11.08.2016 In Depth Look

Alan Reid
Alan Reid


From among the hundreds of thousands, or more likely millions, of obsessive sifting of the electoral tea leaves as the 2016 Presidential race comes down to cases–the vast majority of which, by the bye, have little or nothing substantive to say, so much non sequitur blather, fiddling while Rome burns–a scattered smattering of materials, with the ever-articulate and passionate and reasonable Chris Hedges in the lead, originally from TruthDig, here via Global Research, noting that something toxic or even lethally poisonous is unfolding as Hillary and Donald wait for results on the morrow, a perspective that Common Dreams echoes , albeit with its imprecise and meaningless worry about “middle class” needs in the lead; reflective commentary about social realities that underlie the ‘horse-race’ mentality that predominates in these matters, which most reporters simply do not bother to note, as is the case in one typical ‘liberal’ take  from Rolling Stone that blares its impassioned assertion that ‘the Donald simply cannot become CEO of Amerika, Inc.,’ a POV that none other than Julian Assange has relentlessly averred, that the masters of the game have sided with Hillary and against Trump and that therefore he has zero chance of emerging victorious, a notion that he makes quite clear in a recent interview with documentarian John Pilger, a pleading imprecation and a wager that The Hill makes light of in presenting  the ‘wild race’s’ “dramatic ending”—material that reflects the overwhelming majority of reportage on this ‘race’ by taking it at face value, although a small portion of analysis manages to ruminate on more important matters, as do a briefing from Mint Press News, an article  from Juan Cole at Informed Comment, an essay  from Naked Capitalism, and a predictive assessment  from Global Research when they point out the inevitable impact of the election on the already heightened likelihood of nuclear and other forms of mass collective suicide; while another, more substantial and yet still relatively tiny section of the mediascape instead desires to focus on conspiratorial or self-dealing or social aspects of the election, as a Forbidden Knowledge TV segment does in florid fashion when it suggests that computer tricks will help to steal the election from Donald Trump, and which Pro Publica presents in a much more measured way by investigating  the inevitable role that present and former Wall Street employees will garner in a likely Hillary

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Clinton administration, and wondering at the ‘whiff of corruption’ in continuing such quid pro quo poliitics, and that in a different way the Chief Organizer blog at Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now delineates  by positing that Blacks and Latinos will help elect Ms. Clinton but will receive no quo for their votes’ quid, so to say, and that Wall Street on Parade provides   in its parsing of Hillary’s array of journalists who have cozied up to the campaign, to the extent that the title quips that CNN stands for ‘Clinton News Network,’ and that, in a more positive light, Think Progress delves  in terms of how a social consequence of the Trump campaign has been to bend more Southern jurisdictions toward the Democrats, though to argue that this is a political gain is, at minimum, optimistic; at the same time that other contextualizations of affairs intend to highlight ancillary political elements of the overall system, as when Mint Press News notes that both Libertarian and Green Party aficionados are hopeful at polling five percent on the morrow, so as to obtain matching funds next time round the track, and as CityLab develops in its overview of what mayors want from the next President, come what may, and that, on a different tack, Vox purveys as a critique of how social media, and in particular Facebook, have decreased analytical and empirical and in a word rational components of peoples’ comprehension of the issues of these things, a result that is altogether insalubrious; the sum total of which certainly suggests that some observers would react to the entire scene with some irony or sense of paradox, as does Rolling Stone in its send-up  that compares the entire process to a reality-television extravaganza, or, in an entirely divergent but still lighthearted vein, the Russian sources compiler, Duran, gives its followers with a video of a Pushkin yarn that ‘explains’ Hillary’s greed, the complete aggregation of which would offer scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens some alternate access points, insights, and points-of-view for contemplating America’s every-four-years affair, in today’s context of crisis and terror and mayhem full of portent and possibility and confusion all mixed together: “We are blinded to our depressing reality by the avalanche of images disseminated by mass media.  Political, intellectual and cultural discourse has been replaced with spectacle.  Emotionalism and sensationalism are prized over truth.  Highly paid pundits who parrot back the official narrative, corporate advertisers, inane talk shows, violent or sexually explicit entertainment and gossip-fueled news have contaminated cultural life.  ‘Reality’ television, as contrived as every other form of mass entertainment, has produced a ‘reality’ presidential candidate.  Mass culture, because it speaks to us in easily digestible clichés and stereotypes, reinforces ignorance, bigotry and racism.  It promotes our individual and collective self-glorification.  It sanctifies nonexistent national virtues.  It takes from us the intellectual and linguistic tools needed to separate illusion from truth.  It is all show business all the time.

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There are millions of Americans who know that something is terribly wrong.  A light has gone out.  They see this in their own suffering and hopelessness and the suffering and hopelessness of their neighbors.  But they lack, because of the contamination of our political, cultural and intellectual discourse, the words and ideas to make sense of what is happening around them.  They are bereft of a vision.  Austerity, globalization, unfettered capitalism, an expansion of the extraction of fossil fuels, and war are not the prices to be paid for progress and the advance of civilization.  They are part of the savage and deadly exploitation by corporate capitalism and imperialism.  They serve a neoliberal ideology.  The elites dare not speak this truth.  It is toxic.  They peddle the seductive illusions that saturate the airwaves.  We are left to strike out at shadows.  We are led to succumb to the racism, allure of white supremacy and bigotry that always accompany a culture in dissolution. …racism bigotry kkk ku klux klan
Celebrity narratives, manufactured pseudo-drama, sex scandals, natural disasters, insults and invective, mass shootings and war flash before us in a constant jumble of images on ubiquitous screens.  The sensory assault obliterates reality.  A former congressman who sends a picture of himself in underwear to a woman is a national news story.  Sober examinations of our economic, foreign, judicial and environmental policies are dismissed as too complicated and boring.  They do not produce engaging images.  The electronic media’s sole goal is to attract viewers and advertising dollars.  It has conditioned us to demand a nonstop vaudeville act. …television tv media propaganda
(Daniel Boorstin has written about this ‘social narcissism’ and its connection to image, propaganda, and spectacle).  Journalists, book publishers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, positive psychologists, self-help gurus, the Christian right and talk show hosts all feed the mania for illusion.  They all chant the insane mantra that reality is never an impediment to what we desire.  We can have anything we want if we work hard, get an education, believe in ourselves, grasp that we are exceptional and see the impossible as always possible.  It is magical thinking.  And magical thinking is the only real commodity the elites have left to offer us.  Make American Great Again.  Or American already is great.  Take your pick of idiotic clichés.rect3336 space
‘We tyrannize and frustrate ourselves by expecting more than the world can give us or than we can make of the world,’ Boorstin wrote.  ‘We demand that everyone who talks to us, or writes for us, or takes pictures for us, or makes merchandise for us, should live in our world of extravagant expectations.  We expect this even of the peoples of foreign countries.  We have become so accustomed to our illusions that we mistake them for reality.  We demand them.  And we demand that there be always more of them, bigger and better and more vivid.’rect3336 space
The incessant search for instant gratification and the most appealing image, including the image of ourselves we manufacture for others on social media, has robbed us of the ability to examine ourselves and our society.  It has extinguished the truth.  The terminal decline of the American empire, the utter inability our elites to manage anything important, the climate crisis, widespread poverty and despair do not fit with the illusion.  So these realities are blotted from public consciousness.  The poor are rendered invisible.  The foreign policy debacles will be fixed with more bombs.”—Global Research

Campaign cartoon #23 - Tom Ferguson
Campaign cartoon #23 – Tom Ferguson
        “With passions running high on both sides in this year’s election and rising fears about Donald Trump’s impulsive nature and Hillary Clinton’s hawkish one, it’s hardly surprising that the ‘nuclear button’ question has surfaced repeatedly throughout the campaign.  In one of the more pointed exchanges of the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton declared that Donald Trump lacked the mental composure for the job.  ‘A man who can be provoked by a tweet,’ she commented, ‘should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.’  Donald Trump has reciprocated by charging that Clinton is too prone to intervene abroad.  ‘You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria,’ he told reporters in Florida last month.

Not so long ago, it was implausible that a major nuclear power — the United States, Russia, or China — would consider using atomic weapons in any imaginable conflict scenario.  No longer.  Worse yet, this is likely to be our reality for years to come, which means that the next president will face a world in which a nuclear decision-making point might arrive far sooner than anyone would have thought possible just a year or two ago — with potentially catastrophic consequences for us all.trump election politics
No less worrisome, the major nuclear powers (and some smaller ones) are all in the process of acquiring new nuclear arms, which could, in theory, push that threshold lower still.  These include a variety of cruise missiles and other delivery systems capable of being used in ‘limited’ nuclear wars — atomic conflicts that, in theory at least, could be confined to just a single country or one area of the world (say, Eastern Europe) and so might be even easier for decision-makers to initiate.  The next president will have to decide whether the U.S. should actually produce weapons of this type and also what measures should be taken in response to similar decisions by Washington’s likely adversaries.
During the dark days of the Cold War, nuclear strategists in the United States and the Soviet Union conjured up elaborate conflict scenarios in which military actions by the two superpowers and their allies might lead from, say, minor skirmishing along the Iron Curtain to full-scale tank combat to, in the end, the use of ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons, and then city-busting versions of the same to avert defeat.  In some of these scenarios, strategists hypothesized about wielding ‘tactical’ or battlefield weaponry — nukes powerful enough to wipe out a major tank formation, but not Paris or Moscow — and claimed that it would be possible to contain atomic warfare at such a devastating but still sub-apocalyptic level.  (Henry Kissinger, for instance, made his reputation by preaching this lunatic doctrine in his first book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy.)  Eventually, leaders on both sides concluded that the only feasible role for their atomic arsenals was to act as deterrents to the use of such weaponry by the other side.  This was, of course, the concept of ‘mutually assured destruction,’ or — in one of the most classically apt acronyms of all times: MAD.  It would, in the end, form the basis for all subsequent arms control agreements between the two superpowers.

(The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was an example; the late 1980’s brought a lessening of tension and threat as a result).  Today, however, this picture has changed dramatically.  The Obama administration has concluded that Russia has violated the INF treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile of prohibited range, and there is reason to believe that, in the not-too-distant future, Moscow might abandon that treaty altogether.  Even more troubling, Russia has adopted a military doctrine that favors the early use of nuclear weapons if it faces defeat in a conventional war, and NATO is considering comparable measures in response.  The nuclear threshold, in other words, is dropping rapidly.”—Naked CapitalismDoomsday_Clock nuclear atomic nuke
        “People with experience in business or finance are a necessity in Washington, but the specter of a privileged executive elite circulating in and out of government and the private sector — especially Wall Street — has shadowed the American political system for more than half a century.  The financial industry still favors the Republican Party, but, since the 1990s, it has become more closely affiliated with the Democrats, and that has provoked a resurgent left, led by Warren and by Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.  Hillary Clinton’s own relations with Wall Street date back to her husband’s administration, but they grew during her eight years representing New York in the U.S. Senate, from 2001 to 2009.  She received more than $5 million in Senate campaign contributions from the financial industry.  She did not defend the industry as aggressively as Chuck Schumer, her fellow-senator from New York, but she also did not take a lead on reforming it; in 2001, she voted for bankruptcy legislation favored by the banks, despite the fact that Warren, who was then a bankruptcy-law expert at Harvard, had counseled her against it.  In this year’s primaries, though, Sanders’ unexpectedly strong challenge to Clinton helped prompt her to adopt tougher stances, such as calls for a ‘risk fee’ on the largest banks and a tax on high-frequency trading. money funds
If Clinton defeats Donald Trump, she will face a long list of economic tests to determine the future direction of the Party, including: what to do about the more than a trillion dollars that corporations hold overseas; how to enforce antitrust laws; how high to raise the minimum wage; and how to protect and strengthen the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.  Warren has gone so far as to present Clinton with a list of people she would find acceptable for top administration posts.  It is known that she and her allies look favorably on people such as Sarah Bloom Raskin, a deputy treasury secretary, and Tom Perez, President Obama’s labor secretary.  They have also expressed strong reservations about Laurence Fink, the C.E.O. of BlackRock; Hamilton James, the president of the Blackstone Group; and Blair Effron, the founder of the investment firm Centerview Partners.corn gmo monsanto food
Lately, critics have focused on Thomas R. Nides, who is seen as a contender for a prominent position in a Clinton administration, possibly even chief of staff.  (Other candidates mentioned lately include Ron Klain, Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff.)  From 2011 to 2013, Nides worked for Clinton as the deputy secretary of state for management and resources.  He has served Democratic administrations since the Carter White House, and is widely admired for his commitment and his judgment, as well as for his humor and his personal warmth.  But he has also been involved in some of the major episodes that pulled the Democrats closer to big business and to Wall Street.  Worse, from the left’s point of view, is the fact that he spent most of the past decade as an executive at Morgan Stanley, a bank that helped precipitate the 2007–08 financial crisis, received a $10 billion bailout from the government, then fought efforts to reform the financial sector.

(His background explains a lot: his small broker dad lost his shirt to a competitor and then went to a work as an insurance agent and financial services broker; little Tom was always wanting to make the trip to the top so as not to fall by the wayside.  He got Vice President Walter Mondale to speak at his high school graduation in Duluth,Minnesota).  The following summer, after Nides completed his freshman year at the University of Minnesota, he became a Mondale intern.  Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, who was an intern at the same time, remembers walking into the Old Executive Office Building on the first day and seeing Nides sitting with his feet up on a desk, answering the phone: ‘Tom Nides, vice president’s office.’  Klobuchar was assigned to inventory office furniture, while Nides managed to secure actual political work.  Among other tasks, he successfully acted on a Duluth pizza tycoon’s request to save a historic foghorn in the harbor.  Klobuchar laughed as she recalled Nides’ ambition.  ‘He always had this eager, earnest way about him,’ she told me.At the age of 23, Nides was made the Midwest field director for Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign.  After Ronald Reagan was re-elected, Mondale recommended Nides to Rep. Tony Coelho, of California, who was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  Coelho was working to increase fundraising from lobbyists and corporations, who had traditionally given more to Republicans.  Nides was put in charge of guiding a number of House races in the 1986 midterm elections, and the Democrats gained five seats.”—Pro Publica