be more honest than the scripted performances of his cliche-babbling contenders. (This is not an endorsement!)

After Libya there is nothing more to say about Hillary Clinton and she scares me more than any other presidential candidate. Her gloating about the terrible painful death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who brought independence and prosperity to his country, revealed a deeply psychopathic personality, revealed a monstrous evil mind which for sane people is hard to comprehend.

But, just for good measure, missing from the discussion about Hillary Clinton’s record has been her work in Haiti, where she blatantly manipulated and threatened Haitian government officials to control electoral outcomes. She and her husband were successfully promoting a sweatshop-led development model, while the money which the Clintons collected was wasted for vanity projects and nothing of it did reach the needy.

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Of course I would prefer Bernie Sanders as the candidate of the Democratic party, though if I compare the hopes he raises with the hopes Obama raised I cannot rule out a big disappointment in the end.

Donald Trump called Sanders “our communist friend.”

Bernie Sanders is the working-class Brooklyn boy who migrated to Vermont in 1968, was embedded in the counterculture scene, and joined the Young People’s Socialist League. As it seems, he considered himself a socialist since then, though he may be no more than a right-wing social democrat by European standards.

This is nevertheless remarkably brave in a nation where “Socialism” is a swearword, used successfully to smear political opponents, and where compassion, humaneness, social responsibility are considered as signs of weakness.

Having said that, it appears that Sanders has no interest and no knowledge in foreign affairs and that he would do nothing to end or at least reduce US worldwide meddling. His foreign policy advisors include AIPAC people and his record doesn’t instill hope and exposes him as the typical cruise-missile progressive.

Sanders supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including President Obama’s decision to maintain a troop presence indefinitely. He supports Israel, including the bombing campaigns in Gaza. He supports drone assassinations, with faintly expressed regrets that they claim innocent lives. He supports wasteful military spending, especially when it sends jobs to Vermont, culminating in efforts to get F-35 fighter jets based at Burlington Air Base.

No “hope and change” this time, we had that already. Maybe some “small change” from Wall Street and the MIC.

Peace Nobel Prize laureate Barrack Hussein Obama morphed the “audacity of hope” into the “illusion of hope,” but he at least tries to postpone the start of WWIII. Is that the best one can hope for in US politics?

One shouldn’t overestimate the influence of US Presidents over the “shadow government” (also known as “deep state” or “permanent government”). Can we rest assured that US presidential elections are just an absurd theater without any real consequences?

Sanders is not likely to win the nomination and Hillary Clinton scares me even more than Donald Trump. No good choices and anyway, living in Europe, it is not for me to choose.

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Don’t people in representative democracies not in the end get the political leaders they deserve? Even if the game is rigged, no one is obliged (for now at least) to sit in front of a TV or computer screen and undergo the daily mass media brainwashing. Aren’t US citizens still allowed to critically evaluate the news reports and look for alternative news sources? Iranian and Syrian channels are banned in Europe, probably also in the USA, but can be found on the internet. The “great firewall” of the Western hemisphere can be as easily bypassed as the great firewall of China’s internet. One is not forced to use Google, Bing, Yahoo and to fall victim to their ranking algorithms.

Are artlessness, low education, and lack of curiosity ones personal fault or are they the result of individual talents, upbringing, and the prevailing social climate? In the latter case nobody could be blamed for it, the responsibility rests on society and culture.

In the latter case the question arises, how to chance the prevailing social climate to raise critical thinking and well informed citizens and not clueless simpletons who just fall for the demagogue who coins the most popular and easily to remember campaign slogans.

I got this response:

Even if the game is rigged, no one is obliged (for now at least) to sit in front of a TV or computer screen and undergo the daily mass media brainwashing. Aren’t US citizens still allowed to critically evaluate the news reports and look for alternative news sources?

Sure, but the average American is not only overworked to the point that they have limited time, energy and “head space” for seeking out things like alternative media, they also are largely unaware just how corrupt and controlled mainstream sources actually are. I mean, they do get the sense that they’re being hoodwinkled, and that spin is everywhere, but the idea that just about everything they see and hear could be part of a concerted effort to shape an often fictitious public worldview is a bridge too far for most Americans, and they’re likely to regard anyone suggesting so as a nutty “conspiracy theorist” (a term they have been taught to use as pejoratively and venomously as possible). Whoever said that it is easier to get the public to believe the Big Lie rather than small fibs was on to something, as there are tens of millions of Americans who simply refuse to believe the worst about their government, media, and other institutions that fail them no matter how much evidence accumulates.

There’s a huge education failure here too, of course — the primary education I received in the 1980s was already a joke, with critical thinking already long having since been excised, and yet it was still several steps above what children receive today. So that’s a factor that can’t be overlooked. But truly, if you’ve never lived here, I don’t know that you can fully understand just how powerful and pervasive the webs of propaganda that bind America together are. They can tell people what to think, and not only does it actually work, but people really think they arrived at these views themselves after careful deliberation and consideration of all the relevant facts! And the way they define the limits of acceptable discourse even among those who disagree with the talking heads is masterful. The media here is simply one of the wonders of the modern world. (Would be such a fascinating case study I’m almost tempted to go back for another graduate degree…)

Put all that together, and the number of Americans that seek out alternative media and can use it to help discern fact from fiction amount to a rounding error.

My answer:

Thank you for this reply which I have saved and will hopefully be allowed to use (when it is appropriate) in my own blog. Education in Europe is also deteriorating and totally geared towards creating well functioning employees mainly in technology and science. This gives European companies a competitive advantage in the global war for markets and at the same time diminishes the threat which critical and well informed citizens could pose to the system.

Edward Bernays had countless disciples and one cannot overestimate the damage he has done (promoting smoking, fluoridation, calling for the manipulation of public opinion). I’m not proud that he hails from my home town.

Undoubtedly US-Americans are the masters of deception, subtle (more or less) exploiting primal urges and fears. Watching John Wayne riding into the sunset with a pretty lady in his arms, one gets an idea how it works. The products of Hollywoods dream machine and all other US dream machines are both hilarious and brutally effective. The simple minds are calmed, sedated, appeased, sometimes even uplifted, the intelligent and educated citizens are repulsed, demoralized, sickened.

The informed and critical citizens know that they cannot win at the ballot box. But they can think a few moves ahead, accept that things will get worse before there is any chance that they will get better, and prepare for hard times and dark days.

Many people are working on methods, strategies, remedies, solutions, changing their own lives respectively to give an example. This movement will get stronger, while the old party organizations will wither away. Occupy Wall Street failed, but when the pain becomes severe, another try with a more practical oriented approach could have an impact.

Who dares to predict the future?

Climate change, chemical and radioactive contamination, resource scarcity (water, food) will make life even more burdensome. The overstretched financial system will collapse, infrastructure will crumble, the last remnants of civil liberties will be removed, disaster capitalists will loot and rob, demagogues will name scapegoats, fascists will call for war.

All bets are off, and despite the grim outlook one cannot rule out a miracle salvation. Keep hoping and preparing (and/or praying, if it helps you).

Sanders 3

The following text is from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report 144 (williamblum.org)

American exceptionalism presents an election made in hell

If the American presidential election winds up with Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, and my passport is confiscated, and I’m somehow FORCED to choose one or the other, or I’m PAID to do so, paid well … I would vote for Trump.

My main concern is foreign policy. American foreign policy is the greatest threat to world peace, prosperity, and the environment. And when it comes to foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is an unholy disaster. From Iraq and Syria to Libya and Honduras the world is a much worse place because of her; so much so that I’d call her a war criminal who should be prosecuted. And not much better can be expected on domestic issues from this woman who was paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs – one of the most reactionary, anti-social corporations in this sad world – for four speeches and even more than that in political donations in recent years. Add to that Hillary’s willingness to serve for six years on the board of Walmart while her husband was governor of Arkansas. Can we expect to change corporate behavior by taking their money?

The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial the day after the multiple primary elections of March 1 which began: “Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States,” and then declared: “The reality is that Trump has no experience whatsoever in government.”

When I need to have my car fixed I look for a mechanic with experience with my type of auto. When I have a medical problem I prefer a doctor who specializes in the part of my body that’s ill. But when it comes to politicians, experience means nothing. The only thing that counts is the person’s ideology. Who would you sooner vote for, a person with 30 years in Congress who doesn’t share your political and social views at all, is even hostile to them, or someone who has never held public office before but is an ideological comrade on every important issue? Clinton’s 12 years in high government positions carries no weight with me.

The Times continued about Trump: “He has shamefully little knowledge of the issues facing the country and the world.”

Again, knowledge is trumped (no pun intended) by ideology. As Secretary of State (January 2009-February 2013), with great access to knowledge, Clinton played a key role in the 2011 destruction of Libya’s modern and secular welfare state, sending it crashing in utter chaos into a failed state, leading to the widespread dispersal throughout North African and Middle East hotspots of the gigantic arsenal of weaponry that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi had accumulated. Libya is now a haven for terrorists, from al Qaeda to ISIS, whereas Gaddafi had been a leading foe of terrorists.

What good did Secretary of State Clinton’s knowledge do? It was enough for her to know that Gaddafi’s Libya, for several reasons, would never be a properly obedient client state of Washington. Thus it was that the United States, along with NATO, bombed the people of Libya almost daily for more than six months, giving as an excuse that Gaddafi was about to invade Benghazi, the Libyan center of his opponents, and so the United States was thus saving the people of that city from a massacre. The American people and the American media of course swallowed this story, though no convincing evidence of the alleged impending massacre has ever been presented. (The nearest thing to an official US government account of the matter – a Congressional Research Service report on events in Libya for the period – makes no mention at all of the threatened massacre.)

The Western intervention in Libya was one that the New York Times said Clinton had “championed”, convincing Obama in “what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state.” All the knowledge she was privy to did not keep her from this disastrous mistake in Libya. And the same can be said about her support of placing regime change in Syria ahead of supporting the Syrian government in its struggle against ISIS and other terrorist groups. Even more disastrous was the 2003 US invasion of Iraq which she as a senator supported. Both policies were of course clear violations of international law and the UN Charter.

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Another foreign-policy “success” of Mrs. Clinton, which her swooning followers will ignore, the few that even know about it, is the coup ousting the moderately progressive Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in June, 2009. A tale told many times in Latin America. The downtrodden masses finally put into power a leader committed to reversing the status quo, determined to try to put an end to up to two centuries of oppression … and before long the military overthrows the democratically-elected government, while the United States — if not the mastermind behind the coup — does nothing to prevent it punish the coup regime, as only the United States can punish; meanwhile Washington officials pretend to be very upset over this “affront to democracy”. (See Mark Weisbrot’s “Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side The United States Government is On With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras”.)

In her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices”, Clinton reveals just how unconcerned she was about restoring Zelaya to his rightful office: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere … We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assembly, and other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Washington, however, quickly resumed normal diplomatic relations with the new right-wing police state, and Honduras has since become a major impetus for the child migrants currently pouring into the United States.

The headline from Time magazine’s report on Honduras at the close of that year (December 3, 2009) summed it up as follows: “Obama’s Latin America Policy Looks Like Bush’s”.

And Hillary Clinton looks like a conservative. And has for many years; going back to at least the 1980s, while the wife of the Arkansas governor, when she strongly supported the death-squad torturers known as the Contras, who were the empire’s proxy army in Nicaragua.

Then, during the 2007 presidential primary, America’s venerable conservative magazine, William Buckley’s National Review, ran an editorial by Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett was a policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, a treasury official under President George H.W. Bush, and a fellow at two of the leading conservative think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute – You get the picture? Bartlett tells his readers that it’s almost certain that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008. So what to do? Support the most conservative Democrat. He writes: “To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative.”

During the same primary we also heard from America’s leading magazine for the corporate wealthy, Fortune, with a cover featuring a picture of Mrs. Clinton and the headline: “Business Loves Hillary”.

And what do we have in 2016? Fully 116 members of the Republican Party’s national security community, many of them veterans of Bush administrations, have signed an open letter threatening that, if Trump is nominated, they will all desert, and some will defect – to Hillary Clinton! “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin,” says Eliot Cohen of the Bush II State Department. Cohen helped line up neocons to sign the “Dump-Trump” manifesto. Another signer, foreign-policy ultra-conservative author Robert Kagan, declared: “The only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

The only choice? What’s wrong with Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate? … Oh, I see, not conservative enough.

And Mr. Trump? Much more a critic of US foreign policy than Hillary or Bernie. He speaks of Russia and Vladimir Putin as positive forces and allies, and would be much less likely to go to war against Moscow than Clinton would. He declares that he would be “evenhanded” when it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as opposed to Clinton’s boundless support of Israel). He’s opposed to calling Senator John McCain a “hero”, because he was captured. (What other politician would dare say a thing like that?)

He calls Iraq “a complete disaster”, condemning not only George W. Bush but the neocons who surrounded him. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.” He even questions the idea that “Bush kept us safe”, and adds that “Whether you like Saddam or not, he used to kill terrorists.”

Yes, he’s personally obnoxious. I’d have a very hard time being his friend. Who cares?

Trump 3

John Chuckman voices a similar opinion:

I keep reading stuff in British papers about what America’s Left must do in an election where Donald Trump “has thrown caution to the wind.” Each time I read anything along that line, invariably, I ask myself, “What Left are they talking about?” As perhaps few in Europe understand, there is no Left in the United States.

Bernie Sanders comes closest to being Left, but he is not only from one of the very smallest states in the Union, it is a state known for its liberal bent, something which exists in very few corners of that huge “pounding fist” of a country.

It would be refreshing if Sanders could win, but he cannot. The odds are completely stacked against him. I believe the unexpected force of his campaign, this man whose name was widely unknown west of New England in a campaign against someone whose name and face are, by contrast, as well known as Hershey bars, is a quiet wave of public recognition of just how repulsive a person Hillary Clinton is. It seems a miracle that he has run so well against her, sometimes beating or virtually tying her. 

But remember, this is America we’re talking about, a plutocratic imperial power, not a democracy, and one engaged in vast military and secret state security operations. There is simply no room for a self-declared “democratic socialist.” America has no truck with socialists, even rather nice and soft ones.

Money counts hugely in politics, as it does in every nook and cranny of American life. An accurate motto for America might well be, “If it can’t be bought, it ain’t worth having.” Hillary is exceptionally well connected with, and financed by, the people who really count in shaping American government. Short of a tidal wave of support, any primary lead by Sanders would be stripped of delegates or would be defeated by “super-delegates” at the convention by party insiders.

As for Hillary being elected, nothing in my view could be a greater disaster. She has a murderous record, and I doubt she has told the truth twice in her entire life.

There is simply no question about her tendency to brutal violence. She pushed husband Bill on the needless war in Serbia. She advocated inside the administration for what became the Waco horror. She voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq. She ran at least part of what went on in Libya, a black operation to gather weapons and men to send to Turkey for terrorizing Syria. And we have her brutal idea of humor, complete with sneering laughter, about Gadhafi, a man who on the whole did a decent job of governing in a difficult part of the world: “We came, we saw, he died.” She supports Israel’s worst bloody excesses with a smile and regularly takes money from some of the people who work strenuously to keep them going.

Trump carries a great deal of heavy baggage, and has said many things with which I totally disagree, but he does not have Hillary’s record of death and destruction on a grand scale. He may often be quite unpleasant, but Hillary is almost certainly a psychopath whose narcissistic personality feels driven and entitled to be President so she can continue toying with human beings. I reject 90% of what Trump says, but I reject just about 100% of what Hillary has actually done.

There is one area, and a very important one, where possibly Trump can do something good for the world, and that is foreign affairs. Some of his views there are sound, sounder by far than Hillary’s. His views on matters like Syria and Russia are entirely rational and not weighed down by America’s malicious policies of the last quarter century, policies which Hillary not only supports but helped to establish and execute.

A vote for Hillary is a vote for more American bullying and terror in the world, and that is not in the least an exaggeration.  Terror is the right word for what America has done in the Middle East: it has crashed and raged through the region, leaving it in blazes. Hillary has served as a “willing executioner” in that hellish effort.

If you look at the groups and individuals who are key Hillary supporters, it is a pretty grim picture. It includes many corrupt and brutal foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Israel, and a vast collection of gigantic international corporate special interests, even financial terrorists like the firm of Goldman Sachs who played a key role in the collapse of 2008 and who have never really been called to account for bringing so many to ruin. There is not a glimmer of genuine liberalism or democratic ideals in the people paying and easing her way, although she likes to put on her best clownishly little-girl face and claim how interested she is in the welfare of ordinary Americans at campaign stops.

If we could only gain some sense and rationality in America’s foreign affairs, it would be a genuine advance for the entire world. Almost certainly you have to pay a price for doing that in a place like the United States. Nothing comes free in a throbbing plutocratic power. That price may be living with Trump’s many unpleasant aspects.

The neocons especially see that possibility in Trump, which is why they hate him beyond telling. Already many have said really ugly things in public. And, remarkably, the word “assassination” keeps popping up in those circles. That fact alone should tell us how destructive the impact of the neocons has been upon America’s own society.

It would have been unthinkable fifty years ago for prominent Americans to talk or joke of assassinating a political candidate.  That is how low American society has sunk during its long march with neocons, bombing, invading, promoting terrorism through proxies, and assassinating in the Middle East and in places like Ukraine – virtually all of which derives from the special influence of the neocons.

The political poverty of America was embarrassingly displayed in the original field of Republican candidates which resembled nothing so much as Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors. Fortunately, most of them are gone. As for Ted Cruz, the neocons’ possible “go to” man for stopping Trump, he is, just for a start, a right-wing religious wacko. There is a video of him on-line sitting at breakfast holding hands with his perfect little suburban family praying over the Sugar Pops. Staff working for Cruz include neo-con and CIA-types, and his wife is associated with Goldman Sachs. He is intellectually gifted, but many of his old associates in government say he is an extremely unpleasant man with which to work, extremely arrogant, and one not to be trusted, being given to treacherous turns. His former roommate at Princeton tells of getting e-mails from other students asking why he didn’t suffocate Cruz with a pillow while he had the chance. At least one person has commented on his resemblance to a serial killer. It would be a pretty desperate move by Republicans to try stopping Trump by loading Cruz, a man they simply don’t like, with money and influence. And I tend to feel the effort would fail in any event.

You get nothing free in a big, ugly place like America, so if you would like to see some end to a quarter century of brutal wars and the savage practices which have taken root under Bush/Clinton/Obama, perhaps you need to take a chance.

As few non-Americans realize, in domestic affairs the American President’s office is a rather weak one. It was designed to be that way. We have seen the frustration of Obama trying increasingly to govern by executive order, a pernicious practice not much different than imperial fiats, but even with that practice he has made little headway in this rigidly structured society. And no one, certainly no genuine liberal, ever can, without fundamental changes we have no reason to expect any time soon. America in its governance much resembles a giant wearing a huge, thick suit of concrete.

It is only in the area of military and foreign affairs that the American President has some real power, and that is an area which needs serious change. It won’t happen under bloodthirsty Hillary, loyal servant to neocon interests.

As far as ugly stuff like great walls or drastic changes to migration, Trump could do nothing without both houses of Congress, so they are proposals unlikely to become realities. Even on such domestic subjects, however, we do hear echoes of the neocon influence. After all, Israel has built many walls and builds more now, all on other people’s land and all of which prevent normal life for millions of others. It couldn’t be more unfair and anti-democratic, but the same people viciously attacking Trump for his proposals are the last ones to say a word about Israel’s actual practices. So those most violently attacking Trump cannot claim concerns for human decency or human rights motivate them, although they very much pretend to do so rather than being open about their real motives. Calling Trump a fascist over mere rhetoric and proposals is pretty ridiculous when we see Israel’s actual practices left unquestioned by crowds of prominent people.

 

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