Oscar-nominated actor sent to jail

Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell is reporting to jail at 4 p.m. today in upstate New York after he was sentenced to a week behind bars for taking part in a nonviolent protest against a natural gas-fired power plant. Cromwell says he’ll also launch a hunger strike. He was one of six activists arrested for blocking traffic at the sit-in outside the construction site of the 650-megawatt plant in Wawayanda, New York, in December of 2015. The activists say the plant would promote natural gas fracking in neighboring states and contribute to climate change.

— source democracynow.org

Why Obama’s Big Cash-In Matters

One of my little online entertainments this year has been to ask my social media network a question: “So, what’s Obama up to lately?”

I want to know, but I haven’t had the stomach to follow the man once he left the White House.

Truth be told, I burned out on Obama years ago.

I called him out as a corporate, neoliberal imperialist and a de facto white supremacist (as ironic as that might sound given his technical blackness) from the beginning of the nationwide “Obamas” phenomenon in the summer of 2004.

Empire’s New Clothes

From 2006 through 2011, I dedicated inordinate research and writing to the “BaRockstar.” Prior to his 2009 inauguration (an event I found likely once George W. Bush defeated John F. Kerry in 2004), I tried to warn progressives (and anyone else who would listen) about Obama’s coming presidential service to the rich and powerful, their global empire and the white majority’s desire to deny the continuing power of anti-black racism in the United States. I collected my warnings in a 2008 book that bore the deceptively neutral title “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.”

I continued to follow Obama closely. In 2010, my next book, “The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power,” detailed his dutiful fealty to the nation’s “deep state” masters of capital and empire (and to white majority opinion on race) during his first year in the White House. This volume exhaustively refuted partisan Democrats who insisted that Obama really wanted to do progressive things but was prevented from that by a Republican Congress. It was a nonsensical claim. Year One Obama had just won the presidency with a great voter mandate for progressive change and had a Democratic Congress. He could have steered well to the wide left of his corporate-center-right trajectory if he’d wanted. But he didn’t want to, consistent with Adolph Reed Jr.’s dead-on description of Obama after the future president first won elected office in Illinois:

In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program—the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.

By acting in accord with Reed’s retrospectively haunting early description, the “deeply conservative” President Obama ironically helped create the very Republican “Tea Party” Congress his loyal liberal defenders were then able to cite as the excuse for his right-wing policymaking. Governing progressively in 2009 and 2010 would have been good politics for the Democrats. It might well have pre-empted the “Teapublican” victories of 2010.

You’ve Got to Meet Real Socialists

But that’s not what “Wall Street Barry” was about. He was a Hamilton Project, Robert Rubin-sponsored actor who never would have gotten the elite backing he needed to prevail had he been the peoples’ champion so many voters dreamed him to be.

Obama set new Wall Street election fundraising records for a reason in 2008. “It’s not always clear what Obama’s financial backers want,” Ken Silverstein noted in a fall 2006 Harper’s Magazine report titled “Obama, Inc.,” “but it seems safe to conclude that his campaign contributors are not interested merely in clean government and political reform. … On condition of anonymity, one Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’ The lobbyist added: ‘What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?’ ”

After his 2012 re-election, Obama spoke at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. “When you go to other countries,” Obama told the corporate chieftains, “the political divisions are so much more stark and wider. Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans—we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines. … People call me a socialist sometimes. But no, you’ve got to meet real socialists. [Laughter.] I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health care reform is based on the private marketplace.”

It was what the socialist writer and activist Danny Katch called “a touching ruling class moment.”

The warm feelings made good capitalist sense. Fully 95 percent of the nation’s new income went to the top 1 percent during Obama’s first term. Obama won his second term partly by appropriating populist rhetoric from an Occupy Wall Street movement he’d helped dismantle with infiltration and force in the fall and winter of 2011. He did this after keeping Wall Street so comfortably bailed out and restored that plutocracy could reach the point where the top U.S. thousandth owned more wealth than the bottom U.S. 90 percent.

Obama Burnout

Documenting Obama’s predictable and predicted (by me and others on the officially marginalized left) betrayal of his “progressive base” was unpleasant and tiring work. The 44th president was an Energizer Bunny when it came to advancing the wolfish agenda of the rich, white and imperial in fake progressive sheep’s clothing.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was way into wielding the American empire’s maiming and killing machine in Africa and the Middle East. His not-so-precisely targeted assassination drone program became what Noam Chomsky would aptly describe as “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times.”

“Turns out I’m pretty good at killing people,” Obama once joked to his White House staff.

Funny guy.

It became nauseating history to closely track. I started to feel like the Martin Sheen character (Capt. Willard) after too much exposure to the sociopath Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in the movie “Apocalypse Now.” I had to step back.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

So it is with a certain unmistakable tone of bemused cynicism that I ask my online correspondents: “What’s Obama up to now?”

The answers have been darkly amusing.

Post-presidential “O” has been spotted kiteboarding in the Caribbean with Richard Branson, the British billionaire airline mogul, who is leading the charge for the privatization of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

Ex-prez “O” has been seen boating in the Pacific with Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen on a $300 million luxury yacht owned by recording mogul billionaire David Geffen.

Before that we learned that the Obamas reached an eight-figure publishing deal ($65 million) for his-and-her memoirs on their years in the White House.

And then we learned that Obama will speak for $400,000 at a Wall Street health care conference in September, hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P.

Nothing says “show me the money” like POTUS on your resume. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose bust sat behind Obama in the Oval Office, would not be pleased. The great civil rights leader and democratic socialist sternly refused to cash in on his fame.

The Times Disheartened, Bernie Disappointed

The New York Times editorial board felt compelled to criticize the coming Wall Street speech. On Monday, the Times’ editors opined:

It is disheartening that a man whose historic candidacy was premised on a moral examination of politics now joins almost every modern president in cashing in. And it shows surprising tone deafness, more likely to be expected from the billionaires the Obamas have vacationed with these past months than from a president keenly attuned to the worries and resentments of the 99 percent. … It’s the example he set that makes it jarring to see him conform to a lamentable post-presidential model created fairly recently, in historical terms.

The editors offer a limited and naïve critique. They are happy with the Obamas’ book deal, which dwarfs the speaking fee. They overlook the fact that Obama’s candidacy was premised on a quiet, behind-the-scenes promise to serve wealthy benefactors.

Obama was/is “keenly attuned to the worries and resentments of the 99 percent.” Really? He was so attuned that he:

● Bailed out the 1 percent with no questions asked, with no financial transactions tax advanced, after they crashed the national and global economy with their reckless selfishness.

● Made zero efforts to re-legalize union organizing (his campaign promise to push the Employee Free Choice Act was kicked to the curb from Day One).

● Passed a Republican health insurance reform (minus even a limited public option) that only the big insurance companies could love.

● Advanced a Grand Bargain that went beyond what the Republicans asked for when it came to assaulting Social Security and Medicare during the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis.

● Failed to prevent his Department of Homeland Security from joining with Democratic-run cities across the U.S. to in crushing the Occupy Movement (which coined the slogan “We are the 99 percent”) through brute force.

● Spent much of his second term trumpeting the darkly authoritarian and secretive, arch-global corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Do the Times’ editors recall presidential candidate Obama’s April 2008 description of Midwestern rural and working-class people as folks who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”?

Bernie Sanders felt also compelled to speak out against Obama’s coming high-priced speaking date. He probably didn’t have much choice given that he built much of his primary campaign around criticism of Hillary Clinton’s big-money Wall Street speeches. “I think at a time when people are so frustrated with the power of Wall Street and the big-money interests,” Sanders told “CBS This Morning” on Friday, “it is unfortunate that President Obama is doing this. Wall Street has incredible power, and I would have hoped that the president would not have given a speech like this.”

That was a silly thing for which to hope, given Obama’s track record. Obama’s big cash-in is more evidence that he is precisely who some of us on the left said he was from the beginning.

The Ultimate Owner of the Deep State

None of Obama’s post-White House indulgence in the means and culture of hyper-affluence is surprising or shocking to anyone who has followed his history and career—or, more importantly, to anyone who has paid attention to the many methods by which the moneyed elite controls U.S. politics and policy. Offering politicos big paydays after they’ve spent years working at moderate taxpayer-ceilinged salaries in not-so “public service” is a significant way in which the finance-led corporate sector get what it wants from government.

As Mike Lofgren noted in his widely read book “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government”: “Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career beyond what is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice—certainly beyond the dreams of a government salaryman” [emphasis added].

Smart “public” officials who want to live super-comfortably after stints on the government side of the great state-capitalist revolving door know better than to antagonize the ruling class that lives behind the marionette theater of electoral and parliamentary politics in the “visible state.”

Make That Money, Obama

What is just as troubling, if not more disturbing, is the readiness of many “liberal” Democrats to defend Obama’s right to cash in on his eight years serving the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. “Who cares if Obama gets really rich now?” the line goes. “He worked his butt off. They all do it. Why shouldn’t he? Why should a black former president not cash in? White ones all do. You’re just jealous, and maybe a little racist, too. There’s lots of rich people, including lots of rich former elected officials. If Bill Clinton and Republican pigs like Newt Gingrich can do it, then why shouldn’t Barack Obama?”

The New York Times’ editors are right, of course, to note that “since Gerald Ford enriched himself with speaking fees and board memberships after leaving office, every former president but Jimmy Carter has supped often at the corporate table.”

These sorts of rationales for the Great Obama Cash-In are ubiquitous on “social media” and the comments sections attached to news reports on Obama’s forthcoming speaking fee. You can find them in the published and broadcast commentaries of established media pundits and talking heads. Check out this rant by Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show,” in which Noah elicits liberal laughter with these snarky and venal reflections:

“I agree the system must change, but it doesn’t change with Obama, all right? People are, like, why doesn’t he not accept the money? No, f—k that! No. No. [Cheers.] I’m sorry. The first black president must be the first one to not take money off us? No, no, no, my friend. He can’t be the first of everything. F—k [bleep] that and f—k [bleep] you. Yeah, I said it.” [Cheers and applause.]

“No! Make that money, Obama. Make that money. ‘But Obama should know better!’ What about the Clintons? ‘Yeah, well, the Clintons, it’s already done.’ Well, let him already ‘done it’ as well and you guys can start [bleep] the first white president to not take the money. [Bleep] you. Obama, make that money. Make that money.” [Applause.]

No Racial Double Standard

Where to begin in responding to such excuse-making? It is futile, I suppose, to deny that one wants to live a life of fabulous wealth. If you are a lefty, you probably don’t aspire to opulence, but good luck trying to tell many Americans otherwise. They’ve been indoctrinated to believe that the pursuit of riches is “human nature” (something that raises the question of what species we should assign to such historical persons as Gandhi, King and Marx).

The racism charge falsely assumes that one only opposes cashing in when it comes to a black politician. Any decent progressive is concerned about corporate and financial corruption as a problem in and of itself. The relevant color here is green, green as in money. I don’t care what color a “democratically elected” president is. I want him “working his butt off” for we the people, not the already super-rich and powerful.

I do not support the killing of unarmed inner-city youth by white police officers if I oppose the killing of unarmed inner-city youth by black police officers. I do not support a white congressman’s call for confrontation with Russia if I oppose a black congresswoman’s concurrence with that call. I do not support the paying of outrageous speaking fees by financial institutions to the technically white Bill and/or Hillary Clinton if I happen to oppose the paying of outrageous speaking fees to the technically black Barack Obama by the same institutions.

I oppose police killings of unarmed youth, OK? I oppose the corruption of politics and policy by the promise of obscene payouts to politicians and policymakers after they leave the public sector, all right? I oppose imperialism, get it?

Big money subversion of what’s left of American democracy is why it should matter to any decent liberal or progressive that a former president of any color is cashing in.

Bad Politics

It should matter on practical as well as moral grounds. Like the Clintons’ sellout, the Obamas’ big cash-in adventure is ammunition for the right-wing monsters in and atop the Republican Party these days. It adds dark empirical substance to the all-too-accurate charge that they, too, are an elitist, corporate-captive party. The story of Obama cashing in and playing around with the rich and famous is the perfect clickbait for right-wing, white nationalists at Breitbart News. It’s the perfect story for Fox News and right-wing talk radio in their efforts to keep the white working class on board with the arch-plutocratic GOP. This is what concerns the New York Times’ honchos the most. As the paper’s editors put it:

As the presidential election clarified so painfully, the traditional party of working people has lost touch with them. In a poll released last week, more than two-thirds of voters, including nearly half of Democrats themselves, said the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of the American people. For the first time in memory, Democrats are seen as more out of touch with ordinary Americans than the party’s political opponents. There’s little doubt that Democratic leaders’ unseemly attachment to the party’s wealthiest donors contributed to that indictment.

Not that I’m in the business of advising the dismal Democrats, but getting behind Obama’s post-presidential book bonanza and Wall Street speaking windfalls is just dumb in partisan and electoral terms. That kind of selfish indulgence is no small part of why the radically regressive Republicans control all three branches of the federal government and most of the state governments in a nation that understandably hates the Republican Party.

Liberals are free to retort that Trump’s regressive tax plan is yet more proof that he is not the pro-working-class populist he claimed to be on the campaign trail but is instead the arch-plutocrat we on the left said he was.

Nobody with a clue on the left side of the spectrum thought that Trump’s populism wasn’t hypocritical. The problem is that so many liberals and progressives who should know better can’t see through the game as well when charismatic and silver-tongued Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama play it.

— source truthdig.com by Paul Street

The Empire Expands

Not the American One, But Trump’s

President Trump, his children and their spouses, aren’t just using the Oval Office to augment their political legacy or secure future riches. Okay, they certainly are doing that, but that’s not the most useful way to think about what’s happening at the moment. Everything will make more sense if you reimagine the White House as simply the newest branch of the Trump family business empire, its latest outpost.

It turns out that the voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump, the patriarch, got a package deal for his whole clan. That would include, of course, first daughter Ivanka who, along with her husband, Jared Kushner, is now a key political adviser to the president of the United States. Both now have offices in the White House close to him. They have multiple security clearances, access to high-level leaders whenever they visit the Oval Office or Mar-a-Lago, and the perfect formula for the sort of brand-enhancement that now seems to come with such eminence. President Trump may have an exceedingly “flexible” attitude toward policymaking generally, but in one area count on him to be stalwart and immobile: his urge to run the White House like a business, a family business.

The ways that Jared, “senior adviser to the president,” and Ivanka, “assistant to the president,” have already benefited from their links to “Dad” in the first 100 days of his presidency stagger the imagination. Ivanka’s company, for instance, won three new trademarks for its products from China on the very day she dined with President Xi Jinping at her father’s Palm Beach club.

In a similar fashion, thanks to her chance to socialize with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, her company could be better positioned for deal negotiations in his country. One of those perks of family power includes nearing a licensing agreement with Japanese apparel giant Sanei International, whose parent company’s largest stakeholder is the Development Bank of Japan — an entity owned by the Japanese government. We are supposed to buy the notion that the concurrent private viewing of Ivanka’s products in Tokyo was a coincidence of the scheduling fairy. Yet since her father became president, you won’t be surprised to learn that global sales of her merchandise have more or less gone through the roof.

Here’s where things get tricky. We can’t pinpoint the exact gains generated from any one meeting of the next generation Trump. They rely on the idea that, because their brand was so huge to begin with, profits and deals would have come anyway. That’s why we won’t ever see their books or tax returns.

Conflicts of interest? They now permeate the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but none of this will affect or change one thing President Trump holds dear — and believe it or not, it’s not the wishes of his base in the American heartland. It’s advancing his flesh and blood, and their flesh-and-blood-once-removed spouses and relatives.

Federal Regulations and Trump Family Interpretations

The Trumps and Kushners will behave in ways that will benefit their global businesses. There’s just one catch. They have to get away with it, legally speaking. So the first law of family business in the Oval Office turns out to be: get stellar legal counsel. And they’ve done that. Their lawyers have by now successfully created trusts that theoretically — but only theoretically — separate Ivanka from her businesses and deflect any accusations over activities that may, now or in the future, violate federal rules. And there are two of those in particular to consider.

The Code of Federal Regulations is a set of rules published by the executive departments and agencies of the government. Title 18 section 208 of that code deals with “acts affecting a personal financial interest.” This criminal conflict of interest statute states “an officer or employee of the executive branch of the United States Government” can’t have a “financial interest” in the result of their duties. What that should mean, legally speaking, for a family occupying the executive office is: Ivanka could not have dinner with the president of China while her business was applying for and receiving provisional approval of pending trademarks from his country, if one of those acts might impact the other. To an outsider, the connection between those acts seems obvious enough and it’s bound to be typical of what’s to come.

Meanwhile, there are real penalties for being convicted of violating this rule. These include fines or imprisonment or both as set forth in section 216 of Title 18.

Certain lawyers have argued that Ivanka’s and Jared’s appointments don’t violate Rule 208 or other nepotism statutes because they are not paid advisers to the president. In other words, because Ivanka doesn’t get a salary for her service to her… uh, country… conflicts automatically vanish. She’s already done her Trumptilian best to demonstrate her affinity for ethical behavior by cordoning herself off from her business responsibilities (sort of). According to the New York Times, “Ivanka has transferred her brand’s assets into a trust overseen by her brother-in-law, Josh Kushner, and sister-in-law, Nicole Meyer.” Phew, no family connections there! Or maybe she just doesn’t care for her siblings-in-law.

But not all assets, it turns out, are created equal. So the daughter-in-chief will, it seems, keep her stake in the Trump International Hotel, a 15-minute stroll from the White House, which just happens to boast “the Ivanka Trump Suite” and “The Spa by Ivanka Trump.” (“The Spa by Ivanka Trump™ and Fitness Center transitions guests from the Technogym setting of the Fitness Center to the tranquil spa haven that is calming, balancing, purifying, revitalizing, and healing…”) There, many a foreign diplomat or special interest mogul can “calm, energize, [and] restore” himself or herself, while angling for an “in” with the family. We don’t know precisely the nature of what the Trump family stands to gain from the hotel because its books aren’t made public, but it’s reasonable to assume that we’re not talking losses. Besides this other D.C. domain, Ivanka and Jared will remain the beneficiaries of their mutual business empires now valued at about three quarters of a billion dollars, according to White House ethics filings.

But wait. There’s an even more explicit rule against using public office (like, say, the White House) for private gain: Title 5 section 2635.702. On that subject, the section states that “an employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service, or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.”

Okay, that’s wordy. And though the rule doesn’t apply to the president or vice president — we have Nelson Rockefeller to thank for that, but more on him later — for any other executive office position, the rule explains that “status as an employee is unaffected by pay or leave status.” That means that you can’t say someone is not an employee just because she isn’t drawing a paycheck, which means she isn’t, in fact, exempt just because she can’t show a W-2 form.

The second rule of family business is undoubtedly: control the means of enforcement. And President Trump just got his man onto the Supreme Court, so even if ethical charges rose to the highest court in the land, the family has at least a little insurance.

Bankers and Presidents: A Walk Through History

The idea of powerful bloodlines collaborating is nothing new in either business or politics. At the turn of the twentieth century, mogul families routinely intermarried to spawn yet more powerful and profitable business empires. And when it comes to Oval Office politics, American history is littered with multi-generational public servants with blood ties to presidents. Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert, a Republican, served as secretary of war in the administrations of Presidents James Garfield and Chester Arthur, and finally as U.S. minister to Great Britain during President Benjamin Harrison’s administration. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s son, John, became a decorated brigadier-general, served as assistant staff secretary in the White House while his father was in office and was later appointed ambassador to Belgium under President Richard Nixon (once his father’s vice-president). But neither of them inflated the coffers of the family business in the process.

Whether family business connections might influence prominent figures in the White House isn’t a subject new to the Trump era either. In 1974, when Gerald Ford, who took over the presidency after Richard Nixon’s impeachment, nominated Nelson Rockefeller to be his vice president, Nelson’s brother David ran the Chase Manhattan Bank (now JPMorgan Chase). Questions naturally arose about the notorious wealth and political reach of the Rockefeller family. Nelson, the grandson of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, had even worked at the bank and had been on the boards of multiple oil companies.

That same year, the Department of Justice conveniently concluded that conflict of interest laws did not apply to the office of the vice president — but not before Democratic Senator Robert Byrd asked, “Can’t we at least agree… that the influence is there, that it is a tremendous influence, that it is more influence than any president or vice president ever had?” And yet, as fabulously wealthy and linked in as Nelson Rockefeller was, his situation doesn’t even compare to the family business tangle in the Trump White House.

There have been other family members than the Trumps and Jared Kushner in positions of significance in the White House. When, for instance, Woodrow Wilson fell gravely ill in 1919, his second wife, Edith, stepped in to act on his behalf, essentially running the government in a blanket of secrecy from his bedside. Her intention, however, was never to make hay with a family business, but to ensure that her husband’s policies prevailed. The two Bush presidents, with a business and banking legacy that snaked back a century, were elected, not handed power. And though Bill Clinton’s reign in the Oval Office enabled wife Hillary to garner enough public recognition (and banking connections) to successfully run for senator in New York State, become secretary of state under President Obama, and launch two ultimately unsuccessful presidential bids, the Clintons only became super-wealthy after Bill’s time in office. Though their charity foundation’s ties to foreign governments remain suspect, they never had a private business while Bill was in the White House.

What can’t be found in the historical record is someone’s child, wife, or relations holding court in the West Wing while expanding a family business, no less a network of them. The present situation, in other words, is unique in the annals of American history. Only 100 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, he already has something of the look of the authoritarian kleptocrats elsewhere on the planet who siphon state wealth into their own bank accounts and businesses.

And remember, the Trump empire is also the Kushner empire. Jared’s family business depends on global investors hailing from countries that just happen to be in his White House portfolio. He, for example, led the efforts to prepare for the state visit to Mar-a-Lago of the Chinese president (while the Kushner business was engaged in high-level talks with a major Chinese financial conglomerate). A Russian state-owned bank under U.S. sanctions whose chairman met with Jared in December referred to him as the head of Kushner Companies, though he was already visibly if not yet officially a Trump adviser.

He is similarly the administration’s point man for Middle East “peace,” even though his family has financial relationships with Israel. Meanwhile, in his role as head of the newly formed White House Office of American Innovation, the potential opportunities to fuse government and private business opportunities are likely to prove endless.

Nepotism on Parade

Faced with the dynasty-crushing possibility of selling his business or even placing it in a blind trust, Donald Trump chose instead to let his two older sons, Eric and Donald Jr., manage it. Talk about smoke and mirrors. While speaking with Forbes in March, Eric indicated that he would provide his father with updates on the Trump Organization “quarterly” — but who truly believes that father and sons won’t discuss the family empire far more frequently than that?

The family has already racked up a laundry list of global conflicts of interest that suggest ways in which the White House is likely to become a moneymaking vehicle for the Trump line. There’s Turkey, for instance, where the Trump Organization already has a substantial investment, and where President Trump recently called President Recip Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on his power-grabbing, anti-democratic victory in a disputed election to change the country’s constitution. Given Trump business interests globally, you could multiply that call by the world.

Meanwhile, Ivanka’s brand isn’t just doing business as usual, it’s killing it. Since 2017, according to the Associated Press, “global sales of Ivanka Trump merchandise have surged.” As a sign of that, the brand’s imports, mostly from China, have more than doubled over the previous year. As for her husband, he remained the CEO of Kushner Companies through January, only then abdicating his management role in that real-estate outfit and 58 other businesses, though remaining the sole primary beneficiary of most of the associated family trusts. His and Ivanka’s children are secondary beneficiaries. That means any policy decision he promotes could, for better or worse, affect the family business and it doesn’t take a genius to know which of those options he’s likely to choose.

Kleptocrats, Inc.

Despite an already mind-boggling set of existing conflicts of interest, ranging from business affiliations with oligarchs connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to the Secret Service and the Pentagon leasing space in Trump Tower (for at least $3 million per year), the Trump family business is now looking to the glorious, long haul. The family is already scouting for a second hotel in Washington. Trump has reportedly used nearly $500,000 from early campaign money raised for his own 2020 presidential bid to bolster the biz. It’s evidently been poured into “Trump-owned restaurants, hotels and golf clubs,” as well as rent at Trump Tower in New York City.

According to the latest polls, the majority of registered voters believe that the installation of Ivanka and Jared in the White House is inappropriate. But that could matter less to Donald Trump. Ask Stephen Bannon or Chris Christie what happens when Ivanka or Jared don’t like you. That’s the family version of mob-style power.

Ivanka noted in her book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, that “in business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.” Except, of course, when your father is president and he hands you the keys to grow the family business on a silver platter.

Four decades ago, at a Senate hearing on his potential conflicts of interest, Vice President Rockefeller was asked, “Can you separate the interests of big business from the national interest when they differ?” It’s a question some senator should pose to Ivanka and Jared, replacing “big business” with “big family business.”

Making the future yet murkier, the family may be on the precipice of major problems. The most striking of them: Kushner’s marquee building, 666 Fifth Ave (an 80-story, ultra-luxury Manhattan skyscraper) has a greater than 25% vacancy rate. It hasn’t made enough money to even cover its interest payments for several years, and in two years it will have to pay principal as well on its $1.2 billion mortgage. That’s going to hurt if foreign companies don’t step in to staunch the flow of dollars out of the firm and that, undoubtedly, could require a quid pro quo or two.

In our era, it’s no secret that presidents leave office with the promise of quickly growing exponentially wealthier. But for the first family to gain such wealth while still in the White House would be a first. Yet the process that could make that possible already seems to be well underway. All this, as Donald Trump, his children, and his son-in-law continue to carve out an unprecedented role for themselves as America’s business-managers-in-chief, presiding not so much over the country as over their own expanding imperial domains.

— source tomdispatch.com by Nomi Prins

Fascist America came out of shadow

Henry Giroux

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

Monday night kicked off the Republican Convention in Cleveland. The theme of the evening was Make America Safe Again, and how will Donald Trump and his allies accomplish this. Well, according to our next clip, Americans live in fear. And here’s Rudy Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI: They fear for their children. They fear for themselves. They fear for our police officers who are being targeted with a target on their back. It’s time to make America safe again. It’s time to make America one again. One America. What happened, what happened to, what happened to there’s no black America, there’s no white America, there is just America? What happened to it? Where did it go? How has it flown away?

JAY: The symbol of, the spokesperson at the convention for American policing and how this safety will be regained, and how to regain the America Giuliani is talking about was Sheriff David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County. Here’s what he had to say.

DAVID CLARKE: What we witnessed in Ferguson, in Baltimore, and Baton Rouge was a collapse of the social order. So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcends peaceful protest and violates the code of conduct we rely on. I call it anarchy.

JAY: People live in fear. We’re on the edge of anarchy. Sounds like the language from the late 1940s and early 1950s during McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Then it was I was a communist for the FBI, that was on television. We were all living in fear every day the world was going to explode, and we needed the American military. Now the country is about to unravel and we need a strong police force and a stronger social order.

Now joining us to talk about the Republican Convention, the candidacy of Donald Trump, and whether or not this represents a form of neofascism in the United States is Henry Giroux. Henry joins us from Hamilton, Ontario, where he’s a professor of scholarship in the public interest at McMaster University, and his most recent book, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle, and his new book about to come out, America at War with Itself. He’s also a regular contributor at Truthout. Thanks very much for joining us, Henry.

HENRY GIROUX: It’s a pleasure, Paul, to be here.

JAY: So there’s a real debate going on amongst much of America. Certainly progressive, liberal America, about whether or not Trump and his candidacy, first of all, does it represent a form of neofascism? And then second of all, this issue of greater and lesser evil vis-a-vis Trump and Clinton. Let’s start with part one of this debate, which is is this a form of neofascism? Or is this kind of a maverick, big personality, right populist who actually kind of speaks in some ways to some of the economic concerns of the American working class?

GIROUX: I think it’s very difficult to simply see Trump as some sort of eccentric populist who sort of came out of nowhere, who was able to identify so many concerns that a number of Americans have about being left out of a system that basically celebrates everything that the financial elite finds rewarding.

I mean, I think the forces at work that have created Trump have been sort of building for a long time. And I think it is a form of neofascism I would call a new form of American authoritarianism. I mean, it mimics many of the things that we saw in the ’30s and ’40s, what we saw in Argentina, now the call to make America great again, the notion that shared fears are more important than shared responsibilities, the assumption that there are people both in the United States and abroad who represent some kind of common enemy, whether they’re Muslims, whether they’re the black lives movement, whether they’re protesters, whether they’re young people, whether they’re immigrants. I mean, this is a very decisive, dangerous language.

What does it mean to have a candidate who basically celebrates war crimes? What does it mean to have a candidate who refuses to speak to the fact that much of his following, an increasing number of his followers, are white nationalists and neonazis? It’s pretty hard to simply suggest that Trump is simply an eccentric populist. I mean, I don’t buy that, and I think we need to look deep into the history of this country, whether we’re talking about its beginning right up until Reagan in the 1980s to recognize the forces at work. I mean, this is a system that radiates violence, and he’s become the most outspoken apologist for it.

JAY: The language that we just played in the clips, especially I thought from the Sheriff David Clarke, this is word-for-word out of Hitlerite language, the fear of anarchy. We must reinforce the social order. He had a fairly well-viraled article with a CNN host where he actually denied that blacks are targeted more often than whites are, either in being stopped by police officers [in] cars, and so on. You know, driving while black, as it’s called.

The out-and-out kind of lies that can be told, the out-and-out denial of basic evidence of what’s going on, they’ve been able through the various media, Fox and otherwise, a significant section of the American people, and apparently maybe half of American voters–although I think it’s important to always remind everyone that leaves out about 40 percent of people who don’t vote–but a significant amount of American people are so willing to believe this is somehow in their interest. And this tills the soil for a much more overt and barbaric form of hypercapitalism.

GIROUX: I think you’re absolutely right. I think you’ve hit on something that in many ways the left has seemed to ignore, and that is the crisis of politics, the crisis of agency, the crisis of history, the crisis of ethics, it’s not being matched by a process of ideas. I mean, we don’t realize the degree to which education has become central to politics itself in ways that speak to cultural apparatuses that dominate the mainstream media and other sources that are constantly producing what I call a disimagination machine, one in which evidence doesn’t matter, reason is simply ignored, evidence, again, is thrown out the window. Civic literacy is viewed as a liability, that it’s more important, basically, to be stupid than to think.

I mean, you know, Hannah Arendt had said something interesting. I mean, among other things. She said that thoughtlessness is the [instance] of fascism. And I think the right understands this, and I think the right uses the media as a giant pedagogical machine to constantly constantly reproduce lies to appeal to the basest instincts of the American public to distort history, to erase all those public spheres where actually matters of thoughtfulness and political dialog and engagement can actually take place.

I mean, it’s part of the reasons we see the attack on schools. Schools are not being attacked because they’re failing. They’re being attacked because they’re public. Because they represent a public sphere that offers a threat to the very thing that you’re talking about: this massive right-wing disimagination machine, whether we’re talking about the media, or whether we’re talking about conservative institutes, or whether we’re talking about the corporatization of eduction, or whether we’re talking about the Koch brothers and all these foundations. These people are engaged in a massive attempt to erase history, to erase memory, to basically live in the instant, in the moment. And in fact, it convinced people that the truth really is nothing more than an opinion.

JAY: And I think there’s another piece to this which we’re starting to see more revealed during this convention, which is the ideological tilling the soil for this kind of more overt authoritarianism and neofascism, is one very important piece. But if you actually look at the political alliances Trump is making, you can see how he might execute on these things. It was only just a few weeks ago that Sheldon Adelson, the far-right Likud, far-right Zionist supporter, pledged about $25 million to the Trump campaign. We can see that’s one set of alliances.

But the fact that he picks Pence as his vice president–Pence couldn’t be more pro-Likud and pro-right-wing Zionist than Adelson. I mean, Pence is in the same political camp. Pence is also very connected to the Koch brothers, so he’s now maybe made peace with the Koch brothers, who didn’t know whether to trust him in the first place. Now the Republican establishment see Pence as sort of their man in the game, there. And Pence’s biggest message in the 60 Minutes interview, sorry we don’t have the clip right now, but essentially on international affairs his fundamental message was the source of all international chaos, disturbance, and so on is the weakening of American power. And the solution was to increase American power. That’s part of making America great again.

And part of that is echoing the, again, Netanyahu’s railing against the agreement, Obam’as agreement with Iran. And this was espoused at the convention by Rudy Giuliani, again. So let’s–here’s a clip from Giuliani about how he thinks world affairs should be dealt with.

GIULIANI: To defeat Islamic extremist terrorists, we must put them on defense. If they are at war against us, which they have declared, we must commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them. This includes undoing one of the worst deals America ever made: Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, that will eventually–that will eventually let them become a nuclear power, and is putting billions of dollars back into a country that’s the world’s largest supporter of terrorism. We are actually giving them the money to fund the terrorists who are killing us and our allies. We are giving them the money. Are we crazy?

JAY: The number of lies in that one short clip is somewhat astounding. Clearly, if there’s any one country that is funding terrorism that is coming to attack America it’s Saudi Arabia, not Iran. And it’s–anyone that knows anything about the region knows Iran is in fact kind of a balance against Saudi Arabia, and has actually allied with the United States, both in terms of fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, fighting terrorist tactics and extreme Islamic, Al-Qaeda-type forces in Iraq, and so on. And that the agreement with Iran is probably the only real significant foreign policy accomplishment that was any good under the Obama administration. But the fact that that gets conflated with Iran is the one financing the terrorists that are coming to attack America is ridiculous when anyone knows it’s the Saudis and to some extent the Qataris, and maybe Kuwait.

As well, the fundamental issue of unconditional war. What does unconditional war mean? It means what? Massive troops? It means carpet bombing? It means nuclear weapons? I mean, that seems to be what the definition of what unconditional war would mean. Hyperaggressive foreign policy talk. And even though–go ahead, Henry.

GIROUX: I think that what’s interesting here, and what you touched upon ultimately, is that we now live in a society in which politics is an extension of war. And I think that what it speaks to is a form of militarization that not only characterizes an obscene foreign policy, one in which has resulted, as we all know, in 1.2 million deaths as a result of, since 9/11, as a result of the wars that are being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan. But I think the other side of this is that when war–when politics becomes an extension of war, then the war comes home. I mean, the same kind of militarization that dominates that sort of mindset, the notion that violence is basically the ultimate form of mediation and is used to address almost every problem on both the foreign and domestic front, you begin to see the countours of fascism, neofascism, more clearly.

I mean, think about what that means at home. You have the rise of a punishing state. You have increasingly a number of institutions that have been modeled after prisons. You have the criminalization of social behavior. You have a country steeped in lawlessness. You have cities being turned into war zones, particularly those occupied by minorities of class and color. You have a police force that seems to act with impunity. And then you hear this discourse. And this discourse is one that is not only incredibly distorted, but it’s one that basically is saying that hey, look, state and domestic and foreign terrorism are really the sine qua non of how we’re going to define ourselves.

And I don’t think that that discourse is simply aimed at, you know, the right-wing populace who support Trump. I think it’s also a way of saying that everybody else, watch out. You should be fearful, because we’re going to use every instrument of warfare, every militarized instrument, every war technology, every mode of surveillance that we can to make sure that you understand that dissent in this America and that America is basically unpatriotic. You’re right. It does echo the ’50s. It does echo the 1930s. But it also echoes something else. It echoes what went on in Argentina, in Chile, when people started disappearing. This is a politics of disappearance. This is a politics the endpoint of which are concentration camps. This is the endpoint here, internment centers. This is the death of democracy. This is not basically a struggle over populism, right wing or whatever. This is a struggle for whether you want to live in a democracy or not.

JAY: The big lies in Giuliani’s speech are at the same scale–never mind of Hitler–but of Cheney and Bush when they say Saddam Hussein supported Al-Qaeda. When later even they had to admit it wasn’t true to some extent, they had to admit. But it was clearly, there was no support for Al-Qaeda. This defense of not talking about Saudi Arabia, the targeting of Iran, this is clearly the agenda of a Sheldon Adelson. This is Likud. This is switch-and-bait to talk about terrorism and then target Iran, which means that’s the kind of foreign policy that we’re likely to see under the, under a Trump presidency, and this is what he’s surrounding himself with.

GIROUX: I think, though, [Chomsky] is entirely right on this. I mean, the foreign policy that we’re going to see under a Trump presidency is one in which there is an enormous potential not only for massive wars all over the planet, but also for a nuclear holocaust. I mean, there are two–the two major threats, it seems to me, that the world faces, one is the possibility of a nuclear war, and secondly, of course, the environmental crisis. And I think that when I think of how stupid Trump is, when I think of the people he surrounds himself with, when I think of the bellicosity and the lies that informs almost everything that he does, and I think of a media that doesn’t hold him accountable, except for the alternative media, like your show. I mean, then it’s not surprisingly that questions of war and questions of injustice, the United States is a breeding ground for injustice and domestic terrorism.

This all becomes normalized. You know, it seems to exist in a kind of void that neoliberals had created and which they tend to believe that economic activity has no social cost. You don’t have to talk about its accountability. When accountability dies, lawlessness emerges. And I think that’s what we have here. We have a party of utter lawlessness, in its most abject, unapologetic form.

JAY: And the media treats these, this election coverage, as they have to have a kind of sort of balance. They can’t go too hard after Republicans or they’ll be seen as being partisan to the Democrats. This is–part of what’s underneath this, I’ve been pointing out in some of my stuff, recently, they earn about $6 billion a year in election advertising, and perhaps more in a year like this. So they have a very deep economic interest in creating this supposed sense of balance in this coverage.

But both of us in our writings have been pointing out that all of this Trump phenomena, this rise of neofascism, which is more than a Trump phenomena, it’s all enabled by eight years of Obama. And then you can throw in Bush, and you can certainly throw in Clinton, and so on. And back, as you say, at the beginning of this hyper-capitalism under Reagan, it’s this massive shift in wealth from ordinary working people to the very top percentile. That is what’s created the conditions for this rise.

So this puts progressives and people that want to oppose this neofascism into sort of a rock and a–between a rock and a hard place, because it’s precisely the Clintonesque-type forces, which includes Barack Obama, by the way they manage the capitalist crisis so in the favor of Wall Street and such, even if they might throw the odd crumb here and there to ordinary people, that helps create the conditions for all of this.

So we’re going to do a part two of this interview, and in that we’re going to talk about the enablers of neofascism, and where that leaves everybody in terms of what they’re going to do next. So please join us for part two with Henry Giroux on the Real News Network.

— source therealnews.com

PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome back to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

We’re continuing our discussion with Henry Giroux, who joins us again from Hamilton, Ontario. He’s a Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest of McMaster University, an author of his most recent book, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle, and a new book about to come out, America at War with Itself. He’s a regular contributor at Truthout as well. Thanks for joining us again Henry.

HENRY GIROUX: It’s a pleasure to be here, Paul.

JAY: So in part one, we had a discussion about the rise of neofascism and whether or not Trump represents that, and whether that’s what’s on display at the Republican Convention. And we both came to the conclusion that it does and if you haven’t watched part one–if you’re watching live now, this, you’ll come down our website. You’ll see part one. I suggest you do watch part one because we’re going to kind of pick up where that left off.

In the first part we showed a clip from Rudy Giuliani and Sheriff David Clarke, calling for defense of the social order and everyone’s in fear. The worst kind of rhetoric we’ve heard since perhaps, well, I guess we heard it after 9/11, and we heard it during the McCarthy period. And of course what we need is a stronger police force and a stronger military. The big lies in Giuliani’s speech, especially about Saudi Arabia and Iran, and again I say, go watch part one.

So the ability of Trump and his allies to look in the camera and just outright lie–I quoted this thing in a piece I did recently which goes like this: “I reserve emotion for the many and reason for the few.” And that’s a quote from Adolf Hitler, and that’s clearly what we’re seeing on display in Cleveland. These guys know better.

Giuliani knows it’s not Iran funding this kind of terrorism. He knows it’s been the Saudis and Qataris, and maybe perhaps in some ways the Americans themselves. Certainly during the Afghan War, they did directly millions of dollars, perhaps billions went through Pakistan. to Afghanistan, which helped nurture Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and so on. And these guys know that history.

There was a small lie which everybody’s talking about, and while it seems kind of minor, I think it actually has a little more meaning to it. And that’s Trump’s wife Melania. Here’s a little clip from her speech Monday night.

MELANIA TRUMP: From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons.

JAY: So I think everyone knows about this all for now. The language she used is almost word for word what Michelle Obama used at the Democratic Party Convention about her husband Barack Obama and everyone, it’s so obvious its direct plagiarism. Yet the Trump campaign this morning, Tuesday morning, denies that its plagiarism was lifted. As I say, it’s word for word. I’m sure everyone has seen the comparisons by now. I thought it was worth talking about, Henry, because it’s such an obvious lie, and yet they’ll probably get away with just saying it’s not. And their base of voters will simply move on and say blame it on the liberal media again.

GIROUX: I mean, what I find interesting about that example is that just one of many, as you’ve said many times, in which lying has become so normalized for Trump and his cohorts, that the question of reality, the question of argument, the question of evidence, the question of thoughtfulness, the question of in some way trying to engage reason at its best, has become utterly superfluous. I think that what this seems to suggest is that you have an administration that will create its own history by basically creating its own facts because they don’t care, and I think that what I find disturbing about that is that they don’t care because they can get away with it. That the media doesn’t hold them up in the way that it should. That people aren’t asking the hard questions.

I mean, what Trump buys into–and we all know this–is that celebrity culture confers authority and that you don’t have to take people seriously who are a part of that culture because we assume that they’re not serious in the first place. He’s now relegated that or elevated that assumption into a kind of central dimension of politics. And I think it’s very dangerous. I think when you give up on the enlightenment and you sort of suggest any form of thinking is an act of stupidity, then what that suggests in the long run on questions of policy or on questions of governance around questions of how identities are being shaped, it’s that the truth doesn’t matter. And basically what we’re going to do is we’re going to create a scenario where you’ll never hold us accountable because all the kind of things that make people comparable from evidence to serious arguments to important dialogue to matters of accountability now don’t matter anymore. Truly that’s the mark of a fascist regime.

JAY: And of course he can get away with this, and he’s likely to get away with–and he’s likely to get away with this, partly because he’s going to say, well, even if that’s true and maybe she did it, maybe a speechwriter did it, how does that compare with lying about these emails? And it’s very likely that the reason Hillary Clinton had this server is to avoid the Freedom of Information Act, which shows some intent at the very least to circumvent the law.

Maybe it wasn’t outright illegal, but who knows. But much bigger lies in terms of the defense of what happened in Libya–I mean, Trump might even go there, I don’t know. He certainly critiqued Clinton on Libya. Even though he himself, and this is where his own big lie is, at the time of the Libya intervention he called for American troops to invade Libya to overthrow Gaddafi.

So this supposed opposition of his to regime change in Libya is another big lie. But on the other hand, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–but if we understand it correctly, Clinton was the sort of [impotence] here. They committed war crimes in Libya. Even if one accepts the UN resolution in defense of Benghazi, and a lot of people don’t, but even if you do, the overthrow of Gaddafi was a war crime because it was not authorized by the UN.

It was supposed to be simply defense of Benghazi. Clinton’s been involved in targeting Assad and helping create the conditions for the terrorism in Syria, and so on. She supports the Iraq War; I mean go on. Then the even bigger arching, overarching issue–and this is what I wanted to talk a bit more about in this segment–is the massive transfer of wealth from most ordinary working people to this tiny fraction.

People say 1 percent. It’s probably more like 10 percent. Even though most of it went to the 1 percent. This massive transfer of wealth, particularly during the time of the Obama administration, has helped create the conditions for all this. So the–how do you deal with this issue, Henry, of the enablers of this rise of neofascism? Because they–so many people’s lives have been ruined over the last decade and a half. And the phenomena itself of Trump?

GIROUX: I think that what you’re suggesting, and what I believe is actually quite true, is that Trump and the Democrats really represent two different elements of the same coin. I mean, what you have is a savage form of neoliberalism that now dominates most of the globe, in which questions of power and questions of justice are completely removed from any sense of accountability. And you have a system that basically consolidates in the interest of basically a financial lead. What you’re witnessing is kind of a class war with two different discourses. Two different modes of legitimacy.

One is very outright and very savage in its endorsement of the kind of [grudishness] and what we’d call the bleeding group for violence and injustice. And the other sort of takes, I think, a softer side. It doesn’t call for eliminating 12 million, 11 million Mexicans in the United States. But at the same time you have a president who has an assassination list. You have a candidate on your Democratic Party who’s basically a war monger. I mean, both of these positions share, it seems to me, in a political economic system that basically is injustice, it is brutal. And I think what we need to do is be able to understand what they have in common.

When we talk about the lying as you just did, it is very interesting where politics become unaccountable, people lie and they think that can get away from it. We see this both in the Republican and Democratic Party. Both are now parties of extremists because they’re basically governed by the financial we. We no longer have a sovereign state. We have an economic state. And I think that when economics drives politics, at one level you get the most rabid representations of that, of course in the Republican party, and then near the hand you get representations that try to downplay what it does in the name of democracy.

Trump doesn’t about democracy. He’s unapologetic about democracy. He doesn’t need it. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t think it works. On the other hand, you have the Democratic Party that hides what it does in the false language of democracy. But they both share something in common. They both share in a system that is as savage as it is brutal. That produces enormous inequities. That has ruined the social state and has basically celebrated and expanded the punishing state. I don’t just talk about militarization. To me I’m more concerned about a society that it increasing criminalizes and militarizes all aspects of foreign and domestic policy and they both share in that.

JAY: They both share in being forms, political representation and alliances of sections of the elites, of the billionaires. They both–their, really, underlying economic policies not different. And most represent hyper-capitalism. They both represent defense of this sort of parasitical Wall Street. There is some difference, I believe, and they debate in the elite just how intense can the exploitation of American workers get?

I think that the Democrats have represented here represented over the last decades, even including Roosevelt in this about he represented a kind of more rational sector of the elites. But there’s a fight over how intense you can get and the–Reagan, I think, represents the coming to consciousness of a section of the elites that the working class is actually quite weak now. The Soviet Union is no longer a model anyone believes in. It’s starting to fall apart.

Globalization is taking off. You’re going to be able to play workers around the world against each other. You can up the ante on actually now targeting especially the upper echelons of the American working class so you don’t have to pay auto workers $26 to start. Now you can pay them $14 an hour, which is what came out of the Obama saving of the auto industry.

But there is still a difference here, and I think it’s an important one. The constituency of the far right, of the Trump Republican Party, and as we talk about in the first segment it’s a constituency of the American public willing to accept a level of kind of overt fascism. A rhetoric that would support rounding up Black Lives Matter and putting them all in jail and charging them with conspiracy for terrorism.

That’s certainly the language we’re hearing already. And from Sheriff David Clarke that speaks and others that directly try to connect the language of Black Lives Matter with the assassination of cops. Even though there’s not a shred of evidence of any of that, quite the contrary. Black Lives Matter made it clear that they have nothing to do and don’t support anything like that. You know we know that it wasn’t that long ago that the amendment to the NDAA, the act that authorizes the financing of the military, where there’s an amendment where the army itself could round people up and put them in detention camps.

In fact, again here’s the enablers of this sort of thing. Barack Obama signs off on that to even include US citizens. But this you can see this regime–if it’s a Trump regime surrounded by a David Clarke and Rudy Giuliani. I mean, these are the guys that would use that legislation to round people up. What I’m getting at is there is more danger here, and this language of greater evil and lesser evil, I think it’s a mistake to even frame it that way. It’s not a moral question and evil’s a moral category.

This is a strategic tactical question for people that are organizing to defend whatever democracy is left, and to try to move society forward to something new. That if these guys are in power there is going to be far less room to move. Because these are the guys that will make dissent illegal. The Clinton type forces, Obama type forces, they depend on a black folk. They depend on a Hispanic vote, they depend on educated voters, they depend on urban workers who don’t fall for this kind of stuff. So as long as there’s still electoral politics for the foreseeable future, there is. We don’t know how long that last. I actually think strategically it is better to have a Clintonesque presidency–I mean a Clinton, not -esque, a Clinton presidency. But be truthful with everybody what this all means.

GIROUX: I completely agree with you. I think that Trump is a real immediate danger to the planet and to human existence. And I think any vote for him is far more dangerous than, let’s say, a vote for Clinton. There were two things you could have recognized here. At one level, you’ve got a system where power is now separated from politics. The social contract is basically all but dead. Certainly on the extreme right. Meaning that power is global and politics is local. The people who now control the states, who control the nation states are basically global international organizations.

We’re talking about the IMF, the World Trade Organization. I think that in Clinton at least strategically there was an attempt to sort of waive the idea that Clinton give lip service to against the reality of the politics that she produces. That’s an opening. I think that in short term and long term strategies. I think you’ve pointed to this. One level on the short term, I think we have to put somebody in power at the moment that is not going to destroy the planet and end up putting everybody in a concentration camp or in a prison.

I mean that’s a real danger. To think that what he can do to the Supreme Court and to claim that Clinton is just as bad as she is because she’s a warmonger, I think is nonsense. I mean as bad as she is, she’s not Trump. She’s not the extreme right. But is she acceptable as a [carry on] for what it might mean to expand the possibilities of democracy? Absolutely not.

I think in the long run what we have to do is we have to organize people to basically participate in the short term in strategic kinds of elections. For instance, where school boards will not be turned over to the right. Or make sure that social provisions are being put into place that benefit the working class. But do everything we can do defend public schools. Do everything that we can do defend public goods.

But in the long run we need a third party. More when system is utterly corrupt. It’s going to be changed. But that doesn’t mean we simply drop out of the system entirely and turn it over to the lunatics and the warmongers. I think that’s completely [inaud.]. I don’t buy that left argument. I think that the left doesn’t sense the most immediate danger that we face with these fascists who are about to unfortunately potentially come to power.

JAY: Yeah, and I don’t think in doing that you need to create illusions about Clinton.

GIROUX: We don’t need to apologize for Clinton to recognize we’re in a state of crisis so severe that it’s unlike anything we’re facing in probably the history of this nation since the Civil War.

JAY: The critical thing we have to keep saying, it’s not about Hillary Clinton and it’s not about the Democratic Party. It’s about hyper-capitalism. It’s about how hyper-capitalism has become so parasitical that finance and the preponderance of the elites, they make more money out of this gambling casino capitalism, not very interested in what actually goes on in the economy. They’ve become so short sighted they’re such con men and snake oil salesmen as I was saying, that Trump is really a legitimate face of them. Whether even though they–I would say the majority of them trust Clinton to manage capitalism more than they trust Trump to do it–a couple of things I think are for sure.

One is either one of two things is going to happen over the long run, because we know there’s going to be another economic meltdown. There’s going to be another situation where there’s going to be a tremendous impetus to go to war. And we know about the coming climate disaster. And one of only two things are going to happen, which is the Democratic Party as representative of parasitical hyper-capitalism is either going to create the conditions for another Trump, or Trump himself, to come to power.

Or two, the Democratic party will give rise to their own Trump, and they’ll morph into this type of [huge] right populism and win over enough sections of society so that they can play that card. So in the longer run we better get organized independent of these elite parties and tell people all of this. But in the shorter run to say there’s no difference between a Trump and Clinton to ordinary people in terms of their ability to get organized, it’s an illusion. I mean just go think about organizing under the dictators we know about from Latin America to–you don’t even have to go to the extremes of Hitler. You can find much more modern examples.

GIROUX: Paul, you and I under Trump will be put in jail.

JAY: No doubt.

GIROUX: I think under Clinton we’ll be ignored. But it seems to me that there’s also another issue. There’s also the possibility that the Democratic Party basically will recognize in some ways that the demographics and the mobilizations that are taking place all over the country have to somehow be addressed. And that might make it a party that’s a little more–actually less parasitic than we’ve assumed that we’ve–and predatory that it might become. I don’t know.

I don’t know if they’ll embrace that New Deal sort of logic. But the Democratic Party, unlike the Republican Party of extremists, has to find ways to legitimate itself. That means that it has to somehow create ideologies that give the impression that it’s truly about furthering democracy rather than destroying it.

On the other hand, Trump doesn’t care about ideology. He doesn’t need an ideological justification for what he does, in ways that suggests he has something to do with democracy itself. He’s just simply saying hey, look, the country’s in crisis. I’m going to mobilize fear, I’m going to get rid of people who dissent, and I’m going to be a warmonger. And I’ll do everything that I can to make sure that financial class is happy. because basically they’re going to fund my campaign. And I think that as you say, the third way is to basically begin to mobilize people in ways that recognize that the real enemy here is not the Republican or Democratic Party.

The real enemy here is finance capital. The real enemy here is a savage form of neoliberalism that has–that breeds nothing but misery, intolerance, inequality, and massive degrees of human suffering. I mean, look, 70 thousand people die a year because of poverty. I mean, you have young people that have been completely written out of the script of democracy, burdened with debts. Sort of told that all the problems that they face, they’re responsible for. We’ve lost the ability to translate private issues into public concerns and we need to mobilize in ways in which matters of education become central to politics itself.

We need to convince people. The left needs to convince people that the problems that they’re talking about are problems that people can identify and recognize themselves in. That’s going to take a long time. That’s not going to happen tomorrow.

JAY: And what’s your take on what many people are turning to, the Green Party and Jill Stein’s candidacy?

GIROUX: I think the Green Party is one possibility. I think that we need a broader social movement. We need a movement that basically brings all factions of the left together. Those are the concerns of our economic domination. Those are the concerns about the theological domination. Those are the concerns about the environment. We need as you said, a broad-based social movement. And I think the Green Party’s fabulous and important. I don’t think its reaches lie enough. I don’t think that the banner under which it operates speaks to what I would call the emergence of the necessity for discourse for radical democracy.

JAY: Okay. Well, we’ll talk about that more another time, and perhaps we’ll get somebody from the Green Party on to discuss it. Thanks very much for joining us, Henry.

— source therealnews.com

Fla. Lawmakers Apologize to Families of “Groveland Four”

Black Men Falsely Accused of Rape in 1949

Lawmakers here in Florida have taken an unusual step and apologized for what happened to four young African-American men in Groveland, Florida, nearly 70 years ago in 1949. The men, known as the Groveland Four, were falsely accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl. Before going to trial, one of the four men, Ernest Thomas, was hunted down and murdered by a mob of 1,000 men, led by the local sheriff, Willis McCall. He was killed in a hail of gunfire. The other three men were tortured in jail until two of them gave false confessions. Charles Greenlee was sentenced to life. Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd were condemned to death. When Irvin and Shepherd appealed their conviction, they were represented by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP, who would later become the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Samuel Shepherd later died after being shot by a sheriff and his deputy. Walter Irvin was also shot, but survived. He eventually died in 1968, two years after being paroled. Charles Greenlee lived until 2012.

But the story of the Groveland Four has continued to haunt the state of Florida. Last month, Charles Greenlee’s daughter Carol thanked Florida lawmakers for apologizing to her family.

CAROL GREENLEE CRAWLEY: This is a glorious day. And still today, the tears are hard to hold back. But today, the tears are tears of joy. And I want to thank all of you for releasing my family from prison, for releasing my nieces, my son, my brothers from the dark cloud, the shame and the stigma that have been put upon them, and releasing me from 67 years—I was a child. I was a baby, that my father went to Groveland to find a job to support back in 1949. And today, I feel free.

Gilbert King talking:

the case started in the summer of 1949, very much similar to a To Kill a Mockingbird-type story, where you had a young 17-year-old farm girl make these accusations that she was abducted and raped by four African Americans. And as soon as that story became local knowledge, the Klan rolled into Groveland and started burning down the homes in the black sections. They arrested a couple of suspects very quickly, threw them in jail. And the Klan showed up at that jail, and there was going to be a lynching that night. But, fortunately, Sheriff McCall was wise enough to say, “There’s not going to be any lynching in my county. We’re going to give these boys a fair trial, and then we’re going to put them in the electric chair.” And that’s pretty much how he sold that to the Klan. So he did prevent the lynching. But shortly after that—and very shortly, within a month—you had, you know, a trial, a capital trial, where three men’s lives were on the line.

Willis McCall was a notorious segregationist. He was—he had a brutal 28-year reign in Lake County. And I think the most disturbing thing about McCall was, he wasn’t just a bad apple or a tyrant, basically, politicians, from judges to prosecutors to the U.S. attorney to the governor of Florida itself, had his back. And so, he liked to brag that he was investigated 49 times on civil rights charges, and he beat every single one of them.

what happened was, when they first arrested the first three suspects, Ernest Thomas kind of knew what was happening. The houses were being burned down. He fled. He knew what was in store for him. And so he went up to northern Florida. And Sheriff McCall put together a posse of over a thousand men. And for the next several days, they hunted him through the swamps of the area outside Madison, Florida. Eventually, they found him. He sleeping by a tree, a cypress tree. And witnesses at the scene said that he was shot multiple times and that they were pulling slugs and bullets out of his body. And Willis McCall was on the scene with his deputy, James Yates. And he was basically never going to be brought in. The idea was not to capture him and bring him back for trial. It was pretty clear to the witnesses that they were to shoot first.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act several years ago. And it’s very difficult to get this material, because they go into a long queue. It all has to be vetted and redacted. But I hit the little mark of 60 years. And once 60 years passes in one of these civil rights investigations, all the material becomes public domain. So, I was very lucky to get suddenly a box of FBI files that were non-redacted. So everybody was named in there, all the FBI informants in the Klan. You have statements from police, basically helping the FBI and fingering people that were involved in the beatings. So all the information was right there. I think the most disturbing part of it was that it just sat in those FBI files for 60 years. Nobody knew about it. Thurgood Marshall didn’t know about all these investigations. And there are some people alive, still alive.

I did try to interview Norma Padgett. She had not spoken with a journalist since 1949 or 1950. And she said a few things to the reporter that caused a bit of an outrage, because it didn’t quite match up with her testimony in trial. And so, after that, I believe she was warned to not speak to any more journalists, which she hasn’t done in, you know, over 60 years. But I tried. I went—I went down and showed up outside her door. And the message I received was to let sleeping dogs lie. She does not want to reinvestigate it.


Bobby DuBose, the Florida state representative from Fort Lauderdale, who sponsored the resolution. He spoke at a news conference here in Florida announcing it.

REP. BOBBY DUBOSE: With this injustice, we, the state of Florida, we were wrong. The injustice these men and their families encountered are hard to really just truly put into words. The memories can’t be erased. The pain they have endured can’t be fixed. But today we have an opportunity to provide closure to these families in the form of an apology.

Republican representative, here in Florida, Chris Sprowls, chair of Florida’s House Judiciary Committee, issuing a formal apology to the families.

REP. CHRIS SPROWLS: I got the opportunity several weeks ago to speak to Carol Greenlee, who’s here with us today. And she talked to me about how, when she was a little girl, you know, 12 years old when her dad got out of prison, it wasn’t until she was a grown woman, nearly 40, when she actually asked her dad about what happened. And I think when we read a book like The Devil in the Grove or we read about the stories of these great moral failings, like this case, sometimes we forget that there were families and communities that also suffered just terrible and grave injustices, like the families that are behind us today. And for that, as a state, we’re just truly sorry for what took place.

Gilbert King talking:

it is a little more complicated. It’s not quite like the Scottsboro Boys, where you had, you know, nine defendants found guilty, and then, ultimately, the state of Alabama could go through and pardon them one by one. It took 80 years, but the last Scottsboro Boy was pardoned, I think, a couple years ago. In this case, it’s a little more complicated, because the sheriff killed two of the men. So, in fact, Samuel Shepherd, he was actually—his—when the first trial was thrown out, the Supreme Court overruled it, said it was one of the great menaces to American justice. So, technically, Sam Shepherd was never convicted. So he can’t get a pardon. So the apology does mean something to the Shepherds, and it does mean something to the family of Ernest Thomas, who never stood trial. So he doesn’t have a conviction, and he can’t be pardoned, while for the Irvins and for the Greenlees, they do have convictions. And so, for half of the Groveland Boys, the pardon means everything. So, the apology, while great and everybody acknowledges that it’s an important step on the state of Florida, the jury is not quite done, because that pardon is going to go before the governor and the pardon board, and he’s going to be asked to consider that.

Basically, this is the equivalent of cellphone camera footage of a killing. So, Sam Shepherd and Walter Irvin are handcuffed together. McCall comes around the car and shoots Sam Shepherd three times. He dies instantly. Walter Irvin is shot twice. He can’t run, because he’s handcuffed to his best friend, so he lays on the ground and pretends to be dead. But he’s still living, and he hears the sheriff say, “Get back. I got the son of a bitches. We got to make it look like an escape.” And he starts tearing at his clothes, rumpling his hat. The deputy sheriff comes back to the scene, shines a flashlight down on Walter Irvin and says, “This one ain’t dead yet,” pulls a gun and fires a third shot straight through his neck. Miraculously, Irvin is still alive.

And so, when the FBI hears this story, which differs from Sheriff McCall’s version, they have an idea where that bullet might be. So they go back to the crime scene. They find the bloodstain where Walter Irvin was laying, take out a little shovel. And 10 inches below that bloodstain, they find a .38-caliber bullet, which matches the gun of Sheriff Willis McCall. So, here you have pure proof that the sheriff and the deputy have attempted murder and murder on their hands. This is all investigated by the FBI. The FBI is convinced that this happened. And yet it was quashed. And so, that, I think, is one of the great tragedies. Thurgood Marshall never found out about this information. It just sat in an FBI file for 60 years.

this Groveland case is beginning at the same time that Brown v. Board is beginning. And so, Marshall is being talked to by his colleagues at the LDF, saying, “Thurgood, you’re indispensable to the civil rights movement. We cannot afford to lose you. You can’t go down to Florida and take this highly dangerous case, where you’re having to move around from house to house so that the Klan doesn’t get you.” And they said, “We can’t afford to lose you. We have too many landmark cases in the pipeline.” And Marshall was really adamant about this, which I found really interesting. He just said, “Look, these cases are just important. These cases save lives.”

And so, in a way, he was really in the forefront of Black Lives Matter. He knew that he was the last step, the last great hope, that there were men down there who were falsely accused of these crimes, facing the death penalty. And Marshall said it moved him, because he would stand in the lobby with the mothers of these boys, and they would be begging him to save their boy, because they knew they were innocent. And that made a big impact on Marshall. And, you know, throughout all the voting rights cases, the housing cases, the school cases, you see Marshall going down and taking these extraordinarily dangerous cases, because they mattered to him.

what’s really interesting is, Thurgood Marshall was—he really saw himself as a civil rights lawyer. And so, he felt like he was involved in a broad thing, from housing to voting, but he also saw that these criminal cases were just extremely important to communities. And one of the things that I was really inspired by, Marshall would go down and take these cases in the South, and he knew he was going to lose. They had 12 white jurors, a biased judge, a racist prosecutor. That was what he was up against. But hundreds of African Americans would come from miles around and sit in those Jim Crow balconies. And Marshall said it was just as important to show them an African American sitting in court arguing with a judge and prosecutor over the law. Most of the—most of the blacks who showed up, they had never seen a black person in court who wasn’t a defendant. And so, Marshall felt it was just as important to really demonstrate what was possible, this hope that was possible. And he became, really, the living proof of that. He went on to become the first African-American Supreme Court justice. So his trajectory really came from his time when he was known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” in the ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s, until he became a Supreme Court justice.

I think what’s really significant is that, for the longest time, stories like this lingered from the point of view of the sheriff. So, if you look at what—the version that stuck in Florida was that these were the rapists, they were convicted in court, and then they attacked the sheriff and tried to escape that night. And so, that was the version that lingered. And so the families have lived under the stigma that you heard Carol Greenlee speak about, that their name—they were associated with a rapist. And so, it means the world to them to just have some official apology to clear their names.

And I think it’s just a part of—we have not really, as a country, really addressed these kind of issues. For the longest time, if you go into a community in the South especially, stories like this are very common, but they didn’t become Supreme Court cases. They didn’t have Thurgood Marshall. There was no appeals, and these men were just sent to their deaths. And so, when families today react to police brutality or—really, it’s a legacy of decades of this kind of injustice that really angers people, because they know that these stories were not heard and that they were never acknowledged.

there’s a lot of people out there that look at, you know, Jeff Sessions’ appointment and think that perhaps that civil rights and this kind of investigation and this kind of progress that has been made might be taking a step backwards. And if there’s all these safeguards put in for prosecutors to sort of feel that they have a little bit more of a sympathetic Justice Department, I think it’s not a very good thing. I honestly believe that the families of not only the Groveland Boys, but families who have been through this, are deeply suspicious of prosecutors and police departments who enable this kind of thing to be quashed. Nowadays, it’s a little more obvious because you do see cellphone footage of some of these things, and it defies what you’re looking at. But back in the day, in the ’40s and ’50s, you really had the word of a policeman and a black corpse. And it was a very simple thing to just go before a coroner’s jury or go before a grand jury, because these communities were not willing to indict. And I think that, you know, you’re starting to see some progress about this. And I think people are—you know, with social media and with media coverage, these stories can get out there, and police departments have to react to it, and prosecutors are going to need to react to it, too.
____

Gilbert King
author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America.

— source democracynow.org

More Americans Are Spending Life in Prison Than Ever Before

One out of every nine prisoners in the United States is currently serving a life sentence—a record high—even as the overall prison population has fallen. That’s according to a depressing new report by the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that’s been tracking life sentences since 2004. Almost 162,000 people are now serving life behind bars, up from 132,000 about a decade ago and 34,000 in 1984.

To put that in perspective, for every 100,000 people in America, 50 have been locked up for life. That’s roughly the total incarceration rate—including inmates whose sentences are just a few months—in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. And it doesn’t even account for the tens of thousands of Americans handed sentences of 50 years or more, which are considered “de facto life sentences,” says Ashley Nellis, a senior research analyst at the Sentencing Project who co-authored the report.

What’s driving the uptick? It’s not a rise in violent crime or murder—both have dropped substantially since the mid-1990s. Nor is it an increase in the number of criminals behind bars: A majority of states saw declining overall prison populations from 2010 to 2015.


The Sentencing Project


The Sentencing Project

In part, the continuing rise in lifers is a legacy of three-strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. It may also be related to the shift away from capital punishment. In some states that no longer allow executions, elected officials like governors and prosecutors have championed life-without-parole sentences—which account for the biggest increase in life sentences nationally—as a way to appear tougher on crime. “Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said in 2012 when his state abolished the death penalty. But these lengthy punishments probably aren’t keeping the public safer. “The impulse to engage in crime, including violent crime, is highly correlated with age,” the Sentencing Project notes. “Most criminal offending declines substantially beginning in the mid-20s and has tapered off substantially by one’s late 30s.”

The biggest losers of all this? Minorities. Of all the lifers and de facto lifers in the country, almost half are African American. What’s more, 12,000 of the total are locked up for crimes they committed as kids, though some are eligible for release thanks to recent court decisions. (In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional for juveniles who didn’t commit homicide. In 2012, the justices went further, saying that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for kids, including those who committed homicide, are also unconstitutional. Nineteen states and DC now ban any kind of life-without-parole sentence for juveniles.)

Finally, it’s important to remember that many of the prisoners serving these long sentences never actually hurt anyone: Two-thirds of lifers or de facto lifers in the federal system committed nonviolent crimes—and one-third of them are serving time for drug crimes. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department alongside his team of tough-on-crime advisers, there’s a good chance that won’t be changing anytime soon.

— source motherjones.com by Samantha Michaels