More Than We Would Ever Want To Admit, Trump Is Us

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To a degree greater than we want to admit, we have created the conditions that allow him to flourish.

By Howard Fineman
The Huffington Post (7/26/15)

WASHINGTON – In person, Donald Trump is a bit larger than life. He is tall, and his shelf of tangerine hair makes him appear taller. He exudes a calm aura that doesn’t seem to have stemmed from a gym workout, but rather a sauna, and perhaps a manicure. In conversation (I  have had a couple with him over the years), he wears the indulgent smile of a man who knows the exact hierarchy of power in the room. He’s atop it. You’re not.

In sum, he is insufferable — and fascinating.

Now, of course, he is the most reviled man in American politics, even as (or because) he leads in many (although mostly meaningless) polls. Trump is widely dismissed as a fraudulent, egomaniacal clown; a cynical showman and racist, spewing invective and fear for the sole purpose of advancing his personal “brand.” As a real estate mogul and reality television star, he behaves as though adherence to facts is the habit of weaklings. Strong men lie.

Like an engine running too hot — whining constantly that he is being “misquoted,” spewing accusations in all directions — Trump could well break down after providing a few month’s worth of annoyingly cheeky entertainment.

In the meantime, though, it’s worth facing this truth: In many ways, Trump is the all too-logical result of corrosive currents that have been gathering force for decades in public life. To a degree greater than we want to admit, we have created the conditions that allow him to flourish.

Trump, sad to say, is us. Here is the list of the Trump-enabling trends:

Cynicism

Distrust of government is a bred-in-the-bone feature of American politics. But a paralyzing sense of disgust is something else, and has been growing since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. In 1973, for example, 42 percent of voters in a Gallup poll said that they had a “great deal or quite a lot” of faith in Congress. Today, that number is a pathetic 8 percent – the lowest on record.

It’s the same story with popular culture. The popular and much-praised Netflix show “House of Cards” centers on a murderous president who urinates on his father’s grave and spits on a statue of Jesus.

Enter Donald Trump. No, he is not a politician. No, he doesn’t have intimate knowledge about or experience in government. That would ruin him! He ridicules politicians in every direction: Sen. John McCain for being captured in the Vietnam War; the former governor of Texas for being dumb. Trump is the cleansing, can-do Deus ex machine.

Immigration fail

One reason why voters hate Congress and the federal bureaucracy is that both have failed for decades to deal comprehensively with immigration. This is everyone’s fault. President Barack Obama didn’t want to spend political capital on a comprehensive deal in his first term; besides, he was happy to let Republicans trap themselves in a demographic corner of Hispanic enmity. Republicans, for their part, can’t resist playing to their nativist, anti-foreigner core of tea party voters. Would-be compromisers, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), gave up and gave in. They are playing to fear.

But in so doing, they opened the door for a far more professional fearmonger in Donald Trump. He’s built a whole sideline in denouncing what he sees as the depredations of foreign forces, from China and Mexico to Iran and Russia. Never mind that a good bit of Trump’s branding business is outside of the U.S. The world is against us, and Mexico is sending us “rapists” and drug dealers.

Attention span

Eight years ago, Obama was the Facebook candidate, his rise powered by the 20 million “friends” he made in that collegial, familial medium. But Facebook is so 2007. Trump is made for a more contentious time in social media, a new era of distraction and accusation. He speaks loudly, simply, bluntly — as if from the street, not the suite. His patented phrase is a clipped sentence of doom: “You’re fired!” He is made for the machine-gun burst of Twitter, where feuds explode instantly and anonymity and instantaneously generate controversy. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj have their feud, but The Donald has 3.34 million Twitter followers – many times more than any of his Republican rivals.

Money doesn’t just talk. It shouts.

Candidates’ traditional hunt for campaign contributions turned to frenzy after the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations and labor unions could “independently” spend as much as they wanted touting candidates. Enter the billionaires, such as the Koch brothers in the GOP, and Tom Steyer among Democrats.

Trump is just taking the next logical step — one that Ross Perot anticipated 24 years ago. If you are a billionaire (and Trump claims to be one many times over), why bother buying a candidate when you can be the candidate yourself? The flood of money already has dulled the outrage about it. It seems like a force of nature that it is useless to resist.

And there is something else at work: a weird sense of working-class dream-world solidarity with Trump, whose message is that if he is president, everyone will be rich, just like he is. At a time when so many Americans see genuine upward mobility as impossible — The Donald himself has declared that the “American Dream is dead” — why not believe in a man who knows how to work the engines of salesmanship to amass wealth for himself?

It’s as though Trump’s very being is somehow proof that the dream is still alive.

Substance-free celebrity

Notoriety is the iron ore of our era. It’s less important what you know or what you have done than what impression you make or how much fame you possess. Indeed, fame has become fungible; you can transport it from one arena of public life to another.

Until recently, entertainers (and Trump is essentially one) felt required to serve a mid-life apprenticeship if they wanted to enter government. Ronald Reagan went from actor to president, but only after serving as governor of California. Comedian Al Franken, a Harvard grad, educated himself by writing (funny) political books and hosting a wonky public affairs radio show a long stretch. Only then did he run for (and win) the U.S. Senate.

Trump the celebrity has watered down his apprenticeship. He has been a contributor, and a kibitzer in New York for years, a dilettante whose major substantive contribution until now was his “political campaign” to discredit Obama as a man who had been born in Kenya.

Trump feels no need to have detailed proposals, or any real proposals at all. He will build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border (though he backpedaled frantically when his new “friends” in Laredo, Texas, told him in public that it was a bad idea). He will “create millions of jobs.” How, no one knows. He will stop the Chinese from taking advantage of us in trade, no one knows how. He will stand up to Iran, no one knows how. He will protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, no one knows how.

Knowing details, like telling the truth, is the habit of wimps.

If it bleeds, it leads 

Media in general and TV in particular (especially cable) can’t take their eyes and cameras off of a gruesome scene on the highway. Trump is a never-ending car crash of controversy, accusation, bile and baloney. In the midst of the summer ratings doldrums on cable, he has been a godsend.

The political divide on American cable and in digital media makes Trump even more attractive. GOP-leaning Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, features non-stop coverage of the Republican race. It can’t avoid Trump even if it wanted to, which it doesn’t, though he threatens to turn the GOP contest into a circus. Mayhem means ratings. MSNBC, the ideological counterpoint to Fox, loves Trump for the same reason: He can make a mess of the GOP.

The party’s over

American voters no longer identify themselves politically by their allegiance to a political party. A large plurality now call themselves “independents.”  Trump offers himself as the denouement of this slow-motion collapse, telling the GOP that if they don’t play fair with him, he could run as third-way force that would all but guarantee the election of a Democrats, if not of Trump himself.

Trump’s policy positions, such as they are, are a shrewd mix of Columns A and B on the restaurant menus of the existing parties. He is not running against the “welfare” state, but rather offers himself as a protector of it. He’s not suggesting massive tax cuts, either. He does not kowtow to the powerful evangelical Christian wing of the GOP.

At the same time, he ridicules the Obama administration as weak and corrupt, especially in its dealings with other countries and peoples. He decries the ineptitude of government as a whole. He scorns regulatory controls on business.

The answer to every knotty problem is that he, Donald Trump, will “make America great again.” That’s what it says on his white cap, and there is nothing more American these days than that simple, almost desperate, slogan.

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  • Donald Trump’s Popularity: The Symptom of a Disease —  The tragedy is the growing popularity Trump enjoys as a result of his asinine behavior. Millions of Republicans like his crass statements about Mexican immigrants often being rapists, about Senator John McCain not being a war hero because he was captured, and his refusal to apologize. The disease is in the people, not in Donald Trump. And a disease it is. … Read the Rest
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Republican Presidential Candidates Will Do Just About Anything For Attention

Forget substance, it’s all about putting on a show.

By Igor Boboic & Amber Ferguson
The Huffington Post (7/27/15)

WASHINGTON — A historically large number of candidates and one very loud entrance by real estate mogul Donald Trump is threatening to turn the Republican presidential race into a silly, MythBusters-style contest to see who can blow stuff up the best.

In just the last week, several GOP presidential hopefuls have engaged in stunts, questionable rhetoric and grandstanding — even prompting a strongly worded rebuke from President Barack Obama, who on Monday suggested they were engaging in “ridiculous” antics in “an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines.”

To the dismay of Republican Party leaders, Trump has continued to dominate in the polls. In the first national telephone poll since his widely denounced comments about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Trump was found topping the pack at 18 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) placed second at 15 percent.

All the media surrounding the Trump show has left his rivals attention-starved. The celebrity hotelier’s trip to the border on Thursday even overshadowed the presidential announcement of a more electable, experienced candidate like Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) caused quite a bit of fireworks during a rare Sunday session in the Senate, during which he claimed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lied to him and his colleagues about running an open amendment process. Because impugning a senator’s character on the floor violates Senate rules, Cruz earned a reprimand from Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“We are not here on some frolic, or to pursue personal ambitions,” Hatch said. “We serve the people, not our own egos.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) made his play on Saturday, when he accused the president of marching Israelis to “the door of the oven” by dealing with Iran over its nuclear program. After condemnation from Democrats and the Jewish community, Huckabee was happy to trumpet his remarks on social media and to his supporters, whom he emailed Monday to complain Obama was “directly” attacking him.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), meanwhile, has been reduced to torturing a copy of the U.S. tax code with a chain saw, fire and a wood chipper. Such stunts are typically characteristic of Senate races, not White House bids. For example, Joe Manchin memorably used a rifle to shoot a copy of a proposed “Cap and Trade” bill during his successful bid for the upper chamber in West Virginia. The stunt might have given Paul a photo op, but it didn’t exactly spell out presidential material.

The presidential candidate who perhaps best capitalized on Trump mania was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). After Trump gave out the South Carolina senator’s personal phone number to the public, Graham went on a rampage against flip phones in a viral video produced by the website IJReview. Graham, who actually owned a flip phone, is seen putting a number of the devices through a blender, dropping them off a rooftop, and chopping them with a butcher knife.

Great media strategy or desperate ploy for attention? Probably a bit of both. As it stands right now, ten days out from the first GOP debate in Cleveland, Graham would not make the cut for a primetime television slot. His 0.3 percent support among Republican voters places him short of the top 10 criteria host Fox News has set for the debate.

The cable network has not yet announced which national polls it will use to judge which candidates will participate. But one thing’s for certain: bottom-rung contenders are likely to engage in more of such antics as the debate nears.

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John Oliver Explains Why Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Is An Ineffective, Costly Disaster

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By Ed Mazza
The Huffington Post (7/27/15)

President Barack Obama freed dozen of nonviolent offenders earlier this month to draw attention to the harsh and often unfair sentences given under mandatory minimum sentencing rules for drug offenders.

As John Oliver noted on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” it’s about time.

“Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they’re used correctly, even a short one can do the trick,” Oliver said, quickly adding, “…is a rumor I have heard.”

Oliver explained how the drug paranoia of the ’80s and ’90s led to mandatory sentences that in one case resulted in a man getting life in prison for a small amount of meth.

“He got a life sentence for 3 ounces of meth. That is insane,” Oliver said. “They’re treating him like he’s ["Breaking Bad"] season five Walter White, when he’s barely episode one Jesse Pinkman.”

Oliver also told the story of a 24-year-old father who sold small amounts of marijuana to an informant while he was carrying a gun, an act which led to a 55-year prison sentence with no possibility of parole.

“He won’t get out until he’s 79 for selling something that’s legal for recreational use in four states and whose main side effect is making episodes of ‘Frasier’ slightly funnier,” Oliver said.

Even the judge who sentenced that man said, “That’s not right.”

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  • Guess Who Else Is Fundraising For Clinton: Private Prison Lobbyists – In addition to Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is turning to lobbyists for the two biggest private prison companies in the country, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, to raise money for her 2016 presidential candidacy. … Read the Rest
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Reality Check: Scott Walker Is The Worst Of The Lot, And He Has A Real Chance Of Winning GOP Nomination

Walker is the most polished – and terrifying – candidate for people of color or those part of the LGBTQ community.

By Jason Nichols
The Guardian (7/27/15)

There is no shortage of GOP candidates in this election cycle. Senators, governors, surgeons and real estate developers-turned-reality-stars all feel they have what it takes to be the nation’s top executive. Many have claimed the spotlight for short moments. But perhaps the biggest threat to democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has yet to capture the public imagination. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the most polished – and terrifying – candidate for people of color or those part of the LGBTQI community.

For starters, Walker surpasses nearly all the other GOP candidates in his stringent beliefs on immigration. While Donald Trump bloviates about building a wall on the US/Mexico border that clearly isn’t going to work, Walker believes in a more feasible but equally sinister plan to curb undocumented immigration. Walker spoke to Sean Hannity earlier in 2015 and stated he wanted to secure the border by augmenting the number of personnel and “technology”. During Walker’s interview with Hannity, he spoke of undocumented immigrants as if they were part of an invading army and stated that it was an issue of “sovereignty” and “national security”. But more than ever, the people Walker speaks of as an invasive force are children from countries like Honduras and Guatemala who are attempting to escape violence in their home countries. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and even Canadian born, ultra-conservative Ted Cruz have expressed openness to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, something that Walker opposes.

Walker’s great state of Wisconsin also has the dubious distinction of being a terrible place for black people to live. It has the largest achievement gap between black and white students in the nation, and the lowest reading comprehension scores for black fourth graders. Forty-nine percent of the state’s African American men in their 30s have already spent time behind bars. Walker supported further disenfranchizing the black citizens of his state by supporting Voter ID laws, and he ended a program there where police collected data on the race of the people stopped by officers even though police killings of Black Americans is one of the largest issues facing the country.

Walker is also arguably anti-gay. He supported an amendment to the constitution that would give states the right to ban same-sex marriage. When he was a county executive, he opposed visitation rights for LGBT couples when one partner is in the hospital.

Electable political prodigy

While it is easy to dismiss the Wisconsin governor as another face in a crowded GOP field, Walker is electable. He is somewhat of a political prodigy, having run for his first major office at the tender age of 22. He is a governor, so he can tout his high-level executive experience, something that the likes of Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio lack. Kasich, Pataki and Fiorina lack the name recognition to make a splash. Jeb Bush has to pay for the sins of his brother.

Some will point to the controversy over state-sponsored unions during Walker’s tenure as governor as a sign that he will struggle in a general election. I see it as a sign that he can weather a storm, persevere and come out victorious. He knows when not to answer and when to pivot away from hot-button issues, which will make him less prone to laughable gaffes like Trump’s.

A thin veneer

Walker effectively hides racism and anti-gay sentiments behind a veneer of state rights and fiscal austerity. He’s a savvy politician, and in a showdown with the notoriously flip-floppy Hillary Clinton, he will undoubtedly push her to the right in a general election. Clinton will want to appear pragmatic in order to woo independent voters and centrists, but Walker’s reactionary conservative principles will likely shift the discourse to the right.

When we think of Wisconsin, we think of all-American products like dairy and beer. It doesn’t have the anti-civil rights reputation of southern states like Mississippi or Alabama. However, Wisconsin’s next big export could result in a bigger headache than any Milwaukee brew.

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If Scott Walker Is Afraid To Confront Donald Trump, How Can He Fight ISIS?

By John Amato
Crooks & Liars (7/27/15)

Fox News built up Scott Walker’s appearance with Neil Cavuto heavily and made it all about the barbs being thrown around by his campaign and Donald Trump. “Coming up now, Gov. Scott Walker will answer Donald Trump’s accusations!!!! Only instead of Walker standing up to the presumptive leader of the GOP class of 2016 forcefully, he hid behind a mealy mouthed defense of his record and refused to engage Trump directly.

Cavuto: All of a sudden you’ve been ensnared by Donald Trump, he built on what he’s already said, tweeting today that when people found out how bad a job Scott Walker’s done in Wisconsin, they won’t be voting for him, massive deficit, bad jobs forecast a mess. What do you say?

Walker: I’ll let Donald Trump speak for himself. I’m not going ot go after other candidates. I’m going to talk about what I’m for.

Cavuto: What he’s saying governor is that it’s not all that and that this surplus you alluded to 2.6 billion and now he says there’s a deficit of more than 2 billion. What do you say?

Walker: Those are the Democratic talking points earlier this year….

Gov. Walker went on to list his record in which he has the midas touch, but consistently backed down from taking on The Donald head on. I’ll let our very own Scott Walker expert,capper review Walker’s braggadocio when it comes to his record, but I’ll play the Republican game here and say that if he’s not willing to stand up and fight against Donald Trump, then how can he stand up and fight ISIS?

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Those Who Survive …

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The Five-Step Process To Privatize Everything

 
 
 
(Image: stock/public domain)
 
By Paul Bucheit
Common Dreams (5/4/15)

Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself — all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.

At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.

These privatizers have a system:

1. Convince Yourself that “I Did It On My Own” 

The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying “Any group…is only a number of individuals…If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”

Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting “government is the problem” and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming “There is no such thing as society,” once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as “socialist” and “Soviet-style.” The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, “Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics…Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.”

But as Mariana Mazzucato points out in The Entrepreneurial State, “In reality it is the State that has been engaged on a massive scale in entrepreneurial risk taking to spur innovation.” There is much evidence for this, in a multitude of disciplines, especially in technology and pharmaceuticals, both of which have seen corporate research labs diminishing if not entirely disappearing.

In the burgeoning new field of nanotechnology, says Mazzucato, industry cannot justify applications that require 10 to 20 years of development and which demand a coordination of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, and computer science.

2. Insist that the Removal of Government Will Benefit All People 

The removal of government is equated to a vague demand for “freedom” which is hyperbolic if not meaningless. It gained momentum with Milton Friedman, who said: “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” The Cato Institute went on to preach that “Free markets create a future promoting integrity and trust.” And Forbes Magazine founder Steve Forbes blustered: “You can’t create prosperity without freedom!”

Despite the fact that this ‘freedom’ has generated the greatest inequality in nearly 100 years, apologists try to convince us that somehow we’re all prospering. From the Wall Street Journal: The U.S. economy is on a tear. From a Moody’s analyst: Our economy is firing on most cylinders.

Some libertarian “lovers of freedom” go to even greater extremes to defend the benefits of inequality for all of us, claiming that income inequality is Good For The Poor, and even that “Income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful.”

3. Ensure that Government Isn’t Removed Until You Get Rich 

As the well-to-do have complained about government, they’ve also made sure that government has continued to help them, with a mind-boggling array of deductions, exemptions, exclusions, and loopholes.

At least $2.2 trillion per year in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment go mostly to the very rich, the most brazen of whom make the astonishing claim that their hedge fund income should be taxed at a much lower rate than a teacher’s income.

Their tax breaks are augmented by the payroll tax rate limit, which allows multi-millionaires to pay a tiny percentage compared to middle-income earners; by high-risk derivatives that are the first to be paid off in a bank collapse; and by a bankruptcy law that allows businesses, but not students, to get out of debt.

4. Defund Government Until Privatization Seems Like the Only Option 

This has happened most notably in education, with a simple formula, according to The Nation: “Use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools ‘persistently failing’; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters.” And, of course, cut funding. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, forty-eight states — all except Alaska and North Dakota — were spending less per student in 2014 than they did before the recession.

It’s happening to Social Security, perhaps the most efficiently run system, public or private, in our nation’s history. As Richard Eskow notes, “Congress has cut 14 out of the last 16 SSA budget requests. There’s only one rational explanation for that: a hostility toward government itself, combined with the determination to place more public resources in corporate hands through ‘privatization.’”

It’s happening to police forces, which are going private in neighborhoods and on corporate campuses as public money is disappearing.

5. Remain Ignorant of Any Troublesome Facts 

Facts abound of failing private systems, including:

Education: A private system that pays a charter CEO 350 times more per student than the corresponding public school chancellor.

Health Care: The most expensive system in the developed world, with the price of common surgeries anywhere from three to ten times higher than in much of Europe, and with 43 percent of sick Americans skipping doctor’s visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs. Medicare, on the other hand, which is largely without the profit motive and the competing sources of billing, is efficiently run, for all eligible Americans.

Banking: Thanks to private banks, interest claims one out of every three dollars that we spend, and by the time we retire with a 401(k), nearly half of our money is lost to the banks. But the public bank of North Dakota (BND) had an equity return of 23.4% before the state’s oil boom. The normally privatization-minded Wall Street Journal admits that the BND “is more profitable than Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a better credit rating than J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hasn’t seen profit growth drop since 2003.”

Law Enforcement: As public money for police protection is depleted, our communities are being subjected to law enforcement officers who are insufficiently trainedpoorly regulated, and often unaccountable to the public for their actions.

Water Management: A water security expert suggested that “One promising solution is to create water markets that allow people to buy and sell rights to use water.” But a 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services.

The Environment: According to former World Bank Chief Economist Nicholas Stern, climate change is “the greatest market failure the world has seen.” Yet Bloomberg reports that “Wall Street firms are investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter.”

Government Itself: In a study of outsourcing, the Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 out of 35 cases “the average annual contractor billing rate was much more than the average annual full compensation for federal employees.”

Great Individuals Emerge from Cooperative Efforts 

Privatization is closely connected to the demand for individualism over cooperation. But the belief that self-centeredness will benefit everyone is backwards. As George Lakoff summarizes: “The Public provides freedom…Individualism begins after the roads are built, after individualists have had an education, after medical research has cured their diseases…”

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Six Ways TPP Opponents Have Won—Even As Fast Track Advances

 
By Sarah Anderson
Yes! Magazine (6/24/15)
I tried to stay emotionally distanced from this one. It didn’t work. When the White House and Republican leaders got the votes they needed in the Senate to advance “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority on Tuesday, June 23, it was crushing.

All observers agree that fast track will soon become law, making it easier for President Barack Obama to pass the controversial trade pacts in the works with Pacific Rim nations and the European Union. That will be a serious setback to the movements for the environment, labor rights, and affordable pharmaceuticals, among others.

But after observing painful trade votes for more than 20 years, this one left me feeling that opponents should be holding their heads higher than ever before as they regroup for the next phase of the fight. Here are a few reasons why:

1. A diverse progressive coalition showed that people power can put up a real fight against big money. The votes on fast track could not have been closer. The House vote was a razor-thin 218 to 208, while the Senate’s vote to cutoff debate passed without a single vote to spare.

The opposition included all the regulars from labor, environmental, faith, immigrant, food safety, and consumer groups. But some newish players also stepped up, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Internet access, as well as global health, civil rights, and civil liberties groups.

One result was more airtime for trade-related concerns that have been largely ignored in the past, including the anti-democratic investment rules and impacts on seafood safetyaccess to medicines, and climate.These new relationships will pay off in future fights. As Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers, put it, “Progressive forces have new energy from this fight.”

2. The battle exposed deep divisions within the United States, empowering allies in other countries. U.S. Democratic congressional leaders did not roll over for this vote, so opponents in other countries can now count them on their side. And who knows what will happen when citizens of other countries, who are likely to be hard-hit by these deals, see the final text of the agreement?

The example of the Free Trade Area of the Americas is instructive here. After 11 years of negotiations, those 34-country talks collapsed in 2005. President George W. Bush had fast-track authority to pass the FTAA, but that turned out not to matter. In the end, Brazil and other South American countries refused to give in to the U.S. corporate-driven agenda.

3. The showdown drove a shift in the discourse. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who in 1993 voted in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement, rebuffed intense pressure from President Obama to support fast track and called for a “new paradigm” on trade. She called for global engagement that “enables voices from all aspects of the world’s economies to be heard.”

Even former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, another NAFTA promoter, stated that “A reflexive presumption in favor of free trade should not be used to justify further agreements.” There were also signs of growing alliances across political lines, with perhaps the most notable example being a joint op-ed by the libertarian Cato Institute and the progressive Public Citizen.

4. Labor unions made strong vows to punish pro-fast track Democrats. The AFL-CIO and other unions froze campaign contributions to members of Congress starting in March to pressure them to vote the right way. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s Senate vote, Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton said, “for those who opposed the broadest coalition of Americans ever, we will find and support candidates who will stand with working families. That’s how we’ll take on the corporate Democrats who oppose a working family agenda.”

Unions are a critical source of donations and boots on the ground for electoral campaigns. A strong message that labor support should not be taken for granted could change the dynamic of the party for years to come.

5. The strong opposition to Obama’s trade agenda augurs well for other progressive fights. This battle was not just about fast track. It was a reflection of increased concern about inequality and the sense that the rules have been rigged against ordinary Americans in favor of large corporations and the wealthy. We can build on this in future efforts over taxes, budgets, labor rights, and other issues.

6. The demands to see the secret text got some results. WikiLeaks made public two draft chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, giving ammo to the opposition and making many wonder why we were having to rely on Julian Assange for this information.

While the fast-track bill doesn’t do anywhere near enough to respond to secrecy concerns, it does require the executive branch to make public the full text of new trade agreements for 60 days before they are sent to Congress. Then lawmakers need to wait at least another 30 days before voting.

In the TPP’s case, this could help stretch out the timeline into the heat of election season, when Democrats will be even more sensitive to pressure from their base. As Public Citizen President Robert Weissman noted, “When the inexcusable and anti-democratic veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP is finally lifted, and the American people see what is actually in the agreement, they are going to force their representatives in Washington to vote that deal down.”

(Sarah Anderson wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Sarah directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.)

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Posted in 2015-07-28, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off

‘Call’ Readers Write: Cut Out The “Mr. Rump” Stuff

Donald Trump is energetic, well-funded, demagogic and dangerous.  Please cut out the “Mr. Rump” stuff,  and take him seriously.

As a practical matter, he may be able to wreck the  Scott Walker campaign.   We may be in for a wild campaign.  One thing is certain,  Trump is real and smart.

Liberals and intellectuals have a bad habit of looking down on people we think have lower IQs than ours.  Avoid the habit.

Peace,

Dr. James R. Anderson

(Editor’s Reply: Actually, James, I was beginning to think the same thing. Originally, I made a typo and liked it. We on the left have consistently under-estimated the ability of the George W. Bushs, Scott Walkers and Ted Cruz’s of the right to grab the loyalty of the very people they seek to exploit. Here in Wisconsin we have consistently under-estimated Scott Walker at every term — no matter what we think of his intelligence. The Huffington Post recently moved their Trump coverage to the entertainment section of the web site. Initially, I thought it was appropriate. now, with the growing number of Trump followers and the impact he is having on the party, I think that is a mistake. So, it’s “Trump” from now on. Thanks for reading and writing! — Mark L. Taylor)

 

 

Posted in 2015-07-28, Newsletter | Comments Off

Dept. Of Much Needed Humor — GOP Candidates Offered Cash Voucher To Give Up Spot And Participate In Later Election

The Onion (7/27/15)

WASHINGTON—Noting that the field of presidential hopefuls currently exceeded maximum capacity, the Republican National Committee announced Monday it was offering a cash voucher to any GOP candidates willing to give up their spot in the 2016 race and run again in a later election.

“We’re unfortunately unable to accommodate every candidate in our current primary race, so we’re offering $2.5 million in campaign funding to anyone open to rescheduling their presidential run to the next available contest in 2020 or to another later race,” said RNC chairman Reince Priebus, adding that anyone interested in the offer should come forward now before the party was forced to begin bumping candidates from the current election cycle involuntarily. “In addition to the financing voucher, which can be redeemed toward any GOP presidential primary before 2036, we’re also offering any candidates willing to change their plans the chance to upgrade to a center podium at the primary debates free of charge.”

At press time, Priebus added that the RNC would also throw in two complimentary Koch brothers, an $80 billion value, to anyone who accepted the offer.

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Tuesday / July 29, 2015

Posted in 2015-07-28 | Tagged | Comments Off

Monday / July 27, 2015

(See “Throwing In The Towel To Oligarchy”, below.)

Posted in 2015-07-27 | Tagged | Comments Off

The GOP Only Has Itself To Blame For Weaponizing Donald Rump

Scan 20

(Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2015. Open source and free to use with link to www.thedailycall.org )

GOP subsidized and encouraged the market for what Rump is selling.

 
By Frank Rich,
New York Magazine (7/21/15)

Donald Trump’s lead in the polls has been called “the classic pattern of a media-driven surge,” which means that his numbers, like those of Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann in 2012, could crater in mid-campaign. But one factor in his success may be his ability to fill the vacuum left by the faded Tea Party, giving voice to the frustrated GOP white underclass. Will the candidates criticizing Trump this week eventually have to integrate part of his message to win over this part of the Republican base?

Whatever else is to be said about Trump, he is a master salesman. And in the GOP presidential marketplace, he has a near-monopoly on the product he is selling now: hard-line, unapologetic, xenophobic opposition to both immigration reform and Mexican immigrants. Immigration is the fault line of the GOP. The party’s establishment — from its corporate backers to The Wall Street Journal editorial page to Jeb Bush (when he’s not hedging) — want immigration reform. They know that no national Republican ticket can win without Hispanic voters. But the base that dominates the primary electorate loathes immigration reform — so much so that even Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, had to retreat from his original embrace of it to be a viable presidential contender. Hence, the question you ask is classic Catch-22: If the ultimate Republican presidential candidate does appropriate some part of Trump’s message to win the nomination, he will be as doomed as Mitt Romney was after he embraced “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants in 2012. Or more doomed, given the trajectory of the Hispanic population explosion in America.

John McCain played the crazy card with Sarah Palin

For all the other much-discussed factors contributing to the Trump boom — the power of celebrity, his “anti-politician” vibe, his freak-show outrageousness, his Don Rickles–style putdowns  — it is the substantive issue of immigration that remains the core of his appeal to his fans. That’s why Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are defending him; it’s why Bill Kristol did until last weekend. And those Republicans who are now demanding that he desist are mostly hypocrites. John McCain himself, after all, enabled and legitimized those Trump partisans he now dismisses as “crazies” by putting Sarah Palin on the ticket in 2008. Other GOP leaders waited too long to disown the conspiracy theories about the president’s birth certificate that Trump would eventually exploit to reboot his political aspirations. Romney ostentatiously courted and received Trump’s endorsement in 2012. Many of the Republican politicians now condemning Trump for attacking McCain’s heroism in Vietnam were silent (or worse) when John Kerry’s Vietnam heroism was Swift Boated in 2004.

Look in the mirror

The GOP can blame the media all it wants, but the party has no one to blame but itself for weaponizing Trump. It subsidized and encouraged the market for what Trump is now selling. Now the Republicans’ only really hope is that Trump will blow himself up, Herman Cain style. Maybe he will, and he certainly has no chance of getting the nomination no matter what he does. But in the meantime he can keep wreaking havoc. Nine other GOP candidates were onstage at the Ames, Iowa, forum last weekend where he trashed McCain, and no one remembers anything anyone else there said unless it was in response to Trump. The same may well happen at the first national debate on Fox News on August 6, which is likely (because of Trump, and much to his delight) to be the highest rated primary debate in history.

Even over the short term, the Republicans are clueless about how to deal with him; they keep playing into his hands. A classic example was yesterday, when John Kasich, regarded by some Republicans I know as perhaps the most substantive and qualified prospect the party has, announced his presidential candidacy. His announcement was drowned out not just by Trump, with his stunt of revealing Lindsey Graham’s private cell-phone number at a campaign event, but by Graham himself, who took the bait by taking to Twitter and television to joke about it — thereby making certain even a minor Trump stunt would keep depriving the rest of the GOP field of oxygen.

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  • Trump Is The Poison Republicans Concocted – In the New York Times, Timothy Egan gives credit where credit is due: “The adults patrolling the playpen of Republican politics are appalled that we’ve become a society where it’s O.K. to make fun of veterans, to call anyone who isn’t rich a loser, to cast an entire group of newly arrived strivers as rapists and shiftless criminals… They say he’s trashing the Republic brand. They say he’s “stirring up the crazies,” in the words of Senator John McCain. But Trump is the brand, to a sizable degree. And the crazies have long flourished in the Republican media wing, where any amount of gaseous buffoonery goes unchallenged… Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so — from birtherism to race-based hatred of immigrants, from nihilists who shut down government to elected officials who shout “You lie!” at their commander in chief… Consider Trump’s swipe against McCain’s military service, and by extension all veterans who have been involved in the fog of combat. Republicans were apoplectic at Trump’s claim that McCain was no war hero… Read the Rest

capitalismkeynes

Posted in 2015-07-27, Newsletter | Comments Off

Throwing In The Towel To Oligarchy: The I.R.S. Gives Up On The Throttlehold Of ‘Dark Money’ On Elections

 

buelahman.wordpress.com

 
The New York Times Editorial Board (7/25/15)

The federal government has all but surrendered to the powerful, rich donors whose anonymous contributions threaten to undermine the 2016 elections. The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, signaled as much on Thursday [7/23] when he told a House committee that there would be no change in the tax code in 2016 to end its growing abuse by political operatives using nonprofit “social welfare” institutions to disguise the identities of affluent campaign contributors.

“I don’t want people thinking we are trying to get these regs done so we can influence the election,” Mr. Koskinen declared later to reporters. The statement was remarkable for blessing further procrastination at the I.R.S., whose clear obligation is to enforce existing law in a way that would end the current flood of “dark money” financing politics. The commissioner said the earliest that tighter rules could take effect would be 2017. The I.R.S. has been increasingly timorous on this issue ever since House Republicans opened partisan hearings into complaints that I.R.S. officials have been biased against conservative political groups that claim tax exemptions as nonprofit social welfare groups.

The fact is, the I.R.S. should be dedicated to enforcing the law against phony social welfare claims by all political schemers, from the right or the left. This abuse of the tax law mushroomed after the Supreme Court’s reckless Citizens United decision in 2010 that ended limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions. Since 2006, when only $5.2 million was spent by exempt organizations that do not disclose donors, spending increased 60-fold, to more than $300 million in the 2012 presidential cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. An even bigger infusion is expected in 2016 from big-money donors shielded by the social welfare fiction.

Earlier this year, Mr. Koskinen declared that nonprofit social welfare groups could spend up to 49 percent of revenues on political activity and still keep their tax exemption. This ill-advised statement did not encourage optimism about a tightening of the code. It also contradicts existing law, upheld in court decisions, that these groups must be “operated exclusively to promote social welfare.”

Current regulations allow for some political activity provided it is not a group’s “primary” mission, but the notion that a group can use the social welfare shield to devote 49 percent of its revenues to electioneering is outrageous.

It is a gross insult to taxpayers to make them underwrite the brazen evasions of campaign operatives bundling dark money. The abuse is compounded by the latest I.R.S. retreat from its responsibility.

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Scan 6

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Ron Kind Doubles Down On Letting Your Medication Costs Soar Under Secretive Trade Deal

Rep. Kind  -- Dr. Big Pharma

Rep. Kind — Dr. Big Pharma

(Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2015. Open source and free to use with link to www.thedailycall.org )

 

(Editor’s Note: Working to represent the self-interest of the largest corporations you will note Rep. Ron Kind — who led Obama’s campaign to get fast track authority in House –didn’t even sign on to this mild request to keep medication costs down. — Mark L. Taylor)

Knowledge Ecology International (7/24/15)

Eleven of the 28 House Democrats who supported the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) Fast Track legislation have sent a letter to Ambassador Froman at the USTR [United States Trade Representative] on the topic of intellectual property rights and medicine in the TPP. The letter, which is moderate and cautious in substance, but overall helpful given where negotiations stand, closes by telling Ambassador Froman that “As members who support trade done right, we strongly believe that TPP must not inhibit access to lifesaving medicines.”

The letter endorses “strong protections for marketing exclusivity for test data,” but does not mention a specific term for biologic drugs. While not specifically addressing the need for and importance of having space for exceptions to the test data rights, the letter notes that:

“Additionally, we think it is critical a final TPP agreement include language ensuring IP obligations do not prevent member countries from taking measures to protect public health, and in particular, to promote access to all.”

The letter also states:

“We are concerned that the TPP would fail this scrutiny if it does not meet or exceed the standards set under the May 10th Agreement, reached by House Democrats and the Bush White House in 2007, with respect to timely access to affordable medicines in developing countries.”

The text of the letter is as follows (and is available here: http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/24July2015-11-pro-tpa-dems-TPP-a2m.pdf):

July 23, 2015.

Ambassador Michael Froman
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Froman:

We appreciate the hard work that you and your team have invested in advancing America’s interests in trade negotiations and your efforts to create the most progressive Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in history. The content and passage of TPA reflects that hard work.

Now that TPA is law, we write to emphasize what was said at our last meeting with the President: our support for TPA does not translate into automatic support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). At the conclusion of the negotiations, we will consider whether our constituents and country are better off with, or without, an agreement. Congress drafted TPA to provide the American people with an unprecedented opportunity to review the terms of the agreement. This long-overdue level of transparency requires that any final TPP agreement is able to withstand their careful scrutiny.

We are concerned that the TPP would fail this scrutiny if it does not meet or exceed the standards set under the May 10th Agreement, reached by House Democrats and the Bush White House in 2007, with respect to timely access to affordable medicines in developing countries.

Indeed, the recently passed TPA required USTR to both “ensure that trade agreements foster innovation and promote access to medicines.” In the United States, we have developed a system over time that has created the proper balance between these twin goals. We have strong intellectual property (IP) protections that support the world’s most innovative pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry. We also have incentives and safeguards that effectively encourage and allow generic competitors to enter the market when appropriate to lower costs over time. These rules are laid out in specialized provisions in the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act (Hatch-Waxman), the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), and the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) – which was included in the Affordable Care Act. An approach leading to similar outcomes should be secured in a final TPP agreement. A TPP that inhibits a balanced approach could unreasonably delay the timely and affordable access to medicines in certain TPP countries.

In an agreement spanning countries with diverse economies, we do not expect a one-size-fits-all approach to secure these outcomes. It is our hope that our negotiators pursue a balanced approach that reflects the varying degrees of economic development, legal traditions, and practices that exist within TPP countries. We believe this can be achieved by including an approach that’s equal to or stronger than the May 10th Agreement.

Central to the May 10th Agreement is the requirement that countries adopt procedures and remedies for the expeditious adjudication of disputes concerning both the infringement and validity of pharmaceutical patents. A truly progressive agreement will have strong protections for marketing exclusivity for test data, but in a way that also incentivizes manufacturers to seek marketing approval for new drugs in a developing country shortly after they receive such approval in the United States. It would also have alternatives to mandatory extensions for regulatory approval delays in developing countries, consistent with the balanced approach we hope our negotiators will pursue.

Additionally, we think it critical a final TPP agreement include language ensuring IP obligations do not prevent member countries from taking measures to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.

The TPP will also likely include IP provisions for biologic medicines. Although some consider biologics to be a novel issue that is going to be addressed for the first time in TPP, these medicines did exist at the time of the May 10th Agreement. Though the BPCIA, which created a path for generic approval of biologics, had not yet been passed, the May 10th Agreement embodies the principle that our trade agreements should incentivize innovation while ensuring access to medicines in developing countries. We urge our negotiators to consider this balance when determining how biologics will be addressed and to seek a regional standard that promotes both innovation and access to medicines in all partner countries.

A high standards agreement would ensure strong patent protections that promote both original and improvement inventions. Such a system promotes competition and leads to innovation.  Our previous agreements have protected this important objective by embracing the framework of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). We would hope that a final TPP agreement reflects, but does not exceed, the balanced approach for securing patents on both original and improvement inventions as outlined in TRIPS.

For the first time in a trade agreement, countries will have varying transition periods for implementing TPP’s IP obligations. The metric guiding each country’s implementation should not be arbitrary and should account for their respective levels of development, capacity, and existing practices.

As we continue our review of the TPP and highlight additional concerns, we urge you to give careful consideration to this request to clarify the intellectual property provisions as they relate to access to medicines. As members who support trade done right, we strongly believe that TPP must not inhibit access to lifesaving medicines. We look forward to continuing our work with you to ensure the Transpacific Partnership is as strong as possible and is worthy of widespread support, including ours.

Sincerely,

Earl Blumenhauer, Member of Congress
Susan A. Davis, Member of Congress
James A. Himes, Member of Congress
Donald S. Beyer, Jr., Member of Congress Susanne Bonamici, Member of Congress Jim Cooper, Member of Congress Sam Farr, Member of Congress Ruben Hinojosa, Member of Congress Eddie Bernice Johnson, Member of Congress Rick Larsen, Member of Congress Beto O’Rourke, Member of Congress

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  • If You’d Like To Learn More About The Many Ways Rep. Ron Kind Pimps and Pushes The Financial Interests Of His Corporate Donors & Sponsors, Check Out The Daily Call Archive Of The Congressman’s Betrayals Of Working Families In The Third Congressional District, HERE.

 

Posted in 2015-07-27, Newsletter | Tagged , | Comments Off