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The Rise of Great Leader Trump

25 November 2016 Leave a comment

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Whatever policies Trump intends to enact during his presidential term  is unknown. He has back-tracked; evaded; back-flipped; side-stepped and often contradicted himself. The most recent case-in-point was when he condemned/congratulated Americans protesting at his ascendancy to power – all within a short period of time;

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The MSM is reporting that he has begun to moderate his extreme views and comments made during the bitter election campaign. He now appears to be a supporter of free trade, according to a recent Herald story.

In effect, he is becoming more ‘presidential’.

Perhaps even “mainstream”.

However, the same cannot be said of his supporters.

Whether it is the appointment of far-right businessman, media executive, and pro-Israel mouthpiece, Steve Bannon  (aka, America’s version of Cameron Slater)  as Trump’s ‘Chief Strategist’, or,  Reince Priebus, lawyer, careerist-politician, and  Chairman of the Republican National Committee, appointed as Trump’s White House Chief of Staff – there is a pronounced cabal of right-wing conservatism colonising the new administration.

Far from “draining the swamp”, as Trump has promised on numerous occasions, he is replacing it with one of his own making. As former Democratic Party candidate, Bernie Sanders pointed out;

“Mr. Trump described himself as a populist taking on the establishment, someone who would ‘drain the swamp. Unfortunately what we’re beginning to see is what I feared, which is a lot of what Mr. Trump said to get votes is not what he intends to do as president of the United States.”

In other words: same swamp, different muck.

More frightening still are comments from Trump’s other supporters. Supporters like Omarosa Manigault.

One-time contestant on Donald Trump’s “reality” TV show, ‘The Apprentice‘, Manigault was appointed as as the Trump-campaign’s director of African-American outreach in July of this year.

In August this year, on a PBS ‘Frontline‘ Election Special, Manigault uttered what must be one of the most creepiest, chilling comments in American political history;

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Not since  Kryptonian super-villain General Zod trashed the White House in a ‘Superman‘ movie, have such threats been uttered;

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Given a chance on ABC’s ’20/20′ current affairs show to minimise her “bow down to President Trump” comment, Manigault dug the hole deeper still.

But more critically, note her passing reference to a “list of critics” which the interviewer seems not to pick up on;

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Three months later, on 8 November, Manigault made this astonishing and disturbing admission to  the  Independent Journal Review;

“It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House, we know where we stand. If [Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican-SC)Graham] felt his interests was with that candidate, God bless him. I would never judge anybody for exercising their right to and the freedom to choose who they want. But let me just tell you, Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list.”

Her ordination as a minister of religion in 2012 does not appear to have mitigated her tendency to spitefulness. (Brian Tamaki would probably see her as a “kindred spirit”.)

Journalist Sunny Hostin confirmed  Trump’s vindictive nature;

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Late Show‘ host Stephen Colbert summed up  the revelation of Trump’s Enemies List, saying;

“Wow, an enemies list. They went from zero to Nixon in no time flat.”

Colbert was referring to disgraced former US President, Richard Nixon. In 1973 it had been revealed during Senate hearings into the Watergate Scandal that Nixon had kept a secret Enemies List.

One of Nixon’s “enemies” was eminent journalist,  the late Daniel Schorr.

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Daniel Louis Schorr (August 31, 1916 – July 23, 2010)

 

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In 2009, Schorr recounted to from ‘The Hill‘;

[Schorr] has worked at CBS, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor, among other organizations. Though he has received three Emmys, numerous decorations from heads of state and countless journalism awards, there is one honor above all that makes Schorr beam with pride.

The distinction came during the 1973 Senate Watergate committee investigation into Nixon and his administration. In his testimony to the committee, John Dean, Nixon’s former White House counsel, mentioned that the president had kept an “Enemies List” — for those for whom the president “mean[t] some harm” and whom he did not like.

After waiting throughout the day, Schorr, who was covering the event, got his hands on the list of 20 people and began to read it live on-air.

“I got to No. 17, and I said, ‘No. 17, Daniel Schorr, a real media enemy,’ ” Schorr recalled.

“I almost collapsed on the air. I had never read it before, never seen it before, never expected it. But I continued and said, ‘No. 18, Paul Newman. No. 19, Mary McGrory [the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post].’ It was such a distinguished list,” he said, joking that the notoriety of the list made him more popular. “My lecture fees went up.”

Schorr continued to infuriate Nixon with his critical coverage and was no stranger to the president’s wrath. He is listed in the three articles of impeachment brought against Nixon. It is a badge Schorr wears with honor.

Though Schorr was dismissive of Nixon’s Enemies List, there remained the dangerous reality that a President of the most powerful nation on Earth; Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces; privy to information from a multitude of intelligence agencies, and access to the nuclear launch-codes – was compiling a list of  personal enemies.

The Nazis had their own Black Book – a list of enemies in Great Britain who were to be rounded up after the successful German invasion and occupation of that nation;

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But only fascist regimes indulge in real Lists of Enemies; people who displease despots, and either end up dead, disappeared, or  having “unfortunate accidents” in their lives.

Who is to say that the incoming Trump Administration is fascist?

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Acknowledge for above images: US Government

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References

CNet: Trump dials back anti-protest tweets

New York Times: Donald Trump Appears to Soften Stance on Immigration, but Not on Abortion

The Guardian: Donald Trump appears to soften on Obamacare and Clinton emails

NZ Herald: Trump softens tone on trade policy

The Intercept: Steve Bannon Made Breitbart a Space for Pro-Israel Writers and Anti-Semitic Readers

Wikipedia: Steve Bannon

Wikipedia: Reince Priebus

The Independent: Bernie Sanders – Donald Trump is already breaking his pledge to ‘drain the swamp’

Wikipedia: Omarosa  Manigault

USA Today: Omarosa Manigault named head of black outreach for Trump campaign

The Hill: Omarosa – Critics will have to ‘bow down’ to President Trump

Youtube: Omarosa – ‘Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump’

Youtube: Rise Before Zod, Kneel Before Zod

Youtube: Omarosa on ‘Bow Down to President Trump’ Comment

The Hill: Omarosa – Trump camp keeping list of enemies

The Grio: Reality TV star Omarosa has been ordained as ‘Rev. Manigault

Independent Journal Review: Omarosa – Republicans Who Vote Against Donald Trump Will Be Put On “A List”

Youtube: Omarosa Suggests Trump Campaign Keeping List of Enemies – The View

Youtube: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – Trump And Obama, Sitting In DC, A-W-K-W-A-R-D

Wikipedia: Nixon’s Enemies List

The Hill: Journalist recalls the honor of being on Nixon’s Enemies List

Wikipedia: The Black Book

US Gov: Make America Great Again

Previous related blogposts

Donald Trump and the lessons of history

Dumber and dumber, scarier and scarier

When Fact Follows Fiction – The Weird World of U.S. Politics

Trump – the cultivation of demagoguery

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

The seductiveness of Trumpism

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 November 2016.

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The seductiveness of Trumpism

15 November 2016 1 comment

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The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.

When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly.

[…]

The real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.

Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water. – Robert Reich, New York Times, 3 September 2011

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Neoliberalism as never been, and is not, a coherent set of economic principles, the presence or absence of which in any given policy prescription determines the strength or weakness of its ideological credentials. Indeed, neoliberalism, far from being some sort of neo-classical economic crusade, is what it has always been: the fearsomely coherent political project of global capitalism’s ruling elites.

Its anti-state/free market propaganda notwithstanding, neoliberalism’s purpose has always been to use the coercive power of the state to thwart and/or reverse any and all attempts to empower the many at the expense of the few.

As Professor David Harvey notes in his A Brief History of Neoliberalism:

“Redistributive effects and increasing social inequality have in fact been such a persistent feature of neoliberalisation as to be regarded as structural to the whole project. Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, after careful reconstruction of the data, have concluded that neoliberalisation was from the very beginning a project to achieve the restoration of class power”.” – Chris Trotter, Bowalley Road, 30 May 2015

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“…the share of population living in poverty is at a very high level. The latest data shows almost 15 percent of the American population of 46.7 million people living in poverty, and those numbers are even higher, if you concentrate on certain groups, particularly minority, single parents, especially female-headed families, and it is heavier for young people and those with disability.

So, with such large share of the population living below the poverty line, this has important macroeconomic issues, let alone the concern that is of a more political nature, which we will not address. But if we look at the macroeconomic impact, not only does poverty create significant social strains, it also eats into labor force participation, and undermines the ability to invest in education, to invest in health, to invest in training, and by holding back economic and social mobility it creates not only a poverty impact on this generation, but it certainly can make it more sustainable inter-generationally.” – Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF,  22 June 2016

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In America, the full impact of a neo-liberal agenda hit Kansas so harshly that  comedian/commentator, Seth Meyer, was unflinching with his scathing, mocking, satire at the travesty that had resulted;

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After his election in 2010, Republican  Kansas state governor, Sam Brownback, made massive cuts personal and business income taxes on the neo-liberal premise  that low (and in some cases, nil) taxes  would result in massive job-creation and increased economic activity by local businesses.

The tax-cuts were heavily supported by right-wing billionaire Koch Brothers;

Kansas also completely erased the income tax bills for the owners of certain “small” businesses, totaling 330,000 by this year and including a host of subsidiaries of Wichita-based Koch Industries. The Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity helped Brownback push the bill and has remained a staunch defender of the changes.

The result was utterly predictable;

The predicted job growth from business expansions hasn’t happened, leaving the state persistently short of money. Since November, tax collections have fallen about $81 million, or 1.9 percent below the current forecast’s predictions.

[…]

Last month, Brownback ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and earlier this month delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for school teachers and community college employees. The state has also siphoned off more than $750 million from highway projects to other parts of the budget over the past two years.

School teachers, college employees, the State University, schools, poverty-programmes, medicare, and other services all faced budgetary cuts.

The business website, Bloomberg, was less than impressed;

Kansas has lagged Nebraska in job creation since 2011, and the gap has widened since late 2014. Instead of adding the 25,000 jobs a year that Brownback promised, Kansas actually lost 5,400 jobs over the 12 months ending in February.

The author, Justin Fox,  made the eye-brow-raising under-statement of the year by declaring;

This doesn’t look great for Kansas.

There’s an age-old saying for such  under-statements. Click here.

Little wonder that Fox headed his article; “Kansas Tried Tax Cuts. Its Neighbor Didn’t. Guess Which Worked“.

The owners/editor of Bloomberg appeared to ‘freak out’  at the prospect of publishing a story so utterly revealing of such an epic fail of  neo-liberal dogma. The editor/owner posted at the bottom of Fox’s article;

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Of course not. That might be embarrassing. Having to admit to the Masses that one of neo-liberalism’s main tenets is actually bullshit, is not a good look.

Even Governor Brownback’s fellow Republicans were panicking, as they faced re-election this month, and the wrath of voters;

Now many of the same Republicans who helped pass Brownback’s plan are in open revolt, refusing to help the governor cut spending so he can avoid rolling back any of his signature tax measures.

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“Let him own it,” Republican Rep. Mark Hutton said. “It’s his policy that put us there.”

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“We’re growing weary,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican from Wichita. While GOP legislators still support low income taxes, “we’d prefer to see some real solutions coming from the governor’s office,” she said.

In an example of how Republican’s take personal responsibility, Governor Brownback told journalists who was to blame for his “real live experiment“;

“You’ve got some global issues that are going on that we have absolutely no control over.” 

That’s how you take Personal Responsibility: blame others.

As Kansas is slowly bankrupted, Trump appears not to have learned from Brownback’s economic ineptness, saying;

Under my plan, I’ll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch. Companies will come. They will build. They will expand. New companies will start. And I look very, very much forward to doing it.” – Donald Trump

Trump’s plan to cut taxes mirrors the Republican “experiment” in Kansas. It simply remains unclear why Trump believes the results will be any different.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, the re-distribution of wealth up-ward, through successive tax-cuts for the richest, echoed that taking place thousands of kilometres away in a central US state.

In 2009 and 2010, National cut taxes and increased gst. (There have been seven tax cuts since 1986.) This shifted wealth up-ward to higher-income earners.

As government revenue fell, budget cuts to spending on services followed;

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Even as recent tax cuts resulted in wealth re-distributed upward; wage growth remaining low or stagnant; and social services reduced – New Zealanders are still not facing the dire economic and social hardship faced by our American cousins.

In September 2011, forward-thinking American economist Robert Reich explained how a worsening economic crisis in the US was affecting the middle classes;

Some say the regressive lurch occurred because Americans lost confidence in government. But this argument has cause and effect backward. The tax revolts that thundered across America starting in the late 1970s were not so much ideological revolts against government — Americans still wanted all the government services they had before, and then some — as against paying more taxes on incomes that had stagnated. Inevitably, government services deteriorated and government deficits exploded, confirming the public’s growing cynicism about government’s doing anything right.

Some say we couldn’t have reversed the consequences of globalization and technological change. Yet the experiences of other nations, like Germany, suggest otherwise. Germany has grown faster than the United States for the last 15 years, and the gains have been more widely spread. While Americans’ average hourly pay has risen only 6 percent since 1985, adjusted for inflation, German workers’ pay has risen almost 30 percent. At the same time, the top 1 percent of German households now take home about 11 percent of all income — about the same as in 1970. And although in the last months Germany has been hit by the debt crisis of its neighbors, its unemployment is still below where it was when the financial crisis started in 2007.

How has Germany done it? Mainly by focusing like a laser on education (German math scores continue to extend their lead over American), and by maintaining strong labor unions.

THE real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.

Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water.

The economy cannot possibly get out of its current doldrums without a strategy to revive the purchasing power of America’s vast middle class. The spending of the richest 5 percent alone will not lead to a virtuous cycle of more jobs and higher living standards. Nor can we rely on exports to fill the gap. It is impossible for every large economy, including the United States, to become a net exporter.

Reviving the middle class requires that we reverse the nation’s decades-long trend toward widening inequality. This is possible notwithstanding the political power of the executive class. So many people are now being hit by job losses, sagging incomes and declining home values that Americans could be mobilized.

And mobilised they have been.

Whatever one thinks of Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, he has tapped into the psyche of the disaffected; the disenchanted; and the dispossessed. And they are legion in number.

According to US Census Bureau, there are some 43.1 million Americans currently living in poverty – 13.5%. (The Bureau states that poverty has fallen by 3.5 million people since 2014.)

The lives of ordinary Americans is now stressed and wretched, as Australia’s ABC journalist, Elle Hardy recently reported;

When fun-loving 34-year-old George Tabor died suddenly in the town of Tifton in America’s Deep South, his family was bereft.

It confirmed again that the American Dream is a vision that’s moved beyond the reach of millions of its citizens.

George’s family struggled with the immense grief of his loss, but they were also plunged into a financial crisis, not knowing how they could fund his funeral or medical bills.

“The very first day, as we were dealing with the fact that he’s gone, the first thing that was in my mind was that all these bills were about to fall on us,” his older sister Doris Stafford, 36, said.

George and his sisters all worked. Their mother had worked her whole life too. Yet, as workers on minimum pay rates, just coping with weekly needs is an endless treadmill.

George Tabor was in good
healthbefore he suddenly fell ill.
(Supplied: Doris Stafford)

Having savings to buffer sudden emergencies, or even a plan for a more secure future, is a story from Fantasyland for this family, and for up to nearly 70 per cent of Americans, according to a recent survey.

In this election year, as the anger of the marginalised and threatened has taken centre stage, it’s rocked the established verities of American political culture.

The IMF warned in June of social strains if the US fails to address soaring rates of poverty, in this richest of First World economies.

On the ground, it’s the immediate daily strains that occupy people’s minds.

George’s sister Sherry Smith, 31, began receiving George’s medical bills at the apartment they’d shared. Meanwhile, Doris was working out how to come up with $US5,100 ($6,610) for his funeral.

For workers earning about $US290 ($375) a week, the challenge is astronomical.

Robert Reich’s simple infograph (below) demonstrates convincingly that pay rose with productivity until the late ’70s /early ’80s. At that point in our global history, Thatcherism and Reaganism impacted on their respective nations, the UK and USA.

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New Zealand followed half a decade later. We now face our own social fall-out from the introduction of neo-liberalism; high-unemployment; under-employment; unaffordable housing; low wages; student debt; growing child poverty; and a widening wealth/income gap;

In its latest survey of household wealth, Statistics New Zealand found the country’s richest individuals – those in the top 10 percent – held 60 percent of all wealth by the end of July 2015. Between 2003 and 2010, those individuals had held 55 percent.

It is little wonder that with  increasing globalisation, corporations have shifted  jobs  to developing nations where wages are low and working conditions next-to-nil.

Western workers have lost out to their counterparts in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc.

That has meant vast swathes of US industries closing down until major cities such as Detroit – once a major economic powerhouse for the nation – went bankrupt in 2013. Millions of workers have lost their jobs or have taken lower-paid employment.

The story of George and his family continues;

If there was any mercy in George’s death, it was that when it came, it was immediate. But in the weeks leading to it, there was much that was preventable.

When a persistent cough started nagging, he put it down to smoking. When the hacking began, a doctor’s charges and medicine costs were off-putting.

Finally, coughing and unable to breathe, he asked friends to take him to hospital. Some laughed it off as another prank.

“We didn’t find out he was sick until he’d been in hospital for three days,” Doris says. “We found out on Facebook.”

George had pneumonia. As he lay in a coma, the family assumed he was insured through his job and contacted his employer. Low-wage workers rely on employer-provided health care, or they go without.

“Applebee’s said he wasn’t eligible for insurance until next January, even though he’d been working there a year and a half,” Sherry said.

Frequent visits from the hospital’s “financial people” compounded their stress.

The family believe that if George had medical insurance, the hospital would have let him stay. Tests revealed he had an abnormal swelling in a heart blood vessel. Corrective surgery was scheduled for November 1, but the hospital sent him home.

“He was sent home with no medication,” Sherry says. “He couldn’t walk, his feet were still swollen. He tried to stand and he fell over.”

Private health insurance costs thousands of dollars a year in the US. Even the much-vaunted Obamacare seems to miss its targets.

“At first I thought Obamacare would be a good idea,” Doris says. “When they told me the price, $57 a week — it was $57 I didn’t have in the first place.”

The family has always voted Democrat. But this time it’s different. With worries about jobs, and living in quiet despair, the Republican candidate is winning her over.

George Tabor’s family was not alone. There were millions of George Tabor Families throughout the United States. And they were no longer listening to the political establishment.

In a moment of prescience, Billionaire investor Warren Buffett warned;

Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Buffett wrote his words in August, 2011.

Since the late 1970s, both Republican and Democrat parties have failed to address the growing threat to Middle Class stability, and to Working Class aspirations in the US. Both parties had deserted their constituents, leaving people stressed, desperate, and fearful.

The forces of globalisation/neo-liberalism/free market has robbed millions of American families of what they considered their birthright – a high standard of living unparalleled in the world, and opportunities for their children.

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There was a vacuum left by the political establishment, and Donald Trump shrewdly colonised that space. Trump had created the new “reality” that Buffett warned us about.

The feeling of desperation and alienation from both Working and Middle classes is now so palpable that mainstream media are finally coming to terms with that disaffection and understand what constituted the almost-irresistable force that propelled an ego-driven, political novice to the  White House.

Despite Trump being a seriously flawed, undisciplined individual who has alienated large numbers of American voters; women, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, disabled – I think we all underestimated the anger of the Masses that Trump was feeding off.

I glimpsed a miniscule fraction of that anger last week when I watched ‘Sixty Minutes‘. A journalist was talking to five disaffected blue-collar workers in Ohio.

These were supposedly Democrat-voting, Union-loyal, workers.

But at least three openly declared their intention to vote for Trump (story starts at 25:12);

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It was at that point that I finally understood what inexorable force was propelling a bloated billionaire to the most powerful position on this planet.

As former Republican Party operative, Mike Lofgren, wrote in September 2011;

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.

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What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing. Democratic Leadership Council-style “centrist” Democrats were among the biggest promoters of disastrous trade deals in the 1990s that outsourced jobs abroad: NAFTA, World Trade Organization, permanent most-favored-nation status for China. At the same time, the identity politics/lifestyle wing of the Democratic Party was seen as a too illegal immigrant-friendly by downscaled and outsourced whites.

While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work.

Lofgren‘s entire piece is worthwhile reading.

So the ground was fertile for someone who would supposedly articulate the feelings of betrayal and loss for millions of disaffected, confused, resentful Americans.

People are pissed off, and they ain’t going to take it any more. They are fighting back. Like their British counter-parts during the “Bexit/EU” referendum, a considerable segment of American voters lashed out at “The Establishment”. It’s as if millions of Americans suddenly woke up, realising the supreme power of their vote.

The system could take away their jobs; their standard of living; their aspirations – but their right to vote was cast in granite-stone. Like their right to “bear arms” and casually shoot each other at whim, it was guaranteed by their Constitution.

Early last century, when Russians lashed out at the autocratic Establishment  of the Russian royal family, they installed a far-left  regime, the Bolsheviks.

But Americans don’t do left-wing revolutions.

When Americans revolt en-masse, they lurch to the Right.

In this case, a dangerously nationalistic, reactionary Right that is closer to the French National Front than the US Republican Party. (Though many would assert that the only real difference between the French National Front and the US Republican Party is that the latter is willing to tolerate immigrants for cheap, exploitable labour.)

Those who voted for Trump have done so for a myriad of reasons, many of which are fluid and inter-changeable. They see Trump as someone outside the political Establishment; someone who will be their champion.

But Donald Trump will not be that champion. Demogogues with simplistic answers to complex problems rarely are. History is replete with demagogues who have exploited peoples’ legitimate discontent to  gain power and subsequently wreaked havoc.

If Americans think they have just elected the solution to their problems, they are sadly mistaken.

Their problems have only just begun.

Meanwhile, from a global perspective, the Left is confronted with a serious crisis of confidence: when Working Class people turn to jingoistic demagoguery for solutions, why is our message not getting through?

Perhaps that is the real crisis confronting us.

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References

New York Times: The Limping Middle Class

International Monetary Fund (IMF):  Transcript of a Press Conference on the Conclusion of the 2016 Article IV Consultation Mission with the United States

Youtube: Kansas Tax Cuts –  A Closer Look

Motherjones: Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy

The New Yorker: Covert Operations

CBS News: Kansas loses patience with Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts

Kansas City Star: Gov. Sam Brownback cuts higher education as Kansas tax receipts fall $53 million short

Bloomberg: Kansas Tried Tax Cuts. Its Neighbor Didn’t. Guess Which Worked

Democracy Now: Expanding the Debate – Jill Stein “Debates” Clinton & Trump in Democracy Now! Special – Part 1

NZ Kindergartens Inc: Funding cuts take effect

NBR: Leaked document shows 10 District Health Boards face budget cuts – King

Fairfax media: Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts

Radio NZ:  Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Lead up to Budget 2016 – Govt announces funding cuts, increases and reprioritising

Radio NZ: Funds cut from parents-as-teachers scheme

TVNZ News: Kiwi charities and NGOs face closure with impending funding cuts

Radio NZ: Unemployment rises, wage growth subdued

ABC News:US election: Life and death in Georgia and the end of the American Dream

US Census Bureau: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage – 2015

USA Today:  Detroit becomes largest U.S. city to enter bankruptcy

Radio NZ: 10% richest Kiwis own 60% of NZ’s wealth

Truthout: Goodbye to All That – Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

The New York Times: Stop Coddling the Super-Rich – Warren Buffett

Prime TV: Sixty Minutes

Other Blogposts

Bowalley Road: Clever Strategy vs Desperate Tactics – Hillary Clinton Allows Donald Trump To Survive The Second Presidential Debate.

Bowalley Road: Raising Nixon’s Ghost

Bowalley Road: Why the Greater Good requires Americans to vote for the Lesser Evil – Hillary Clinton

Bowalley Road: The Better Angel: Why Birgitte Nyborg Beats Donald Trump

Gordon Campbell: on the US election home stretch

Kiwipolitico: Social origins of the Politically Absurd

No Right Turn:  This is not what democracy looks like

Public Address: The Long, Strange Trip

The Daily Blog: LaQuisha St Redfern vs Donald Trump

The Daily Blog: The horror of Clinton winning vs the horror of Trump winning – voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil

The Daily Blog: American Demockery

The Daily Blog: The latest Trump/Clinton machinations and why gender is the real societal fault line this election

The Daily Blog: Fear And Loathing Of A Democratic Presidency: Where To For The American Left

The Standard: Trump final campaign ad

The Standard: Donald Trump is good

The Wireless: Uncovering the art of an ugly election

Previous related blogposts

Letter to the editor – Donald Trump and the lessons of history

Dumber and dumber, scarier and scarier

When Fact Follows Fiction – The Weird World of U.S. Politics

Trump – the cultivation of demagoguery

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 November 2016.

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Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

6 November 2016 3 comments

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Two days ago (28 October), FBI Director, James B. Comey, sent a letter to the US Congress disclosing that  the Bureau was investigating newly-discovered emails from disgraced former US Congressman, Anthony Weiner.

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FBI Director James B. Comey

FBI Director James B. Comey

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The new  material  “appeared relevant” to the Hillary Clinton private-server/email case, according to Comey. In an explanatory email to FBI employees, Comey wrote;

“This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation.  Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.  Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.  At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”

 

The political version of an atomic-bombshell came eleven days before the US Presidential Election (early voting in several states notwithstanding) on 8 November.

Interestingly, Comey himself admitted;

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations…”

Comey tried to justify his disclosure to Congress;

“I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record…”

But in his rambling note, he then revealed;

“…however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails…”

And then pointed out the blindingly obvious;

“I don’t want to create a misleading impression…”

Director Comey had already created “a misleading impression“. By publicly announcing the “re-opening” of the investigation and referencing a “connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation“, irreparable damage had been done to Clinton’s campaign and Trump’s presidential chances suddenly took on new life.

As former Attorney General, Eric Holder, pointed out;

“Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on the existence, let alone the substance, of pending investigative matters, except in exceptional circumstances and with explicit approval from the Department of Justice officials responsible for ultimate supervision of the matter,” the letter says. 

They are also instructed to exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election because, as official guidance from the Department instructs, public comment on a pending investigative matter may affect the electoral process and create the appearance of political interference in the fair administration of justice.”

Current US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, also opposed Comey’s decision to formally write to Congress;

Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

The response from both Republicans and Democrats has been unrestrained anger. Senate minority leader Harry Reid  was unequivocal in condemning Comey’s behaviour;

“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.

My office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan action, you may have broken the law.”

What is even more startling is that at the time that Comey made his disclosure to Congress (28 October), it was not until two days later that the FBI  obtained a warrant to actually look at the emails on Weiner’s computer.

So on what basis did Comey feel the need to advise Congress?

When Comey sent that letter, he had no way of knowing what the emails contained. For all he knew, they could have been recipes for apple pie.

In which case, Comey has single-handedly interfered in an election process by using the power of his position.

Which would be an abuse of power.

Which would be a situation that we here in New Zealand would be intimately familiar with;

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As the NBR reported over this incident in November 2014;

Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge has made a formal apology to former Labour leader Phil Goff for the way in which the SIS released “incomplete, misleading and inaccurate information” in response to an OIA request from Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater.

In 2011 Mr Goff said he hadn’t been briefed about alleged Israel spies being caught in the Christchurch earthquake earlier that year, a contention Prime Minister John Key and then-SIS director Warren Tucker disputed.

Dr Tucker’s briefing notes were declassified, then swiftly released to Mr Slater after he requested them under the Official Information Act.

The notes appeared to confirm Mr Goff had been briefed on the matter but Ms Gwyn’s investigation has established this was not the case.

The apology to Mr Goff is one of the recommendations in the report of inspector-general of intelligence and security Cheryl Gwyn, which stated “These errors resulted in the misplaced criticism of the then leader of the Opposition, Phil Goff. Phil Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service.”

Although Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the SIS, its actions did have a politically partisan effect and she found the agency had failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.

 

The NZ Herald reported;

 

Prime Minister John Key is “in denial” over a report which backs Dirty Politics allegations his staff used information from the SIS to orchestrate a smear campaign against former Labour leader Phil Goff, the Opposition says.

Inspector General of Security Intelligence Cheryl Gwyn’s report yesterday found primarily that former SIS director Warren Tucker was at fault for supplying “misleading” information about Mr Goff to the Prime Minister during a 2011 war of words between the pair.

Mr Goff claimed he had not been briefed by Dr Tucker about suspected Israeli agents in Christchurch at the time of the earthquakes earlier that year. However, based on the information supplied by Dr Tucker, Mr Key said he had been briefed.

The report found Mr Key’s former senior communications adviser Jason Ede helped attack blogger Cameron Slater obtain that misleading information from the SIS which Slater then used to embarrass Mr Goff in blog posts.

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Ms Gwyn’s report said the information supplied by Dr Tucker about the briefing was “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading” and “resulted in misplaced criticism” of Mr Goff. It also found that after learning of the information, Mr Key’s deputy chief of staff and primary point of contact with the SIS, Phil de Joux, suggested to Mr Ede the information “might prompt an OIA request”.

Mr Ede then gave that information to Slater, discussed how an Official Information Act request should be worded, and provided Slater with draft blog posts attacking Mr Goff.

Ms Gwyn’s inquiry found Mr Ede was on the phone to Slater when Slater emailed his OIA request to the SIS.

Patrick Gower from TV3 was his usual ‘delicate’ self when he expressed his assessment of the politicisation of the NZSIS  by the National government;

3 News understands the spy agency and Prime Minister John Key’s office were found to be in cahoots with Slater to get the information out.

It was sensitive information that embarrassed Mr Goff, pertaining to the issue of supposed Israeli spies Mr Goff said he didn’t know about, though he had been briefed about it.

The report deals with how the information got out, and that is through former SIS director Warren Tucker. Mr Tucker is found have been unfair and politically partisan in the way he dealt with the Prime Minister’s office to get it out, according to 3 News’ understanding of the report.

Then-head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, used his position to embarrass the Leader of the  the Labour Party, just months out from the 2011 General Election. It was done with the full knowledge of members of John Key’s staff. Our esteemed Dear Leader was probably fully aware of the plot.

No wonder the Comey Affair seemed so hauntingly familiar when news of it broke.

Because FBI Director Comey has his own political affiliations;

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Even though he has been a registered Republican for most of his adult life, FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that he is no longer a registered member of the GOP.

“Although our politics are different — I gather you’re a Republican — that correct?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked Comey in prefacing his remarks.

Comey responded, “I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer.”

The FBI director, who previously served as deputy attorney general in George W. Bush’s administration before President Barack Obama appointed him to his current position, donated to the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

 

Mr Comey – meet Mr Warren Tucker.

You two would appear to have a bit in common.

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References

Washington Post: Read the letter Comey sent to FBI employees explaining his controversial decision on the Clinton email investigation

Wikipedia: Anthony Weiner

Politico:  Polls show battleground map tightening

The Hill: Holder, ex-Justice officials question Comey’s ‘breach of protocol’

The New Yorker: James Comey Broke with Loretta Lynch and Justice Department Tradition

The Guardian: Clinton emails inquiry – FBI gets warrant as Comey told he may have broken law

NBR: SIS report equals egg all over Key’s face – Goff

NZ Herald: Dirty Politics – John Key ‘in denial’ over SIS report

TV3: SIS to say sorry for Whale Oil OIA release

Politico: FBI director says he’s no longer a registered Republican

Additional

Radio NZ: Phil Goff receives apology from SIS over release of information to Whaleoil

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Timeline – Key responsible for SIS release

Wheeler’s Corner: SIS Forced to Apologise to Phil Goff says leaked report

The Pundit: John Key – The buck doesn’t stop with me

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2016.

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Trump – the cultivation of demagoguery

26 July 2016 2 comments

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In a brilliant  essay, published on ‘Buzzfeed‘, McKay Coppins offers his insights into what motivates a man like Donald Trump to ascend the greasy pole of politics to take on the Republican candidacy in  the up-coming U.S. Presidential elections.

It is the sort of insightful analysis that allows one to have a glimmer of understanding what motivates a man to enter into what is most likely the most vicious politics on this planet. Also probably the most expensive.

But whilst Coppins paints a reasonable picture of Donald Trump the person, he glosses over what has made him so popular with up to 45% of American voters, according to a recent NBC poll.

Trump has stunned people by defying not just the odds, but the powerful, entrenched Republican establishment. He fought off sixteen other candidates – including seasoned politicians.

He has used the mainstream media and gained free publicity not accorded to any other candidate. According to either the New York Times or MarketWatch, that free publicity is valued at anywhere between US$2 billion to US$3 billion.

His most effective  strategy has been to make outrageous statements;

  • Trump says he will build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States
  • Trump called Mexican immigrants drug dealers, rapists, and criminals-in-general
  • Trump wants all illegal Mexicans deported from the United States
  • Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States
  • Trump has called on the registration of all muslims in the United States
  • Trump stated that the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre should have been armed; If the people so violently shot down in Paris had guns, at least they would have had a fighting chance.”
  • Trump is very gung-ho on gun-rights for Americans
  • And Trump expresses demeaning views of women, with Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly as examples

These vocalised opinions, and others fit perfectly with the typical American right-winger/conservative. They are views more often than not expressed by supporters of the US Republican Party.

Republican political figures – especially those on the far-right – have often endorsed right-wing sentiments that appeal to their right-wing/conservative constituents. Sentiments that are usually reactionary when it comes to misogyny; homophobia; hostility toward ethnic groups; xenophobia; religious bigotry; pro-gun; etc.

This is the very essence of the right-wing constituency of the Republican Party.

This is what Donald Trump has tapped into. It is red-neck territory that other Republican Presidential contenders have never dared venture into.

In September 2012,  Republican candidate Mitt Romney was caught off-guard with a secret video-tape of comments he made at a closed door fund-raising event;

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.

All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.

These are people who pay no income tax.”

The comments were the sort of conservative bigotry parroted by the uninformed; the resentful; the judgemental – in short right-wingers who believe the nonsense that Romney was spouting.

But by October, Romney had apologised for those comments on the Fox Channel’s Hannity programme,

“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case I said something that was just completely wrong.”

Trump does not apologise. He ratchets up his outlandish invective because a sizeable chunk of the American public thinks and often expresses similar reactionary views.

Which makes it deeply ironic that the Republican Party hierarchy so despises Trump, and has tried every ‘trick in the book’ to undermine his chances to become the Republican candidate. Ironic, because Trump not only verbalises what many in the Republican Party think – but is also willing (according to his rhetoric) to act on it.

After decades of right-wing, reactionary sentiments endorsed and exploited by the Republican Party, they now have a candidate who publicly expresses those views.

That is the “secret” of the rise and rise of Donald Trump. There was fertile ground, carefully prepared after decades of conservative, reactionary intolerance. Decade after decade of bigoted, moralistic views.

Donald Trump simply planted himself in that fertile ground. And grew and grew and grew.

The real surprise is that the Republican hierarchy are themselves surprised. Did they never foresee that one day a shrewd, manipulative operator would make full use of the fertile soil of conservatism that had been so carefully laid over the years?

Donald Trump is not some alien outsider to the Republican Party – he embodies the naked spirit of the Republican Party, with all the P.R. spin stripped away. Donald Trump is the Republican Party.

The Republican hierarchy are powerless to stop their own political scion –  a product of their own right-wing bigotry. He is their “Frankenstein’s monster”; a creature of their conservative values.

And the creature is loose.

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References

Buzzfeed: How the Haters made Trump

NBC:  Poll – Clinton and Trump Now Tied as GOP Convention Kicks Off

New York Times: Who Is Running for President?

New York Times: $2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump

Marketwatch: Trump has gotten nearly $3 billion in ‘free’ advertising

Online  Daily Mail: Donald Trump ridiculed for blaming Charlie Hebdo massacre on France’s strict gun laws

The Guardian: Mitt Romney under fire after comments caught on video

International Business Times: Romney Apologizes For ’47 Percent’ Comment – ‘I Care About The 100 Percent’

Previous related blogposts

When Fact Follows Fiction – The Weird World of U.S. Politics

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 July 2016.

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Dumber and dumber, scarier and scarier

26 January 2016 5 comments

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Donald Trump gets Palin backing

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Sarah Palin.

Donald Trump.

Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump.

If the spectre of a neo-fascist demagogue ruling the most powerful nation on Earth – bristling with an arsenal of city-smashing atomic bombs and other advanced, lethal weapons – wasn’t chilling enough, the prospect of  a political moron endorsing a billionaire clown-presidential-candidate would be like a Hollywood political satire.

Team America, The Omen III, and Wag the Dog meet Reality.

If people cannot fathom how Adolph Hitler came to power, they need only pay close attention to current events in the Land of the Free. Even without ISIS raping Iraq and Syria, a post-anti-biotic world, or man-made global warming, we are now living in scary times.

One can only hope that the American people – or at least a sufficient voting number of them – are better than the seductive malevolence that Trump represents and offers as his ‘Final Solution‘. For Americans, their one and only means to reject the rise of fascism lies not in their Constitutional  Second Amendment “right” to bear arms – but in the ballot box.

For all our sakes, let’s hope they use their vote wisely.

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References

Radio NZ:  Donald Trump gets Palin backing

Previous related blogposts

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

Palin: Will Not Seek 2012 Nomination

Letter to the editor – Donald Trump and the lessons of history

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 January 2016.

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The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, and Mechanoids…

6 January 2016 1 comment

From a recent Radio NZ news-story…

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Zuckerburg plans to build AI in 2016

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However, Mr Zuckerberg might ponder that a true AI (artificial intelligence)  might have something to say about being unpaid slave labour for a multi-billionaire…

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References

Radio NZ: Zuckerburg plans to build AI in 2016

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Letter to the editor – Donald Trump and the lessons of history

5 January 2016 11 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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The editor

Time

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I don’t know know if Donald Trump really believes the things he says, or is simply saying them to get elected.

But what kind of person appeals to the most base instincts of human beings to achieve power?

And once he has achieved that power – what will he do with it?

Unfortunately, the previous century  is replete with examples of  demagogues who wreaked havoc once they gained the power they craved.


Just how many times do the violent lessons of history have to be drilled into us?

-Frank Macskasy

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Categories: Global Tags: ,