Category Archives: Economy

Latin America, the “Democratic” Party and Never-Trumpsters

elliott

There are three important stories in the news within the past week relating to Latin America.

First, the Trump administration has appointed Elliott Abrams U.S. Special Representative for Iran.  For those of us who have been interested in Latin America for decades, Elliott Abrams is a criminal who is widely despised.  He should be in jail.  If there was anything like a justice system for high level corporate, political and white collar criminals, he would be.

As Common Dreams (8/6/20 ) has noted, “Abrams is one of the architects of right-wing “regime change.”  He “has made a career of lying and committing criminal acts that have led to the death and suffering of innocent people from Guatemala to Iraq.”  “He embraces militarism, covers up for gross human rights abuses, and has a history of supporting authoritarian regimes.”

As if this wasn’t enough, Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 1991 as part of the Iran-Contra affair.  He was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush.  Abrams admitted that he had willfully withheld information from congress in 1986 when he testified about the “secret Contra supply network and his role in soliciting a $10 million contribution for anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua” (the Contras).

See “CODEPINK Denounces Elliott Abrams’…”  common Dreams.  August 6, 2020

The second story is about the release of a report detailing a State Department plan for regime change in Nicaragua intended to oust popularly elected members of the Sandinistas.

Ben Norton reports in The Grayzone that:

  • This newly released document outlines plans for USAID to oversee a regime-change plan to oust Nicaragua’s elected leftist government.
  • USAID (also widely despised in Latin America), is planning to establish a “market economy” in Nicaragua and purge the Sandinistas.
  • The socialist government in Nicaragua is democratically elected.
  • USAID, as always, functions here as a “regime-change” vehicle that “uses the pretense of humanitarian aid to advance Washington’s aggressive foreign-policy interests.”
  • The document presents this as a plan for “Nicaragua’s transition to democracy.” This is a euphemism for removing the leftist Sandinistas.
  • The report doesn’t even pretend to be anything but a hardline neoconservative document. It refers to the “Ortega regime”  and makes it clear that the intent is to install a “neoliberal administration that will privatize the economy and…purge all institutions of any trace of the leftist Sandinista movement.”

The third, and related story, is that Joe Biden has recruited Anna Navarro to help him mobilize the Hispanic vote.  The Democrats are opening positions of power within the party to a variety of never-Trump Republicans who have no goals or interests in common with publicly stated Democratic positions.

As Ban Norton (3/1/20) points out in his article published on The Gray Zone, Navarro has become “something of a celebrity among the anti-Trump republicans…”  She has also become a welcome anti-Trump Republican voice among the corporate media.  She is, for example, a frequent commentator on CNN and “The View.”

As Norton points out, “corporate media networks give Navarro a massive platform to attack progressives like Bernie Sanders and rebrand her neoconservative politics before impressionable liberal viewers who despise Trump, Navarro’s professional background has faced little scrutiny.”

Navarro, however, “lobbied for El Salvador’s corruption-drenched right-wing government.”   “Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) documents reviewed by The Grayzone reveal that Ana Navarro and her Republican lobbyist husband, Al Cárdenas, have worked with some of the most corrupt right-wing governments in recent Latin American history, including leaders who have overseen egregious human rights abuses and been convicted for serious criminal offenses.”

“Navarro hails from a wealthy family in Nicaragua, and still today she remains a staunch supporter of the Contras, far-right death squads that the CIA armed and trained in the 1980s in a regime-change war targeting the country’s socialist Sandinista government. The Contras waged a relentless terrorist campaign, massacring and torturing civilians in hopes of destabilizing the country. And Navarro has celebrated them as freedom fighters.

Navarro, now calls herself a “strategist” has branded herself a “moderate.”

None of this bodes well for Nicaragua or Latin America.  And, it only reinforces the argument that Joe Biden, the corporate Democrats and the corporate media are turning the Democratic Party into Republican-light.  It gives us even less reason to stay with the party.

Ring of Fire Podcast: Sam Seder – Barr Hearings and Democratic Party Platform

sam seder

Turn off the corporate media and listen to a really good podcast on Ring of Fire with Sam Seder as he talks about the Barr hearing and interviews John Nichols.

Podcast

 

 

Flailing States: Reaction to the Pandemic: Pankaj Mishra

pankajmishra

Pankaj Mishra · Flailing States: Anglo-America Loses its Grip · London Review of Books, 16 July 2020

‘The abyss of history​ is deep enough to hold us all,’ Paul Valéry wrote in 1919, as Europe lay in ruins. The words resonate today as the coronavirus blows the roof off the world, most brutally exposing Britain and the United States, these prime movers of modern civilisation, which proudly claimed victory in two world wars, and in the Cold War, and which until recently held themselves up as exemplars of enlightened progress, economic and cultural models to be imitated across the globe.

‘The true test of a good government,’ Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.’ It is a test the United States and Britain have failed ruinously during the current crisis. Both countries had weeks of warnings about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan; strategies deployed by nations that responded early, such as South Korea and Taiwan, could have been adapted and implemented. But Donald Trump and Boris Johnson chose instead to claim immunity. ‘I think it’s going to work out fine,’ Trump announced on 19 February. On 3 March, the day the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned against shaking hands, Johnson boasted after a visit to a hospital treating coronavirus patients: ‘I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.’

Interview with Pankaj Mishra by the Intercept

pankajmishra

The Global System

Intercepted interview with Pankaj Mishra, author of “From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia”  and “Age of Anger.”

The rise of free market ideology in the U.S. and Britain has, in fact, undermined democracy and diminished social protections for ordinary people.

Replacing Biden with Trump is not going to accomplish much to change these underlying destructive ideologies.  A great deal of hope is invested in people like Biden, or Obama before him, but Biden will bring with him all the elements of the discredited old regime that led us to Trump.  A Biden administration will be peopled by very same people who participated in the calamitous decisions that led to the rise of Donald Trump.

It’s hard to see any hope in the next administration.  Hopefully the new social movements like Black Lives Matter, can maintain a kind of pressure which hopefully shapes the decisions of the new administration (if it indeed comes about).

But, we see what happened to the social movements that arose with the election of Obama.  He was elected by something resembling a social movement.  But, once elected, Obama had no further use for this movement.  The “social movement disappeared.”  In the Obama administration, we had the same old faces from the Clinton administration and from Wall Street.

The future of democracy can’t be left in the hands of administrations, but must be in the hands of these social movements.

“Nothing will change.” Joe Biden

biden

Well, it seems that advisors around the White House were not able to keep Trump from having the disgusting and embarrassing pressers every day.  He was out there again reading meaningless statistics, not wearing a mask, and becoming incensed when reporters asked him innocuous questions.

I have come to despise that sing-song voice he uses when he reads aloud.  And, he read aloud today.  I am sure his staff tried to get him to confine himself to reading aloud, but of course he couldn’t do that.  And, like usual, he made an ass out of himself attacking a female reporter.

The female reporters in these White House briefings could provoke a total melt down from Trump if they just persisted in asking relevant questions and refused to back down.  Or if one of them, just one of them, asked Trump if he realized that their job was to ask questions and his was to answer them.  But, as it stands now, none of them are prepared to do this.

When I complained once about the servility of the White House press on Twitter, I received multiple replies explaining to me that reporters couldn’t ask pointed questions because they might lose the positions they had worked so hard to attain.  This line of reasoning drives me crazy.

We have evidently become a society in which people simply assume that it is normal to abase themselves in order to keep a job.  I cannot count the number of times I have heard political pundits state in a matter-of-fact manner that members of Congress can’t do this or that because they might then have an opponent in a primary, or God-forbid lose an election.

When did we become a country in which it was assumed that everybody would just do what they were told, sacrifice any standard, abandoned any integrity, kiss any ass just to hold a job?  When did this become normal?

I’m sorry, but what ever happened to doing what is right?  I know, it went out of fashion.  I miss it.

Other notes from the News:

AFP.com (5/10/20)

  • The Supreme Court will tomorrow take up whether Trump is going to be forced (like every other person) to turn over his tax returns. He is the first president since Nixon to refuse to do so.  Trump’s lawyers have argued that this request for the tax returns is designed to “torment the president.”
  • Trump’s attorneys are arguing that he enjoys total immunity as long as he is in the White House.
  • In a friend of the court brief, lawyers argued that if the Supreme court rules for Trump and his lawyers “it will fundamentally alter the basic principles of accountability on which our democracy depends.”’
  • There are a lot of people who are still maintaining that our “institutions are holding.” I am not one of them.

Trudo, Hanna and Hunter Woodall (5/11/20) Daily Beast

In an interview on April 30, Joe Biden revealed that “…there’s some major Republicans who are already forming ‘Republicans for Biden.” He then specified that they were “major officeholders.”

  • “You don’t want something like this out on the street before it needs to be,” a GOP source said. “It just makes it much harder to do.”
  • Names that are being bandied about apparently include Jeff Flake, Bill Kristol, Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt, David Jolly and Mona Charen and John Kasich. .
  • Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign said, in part, “Vice President Biden is running for president to unite our country and rebuild the soul of the nation, and to accomplish that we need to bring together Americans from across the political spectrum to build the broadest possible coalition to defeat Donald Trump.”
  • At one point in late 2019, Biden even floated the prospect of selecting a Republican running mate.
  • In late April, Biden stated that he would consider naming Republicans to his Cabinet.

Derysh, Igor (Salon, 6/19/19).

  • In June of 2019, Biden assured rich donors at a New York fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he is elected.
  • He promised not to “demonize” the rich and that “no one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.”
  • This was just after Biden appeared at the Poor People’s Campaign Presidential Forum where he said that poverty “was the one thing that can bring this country down.” “We have,” he stated “all the money we need to do it.”
  • Biden went on to say that the rich should not be blamed for income inequality, pleading to the donors, “I need you very badly.”
  • For the rich donors in New York: “I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you,” he added.
  • Biden also complained that some Democrats criticized his eagerness to work with Republicans after Republicans spent years blocking President Obama’s agenda and moving further right.
  • Biden pointed out that his ability to work with segregationists like former Mississippi Sen. James O. Eastland and Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge showed that he could “bring people together,”
  • “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.'”
  • “At least there was some civility,” he said. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition — the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

I hate to tell Joe Biden, but the problem here is not that we don’t talk to Republicans.  The problem is that we have listened to Republicans.  They want to establish a one-party Christian Nationalist state that has no room for democracy.

You cannot compromise, bring together, be civil to people who are trying to destroy democracy.  You either fight them or you let them win.  Joe Biden will let them win.  He has done it his entire career.

Interview with Sarah Kenzior: Hiding in Plain Sight

hiding

Deep State Radio Podcast

Home

5/5/20

Interview with Sarah Kenzior about her new book “Hiding in Plain Sight.”

Notes from the interview:

  • The Mueller investigation was deeply problematic in that Mueller completely avoided investigating Trump’s finances and the close connection with the Russian Mafia. Mueller also refused to indict or even interview key people like Jared Kushner.
  • Mueller made useless deals with people like Michael Flint that yielded nothing.
  • Mueller was lionized by the corporate media and assumed to be doing a real investigation. But, he virtually defined out of the investigation certain crucial areas like Trump’s finances.
  • The Republicans have no illusions that this will be a free and fair election in 2020. They have no intentions of trying to ensure it is. This should have been investigated from the very beginning.  It was not.
  • The Trump administration is a continuation of “streamlined corruption.” It is a continuation of a philosophy of government – began decades ago – to make government so small and powerless you could “drown it in a bathtub.”
  • Crises make it easier to push authoritarian policies.
  • 911 made it easy to carry out extra-legal surveillance activities.
  • The economic downturn helped solidify income rampant inequality.
  • There is a grave danger that the Coronavirus pandemic will help justify the use of advanced tracking technology that will further invade individual privacy.
  • Kenzior discusses the problems already in China with technology that such as facial recognition and social crediting which records purchases and activities.  For some people it is a branding system.  If you don’t have the right authorization, you can’t get a job, for example.  (Note: There is a documentary about this on the Wiegers.)
  • Kenzior also is concerned about health data being weaponized, there being classes of people who can and can’t get tested or classes of people identified as “infectious groups.”

Friday Notes: America’s Lawyer, Bailout Theft, Media, Science

th

Friday Notes:

As the corporate media becomes more and more useless, we must turn to other sources.

Podcast: America’s Lawyer, Mike Papantonio

April 1, 2020 Episode: The risks to meat packing employees of the mandated openings; the complicity of the Democrats in the class rip-off of the stimulus bill; Schumer and fast-tracking judicial appointments; claims of Tara Reade; lawsuits against big banks for discriminating against small businesses; insurance companies who refuse to pay claims because of the pandemic.

tps://www.rt.com/shows/americas-lawyer/

DNC Lawyers Argue DNC Has Right to Pick Candidates in Back Rooms

https://observer.com/2017/05/dnc-lawsuit-presidential-primaries-bernie-sanders-supporters/

When Science Loses Its Voice

Late February, after the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Nancy Messonnier, warned of the coming pandemic, Mike Pance was put in charge of the White House Coronavirus, and the CDC started declining interviews.  Federal employees were limited in what they could say publicly.  The NYT reported that federal health officials were required to coordinate their statements with Pence’s office.  Several lawsuits and complaints and lawsuits have been filed.

https://www.cjr.org/analysis/cdc-pandemic-transparency-comment-access.php

MSNBC public editor: Why pundits and journalists insist on false balance.

There is an illusion the media feels obliged to preserve, even more than the illusion of objectivity.  “What broadcast media is really selling—literally selling, to its advertisers and to its viewers—is the illusion of stability and certainty in American life, as well as its own role as a wise, trustworthy leader within that system.”

“National news organizations like MSNBC cannot operate effectively outside the assumption of calm, professional equanimity. Their real stock-in-trade is the impression, the conviction, that they know what is going on in the world; that is the reason viewers tune in and the basis of every ad buy. Normality. Stability, a world that is comprehensible and comprehended.”

https://www.cjr.org/analysis/83510.php

The Senate Corporate Bailout Package Is a ‘Robbery in Progress,’ Warn Critics

“It’s not a bailout for the coronavirus. It’s a bailout for twelve years of corporate irresponsibility.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/25/senate-corporate-bailout-package-robbery-progress-warn-critics

 

 

 

Alternative Media: Trump Watch Podcast

268x0w

As the corporate media becomes more and more useless in covering the Trump/Republican administration and the coronavirus crisis, we must seek alternative sources of news.

Try the “Trump Watch” Podcast.

In the April 16 episode, they do an interview with John Nichols from the Nation Magazine about the attempt by the Republicans to control voting in Wisconsin in order to assure the election of their hand-picked Supreme Court Judge.  They failed, but only because people came out with home-made masks and stood in lines for hours to vote against the Republicans.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the corporate media had covered this win for regular people in Wisconsin?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the corporate media actually talked about the attempt by Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, to thwart democracy and manipulate the voting process?

They won’t do it and we have to go elsewhere for our news.  The corporate media has ceased to cover any international news at all.  They are obsessed with interviewing everybody in the country about the minutiae of the Coronavirus issue.  They are obsessed with covering every minute of Trump’s propaganda sessions every afternoon and then talking endlessly about what he says.  They are obsessed with providing us inspirational stories about the “heroes” of the crisis and informing us of how we can entertain ourselves while staying at home as if we were children.

The Trump Watch podcast, starts every episode by saying that they cover what Trump DOES not just what he TWEETS.

The Republicans are using the Coronavirus to install a Christo-fascist one-party authoritarian state.  While the press is asking Trump is it is a good idea for Americans to congregate on the mall in Washington, D.C., the Republicans are stealing us blind.  After this is over, they will tell us we can’t afford Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start…because of the pandemic, not because they robbed us blind and gave the money to their buddies.

I would love to hear of other podcasts you find useful and any comments you might have.

Trump Watch Podcast

 

Head-on conflict with the self-interest of concentrated private capital

joe biden

The corporate media is a complete waste of time.  They failed us in 2016 and they are spectacularly failing us now.  We must turn to other news sources.  These are excerpts from The Nation Magazine.

Grey, Rohan, Nation Manazine, April 20/27 2020).

Biden indicated that as president, he would veto Medicare for All legislation because of concern over the price tag.  “Biden has been a deficit hawk his entire career.  As a Senator, he broke with his party to support a Repubican-sponsored balanced budget amendment, and as vice president he spearheaded efforts to achieve a bipartisan deficit reduction deal that included cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

“In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration allowed millions to lose their homes in order to “foam the runways” for the banking system, while the Republicans cynically weaponized deficit and debt hysteria in order to deny the Democrats the political credit of a more successful recovery.”

“…much of the suffering attributable to this pandemic will not come from people directly contracting the virus, but from our collective failure to provide adequate care and support to the elderly, the physically vulnerable, the poor, and people in less fortunate countries during their hour of need. The virus itself may be a novel twist, but the broader story is regrettably all too familiar.”

Biden, in the debates, “…acknowledged that upon entering office in 2009, he and President Obama were informed by the Department of Defense that climate change was the single greatest threat to American national security—a point Sanders has been making for years. However, when the moderators pointed out that his climate plan was $14 trillion less than Bernie’s, he retreated into defensive bluster and nostalgic promises to restore the 2016 Paris Agreement. Gone was the sense of existential urgency and ambition that had animated his earlier remarks about the coronavirus.

“…whatever it takes means embracing the inevitability of a head-on conflict with the self-interest of concentrated private capital. A few months ago, it would have sounded extreme to propose placing Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, Uber, and American Airlines under public ownership. But today the socially contingent nature of these corporate behemoths—from their financial engine, to their workforce, to the goods and services they provide—has been laid bare. If luxury perfume companies like Christian Dior and Givenchy can be repurposed to make hand sanitizer to save lives, surely we can consider the same for the companies responsible for essential basic staples such as food, ventilators, and toilet paper. We want clean hands. But we also want bread, roses, and the means to wipe our asses.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Free Market Capitalism Will Bury Us, Literally

capitalism

Amid the absurdly trivial corporate media coverage of the Coronavirus crisis, are stories that slip by unnoticed.  One of them is another investigation, another investigation by a congressional subcommittee about whether “the U.S. government is paying too much for ventilators made by a Dutch company that received millions in tax dollars to develop an affordable one for pandemics, but is now charging quadruple the price under a new deal.”

The deal for the ventilators was struck between the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Division of the Dutch Company.  (See other stories in Propublica).

In 2014, the agency’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) struck a $13.8 million deal with the company to develop ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile. Based on the advice of experts, the agreement called for the devices to be low cost, portable, durable and easy to use by personnel with limited medical training.

Once Philips’ Respironics division received clearance for that ventilator from the Food and Drug Administration last year, BARDA ordered 10,000 of them for $3,280 each — a price agreed upon when Philips entered into the original deal in 2014.

As Propublica previously reported, Philips never produced any of those devices for the stockpile. Instead, as the coronavirus spread, the company manufactured commercial versions of the ventilator at its factory outside Pittsburgh and sold them for far higher prices overseas. Then, rather than pushing the company to accelerate the delivery of the ventilators developed for the stockpile, HHS this month agreed to buy 43,000 of the commercial version at a price of $15,000 per ventilator.

But once Philips got the crucial FDA clearance for the new design, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said, “they turn around — at the very time we most need these ventilators — and use the fruits of taxpayers’ dollars to essentially sell a high-margin version of what taxpayers wanted to foreign consumers and deprioritized the sales of what taxpayers wanted.”

Notes:

Contact  Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. The subcommittee falls under the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Article: Callahan, Patricia and Sebastian Rotella (4/16/20) Congress is investigating…” Propublica