Donald Trump and the current state of American politics - Spring, 2016

I felt I had to come out of my hibernation to say a few words about the dazzling show we have been witnessing this winter.

This year's presidential election campaigns in the US have been a spectacle the kind of which we have not seen since the days when Rome ruled the world. This year's highly entertaining two ring circus (i.e. presidential elections in the US) has served to show us all just how much control special interests and
big money have over the political process in the US. They can no long hide the kind of people buying their way into American politics. They can no long hide the fact that the thing called "democracy" does not exist in the US, at least not in the way they want us to think it exists. They can no longer hide the fact that civil liberties (what made America unique in the world) are gradually disappearing. Also notice that increased funding for the already over-bloated US war-machine and unconditional support for Israel are the ONLY topics ALL presidential candidates, including those who claim they are not under the influence of any special interests, unanimously agree on. In fact, when on a public podium, they all seem to go out of their way to signal their subservience to Jews and their desire to allocate immense funds to the military industrial complex. In my opinion, the candidates' harsh rhetoric about Russia and Iran are intrinsically connected to their desire to win the support and approval of the two aforementioned ruling elites in the country.

It seems as if spewing hateful rhetoric about Russia and Iran, feeding the gluttonous military industrial complex and paying homage to Jews and Israel have become the litmus test all US officials need to pass before they are considered for the top job in the country. It's truly troubling how far the US has fallen since President Eisenhower's warning fifty-five years ago and President Nixon's warning forty-five years ago.

Donald Trump versus America's ruling elite

This year's two ring circus has been particularly entertaining, thanks to billionaire businessmen, real estate mogul and television celebrity, Donald Trump. When Trump first announced his candidacy last summer, none of the political pundits in the country expected him to do so well. Trump was supposed to be an interesting sideshow. Well, that was before he suddenly and quite spectacularly stole the show. It's as if Trump had been waiting and preparing all his life for this. Watching him it quickly becomes apparent that he is fully in his element. He is relishing every bit of this moment. He is enjoying himself and he is being a brilliant ringmaster. In fact, Trump knew early on in his life that he would one day seek presidential office. He actually came close to doing so in 2000. But that was not his time yet. Today is the moment he was destined for. I believe that his presidential bid was his manifest destiny, and it has become a watershed moment in American history. I should also add that discussions about whether or not Trump actually has policies are irrelevant in discussions about Trump because his attitude and his larger-than-life persona transcends political policy. Actually, Trump's presidential bid has little to do with actual political policy and more to do with his personality. Simply put: His supporters want to see Trumpian attitudes in the White House; actual policies, they surmise, can come later. Also for his supporters, a vote for Trump is essentially a vote against all the other, run of the mill politicians.

Trump was mentally preparing for today for a very long time, and he thought he had laid the proper ground work for himself. After all, he had created a business dynasty and amassed billions of dollars. He had turned his name into a national brand. He had established ties with both sides of the political isle in Washington. He had married his beloved daughter Ivanka into Judaism. His political advisers are Jewish. His campaign manager is Jewish. Yet, Jewish owned news organizations in the US are crying - “if you are a Jew, you should be very afraid of Donald Trump” and neoconservative Jewish warmongers are asking - is this the end of the West as we know it?" The anti-Trump frenzy has gotten so bad, that Max Boot, senator Marco Rubio's "foreign policy adviser" (and a well known Western imperialist, Republican, Neoconservative, Council on Foreign Relations member and Russian born son of Jewish dissidents) is even on record publicly claiming he "would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than vote for Donald Trump".

The Jewish establishment in the US and by extension everyone else within news media and government in the US remains largely against him. Consequently, the country's Neoliberal establishment (the Jewish-led left wing) is against him and the country's Neoconservative establishment (the Jewish-led right wing) is against him. Consequently, most political pundits and news media outlets in the US (mostly Jewish and/or Jewish owned) have been attacking him viciously. Why do we see this unbridled hysteria within the Jewish community? In my opinion, because unlike other presidential candidates who are willingly and enthusiastically surrendering themselves to the Jewish establishment and the international elite (European and American secret societies), Trump is seen as an independent player merely seeking to cooperate with them. This was very apparent in a talk he recently gave to a room full of influential Republican Jews. Listen carefully -
Donald Trump Speaks at Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum (12-3-15):
If one had to identify the event that turned the Jewish establishment in the US against Donald Trump, it would have to be this speech. Trump is intelligent, shrewd, aggressive, energetic, manipulating, patriotic, ambitious, entertaining, controversial, independent, charismatic, provocative and arrogant. He has name recognition. He has a lot of money, he therefore does not need and more importantly does not want financial support from anyone. He has also proven to be a populist. Consequently, millions of enthusiastic and very loyal supporters have rallied around him. Trump's message, or rather his message coupled with his aggressive attitude, has proven very appealing in particular to America's disgruntled middle-class, white Christian males; the once all-powerful demographic in America that has quite literally been dying off in recent years. Trump has suddenly and quite unexpectedly become a powerful political force, perhaps even a movement, in a increasingly polarized nation that is utterly disillusioned with Washingtonian politics. Trump has become a powerful voice in a nation put into decline by the ruling establishment in Washington and Wall Street.

The above noted attributes of Trump (coupled with the current economic and sociopolitical situation in the US) are precisely what the Jewish establishment in America and globalist interests around the world fears. From their perspective, the US is too important because the US has been a powerful catalyst with which they have been pushing their strategic agendas around the world for decades. Therefore, when it comes to Washington and American politicians, they seek total domination. In other words, the US is too wealthy, too large, too powerful, too influential in the world, and the ruling elite is too vested in the American empire to simply share power to a populist outsider who is not totally owned or controlled by them. It should also be said that Trump's populist persona, his popularity among white Christians and some of his style is also reminding his worried detractors of historic figures like Hitler and Mussolini.

From a Jewish perspective: Once a immensely popular public figure like Donald Trump, who has a following of millions of white Christians in the country, rises in American politics on a platform based on anti-establishment, anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim sentiments... it's a very small leap thereafter to the thing called "antisemitism". In my humble opinion, the fear Jews have towards Trump is primarily an instinctual fear. Consequently, although Trump has gone out of his way to pander to the country's Jewish ruling elite to gain their approval, the Jewish ruling elite realizes that Trump (and his followers) are not something they can directly own or easily control. Trump will therefore not be trusted by them. I also suspect his German pedigree is not helping him one bit. But with millions of Americans standing firmly by Trump's side, they now realize they have a serious problem on their hands. The anti-Trump hysteria orchestrated by the Jewish establishment and their lackey's throughout American society could therefore be foreseen and expected.

We therefore have a situation in the US where there is a presidential candidate who is doing his utmost best to work from within the political system at hand; a presidential candidate who is immensely popular throughout the country; a Republican presidential candidate who is drawing large numbers of Democrat and independent voters into the Republican party... but also a Republican presidential candidate that the Republican establishment (and virtually everyone else in Washington) is vehemently opposed to. Just think:
Instead of being happy that in Trump the Republican Party finally got someone that record numbers of American voters are excited about, they are viciously attacking him. Would the Republican Party rather lose the general elections with a couple of Hispanics than win with Trump? Apparently, yes.

It was an extraordinary day in American history when the Republican establishment represented by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney officially set out to subvert the will of the American people. By doing so, the US political establishment finally revealed its true face -
Mitt Romney: Donald Trump is a 'phony, a fraud':
And it's not only Mitt Romney openly plotting against Trump -
Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders:
At Secretive Meeting, Tech CEOs And Top Republicans Commiserate, Plot To Stop Trump:
But ask yourselves: What about the will of the voters? What happened to that wonderful thing called "democracy" all of a sudden? A relatively well known American public figure meticulously worked his way into the political system setup by the ruling elite, but he is being attacked by the system because he is too independent and too popular? This makes absolutely no sense... well, that is until you look at the bigger picture and realize who and what controls America today.

Trump presidential bid has inadvertently revealed that even within a tightly controlled two-party system, which is in essence a closed circuit, there can be serious problems when presidential candidates exhibit traits (e.g. popularity and independence) that the ruling elite does not like to see in presidential candidates. Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders) has also revealed just how much influence major money donors have in American politics. What we are seeing today in America are things some of us knew existed all along but had a hard time proving it to the ignorant public. Thanks to Trump (and Sanders), and as the Armenian saying goes, the shit is now coming up to the surface. 

America has become a showcase for Jews on the left and Jews on the right

What we are witnessing today is the coming of age of a new political landscape in the US. Once upon a time Anglos (WASPs) exclusively and jealously ran the country. That is no longer the case today. America's WASP class has relinquished all power to American-Jews and the international elite (a group of powerful families in Europe and in the US in which Jews also play a prominent role). American-Jews in particular have achieved near total domination in the US today.

Jews represent the American left (George Soros' Neoliberal types), Jews represent the American right (Leon Strauss' Neoconservative types). One side brings you imperial wars, along with "Judaeo-Christian" values, big business and American flags; the other side brings you imperial wars, along with abortions, feminism, multiculturalism, immigrants, welfare state and rainbow flags. Although Jews maintain close ties with their shabbos goyim known as "Christian Zionists", they remain much, much more prolific and active in America's left. The Western world has thus become a test-tube and a playground for the Jewish elite. Virtually all American politicians - both Democrat and Republican - eat from Jewish hands. Immense amounts of Jewish money finances both sides of the political spectrum in the US. They do this to essentially have a firm footing in any given political discourse. The US has thus become a showcase for Jews on the left and Jews on the right - and those in the middle getting screwed is the average American. Jewish influence in the US today is so pervasive that when the "right" fights the "left", what we essentially see is Jewish infighting. We can clearly see this unique dynamic in modern America play out when they sometimes air their dirty laundry. When disagreements are sometimes observed between the US and Israel, you can bet it is Jewish infighting. Nevertheless, regardless of what political side in the US you think you are on, you are in fact on their side. Jews are America's new ruling elite, as the following proves -

Donald Trump's beloved daughter is a "happy Jew" -
Ivanka Trump is happy to be Jewish:
The Hispanics in the bunch, Cruz and Rubio, are more Zionistic than most Jews -
Ted Cruz says: "If You Won't Stand With Israel, I Will Not Stand With You":
Senator Marco Rubio – Israel First, America Last:
Bernie Sanders is of course a Jew, but apparently he doesn't like talking about it -
Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but he doesn’t like to talk about it:
 And many years ago Hillary Clinton claimed to be part Jewish -
Hillary Has Jewish Roots:
As the reader can see, Jews are now America's kingmakers. Jews are the Western world's holy of holies. Jews have once again managed to become their host nation's ruling class, a ruling class that the ruled can only speak about in whispers. Yet, most dumbed-down and zombified Americans (a direct consequence of American pop culture) are not aware of the Jewish hijacking of US politics. And those few that are aware, won't dare openly speak ill of it - lest they be branded as racists, anti-Semites, Nazis, fascists or haters. As the reader can see, Jews therefore have not only captured the nation's centers of power, they have also captured the American people's minds. Through the proliferation of Holocaust propaganda in recent decades, Jews have succeeded in convincing the ever-naive goyim (i.e. non-Jews) that it is a great sin to talk against or criticize Jews. Subsequently, the naive goy today wouldn't think twice about criticizing or attacking "Muslims", "Russians", "Chinese", "Arabs", "Europeans" or even "Christians"... but God forbid anyone criticizes God's chosen, the Jews.

I remain convinced that this is primarily a result of "social engineering" and mental conditioning that comes from either growing up in a Western nation or in a nation under Western influence. Through engineering tools like school curriculum, cinema, music, television programming, print media and news media, Jews have succeeded in thoroughly brainwashing the masses. That is actually how they have traditionally operated. They use cultural levers to brainwash and/or distract the masses, they use financial levers to buy officials and subvert governments. That is how they ruined Russia; that is how they ruined Germany; that is how they ruined the Middle East; that is how they are currently ruining the US. Organized Jewry plays a parasitical role in the human ecology. I say parasitical purely in an ecological sense and not as an ethnic slur.

In a nutshell: Jews stole America while Americans were too drunk, too high or too preoccupied with sex, television, shopping or baseball to notice it. Consequently, Jews today represent all that is America, in all its gore and glory. Consequently, much of what the world hates and/or fears about America today - be it its warmongering, ultraliberalism or its neoconservatism - can be traced to American Judaism. It's this Jewish nature and character - with its inherent hatred of Christians, Muslims, Europeans, Russians, Arabs and Persians - that will eventually destroy the US. The US is already in decline because subservient officials in Washington have been pursuing policies both at home and abroad that are beneficial to Jews and Israel but detrimental to the US. Looking at the American political landscape, I now feel that it's final: To be considered for high office in today's America, you have to be either fully Jewish, partially Jewish or simply more Jewish than Jewish

There is no democracy in America and the old America is dead

The following is more-or-less what the political system in the US is all about: Elections in the US is basically about two groups of well connected people competing for the empire's control panels. The system is rigged to be a two party show. Ultimately, Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin or like what an American friend of mine once said: "Same shit, different asshole". Every four years the ruling elite in the US decides what shirt the sheeple will wear, and the sheeple are then given the "democratic" choice of picking between two colors. The US political system is like a two ring circus managed by a ringmaster that the audience does not get to see. US presidents are selected to be elected by the sheeple. US presidents are tasked with being the spokesmen or salesmen for the special interests running the show behind-the-scenes. The US is run like a multi-national corporation in which the American citizenry is its work force.

Washington's greatest strength continues to be is its devilish ability to deceive even the healthiest of minds. Which reminds me of a powerful quote by the great German philosopher Goethe: "None are more hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free". Due to the sheer power of propaganda and social engineering, most Americans continue to think they are a free people. Most Americans are still under the impression that there is a functioning democracy in the US. If you are one of these sad simpletons, I ask you to please wake up, open your eyes and realize that despite what political party you “decide” to support in the US, the imperial elite in the US has already decided what kind of country you will live in. Everything else is just an elaborate show meant to distract fools.

Men like Lavoy Finicum once personified the United States of America. I am not going to pass moral judgement, but it was his kind after all that literally put the nation on the map. It was his kind that also helped the US became a superpower. Now, Lavoy Finicum is dead, murdered by his government. His kind that once ruled the American heartland unopposed is now a dying breed. In my opinion, Finicum's death symbolized the death of the old America and the birth of a new America. And this new America is in fact a "third world America". The US is no longer "the land of the free and the home of the brave" and it is definitely no longer a nation "united under God". America was stolen while Americans were busy getting drunk or high, or were just too preoccupied with sex, television, shopping or baseball. The US today is slowly (some say quickly) transforming into a massive God-less police state and a surveillance state, and the situation is getting worst with each passing year. It should be said however that due to its past momentum, accrued wealth and the fact that it remains the epicenter of the world, there continues to be some economic opportunities in the US for intelligent, creative, clever and/or lucky individuals. But even that is slowly diminishing today as wages decline, cost of living rises and the middle class shrinks. The so-called "American Dream" (a post Second World War phenomenon) is gradually turning into an American nightmare for tens-of-millions of Americans. At the end of the day, none of the big talking presidential candidates will be able to fix America's problems because the fundamental problem the US has is its imperialism, its role as a global hegemon. 

The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once stated: "Those who fights monsters should see to it that they themselves do not become a monster”. The US failed to heed the German philosopher's advice. By defeating Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the US acquired the worst characteristics of both.

The US today is a far cry from what its founding father intended when they founded the nation. The US is no longer a republic, but a massive global empire under the control of a handful of special interests. Washington's imperial pursuits in recent decades is essentially what's wrong with America today. How so? Well, the following is one way how: It is well known that the America's infrastructure is failing, as evidenced by what we saw take place in Flint, Michigan. While the Federal government claims it does not have the funds to fix America's failing infrastructure - and boost America's economy and its middle class by creating millions of well paying jobs throughout the country in the process - it somehow has the funds - $5 TRILLION and counting to be exact - to fight hegemonic wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

TRILLIONS of dollars are being wasted in imperial pursuits of grandiose agendas, while the US slowly transforms into third world status, America's once famed civil liberties slowly disappear and the US, once seen as the world's policeman, is now seen as "the biggest threat to world peace".

If the political facade in the US looks a bit more professional or even somewhat more "democratic" when compared to other nations, it's simply because the US has been slowly developing and fine-tuning its closed circuit, two party political system for well over two hundred years. At its very core the US is essentially the same as all other top-heavy, authoritarian governments around the world. Ultimately, the US is too wealthy, too powerful, too large and too influential globally to allow a silly thing called democracy get in the way. Those who are therefore hoping that Washington will one day tighten it's belt, willingly abandon the business of empire (the business it's been in since the Second World War) and begin transforming the US back to being a republic are fooling themselves. Once a hegemonic predator gets to live on the top of the global food-chain, it becomes virtually impossible for it to live anywhere else. Washington willingly abandoning its imperial status is like a person willingly quitting a high paying profession on Wall Street to work at McDonald's for minimum wage. It just won't happen. Those who run the American empire will therefore never willingly allow the "people" to have a real say in American politics.

Uncle Sam has therefore evolved quite sophisticated methods to manage and/or manipulate people's will during elections without making it look too obvious. These undemocratic practices even have impressive sounding names: "Electoral College", "Super-delegates" and "Gerrymandering". And this is how crazy some of this stuff actually is -
It's crazy, it's legal, and it's undemocratic. Adam Ruins Everything explains gerrymandering:
Because Democracy! How Bernie beat Hillary but lost New Hampshire:
The above is basically the proliferation of "institutionalized corruption" in the Western world. Just think: It's not a majority of votes that puts a presidential candidate into the White House but a majority of "delegates"; and the "super-delegates" in the bunch are government insiders that basically work to close the deal and thus ensure the status quo. The system in place essentially makes it more important for presidential candidates to gain a majority of insider support than a majority of the people's votes. These processes are tools that serve to add complex layers to the political system thereby making it susceptible to insider manipulation and controlThese are the tools with which they cleverly control the people's will. This is how they oversee, manage and direct the nation's political process. This is how the system is rigged and why American politics will never be allowed to get out of its predetermined parameters. It's a very dazzling, foolproof and tightly controlled political system, but obviously not every democratic. The American political system was indeed founded by geniuses! 

We therefore had a situation where the Clinton witch and Bernie Sanders were more-or-less even in actual votes, but in the "super-delegate" count (which is the number that counts) the witch was leading Sanders by several hundred points. Two candidates were more-or-less even in the number of votes they had gotten from the voters, but the one that had "insider" support was way ahead in the delegate count. And that's not all, people from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) vet and "consult" presidential candidates -
As the reader can clearly see, the US is a top-heavy, semi-authoritarian "democracy" where the ruling establishment tightly controls the parameters of the political system. So, ask yourselves: How is this any different from the top heavy, semi-authoritarian democracies of Russia and Iran, or even Armenia for that matter? Iran also has a democracy in which the country's religious establishment tightly controls the parameters of the country's political system. The clerics in Tehran vet the political players, define boundaries of the political process and go on to administer it all from above. Similarly, Russia's FSB closely monitors the political process throughout the Russian Federation. These are done to keep society in order and politics in-line with the interests of the nation. It's also meant to keep out foreign (i.e. Western) meddling.

So, how is any of this different from what happens in the US?!

Would Russian or Iranian officials get away with the kind of corruption Washington gets away with on a regular basis? Never! In fact, in 2012, Russia had one of the most orderly and democratic elections in the world, yet the West was crying foul. In fact, Iran has had a very well organized election process, but the West has been crying foul. Very well, I accept the notion that Russia, Iran or even Armenia are far from being perfect... but where are Western-funded NGOs decrying the undemocratic processes we are seeing take place throughout the US?

I reiterate: If the political facade in the US looks shinier, more refined, more sophisticated or more palatable, it's simply because the US has had an uninterpreted two hundred year head-start in the game of modern politics. But at its core the political system in the US is essentially the same as the ones we see in other, more authoritarian parts of the world. The US is too wealthy, too powerful, too large and too influential. Those who run the American empire will therefore never allow the "people" to make political decisions and they will never allow outsiders like Donald Trump to change the game. In my opinion, the US differs from nations like Russia, Iran and Armenia only with the sophistication with which it fools its electorate and keeps things orderly.

Manipulation of the political process via dirty tricks is nothing new in American politics. But this year's presidential campaigns have brought the flaws and the rampant corruption in the system to the forefront like never before. What we are seeing take place in this year's election process in the US is blatant examples of the deeply rooted institutionalized corruption (i.e the kind of corruption that is reserved only for upper echelons of society) in the Western world. The following are some additional materials to ponder -
US elections, rigged and computer codes:
Could computers fail on election day?
This Hoax Affects Everyone:
Two-Party Dictatorship: US choosing lesser evil?
Ron Paul 100% proof of Maine Election fraud!
Stealing a U.S. election? Nothing's easier!
But, it's all good. I am actually not criticizing the US for not being a democracy. As I have said on countless previous occasions: Democracy, in its purest form, is a very destructive political process. In fact, the ruling elite in the US knows very well that entrusting a nation’s politics to the whims of its ignorant masses is the surest and fastest way to political and economic ruin. This is essentially why Western powers have been imposing “democracy” on nations targeted with either destruction or occupation. Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Ukraine are good examples of what I am talking about. The American ruling establishment is very experienced and intelligent. I therefore don't blame them for not wanting real democracy to ruin what they have meticulously created during the past two centuries. The intention of my commentary is instead to break the myth of American democracy and unmask the undemocratic political system in the US, and finally let the sheeple see that they have been fooled by savvy wolves in sheep's clothing. When it comes to governance, baring a few very rare exceptions, I believe top heavy is always better.

Top heavy is better

I do not believe in the silly notion that the ignorant masses are entitled to make serious political decisions through a voting process, nor do I think that numerous political parties competing against each other for power is a healthy thing for any nation, especially for a poor and/or developing nation like Armenia. Therefore, as noted above, I do not want to come across as if I'm rejecting the idea of an elitist system of government as an effective form of governance. In fact, in various degrees, much of the civilized world today is in fact made up of elitist governments and oligarchies. A political system with few, well established political players can in fact be very effective if such a system is practiced by a homegrown and nationalistically motivated political and financial elite, and if the citizenry of the aforementioned political system is well conditioned for such participation. The main problem I have with the political system in the Western world is that is it not the "democracy" it wants the world to think of it as, and the US duopoly is unfortunately not even controlled by a homegrown American elite that has the nation's best interests in mind. The type of democracy prescribed for the developing world by Western officials today (increasingly at the tip of a bayonet) is inherently flawed and destructive in nature.
I personally believe in top heavy, nationalistic governments where limited forms of democracy and highly regulated forms of capitalism are practiced. I see National Socialism and Constitutional Monarchy as the best forms of government. Such forms of top heavy/authoritarian governments are particularly important for peoples without much experience in statehood (i.e. Armenians), and for peoples with certain nonconforming cultural/genetic traits (i.e. Armenians). Close observation of Armenians and Armenian history reveals that Armenians tend to be by nature: fiercely independent, individualistic, never satisfied, competitive, aggressive, possessive, suspicious, jealous, clannish, arrogant, intelligent, crafty and overly ambitious. These unique traits (which lies at the root of Armenian success outside of Armenia) does not allow Armenians to be easily governed (especially when the governing is being done by other Armenians). More importantly, such traits do not encourage sociopolitical stability. Democracy and Armenians therefore cannot mix well. Armenians therefore need to be ruled by a top heavy, authoritarian government. Russians likewise need authoritarian governments, but unlike Armenians they seem to understand this. The following survey reveals why Russia remains a powerful nation despite immense odds -
Speaking of Russia: Moscow is increasingly nationalizing its national assets, passing laws to curb foreign influences, clamping down on rampant corruption, promoting patriotism, increasing funds to its military, monitoring its national bank, implementing social care programs and regulating its "free market" economy. That is how governments should be run. And I'm glad that Russia is fast heading towards National Socialism, although it would never be categorized as such due to the negative connotation the term in question continues to have thanks to the decades long propaganda against it by the Anglo-American-Zionist-Bolshevik interests. The following article by the New York Times discusses Russia's transformation into a top heavy, well-armed, Russocentric and a carefully regulated free-market democracy. But I would like to once again remind you to read between-the-lines because the article is ultimately written by Western presstitutes and is meant to cast a negative light on Russia and its president -
Russian Lawmakers Aim at Foreign Cars, Films and Schooling in Patriotic Purge:
Barring some rare exceptions, mankind in gewnral is by-nature incapable of governing itself. This is condition is more pronounced in certain peoples (e.g. like Armenians, Greeks, Arabs) who have genetic and cultural traits that do not mix well with democratic values. Because of man's nature, democracy will not work most of the time. Those who control the levers of government in the Western world fully recognize the inherent flaws found in a democratic system, which explains why Western governments are by-design elite-based systems with relatively very few political players. This is why I am an advocate of political systems where political parties and corporate entities are tightly regulated and are made to operate under the close supervision of the nation's homegrown political, financial and military elite. Two such successful forms of governments today are Russia and China.

Free societies shoot to great heights, but they burnout just as fast. When it comes to governing, top heavy will always be more efficient and longer lasting. I also want my ever-naive and self-destructive Armenian compatriots to stop their utter stupidity when it comes to politics in Armenia. Armenians need to wake up and see that corruption is in fact much worst in the US. Armenians need to wake up and see that there is no democracy in the US. Armenians need to wake up and realize that the existence of subversive (or mentally ill) characters like Paruyr Hayrikian, Jirayr Sefilian, Raffi Hovanissian and Levon Petrosian within the political scene in Armenia is proof that Armenia is, unfortunately, more democratic than the US. Armenians also need to wake up and realize that the US did not become this wealthy, this developed and this powerful because of "democracy" "humanitarian values" or "liberalism".

It is troubling for me that a lot of people are still under the impression that the Western world, the US in particular, become this wealthy and this developed as a result of democracy and/or liberalism. We must dispel this false notion because it is misleading millions of people around the world and causing unrest by feeding the ignorant masses yearning for a better life with false and poisonous misconceptions.

Protected by oceans, the political/financial elite in the US took over two hundreds years to grow the country to what it is today. During that time period, the US became a wealthy world power essentially as a result of the industrial revolution; mass scale enslavement of Africans; the systematic extermination of native American Indians and the confiscation their resource rich lands; global wars for plunder; and the total control over global trade and commodities as a result of such wars. The aforementi0ned, coupled with effective governance by very intelligent and farsighted officials, are the fundamental reasons why the US reached historic prominence within the 20th century. In my opinion, had the US been an actual democracy, it would not have even made it this far. Democracy had nothing to do with the rise of American wealth and power. In fact, it can be strongly argued that encroaching "democratic values" such as liberalism and the loss of traditional/conservative values in the country are the reasons why American civilization is in decline today.

Today, the American empire remains a fancy house-of-cards built by Freemasons and founded on war, genocide and slavery. The America we all knew and loved was a post Second World War phenomenon. It was only after Second World War that some of the accrued wealth in the empire trickled down to the masses and created the much vaunted “American Dream”. The US reached its pinnacle with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the fall of the Soviet Union. But it has been living as a global parasite ever since. Today’s America is a destructive force around the world. Thankfully, times are changing, the East is rising and it will be downhill for the Western empire from now on.

If the US is not really a democracy, then what is it?

A closer look at the system in place in the US strongly suggests that the country is actually a mix of corporatocracy, plutocracy and oligarchy. And one glance at the political process in the country is enough to see that the US is a two party, closed circuit political system under constant supervision by a handful of powerful groups. The political system in the US is essentially like a two ring circus carefully managed by ringmasters the audience seldom gets to see. And the ringmasters in question are: Jewish establishment; Council on Foreign Relations; Trilateral Commission; Pentagon; CIA; military industrial complex; international bankers; Wall Street; Federal Reserve; energy lobby; pharmaceuticals lobby; and the insurance lobby. It should also be added that always present within the highest levels of the above mentioned special interests in Washington are the international elite and their secret orders, the exclusive clubs where members of European and American ruling dynasties (old money) get together and plot ways to preserve their wealth and their power. Some of societies I am referring to are: Freemasonry, Illuminati, Rosicrucians and of course the more modern Bilderberg group. 

These groups prove that real power and real wealth in this world continues to be inherited.

There are in fact many exclusive clubs for high society in the US and in Europe. One such group known as Saint Hubertus briefly revealed itself recently when Justice Scalia died unexpectedly. By pointing this out the only thing I am suggesting is that elitist clubs are real and they are present in the highest echelons of Western governments. While we have no accurate way of measuring how influential they are in politics, they do nevertheless seem omnipresent in centers of power in the Western world. That said, looking at modern institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; movements such as globalism, liberalism and socialism; and the institutionalized promotion of climate change awareness, atheism, democracy, freedom of the press, human rights, homosexuality, feminism, GMOs, civil society, ecumenism and interracialism around the world, I believe it is safe to conclude that the international elite in question does yield great power in places like Washington, London and Brussels. I also suspect that Julian Assange's Wikileaks and the network of internet activists known as Anonymous also serve these globalist interests.

I would also like to add that when Donald Trump talks about making peace with Russia, shutting down the US border with Mexico and bring back American businesses from places like China, he may be cleverly appealing to the average American, but he is unnerving the country's international elite (i.e. its 
Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group types). If you listen closely to what high level American officials say about US trade relations with China and other developing economies around the world, you will inevitably come to the realization that it is the international elite that created the world's current financial system with the US at its epicenter; it is the international elite that wants to contain potential competitors like Russia; it is the international elite that convinced American officials to outsource US industry to nations like China, Vietnam, Singapore and Mexico; it was the international elite that designed thee trade agreement NAFTA to create an interdependent north American superstate; it was the international elite that has transformed the US from an industrial superpower to a service sector economy; and it is the international elite that convinced American officials to open wide America's borders to third world migration to continue feeding their newly created economic system in the US with low wage workers.

In other words: American industry and businesses have been moving to other countries not because American businessmen are stupid or greedy as we are told from time to time - but essentially because the international elite that controls the economic and financial strings of the American empire began outsourcing American businesses in the early 1970s for the sole purpose of economically and financially tethering the economies of strategic nations around the world to the north American behemoth they had created. As I said: If you educate yourselves about this topic and then listen closely to what high ranking policymakers in the US (not "elected politicians" but senior officials like Ben Bernanke, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski) say about why Washington has outsourced American businesses and crafted trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP, you will realize all this.

Nevertheless, it was this international elite that also transformed the US into an epicenter for various globalist projects. The US has thus been the catalyst for global agendas - be it economic, be it political, be it financial, be it cultural  - since the end of the Second World War. This situation has all but decimated the middle class in America and has drastically altered the character of the US. But this situation has also, as intended, preserved global hegemony for the US and preserved the elite's wealth and influence. Consequently, the American economy today, as well as its politics, has less to do with the interests of the American people per se and more to do with the international elite's desire to maintain their global power and hegemony through the US. The faster stupid Americans (who have been convinced by the ruling elite that what I have just outlined here is a "conspiracy theory") realize all this, the faster will they begin to make better sense of what's going on in their country. Once more: Levers of power in the United States were stolen and Americans were too drunk, too high or too preoccupied with sex, shopping or baseball to notice it.

Getting back to Donald Trump: There is an Armenian saying that roughly translated says: The kind of friends a man has says a lot about the man. That is very true. It is also very true that the kind of enemies a man has also says  a lot about the man. We plainly see the kind of enemies Trump has, and that is frankly why many of us like Trump.

Unless there is a very elaborate deception being played on us all by Trump and the country's ruling elite, I believe that Trump is genuine. At the very least, his political stances regarding Syria and Russia are ostensibly rational. At the very least, he is nothing like the other warmongers and puppets of special interests we see on the political stage. Nevertheless, and regardless of everything else, I am grateful to Trump (and Sanders) for reveling some of the ugly truths about the American political system, truths many of us knew existed but could not unequivocally prove because they were always hidden just below the shiny surface. And I of course thank him for all the memorable entertainment.

I can therefore say that I like Trump and that I am a Trump fan. But I wouldn't go as far as calling myself a Trump supporter. 

For now, I am just a fan. Because I am under no illusions. Also, I don't like to engage in wishful thinking. I am critical and cynical and I dislike trends. It's not fun to be this way but it's my nature to be independently minded, cautious and realistic. In my opinion, the American empire is too large, too powerful, too corrupt and too set in its ways, and Trump is too little, too late. Trump will not change the system, the system will more likely change Trump. If Trump gets the Republican nomination and goes on to beat the witch or the socialist for the nation's presidency, he will only do so by coming to terms with the powers that be. There is no other way forward for him - unless he wants to risk his well being. In my opinion, Trump will not live to see the White House if he does not fully submit himself to the ruling elite or at the very least "cut a deal" with them. The last time the US had a populist leader that really wanted to change things for the better, he was murdered by his own. I am not suggesting that they may kill Trump. They won't go that route because it would be too obvious. Besides, assassinations of high officials by the deep state are reserved as a drastic last resort measure, a trump card (pardon the pun). But they do have other ways to ruin people's lives. In any case, Trump won't risk anything. He is simply not that type. As we have already seen, he has already been signalling his strong willingness to work with the country's Jewish establishment and the military industrial complex. That in itself is bad enough and nothing good can come out of it. Trump wants to be part of the ruling establishment, even if the ruling establishment does not trust him. But if it comes down to it, the ruling establishment will make a deal with him.

If Donald Trump somehow becomes president of the United States, some of his core beliefs will therefore have to change if they run counter to the interests of the American empire. In my opinion, shutting down America's borders with Mexico or getting into trade wars with nations like China or Japan runs counter to the interests of the American empire. Men like Trump will eventually find out that the world they live in looks very different when viewed from inside the White House.

Spring, 2016


Is this the end of the West as we know it?

Back in the 1950s, when the institutions were still new and shaky, I’m sure many people feared the Western alliance might never take off. Perhaps in the 1970s, the era of the Red Brigades and Vietnam, many more feared that the West would not survive. But in my adult life, I cannot remember a moment as dramatic as this: Right now, we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it.

In the United States, we are faced with the real possibility of Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump, which means we have to take seriously the possibility of a President Trump. Hillary Clinton’s campaign might implode for any number of reasons, too obvious to rehash here; elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle. That means that next January we could have, in the White House, a man who is totally uninterested in what presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan — as well as Johnson, Nixon and Truman — would all have called “our shared values.”

Trump has advocated torture, mass deportation, religious discrimination. He brags that he “would not care that much” whether Ukraine were admitted to NATO; he has no interest in NATO and its security guarantees. Of Europe, he has written that “their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually.” In any case, he prefers the company of dictators to that of other democrats. “You can make deals with those people,” he said of Russia. “I would have a great relationship with [Vladimir] Putin.” 

Not only is Trump uninterested in America’s alliances, he would be incapable of sustaining them. In practice, both military and economic unions require not the skills of a shady property magnate who “makes deals” but boring negotiations, unsatisfying compromises and, sometimes, the sacrifice of one’s own national preferences for the greater good. In an era when foreign policy debate has in most Western countries disappeared altogether, replaced by the reality TV of political entertainment, all of these things are much harder to explain and justify to a public that isn’t remotely interested.

And Americans aren’t the only ones who find their alliances burdensome. A year from now, France also holds a presidential election. One of the front-runners, Marine Le Pen of the National Front, has promised to leave both NATO and the E.U. , to nationalize French companies and to restrict foreign investors. Like Trump, she foresees a special relationship with Russia, whose banks are funding her election campaign. French friends assure me that if she makes it to the final round, the center-left and center-right will band together, as they did two decades ago against her father. But elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle. What if Le Pen’s opponent suddenly falls victim to a scandal? What if another Islamic State attack jolts Paris?

By the time that happens, Britain may also be halfway out the door. In June, the British vote in a referendum to leave the E.U. Right now, the vote is too close to call — and if the “leave” vote prevails, then, as I’ve written, all bets are off. Copycat referendums may follow in other E.U. countries too. Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, sometimes speaks of leaving the West in favor of a strategic alliance with Istanbul or Moscow.

It’s not hard at all to imagine a Britain unmoored from Europe drifting away from the transatlantic alliance as well. If the economic turmoil that could follow a British exit from the E.U. were sufficiently severe, perhaps the British public would vote out its conservative government in favor of the Labour Party, whose leadership is now radically anti-American. Everyone discounts Jeremy Corbyn , the far-left Labour leader, but they also discounted Trump. Corbyn is the only viable alternative if the public wants a change. Elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle.

And then? Without France, Europe’s single market will cease to exist. Without Britain, it’s hard to see how NATO lasts long either. Not everyone will be sorry. As Trump’s appealing rhetoric makes clear, the costs of alliances (“millions of dollars annually”) are easier to see than the longer-term gains. Western unity, nuclear deterrence and standing armies gave us more than a half century of political stability. Shared economic space helped bring prosperity and freedom to Europe and North America alike. But these are things that we all take for granted, until they are gone.

Anne Elizabeth Applebaum is an American-Jewish Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written extensively about communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. She has been an editor at The Economist, and a member of the editorial board of The Washington Post. She is married former Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski.


The Neocons vs. Donald Trump

The neocons who led the George W. Bush administration into Iraq are now touting a fresh crusade to save American democracy — and the Republican Party — from an authoritarian foe: Donald J. Trump. 

Their campaign began with an impassioned essay in The American Interest last month by Eliot A. Cohen, a former Bush State Department official, who depicted Mr. Trump as symptomatic of the broader “moral rot” of America. Then, in an open letter, more than 100 Republican foreign policy mavens, including neocons such as Mr. Cohen and Robert Kagan, as well as more traditional Republican foreign policy figures like the former World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick, announced they were “united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency.”

Now, in a last-ditch effort, leading neocon thinkers have established what they call the National Security Advisory Council to support Senator Marco Rubio. And many are announcing that if push comes to shove, they will support Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump. Indeed, in the magazine Commentary, the neoconservative historian Max Boot wrote, somewhat hyperbolically, that Mr. Trump is “the No. 1 threat to American security” — bigger than the Islamic State or China.

The neocons are right that a Trump presidency would likely be a foreign policy debacle, not least because of his unpredictable personality and penchant for antagonizing foreign leaders and publics. But they are wrong in asserting that he is somehow a danger to the traditional principles of the Republican Party. On the contrary, Mr. Trump represents a return to the party’s roots. It’s the neocons who are the interlopers.

The extent to which the neocons and their moralistic, crusading Wilsonian mission overtook the Republican foreign policy establishment, beginning in the 1970s, was so nearly complete that it can be hard to remember that a much different sensibility had previously governed the party, one reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s own positions: wariness about foreign intervention, championing of protectionist trade policies, a belief in the exercise of unilateral military power and a suspicion of global elites and institutions.

Consider the 1919 League of Nations debate, the crucible in which much Republican foreign policy was forged. In leading the charge against United States membership in entering the league, the Republican senator Henry Cabot Lodge argued that intervening abroad would undermine American security: “If you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger her very existence.”

By the 1920s, the Republicans took Lodge’s logic a step further. So-called mossback Republicans supported the punitive Immigration Act of 1924, which included provisions barring Asians and restricting African immigrants. The party also backed protectionism: In June 1930 Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which worsened the Great Depression and stoked nationalism around the world.

The party’s embrace of outright isolationism culminated in opposition to aiding Britain once World War II began in 1939. Liberal Republicans like Henry Stimson and Frank Knox were drummed out of the party at the 1940 convention for joining the Roosevelt administration, the first as secretary of war and the second as secretary of the Navy. At the same time, The Wall Street Journal editorial page argued for “realism” toward Hitler, who, it assured its readers, had “already determined the broad lines of our national life for at least another generation.”

After World War II, the right remained suspicious of militarism. It denounced Harry S. Truman’s sweeping alliances in Europe. In 1950, Herbert Hoover created a national uproar when he declared that America had to acknowledge limits to its power. Meanwhile, Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio proposed constitutional amendments aimed at destroying the president’s ability to conclude foreign treaties. And in 1951, another Ohio senator, Robert A. Taft, announced, “The principal purpose of the foreign policy of the United States is to maintain the liberty of our people.”

One can hear echoes of this Republican past in Mr. Trump’s own positions. His animating credo on foreign policy seems to be to farm out the heavy lifting to other countries whenever possible. Speaking on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” last August, he made his distaste for intervention clear: “At some point, we can’t be the policeman of the world. We have to rebuild our own country." Since then, to the consternation of the party establishment, he has also forthrightly denounced the Iraq war, declaring that the Bush administration’s case for it was based on a “lie.”

The Trump doctrine, if that term can be employed, is reminiscent of basic foreign policy realist tenets. In fact, as Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution first pointed out in Politico, Mr. Trump has a “remarkably coherent and consistent worldview.” Mr. Trump, you could even say, is a spheres-of-influence kind of guy: Europe should take care of Ukraine, Russia should handle Syria. “When I see the policy of some of these people in our government,” he said on MSNBC this month, “we’ll be in the Middle East for another 15 years if we don’t end up losing by that time because our country is disintegrating.”

At the same time, he’s rejected the idea of repudiating the Obama administration’s Iran deal, and says that it’s important to remain “neutral” in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians — two points that strike at the heart of Republican neocon orthodoxy. And he seems to have little use for alliances: He’s demanding that countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia pay more for the United States to defend them. At the same time, he’s ready to slap high tariffs on Japan and China — something that could trigger a global depression.

Mr. Trump’s position can resemble realism on steroids. At bottom, he doesn’t want America to lead the world; he wants the world to get out of its way. Even many die-hard realists are unwilling to follow him: Last Friday his sinister advocacy of torture, which he has since disavowed, prompted not only neocons but prominent realists like Andrew J. Bacevich and Richard Betts to sign a letter called “Defending the Honor of the U.S. Military from Donald Trump” in Foreign Policy.

None of this seems to antagonize the Republican base, which appears less ideological on taxes and foreign policy than the party elite. Once George W. Bush and the neocons led us into Iraq, it was probably only a matter of time before the neocons were called to account. Maybe the surprising thing isn’t that the party is starting to morph back into its original incarnation, but that it took this long.


Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders


We the undersigned, members of the Republican national security community, represent a broad spectrum of opinion on America’s role in the world and what is necessary to keep us safe and prosperous. We have disagreed with one another on many issues, including the Iraq war and intervention in Syria. But we are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency. Recognizing as we do, the conditions in American politics that have contributed to his popularity, we nonetheless are obligated to state our core objections clearly:
His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.
His advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars is a recipe for economic disaster in a globally connected world.
His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.
His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combatting Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort.
Furthermore, it endangers the safety and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of American Muslims.
Controlling our border and preventing illegal immigration is a serious issue, but his insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions, and rests on an utter misreading of, and contempt for, our southern neighbor.
Similarly, his insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II.
His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy.
He is fundamentally dishonest. Evidence of this includes his attempts to deny positions he has unquestionably taken in the past, including on the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 Libyan conflict. We accept that views evolve over time, but this is simply misrepresentation.
His equation of business acumen with foreign policy experience is false. Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs.
Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States. Therefore, as committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office. 
David Adesnik Michael Auslin Kevin W. Billings Robert D. Blackwill Daniel A. Blumenthal Max Boot Ellen Bork Joseph A. Bosco Michael Chertoff Patrick Chovanec James Clad Eliot A. Cohen Carrie Cordero Michael Coulter Chester A. Crocker Patrick M. Cronin Seth Cropsey Tom Donnelly Daniel Drezner Colin Dueck Eric Edelman Joseph Esposito Richard A. Falkenrath Peter D. Feaver Niall Ferguson Richard Fontaine Aaron Friedberg Greg Garcia Jana Chapman Gates Jeffrey Gedmin Reuel Marc Gerecht David Gordon Christopher J. Griffin Mary R. Habeck Paul Haenle Melinda Haring Robert Hastings Rebeccah Heinrichs Jeffrey W. Hornung William C. Inboden Jamil N. Jaffer Ash Jain Myriah Jordan Robert G. Joseph Kate Kidder Robert Kagan David Kramer Matthew Kroenig Frank Lavin Philip I. Levy Philip Lohaus Mary Beth Long Peter Mansoor John Maurer Matthew McCabe Bryan McGrath Paul D. Miller Charles Morrison Lester Munson Andrew S. Natsios Michael Noonan John Noonan Roger F. Noriega Robert T. Osterhaler Mackubin T. Owens Everett Pyatt Martha T. Rainville Stephen Rodriguez Marc A. Ross Michael Rubin Daniel F. Runde Benjamin Runkle Richard L. Russell Andrew Sagor Kori Schake Randy Scheunemann Gary J. Schmitt Gabriel Schoenfeld Kalev I. Sepp Vance Serchuk David R. Shedd Kristen Silverberg Michael Singh Ray Takeyh William H. Tobey Frances F. Townsend Jan Van Tol Daniel Vajdich Albert Wolf Julie Wood Dov S. Zakheim Roger Zakheim Philip Zelikow Robert B. Zoellick Laurence Zuriff - Number of Signatories: 95
The statement above was coordinated by Dr. Eliot A. Cohen, former Counselor of the Department of State (2007–8), and Bryan McGrath, Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group, a defense consultancy. They encourage other members of the Republican foreign policy and national security communities wishing to sign the declaration to contact them.

How Donald Trump sparked an unprecedented crisis among Jewish Republicans

The Republican Party has a serious Jewish problem. With the party failing to foresee and later oppose Donald Trump's rise, Republican Jewish outreach faces an unprecedented crisis. The party could end up with a nominee who alienates both Jewish conservatives by breaking with Republican orthodoxy on Israel and Jewish liberals by promoting authoritarianism, racism, and xenophobia. Jewish Republicans have rested their case for drawing Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party on what they portray as stronger Republican support for Israel. They play to Jewish affection for Israel by disingenuously depicting President Obama as undermining the historic U.S.-Israeli alliance and snubbing the Israeli prime minister. They claim Obama has posed a dangerous threat to Israel itself, both through the Iran nuclear deal and the administration's efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Because American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, multi-issue voters, this strategy was always a bit of a fool's errand. But it could be subverted completely if the party nominates Trump. It could have been easy to anticipate this predicament. At the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in December, Trump drew criticism for promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes while speaking to an audience of Jewish activists, many of them wealthy donors to the party. He suggested that they might not support him because he wouldn't take their campaign contributions. He called himself a "negotiator, like you." He said they were, like him, great dealmakers. The speech, a characteristic Trump mash-up of insult and purported flattery, at the time provoked a nervous discomfort in the audience, but little tangible opposition.

Even Trump's promise to use his negotiating skills to reach a "great" peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians — a heresy in conservative pro-Israel circles — failed to produce a coherent anti-Trump strategy from Republicans. The reception he receives at his scheduled speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) next week will be telling. As his campaign has marched on, Trump has become more brazen with his Islamophobia, his scapegoating of immigrants, and his promotion of "roughing up" protesters at his rallies, who are frequently black.

The Trump campaign also has failed to explain how it gave press credentials to a white supremacist radio host to broadcast live from a rally in Tennessee. When confronted by his refusal to disavow support from the anti-Semitic former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, Trump said, "I don't like to disavow groups if I don't know who they are. I mean, you could have Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in groups." The Anti-Defamation League called Trump's statement apparently likening neo-Nazi groups and Jewish charities "obscene." Jews do not make Hitler comparisons lightly, but increasingly Trump's rallies, at which he has deployed strongmen and incited followers to violence, are inviting them.

Rather than acknowledge these echoes, though, Trump has derisively dismissed them. After video of Trump supporters raising their arms in a gesture reminiscent of the Nazi salute went viral in Jewish and Israeli media, Trump trivialized his detractors. At last week's debate in Miami, he called the criticism "a total disgrace." In that same debate, in a crucial state in which Jewish support can be pivotal, Trump defended himself with a word salad of some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jewish rhetoric. "I've made massive contributions to Israel," he said, because — don't you know? — Jews value money over everything else. "I have tremendous love for Israel. I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, okay? And two grandchildren that are Jewish."

Trump's Republican opponents appear helpless to defend themselves or their party against Trump's assault on their standing among Jewish voters. The second place contender, Ted Cruz, has strained to portray himself as the most dedicated friend of Israel. Leading a campaign that depends on the support of evangelicals, he has touted his endorsements from supposedly pro-Israel evangelicals. But that comes with its own pitfalls. Cruz has singled out the support of Mike Bickle, a controversial Missouri preacher who claims Jews are "spiritually blind" and must be brought to Christ in order for Israel to be "restored" for Jesus' return. The GOP's 2016 Jewish outreach may have started as pipe dream. It has turned into a train wreck.

"Trump Must Be Stopped" Plead 'The Economist' And CFR As Financial Establishment Panics

It's one thing for the republican establishment to throw up all over the candidacy of Donald Trump: frankly, the GOP has not been relevant as a political power ever since Boehner started folding like a lawn chair to Obama's every demand just around the time of the first US downgrade, and as such what the Republican party - torn apart and very much irrelevant as the best of the "establishment" GOP candidates demonstrate - thinks is largely irrelevant. However, when such stalwart titans of financial establishmentarianism as the Council of Foreign Relations and "The Economist", who until now had been largely ignoring Trump's ascent in the political hierarchy finally unleash an all out assault and go after Trump on the very same day, you know that the flamboyant, hyperbolic billionaire has finally gotten on the nerves of some very high net worth individuals. Below are excerpts from the panicked lamentations of the Economist as written down this weekend in "Time to fire Trump":

* * *
The front-runner is unfit to lead a great political party, let alone America

IN A week’s time, the race for the Republican nomination could be all but over. Donald Trump has already won three of the first four contests. On March 1st, Super Tuesday, 12 more states will vote. Mr Trump has a polling lead in all but three of them. Were these polls to translate into results, as they have so far, Mr Trump would not quite be unbeatable. It would still be possible for another candidate to win enough delegates to overtake him. But that would require the front-runner to have a late, spectacular electoral collapse of a kind that has not been seen before. Right now the Republican nomination is his to lose. When pollsters ask voters to choose in a face-off between Mr Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner wins by less than three percentage points. Mr Trump would have plenty of time to try to close that gap. An economy that falls back into recession or an indictment for Mrs Clinton might do it for him. That is an appalling prospect. The things Mr Trump has said in this campaign make him unworthy of leading one of the world’s great political parties, let alone America. One way to judge politicians is by whether they appeal to our better natures: Mr Trump has prospered by inciting hatred and violence. He is so unpredictable that the thought of him anywhere near high office is terrifying. He must be stopped.
... just in case there was any confusion what The Economist thinks:
If the field remains split as it is now, it is possible for Mr Trump to win with just a plurality of votes. To prevent that, others must drop out. Although we are yet to be convinced by Mr Rubio, he stands a better chance of beating Mr Trump than anyone else. All the other candidates—including Mr Cruz, who wrongly sees himself as the likeliest challenger—should get out of his way. If they decline to do so, it could soon be too late to prevent the party of Abraham Lincoln from being led into a presidential election by Donald Trump.
And then there is the Council of Foreign Relations' Benn Steil with "Selling America Short" of which sections have been excerpted below:

The country would cease to be great under a President Trump

Following his primary victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, Donald Trump has established himself as the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He has done so offering grandiose slogans — He'll Make America Great Again! He'll have us win so much we'll get bored with winning! — and precious little in specifics. He has said, for example, that he would repeal Obamacare, without saying a word about what would replace it — beyond promising that his health program would be "terrific" and "take care of everyone."
* * *
If Trump were to order the U.S. military to act as he suggests, the likely result would be a crisis in civil-military relations. Many military personnel would refuse to carry out orders so blatantly at odds with the laws of war; soldiers know that they could face prosecution under a future administration. If soldiers were to do as President Trump ordered, moreover, terrorist organizations would have a new recruiting pitch with the world's Muslims — the need to counter American barbarism.
* * *
The radical changes that Trump proposes are all the more dangerous because he is so singularly ill-equipped to manage the resulting turmoil. This is a candidate, after all, who doesn't know the difference between the Kurds and the Quds Force or have any idea what the "nuclear triad" is. Nor has Trump so far made good on his pledge to attract "top top people" to help him run things; he has still not unveiled a campaign foreign policy team in spite of months of pledges to do so. In any case, advisers cannot make up for a president's ignorance and prejudice; presidents always get conflicting advice, and it is their job, and their job alone, to make the most difficult judgment calls in the world. Trump has already done considerable damage to America's reputation with his crude, bombastic, and often ugly rhetoric. American standing, as measured both in "soft power" and more traditional realpolitik terms, would suffer far more if he were to become commander in chief. A Trump presidency threatens the post-World War II liberal international order that American presidents of both parties have so laboriously built up — an order based on free trade and alliances with other democracies. His policies would not make America "great." Just the opposite. A Trump presidency would represent the death knell of America as a great power.
So just whose nerves has Trump gotten on? Here is a summary of the current and honorary directors of the CFR, who basically double down as a 'who is who' list of everyone relevant in modern finance:
Carla A. Hills     Robert E. Rubin     David M. Rubenstein     Richard N. Haass     John P. Abizaid     Zoë Baird     Alan S. Blinder     Mary Boies     David G. Bradley     Nicholas Burns     Steven A. Denning     Blair Effron     Laurence D. Fink     Stephen Friedman     Ann M. Fudge     Timothy F. Geithner     Thomas H. Glocer     Stephen J. Hadley     Peter B. Henry     J. Tomilson Hill     Susan Hockfield     Donna J. Hrinak     Shirley Ann Jackson     James Manyika     Jami Miscik     Eduardo J. Padrón     John A. Paulson     Richard L. Plepler     Ruth Porat     Colin L. Powell     Richard E. Salomon     James G. Stavridis     Margaret Warner     Vin Weber     Christine Todd Whitman     Daniel H. Yergin     Madeleine K. Albright     Martin S. Feldstein     Leslie H. Gelb     Maurice R. Greenberg     Peter G. Peterson     David Rockefeller
And here are the Trustees and the Board of The Economist:
Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone PC, DL     Tim Clark     Lord O'Donnell CB, KCB, GCB     Bryan Sanderson     Rupert Pennant-Rea     Chris Stibbs         Sir David Bell        John Elkann        Brent Hoberman        Suzanne Heywood        Zanny Minton Beddoes     Baroness Jowell     Sir Simon Robertson     Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild

Donald Trump: Why Bilderberg, World Economic Forum (Davos), and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Have Shingles

The Donald shoots from the hip and changes his tune every few minutes. True. He thinks about one thing, and that reminds him of something else, and then he goes off on that. However, as he keeps talking and talking and talking, he’s deciding that some of what he’s saying makes sense. He’s firming up his belief in his own sales-pitch. He’s doubling down and getting serious.

And one of the things he’s serious about is trade deals. Bad Globalist deals. Deals that steal more American jobs. He and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t admit it, but they both agree on this general point. In fact, a new study out of Tufts University torpedoes glowing estimates of the latest such deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The study authors predict the consequences: another 450,000 jobs will be lost in the US by 2025. Oops. Another Globalist trade treaty sucks life out of the American economy. Which is precisely why Obama is obsessed with passing it.

(The study is titled “Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.” A quick breakdown of the study is, here; free access to the full paper is on, here)

Bilderberg and the Council on Foreign Relations and Rockefeller Globalists are counting on the TPP. It’s one of their precious babiesThey want to undermine the US economy.It’s part of their sink-America program, to pave the way for One United Planet under one management system. Not an American empire. A globalist empire. And they don’t want some out-of-control US Presidential candidate, whose crowds and poll numbers keep swelling like a massive infection, to swipe and swipe and swipe at these trade treaties and dream up ways to bring more jobs back home. They definitely don’t want that—especially after their current marionette in the White House has done such fine work drowning the economic life of the US. The issuance of new credit cards and part-time work at fast-food joints pouring chocolate on French fries don’t equal renewed prosperity, in case you were fooled by official economic-indicator reports.

These elite Globalist don’t believe for a minute that Trump alone can turn back the clock on their ongoing destruction. But they do realize he can keep talking about it. And in doing so, he can force more people to wake up to the fact that they’re being screwed—and how they’re being screwed. Globalism is all about allowing mega-corporations to take their factories and jobs out of the country overseas. It’s a cornerstone of every trade deal. Mega-corps can manufacture their products more cheaply in a hell hole with slave workers, and then export those products back here (and to other industrialized countries)—and pay no tariffs. How sweet (and destructive) it is. Trump, like some swaggering cowboy, keeps shooting his six-guns at this program, even though he doesn’t apparently understand the bottom-line motivation behind it. Or who knows? Maybe he does and he’s staying silent about it.

How did this guy get in the door? Why can’t the media shut up about him? Why does every attack against him, valid or invalid, bring more supporters to his side? What happened to Globalist Jeb? Why is he curled up in fetal position in his bedroom eating Snickers and watching home movies of his family? Hillary is on board with the Globalist program. She’s all about cold-blooded revenge against the greatest number of people possible. She eats attacks against her, and converts them into dark anti-matter. But Trump? He’s Mr. Brassy Salesman who parlayed his con and his bankruptcies and his execrable TV show into a fortune. And then he somehow got a few actual ideas into his oversized head.

How? Why? Can’t somebody put him on a no-fly list? Can’t he be declared a terrorist or at least a national security risk? Can’t the NSA cough up a few juicy tidbits about his personal life? Haven’t the FBI or the CIA already slipped a few slimeballs into his campaign? There are spies who spy on spies spying on other spies, and they can’t squeeze out one rank and repulsive fact that’ll sink Trump’s ship? In his 2003 Memoirs, David Rockefeller wrote:

Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure—one world, if you will. If that is the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.
Are we going to let darling David, who’s what, 175 years old now, go to his grave hearing the absurd burlesque echoes of Donald Trump ringing in his ears? What used to be called the Eastern Establishment—Globalist Ivy League domeheads gazing at the world through the wrong ends of telescopes from Park Avenue penthouses—are in a Trump quandary. They’re disturbed. They have incipient ass-rash and stress-shingles. The natural order of things is wobbling.

Shut this Momzer up!

The permanent underclass must expand. Economic chaos must prevail, so a new order can be instituted.
Mega-corporations must rule the world (for a while). The Globalist hope is this: Eventually, Trump will be discredited as a goofball; and therefore, for the foreseeable future, no one else with any clout will raise the issue of trade treaties or the destruction of economies. Trump and whatever he stood for will be remembered as a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder. Globalism, as it moves forward, will become a forgotten word. And the band will play on.

Understand: there are two basic stripes of Globalist. The first is America-first. They want a single managed planet, but they want the US to be the top-boss in the crime empire. The second, as evidenced by the Rockefeller quote above, and by the core international membership of Bilderberg heavy hitters, want shared leadership. The balance is delicate, and the conflict is real. As it moves forward, the last thing both types of Globalists want is some yahoo stepping into the frame and disrupting the whole show.
Trump’s qualifications for the Presidency, such as they are, are entirely beside this point. Whether he was originally put front and center to serve as a losing foil for Hillary Clintonis also, now, beside the point. He’s acquired too much support. As far as the Globalists are concerned, he is a problem.

Perhaps the polls are all wrong and the Primary season will douse the glow on his candle, and by the time the July Republican convention rolls around he’ll be back in New York wheeling and dealing real estate. They hope. There’s a chance no candidate will have enough votes for a slam-dunk nomination in Cleveland, in which case the process will be “brokered,” as they say. Jeb could then exert his power and play his cards behind the scene. But that would cause a major uproar among Trump’s supporters as they cry foul and raise hell, igniting a new nightmare.

Hillary’s inner circle might still be in the process of building up Trump, because they continue to believe he’ll be an easy mark in the election—but it seems late in the game for such a reckless assessment, given how far Trump has come in the last few months.

If some hidden ally is trying to help Trump stay afloat, he might also have non-Globalist convictions. Who, besides China (already in Trump’s crosshairs), is the biggest outsider vis-à-vis free trade? Who is angrily opposing the upcoming Globalist TTIP trade deal, which would cement tighter relations between the European Union and the US and make him even more of an outsider? Who has already expressed admiration for Trump and received kind words from The Donald? Yes, this is mere speculation, but there is one man who fits that bill: Vladimir Putin. And Putin certainly took notice, last year, when the-hawk-Hillary compared him to, let’s see, who was that again, oh yes, Hitler.

Real estate cowboy and KGB lieutenant colonel? Different galaxies, but they have at least one thing in common: they like believing they’re the toughest guy in the room. Do they both like war too much?

As for the Republican party bosses, they’re going crazy trying to derail Trump. Their main argument seems to be: he’s not a legitimate candidate. But behind that, their actual concern comes back to their own membership in the Globalist club. By allowing Trump to maintain center stage, they’re violating every club rule. And the men who own them aren’t happy. Not happy at all. So these party big shots are backing away from Trump as far as they can, swearing loudly: “See, he’s not our man! Honest, we hate him! He’s a fiend! We want to fire him!”

But so far, Trump still has a patent on that phrase: “You’re fired!”

National politics and international politics are rigged games from top to bottom. But once in a while, a wild one turns up. That person may have started out as just another piece of the fix, but then he breaks away from the pack and stakes out his own territory. When this happens, he’s usually squelched long before he can build up a head of steam. But not now, not in this case. The horse is out of the barn. And he’s not sprinting for the horizon. He’s prancing and dancing in the pasture. He’s rearing up on his hind legs, he’s jumping, he’s kicking up his heels. He’s doing whatever he wants to. And that’s the key, because the rest of the horses have long since been trained to act like machines. People know the difference. If given the choice, they move to the wild one. He reminds them that they, too, have been socialized to become machines. And they want out.

Yes, there is an definite upside and a downside to this shock and surprise and unpredicted circumstance. But regardless, it’s a fact. It’s happening. People might wish the wild one was a Caruso or a Nijinsky or an Olivier or a Lincoln or a Tom Paine or a Gandhi—instead of a fast-talking self-promoting New York real estate hustler, who suddenly flips a switch and wants to go to war. But in a machine world, strange things happen. When the mandated pattern for all social behavior is cracked and broken and smashed, strange creatures emerge on stage, under the lights. However distorted they may seem, the audience suddenly pays attention, sniffing something they barely remember, but desperately want.

Does the creature dancing across the footlights accurately reflect the audience’s desire? It doesn’t matter to the audience. Because the thing most wished for, and most precious, is an article called freedom. Will some people misinterpret what it means? You bet they will. They’ll say it’s license. They’ll do all sorts of crazy things with it. When governments and corporations and media agents keep reshaping the world into new versions of locked-down conformity and robot behaviorism, the breakout will never be smooth.

—The original crime is the individual surrendering his own uniqueness, his own mind, his own imagination, his own formidable power. That’s where it started, and that’s where it comes back to.

Shrugging off inner slavery, across a whole population, and regressing in fear back to the mean, and breaking out again, are more than most people can handle. But for those who can grasp the core of it, a new dawn rises. And things will never be the same again. And that leaves Trump or any politician far behind.

Jon Rappoport

The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALEDEXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.

Anti-Trump Republicans Call for a Third-Party Option

Spurred by Donald J. Trump’s mounting victories, a small but influential — and growing — group of conservative leaders are calling for a third-party option to spare voters a wrenching general election choice between a Republican they consider completely unacceptable and Hillary Clinton. While he has gained intense popularity on the right, Mr. Trump has alienated key blocs in the Republican coalition with his slash-and-burn campaign. For many, his initial refusal last weekend to disavow an endorsement from David Duke, the white supremacist, was a breaking point. Two top Republicans, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, said this week that they would not vote for Mr. Trump in November.

Mr. Trump has alienated voters from several wings of the party: mainstream Christian activists, who view his angry outlook as antithetical to their faith; centrists, who see him as the most divisive politician in a generation; and national security experts, who have recoiled from his praise for autocrats like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and believe he should not control nuclear weapons. William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said he would work actively to put forward an “independent Republican” ticket if Mr. Trump was the nominee, and floated Mr. Sasse as a recruit.

“That ticket would simply be a one-time, emergency adjustment to the unfortunate circumstance (if it happens) of a Trump nomination,” Mr. Kristol wrote in an email. It “would support other Republicans running for Congress and other offices, and would allow voters to correct the temporary mistake (if they make it) of nominating Trump.”

Max Boot, a foreign policy adviser to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, said that if efforts to block Mr. Trump fell short, he would vote against a Republican nominee for the first time in his life.

“I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump,” said Mr. Boot, who expressed optimism that Mr. Trump could still be defeated. He added: “There is no way in hell I would ever vote for him. I would far more readily support Hillary Clinton, or Bloomberg if he ran.”

Among religious conservatives, too, anxiety about Mr. Trump is spreading. Russell Moore, head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he had been deluged by evangelicals asking his guidance on what to do in a race between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. A Trump-Clinton race would have no palatable choice, Mr. Moore said. He said it would be impossible for him to support any candidate “who stirs up racial animosity” or supports abortion rights. There had been widespread discussion, Mr. Moore said, of seeking out “a conservative independent or third-party candidate.”

Defections of any scale could prove lethal to Mr. Trump. He already trails Mrs. Clinton in general election polls, and polling already shows the possibility of mass desertions from the party. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey this week found that 48 percent of Republicans who do not already back Mr. Trump said they would probably not or definitely not support him in November. But even as Republican leaders have denounced Mr. Trump in increasingly forceful terms, few of them have suggested they would shun him. Mr. Rubio has come the closest, describing Mr. Trump as a fraudster whom the party cannot afford to embrace.

Still, when the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, rebuked Mr. Trump on Monday for his evasive response to Mr. Duke’s endorsement, Mr. Ryan added that he would support the eventual Republican nominee. In a news conference Tuesday night, Mr. Trump dismissed the idea of a rogue Republican ticket: “They’ll just lose everything, and that would be the work of a loser.” But for others in the party, casting a protest vote is no remote prospect. Mr. Sasse, a first-term senator, set off a public conversation by declaring on Twitter that he would favor an independent “conservative option” over Mr. Trump. Representative Scott Rigell of Virginia, a Republican from a moderate district on the Atlantic Coast, said he, too, would vote for neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton.

“Not only could I not vote for him, but I couldn’t sit and be silent as I watched him advance,” said Mr. Rigell, who added that many of his congressional colleagues shared his reservations. “He is the antithesis of what I would want my son and grandson to be, and I will not associate myself with him.”

There is no obvious alternative on the right to Mr. Trump, but Republicans believe that an existing minor party, like the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party, could serve as a viable vehicle, allowing crestfallen Republicans to show up on Election Day despite their distaste for him. Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico who ran for president in 2012 as a Libertarian, is again seeking the party’s nomination. There is precedent for Republican Party leaders rejecting a radioactive nominee, though not at the presidential level. In 2010, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska won a write-in re-election campaign after a primary loss to a militant conservative activist. And in 1994, when Virginia Republicans nominated the Iran-contra figure Oliver North for the Senate, a former Republican state attorney general opposed him as an independent, collecting considerable support.

Former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia said he expected many Republican candidates to flee from Mr. Trump, as he had fled Mr. North in 1994. (“When Oliver North came to Fairfax,” he said, “you couldn’t find me with a search warrant.”) “It’s too early to see a mass exodus,” Mr. Davis said, “but a lot of this depends on Trump, and right now he’s not putting himself in a very good position.”

At Secretive Meeting, Tech CEOs And Top Republicans Commiserate, Plot To Stop Trump

Karl Rove shared focus group findings that give hope to the GOP establishment.

Billionaires, tech CEOs and top members of the Republican establishment flew to a private island resort off the coast of Georgia this weekend for the American Enterprise Institute's annual World Forum, according to sources familiar with the secretive gathering. The main topic at the closed-to-the-press confab? How to stop Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page, Napster creator and Facebook investor Sean Parker, and Tesla Motors and SpaceX honcho Elon Musk all attended. So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), political guru Karl Rove, House Speaker Paul Ryan, GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), who recently made news by saying he "cannot support Donald Trump." 

Along with Ryan, the House was represented by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (Mich.), Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) and almost-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), sources said, along with leadership figure Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Diane Black (Tenn.). Philip Anschutz, the billionaire GOP donor whose company owns a stake in Sea Island, was also there, along with Democratic Rep. John Delaney, who represents Maryland. Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, was there, too, a Times spokeswoman confirmed. 

"A specter was haunting the World Forum--the specter of Donald Trump," Kristol wrote in an emailed report from the conference, borrowing the opening lines of the Communist Manifesto. "There was much unhappiness about his emergence, a good deal of talk, some of it insightful and thoughtful, about why he's done so well, and many expressions of hope that he would be defeated."

"The key task now, to once again paraphrase Karl Marx, is less to understand Trump than to stop him," Kristol wrote. "In general, there's a little too much hand-wringing, brow-furrowing, and fatalism out there and not quite enough resolving to save the party from nominating or the country electing someone who simply shouldn't be president."

A highlight of the gathering was a presentation by Rove about focus group findings on Trump. The business mogul's greatest weakness, according to Rove, was that voters have a very hard time envisioning him as "presidential" and as somebody their children should look up to. They also see him as somebody who can be erratic and shouldn't have his (small) fingers anywhere near a nuclear trigger.

Rove's presentation was on the subject of how William McKinley won in 1896, according to an agenda subsequently obtained by HuffPost. Rove recently wrote a book called The Triumph Of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still MattersMcKinley's campaign manager, Mark Hanna, is often referred to as the first Karl Rove -- the first true political operative in the U.S. system. McKinley was running against William Jennings Bryan, a populist and a bigot who riled up the masses by assailing coastal elites and bankers. The race took place in the first Gilded Age. In today's Gilded Age, the parallels are clear. 

Cook did not attend the Rove session, or otherwise take part in any political organizing, a source close to Cook emphasized. Musk tweeted Wednesday that he attended the meeting to talk about "Mars and sustainable energy," not Trump. Sources familiar with the meeting -- who requested anonymity because the forum is off the record -- said that much of the conversation around Trump centered on "how this happened, rather than how are we going to stop him," as one person put it. Trump, who already has nearly one-third of the delegates he needs to secure the GOP nomination, faces major tests in the Florida and Ohio primaries next week. If he wins both those states, he will need to win just half of the remaining delegates to secure the nomination.

He wasn't the only topic of the wide-ranging conference, however. At one point, Cotton and Apple's Cook fiercely debated cell phone encryption, a source familiar with the exchange told HuffPost. "Cotton was pretty harsh on Cook," the source said, and "everyone was a little uncomfortable about how hostile Cotton was." (Apple is in the midst of a battle with the Justice Department and the FBI over an encrypted iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters.) AEI has held the annual forum on Sea Island for years. It's so secret that in 2015, Bloomberg News complained that no one would even say whether it had snowed

Federal Aviation Administration records available on show that a fleet of private jets flew into and out of two small airports near Sea Island this weekend. Fifty-four planes flew out of the airport on St. Simons Island, Georgia, on Sunday -- nearly four times as many as departed from the airport the previous Sunday. Many of the planes are registered to jet-sharing companies such as NetJets and Flexjet or private jet services companies such as Jetsetter. At least two of them flew directly to San Jose, California, home of many tech giants, on Sunday.

Another plane, which arrived from Eaton, Colorado, on Wednesday and flew back there on Sunday, is registered to Monfort Aviation, LLC, a private, tax-exempt trust. FAA records don't indicate who controls Monfort Aviation, but it shares a name with Dick and Charlie Monfort, the Colorado-based heirs to a meatpacking fortune who now own the Colorado Rockies baseball team. The plane, a Raytheon Hawker 800XP, seats 15 people. Anschutz, the billionaire whose company part owns Sea Island, is also from Colorado.

Another private plane, a Canadair Challenger, flew cross-country from St. Simons to Van Nuys Airport in Southern California on Friday. Van Nuys Airport is so associated with millionaires and billionaires that their disputes over space at the field occasionally spill into the news media. Another plane, a tri-jet Dassault Falcon 900, flew into St. Simons on Thursday from Westchester County, New York, and returned on Sunday. It's registered to Northwood Investors LLC, which is run by John Kukral, whose official bio notes he's been involved in real estate deals worth over $40 billion.

"The event is private and off-the record, therefore we do not comment further on the content or attendees," said Judy Stecker, a spokeswoman for AEI. She described the forum as "an informal gathering of leading thinkers from all ideological backgrounds to discuss challenges that the United States and the free world face in economics, security and social welfare." 


Trump’s not Hitler, he’s Mussolini: How GOP anti-intellectualism created a modern fascist movement in America,_M%C3%BCnchener_Abkommen,_Ankunft_Mussolini.jpg

In an interview with Slate, the historian of fascism Robert Paxton warns against describing Donald Trump as fascist because “it’s almost the most powerful epithet you can use.”  But in this case, the shoe fits.  And here is why. Like Mussolini, Trump rails against intruders (Mexicans) and enemies (Muslims), mocks those perceived as weak, encourages a violent reckoning with those his followers perceive as the enemy within (the roughing up of protesters at his rallies), flouts the rules of civil political discourse (the Megyn Kelly menstruation spat), and promises to restore the nation to its greatness not by a series of policies, but by the force of his own personality (“I will be great for” fill in the blank).  

To quote Paxton again, this time from his seminal “The Anatomy of Fascism”: “Fascist leaders made no secret of having no program.” This explains why Trump supporters are not bothered by his ideological malleability and policy contradictions: He was pro-choice before he was pro-life; donated to politicians while now he rails against that practice; married three times and now embraces evangelical Christianity; is the embodiment of capitalism and yet promises to crack down on free trade.  In the words of the Italian writer Umberto Eco, fascism was “a beehive of contradictions.” It bears noting that Mussolini was a socialist unionizer before becoming a fascist union buster, a journalist before cracking down on free press, a republican before becoming a monarchist.

Like Mussolini, Trump is dismissive of democratic institutions.  He selfishly guards his image of a self-made outsider who will “dismantle the establishment” in the words of one of his supporters.  That this includes cracking down on a free press by toughening libel laws, engaging in the ethnic cleansing of 11 million people (“illegals”), stripping away citizenship of those seen as illegitimate members of the nation (children of the “illegals”), and committing war crimes in the protection of the nation (killing the families of suspected terrorists) only enhances his stature among his supporters.  The discrepancy between their love of America and these brutal and undemocratic methods does not bother them one iota.  To borrow from Paxton again: “Fascism was an affair of the gut more than of the brain.”  For Trump and his supporters, the struggle against “political correctness” in all its forms is more important than the fine print of the Constitution.

To be fair, there are many differences between Italian Fascism of interwar Europe and Trumpism of (soon to be) post-Obama America.  For one, Mussolini was better read and more articulate than Trump.  Starting out as a schoolteacher, the Italian Fascist read voraciously and was heavily influenced by the German and French philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Marie Guyau, respectively. I doubt Trump would know who either of these two people were.  According to the Boston Globe, Trump speaks at the level of a fourth grader.

There are other more consequential differences, of course: the interwar Italy was a much bigger mess than the USA is today; the democratic institutions of this country are certainly more resilient and durable than those of the young unstable post-World War I Italy; the economy, both U.S. and worldwide, is not in the apocalyptic state it was in the interwar period; and the demographics of the USA mitigate against the election of a racist demagogue. So, Trump’s blackshirts are not marching on Washington, yet.

Also, as a historian I have learned to beware of historical analogies and generally eschew them whenever I can, particularly when it comes to an ideology that during World War II caused the deaths of 60 million human beings. The oversaturation of our discourse with Hitler comparisons is not only exasperating for any historian, but is offensive to the memory of Hitler’s many victims most notably the six million Jews his regime murdered in cold blood.

Finally, rather than explaining it, historical analogies often distort the present, sometimes with devastating consequences.  The example that comes to mind is the Saddam-is-like-Hitler analogy many in the George W. Bush administration used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was an unmitigated disaster.  The overuse, or misuse, of a historical analogy can also make policy makers more hesitant to act with equally disastrous consequences: the prime examples are Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s when the West attributed their inaction to stop the slaughter in each country by arguing that these massacres were “not like the Holocaust.”

Thus, for a historical analogy to be useful to us, it has to advance our understanding of the present.  And the Trumpism-Fascism axis (pun intended) does this in three ways: it explains the origins of Trump the demagogue; it enables us to read the Trump rally as a phenomenon in its own right; and it allows those of us who are unequivocally opposed to hate, bigotry, and intolerance, to rally around an alternative, equally historical, program: anti-fascism.

The Very Fascist Origins of Trumpism

That white supremacist groups back Donald Trump for president of the United States, and his slowness to disavow the support of David Duke, all illuminate the fascistic origins of Trump the phenomenon.  In fact, Paxton acknowledges that while Fascism began in France and Italy, “the first version of the Klan in the defeated American south was arguably a remarkable preview of the way fascist movements were to function in interwar Europe.” That the KKK was drawn to the Trump candidacy, and that he refused to disavow them speak volumes about his fascistic roots.

Like Fascism, Trumpism has come about on the heels of a protracted period of ideological restlessness.  Within the Republican Party this restlessness has resulted in a complete de-legitimization of the so-called GOP establishment. Benito Mussolini came to the scene in the 1920s at a time when all the known “isms” of the time had lost their mojos.  Conservatism, which since the French Revolution had been advocating for monarchy, nobility, and tradition, was dealt a devastating blow by the First World War, which destroyed four major empires (Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and German), made universal male suffrage (mostly) the norm, and eliminated a generation of aristocrats.  Although initially seen as victorious, liberalism, in its emphasis on equality, constitutions, parliaments, and civil debates, quickly proved unable to solve the mammoth problems facing Europe after the war.  To the millions of unemployed, angry, and hungry Europeans, the backroom politicking and obscure party debates seemed petty at best, and deserving of destruction at worst.  Shoving millions of Europeans into nation-states they saw as alien to their ethnicity created huge minority problems and sparked irredentist movements including fascists and their many copycats.  The success of Lenin’s Bolsheviks in Russia and their protracted, terrifying, civil war made Communism unpalatable for most Europeans.

Enter Fascism. Fascism promised people deliverance from politics.  Fascism was not just different type of politics, but anti-politics.  On the post-WWI ruins of the Enlightenment beliefs in progress and essential human goodness, Fascism embraced emotion over reason, action over politics.  Violence was not just a means to an end, but the end in itself because it brought man closer to his true inner nature.  War was an inevitable part of this inner essence of man.  Millions of European men had found this sense of purpose and camaraderie in the trenches of the First World War and were not going to sit idly by while politicians took it away from them after the war (famously, after the war Hitler was slow to demobilize and take off his uniform).  Fascists’ main enemies were not just Marxist politicians, or liberal politicians, but politicians in general.

It is therefore no coincidence that the most common explanation Trump supporters muster when asked about their vote is that “he is no politician.”  Trump did not invent this anti-politics mood, but he tamed it in accordance with his own needs.  Ever since the election of Barack Obama the Republicans have refused to co-govern.  Senator Mitch McConnell’s vow that his main purpose would be to deny the president a second term was only the first of many actions by which the Republicans have retreated from politics.  The Tea Party wave meant an absolute refusal to compromise on even the most essential issues, which were central to the economic survival of the government if not the entire country (the Debt ceiling fiasco anyone?!).  But since then it has gotten worse: now even the establishment Republicans who had been initially demonized by the Tea Party, such as Mitch McConnell, have openly abrogated their own constitutional powers by refusing to exercise them.  This has been most evident in their blanket refusal to even hold a hearing for a Scalia replacement on the Supreme Court.  In other words, the Republicans themselves, not Trump, broke politics.

The anti-intellectualism of Trump has also been a long time in the making.  It was the Republican establishment that has for decades refused to even consider the science of climate change and has through local education boards strove to prevent the teaching of evolution. Although not as explicit as the Fascists were in their efforts to use the woman’s body for reproducing the nation, the Republican attempts at restricting abortion rights, and women access to healthcare in general have often been designed with the same purpose in mind.  Of course American historians have pointed to this larger strand of anti-intellectualism in American politics, but what is different about this moment is that Trump has successfully wedded this anti-Enlightenment mood with the anti-political rage of the Republican base.

Still, for a fascist to be accepted as legitimate he has to move the crowd and from the very beginning of his candidacy Trump has done this by stoking racial animosity and grievances.  It is no coincidence that the Trump phenomenon emerges during the tenure of the first black President.  It bears remembering that Trump’s first flirtation with running for office was nothing more than his insistent, nonsensical, irrational, and blatantly racist demand that President Obama show his birth certificate and his Harvard grades.  This was more than a dog whistle to the angry whites that the first black President was not only un-American, literally, but that he was intellectually inferior to them, despite graduating from Harvard Law.  If one considers this “original sin” of Trump then the KKK endorsement of his candidacy and Trump’s acceptance of it seem less strange.

Like Mussolini, Trump is lucky in his timing.  When Mussolini created his Fascists in 1919 there were numerous other far right, authoritarian movements popping up all over Europe.  As Robert Paxton reminds us, by the early 20th century Europe had gotten “swollen” by refugees, mostly Ashkenazi Jews who had since the 1880s been escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe.  Culturally and religiously different they caused reactions amongst the Europeans that are strikingly similar to the way in which many European politicians have reacted to the influx of Muslim refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.  The Hungarian government’s building of a fence to prevent Muslim migrants from coming in and its rhetoric of foreign, Islamic, invasion is just one of more noted examples of Islamophobic euphoria sweeping rightwing and fascistic movements into power all across Europe.  As Hugh Eakin points out in the New York Review of Books, even Denmark, the beacon of civilized, tolerant, Europe has become susceptible to the xenophobic fear mongering: hate speech now passes for mainstream discussion (the Speaker of the Danish Parliament claims Muslim migrants to be at “a lower stage of civilization”). The head of the newly elected right-wing party in Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, has described migrants as “parasites” who bring diseases.” 

Thus, it is no coincidence that Trump often references the refugee crisis to point to the ineptitude of European politicians and to simultaneously warn of a yet another jihadist terrorist attack. Trump would feel perfectly at home in the company of the new generation of European authoritarians like Viktor Orban of Hungary or Vladimir Putin of Russia.  He does not care that Putin considers America Russia’s historic enemy because for Trump the real enemy is within. 


“If you are a Jew, you should be very afraid of Donald Trump”

Trump has always appealed to bigots. His address to a Jewish coalition confirms that he's an anti-Semite himself

If you are a Jew, you should be very afraid of Donald Trump. For a while I explained this sentiment thusly: Trump may not be personally anti-Semitic, but anti-Semites sure seem to love Trump. After all, I’ve received countless emails attacking me for being Jewish when I’ve written articles criticizing the Republican frontrunner… even though none of those pieces actually identified my religion (for more on that, click here). Even though this didn’t prove that Trump was himself an anti-Semite, it certainly reflected the inherent bigotry that he stirs up in his supporters. Then Trump decided to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition earlier today and forced me to revise my earlier opinion. I don’t care that Trump’s daughter married a Jew and converted to his religion – the man is an anti-Semite and I’m calling him out as such. Here are some choice quotes from his speech, courtesy of the good folks at Vox:

“Stupidly, you want to give money. …You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”

“I’m a negotiator, like you folks.”

“Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”

Trump was also booed by the audience for refusing to state that Jerusalem ought to remain the undivided capital of Israel, an offense that I don’t particularly consider to be racist. On the other hand, check out this attack on the national character of the Jewish State:

“A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things. They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”

It is at this point that I must doff my hat to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who had the courage to call The Donald out on the intolerance embedded in that comment:

“Some in our own party actually question Israel’s commitment to peace. Some in our own party actually call for more sacrifice from the Israeli people. They are dead wrong, and don’t understand the enduring bond between Israel and America.

“Let me be crystal clear: there is no moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies. Understanding that fundamental truth is essential to being the next Commander in Chief. This is not a real estate deal with two sides arguing over money. It’s a struggle to safeguard the future of Israel.”

Even before Trump made these reprehensible remarks, many Republican Jews had already expressed reservations about his candidacy. In an article with Mint Press News, Republican political consultant Nathan Wurtzel (who is Jewish) pointed out that “there are a lot of folks who are, to be charitable, into white identity politics, and to be uncharitable are outright racists, who are supporting Trump. It’s very off-putting and disturbing.” Former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), who is also Jewish, observed that “in order for us to become a party [of anyone] other than white men, we need to be reaching out. I think Trump’s language and perspective is a long-term negative in terms of building the party.”

Indeed it is, and Coleman’s remarks speak to a much deeper truth. In the ugly world of racial bigotry, there is usually very little distinction between hatred of one minority group and hatred of another. The precise stereotypes often differ, to be sure, as does the exact way in which the prejudice manifests itself. Nevertheless, individuals who are predisposed to racist worldviews are more likely to apply that mindset to a multitude of minority groups than not. Trump’s recent remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition are just one more demonstration of this reality – and Jews throughout America should take note, and be cautious.

Matthew Rozsa is a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University and a political columnist. His editorials have been published on Salon, The Good Men Project, Mic, MSNBC, and various college newspapers and blogs. For a full review of all his published work, visit

What Jewish groups have (and haven’t) said about Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s call last week to bar all Muslims from entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” has set off a deluge of criticism in America and around the world, from U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. “The State of Israel respects all religion and strictly adheres to the rights of all its citizens.” Trump’s Dec. 7 remark also spurred numerous Jewish organizations to speak up. Here’s a roundup of some of the more notable Jewish organizational responses, as well as some of those that have stayed silent.

Jewish defense organizations:

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt: “A plan that singles out Muslims and denies them entry to the U.S. based on their religion is deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values.”

American Jewish Committee Associate Executive Director for Policy Jason Isaacson: “We are deeply disturbed by the nativist racism inherent in the candidate’s latest remarks.”

B’nai B’rith International: “Singling out an entire religious community for diminished rights amounts to bigotry, and it should not be accepted.”

Umbrella organizations:

Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community: “There is no place in America, a nation founded on religious freedom, for discrimination on the basis of religion — or any other immutable characteristic, for that matter. … Recent statements are misleading to voters, because they imply that sacrificing our values will advance our security, which is a fallacy.”

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella organization of the American Jewish community on foreign policy matters, did not issue any public statement after Trump’s remarks. But reached by telephone, Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein told JTA, “Obviously we reject what he said. It’s a given.”

Religious organizations:

Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin: “We call on all Americans to reaffirm that discrimination of any group solely upon religion is wrong and anathema to the great traditions of religious and personal freedoms upon which this country was founded.”

Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) President Rabbi Shalom Baum: “The complex issues that face us in ensuring the safety and security from terror of innocents and free societies throughout the world need to be addressed, but need to be done in sober and responsible ways. We call upon all Americans and the United States government to recognize the threats posed by radical Islamists, while preserving and protecting the rights of all people who seek peace, no matter how they worship God.”

Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative): “We recognize the need to be vigilant in providing security and protection from those who seek to do our country harm, but discriminating against an entire religion is wrong and dangerous.”

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Director Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner: “While we take no position on Mr. Trump’s candidacy for president, we condemn in the strongest terms his comments calling for barring the entry of Muslims into the United States. As Jews who too often suffered persecution because of our faith, we cannot abide religious bigotry.”

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association: “We call on all Jews and all Americans to denounce hate speech and fear-mongering against Muslims in politics and the media, and to reach out in support of Muslim Americans in every way that we can.”

Political organizations:

J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group that has positioned itself as a left-wing alternative to AIPAC: “Donald Trump’s statement today calling for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of Muslim immigration to the United States is repugnant and unacceptable. This statement is the latest in a string of deeply bigoted and Islamophobic remarks by Mr. Trump and others seeking to stoke and take political advantage of rank hatred.”

National Jewish Democratic Council: “It is long past time for leading Republicans, especially Jewish Republicans, to strongly speak out against the bigotry coming from its leading candidate. No single religion is our enemy — terrorists and all those who seek to destroy us are our enemies.”

Which Jewish groups of note have not responded?

AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: The nation’s premier pro-Israel lobbying group does not frequently make public statements on matters not directly connected to the initiatives it backs in Congress. But the organization occasionally does wade into partisan political waters. Back in March, AIPAC in a statement applauded Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress warning of the perils of the Iran deal. (Netanyahu consulted with Republicans in Congress, but not the White House, when scheduling his congressional address.) And three weeks later, when Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution after vowing during Israel’s election campaign days earlier that a Palestinian state would not emerge on his watch, AIPAC issued a statement expressing dismay that Obama administration officials expressed skepticism of Netanyahu’s seeming about-face. On Trump, AIPAC has been silent; a spokesman told JTA the organization’s focus is U.S.-Israel relations.

Zionist Organization of America: This group on the right end of the American Jewish political spectrum on Israel rarely misses an opportunity to promote its views, issuing statements on everything from what public officials fail to say (Dec. 10: U.N.’s Ban Ki-Moon Condemns Terror Attacks On Civilians in Many Countries – But Not In Israel) to little-noticed initiatives the organization itself undertakes (Sept. 25: ZOA Testifies to U. Cal. Regents: Adopt State Dept. Def. of Anti-Semitism). While the ZOA has not addressed Trump’s call to bar Muslims entry to America, the organization issued a statement about Syrian refugees after Trump made his comments. “ZOA: Don’t Bring ISIS/Terrorist Infiltrated, Hamas Supporting, Jew-Hating, Syrian Muslims Into the U.S.,” reads the headline of ZOA’s Dec. 8 news release. “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly opposes bringing more Syrian Muslim ‘refugees’ into the United States,” wrote the group’s president, Morton Klein. “Syrian immigrants pose a grave danger to all Americans – and an even greater danger to American Jews, for a host of reasons.”

Republican Jewish Coalition: The nation’s premier Republican Jewish group has opted to stay silent on the remarks by Trump, who has led the Republican presidential field in national polls for most of the past few months. RJC officials did not respond to a JTA request for comment.

Jewish Federations of North America: While the umbrella group for North American Jewish federations tries to stay out of the partisan fray, it has weighed in on political matters when it felt the issue merited it. For example, on Dec. 10, JFNA rebuked Israel’s chief rabbi for criticizing an Israeli politician’s visit to a non-Orthodox Jewish day school in New York. In its statement, JFNA said: “Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau was wrong to criticize Minister Naftali Bennett for the latter’s visit to a Solomon Schechter community day school in Manhattan.” On Trump, JFNA has issued no statement, and a representative told JTA it has no plans to do so.

Analysis: Donald Trump, Israel and the Jews

Donald Trump

The controversial Republican candidate will find it difficult to leverage his pro-Israel positions to gain Jewish votes.

THE DONALD Trump phenomenon is challenging both Israel and American Jewry. Trump, who continues to lead the Republican list of presidential hopefuls and can no longer be dismissed as a bizarre candidate, has consistently and strongly supported Israeli positions on many critical issues, including the Iran nuclear deal and Israeli- Palestinian relations. He has also criticized US President Barack Obama for his attitudes toward Israel and warmly praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, he has proposed policies and made statements that no Jew can in good conscience accept or identify with.

Trump has often used pro-Israel rhetoric.

He called Israel America’s best and most reliable friend, and argued that it should be viewed as the cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East. He has accused Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry of “selling Israel out,” and said that the US should do everything possible to protect and defend it. “They’ve always been there for us and we should be there for them,” he declared. “They are the only stable democracy in a region that is not run by dictators. They are pioneers in medicine and communication and a close fair trading partner.” And, like his father, he said, he had always been loyal to Israel and “would do more for Israel than anybody else.”

Trump highlights the facts that he served as grand marshal for the Israel parade in New York in 2004 and that he has received many awards from American Jewish organizations for his support of Israel. Last February, on receiving such an award from the Algemeiner, a Jewish news organization, he said, “We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100 percent, 1,000 percent. It will be there forever.” On June 16, when he declared his candidacy, Trump vehemently attacked the Iran nuclear deal calling it “a disaster” that could threaten Israel’s survival. In the background, there was also a close personal connection between Trump and Netanyahu. Before the 2013 Israeli election, Trump recorded a 30-second video message endorsing the Likud leader. “You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel,” he enthused.

On the other hand, Trump’s statements on prisoners of war, Jewish campaign contributions, immigration and entry to the US have touched on a very raw Jewish nerve. On John McCain, who spent six years as a POW in Vietnam and refused early release when his captors discovered that his father was an admiral, Trump flippantly said he was “a war hero only because he got captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” In Israel the nation as a whole cares about its POWs and the government invests huge resources in attempts to release them. The protracted and ultimately successful effort to free Gilad Schalit, a soldier who was captured and held hostage for five years by Hamas in Gaza, well illustrates this ethos. On December 3, Trump told members of the Republican Jewish Coalition that he suspects many members won’t back him because he is rich and doesn’t want their contributions. Trump may have thought he was making a joke, but the Israeli media saw his comments as reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotyping of Jews as rich people who “control the world” and can “buy” elections with their money.

Trump has also made highly provocative and controversial statements on immigration and entry to the US. On June 16, he said that Mexico is sending in people bringing drugs, crime and rape. Later he extended this observation to include immigration from other Latin American countries. And after the recent San Bernardino massacre, he called for a temporary ban on the entry of Muslims to the US, until the government figures out “what the hell is going on.” Jews, who have suffered from closed immigration gates and been saved by open ones, find these statements appalling. Mass Jewish immigration from Russia and Eastern Europe to the US, Palestine and other countries, especially from the beginning of the 20th century, saved Jews from pogroms, persecution and oppression. Mass Jewish immigration from the Arab countries to Israel after the 1948 War of Independence saved them from a similar fate. On the other hand, before, during and immediately after the Second World War, Jews trying to flee Nazi Germany or occupied Europe were refused entry to many countries, including the US.

Millions perished. Therefore, Jews cannot but protest a wholesale, religion-based ban on entry to the US. Indeed, many Jewish organizations in the US, as well as political and religious groups in Israel, overwhelmingly rejected Trump’s call for a ban on the entry of Muslims to the US. TRUMP HAD intended to visit Israel and meet Netanyahu on December 28. The parties had agreed on the itinerary two weeks before Trump’s Muslim ban statement. Thirty- seven Knesset members, all but two from the opposition, strongly criticized Trump’s proposed blanket ban on Muslim entry and urged Netanyahu to cancel their meeting in protest. Netanyahu rejected this demand but issued a critical statement of his own: “The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.” His office went on to explain his policy on meeting presidential candidates.

“The Prime Minister decided earlier this year on a uniform policy to agree to meet with all presidential candidates from either party who visit Israel and ask for a meeting.” It further clarified that “this policy does not reflect support for the candidates or their policies, but rather expresses the importance that the Prime Minister attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.” However, in response to the critical furor in Israel, Trump postponed his visit until after the presidential elections, claiming that he did not want to place Netanyahu “under pressure.”

Trump had hoped his visit to Israel on the eve of the Republican primaries would bolster his lead in the race. He wanted to project interest and knowledge in national security and foreign affairs, especially in the Middle East, the No. 1 source of violence, terrorism and instability in the world. He also wanted to garner legitimacy for his controversial positions on the region, and to contrast his support for Israel with what he called the Obama administration’s abandonment of the Jewish state. The strategy made sense, but the injudicious Muslim ban statement undermined any chance of successfully implementing it. Had Trump stuck to his plan, the protests and demonstrations in its wake would almost certainly have rendered it counterproductive.

Trump has certainly been exploiting the weaknesses and confusion in Obama’s handling of Israel, Islamic extremism and terrorism. The president’s blaming only Israel for the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has only strengthened Palestinian recalcitrance. The delay in defining the San Bernardino massacre as terrorism, Obama’s refusal to use the term “Islamic terrorism” and his pathetic attempts to characterize the Islamic State organization as non-Muslim reveal an acute denial of both American and Middle Eastern realities. Indeed, American Jews have been disappointed by Obama. In the 2008 elections, they voted for him by a ratio of 78 percent to 22 percent; in 2012, this had dropped to 69 percent to 30 percent. Gallup’s surveys show that in 2008, 71 percent of American Jews identified themselves as Democrats or leaning to the Democratic Party, while 22 percent identified themselves as Republicans or leaning to the Republican party. In 2014, this ratio dropped to 61 percent to 29 percent.

Over the past decade, Republicans have generally been more supportive of Israel than Democrats. The trend began around 2000, almost 10 years before Netanyahu was reelected prime minister. Nevertheless, none of this is likely to help Trump. Most American Jews will still vote for the Democratic nominee. If Trump is selected as the Republican candidate, even more American Jews are likely to vote for his opponent. After Obama, Netanyahu would have liked to see a Republican in the White House. Nevertheless, despite his strong pro-Israel stance, given his character and controversial positions, Donald Trump may not be the best choice to repair American- Israeli relations in the post-Obama era.

Prof. Eytan Gilboa is director of the Center for International Communication and a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Is Ivanka Trump the Donald's Brainy (Jewish) Better Half?

Ivanka is to Donald Trump as Lisa is to Homer Simpson: brainy, composed and unflinchingly loyal to her outrageous and unpredictable father. At least that’s the portrait painted in a Politico article published Thursday. The article explores the relationship between the Republican presidential frontrunner and the daughter who has managed to grow up gracefully under his glaring spotlight. Last month, the article’s author, Michael D’Antonio, published the biography “Never Enough: Donald Trump and his Pursuit of Success.” Here, he draws from his interviews with Ivanka Trump, 33, to examine her affect on The Donald’s campaign.

When Fox News host Sean Hannity asked Donald Trump whom he counts on most, the real estate mogul first named Ivanka Trump. When entangled in yet another web of his own words, this time over questionably misogynistic remarks aimed at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in August, Donald Trump again invoked his daughter. “So my daughter Ivanka, who is a terrific person, she came to me and she said, ‘You care so much about women, and you care so much about the whole thing with women’s health issues,’” he said in a profile in the Hollywood Reporter shortly after the controversy erupted. “She said, ‘You are really misunderstood, and you have to get the word out.’”

Privately, Ivanka Trump is said to try to shape her father’s opinions – or at least help him walk them back. New York magazine reported that she allegedly provided him with several statements to backtrack from his anti-immigrant comments, which he nevertheless rejected. Publicly, however, she remains mum on his gaffes. She shrugged the Kelly incident off as “sensationalized,” saying it “didn’t interest me much.” Her presence seems to have a humanizing effect on Donald Trump’s image, making his unsavory outbursts easier to swallow. Even those who write him off as a raving bigot would have a hard time denying that he managed to raise an intelligent, rational and compassionate young woman. (Ivanka Trump’s ability to straddle both political parties in her private life adds to this sense of sensibility. D’Antonio points out that Trump has criticized President Barack Obama on Fox News but also fundraised for liberal Democratic New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, and is friends with Chelsea Clinton.)

Having grown up playing in her father’s office, Ivanka Trump now has her own one floor down. By 16 she had launched a modeling career but pivoted in her 20s toward business, demonstrating sharp judgment, insightful and direct criticism and a placid demeanor — all in evidence when she joined her father as a judge on his popular reality TV series “The Apprentice.” She is currently an executive vice president of development and acquisitions at The Trump Organization (focusing on Trump hotels and fashion-related enterprises), where her brothers Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump are also officers. In 2009, Ivanka Trump converted to Orthodox Judaism for her nuptials to real estate mogul Jared Kushner; the couple now has two children. She has spoken about her religious observance and the influence of Judaism on raising her family.

Familial loyalty is something she clearly learned in her own upbringing. Trump introduced her father when he announced his candidacy in June, a duty often assumed by a candidate’s spouse. If the campaign is any indication, she might serve as a de facto first lady in a Donald Trump White House. Trump’s current wife, Melena Knauss, has mostly taken a backseat on the campaign trail thus far. Perhaps recognizing the scrutiny and obligations that a Trump presidency would inflict on her and her family, Ivanka Trump hedged on a question about whether she is happy about his run for the presidency. Speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women summit in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, she said, “As a citizen, I love what he’s doing. As a daughter, it’s obviously more complicated.”

Trump’s America

There’s nothing irrational about Donald Trump’s appeal to the white working class, writes Charles Murray: they have every reason to be angry

If you are dismayed by Trumpism, don’t kid yourself that it will fade away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, and its appearance was predictable. It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity. For the eminent political scientist Samuel Huntington, writing in his last book, “Who Are We?” (2004), two components of that national identity stand out. One is our Anglo-Protestant heritage, which has inevitably faded in an America that is now home to many cultural and religious traditions. The other is the very idea of America, something unique to us. As the historian Richard Hofstadter once said, “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.”

What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority. As recently as 1960, the creed was our national consensus. Running that year for the Democratic nomination, candidates like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey genuinely embraced the creed, differing from Republicans only in how its elements should be realized. Today, the creed has lost its authority and its substance. What happened? Many of the dynamics of the reversal can be found in developments across the whole of American society: in the emergence of a new upper class and a new lower class, and in the plight of the working class caught in between.

In my 2012 book “Coming Apart,” I discussed these new classes at length. The new upper class consists of the people who shape the country’s economy, politics and culture. The new lower class consists of people who have dropped out of some of the most basic institutions of American civic culture, especially work and marriage. Both of these new classes have repudiated the American creed in practice, whatever lip service they may still pay to it. Trumpism is the voice of a beleaguered working class telling us that it too is falling away. Historically, one of the most widely acknowledged aspects of American exceptionalism was our lack of class consciousness. Even Marx and Engels recognized it. This was egalitarianism American style. Yes, America had rich people and poor people, but that didn’t mean that the rich were better than anyone else.

Successful Americans stubbornly refused to accept the mantle of an upper class, typically presenting themselves to their fellow countrymen as regular guys. And they usually were, in the sense that most of them had grown up in modest circumstances, or even in poverty, and carried the habits and standards of their youths into their successful later lives.

America also retained a high degree of social and cultural heterogeneity in its communities. Tocqueville wrote of America in the 1830s as a place where “the more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people.” That continued well into the 20th century, even in America’s elite neighborhoods. In the 1960 census, the median income along Philadelphia’s Main Line was just $90,000 in today’s dollars. In Boston’s Brookline, it was $75,000; on New York’s Upper East Side, just $60,000. At a typical dinner party in those neighborhoods, many guests would have had no more than a high-school diploma.

In the years since, the new upper class has evolved a distinctive culture. For a half-century, America’s elite universities have drawn the most talented people from all over the country, socialized them and often married them off to each other. Brains have become radically more valuable in the marketplace. In 2016, a dinner party in those same elite neighborhoods consists almost wholly of people with college degrees, even advanced degrees. They are much more uniformly affluent. The current median family incomes for the Main Line, Brookline and the Upper East Side are about $150,000, $151,000 and $203,000, respectively.

And the conversation at that dinner party is likely to be completely unlike the conversations at get-togethers in mainstream America. The members of the new upper class are seldom attracted to the films, TV shows and music that are most popular in mainstream America. They have a distinctive culture in the food they eat, the way they take care of their health, their child-rearing practices, the vacations they take, the books they read, the websites they visit and their taste in beer. You name it, the new upper class has its own way of doing it.

Another characteristic of the new upper class—and something new under the American sun—is their easy acceptance of being members of an upper class and their condescension toward ordinary Americans. Try using “redneck” in a conversation with your highly educated friends and see if it triggers any of the nervousness that accompanies other ethnic slurs. Refer to “flyover country” and consider the implications when no one asks, “What does that mean?” Or I can send you to chat with a friend in Washington, D.C., who bought a weekend place in West Virginia. He will tell you about the contempt for his new neighbors that he has encountered in the elite precincts of the nation’s capital.

For its part, mainstream America is fully aware of this condescension and contempt and is understandably irritated by it. American egalitarianism is on its last legs. While the new upper class was seceding from the mainstream, a new lower class was emerging from within the white working class, and it has played a key role in creating the environment in which Trumpism has flourished. Work and marriage have been central to American civic culture since the founding, and this held true for the white working class into the 1960s. Almost all of the adult men were working or looking for work, and almost all of them were married.

Then things started to change. For white working-class men in their 30s and 40s—what should be the prime decades for working and raising a family—participation in the labor force dropped from 96% in 1968 to 79% in 2015. Over that same period, the portion of these men who were married dropped from 86% to 52%. (The numbers for nonwhite working-class males show declines as well, though not as steep and not as continuous.)

These are stunning changes, and they are visible across the country. In today’s average white working-class neighborhood, about one out of five men in the prime of life isn’t even looking for work; they are living off girlfriends, siblings or parents, on disability, or else subsisting on off-the-books or criminal income. Almost half aren’t married, with all the collateral social problems that go with large numbers of unattached males.

In these communities, about half the children are born to unmarried women, with all the problems that go with growing up without fathers, especially for boys. Drugs also have become a major problem, in small towns as well as in urban areas. Consider how these trends have affected life in working-class communities for everyone, including those who are still playing by the old rules. They find themselves working and raising their families in neighborhoods where the old civic culture is gone—neighborhoods that are no longer friendly or pleasant or even safe.

These major changes in American class structure were taking place alongside another sea change: large-scale ideological defection from the principles of liberty and individualism, two of the pillars of the American creed. This came about in large measure because of the civil rights and feminist movements, both of which began as classic invocations of the creed, rightly demanding that America make good on its ideals for blacks and women.

But the success of both movements soon produced policies that directly contradicted the creed. Affirmative action demanded that people be treated as groups. Equality of outcome trumped equality before the law. Group-based policies continued to multiply, with ever more policies embracing ever more groups. By the beginning of the 1980s, Democratic elites overwhelmingly subscribed to an ideology in open conflict with liberty and individualism as traditionally understood. This consolidated the Democratic Party’s longtime popularity with ethnic minorities, single women and low-income women, but it alienated another key Democratic constituency: the white working class.

White working-class males were the archetypal “Reagan Democrats” in the early 1980s and are often described as the core of support for Mr. Trump. But the grievances of this group are often misunderstood. It is a mistake to suggest that they are lashing out irrationally against people who don’t look like themselves. There are certainly elements of racism and xenophobia in Trumpism, as I myself have discovered on Twitter and Facebook after writing critically about Mr. Trump.

But the central truth of Trumpism as a phenomenon is that the entire American working class has legitimate reasons to be angry at the ruling class. During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the rewards have gone to the working class. The economists can supply caveats and refinements to that statement, but the bottom line is stark: The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s.

During the same half-century, American corporations exported millions of manufacturing jobs, which were among the best-paying working-class jobs. They were and are predominantly men’s jobs. In both 1968 and 2015, 70% of manufacturing jobs were held by males. During the same half-century, the federal government allowed the immigration, legal and illegal, of tens of millions of competitors for the remaining working-class jobs. Apart from agriculture, many of those jobs involve the construction trades or crafts. They too were and are predominantly men’s jobs: 77% in 1968 and 84% in 2015.

Economists still argue about the net effect of these events on the American job market. But for someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational. Add to this the fact that white working-class men are looked down upon by the elites and get little validation in their own communities for being good providers, fathers and spouses—and that life in their communities is falling apart. To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?

There is nothing conservative about how they want to fix things. They want a now indifferent government to act on their behalf, big time. If Bernie Sanders were passionate about immigration, the rest of his ideology would have a lot more in common with Trumpism than conservatism does. As a political matter, it is not a problem that Mr. Sanders doesn’t share the traditional American meanings of liberty and individualism. Neither does Mr. Trump. Neither, any longer, do many in the white working class. They have joined the other defectors from the American creed.

Who continues to embrace this creed in its entirety? Large portions of the middle class and upper middle class (especially those who run small businesses), many people in the corporate and financial worlds and much of the senior leadership of the Republican Party. They remain principled upholders of the ideals of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. And let’s not forget moderate Democrats, the spiritual legatees of the New Deal. They may advocate social democracy, but they are also unhappy about policies that treat Americans as members of groups and staunch in their support of freedom of speech, individual moral responsibility and the kind of egalitarianism that Tocqueville was talking about. They still exist in large numbers, though mostly in the political closet.

But these are fragments of the population, not the national consensus that bound the U.S. together for the first 175 years of the nation’s existence. And just as support for the American creed has shrunk, so has its correspondence to daily life. Our vaunted liberty is now constrained by thousands of petty restrictions that touch almost anything we want to do, individualism is routinely ignored in favor of group rights, and we have acquired an arrogant upper class. Operationally as well as ideologically, the American creed is shattered.

Our national identity is not altogether lost. Americans still have a vivid, distinctive national character in the eyes of the world. Historically, America has done a far better job than any other country of socializing people of many different ethnicities into displaying our national character. We will still be identifiably American for some time to come.

There’s irony in that. Much of the passion of Trumpism is directed against the threat to America’s national identity from an influx of immigrants. But the immigrants I actually encounter, of all ethnicities, typically come across as classically American—cheerful, hardworking, optimistic, ambitious. Keeping our national character seems to be the least of our problems. Still, even that character is ultimately rooted in the American creed. When faith in that secular religion is held only by fragments of the American people, we will soon be just another nation—a very powerful one, a very rich one, still called the United States of America. But we will have detached ourselves from the bedrock that has made us unique in the history of the world.

Mr. Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His many books include “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission” and “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

Trump, Sanders and the American Rebellion

As institutions lose respect, voters think: Let’s take a chance.

What is happening in American politics?

We’re in the midst of a rebellion. The bottom and middle are pushing against the top. It’s a throwing off of old claims and it’s been going on for a while, but we’re seeing it more sharply after New Hampshire. This is not politics as usual, which by its nature is full of surprise. There’s something deep, suggestive, even epochal about what’s happening now.

I have thought for some time that there’s a kind of soft French Revolution going on in America, with the angry and blocked beginning to push hard against an oblivious elite. It is not only political. Yes, it is about the Democratic National Committee, that house of hacks, and about a Republican establishment owned by the donor class. But establishment journalism, which for eight months has been simultaneously at Donald Trump’s feet (“Of course you can call us on your cell from the bathtub for your Sunday show interview!”) and at his throat (“Trump supporters, many of whom are nativists and nationalists . . .”) is being rebelled against too. Their old standing as guides and gatekeepers? Gone, and not only because of multiplying platforms. Gloria Steinem thought she owned feminism, thought she was feminism. She doesn’t and isn’t. The Clintons thought they owned the party—they don’t. Hedge-funders thought they owned the GOP. Too bad they forgot to buy the base!

All this goes hand in hand with the general decline of America’s faith in its institutions. We feel less respect for almost all of them—the church, the professions, the presidency, the Supreme Court. The only formal national institution that continues to score high in terms of public respect (72% in the most recent Gallup poll) is the military.

A few years ago I gave a lecture to a class at West Point, the text of which was: You are entering the only U.S. institution left standing. Your prime responsibility throughout your careers will be to keep it respected. I then told them about the Dreyfus case. They had not heard of it. I explained how that scandal rocked public faith in a previously exalted institution, the French army, doing it and France lasting damage. And so your personal integrity is of the utmost importance, I said, as day by day that integrity creates the integrity of the military. The cadets actually listened to that part.

I mention this to say we are in a precarious position in the U.S. with so many of our institutions going down. Many of those pushing against the system have no idea how precarious it is or what they will be destroying. Those defending it don’t know how precarious its position is or even what they’re defending, or why. But people lose respect for a reason. To New Hampshire: The rejection of the establishment’s preferred candidates in both major parties is a big moment. It is also understandable, the result of 15 years of failed presidencies. It is a gesture of rebuke toward the political class—move aside.

It’s said this is the year of anger but there’s a kind of grim practicality to Trump and Sanders supporters. They’re thinking: Let’s take a chance. Washington is incapable of reform or progress; it’s time to reach outside. Let’s take a chance on an old Brooklyn socialist. Let’s take a chance on the casino developer who talks on TV. In doing so, they accept a decline in traditional political standards. You don’t have to have a history of political effectiveness anymore; you don’t even have to have run for office! “You’re so weirdly outside the system, you may be what the system needs.”

They are pouring their hope into uncertain vessels, and surely know it. Bernie Sanders is an actual radical: He would fundamentally change an economic system that imperfectly but for two centuries made America the wealthiest country in the history of the world. In the young his support is understandable: They have never been taught anything good about capitalism and in their lifetimes have seen it do nothing—nothing—to protect its own reputation.

It is middle-aged Sanders supporters who are more interesting. They know what they’re turning their backs on. They know they’re throwing in the towel. My guess is they’re thinking something like: Don’t aim for great now, aim for safe. Terrorism, a world turning upside down, my kids won’t have it better—let’s just try to be safe, more communal.

A shrewdness in Sanders and Trump backers: They share one faith in Washington, and that is in its ability to wear anything down. They think it will moderate Bernie, take the edges off Trump. For thus reason they don’t see their choices as so radical. As for Mr. Trump, it is not without meaning that his supporters have had eight months to measure the cost of satisfying their anger by voting for him. In New Hampshire, 35% of the electorate decided that for all his drama and uncertainty they would back him.

The mainstream journalistic mantra is that the GOP is succumbing to nativism, nationalism and the culture of celebrity. That allows them to avoid taking seriously Mr. Trump’s issues: illegal immigration and Washington’s 15-year, bipartisan refusal to stop it; political correctness and how it is strangling a free people; and trade policies that have left the American working class displaced, adrift and denigrated. Mr. Trump’s popularity is propelled by those issues and enabled by his celebrity.

In winning, Donald Trump threw over the GOP donor class. Political professionals don’t fully appreciate that, but normal Americans see it. They get that the guy with money just slapped silly the guys with money. Every hedge-fund billionaire donor should be blinking in pain. Some investment! This leads me to Citizens United. Conservatives applauded that Supreme Court decision because it allowed Republicans to counter the effect of union money that goes to Democrats. But Citizens United gave the rich too much sway in the GOP. The party was better off when it relied on Main Street. It meant they had to talk to Main Street.

Mr. Trump is a clever man with his finger on the pulse, but his political future depends on two big questions. The first is: Is he at all a good man? Underneath the foul mouthed flamboyance is he in it for America? The second: Is he fully stable? He acts like a nut, calling people bimbos, flying off the handle with grievances. Is he mature, reliable? Is he at all a steady hand?

Political professionals think these are side questions. “Let’s accuse him of not being conservative!” But they are the issue. Because America doesn’t deliberately elect people it thinks base, not to mention crazy.
Anyway, we are in some kind of moment. Congratulations to the establishments of both parties for getting us here. They are the authors of the rebellion; they are a prime thing being rebelled against. Connected to that, something I’ve noticed. In Washington there used to be a widespread cliché: “God protects drunks, children and the United States of America.” I’m in Washington a lot, and I’ve noticed no one says that anymore. They stopped 10 or 15 years ago. I wonder what that means.

Mike Lofgren reveals how top U.S. officials are at the mercy of the “deep state”

Controlled by shadow government: Mike Lofgren reveals how top U.S. officials are at the mercy of the "deep state"

 A corrupt network of wealthy elites has hijacked our government, ex-GOP staffer and best-selling author tells Salon

One of the predominant themes of the 2016 presidential campaign thus far — and one that is unlikely to lose significance once the primaries give way to the general election — is the American people’s exasperation with a political system they see as corrupt, self-serving, disingenuous and out of touch. It is not an especially partisan or ideological sentiment; you can just as easily find it among supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders as among fans of Donald Trump. You can even find those who support paragons of the status quo, like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush, making similar complaints. It’s about as close to a consensus position as you’re likely to find nowadays in American politics. Yet despite the widespread agreement that something is seriously wrong with democracy in the U.S., there’s much less of a consensus as to what that something is — and, crucially, how to fix it. The answers Bernie Sanders offers, for example, are not exactly the same as those proffered by Donald Trump. Is the problem too much government? Not enough government? Too much immigration? Not enough immigration? Too much taxing and regulating? Not enough taxing and regulating? Our lack of a systemic analysis of the problem is part of the reason why our answers are so diffuse and ill-fitting. And that’s just one of the reasons why “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government,” the new book from ex-longtime GOP staffer turned best-selling author Mike Lofgren, is so valuable. Lofgren puts a name and a shape to a problem that has often been only nebulously defined; and while his conclusions are not exactly uplifting, the logic and sophistication of his argument is hard to resist. Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Lofgren about his book, the deep state and his read on the current sorry state of American government and politics. Our conversation, which also touched on President Obama’s relationship with the deep state, was edited for clarity and length.

How should we think about the deep state? Is it an elite conspiracy? A loosely defined social group? A network of specific institutions? How should we conceive of it?

Well, first of all, it is not a conspiracy. It is something that operates in broad daylight. It is not a conspiratorial cabal. These are simply people who have evolved [into] a kind of position. It is in their best interest to act in this way. And given the fact that people would rather know about Kim Kardashian than what makes up the budget or what the government is doing in Mali or Sudan or other unknown places, this is what you get: a disconnected, self-serving bureaucracy that is … simply evolving to do what it’s doing now. That is, to maintain and enhance its own power.

When do you think the American deep state first started?

Probably, it started in WWII, when we had the Manhattan Project, which was a huge secret project that required tens of thousands of people to be working in complete secrecy — and we actually built enormous cities [for the project’s workers] … and no one knew they existed. You also had the so-called Ultra and Magic secret [operations], the decoding of the Nazi and Japanese codes that required an enormous number of people to be doing absolutely top secret work that they did not reveal to anybody for decades. So, WWII created this kind of infrastructure of the deep state, which increased and consolidated during the Cold War.

What are the key institutions and players within the deep state? 

The key institutions are exactly what people would think they are. The military-industrial complex; the Pentagon and all their contractors (but also, now, our entire homeland security apparatus); the Department of Treasury; the Justice Department; certain courts, like the southern district of Manhattan, and the eastern district of Virginia; the FISA courts. And you got this kind of rump Congress that consists of certain people in the leadership, defense and intelligence committees who kind of know what’s going on. The rest of Congress doesn’t really know or care; they’re too busy looking about the next election.

So that’s the governmental aspect. What about in the private sector?

You’ve got Wall Street. Many of these people — whether it is David Petraeus … or someone like [Bill] Daley, who is the former chief of staff to President Obama … or Hank Paulson, who came from Goldman Sachs to become Treasury Secretary and bailed out Wall Street in 2008; or the people that Obama chose to be Treasury secretary — like Tim Geithner. They all have that Wall Street connection. And the third thing now is Silicon Valley.

Oh? Why is Silicon Valley now so central?

Because they generate so much money that they are rivaling and sometimes surpassing Wall Street. The heads of Google or Apple make more money than the guys running Wall Street. They make more money than Jamie Dimon. So that’s the new source of cash to run the deep state.

Silicon Valley provides a lot of money. But it also has access to an unfathomable amount of information. Which do you think is more valuable to the deep state — the cash or the info?

I think you can’t distinguish the two. There is a tremendous amount of money coming, in terms of lobbying, for Silicon Valley to get what it wants in terms of intellectual property and so forth. At the same time, NSA insiders have told me that they couldn’t even operate without the cooperation of Silicon Valley, because the communication backbones that are set up and operated by Silicon Valley provide the vast majority of information that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are going to exploit — and they can’t do it themselves. They need the willing or unwilling cooperation of Silicon Valley.

But when the Snowden leaks first hit, a lot of Silicon Valley elites implied they didn’t knowingly or willingly work with the government, no?

There was a certain amount of deception there, after the Edward Snowden revelations. They claimed, Oh, well, the NSA made us do all these things! — but not really, because NSA, CIA, and these other intelligence organizations were also involved in giving seed money or subsidies to various Silicon Valley companies to do these things.


Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy. Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite. Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a dozen of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel. But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too. 

Mostly Backing Republicans

“It’s a lot of families around the country who are self-made who feel like over-regulation puts these burdens on smaller companies,” said Doug Deason, a Dallas investor whose family put $5 million behind Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and now, after Mr. Perry’s exit, is being courted by many of the remaining candidates. “They’ve done well. They want to see other people do well.”

In marshaling their financial resources chiefly behind Republican candidates, the donors are also serving as a kind of financial check on demographic forces that have been nudging the electorate toward support for the Democratic Party and its economic policies. Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are. Republican candidates have struggled to improve their standing with Hispanic voters, women and African-Americans. But as the campaign unfolds, Republicans are far outpacing Democrats in exploiting the world of “super PACs,” which, unlike candidates’ own campaigns, can raise unlimited sums from any donor, and which have so far amassed the bulk of the money in the election.

The 158 families each contributed $250,000 or more in the campaign through June 30, according to the most recent available Federal Election Commission filings and other data, while an additional 200 families gave more than $100,000. Together, the two groups contributed well over half the money in the presidential election -- the vast majority of it supporting Republicans. “The campaign finance system is now a countervailing force to the way the actual voters of the country are evolving and the policies they want,” said Ruy Teixeira, a political and demographic expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Like most of the ultrawealthy, the new donor elite is deeply private. Very few of those contacted were willing to speak about their contributions or their political views. Many donations were made from business addresses or post office boxes, or wound through limited liability corporations or trusts, exploiting the new avenues opened up by Citizens United, which gave corporate entities far more leeway to spend money on behalf of candidates. Some contributors, for reasons of privacy or tax planning, are not listed as the owners of the homes where they live, further obscuring the family and social ties that bind them.

But interviews and a review of hundreds of public documents — voter registrations, business records, F.E.C. data and more — reveal a class apart, distant from much of America while geographically, socially and economically intermingling among themselves. Nearly all the neighborhoods where they live would fit within the city limits of New Orleans. But minorities make up less than one-fifth of those neighborhoods’ collective population, and virtually no one is black. Their residents make four and a half times the salary of the average American, and are twice as likely to be college educated.

Most of the families are clustered around just nine cities. Many are neighbors, living near one another in neighborhoods like Bel Air and Brentwood in Los Angeles; River Oaks, a Houston community popular with energy executives; or Indian Creek Village, a private island near Miami that has a private security force and just 35 homes lining an 18-hole golf course. Sometimes, across party lines, they are patrons of the same symphonies, art museums or at-risk youth programs. They are business partners, in-laws and, on occasion, even poker buddies.

Living Near One Another

More than 50 members of these families have made the Forbes 400 list of the country’s top billionaires, marking a scale of wealth against which even a million-dollar political contribution can seem relatively small. The Chicago hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, for example, earns about $68.5 million a month after taxes, according to court filings made by his wife in their divorce. He has given a total of $300,000 to groups backing Republican presidential candidates. That is a huge sum on its face, yet is the equivalent of only $21.17 for a typical American household, according to Congressional Budget Office data on after-tax income. The donor families’ wealth reflects, in part, the vast growth of the financial-services sector and the boom in oil and gas, which have helped transform the American economy in recent decades. They are also the beneficiaries of political and economic forces that are driving widening inequality: As the share of national wealth and income going to the middle class has shrunk, these families are among those whose share has grown.

Mainly in Finance and Energy

The accumulation of wealth has been particularly rapid at the elite levels of Wall Street, where financiers who once managed other people’s capital now, increasingly, own it themselves. Since 1979, according to one study, the one-tenth of 1 percent of American taxpayers who work in finance have roughly quintupled their share of the country’s income. Sixty-four of the families made their wealth in finance, the largest single faction among the super-donors of 2016.

But instead of working their way up to the executive suite at Goldman Sachs or Exxon, most of these donors set out on their own, establishing privately held firms controlled individually or with partners. In finance, they started hedge funds, or formed private equity and venture capital firms, benefiting from favorable tax treatment of debt and capital gains, and more recently from a rising stock market and low interest rates. In energy, some were latter-day wildcatters, early to capitalize on the new drilling technologies and high energy prices that made it economical to exploit shale formations in North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Others made fortunes supplying those wildcatters with pipelines, trucks and equipment for “fracking.”

In both energy and finance, their businesses, when successful, could throw off enormous amounts of cash — unlike industries in which wealth might have been tied up in investments. Those without shareholders or boards of directors have had unusual freedom to indulge their political passions. Together, the two industries accounted for well over half of the cash contributed by the top 158 families.

Exposed! How the Billionaires Class Is Destroying Democracy

Out of the guts of the internet, we find an endless stream of misattributed quotes and made-up stories that end up in chain emails that you eventually receive from your loopy uncle in Texas who's trying to justify right-wing economics or anti-Obama conspiracy theories. It's just one of the headaches of the Internet Age. But, there's one quote in particular that's always attributed to an obscure Scottish historian, Sir Alexander Frasier Tytler (as if that gave it great credibility), and it seemed to both make sense and prophecy the end of the American Republic.

Tytler was supposed to have said: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship." Tyltler goes on to talk about the process by which democracies fail as a result of this "voter selfishness."

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years," he was rumored to have said. "These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again to bondage."

Now, here's the reality: Tytler never said any of these words. They can all be tracked back to right-wing American businessmen in the early decades of the twentieth century. And why would right-wing businessmen say such things? Because, in actual point of fact, the thing that corrupts democracies is not "the voters" demanding "free stuff" (to paraphrase Romney), but, instead, its businessmen buying off politicians. It's not the powerless who corrupt democracies, as that viral right-wing quote would suggest; it's the powerful who corrupt democracies. And money is the source of that power.

Yes, over the last hundred years, average American people have voted themselves benefits like Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. But at the same time, they've also supported tax increases to pay for all of these things. Remember, the Social Security tax only applies to the first $113,000 of wages - earned income. People like Paris Hilton and Mitt Romney, when they get all their money from capital gains, dividends, and carried interest, don't pay a penny of Social Security taxes on their millions of income. And the average top CEO in America, with an income of $13.7 million a year, over a million a month, only pays Social Security taxes on his first few days of income every year - every other day is Social Security tax-free. Quite literally, as Leona Helmsley famously said, only the "little people" pay such taxes. The safety net program for working class people is exclusively paid for by working class people.

On the other hand, when the Billionaire Class extracts benefits from the government for themselves, the generally don't pay higher taxes. The billions in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil, trillions in bailouts and bonuses for Wall Street banksters, and hundreds of billions for war profiteers are always accompanied by demands for more tax cuts at the top.

And, truth be told, billionaires aren't even receiving these benefits by voting for them. Instead, they always get them through the simple process of buying politicians. For example, Sheldon Adelson spent $150 million in the last election. That's more than any American spent in any election in American history. And he spent all that money to give himself the "benefits" of derailing an Obama Justice Department investigation into his casino in China and to get his taxes cut even further.

Billionaires also corrupt democracy to get their benefits through billionaire-funded think tanks, like the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council that writes legislation to benefit Corporate America, and then has Republicans state lawmakers introduce and pass laws in state after state, across the nation. But despite this very clear reality of who is demanding largesse from our government, it's still working people and average voters who are targeted by right-wingers and their viral emails as the selfish "takers." That's the reason why the Business Roundtable is saying the best way to fix insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare is to raise the retirement age to 70 and voucherize Medicare.

Of course, the average CEO for an S&P 500 company doesn't need Social Security. But they know that by raising the retirement age, they're shielding themselves from any tax increases that may come with raising that payroll tax cap, so even billionaires pay into Social Security, which will quickly and easily make that insurance program solvent forever. America's fiscal problems have nothing to do with voters. In fact, the Billionaire Class is trying to make it harder and harder for people to vote by pushing for voter suppression ID laws and restrictions on early voting.

America's fiscal problems are a direct result of the Billionaire Class working behind the scenes of our democracy and syphoning off massive amounts of wealth for themselves while paying lower taxes than they've paid in a half-century. As Senator Bernie Sanders points out, a quarter of all profitable corporations in America pay zero federal taxes. And Mitt Romney and Paris Hilton's income tax rates top out at 20 percent.

Tytler didn't really say those words that the Billionaire Class think-tanks and email shills attribute to him. But, had he said them, he probably would have something more along the lines of this: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the billionaires discover that they can steal for themselves largess of the public treasury through buying politicians. From that time on the billionaires will always buy candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."

If we are concerned about the future of our American democratic republic, the way to preserve it isn't to protect it from greedy Social Security recipients by pushing the retirement age back to 70. It's to get money out of government, thus neutering the political power of the Billionaire Class. And that means reversing two core doctrines that the US Supreme Court has created out of thin air (at the request of big business and billionaires): that corporations are people, and that money is speech. The best way to do that is through a constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people, and money is property and not speech.


Jimmy Carter Is Correct that the U.S. Is No Longer a Democracy

On July 28th, Thom Hartmann interviewed former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and, at the very end of his show (as if this massive question were merely an aftethought), asked him his opinion of the 2010 Citizens United decision and the 2014 McCutcheon decision, both decisions by the five Republican judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. These two historic decisions enable unlimited secret money (including foreign money) now to pour into U.S. political and judicial campaigns. Carter answered:

"It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we've just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. ... At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell."

He was then cut off by the program, though that statement by Carter should have been the start of the program, not its end. (And the program didn't end with an invitation for him to return to discuss this crucial matter in depth -- something for which he's qualified.) So: was this former president's provocative allegation merely his opinion? Or was it actually lots more than that? It was lots more than that.

Only a single empirical study has actually been done in the social sciences regarding whether the historical record shows that the United States has been, during the survey's period, which in that case was between 1981 and 2002, a democracy (a nation whose leaders represent the public-at-large), or instead an aristocracy (or 'oligarchy') -- a nation in which only the desires of the richest citizens end up being reflected in governmental actions. This study was titled "Testing Theories of American Politics," and it was published by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page in the journal Perspectives on Politics, issued by the American Political Science Association in September 2014. I had summarized it earlier, on 14 April 2014, while the article was still awaiting its publication.

The headline of my summary-article was "U.S. Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy Says Scientific Study." I reported: "The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's 'news' media)." I then quoted the authors' own summary: "The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

The scientific study closed by saying: "In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule--at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes." A few other tolerably clear sentences managed to make their ways into this well-researched, but, sadly, atrociously written, paper, such as: "The preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of 'affluent' citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do." In other words, they found: The rich rule the U.S.

Their study investigated specifically "1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change," and then the policy-follow-ups, of whether or not the polled public preferences had been turned into polices, or, alternatively, whether the relevant corporate-lobbied positions had instead become public policy on the given matter, irrespective of what the public had wanted concerning it.

The study period, 1981-2002, covered the wake of the landmark 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Buckley v. Valeo, which had started the aristocratic assault on American democracy, and which seminal (and bipartisan) pro-aristocratic court decision is described as follows by wikipedia: It "struck down on First Amendment grounds several provisions in the 1974 Amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. The most prominent portions of the case struck down limits on spending in campaigns, but upheld the provision limiting the size of individual contributions to campaigns. The Court also narrowed, and then upheld, the Act's disclosure provisions, and struck down (on separation of powers grounds) the make-up of the Federal Election Commission, which as written allowed Congress to directly appoint members of the Commission, an executive agency."

Basically, the Buckley decision, and subsequent (increasingly partisan Republican) Supreme Court decisions, have allowed aristocrats to buy and control politicians.

Already, the major 'news' media were owned and controlled by the aristocracy, and 'freedom of the press' was really just freedom of aristocrats to control the 'news' -- to frame public issues in the ways the owners want. The media managers who are appointed by those owners select, in turn, the editors who, in their turn, hire only reporters who produce the propaganda that's within the acceptable range for the owners, to be 'the news' as the public comes to know it.

But, now, in the post-Buckley-v.-Valeo world, from Reagan on (and the resulting study-period of 1981-2002), aristocrats became almost totally free to buy also the political candidates they wanted. The 'right' candidates, plus the 'right' 'news'-reporting about them, has thus bought the 'right' people to 'represent' the public, in the new American 'democracy,' which Jimmy Carter now aptly calls "subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors."

Carter -- who had entered office in 1977, at the very start of that entire era of transition into an aristocratically controlled United States (and he left office in 1981, just as the study-period was starting) -- expressed his opinion that, in the wake now of the two most extreme pro-aristocratic U.S. Supreme Court decisions ever (which are Citizens United in 2010, and McCutcheon in 2014), American democracy is really only past tense, not present tense at all -- no longer a reality. He is saying, in effect, that, no matter how much the U.S. was a dictatorship by the rich during 1981-2002 (the Gilens-Page study era), it's far worse now.

Apparently, Carter is correct: The New York Times front page on Sunday 2 August 2015 bannered, "Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving," and reported that: "A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans. The concentration of donors is greatest on the Republican side, according to the Times analysis, where consultants and lawyers have pushed more aggressively to exploit the looser fund-raising rules that have fueled the rise of super PACs. Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs."

The Times study shows that the Republican Party is overwhelmingly advantaged by the recent unleashing of big-corporate money power. All of the evidence suggests that though different aristocrats compete against each other for the biggest chunks of whatever the given nation has to offer, they all compete on the same side against the public, in order to lower the wages of their workers, and to lower the standards for consumers' safety and welfare so as to increase their own profits (transfer their costs and investment-losses onto others); and, so, now, the U.S. is soaring again toward Gilded Age economic inequality, perhaps to surpass the earlier era of unrestrained robber barons. And, the Times study shows: even in the Democratic Party, the mega-donations are going to only the most conservative (pro-corporate, anti-public) Democrats. Grass-roots politics could be vestigial, or even dead, in the new America.

The question has become whether the unrestrained power of the aristocracy is locked in this time even more permanently than it was in that earlier era. Or: will there be yet another FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) to restore a democracy that once was? Or: is a president like that any longer even possible in America? As for today's political incumbents: they now have their careers for as long as they want and are willing to do the biddings of their masters. And, then, they retire to become, themselves, new members of the aristocracy, such as the Clintons have done, and such as the Obamas will do. (Of course, the Bushes have been aristocrats since early in the last century.)

Furthermore, the new age of aristocratic control is not merely national but international in scope; so, the global aristocracy have probably found the formula that will keep them in control until they destroy the entire world. What's especially interesting is that, with all of the many tax-exempt, 'non-profit' 'charities,' which aristocrats have established, none of them is warring to defeat the aristocracy itself -- to defeat the aristocrats' system of exploitation of the public. It's the one thing they won't create a 'charity' for; none of them will go to war against the expoitative interests of themselves and of their own exploitative peers. They're all in this together, even though they do compete amongst themselves for dominance, as to which ones of them will lead against the public. And the public seem to accept this modern form of debt-bondage, perhaps because of the 'news' they see, and because of the news they don't see (such as this).


Public Trust In The U.S. Government Has Plummeted To Historic Lows
Public Trust In The U.S. Government Has Plumetted


A year ahead of the presidential election, the American public is deeply cynical about government, politics and the nation’s elected leaders in a way that has become quite familiar. Currently, just 19% say they can trust the government always or most of the time, among the lowest levels in the past half-century. Only 20% would describe government programs as being well-run. And elected officials are held in such low regard that 55% of the public says “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems. Yet at the same time, most Americans have a lengthy to-do list for this object of their frustration: Majorities want the federal government to have a major role in addressing issues ranging from terrorism and disaster response to education and the environment. And most Americans like the way the federal government handles many of these same issues, though they are broadly critical of its handling of others – especially poverty and immigration.

A new national survey by Pew Research Center, based on more than 6,000 interviews conducted between August 27 and October 4, 2015, finds that public attitudes about government and politics defy easy categorization. The study builds upon previous reports about the government’s role and performance in 2010 and 1998. This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the survey from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The partisan divide over the size and scope of government remains as wide as ever: Support for smaller government endures as a Republican touchstone. Fully 80% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they prefer a smaller government with fewer services, compared with just 31% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Yet both Republicans and Democrats favor significant government involvement on an array of specific issues. Among the public overall, majorities say the federal government should have a major role in dealing with 12 of 13 issues included in the survey, all except advancing space exploration. There is bipartisan agreement that the federal government should play a major role in dealing with terrorism, natural disasters, food and medicine safety, and roads and infrastructure. And while the presidential campaign has exposed sharp partisan divisions over immigration policy, large majorities of both Republicans (85%) and Democrats (80%) say the government should have a major role in managing the immigration system. But the partisan differences over government’s appropriate role are revealing – with the widest gaps on several issues relating to the social safety net.

Only about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners see a major role for the federal government in helping people get out of poverty (36%) and ensuring access to health care (34%), by far the lowest percentages for any of the 13 issues tested. Fully 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the government should have a major role in helping people out of poverty, and 83% say it should play a major role in ensuring access to health care. Moreover, while majorities of Republicans favor a major government role in ensuring a basic income for people 65 and older (59%), protecting the environment (58%) and ensuring access to high-quality education (55%), much larger shares of Democrats – 80% or more in each case – favor a large government role. However, these differences are a matter of degree. Overwhelming numbers of Republicans and Democrats say the federal government should have either a major or minor role on all 13 issues tested. Relatively few in either party want the government to have no role in these issues, though 20% of Republicans say the government should have no role in ensuring health care.


The Age of Authoritarian Democracy

The world is currently being shaken by tectonic changes almost too numerous to count: the ongoing economic crisis is accelerating the degradation of international governance and supranational institutions, and both are occurring alongside a massive shift of economic and political power to Asia. Less than a quarter-century after U.S. political scientist and author Francis Fukuyama declared "the end of history," we seem to have arrived at the dawn of a new age of social and geopolitical upheaval.

Dramatically, the Arab world has been swept by a revolutionary spring, though one that is rapidly becoming a chilly winter. Indeed, for the most part, the new regimes are combining the old authoritarianism with Islamism, resulting in further social stagnation, resentment and instability. Even more remarkable, however, are the social — and antisocial — grassroots demonstrations that are mushrooming in affluent Western societies. These protests have two major causes.

First, social inequality has grown unabated in the West over the last quarter-century, owing in part to the disappearance of the Soviet Union and, with it, the threat of expansionist communism. The specter of revolution had forced Western elites to use the power of the state to redistribute wealth and nurture the growth of loyal middle classes. But when communism collapsed in its Eurasian heartland, the West's rich, believing that they had nothing more to fear, pressed to roll back the welfare state, causing inequality to rise rapidly. This was tolerable as long as the overall pie was expanding, but the global financial crisis in 2008 ended that.

Second, over the past 15 years, hundreds of millions of jobs shifted to Asia, which offered inexpensive and often highly skilled labor. The West, euphoric from its victory over communism and its seemingly unstoppable economic growth, failed to implement necessary structural reforms, although Germany and Sweden were rare exceptions. Instead, Western prosperity relied increasingly on debt.

But the economic crisis has made it impossible to maintain a good life on borrowed money. Americans and Europeans are beginning to understand that neither they, nor their children, can assume that they will become wealthier over time. Governments now face the difficult task of implementing reforms that will hit the majority of voters hardest. In the meantime, the minority that has benefited financially over the past two decades is unlikely to give up its advantages without a fight.

All of this can only weaken Western democracy's allure in countries like Russia, where, unlike in the West or to a large extent the Arab world, those who are organizing the massive demonstrations against the government belong to the economic elite. Theirs is a movement of political reform, demanding more freedom and government accountability. It is not a social protest — at least not yet.

A few years ago, it was fashionable to worry about the challenge that authoritarian-style capitalism — for example, in China, Singapore, Malaysia or Russia — presented to Western democratic capitalism. Today, the problem is not only economic.

Western capitalism's model of a society based on near-universal affluence and liberal democracy looks increasingly ineffective when compared to the competition. Authoritarian countries' middle classes may push their leaders toward greater democracy, as in Russia, but Western democracies will also likely become more authoritarian.

Indeed, measured against today's standards, former French President Charles de Gaulle, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower were comparatively authoritarian leaders. The West will have to readopt such an approach or risk losing out globally as its ultraright and ultraleft political forces consolidate their positions and its middle classes begin to dissolve.

We must find ways to prevent the political polarization that gave rise to totalitarian systems — communist and fascist — in the 20th century. Fortunately, this is possible. Communism and fascism were born and took root in societies demoralized by war, which is why all steps should be taken now to prevent the outbreak of war.

This is becoming particularly relevant today, as the smell of war hangs over Iran. Israel, which is facing a surge of hostile sentiment among its neighbors in the wake of their "democratic" upheavals, is not the only interested party. Many people in the advanced countries, and even some in Russia, look increasingly supportive of a war with Iran, despite — or perhaps owing to — the need to address the ongoing global economic crisis and failure of international governance.

At the same time, huge opportunities beckon in times of far-reaching change. Billions of people in Asia have extricated themselves from poverty. New markets and spheres for applying one's intellect, education and talents are appearing constantly. The world's power centers are beginning to counterbalance one another, undermining hegemonic ambitions and heralding a creative instability based on genuine multipolarity, with people gaining greater freedom to define their fate in the global arena.

Paradoxically, today's global changes and challenges offer the potential for both peaceful coexistence and violent conflict. Whether fortunately or not, it is up to us — alone — to determine which future it will be.


The Lies Of Democracy and the Language Of Deceit

In an increasingly media-driven age, language is everything and is often used by officialdom to tyrannise meaning. With the deaths of millions on its hands since 1945, the US has become the world’s number one terror state. By the 1980s, former CIA man John Stockwell had put the figure at six million. As a recent article has indicated, from mass bombing in Southeast Asia to employing death squads in South America, the US military and the CIA have been directly and indirectly responsible for an updated figure of an estimated ten million deaths (1). But it’s not called mass murder these days. Ironically, the US has hijacked the word ‘terror’ to justify its brand of tyranny through a war on terror.

You can also add to that ten million, countless others whose lives have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit, which did not rely on the military to bomb peoples and countries into submission, but on a certain policy. It’s not browbeating. It’s structural adjustment.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have taken their own lives over the past decade and a half largely as a result of US agribusiness manipulating global commodity prices courtesy of policies enacted on its behalf by the US government or due to the corporate monopoly, or frontier technology, of terminator seeds that also landed farmers in debt which was just too much for them to bear (2).

The plight of Indian farmers is not unique. How many lives have been cut short across the world because of the inherent structural violence or silent killing of the everyday seemingly benign functioning of predatory capitalism? The built-in inequalities of the system have effectively stolen years from people’s lives, the health from their bodies, the livelihoods from their hands, the water from their taps and food from their plates. From the UK to Africa, the subjugated classes – the now often discarded economic fodder, the cannon fodder during times of war or the returning heroes to be thrown overboard by the system on coming home, the people who are to be manipulated and exploited at will via bogus notions of nationalism or the national interest – have had their lives cut short or stripped bare of opportunities due to the hardships imposed by the iron fist of capitalism (3).

The appropriation of wealth through a system that funnels it from bottom to top via a process of accumulation by dispossession (4) is celebrated as growth, prosperity, and freedom of choice, despite evidence that, from Greece to Spain, the reality for the majority has been increasing poverty, the stripping away of choice and misery. You wouldn’t know much about this if you just used the mainstream media for information, though. Sure, you may have been told to tighten your belt because we are all in it together and must make some sacrifices in these difficult economic times.

And just for good measure, as much of the country (any country) is thrown onto the scraphead because it is surplus to requirements now that their jobs have been outsourced abroad, we simply must attack Mali, Syria, Libya, Iran (the list goes on) because not to do so would let the evil-doers take over the world. And then where would we be without such high-minded notions? It’s not resource plunder. It’s humanitarianism.

Well, we would be precisely where we are right now because the evil-doers are already in control and waging war not only on the people of those countries just mentioned, but on the people within their own countries too via the tools of surveillance, the penal system, the comotosing effects of spymaster imported illegal drugs or the infotainment industry and the barrage of legislation that is serving to strip away civil liberties. The game is up, the dominant Western economy (the US) is broken beyond repair (5). Imperialism and militarism won’t save it, but dissent won’t be allowed.

And as private bankers entrap us all even further via their licence to print and loan currencies to national governments then also loan them the interest on it that spirals out of hand so it can never be paid back (6), they are able to line their pockets even further by buying up national assets on the cheap from the countries they bankrupted in the first place. It’s not racketeering. It’s austerity.
“And now they’re coming for your social security. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all sooner or later because they own this place.” Gorge Carlin, writer, critic and comedian.
And where is the mainstream media in all of this? Where are those journalists whose claim to respectability is their rigid professionalism, their accountability, their objectivity? If you can call professionalism, accountability and objectivity being in the pocket of and not wishing to offend advertising interests, officialdom, lobbyists or corporate think tanks then they are paragons of absolute virtue!

Peddling their high salaried lies, they have failed and continue to fail the public. By shining their dim ‘investigative’ light on ‘parliamentary procedures’, personalities, the rubber stamping of policies and the inane machinations of party politics, they merely serve to maintain and perpetuate the status quo and keep the public in the dark as to the unaccountable self-serving power broking and unity of interests that enable Big Oil, Big Banking, Big Pharma, Big Agra and the rest of them to keep bleeding us all dry.

Looking back to the BBC’s reporting of the NATO bombing of Libya provides quite revealing insight into the mainstream media. The coverage was disgracefully one-sided. Is the public to pay for a ‘public service’ broadcaster in order to be misled and for it to secure our compliance for illegal state-corporate policies? There was little analysis of ‘mission’ drift’ or of where the insurgents where getting their arms from despite a UN-sanctioned arms embargo. Much less of NATO’s moral right to bomb a path into Tripoli. No talk there of what University of Johannesburg professor Chris Landsberg said was NATO’s violation of international law or of the 200 prominent African figures who accused western nations of subverting international law.

On the other hand, though, what we are served courtesy of the mainstream media each time Britain decides to wage war is a tasty dish of nationalistic sentiment and the old colonial mentality of ‘our boys’ going out ‘there’ to help civilise the barbarians.

But that’s the role of the media: to help reinforce and reproduce the material conditions of an exploitative and divisive social system on a daily basis. It’s called having a compliant, toothless media. It’s liberal democracy. That’s the role not only of the media, but the education system and the political system too.

And that’s why former British PM was some years ago told by his financial masters to sell of what was laughingly regarded as ‘the nation’s gold’ at a knock down price on behalf of bankers’ (not the nation’s) interests without being held up to genuine public scrutiny. Some say that was the first ‘bail out’ (7). That’s why taxpayers’ money, unbeknown to most of the taxpayers, is being used unaccountably and undemocratically to help prop up banks and to topple various countries and bring death and destruction to thousands via ‘covert ops’. Covert – hidden from the public who remain blissfully unaware of where their hard earned dollars, pounds or euros are actually going.

That’s why the state-corporate fraudsters, murderers and liars who wrap themselves in the language of freedom and democracy have been getting away with it for so long. Sadly, that’s why they continue to do so.


Why Ignorance Is Democracy's Bliss

The Iowa caucuses marked the official beginning of the presidential election cycle. For the next 10 months or so, the American public will endure polls, pundits, canned stump speeches and negative ads—the media circus that passes for 21st-century democracy. Despite this flood of coverage, one troubling feature of our elections will go largely unmentioned: The typical American voter is uninformed about political basics. Consider these facts:

• The vast majority of voters can't name their congressman or a single congressional candidate.
• 45% of adults don't know that each state elects two senators.
• 40% of Americans can't name the vice president.
• 63% can't name the chief justice of the U.S.

This isn't a recent phenomenon. In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, only 38% of Americans knew that the Soviet Union wasn't part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In December 1994, a month after the Republican takeover of Congress, 57% of Americans had never heard of Newt Gingrich. As Winston Churchill once said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

Yet despite this, voting remains the best way to elect leaders. Churchill, as usual, said it best: "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Why are democracies so vibrant even when composed of uninformed citizens? According to a new study led by the ecologist Iain Couzin at Princeton, this collective ignorance is an essential feature of democratic governments, not a bug. His research suggests that voters with weak political preferences help to prevent clusters of extremists from dominating the political process. Their apathy keeps us safe.

To show this, Dr. Couzin experimented on a rather unlikely set of subjects: fish. Many different species, such as schooling fish and flocking birds, survive by forming a consensus, making collective decisions without splintering apart. To do so, these creatures are constantly forced to conduct their own improvised elections.

The scientists trained a large group of golden shiners, a small freshwater fish used as bait, to associate the arrival of food with a blue target. They then trained a smaller group to associate food with a yellow target, a color naturally preferred by the fish. Not surprisingly, when all the trained golden shiners were put in one aquarium, most of them swam toward the yellow dot; the stronger desires of the minority, fueled by the shiners' natural preference, persuaded the majority to follow along.

But when scientists introduced a group of fish without any color training, yellow suddenly lost its appeal. All of a sudden, the fish began following the preferences of the majority, swimming toward the blue target. "A strongly opinionated minority can dictate group choice," the scientists concluded. "But the presence of uninformed individuals spontaneously inhibits this process, returning control to the numerical majority."

Of course, many political scientists have criticized this extrapolation from golden shiners to democratic government, noting that not all independent voters are ignorant—some are simply moderate—and that a minority doesn't always represent an extreme view.

Nevertheless, this research helps to explain the importance of indifference in a partisan age. If every voter was well-informed and highly opinionated, then the most passionate minority would dominate decision-making. There would be no democratic consensus—just clusters of stubborn fanatics, attempting to out-shout the other side. Hitler's rise is the ultimate parable here: Though the Nazi party failed to receive a majority of the votes in the 1933 German election, it was able to quickly intimidate the opposition and pass tyrannical laws.

So the next time a poll reveals the ignorance of the voting public, remember those fish. It's the people who don't know very much who make democracy possible.


Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

File:Protector of the sheep.jpg

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

In this visualization, we see the tipping point where minority opinion (shown in red) quickly becomes majority opinion. Over time, the minority opinion grows. Once the minority opinion reached 10 percent of the population, the network quickly changes as the minority opinion takes over the original majority opinion (shown in green). (Credit: SCNARC/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame."

As an example, the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt appear to exhibit a similar process, according to Szymanski. "In those countries, dictators who were in power for decades were suddenly overthrown in just a few weeks." The findings were published in the July 22, 2011, early online edition of the journal Physical Review E in an article titled "Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities."

An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society.

To reach their conclusion, the scientists developed computer models of various types of social networks. One of the networks had each person connect to every other person in the network. The second model included certain individuals who were connected to a large number of people, making them opinion hubs or leaders. The final model gave every person in the model roughly the same number of connections. The initial state of each of the models was a sea of traditional-view holders. Each of these individuals held a view, but were also, importantly, open minded to other views.

Once the networks were built, the scientists then "sprinkled" in some true believers throughout each of the networks. These people were completely set in their views and unflappable in modifying those beliefs. As those true believers began to converse with those who held the traditional belief system, the tides gradually and then very abruptly began to shift.

"In general, people do not like to have an unpopular opinion and are always seeking to try locally to come to consensus. We set up this dynamic in each of our models," said SCNARC Research Associate and corresponding paper author Sameet Sreenivasan. To accomplish this, each of the individuals in the models "talked" to each other about their opinion. If the listener held the same opinions as the speaker, it reinforced the listener's belief. If the opinion was different, the listener considered it and moved on to talk to another person. If that person also held this new belief, the listener then adopted that belief.

"As agents of change start to convince more and more people, the situation begins to change," Sreenivasan said. "People begin to question their own views at first and then completely adopt the new view to spread it even further. If the true believers just influenced their neighbors, that wouldn't change anything within the larger system, as we saw with percentages less than 10."

The research has broad implications for understanding how opinion spreads. "There are clearly situations in which it helps to know how to efficiently spread some opinion or how to suppress a developing opinion," said Associate Professor of Physics and co-author of the paper Gyorgy Korniss. "Some examples might be the need to quickly convince a town to move before a hurricane or spread new information on the prevention of disease in a rural village."

The researchers are now looking for partners within the social sciences and other fields to compare their computational models to historical examples. They are also looking to study how the percentage might change when input into a model where the society is polarized. Instead of simply holding one traditional view, the society would instead hold two opposing viewpoints. An example of this polarization would be Democrat versus Republican. The research was funded by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) through SCNARC, part of the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance (NS-CTA), the Army Research Office (ARO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The research is part of a much larger body of work taking place under SCNARC at Rensselaer. The center joins researchers from a broad spectrum of fields -- including sociology, physics, computer science, and engineering -- in exploring social cognitive networks. The center studies the fundamentals of network structures and how those structures are altered by technology. The goal of the center is to develop a deeper understanding of networks and a firm scientific basis for the newly arising field of network science.


Scientists say America is too dumb for democracy to thrive

They know what's best for the country

The United States may be a republic, but it’s democracy that Americans cherish. After all, that’s why we got into Iraq, right? To take out a dictator and spread democracy. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” “One person, one vote.” We are an egalitarian society that treasures the mandate of its citizenry. But more than a decade’s worth research suggests that the citizenry is too dumb to pick the best leaders. Work by Cornell University psychologist David Dunning and then-colleague Justin Kruger found that “incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas,” according to a report by Life’s Little Mysteries on the blog LiveScience.

“Very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.

What’s worse is that with incompetence comes the illusion of superiority. Let’s say a politician comes up with an ingenious plan that would ensure universal health care while decreasing health care costs. According to Dunning-Kruger, no matter how much information is provided, the unsophisticated would 1) be incapable of recognizing the wisdom of such a plan; 2) assume they know better; and 3) have no idea of the extent of their inadequacy. In other words, stupid people are too stupid to know how stupid they are. If this seems elitist to you, you are probably not alone. Maybe we should only let Ph.D.’s, Mensa members and Jeopardy! champions vote? At least require a passing an IQ test before you get to cast a ballot?

The scientists do say that the incompetent can be trained to improve, but only if they acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, which would seem to be a catch-22 since they are too ignorant to do so on their own. Life’s Little Mysteries said that Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, ran a computer simulation of a democratic election based on Dunning and Kruger’s theories: “In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters’ own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.”

It would appear then that democracy dooms us to mediocrity and misinformed choices. Not exactly encouraging news for the next round of California’s ballot initiatives.


The Decline of Democracy: Greece displays the post-liberal variety, Egypt the pre-liberal one. Both are rotten

Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. Everyone knows who said this, and everyone thinks it's true. But is it, really?

After last weekend I've begun to have my doubts. In Egypt, the ruling military junta reacted to the apparent victory of Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi by stripping the presidential office of its powers. That came just days after Egypt's top court dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament, which had been freely elected only a few months ago. How arbitrary. What an affront to the Egyptian people. Now let's hope it works.

Then there's Greece, which also had an election over the weekend. The Greeks are supposed to have made the "responsible" choice in the person of Antonis Samaras, the Amherst- and Harvard-educated leader of the center-right New Democracy party. Responsible in this case means trying to stay in the euro zone by again renegotiating the terms of a bailout that Greeks cannot possibly repay and will not likely honor.

Yet the more depressing fact about the election is that Mr. Samaras didn't even get 30% of the vote. The rest was divided among the radical-left Syriza (27%), the socialist Pasok (12.3%), the anti-German Independent Greeks (7.5%), the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (7%), the center-left Democratic Left (6.2%) and, finally, the good old Communist Party (4.5%).

In other words, the Greeks gave a solid 46% of their vote to parties that are evil, crazy or both, even while erring on the side of "sanity" with parties that are merely foolish and discredited. Imagine that in 1980 Jimmy Carter had eked out a slim victory over a Gus Hall-Lyndon LaRouche ticket, and you have the American equivalent to what just happened in Greece.

Should anyone be surprised that democracy is having such a hard time in the land of Pericles? Probably not—and not just because Greece is also the land of Alcibiades. Despite its storied past, modern Greek democracy, like much of modern European democracy, is of a post-liberal variety. Post-liberalism seeks to replace the classical liberalism of individual liberty, limited government, property rights and democratic sovereignty with a new liberalism that favors social rights, social goods, intrusive government and transnational law.

In practice, post-liberalism is a giant wealth redistribution scheme. It bankrupted Greece and will soon bankrupt the rest of Europe. What happens to bankrupt democracies? Think Weimar Germany, Perón's Argentina, and, more recently, Yeltsin's Russia.Now take Egypt. There, instead of post-liberal democracy, you have the energetic stirrings of pre-liberal democracy.

What is pre-liberal democracy? It is democracy shorn of the values Westerners typically associate it with: free speech, religious liberty, social tolerance, equality between the sexes and so on. Not only in Egypt, but in Tunisia, Turkey and Gaza, popular majorities have made a democratic choice for parties that put faith before freedom and substituted the word of God for the rule of law.

Apologists for this sort of democracy argue that it still beats the alternatives, not just the coarse authoritarianism typified by Hosni Mubarak but also the progressive-autocratic model that used to prevail in Turkey. They also argue that democracy has a way of taming ideologically extreme political leaders by tethering them to the needs and wishes of the people, just as a talented cowboy will rope and halter an unruly horse.
But there's a problem with this analogy: In pre-liberal societies, it is the people who are the horse and the leaders who do the roping, not the other way around. An Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood will respect democratic procedure only to the extent that it does not infringe on the Brotherhood's overarching goals: "Restoring Islam in its all-encompassing conception; subjugating people to God; instituting the religion of God; the Islamization of life," according to Khairat Al Shater, the Brotherhood's de facto leader.

That's the kind of democracy we can soon expect from Egypt unless the military somehow gets the upper hand politically. Don't bet on it. If post-liberal democracy is unsustainable ("They always run out of other people's money," as Margaret Thatcher quipped), pre-liberal democracy is irresistible. The objections of an aged and ambivalent junta will not long stand in the way of millions of Egyptians demanding their right to choose unfreedom freely.

The good news is that Egyptians may have a wider conception of freedom in 30 years or so, about the same amount of time it took Khomeinism to lose the masses in Iran. In 30 years, too, the Greeks may have a better appreciation of the notion of responsibility, both personal and political. As for what remains of the liberal democratic world, maybe the weekend elections will be a reminder of another famous political maxim: "A republic—if you can keep it."


When Democracy Weakens

As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only. While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters. The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.

In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it. The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.

As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”

As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.

When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.

As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)

It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?

The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away. I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the U.S. but not at all daunted. “If there is going to be change,” he said, “real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves.” I thought of that as I watched the coverage of the ecstatic celebrations in the streets of Cairo.


Trump and Political Circuses Are Nothing New
Roman politicians whipped up crowds, warned about ‘outsiders’ and insulted their rivals.

Ancient Romans would find the drama of American primary elections eerily familiar. Like us, the Romans treated politics as theater, attending speeches and rallies where political figures worked the crowd. They held popular elections and supported charismatic leaders who thrived on celebrity. When Cicero ran for consul around 63 B.C., his brother Quintus wrote a fascinating manual of political advice. Quintus urged Cicero to be available night and day to citizens who needed his services, to look alert and interested when voters spoke, and to make them believe he cared. It was the beginning of a romance, when followers come to believe that what leaders do, they do for them.

But before aspiring officeholders can be seen as worthy of public affection, they first must be seen. Reality-TV star Donald Trump is a modern-day master at capturing public notice, but he is no trailblazer. Those seeking power have always found ways to achieve celebrity. Romans vying for office bleached their togas a brilliant white, making them stand out. Candidates also surrounded themselves with throngs of supporters to attract maximum attention. The “social media” campaigns of Julius Caesar and Augustus featured flattering portraits displayed in public places. After being elected, they stamped their profiles on coins to further enhance their celebrity.

Star power fueled narcissism then as it does now. Julius Caesar was a deft schmoozer, adept at working the crowd. Affable and adored by soldiers, he was the kind of guy you could drink the famed Falernian wine with. But his narcissism undermined him. Caesar became hated for his arrogance, and dozens of Roman senators joined the conspiracy to assassinate him.

Winning political arguments has always required style, not just substance. And nobody in the age of the Republic was better at style than Cato the Censor. As the Senate debated around 149 B.C. what action to take against its old foe Carthage, Cato produced a cluster of grapes from the folds of his toga. He declared, no doubt falsely, that they had been picked in Carthage the same day. His dramatic performance worked. Though Carthage hadn’t posed a serious threat for over half a century, Cato energized his compatriots’ fears of its resurgence, silenced critics and shaped a docile following. Rome declared war and finally destroyed Carthage in 146 B.C.

Charismatic leaders are good actors. Whether facing constituents, competitors or enemies, they present themselves as dominant and fit. When Gaius Popilius Laenas first encountered the Seleucid King Antiochus IV in 168 B.C., he used a stick to draw a circle in the sand around the king. He ordered him not to cross it until he agreed to do Rome’s bidding. Intimidated by the brazen act, the king acquiesced. Roman leaders knew that anger stunts contemplation. Opponents excoriated one another with vitriolic insults. Cicero accused Mark Antony of having been a male prostitute in his youth and of frequenting brothels later in life. Such slurs, difficult to disprove, distracted attention from Antony’s achievements and Cicero’s flaws.

Shared feelings and actions have always been used by charismatic leaders to bring people together in common cause. At Julius Caesar’s funeral Mark Antony whipped mourners into a collective frenzy by revealing the dead man’s lacerated body. Today the synchronous chants of “Bernie!” and “Hillary!” or the contagious booing and applauding at the Republican debates help transform individuals into easy-to-lead collectives. Overstating the threat posed by “outsiders” also reinforces the common identity of the “insiders.” Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, suggested around 33 B.C. that his rival, Mark Antony, had become the plaything of the enemy’s most famous seductress, Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. Octavian warned that if Antony came to power, then a foreigner would become Rome’s queen. Now Mr. Trump professes concern that the Canadian-born Ted Cruz could become president.

As the politically savvy Quintus understood, voters are romanced more by appearance than reality. Roman leaders knew that politics is theater, and much depends on the power of the script and the stardom and charisma of the  performer. In this sense, political figures through the ages are cut from the same bleached cloth.
Mr. Garland is a classics professor, and Ms. Keating a psychology professor, at Colgate University.

Super PACs a disaster for democracy

The Citizens United ruling that gave rise to super PACs was one of the worst in Supreme Court history, Fred Wertheimer says.

In 1907, Congress banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in the wake of the robber baron-era scandals. In 1947, the ban was formally applied to corporate expenditures and extended to cover labor unions. In 1974, Congress enacted limits on individual contributions to federal candidates and political committees in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case declared the corporate expenditure ban unconstitutional, holding that independent expenditures could not be constitutionally limited in federal elections, and implicitly that corporations could give unlimited amounts to other groups to spend, as long as the expenditures were made independently from the supported candidate. Subsequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the SpeechNow case held that the limits on individual contributions to groups that made independent expenditures were unconstitutional.

Thus was born the super PAC.

And thus was born the national campaign finance scandals that are unfolding daily in the 2012 elections. Super PACs are federally registered political action committees that raise unlimited contributions from the super rich, corporations, labor unions and other entities and spend these funds to make "independent" expenditures in federal elections. They are an unmitigated disaster for the American people. A recent study by Demos and the U.S. Public Interest Group found that, as Politico reported, "Super PACs raised about $181 million in the last two years -- with roughly half of it coming from fewer than 200 super-rich people." The study also found that 93% of the itemized contributions raised by super PACs came in contributions of $10,000 or more, with more than half of this money coming from just 37 people who each gave $500,000 or more.

Super PACs are a game for millionaires and billionaires. They are a game for corporations and other wealthy interests. Meanwhile, citizens are pushed to the sidelines to watch the corruption of our democracy. In the 2012 presidential election, an even more insidious version of the super PAC was born -- the candidate-specific super PAC. Every significant presidential campaign has had a super PAC -- created and run by close associates of the candidate -- that raises unlimited contributions to spend only to support that presidential candidate. Presidential candidate-specific super PACs are simply vehicles for the presidential candidates and their supporters to circumvent the limits on contributions to candidates enacted to prevent corruption. Most of the super PAC money has been spent on attack ads.

We already have seen Sheldon Adelson and his wife give $10 million to the presidential super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich. One couple! $10 million! The claim that these presidential super PACs are operating "independently" from the presidential candidates, as is required by law, is absurd and has no credibility. Last week, President Barack Obama reversed course and agreed to send Cabinet members, White House staff and campaign officials to speak at and participate in fundraising events for Priorities USA Action, the allegedly "independent" super PAC supporting Obama's re-election. Days later, Mitt Romney's campaign announced that senior Romney campaign aides would do the same and appear and speak at fundraising events for Restore Our Future, Romney's allegedly "independent" super PAC.

Sound independent?

According to the Supreme Court's view, a corporation that spends $30 million to elect a senator will not be able to buy corrupting influence over the senator's positions because the corporation has not "coordinated" its expenditures with the senator. Democracy 21 believes these super PACs are indeed engaging in illegally coordinated activities and is requesting the Justice Department to investigate. Super PACs corrupt our political system in two ways. First, super PACs allow a relatively few super-rich individuals and other wealthy interests to have greatly magnified and undue influence over the results of our elections. Second, super PACs allow the super rich and wealthy interests to buy influence over government decisions, in the event the candidate wins.

The Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that unleashed this is built entirely on a fiction: that "independent" expenditures by corporations cannot have a corrupting influence on federal officeholders. This is fantasy, not reality. Important steps can and must be taken to deal with candidate-specific super PACs within the boundaries of the destructive Citizens United decision. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, has introduced the DISCLOSE 2012 Act to close gaping loopholes in the disclosure laws. It requires super PACs immediately to disclose their donors and campaign expenditures, and requires the PACs' top five donors, and the amounts they gave, to be listed on each of their ads. This legislation is essential to inform citizens about who is providing the money to influence their votes.

In addition, Democracy 21 is preparing legislation to shut down super PACs that are closely tied to the candidate they are supporting. The legislation would treat these super PACs legally as arms of the candidate's campaign and subject to the contribution limits that apply to the candidate. Five Supreme Court justices have done enormous damage to our country with one of the worst decisions in the history of the court. This will not be allowed to stand. Citizens will rise up to demand and achieve fundamental reforms, as we have before when threatened with the systemic corruption of our government and officeholders.


Justice Scalia spent his last hours with members of this secretive society of elite hunters

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died 12 days ago at a West Texas ranch, he was among high-ranking members of an exclusive fraternity for hunters called the International Order of St. Hubertus, an Austrian society that dates back to the 1600s. After Scalia’s death Feb. 13, the names of the 35 other guests at the remote resort, along with details about Scalia’s connection to the hunters, have remained largely unknown. A review of public records shows that some of the men who were with Scalia at the ranch are connected through the International Order of St. Hubertus, whose members gathered at least once before at the same ranch for a celebratory weekend.

Members of the worldwide, male-only society wear dark-green robes emblazoned with a large cross and the motto “Deum Diligite Animalia Diligentes,” which means “Honoring God by honoring His creatures,” according to the group’s website. Some hold titles, such as Grand Master, Prior and Knight Grand Officer. The Order’s name is in honor of Hubert, the patron saint of hunters and fishermen. Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter and C. Allen Foster, a prominent Washington lawyer who traveled to the ranch with Scalia by private plane, hold leadership positions within the Order. It is unclear what, if any, official association Scalia had with the group.

“There is nothing I can add to your observation that among my many guests at Cibolo Creek Ranch over the years some members of the International Order of St. Hubertus have been numbered,” Poindexter said in an email. “I am aware of no connection between that organization and Justice Scalia.”

An attorney for the Scalia family did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Two other private planes that landed at the ranch for the weekend are linked to two men who have held leadership positions with the Texas chapter of the Order, according to a review of state business filings and flight records from the airport. After Scalia’s death, Poindexter told reporters that he met Scalia at a “sports group” gathering in Washington. The U.S. chapter of the International Order of St. Hubertus lists a suite on M Street NW in the District as its headquarters, although the address is only a mailbox in a United Parcel Service store.

The International Order of St. Hubertus, according to its website, is a “true knightly order in the historical tradition.” In 1695, Count Franz Anton von Sporck founded the society in Bohemia, which is in modern-day Czech Republic. The group’s Grand Master is “His Imperial Highness Istvan von Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduke of Austria,” according to the Order’s website. The next gathering for “Ordensbrothers” and guests is an “investiture” March 10 in Charleston, S.C.

Poindexter told CultureMap Houston that some of the guests dressed in “traditional European shooting attire for the boxed bird shoot competition” and for the shooting of pheasants and chukar, a type of partridge. For the hunting weekend earlier this month, Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia traveled to Houston with his friend and U.S. marshals, who provide security for Supreme Court justices. The Post obtained a Presidio County Sheriff’s Office report that named Foster as Scalia’s close friend on the trip. Sheriff Danny Dominguez confirmed that a photograph of Washington lawyer C. Allen Foster is the same man he interviewed at the ranch the day of Scalia’s death.

From Houston, Scalia and Foster chartered a plane without the marshals to the Cibolo Creek Ranch airstrip. In a statement after Scalia died, the U.S. Marshals Service said that Scalia had declined a security detail while at the ranch. The friend, Louisiana-born Foster, is a lawyer with the Washington firm Whiteford, Taylor & Preston. He is also known for his passion for hunting and is a former spokesman for the hunting group Safari Club. In 2006, Foster was featured in The Post when he celebrated his 65th birthday with a six-day celebration in the Czech Republic. He flew his family and 40 Washington friends there to stay in Moravia’s Zidlochovice, a baroque castle and hunting park. The birthday bash included “tours of the Czech countryside, wine tasting, wild boar and mouflon (wild sheep) hunts, classic dance instruction and a masked costume ball.”

A secretary at Foster’s law firm said he is traveling in Argentina. The firm’s director of marketing, Mindee L. Mosher, said Foster was traveling and she would try to contact him. A woman answering a phone associated with Foster hung up when asked for comment. Planes owned by Wallace “Happy” Rogers III and the company of A.J. Lewis III left from San Antonio and arrived at the ranch just after noon Feb. 12. The planes departed the ranch about 30 minutes apart Feb. 14, according to flight records provided to The Post by FlightAware. Rogers owns the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in San Antonio. He has donated $65,000 to Republican candidates since 2008. Lewis is the owner of a restaurant supplier company, also based in San Antonio. He has given $3,500 to GOP candidates since 2007.

Rogers and Lewis have both served as prior officers in the Texas chapter of the International Order of St. Hubertus, according to Texas business records. Rogers spoke to a Post reporter briefly on the phone and confirmed that he was at the ranch the weekend of Scalia’s death. He declined to comment further. Lewis did not respond to several attempts for comment. The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office released an incident report to The Post on Tuesday that revealed Foster’s name as Scalia’s traveling companion and provided details about the discovery of his body. Poindexter and Foster told the sheriff that Scalia had traveled to Texas the day before to go hunting. Poindexter told the sheriff that they “had supper and talked for a while” that evening.

Scalia “said that he was tired and was going to his room for the night,” the sheriff wrote in his report. When Scalia didn’t show up for breakfast that morning, Poindexter knocked on his door and eventually went in and found the Justice dead in his bed, Poindexter said. Law enforcement officials told The Post that they had no knowledge of the International Order of St. Hubertus or its connection to Poindexter and ranch guests. The officials said the FBI had declined to investigate Scalia’s death when they were told by the marshals that he died from natural causes.


World's Secret Shadow Government: Conspiracy Theory or Frighteningly Real?

Masonic Altar

Is the famous conspiracy about a secret government that runs the world completely nonsense or does the idea actually have any supporting evidence?

Conspiracy theories — hypotheses claiming that historical events could have occurred due to the nefarious actions by hidden parties — still remain largely neglected by researchers and considered as implausible and irrelevant. On the other hand, conspiracy theories usually attract a lot of attention from a wide array of people, prompting heated debate on issues ranging from the world's shadow government to the chances of an alien invasion taking place. While most researchers do not take these theories seriously, some scholars insist that they do deserve attention. The "cryptocracy," or shadow government, concept is one of the most popular. According to this belief, real and actual political power does not reside with democratically elected public representatives, but with an elite set of individuals who exercise power behind the scenes. This secret government is not responsible to democratic institutions. Furthermore, according to conspirologists, official governments are subservient to it.

The Bilderberg Group

The shadow government theory supporters point their finger at the Bilderberg Group (Bilderberg Club), a private organization founded in 1954. The Group annually brings together up to 150 political leaders and experts from academia, finance, media and industry in order to discuss the most burning political and economic issues. "The conference is a forum for informal discussions about megatrends and major issues facing the world. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed. There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued," the Bilderberg Meetings official website states.

Madrid-based author and investigative journalist Daniel Estulin is a longtime watcher of the secret group. In one of his books, entitled "The True Story of the Bilderberg Group" (La Verdadera Historia del Club Bilderberg), the author provided a report of the organizations' purported mission. According to the investigative journalist, the Group is considering the creation of "a One World Government (World Company) with a single, global marketplace, policed by one world army, and financially regulated by one 'World (Central) Bank' using one global currency." Estulin believes that among the Group's major objectives are: centralized control of all foreign and domestic policies; a New World Order with no middle class (just "rulers and servants"); one international identity and one set of "universal" values; "mind control" of the world's population; imposing a universal legal system; making NATO the world's military; manufactured crises and perpetual wars etc.

The Eye of Providence can be seen on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, seen here on the US $1 bill
The Eye of Providence can be seen on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, seen here on the US $1 bill

The author points out that the Bilderberg Club is not acting alone. It has influential secret partners — two groups of "global power brokers": the US-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and The Trilateral Commission, founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller, who is at the same time a leading Bilderberger and CFR Chairman Emeritus. The triple alliance is advocating a global super state with the US and other nations ceding their sovereignty to a global central power.

"Imagine a private club where presidents, prime ministers, international bankers and generals rub shoulders, where gracious royal chaperones ensure everyone gets along, and where the people running the wars, markets, and Europe (and America) say what they never dare say in public," Estulin underscored.

However, according to other researchers, the Club is unfairly demonized. Regardless of their purported goals, neither the Bilderberg Group nor CFR with the Trilateral Commission have got enough political and economic resources to rule the world, experts say, insisting that evidently "the devil" is not so black as he is painted by conspirologists.

Le Cercle

At the same time, there are analysts who believe that Bilderberg is just the tip of the iceberg and refer to another influential secret group — Le Cercle — also established during the Cold War era. Le Cercle is not as well-known as the widely discussed Bilderberg Group. It was founded in the early 1950s as an elite clandestine forum targeted against the USSR. According to investigative journalist David Teacher, the little known but powerful Le Cercle (or Pinay Cercle) has been focused on domestic subversion and has used its network of propagandists and intelligence agents to carry out smear campaigns against progressive European and US politicians in order to promote their favored candidates. Teacher pointed out that the group played a crucial role in the fall of the Iron Curtain and then orchestrated the integration of Eastern Europe into the European Union.

"Amongst Cercle intelligence contacts are former operatives from the American CIA, DIA and INR, Britain's MI5, MI6 and IRD, France's SDECE, Germany's BND, BfV and MAD, Holland's BVD, Belgium's Surete de l'Etat, SDRA and PIO, apartheid South Africa's BOSS, and the Swiss and Saudi intelligence services. Politically, the Cercle complex has interlocked with the whole panoply of international right-wing groups: the Paneuropean Union, the European Movement, CEDl, the Bilderberg Group, WACL, Opus Dei, the Moonies, Western Goals and the Heritage Foundation. Amongst the prominent figures associated with the Cercle Pinay were Antoine Pinay, Konrad Adenauer, Archduke Otto von Habsburg, Franz Josef Strauss, Giulio Andreotti, Paul Vanden Boeynants, John Vorster, General Antonio de Spinola, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan," Teacher wrote in his book "Rogue Agents: Habsburg, Pinay and the Private Cold War 1951-1991."

For instance, in the late 1970s Le Cercle supported NATO's decision to station new medium-range nuclear weapons — Cruise and Pershing II missiles — in Britain, Germany, Belgium and Holland targeted against the USSR. Le Cercle helped to discredit the European peace protest movement which emerged against the backdrop of the nuclearization of Europe through aggressive counter-intelligence, provocations and disinformation. "In contrast to the public conception of "conspiracy theories," the links uncovered by parapolitical research are rarely lines of command. Parapolitical activity is not pyramidal like a government hierarchy; it is connective, a network of nodes like a circle of friends… and here the Cercle came into its own as a group with a world-wide agenda, connecting and, to some extent coordinating the activities of groups in many different countries," David Teacher elaborated.

However, analysts should neither exaggerate nor demonize the impact of parapolitical secret entities on history, according to Andrei Fursov, a Russian historian and researcher at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). The historian insists that there is no such thing as a "shadow government" that rules the world. He warns researchers against making wild claims about the true nature of transnational clandestine groups, stressing that they are "very routine" structures of global financial and political elites. The primary role of these entities is to serve as a platform for coordination and cooperation of the world's "power-brokers" interrelated competing groups.

The roots of these clandestine forums lie deep in European history and are closely connected with the development of capitalism, according to Fursov. Remarkably, in the 17-18th century European financial moguls used Masonic transnational networks in order to expand their trade connections, evading at the same time government control, the historian noted. In the book "De Conspiratione" ("About Conspiracy") Fursov analyzed the genesis of European capitalism and provided evidence showing that transnational clandestine organizations are an integral part of the capitalist system. However, the "secret history" of clandestine organizations remains largely neglected although a lot of information about their activities has recently surfaced.

Referring to this fact, Andrei Fursov cited the Father Brown Stories written by English novelist G. K. Chesterton: "After the first silence the small man said to the other: "Where does a wise man hide a pebble?" And the tall man answered in a low voice: "on the beach." The small man nodded, and after a short silence said: "Where does a wise man hide a leaf?" And the other answered: "In the forest."

The US is an Oligarchy, Study Concludes

The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded. The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.

 After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite. The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organisations: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."
The positions of powerful interest groups are "not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens", but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes does overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10 per cent. The theory of "biased pluralism" that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the US system fits holds that policy outcomes "tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations." The study comes in the wake of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial Supreme Court decision which allows wealthy donors to contribute to an unlimited number of political campaigns.


The Myth of U.S. Democracy and the Reality of U.S. Corporatocracy

Polls show that on the major issues of our time -- the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts and health insurance -- the opinion of We the People has been ignored on a national level for quite some time. While the corporate media repeats the myth that the United States of America is a democracy, Americans, especially Wisonsiners and Ohioans, know that this is a joke.

On March 3, 2011, a Rasmussen Reports poll declared that "Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers." This of course didn't stop Wisconsin Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature from passing a bill that -- to the delight of America's ruling class -- trashed most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Similarly in Ohio, legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public workers is on the verge of being signed into law by Governor Kasich, despite the fact that Public Policy Polling on March 15, 2011 reported that 54 percent of Ohio voters would repeal the law, while 31 percent would keep it.

It is a myth that the United States of America was ever a democracy (most of the famous founder elite such as John Adams equated democracy with mob rule and wanted no part of it). The United States of America was actually created as a republic, in which Americans were supposed to have power through representatives who were supposed to actually represent the American people. The truth today, however, is that the United States is neither a democracy nor a republic. Americans are ruled by a corporatocracy: a partnership of "too-big-to-fail" corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.

The reality is that Americans, for quite some time, have opposed the U.S. government's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but We the People have zero impact on policy. On March 10-13, 2011, an ABC News/Washington Post poll asked, "All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?"; 64 percent said "not worth fighting" and 31 percent said "worth fighting." A February 11, 2011, CBS poll reported Americans' response to the question, "Do you think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the U.S. not be involved in Afghanistan now?"; only 37 percent of Americans said the U.S. "is doing the right thing" and 54 percent said we "should not be involved." When a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll on December 17-19, 2010, posed the question, "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?" only 35 percent of Americans favored the war while 63 percent opposed it. For several years, the majority of Americans have also opposed the Iraq war, typified by a 2010 CBS poll which reported that 6 out of 10 Americans view the Iraq war as "a mistake."

The opposition by the majority of Americans to current U.S. wars has remained steady for several years. However, if you watched only the corporate media's coverage of the 2010 election between Democratic and Republican corporate-picked candidates, you might not even know that America was involved in two wars -- two wars that are not only opposed by the majority of Americans but which are also bankrupting America.

How about the 2008 Wall Street bailout? Even when Americans believed the lie that it was only a $700 billion bailout, they opposed it; but their opinion was irrelevant. In September 2008, despite the corporate media's attempts to terrify Americans into believing that an economic doomsday would occur without the bailout, Americans still opposed it. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll in September 2008, asked, "Do you think the government should use taxpayers' dollars to rescue ailing private financial firms whose collapse could have adverse effects on the economy and market, or is it not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayers' dollars?"; only 31 percent of Americans said we should "use taxpayers" dollars while 55 percent said it is "not government's responsibility." Also in September 2008, both a CBSNews/New York Times poll and a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Americans opposed the bailout. This disapproval of the bailout was before most Americans discovered that the Federal Reserve had loaned far more money to "too-big-to-fail" corporations than Americans had been originally led to believe (The Wall Street Journal reported on December 1, 2010, "The US central bank on Wednesday disclosed details of some $3.3 trillion in loans made to financial firms, companies and foreign central banks during the crisis.")

What about health insurance? Despite the fact that several 2009 polls showed that Americans actually favored a "single-payer" or "Medicare-for-all" health insurance plan, it was not even on the table in the Democrat-Republican 2009-2010 debate over health insurance reform legislation. And polls during this debate showed that an even larger majority of Americans favored the government providing a "public option" to compete with private health insurance plans, but the public option was quickly pushed off the table in the Democratic-Republican debate. A July 2009 Kaiser Health Tracking poll asked, "Do you favor or oppose having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance through an expanded, universal form of Medicare-for-all?" In this Kaiser poll, 58 percent of Americans favored a Medicare-for-all universal plan, and only 38 percent opposed it -- and a whopping 77 percent favored "expanding Medicare to cover people between the ages of 55 and 64 who do not have health insurance." A February 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll reported that 59 percent of Americans say the government should provide national health insurance. And a December 2009 Reuters poll reported that, "Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they would like a public option as part of any final healthcare reform legislation."

In the U.S. corporatocracy, as in most modern tyrannies, there are elections, but the reality is that giant corporations and the wealthy elite rule in a way to satisfy their own self-interest. In elections in a corporatocracy, as is the case in elections in all tyrannies, it's in the interest of the ruling class to maintain the appearance that the people have a say, so more than one candidate is offered up. In the U.S. corporatocracy, it's in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that the winning candidate is beholden to them, so they financially support both Democrats and Republicans. It's in the interest of corporations and the wealthy elite that there are only two viable parties--this cuts down on bribery costs. And it's in the interest of these two parties that they are the only parties with a chance of winning.

In the U.S. corporatocracy, corporations and the wealthy elite directly and indirectly finance candidates, who are then indebted to them. It's common for these indebted government officials to appoint to key decision-making roles those friendly to corporations, including executives from these corporations. And it's routine for high-level government officials to be rewarded with high-paying industry positions when they exit government. It's common and routine for former government officials to be given high-paying lobbying jobs so as to use their relationships with current government officials to ensure that corporate interests will be taken care of.

The integration between giant corporations and the U.S. government has gone beyond revolving doors of employment (exemplified by George W. Bush's last Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, who had previously been CEO of Goldman Sachs; and Barack Obama's first chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers who in 2008 received $5.2 million from hedge fund D. E. Shaw). Nowadays, the door need not even revolve in the U.S. corporatocracy; for example, when President Obama earlier in 2011 appointed General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as a key economic advisor, Immelt kept his job as CEO of General Electric.

The United States is not ruled by a single deranged dictator but by an impersonal corporatocracy. Thus, there is no one tyrant that Americans can first hate and then finally overthrow so as to end senseless wars and economic injustices. Revolutions against Qaddafi-type tyrants require enormous physical courage. In the U.S. corporatocracy, the first step in recovering democracy is the psychological courage to face the humiliation that we Americans have neither a democracy nor a republic but are in fact ruled by a partnership of "too-big-to-fail" corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.


We are Becoming a Plutocracy

Call it Crony Capitalism, or the 1% versus the 99%, or the the tension between Wall Street and Main Street: One of the major themes in America today is how the wealthy use their money and position to influence policy and the idea of success. The accepted notion that our capitalist democratic system is excessively deferential to people with money will be the theme of President Obama’s State of the Union speech this coming week. It is the theme of the Pope’s 2014 message to the world, and was a major topic of conversation in Davos last week. And it is in the looking glass of progressive folk around politics like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, members of the academy as well as the media. And it isn’t going away. Think of it. Fifty years after LBJ called for a war to eradicate poverty, there are 47 million people using food stamps to provide food for their families. The true rate of unemployment, if you add in those no longer looking for a job, is probably 12-13%. And there are millions of families with income around $26,000 a year, which is the cutoff point for being considered in poverty.

By now most Americans who read the press are aware that the top 1% of Americans are pulling away from the 99%. The top 1% grew their incomes by 86.1% since 1933; the top 5%, or 15 million individuals, have seen their incomes rise while everyone else is flat to down. But the real plutocrats are the top 1/10th of 1%: the 350,000 individuals that receive 11.33% of overall income. At the very peak are the 1/100th of 1%: the 35,000 individuals with 5.47% of overall income. This is the amazing cohort at the very peak of our economy, and I believe they, or others who will replace them, are likely to receive these benefits well into the future. I don’t rightly see what countervailing power there is to reduce their take or level it out. They are the individuals with foundations, hedge funds, private equity firms and social media magnates who are the new symbols of financial firepower. They help make Presidents, defeat or pass special legislation, build hospitals, museum wings, endow universities, libraries, music halls and more.

I’d say whatever corruption of the political process is believed to happen is overshadowed by charitable philanthropy and the creation and support of good works NGOs. That’s why I reckon proposals to raise taxes seriously on the 1% are going to fall on deaf ears from the power center of the nation. At most, the capital gains tax might be nudged a bit higher and the deduction for interest on mortgages perhaps capped. But then again, maybe not, due to the very influence of effective lobbyists in this ever-growing pot of money.

In short, we’re bound to always have the Koch brothers and the Sheldon Adelsons who spent more on 2012 elections than the citizens of 12 states taken together. I don’t think you can reverse this trend unless there is another economic and financial disaster that wipes out a good portion of these obscene fortunes held by several of the 1%. (Gates and Buffett and their ilk excluded) Those with the outsize fortunes are bound to have the outsize influence to influence public policy. What does need to be slowed down is the ability of the 1% to mobilize the distribution of even more resources to themselves. For the mobility of the 39% is at stake in the U.S. As Sen. Marco Rubio put it the other day — and he is no lefty, progressive ‘tax the rich’ fellow — “It is the lack of mobility, not just income inequality that should be focused on.” On Tuesday night, we’ll find out if the President has any fresh, innovative, credible programs to achieve that end.


 The Great Democracy Meltdown: Why Democracy is Failing Across the World

As the revolt that started this past winter in Tunisia spread to Egypt, Libya, and beyond, dissidents the world over were looking to the Middle East for inspiration. In China, online activists inspired by the Arab Spring called for a “jasmine revolution.” In Singapore, one of the quietest countries in the world, opposition members called for an “orchid evolution” in the run-up to this month’s national elections. Perhaps as a result, those watching from the West have been positively triumphalist in their predictions. The Middle East uprisings could herald “the greatest advance for human rights and freedom since the end of the cold war,” argued British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Indeed, at no point since the end of the cold war—when Francis Fukuyama penned his famous essay The End of History, positing that liberal democracy was the ultimate destination for every country—has there been so much optimism about the march of global freedom.

If only things were so simple. The truth is that the Arab Spring is something of a smokescreen for what is taking place in the world as a whole. Around the globe, it is democratic meltdowns, not democratic revolutions, that are now the norm. (And even countries like Egypt and Tunisia, while certainly freer today than they were a year ago, are hardly guaranteed to replace their autocrats with real democracies.) In its most recent annual survey, the monitoring group Freedom House found that global freedom plummeted for the fifth year in a row, the longest continuous decline in nearly 40 years. It pointed out that most authoritarian nations had become even more repressive, that the decline in freedom was most pronounced among the “middle ground” of nations—countries that have begun democratizing but are not solid and stable democracies—and that the number of electoral democracies currently stands at its lowest point since 1995. Meanwhile, another recent survey, compiled by Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation, spoke of a “gradual qualitative erosion” of democracy and concluded that the number of “highly defective democracies”—democracies so flawed that they are close to being failed states, autocracies, or both—had doubled between 2006 and 2010.

The number of anecdotal examples is overwhelming. From Russia to Venezuela to Thailand to the Philippines, countries that once appeared to be developing into democracies today seem headed in the other direction. So many countries now remain stuck somewhere between authoritarianism and democracy, report Marc Plattner and Larry Diamond, co-editors of the Journal of Democracy, that “it no longer seems plausible to regard [this condition] simply as a temporary stage in the process of democratic transition.” Or as an activist from Burma—long one of the world’s most repressive countries—told me after moving to Thailand and watching that country’s democratic system disintegrate, “The other countries were supposed to change Burma. ... Now it seems like they are becoming like Burma.”
Twenty or even ten years ago, the possibility of a global democratic recession seemed impossible. It was widely assumed that, as states grew wealthier, they would develop larger middle classes. And these middle classes, according to democracy theorists like Samuel Huntington, would push for ever-greater social, political, and economic freedoms. Human progress, which constantly marched forward, would spread democracy everywhere. For a time, this rosy line of thinking seemed warranted. In 1990, dictators still ruled most of Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia; by 2005, democracies had emerged across these continents, and some of the most powerful developing nations, including South Africa and Brazil, had become solid democracies. In 2005, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s people lived under democratic systems.

Then, something odd and unexpected began to happen. It started when some of the leaders who had emerged in these countries seemed to morph into elected autocrats once they got into office. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez is now essentially an elected dictator. In Ecuador, elected President Rafael Correa, who has displayed a strong authoritarian streak, recently won legislation that would grant him expansive new powers. In Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who led the 2005 Tulip Revolution, soon proved himself nearly as authoritarian as his predecessor. And, in Russia, Vladimir Putin used the power he won in elections to essentially dismantle the country’s democracy.

But it wasn’t just leaders who were driving these changes. In some cases, the people themselves seemed to acquiesce in their countries’ slide away from free and open government. In one study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, only 16 percent of Russians said it was “very important” that their nation be governed democratically. The regular Afrobarometer survey of the African continent has found declining levels of support for democracy in many key countries. And in Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, Honduras, and Nicaragua, either a minority or only a small majority of people think democracy is preferable to any other type of government. Even in East Asia, one of the most democratic regions of the world, polls show rising dissatisfaction with democracy. In fact, several countries in the region have developed what Yu-tzung Chang, Yunhan Zhu, and Chong-min Park, who studied data from the regular Asian Barometer surveys, have termed “authoritarian nostalgia.” “Few of the region’s former authoritarian regimes have been thoroughly discredited,” they write, noting that the region’s average score for commitment to democracy, judged by a range of responses to surveys, has recently fallen.

But what about the middle class? Even if large segments of the population were uninterested in liberal democracy, weren’t members of the middle class supposed to act as agents of democratization, as Huntington had envisioned? Actually, the story has turned out to be quite a bit more complicated. In country after country, a familiar pattern has repeated itself: The middle class has indeed reacted negatively to populist leaders who appeared to be sliding into authoritarianism; but rather than work to defeat these leaders at the ballot box or strengthen the institutions that could hold them in check, they have ended up supporting military coups or other undemocratic measures.

Thailand offers a clear example of this phenomenon. In 2001, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications tycoon turned populist, was elected with the largest mandate in Thai history, mostly from the poor, who, as in many developing nations, still constitute a majority of the population. Over the next five years, Thaksin enacted several policies that clearly benefited the poor, including national health insurance, but he also began to strangle Thailand’s institutions, threatening reporters, unleashing a “war on drugs” that led to unexplained shootings of political opponents, and silencing the bureaucracy. In 2005, when the charismatic prime minister won another free election with an even larger mandate, the middle class revolted, demonstrating in the streets until they paralyzed Bangkok. Finally, in September 2006, the Thai military stepped in, ousting Thaksin. When I traveled around Bangkok following the coup, young, middle-class Thais, who a generation ago had fought against military rulers, were engaged in a love-in with the troops, snapping photos of soldiers posted throughout Bangkok like they were celebrities.

The middle class in Thailand had plenty of company. In 2001, urban Filipinos poured into the streets to topple President Joseph Estrada, a former actor who rose to power on his appeal to the poor, and then allegedly used his office to rake in vast sums of money from underworld gambling tycoons. In Honduras in 2009, middle-class opponents of populist President Manuel Zelaya began to protest his plans to extend his power by altering the constitution. When the military removed him in June of that year, the intervention was welcomed by many members of the urban middle class. An analysis of military coups in developing nations over the past two decades, conducted by my colleague David Silverman, found that, in nearly half of the cases—drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East—middle-class men and women either agitated in advance for the coup, or, after the takeover, expressed their support in polls or prominent press coverage.

Even as domestic politics in many developing nations has become less friendly to democratization, the international system too has changed, further weakening democratic hopes. The rising strength of authoritarian powers, principally China but also Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other states, has helped forestall democratization. Moscow and Beijing were clearly rattled by the “color revolutions” of the early and mid-2000s, and they developed a number of responses. First, they tried to delegitimize the revolts by arguing that they were not genuine popular movements but actually Western attempts at regime change. Then, in nations like Cambodia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova, Moscow and Beijing intervened directly in attempts to reverse democratic gains. The Kremlin’s youth group, Nashi, known for its aggressive tactics against democracy activists, launched branches in other Central Asian nations. In Kyrgyzstan, Russian advisers helped a series of leaders emulate the Kremlin’s model of political control. In part because of this Russian influence, “[p]arliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan has been hobbled,” according to the International Crisis Group. China and Russia even created new “NGOs” that were supposedly focused on democracy promotion. But these organizations actually offered expertise and funding to foreign leaders to help them forestall new color revolutions. In Ukraine, an organization called the “Russian Press Club,” run by an adviser to Putin, posed as an NGO and helped facilitate Russia’s involvement in Ukrainian elections.

But China and Russia are only part of the story. In many ways, the biggest culprits have actually been stable democracies. Consider the case of Myo, a Burmese publisher and activist who I met four years ago in a dingy noodle shop in Rangoon. The educated son of a relatively well-off Burmese family, he told me he had been working for a publishing company in Rangoon, but had to smuggle political messages into pieces he published in magazines that focused on safe topics like soccer or Burmese rap. “It’s kind of a game everyone here plays,” he explained, “but after a while it gets so tiring.”

When I next met Myo, it was in Thailand two years later. He’d finally grown weary of trying to get his writing past the censors and left for India, then for Thailand. “I’d heard that, before, India had been very welcoming to Burmese activists, particularly after 1988,” Myo said, referring to a period of anti-government rioting in Burma. At one time, Indian officials had assisted Burmese democracy activists, and India’s defense minister from 1998 to 2004 was George Fernandes, a prominent human rights advocate who even gave some Burmese exiles shelter in his family compound. By the time Myo came to India, however, Delhi had stopped criticizing the Burmese junta. Instead, it had reversed itself and was engaging the generals under a policy called “Look East.” When Than Shwe, the Burmese junta’s leader, paid a state visit to India, he was taken to the burial site of Mahatma Gandhi, a cruelly ironic juxtaposition that Amnesty International’s Burma specialist called “entirely unpalatable.” For Myo, India’s chilly new pragmatism was a shock. “I expected China to work with Burma,” he said. “But to see it from India, it was so much more disappointing.”

Like Myo, many Western officials had expected that stable developing-world democracies like India, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, and Turkey would emerge as powerful advocates for democracy and human rights abroad. But as they’ve gained power, these emerging democratic giants have acted more like cold-blooded realists. South Africa has for years tolerated Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime next door in Zimbabwe, and, in 2007, it even helped to block a U.N. resolution condemning the Burmese junta for human rights abuses. Brazil has cozied up to Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and to local autocrats like Cuba’s Castros. When a prominent Cuban political prisoner named Orlando Zapata Tamayo held a hunger strike and eventually died, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva seemed to ridicule Tamayo’s struggle, likening the activist to a criminal who was trying to gain publicity.

There are exceptions to this trend. Poland, for one, has used its influence to support reformers in other post-Soviet states like Belarus. But Poland is unusual, and by playing a limited—or hostile—role in international democracy promotion efforts, countries like South Africa or Brazil or Turkey have made it easier for autocratic leaders to paint democracy promotion as a Western phenomenon, and even to portray it as an illegal intervention.

Why have regional democratic powers opted for this course? It seems hard to believe that a country with, say, Brazil or South Africa’s experience of brutal tyranny could actively abet dictators in other nations. But it now appears that the notion of absolute sovereignty, promoted by authoritarian states like China, has resonated with these democratic governments. Many of these emerging democratic powers were leading members of the non-aligned movement during the cold war and weathered Western efforts to foment coups in their countries. Today, they feel extremely uncomfortable joining any international coalition that could undermine other nations’ sovereignty, even if potentially for good reason. And many of these countries, such as Turkey and Indonesia and India, may simply be eager to avoid criticism of their own internal human rights abuses.

Then there is the United States, still the most influential nation on earth. Its missteps, recently, have been serious. Barack Obama’s efforts to distance himself from the Bush administration—which greatly undermined America’s moral authority-have combined with the country’s weakened economic position to downgrade the importance of democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy. While Obama has delivered several speeches mentioning democracy, he has little obvious passion for the issue. When several prominent Iranian dissidents came to Washington in the summer of 2009, following the uprising in their country, they could not obtain meetings with any senior Obama administration officials. Rabeeya Kadeer, the Uighur version of the Dalai Lama, met with Bush in 2008 but found herself shunted off to low-level State Department officials by the Obama administration.

More substantively, the administration has shifted the focus of the federal bureaucracy. Though it has maintained significant budget levels for democracy promotion, it eliminated high-level positions on the National Security Council that, under Bush, had been devoted to democracy. The administration also appointed an assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor who in his previous work had been mostly focused on cleaning up America’s own abuses. This was not a bad thing—the Bush administration indeed left major issues to resolve—but it meant that he had far less experience than many of his predecessors with democracy promotion abroad.

To be fair, the White House has to grapple with an increasingly isolationist American public. In one poll taken in 2005, a majority of Americans said that the United States should play a role in promoting democracy elsewhere. By 2007, only 37 percent thought the United States should play this role. In a subsequent study, released in late 2009, nearly half of Americans told the Pew Research polling organization that the United States should “mind its own business” internationally and should let other nations work out their challenges or problems themselves. This was the highest percentage of isolationist sentiment recorded in a poll of the American public in four decades.

There is an obvious appeal to the constantly touted notion that the march of human freedom is inevitable. But not only is it simple-minded to treat history as a story with a preordained happy ending; it is also, for those who truly want to see democracy spread, extraordinarily dangerous. After all, if democracy is bound to triumph, then there’s no reason to work too hard at promoting it. This overconfidence can spread to developing nations themselves, lulling democrats into a false sense of security once an election has finally been held, and dissuading them from building the institutions that are necessary to keep a country free over the long-term. Democracy is not a simple thing: It’s a complex system of strong institutions and legal checks. Very few nations have mastered it fully. And sustaining it is a never-ending effort.

Stopping the global democratic reversal, then, will require giving up the assumption that democracy will simply happen on its own—and instead figuring out what we can do to promote it. At the most basic level, the United States can be much less abashed in its rhetorical advocacy of democracy and much more consistent. Condemning autocracy in places like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia—where the United States has significant strategic interests—would help to counteract the notion that democracy is merely a concept the West wields to serve its own geopolitical aims. In addition, the United States and its allies should do more to make democracy promotion pay off for emerging powers. New democratic giants, like Brazil, should be granted more power in international institutions like the United Nations—if, that is, they show a commitment to helping expand human rights and free government around the globe.

Right now, few of these lessons have been learned. Instead, we seem content to watch events unfold across the world and assume that things will work out for the best, because history is invariably headed in the direction of freedom. We should stop telling ourselves this comforting story and instead do what is needed to give democracy a fighting chance. Joshua Kurlantzick is Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. This article originally ran in the June 9, 2011, issue of the magazine.

Welcome to McFascism: Over 300 million disenfranchised US voters since 1988

How does one describe a political system where just two parties control the game, preventing any third ‘factions’ from participation in the elite franchise? There’s just one ugly word for it, and it’s not democracy.


Most Americans have never heard about the dirtiest secret on Capitol Hill: The Democrat and Republican parties have achieved an iron grip on the reins of power, obstructing any third-party contenders from challenging their authority. This is more of a literal statement than many realize. Third-party ‘factions’ are being denied participation in the presidential debates in order to protect the Establishment's cozy and very lucrative relationship with corporate power. How this state of affairs came about is nothing short of astonishing - and not a little treacherous.

America’s bloodless coup d’état of 1987

A funny thing happened on the road to the 1988 presidential campaign between Republican George H.W. Bush and his Democrat challenger Michael Dukakis. Representatives from both campaign camps secretly hatched a "memorandum of understanding" - which was more of a ransom letter - designed to overhaul the rules of the political road. The new changes put forward by the establishment would determine which candidates could participate in the presidential debates (namely the Democrats and Republicans), which media organizations could attend (only those that could be trusted) and who would serve as debate panelists (thereby controlling the questions).

There was just one problem with this rare display of bipartisan camaraderie on the part of the Democrats and Republicans: the function of setting down the rules and regulations of the presidential debates (surprise!) was not and never meant to be the job of the political contenders. Since 1976, the sole responsibility of organizing the debates had been relegated to the League of Women Voters. And until 1987, they were doing a great job – probably too well.

So imagine the wrath, the very feminine fury, the ladies felt as they were duly delivered a list of demands by the Democrats and Republicans as to how the debates would be organized in the future. Although it would have been one hell of a spectacle had the League put their heels down and declared the elections suspended until the Asses and Elephants backed off, sadly that did not happen. Instead, the ladies politely spewed some harmless venom at the ponderous predators before excusing themselves altogether from the sanitized, dumbed down political reality show. 

League President Nancy M. Neuman issued a powerful farewell statement that should have rattled the US electorate to the very bone: "The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate scheduled for mid-October because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter." Neuman continued with a degree of candor not commonly found in the halls of power these days. She urged Bush and Dukakis to "rise above your handlers and agree to join us in presenting the fair and full discussion the American public expects of a League of Women Voters debate. "The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."

Connie Rice, a civil rights lawyer and commentator on National Public Radio, said the Democrats and Republicans “hijacked” the debates. American consumers responded with a collective shrug and a yawn as it switched to the shopping channel with its remote - the last shred of control it seems to enjoy these days. Since any silence from the electorate is immediately interpreted by politicians as consent, what followed was the hideous transformation of the US political system, now plagued by a disturbing level of nepotism and elitism. Suffice it to say that US babbling heads are still breathlessly wondering whether yet another Bush or Clinton will inherit the throne on Pennsylvania Avenue.

So after the League of Women Voters politely excused themselves from participating in the game of thrones, a brand new organization rose up from the cigarette butts, deflated balloons and empty beer cups. Today, US presidential debates are owned lock, stock and barrel by an officious, priggish gang of Beltway thugs that unabashedly calls itself the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a nonprofit corporation that funds the debates through private contributions from foundations and corporations. George Farah, author of the book, “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates,” explained the obvious rationale behind Washington’s desire to seize control of the debate process.

“It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major-party candidates had nominated,” Farah said.

On February 19, 1987, the New York Times ran an obituary of sorts regarding the bloodless coup d’état, touting the new organization that would waltz over the corpse of the League. In that article, Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democratic national chairman, and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the Republican national chairman, happily agreed that the new arrangement would ''institutionalize'' the debates and strengthen the role of the political parties in the electoral process. That’s right folks, strengthening the role of the two political parties in the electoral process is exactly what America’s Founders would have wanted since limiting the playing field to exactly two power-snorting junkies has everything to do with the spirit of Democracy. Kirk Jr. underscored the situation regarding America’s newly-razed political landscape, saying he personally believed the CPD “should exclude third-party candidates from the debates.” 

Ralph Nader, politician and social activist, argued that the CPD had created a virtual two-party dictatorship in the ‘land of the free.’ “The two parties created the debate commission. It’s a private company. And they have set the rules,” Nader told the Center for Public Integrity. “So if they shut you out of the national presidential debates, there is no way…of reaching people — just no way. So it’s a two-party elected dictatorship.” Nader has certainly not been the only victim of the CPD death grip on the US political system. In the 1996 elections, Republican Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton, with the connivance of the CPD, had managed to keep billionaire Ross Perot out of the debates, even though a huge number of voters (18 percent) said they wanted the self-made billionaire’s opinions heard.

Corporate McFascists destroying the America Dream

The US Capitol is presently under siege by an army of corporate lobbyists, armed to the teeth with unlimited funds to lure legislators away from their primary obligation, which is representing American citizens, not corporate interests. Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, once offered his recommendations for fixing the US political system when he advised – only half-jokingly - that any politician running for office should be required to wear a NASCAR racing suit – complete with the decals of their corporate sponsors - so the American people will know “who’s bought them.”

Ventura’s joke contained more truth than anybody on Capitol Hill is willing to admit. Never before in American history (or any history, for that matter) has money spoken louder among the so-called representatives of the people. And since the mega-corporations have most of the money, it is the corporations that are getting the lion’s share of political representation. This is not the way things were supposed to work. The US Supreme Court deserves a healthy part of the blame for America’s political meltdown. In 2010, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates on corporate campaign spending in Citizens United vs. FEC (2010). This devastating ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash - much of it courtesy of consumer spending, incidentally – in Democratic and Republican campaign coffers without the benefit of public transparency.

The New York Times decried the Citizens ruling in an editorial: "The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election." Citizen United led to the rise of so-called Super PACS, independent action committees that are empowered to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions and individuals (some readers may be tempted to argue that the inclusion of labor unions among Super PACS would work to balance the political scales; this is patently false because unions now represent less than eight percent of the US workforce – down from about 36 percent in the 1970s).

The PACS then spend their vast sums of money secretly advocating for or against political candidates. This is what the brave new world of American politics refers to as the ‘freedom of speech.’ As of January 19, 2015, 1,291 Super PACs reported total receipts of $688,826,115 and total independent expenditures of $344,172,141 in the 2014 campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Most disturbing, Super PACS receive their vast funding from just a handful of insanely wealthy donors, which points to the dangerous narrowing of the American political franchise. Yet what government commission could/would smash this monopoly? Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman, summed up the situation when he said that corporations have just one reason for throwing their support behind a particular party or candidate, and that is to “maximize their profits,” he told the Atlantic.

It remains highly doubtful that America’s experiment in democracy can succeed much longer based on such mercantile considerations. The problem is that what America is coming close to inheriting is nothing short of fascism, albeit a fuzzy form of fascism unique in world history.

Is America approaching Fascism?

Of course, what we now have in the United States is not (yet) comparable to a Mussolini-style of fascism, complete with a megalomaniac inciting the masses from a bully pulpit and jackboot black shirts throttling dissenters on the street. Or have we become so saturated and dumbed-down by the sugar-coated reality of American life, the “air-conditioned nightmare” of unlimited consumer choice and hardcore commercialism, that we are no longer able to perceive the death of democracy in our midst? For a country that offers its hapless consumers 1,000 brands of everything from automobiles to breakfast cereals to fast food franchises, isn’t it odd that the choice that really matters – political choice – has gone missing from America’s shelves?

This ridiculous paucity of choice, where the last two political parties are showing remarkable similarities (not least of all as to their corporate paymasters), threatens to open the door to the worst possible scenarios in the world of politics: The dirty ‘F’ word. The historian Alan Ryan once set forth the standard features of fascism, which included “mass mobilization through a political party that held a monopoly of power, the cult of leadership, the destruction of all intermediate and nonstate organizations, such as trade unions, and their replacement by politicized parodies, the abolition of privacy so that the family provided no safe haven against the state, and the replacement of the rule of law by arbitrary violence and a regime based on terror.”

Nothing remotely in common with America, circa 2015, you say? Well, it’s only necessary to consider the two-party political charade in Washington, the death of nonstate players such as the trade unions, the privacy-destroying PATRIOT ACT, and the militarization of our local and state police forces, that comes not only with the equipment but the military tactics and mindset to boot. the same time that Corporate America is stuffing the campaign war chests of US politicians, guaranteeing their servile complaisance down the road, American CEOs are awarding themselves outrageous salaries at the expense of everybody else. Where is all of this extra cash coming from that allows corporations to flood the political system and their own pockets?

Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, gave some clue when he revealed that around two-thirds of the increase in US income inequality over the last four decades can be attributed to a massive rise in “super salaries” among America’s top executives. In 1960, the top 10 percent of wage earners in the US accounted for 33.5 percent of all income, according to data in Piketty’s book. By 2010, however, that share had exploded to 47.9 percent. Meanwhile, Congress has shown no willingness to increase the tax rate on the super-wealthy anytime soon, not help labor unions get back on their feet. Separately, the above phenomenon might be cause for alarm. Taken together, however, and they could herald in a very dark period for the American empire.

Noam Chomsky, the social critic and intellectual, suggested as much in 2010 with some rather shocking comments. “I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he was quoted by the Progressive as saying. “I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home. “The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said. Before the American experiment in democracy turns into a bad laboratory accident, it would be wise to consider such dire warnings and move to bring average Americans - and third party contenders - back into the American political franchise

Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which discusses the dangerous consequences of extreme corporate power in a democratic state.


Dark money, gerrymandering, super-majorities, undemocratic actions that leave the plutocrats in charge. It's coming

This is how they'll gut American democracy: Scott Walker and the Kochs want to f**k America as bad as they did Wisconsin

The third week in December brought two startling stories highlighting the ongoing Dixiefication of the Midwest, a key ingredient in how the GOP, with its aging white male demographic base, is nonetheless strategically outmaneuvering the Democratic Party on multiple fronts. They are sharp reminders of how our politics are being reshaped in state legislatures and on the ground—and how inattentive to basics the Democrats have become since the demise of the 50-state strategy.

The story from Wisconsin concerns the secret signing of two laws, which Common Cause of Wisconsin called an “assault on democracy in Wisconsin,” that “sets good government back to the 19th Century,” while Rep. Terese Berceau, a Democrat, earlier called the bills nothing short of “an effort to create a permanent one-party state.” The story out of Michigan is about the sort of dire consequences that can come from such crippling of democracy: specifically, how the state, via the dictatorial rule of an appointed “emergency manager,” actively, horrifically poisoned the young children of Flint with lead, leading the mayor to declare a state of emergency in hopes of getting the state and federal assistance her citizens so desperately need. It wasn’t just the young children, of course, but young children are the ones most heavily impacted, their thinking ability impaired for the rest of their lives. The story from Flint is most shocking and devastating, but it cannot be understood outside of the larger framework, which is why I’ll turn to the Wisconsin story first, where that framework itself is the story, and deal with Flint’s story in a followup.

First, a short note about what I mean by “Dixiefication.” It’s a complex process—economically, a regressive shift toward low-wage, deregulated oligopoly; culturally, an anti-modernist shift toward backwards-looking, fear-infused myth and fantasy obsession; politically, an authoritarian shift toward culture war, demonization, exclusion, and erosion of accountability. It’s been reflected in both states in a variety of ways—for example, both Michigan and Wisconsin have become so-called “right to work” states since 2010—a hallmark anti-labor measure pioneered in the South, which severely weakens both the bargaining power and political influence of unions. But what most clearly situated their Dixiefication in national politics was their key roles in the extreme anti-democratic gerrymandering that helped the GOP keep control of the House in 2012, despite losing the popular vote for House seats by more than half a million votes—which at the same time gave them a stranglehold on state government ever since.

From Union-Busting to Election-Busting

Although other aspects were also present, in Wisconsin its dynamic was centrally driven by its core economic logic, a drive toward a corporate-friendly, low-wage, Deep South-style economy, as described by Ed Kilgore in relationship to Governor Scott Walker’s purported “budget bill” aimed at crippling public employee unions. That bill began the story, which culminated in the recent secret bill signings giving free rein to political corruption in Wisconsin—another common feature of Dixiefication. The budget bill sparked massive protests and a powerful recall movement, which Walker survived with massive outside spending assistance from dark-money groups, which in turn led to a judge-supervised, grand jury-like “John Doe” investigation looking into potentially illegal coordination and campaign contributions between Walker’s campaign with outside dark money groups. The probe was halted last July by a controversial 4-2 decision by the ethically compromised Wisconsin Supreme Court, which effectively gutted Wisconsin campaign finance law. Two of the justices involved had received substantial support from Walker’s backers, but refused to recuse themselves from the case—a further demonstration of Wisconsin’s rapid slide into corruption.

In October, Republicans introduced three bills to consolidate and extend the damage the court had done. The first, passed that month, prohibited John Doe investigations of political corruption. The other two were just signed into law by Walker on Dec. 16, cementing the GOP’s power grab into place. One eviscerates state campaign finance laws, retroactively legalizing everything Walker and his allies did, and allowing virtually unlimited corporate spending. The other gets rid of the state’s highly respected Government Accountability Board—a nonpartisan body composed of six retired judges overseeing elections, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying, considered a model for other states—and replaces it with two partisan-appointed bodies, designed for FEC-like gridlock at best. “The destruction of the eight-year-old, non-partisan Government Accountability Board was based on completely discredited charges, false premises, character assassination and outright falsehoods,” Common Cause of Wisconsin charged, adding:
The entire process under which Assembly Bills 387 and 388 were first unveiled in October, fast-tracked through a single public hearing in Madison only, and then rammed through committees and rushed to the floor of the Wisconsin Assembly and slammed through, before being stalled for a week in the State Senate, has been among the most abusive, disrespectful, secretive and utterly anti-democratic in the history of the Wisconsin Legislature.
The hurried, haphazard process described, although shocking by traditional Wisconsin standards, is a microcosm of “normal politics” in a Dixiefied state, which the two laws were designed to help foster. The campaign finance law doubles the limits on direct contributions to candidates, and allows unlimited donations from individuals to political parties. It also allows corporations to give directly to political parties, for the first time in over 100 years in Wisconsin, and it allows candidates to coordinate with outside dark-money groups. In fact, there’s not much it doesn’t allow. The GAB was established in 2007, with overwhelming bipartisan support following a major corruption scandal. It passed the State Senate 33-0, and passed the Assembly 97-2. “Twelve Republican State Senators who voted to establish the GAB in 2007, voted to destroy it,” Common Cause pointed out. “Nothing changed in the intervening 8 years except the politics. So these 12 State Senators were all for the GAB before they turned against it.” The politics that changed was all about the money. And to really grasp what the new laws will do, it helps to trace that change, starting just after Walker’s election in 2010.

The Role of Money

Even before the union-busting budget bill was taken up, Walker had signed $117 million in tax cuts. When his first two-year budget bill was signed in June 2011, Citizens for Tax Justice reported that cuts to Medicaid and a range of other programs “amount to $2 billion worth of support yanked out from underneath the working poor. Yet, in his frenzy of service cuts, Governor Walker somehow found room for $2.3 billion in tax breaks over the next decade.” The big picture here is straight out of the scenario Kilgore described when, during the initial union-busting battle, he wrote:
Walker also has an economic vision for his state….based on a theory of economic growth that is not only anti-statist but aggressively pro-corporate: relentlessly focused on breaking the backs of unions; slashing worker compensation and benefits; and subsidizing businesses in order to attract capital from elsewhere and avoid its flight to even more benighted locales….. [S]tudents of American economic history will recognize it as the “Moonlight and Magnolias” model of development, which is native to the Deep South.
But even beyond massive tax breaks, there were plenty of very targeted favors for big donors. In 2010, Walker campaigned on a promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, a target he missed by more than 100,000 jobs. As I’ve written about before, his primary job growth mechanism was to replace the state commerce department with a private nonprofit, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, but in 2014 it was reported that, “nearly 60 percent of some $975 million in assistance distributed by WEDC went to firms that had contributed to Walker or the Republican Governor’s Association…. Walker received more than $1 million in direct campaign funds and another $1 million via the RGA from WEDC aid recipients.” This all came in very handy when it came to fighting the recall election. As the Center for Public Integrity reported:
The Wisconsin vote captured national attention, and a flood of out-of-state money. Of the $63.5 million spent, $45 million came from Walker’s campaign and supporters, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The record spending total was made possible thanks to the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision—which had the effect of invalidating Wisconsin’s century-old ban on independent expenditures by corporations and unions—and a state law that allowed unlimited contributions to the incumbent in recall elections.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign listed special interest group spending, including $3.7 million from the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, $4 million from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and $9.4 million from the Republican Governors Association’s Right Direction Wisconsin PAC. So, to review: Walker comes in with a reverse Robin Hood agenda, cuts billions in support for the working poor, while giving billions away in tax cuts, plus a lucrative side dish of paybacks to funders through the WEDC, and gets floods of money from out-of-state big money interests to fight off a recall by the citizens of his state. It’s picture-perfect illustration of Dixiefication in action. Neatly connecting that backstory to the laws just signed, a recent analysis by Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy explained how these monied interests and the politicians they fund were motivated to pass the new laws, the better to hide what they’re up to. Regrading the WEDC, Fischer recounted:
In one case, Walker’s administration urged WEDC to give a $500,000 unsecured loan to a company owned by Bill Minahan, who a few months earlier had maxed-out on contributions to Walker’s campaign. The Minahan loan didn’t go through the underwriting required by law, and his company ultimately went bust, with the taxpayer-funded half-million-dollar loan not being repaid. WEDC handed out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the form of bonds, grants, loans, and tax credits to Walker donors, and could only account for 5,680 jobs as of 2014, according to a Center for Media and Democracy analysis.
All this was uncovered by the press “because those donations were disclosed,” Fischer wrote. But the new campaign finance law would keep that secret forever. If politicians and donors know what’s going on, but the media and ordinary voters don’t, that informational imbalance can translate into enormous political power. It’s like a basketball game with one team wearing blindfolds. Fischer went on to cite an example of how this was already working in Wisconsin:
The other centerpiece of Walker’s job creation effort was a rewrite of the state environmental laws to pave the way for a Florida-based mining company, Gogebic Taconite, to build an open-pit iron ore mine in a pristine area of Northern Wisconsin. A year after the proposal became law, documents emerged in the John Doe probe showing that G-Tac’s CEO had secretly donated more than $700,000 to a dark money group associated with Scott Walker’s campaign. The public and press had no knowledge of these contributions as the hotly-contested mining bill was being debated; the secret donations were more than 22 times the amount of disclosed contributions to candidates.
With the chance of normalizing and legalizing such underhanded dealings, it’s not surprising that people oppose what they’re trying to do, while Walker’s donors eagerly support them. Regarding popular opposition, Fischer noted, “Common Cause Wisconsin has counted thousands of calls and messages from Wisconsinites to state senators urging them to reject these bills,” in line with consistent polling showing that voters in both parties want less money in elections and more transparency about where it’s coming from.

On the other side, Fischer noted a small handful of well-funded groups supporting the three laws introduced in October. The only group lobbying to support the bill replacing the GAB was David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, which also lobbied for the bill exempting political corruption from John Doe investigations, along with Wisconsin Family Action, “a group that was implicated in the John Doe probe,” Fischer noted. The third bill’s supporters were an instructive bit of a suprise. The avowedly pro-corporate groups stayed out of it, with the forced childbirth group, Wisconsin Right to Life, taking the lead instead. Tellingly, however, their executive director was a former AFP leader. In summary, Fischer wrote, “[These special interest groups], funded by out-of-state billionaires like the Koch brothers, are apparently calling the shots within the Wisconsin legislature, regardless of what voters think.” And with these new laws in place, that will only become more commonplace in the years ahead.

Gerrymandering creates undemocratic situation
One would hope that the crazy behavior shown by some Republicans in the U.S. House would be mitigated with the next election cycle by turning these obstructionists out of office and replacing them with more level headed adults. But don’t hold your breath. The fact is that so many U.S. House districts have been gerrymandered so badly that it is impossible to change the structure of the House without either changing the outlines of the districts or changing the perspective of the voters that keep sending them to Washington.

A casual look at a district map will show you that if you took a twenty five square mile area that contained 10,000 eligible voters, that square has been so gerrymandered that you have only thirty percent of the voters in that square holding all of the power while the other seventy percent have been alienated. It puts a lie to American democracy. It would be as if the entire state of Wyoming were a single district but only Cheyenne and Gillette got to choose who we send to Washington. It is inherently wrong. So that leaves trying to get those few voters that hold all of the power to cast off their dogma and really look at what’s in the best interest of the nation. I hope that one day, before those extremist representatives have so fouled up this country that a Gordian knot would be simpler to unravel, these voters see how they are being manipulated by the entrenched corporate entities that are behind the tea party movement.

Remember the old adage of, `follow the money’. Ask yourself who has been making money under the current health care system? Insurance companies for sure. Medical device manufacturers for another. These are the people opposing the Affordable Care Act and they’ve hoodwinked conservative voters into believing many of their lies while their puppets in Congress make fools of themselves and risk the future of America just to keep the money flowing. No, we won’t see House districts changing anytime soon and we won’t see these corporate tools thrown out of Congress. It’s sad to think that such a small portion of the nation's voters can bring the entire thing down. Such is a republic.

Despite Bernie’s landslide victory, Hillary receives more New Hampshire delegates

Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (L) and Bernie Sanders. © Carlo Allegri

Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire’s primary with 60 percent of the vote, but that’s not the end of the story. Because of a peculiarity in the Democratic Party’s nominating system, Clinton will likely receive more delegates from the state. New Hampshire has 24 pledged delegates that are assigned based on the proportion of the popular vote received. Sanders received 60 percent of support in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, giving him 15 pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton received 38 percent of the votes, putting her pledged delegate count at nine. This seems simple enough, but Democratic National Committee’s method of assigning delegates complicates the matter. There are eight “superdelegates,” party officials that are free to support any candidate they please – even if that support does not align with the wishes of voters. Six of those superdelegates have committed to Clinton, giving her a total of 15 delegates from New Hampshire as of Wednesday afternoon. The two remaining superdelegates have not committed for either candidate yet. Clinton had a razor-thin victory in Iowa followed up by a crushing defeat in New Hampshire, putting her pledged delegated of 32 behind Sanders’s 36. However, Clinton has an imposing lead over Sanders thanks to her 45-to-1 superdelegate advantage. She now has 431 delegates of all types supporting her, while Sanders only has 52, according to CNN. There are 712 superdelegates in the DNC primaries. A Democratic presidential candidate needs 2,383 delegates of any type out of the 4,763 total to win the nomination.

Rigged Election: Hillary secretly STOLE New Hampshire

It’s the headline on every newspaper and website around the country: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in yesterday’s New Hampshire Democratic primary. But there’s another story the media has been much slower to pick up on. Because despite his 22-point victory, Sanders didn’t walk away with the most New Hampshire delegates. Clinton did. And party insiders have been secretly working for months to rig the delegate count in Clinton’s favor, no matter what the voters of New Hampshire decided. Voters handed Sanders a blowout win yesterday. He received 60 percent of the votes, compared to 38 percent for Clinton. But that only assured Sanders a majority of New Hampshire’s pledged delegates, 13 to Clinton’s 9. But he still came up two short in the total count, because six New Hampshire superdelegates — party insiders from each state who can support any candidate of their choice — pledged their loyalty to Clinton.

In other words, despite losing by 22 points in votes, Clinton still managed to win the total delegate count in New Hampshire, 15-13. And it’s these delegates who decide who the Democratic presidential nominee will be, not majority vote. This story isn’t limited to the Granite State either. All across the country, Clinton holds a massive lead in the overall delegate count due to the overwhelming support from these Democratic superdelegates.

Before a single voter had showed up at a caucus or a booth, Clinton had amassed 392 delegates to her side. The magic number to clinch the nomination is 2,382. So with this guaranteed insider support, the Clinton campaign’s tie in Iowa and crushing defeat in New Hampshire matter little — she’s still at 431 total delegates, 18% of the way to the party nomination and over eight times Sanders’ delegate count. Ironically, exit polling in New Hampshire showed that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders won the support of about 9 in 10 voters who thought honesty was important. Should Clinton continue to have her way, such opinions — and the votes that they sway — may not matter much at all. Thanks to years of insider work, Clinton is set to repeat her quiet New Hampshire victory again and again in 2016.

Super-duper-delegates: 'Undemocratic system used by Democratic Party'

Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive on stage before of the start of the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 11, 2016. © Jim Young

Any grassroots candidate in the Democratic Party like Sanders could be run out by the use of the undemocratic superdelegates system which favors the party elite and Congress people, says Patrick Henningsen from 21st Century Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary on February, 9 but due to peculiarities in the Democratic National Committee’s method of assigning delegates Hillary Clinton received the same number of delegates as Sanders. "The difference between the Democrat and Republican primaries is that in a DP primaries there are no winner takes all states. They are all proportional. So, the delegates will be divided proportionally. Each candidate has to be very aggressive in their delegate strategy. And there is a number of superdelegates as well that could decide this election - maybe for the first time since superdelegates have come on the scene in the US electoral system on the Democratic side. They could decide this election more than any other election in the past. It could even go: Bernie Sanders could win the popular vote and Hillary Clinton could win the delegate count based on superdelegates. If we look the AP early polls showed that superdelegates, 98 percent of them in early polling say they would vote for Hillary Clinton, no matter what at the convention, as opposed to two percent for Sanders. I mean, that could swing a ‘neck & neck’ election, come convention time", Patrick Henningsen told RT.

"In total I think for the Democratic Party there are 700 superdelegates, there are a number there pre-pledged to Hillary Clinton absolutely. But there are also a number of undecided as well. The problem with this and the big criticism about the superdelegates system is that it is highly undemocratic. So, this is basically something that came in as a result of George McGovern election in 1968; the McGovern commission that came out of that came up with this plan which allow people to think as outsiders. So, anybody like a grassroots candidate in the Democratic Party like Sanders could be absolutely run out by the use of the superdelegates system. It is undemocratic, it favors the party elite, high party office holders within the Democratic hierarchy, but also Congress people who get one superdelegate…one vote in real terms is equal to 10,000 average American voters in a Democratic primary if you map it out mathematically. It is ironic that the Democratic Party would have such an undemocratic system factored into their sort of party politics. Clearly, the Democratic Party elite are backing Hillary because she is coming into this with her own power base which she has accumulated over two decades. And also through her time in the Senate and through past campaigns, and her husband, former president Bill Clinton," he said.

The undemocratic Electoral College

"The world's greatest democracy?" does a great job of skewering the myth that the U.S. electoral process is anything close to truly fair or democratic, and calling out John McCain's absurd claims about ACORN trying to "fix" the election for Barack Obama. A closer look at the Electoral College, particularly with regards to the 2000 election, illustrates how it functions to limit democracy. The Electoral College, which decides who is president of the United States, consists of 538 winnable votes: one for each of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, one for each of the 100 senators, as well as three for the District of Columbia.

Except for Nebraska and Maine, each state awards its votes by "winner take all," so that a candidate who wins a state 48 percent to 47 percent, for example, would get all of that state's electoral votes. The 47 percent who voted for the other candidate are effectively disenfranchised, as their votes will not impact the final outcome. As Schulte points out, the Electoral College ensures that popular votes from smaller (more rural, more white) states are overrepresented, since each state gets at least three electors regardless of population. Even more troubling about the Electoral College system is that relatively arbitrary factors can decisively impact the outcome of a presidential election.

Consider the 2000 election. In their 2003 article, "Outcomes of Presidential Elections and the House Size," Cal State Northridge mathematicians Michael G. Neubauer and Joel Zeitlin show how, in a race that is close in terms of the popular vote, the outcome can depend on the number of seats in the House of Representatives. Proponents of "lesser-evilism" who would like to lay at the feet of Ralph Nader responsibility for George W. Bush's "win" in 2000 have overlooked the true culprits: the members of Congress who, in 1911, picked 435 for the new number of House seats.

In general, the larger the size of the House of Representatives, the closer the Electoral College outcome gets to an accurate reflection of the popular vote, since additional House seats would be awarded to the states with the greatest ratio of population to number of House seats, which offsets somewhat the advantage that small states get from the awarding of votes based on Senate seats.

In the 2000 presidential election, despite the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans and various other fraud, Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore. However, because of the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College (and with a little help from both the Supreme Court and Gore's spineless complicity), Bush won a majority in the Electoral College and became president.

Analysis by Neubauer and Zeitlin shows that Bush would have won for any House with 490 seats or less. However, the 491st and 492nd seat would have been apportioned to New York and Pennsylvania, respectively, both of which Gore won, putting Gore in the lead in the EC. So if the size of the House had been set at 492 instead of 435 in 1911, or if it had been increased to 492 at some point over the last 89 odd years to reflect population gains, Gore would have been president.

Even more absurdly, based on current apportionment methods for House seats, "for House sizes between 492 and 596, the winner goes back and forth many times without much rhyme or reason. For those 105 different House sizes, the election ends in a tie 23 times, Gore wins 29 times, and Bush wins 53 times." Since Gore won the popular vote, for House sizes of 598 and above, Gore wins every time. All else remaining the same, the outcome of the 2000 election hinged upon an arbitrary decision made in 1911 by people who were all dead at the time of the 2000 election. It appears that the fabric of even the most formal mechanism of democracy in the United States was shoddy long before ACORN even came into being.

The Anti-Democratic Electoral College

America was once a world leader in democracy, with innovations like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with its Bill of Rights. While the early republic had major flaws, our nation was nonetheless an innovator in democracy at a time when monarchies ruled. Since that time, many nations have adopted the American principles of separation of powers in government but they have avoided many of the idiosyncrasies in the American system. Most modern democracies avoid our single-seat winner take-all-elections, using some form of proportional representation instead. No modern democracy has adopted the American system that denies citizens in their national capital the right to have a voting representative in Congress. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on the fact that no other country uses our anti-democratic Electoral College.

Often when I discuss the Electoral College with Americans who don't spend much time thinking about politics, they suggest, "it's been working for hundreds of years, so whatever problems it has are probably not so bad." This reflects a basic pattern in American society where we want the latest technology for our computers, televisions and cell phones but we complacently trudge along using archaic voting technology while ignoring the improvements that have occurred since the late 1700s. Defenders of the status quo start to perk up when I mention that the Electoral College makes it possible to capture the presidency by winning only eleven states and disregarding the rest of the country or that four times the presidential candidate that won the popular vote lost the election. When I remind them that no country uses the Electoral College model for electing a leader, they start wondering what aspects of the Electoral College are most problematic.

That is when I emphasize that, by design, the Electoral College fundamentally undermines the basic principle of one citizen-one vote mentioning democratic lowlights such as: (1) States with smaller populations have far more representatives per population than states with larger populations. For example, residents of the three least-populated states -- Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota -- have one congressional representative for every 200,000 people, while those in the three states with the highest population -- California, Texas, and New York -- have only one congressional member for every 670,000 people. This representational inequality clearly gives citizens from small population states a much stronger voice per citizen than those residing in large states when it comes to electing the president (see graph).


(2) Forty-eight states allocate all of their Electors to one candidate (Maine and Nebraska use proportional representation). This state-level decision of how to allocate Electors produces the issue of swing-state distortion, where citizens in states that are relatively evenly split between the two parties have far more influence in selecting the president than citizens in states where a majority are clearly voting for one party. Moreover, citizens are often discouraged to vote in presidential elections if they know that the allocation of all of their state's electors is a foregone conclusion. Campaign activity exemplifies the implications of this all-or-nothing allocation issue and its egregious undermining of the principle of one citizen-one vote. Candidates rarely invest campaign funds in states that aren't "in play" -- i.e., states whose electoral votes are considered to be already won or lost based on large margins of victory in previous elections and on current polling. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, the campaign of then-candidate Barack Obama spent nearly $40 million on advertising in Pennsylvania, a swing state with twenty-one electoral votes, and about $25,000 in Illinois, with an equivalent number of electors. The Obama strategists knew that there was no reason to spend any time courting voters in his home state, Illinois, since he would clearly win the majority of Illinois's popular votes and all twenty-one of its electoral votes. Republican and third-party supporters in Illinois had no chance of having their voices heard and citizens living in Illinois were being told very clearly that they are much less important than those living in Pennsylvania.

(3) "Faithless" Electors: After all of the undermining of one citizen-one vote that we described above, there is still the issue that the Elector doesn't actually have to vote for whom they pledged. For example, in 2000, D.C. elector Barbara Lett-Simmons abstained rather than vote for Al Gore as she had pledged. Her feeble protest resulted in silencing the voices of thousands of D.C. residents.

Few Americans would contend today that if we were designing a system to elect a president from scratch, the Electoral College would be the optimal solution. Using the popular vote would be the most obvious choice and a majority of Americans support this change. it would be easy to implement since the popular vote is already counted and some variant of preferential voting could be introduced so that third-parties can have a stronger voice.

Yet, inertia is a powerful force and so I don't anticipate America discarding this system anytime soon. Until the time comes when America drops the Electoral College or there is sufficient support for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, all states should mirror the practice of Maine and Nebraska of allocating their electoral votes based on proportional representation. This corrects the current all-or-nothing system used in forty-eight of the fifty states and its resulting overweighting or underweighting of votes based on whether or not you live in a swing state. More importantly, it will force candidates to take the votes of every American seriously, not just that small percentage living in swing states. Unfortunately, self-interest often trumps what is most fair or appropriate. Consequently, it is unlikely that many other states will follow Maine and Nebraska's lead since proportional allocation diminishes the power of the majority party in the state and opens the opportunity for third parties to have a stronger voice (an action that leadership in both the Democratic and Republican parties wouldn't want).

How Money Corrupts American Politics

Money cannot always buy election results; weak candidates often lose even when they outspend their opponents. Nor is outright bribery very common; elected officeholders rarely sell specific votes directly Yet the perfectly legal flood of money that pervades American politics has fundamentally corrupting effects. The effects of money are manifold, subtle, and hard to pin down, but a number of pathways of influence can be laid out. Most are based on judgments about the best available evidence, short of irrefutable proof. But on certain key points the quantitative evidence is fairly conclusive. Political scientist Gary Jacobson and other scholars have pinned down how monetary advantages affect chances of winning congressional elections Large amounts of money are virtually essential if a candidate is to have any serious chance of winning. Inability to raise big money leads to losing general elections, losing party nominations, or giving up even before getting started. Thus the need to raise money acts as a filter, tending to eliminate public officials who hold certain points of view – even points of view that are popular with most Americans.

The need for money tends to filter out centrist candidates. Most congressional districts are gerrymandered to ensure a big advantage for one party or the other, so that election outcomes are actually decided in low-salience, low-turnout, one-party primary elections. Primaries are usually dominated by ideological party activists and money givers, who tend to hold extreme views and to reject all but the purest partisan candidates. This contributes to party polarization and legislative gridlock in Congress.

The need for money filters out candidates on the economic left. Democratic as well as Republican candidates have to raise big money, most of which comes from economically successful entrepreneurs and professionals who tend to hold rather conservative views on taxes, social welfare spending, and economic regulation. As a result, few candidates whose views are not broadly acceptable to the affluent are nominated or elected.

The quest for money tilts candidates' priorities and policy stands. Countless hours spent grubbing for money from affluent contributors changes candidates' priorities and sense of constituent needs. As they speak with potential donors, candidates hear repeatedly about resentment of progressive taxes and "wasteful" social spending. Special tax breaks for corporations and hedge fund managers start to sound reasonable.

Affluent citizens get extra influence by turning out to vote, working in campaigns, and contacting officials. Campaign contributions are not the only way in which affluent people get involved in politics; these same people tend to be active in other ways too, underscoring their importance to candidates.

Money can tip the outcome of close elections. Money spent on media, organizing, and turnout tends to increase vote totals, giving a significant advantage to candidates favored by money givers.

Money buys access to officials. When big contributors contact officials they tend to get attention. Their economic resources enable them to get a hearing, to offer help with information and expertise – even to draft bills. Research shows that these processes boost the influence of the affluent on the policy topics and ideas officeholders consider, biasing the public agenda toward the concerns of the affluent.

The quest for re-election money affects officials' priorities and policy stands. From the moment they win office, candidates look ahead to the money they must raise for reelection, and this is bound to steal time from official duties and slant their attention toward constituents who are substantial donors.

In sum, the net effects of money in politics include distraction from the public business, exacerbation of polarization and gridlock, and distortion of policy making in wasteful, inefficient, and anti-democratic directions. These are not trivial costs to American democracy, and their impact raises the obvious question: what can be done? There is little immediate prospect for a Supreme Court decision or Constitutional amendment to reduce the impact of money on politics. But the effects of big private money could be greatly diluted through public funding – for example, by letting all citizens contribute with "democracy vouchers" (as legal expert Larry Lessig has proposed) or instituting some other system of matching small contributions. To make something like this happen – over the likely resistance of wealthy big contributors – would require a broad, bipartisan social movement. Citizens of various ideological persuasions would have to join together, much as Americans once did in broad reform movements during the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.

Benjamin Page is the Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University. Click here to learn more about Ben's research and advocacy.


Sputnik: Neocons Panic That Trump Presidency Would Mark End to Their New World Order

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs for supporters at the conclusion of a Donald Trump rally at Millington Regional Jetport on February 27, 2016 in Millington, Tennessee

As eccentric billionaire Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump continues to rack up primary victories, the party's establishment is beginning to wonder whether the political outsider can be stopped. Alarmed, neoconservative pundit Anne Applebaum goes so far as to suggest that a Trump presidency would mark "the end of the West as we know it."

On Saturday, real estate mogul Donald Trump racked up two more primary victories, winning in Louisiana and Kentucky, and thus securing a total of 373 delegates, with establishment candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich trailing with 291, 122 and 33 delegates, respectively. With some pundits now openly asking whether the Republican establishment really has a chance to derail Trump, others, including neocon journalist Anne Applebaum, have resorted to scaremongering.

In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Applebaum, an American-Polish journalist known for her hawkish, stridently anti-Russian attitudes, laid out a worst-case scenario for the Euro-Atlanticist empire, warning that "right now, we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it."

"In the United States, we are faced with the real possibility of Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump, which means we have to take seriously the possibility of a President Trump. Hillary Clinton's campaign might implode for any number of reasons, too obvious to rehash here; elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle."

"That means," Applebaum warns, "that next January we could have, in the White House, a man who is totally uninterested in what presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan – as well as Johnson, Nixon and Truman – would all have called 'our shared values.'"

Blowing through Trump's domestic policy proposals in one sentence, what seems to interest the journalist more is his approach to foreign policy, particularly as it relates to Russia and Eastern Europe, of course.

"[Trump] brags that he 'would not care much' whether Ukraine was admitted to NATO; he has no interest in NATO and its security guarantees. Of Europe, he has written that 'their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually'. In any case, he prefers the company of dictators to that of other democrats. 'You can make deals with those people,' he has said of Russia. 'I would have a great relationship with [Vladimir] Putin.'"

The journalist goes on to suggest that "not only is Trump uninterested in America's alliances, he would be incapable of sustaining them. In practice, both military and economic unions require not the skills of a shady property magnate who 'makes deals' but boring negotiations, unsatisfying compromises and, sometimes, the sacrifice of one's own national preferences for the greater good."

Moreover, "in an era when foreign policy debate has in most Western countries disappeared altogether, replaced by the reality TV of political entertainment, all of these things are much hard to explain and justify to a public that isn't remotely interested," Applebaum laments. If by 'all of these things' she means endless wars and Washington's fumbling attempt to preserve its shaky global hegemony, perhaps there's a little more thought behind American voters' logic toward anti-establishment candidates than she gives them credit for.

Europe Too Faces the 'Threat' of the Anti-Globalists
In Europe too, Applebaum warns, things aren’t looking good for the Euro-Atlanticists. "Americans aren't the only ones who find their alliances burdensome. A year from now, France also holds a presidential election. One of the frontrunners, Marine Le Pen of the National Front, has promised to leave both NATO and the EU, to nationalize French companies and to restrict foreign investors."

"Like Trump," the neocon writes, "[Le Pen] foresees a special relationship with Russia, whose banks are funding her election campaign. French friends assure me that if she makes it to the final round, the center-left and center-right will band together, as they did two decades ago against her father. But elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle. What if Le Pen's opponent suddenly falls victim to a scandal? What if another Islamic State attack jolts Paris?"

In other words, Applebaum seems to imply, 'what if, as a result of an attack by the Islamic caliphate which the US-led invasion of Iraq created and US Persian gulf allies have bankrolled, the French people were to vote for a politician opposed to foreign control of French affairs and to the policy of endless imperial adventures around the world?' As for her jab suggesting that Russia is bankrolling the National Front's campaign, Le Pen has been very open in her explanation, noting that she took a loan from a private Russian bank because no French bank would give her one. In fact, she has since said, she would cancel the loan with the Russian bank if a French bank were to make a counter-proposition, but she is yet to receive one.

But Applebaum isn't done yet. By the time French elections come around, she notes, "Britain may also be halfway out the door. In June, the British vote in a referendum to leave the EU. Right now, the vote is too close to call –and if the 'leave vote' prevails, then, as I've written, all bets are off. Copycat referendums may follow in other EU countries too. Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, sometimes speaks of leaving the West in favor of a strategic alliance with Istanbul or Moscow."

And for the journalist, "it's not hard at all to imagine a Britain unmoored from Europe drifting away from the transatlantic alliance as well." To make things even worse, in Applebaum's mind, "if the economic turmoil that could follow a British exit from the EU were sufficiently severe, perhaps the British public would vote out its conservative government in favor of the Labour Party, whose leadership is now radically anti-American. Everyone discounts Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left Labour leader, but they also discounted Trump. Corbyn is the only viable alternative if the public wants a change. Elections are funny things, and electorates are fickle."

Ultimately, the journalist anxiously notes, "without France, Europe's single market will cease to exist. Without Britain, it's hard to see how NATO lasts long either. Not everyone will be sorry. As Trump's appealing rhetoric makes clear, the cost of alliances ('millions of dollars annually') are easier to see than the longer-term gains."


Donald Trump: From Russia with love

Donald Trump is a brave pro-Putin political maverick who would end US foreign wars and perhaps lift sanctions on Moscow. Hillary Clinton, however, is a warmonger beholden to the military-industrial complex. Russian state TV, which closely mirrors the Kremlin's world view, leaves little doubt about who Moscow supports in November's US presidential election: "The Donald".

Vladimir Putin's spokesman took brief exception this month to a Trump attack video that showed Putin laughing at the prospect of Clinton defending the United States. But officials and analysts say the Kremlin still sees Trump as the best candidate by far. Putin has hailed Trump as "very talented". The head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee said he would be a worthy winner of the 2015 "Man of the Year" title in the US. And Dmitry Kiselyov, presenter of Russia's main weekly TV news show Vesti Nedeli, claimed this month that the Republican elite had struck a secret deal with the Democrats to derail Trump, in part because of his sympathy for Russia.

"Trump doesn't suit the Republican Party," Kiselyov told viewers. "They usually divide up the state budget [among themselves] by frightening people about Russia. But Trump is ready to find a common language with Putin. That's why they don't need Trump and even regard him as dangerous."

Kiselyov has been one of the chief proponents of state television's strongly anti-American tone, once saying Moscow could turn the United States into radioactive ash. Some analysts say Trump appeals to Moscow because Putin believes a Trump presidency would be isolationist and leave Russia with a free hand. "The Kremlin can't believe its luck," said Konstantin von Eggert, an independent Moscow-based political analyst who believes the Obama administration has not been forceful in countering Russia. "President Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry were a dream team for them, but now they have an even better option - someone who thinks that America should have nothing to do with the rest of the world." RT, the Kremlin's English-language TV channel formerly known as Russia Today, says it does not back any US candidates. But it has described Trump as "idiosyncratic and raw", and suggested he represents the popular will of American voters, which a sinister US establishment is trying to subvert.

"Can America's elections be truly called democratic if the political establishment aligns itself against the popular will?" lamented Peter Lavelle, the American host of RT's flagship CrossTalk show. "As things stand now, millions of voters could be disenfranchised."

Trump has received advice from Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a former US military intelligence chief who advocates better ties with Russia, and who shared a dinner table in Moscow with Putin in December to celebrate RT's 10th anniversary. Trump has won friends in Moscow with statements praising Putin as a strong leader that he could probably get along with. His support for Russian air strikes in Syria was welcomed. In January, after a British judge ruled that Putin had "probably" authorised the murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London, Trump said he saw "no evidence" that the Russian president was guilty.

"First of all, he says he didn't do it. Many people say it wasn't him. So who knows who did it?" Trump said. This week, Trump said the United States should reduce funding for NATO. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said his comments showed the alliance was in crisis."For the last two years all we heard from Western newspapers and TV was very critical of Russia," Victoria Zhuravleva, a Moscow-based analyst on US-Russia relations, told Reuters news agency. "So when you hear something that is not so critical and even more friendly towards your country it's like: 'Thank God, there's one person we can talk to: Donald Trump.'" Trump and Putin were similar, she said. "They are both open-minded, pragmatic, and say what they think."

The mutual appreciation between Trump and Putin has invited comparisons to the Russian leader's friendship with another billionaire-turned-politician, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who outraged Ukrainians and irked EU leaders last year by visiting Russian-annexed Crimea with Putin. They toured a Crimean winery and drank a priceless 240-year-old bottle from its cellar. By contrast, Hillary Clinton, who is well known to the Kremlin because of her 2009-2013 stint as US Secretary of State, is clearly not to Moscow's taste.
"We really don't want Hillary," said one Russian official, who spoke anonymously because of the subject's sensitivity. "She's no friend of Russia's."

State media coverage has focused on what it has cast as her wacky promise to declassify UFO files and on the pressure she has faced for using her personal email account for government business, and over her response to the fatal 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Pro-Kremlin bloggers, corralled by a Putin supporter who used to represent the ruling party in parliament, are enthused by the prospect of agitating on behalf of Trump. "Trump is the first member of the American elite in 20 years who compliments Russia. Trump will smash America as we know it, we've got nothing to lose," Konstantin Rykov told his followers on social media. "Do we want the grandmother Hillary? No. Maybe it's time to help the old brigand."


Voters Long for a Washington Reformer

The National Commission on Presidential Debates recently invited Americans to suggest topics for the 2016 presidential debates. The commission is sure to receive thousands of proposals, but it should devote an entire debate to government reform. Why? Trust in the federal government has slumped to near-record lows, moving far beyond healthy skepticism toward a crisis of confidence. Whoever wins this “FixTrust” debate could have an inside track to the presidency.

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center poll, 74% of Americans rated the federal bureaucracy as only fair or poor in running its programs. In another Pew poll in January 2014, 75% said they trusted the federal government to do what is right “only some of the time” or “never.” And in a September 2014 Gallup poll, Americans estimated that Washington wastes 51 cents of every dollar it spends. The stakes of comprehensive reform are high. A new president serious about reform could take immediate action by executive order to collect the $700 billion already on the books in unpaid taxes, delinquent debts, and improper payments to individuals and government contractors. These numbers are estimates of the federal government’s own agencies.

That’s just for starters. Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, says that there is $1.4 trillion that could be saved from the federal budget. How? By cutting the federal workforce 10% and the contract workforce 15%, modernizing the government’s antiquated information technology, creating public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, selling off unneeded federal properties, streamlining the bloated Department of Homeland Security, and even reducing federal advertising by half.

Of course, in a debate the Republican nominee will embrace federal workforce cuts and retirement reforms; the Democratic nominee contractor cuts and the technology reforms. And both will have their own lists of delinquent taxes and debts that should be either forgiven or collected. If forced to be specific, the result should be plenty of tension on debate night. A FixTrust debate could shape the election’s outcome if it opens with two fundamental questions that shape the issue of reform: Should the next president cut federal programs to reduce the power of government, or maintain existing programs to deal with important problems? Second, should he or she winnow the federal agenda to a smaller set of priorities, or accept the current priorities and focus on fixing the bureaucracy?

Americans likely will pay close attention. Answers to questions asked on my behalf in a survey last July by the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Institutions of Democracy showed that half of Americans favored cutting back federal programs to reduce the power of government. The other half said programs should be maintained to deal with important problems. Slightly more than half said government had the wrong priorities, while almost as many said it had the right priorities, but a broken bureaucracy.

Based on these findings, I have identified and named four different groups of Americans who are currently looking for a candidate they can support: (1) the conservative “dismantlers” who want the next president to cut back programs and reset priorities, (2) the slightly more moderate “streamliners” who want the next president to cut back programs and repair the bureaucracy, (3) the almost equally moderate “priority setters” who want to maintain programs and reset priorities, and (4) the more liberal “reinventors” who want to maintain programs and mostly tinker with the bureaucracy.

None of the groups has anything close to a majority today, which increases the make-or-break nature of the FixTrust debate. The only way to win the face off, and maybe the presidency, is to build a coalition from the 32% of Americans who agree with the dismantlers, the 28% who support the reinventors, the 25% who identify as priority setters, and the 15% who stand with the streamliners. With the dismantlers and reinventors locked in at the conservative and liberal ends of the reform continuum, and the streamliners in recent decline, the outcome of the debate, and perhaps the election, will likely depend on the priority setters, especially the ones who are spoiling for a fight over the nation’s agenda.

To be sure, all of the declared presidential candidates at this early stage of the game have weighed in on government reform from time to time over the years. But they only need to revisit the long list of recent government breakdowns—and their effect on past presidential administrations—to see their futures absent a coherent plan for immediate government reform. After all, the next president could face a government breakdown only months, if not weeks after inauguration, any one of which could damage his or her presidency. It could be a history defining breakdown such as 9/11, a tragic breach of trust such as the VA waiting list scandal, an unresolved scandal such as the IRS targeting, or even the failure of a highly advertised website such as But whatever the breakdown, it is coming.

Mr. Light is a professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, and a former adviser to the Volcker Alliance, a nonprofit working for effective government.


Paul Craig Roberts Asks "Can Americans Overthrow The Evil That Rules Them?"

Paul Wolfowitz and the lies that he told in the high government positions that he held are responsible for a massive number of deaths and massive destruction in seven countries. Wolfowitz has announced his vote for Hillary Clinton. Does this make you feel reassured? The real surprise would have been Wolfowitz’s announcement in favor of Donald Trump. So why was what was expected news?

Trump has said that he doesn’t see any future in the conflict Washington has initiated with Russia, and Trump questions the point of NATO’s continuing existence. These peaceful attitudes make Trump into a “national security risk” according to Wolfowitz. What Wolfowitz means is that a peace candidate is a threat to Wolfowitz’s doctrine of US world hegemony. In the crazed mind of Wolfowitz and the neoconservatives, America is not safe unless it rules the world. Hillary is a warmonger, perhaps the ultimate and last one if she becomes president, as the combination of her hubris and incompetence is likely to result in World War 3.

On July 3, 2015, Hillary declared: “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran. . . . we would be able to totally obliterate them.” The crazed Hillary went on from this to declare the President of Russia to be “the new Hitler.” Little doubt she thinks she can obliterate Russia also. Hillary is the one who brought zionist neocon Victoria Nuland into the State Department to oversee the US coup in Ukraine in order to create more propaganda against Russia and force Washington’s European vassals to impose sanctions and place military bases on Russia’s borders, thus provoking a nuclear power and raising dangerous tensions.

This fits in perfectly with Wolfowitz’s intention. As Wolfowitz is Hillary’s likely Secretary of Defense, the two together mean World War 3. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Wolfowitz, then a high Pentagon official, penned the Wolfowitz doctrine. The doctrine states that the principal goal of US foreign policy is to prevent the rise of other countries that could serve as constraints on US unilateralism. This means Russia and China,  The combination of Hillary with Wolfowitz should scare everyone in the entire world. The prospect of nuclear weapons being in such crazed hands as those of Hillary and Wolfowitz is the most alarming though imaginable.

The question is whether Hillary can be elected in the face of her violations of national security rules, for which she received a pass from corrupt Obama, and her heavily documented self-dealings that have produced a Clinton private fortune of $120 million and $1,600 million in their foundation. It is completely clear that the Clintons use public office for their private aggrandizement. Is this what Americans want? Two people who become even more rich as the world is led into nuclear war?

But with electronic voting machines, the question will not be decided by what Amerians want, but by how the electronic machines are programmed to report the vote. The US has already had elections in which the exit polls, always a reliable indicator of the winner prior to the appearance of electronic voting machines, indicated a different winner than the electronic voting machines produced. The secrecy of how the voting machines are programmed is protected by “proprietary software.” The machines have no paper trails, precluding vote recounts.

As both political establishments are fiercely opposed to Trump, how do you think the machines will be programmed? Indeed, the media is so opposed to Trump, the question is whether there will be exit polls and if there are, will they be misreported?

Republican operatives, not Republican voters, are all in a huff over their allegations that Trump is costing the Republicans votes. How can this be when Republican voters chose Trump over other candidates? Aren’t the Republican operatives saying that they, instead of the voters, should choose the Republican candidate? If so, they are just like the Democrats. Some years ago the Democrat establishment created “super delegates” who are not chosen by voters. Enough “super delegates” were created in order to give the Party establishment the ability to over-ride the voters choice of presidential candidate. That it was the Democrats—allegedly the party of the people—who first took the choice away from the people is astonishing. Much information indicates that Bernie Sanders actually won the Democratic presidential nomination but was denied it by vote fraud and “super delegates.”

This is politics in America—totally corrupt. Chris Hedges might be right: nothing can change without revolution. The demonization of Trump by the presstitutes is proof that Trump, despite his wealth, is regarded by the Oligarchs who comprise the One Percent as a threat to their agendas. The Oligarchs, not Trump, own or control the media. So the presstitute demonization of Trump is complete proof that he is the candidate to elect. The oligarchs who oppress us hate Trump, so the oppressed American people should support Trump.

The presstitute demonization of Trump did not work in the Republican primaries. Is it working in the presidential election? We don’t know, because the polls are reported by the presstitutes, not by Trump.

If the demonization does not work, and the election has to be stolen from Trump by the electronic machines, the consequence will be to radicalize Americans, something long overdue. Perhaps the expectation of this development is the reason all federal agencies, even the post office and Social Security, have acquired arms and ammunition, and Cheney’s firm Halliburton was paid $385,000,000 to build detention centers in the US.

Those who control us are not going to give up their control without a world war. In the United States evil has seized power from the people, and evil will not give it back.


American Horror Story: How the Democrats found a boogeyman in Hillary’s Emails

Bernie Sanders won the presidential nomination, but he was cheated out of it by the Democratic National Committee which is the operating body for the Democratic Party. They helped Hillary win the nomination by combining vote miscounts and appointing super delegates whom no one elected to vote for Hillary. So, she won this nomination illegitimately. All of Bernie Sanders’ supporters know that. They have turned against Hillary, and it is unlikely that many of them will vote for Clinton. The Democratic National Committee said: “Who do they dislike more than Hillary? The Russians”, as they’ve been demonizing the Russians for the last 3-4 years. So, the Americans are told to dislike the Russians. That’s why they blame Putin for WikiLeaks’ release of the emails that showed how the Democrats were cheating with votes. Hillary is a crook in many ways. But she has escaped prosecution because she is too useful for the oligarchs. So they shift all the blame onto Putin, saying that this is all a Russian plot to get Donald Trump elected. Is that what this is? I don’t think this will fool many people. It will be played with in the media because the media is not honest, not independent. It’s like the old Soviet media – it has to answer to the master and can’t say much independently. It’s not going to fool the American people that all this email thing was done by Putin.

The Democrats are looking for a boogeyman, for somebody to shift the blame onto away from them. They don’t even realize that in doing so they are making Russia look like a cyber superpower. Well, it may be a cyber superpower, but we all know that Clinton’s emails did not reach WikiLeaks via Russia. It’s just something they made up. The media simply went along with it. I don’t think that many people will believe this. It just makes the Democratic National Committee look even more ridiculous. It steals an election from the candidate that people wanted and tries to blame Putin for doing that.

Bernie Sanders, when he supported Clinton, discredited himself and demoralized all his supporters. Therefore, they turned away from him too. That eliminates him as a leader. He ruined it for himself. If he had gone to the convention and said: “You stole the elections from me! I’m the one who won”, he would be the most popular American today. He could run as an independent candidate and win. But he didn’t have the courage to do that. He gave up, surrendered. The oligarchs are accustomed to people surrendering to them. They think that Putin will surrender to them too.

Bernie Sanders does not have the support of the oligarchs. The military security complex, Wall Street, and the Israel Lobby are not behind him. He is not their agent. His support came from Democratic voters themselves. So he doesn’t have the power to prevail, unless he really takes the fight to Hillary. But he wasn’t really risky to do that. Bernie Sanders is considered an outsider to the oligarchs. They did not found his campaign. But now he has been broken as a political leader and it is the end for him.

The media will all support Clinton and attack Trump. But this eventually loses its credibility. Fewer people depend on the media because it has lied about so much and for so long. Much more important is how Trump handles himself. If he continues to say that he doesn’t want a conflict with Russia, that NATO is a problem and other issues, then he will win regardless of the oligarchs and the media. He needs to stick to the point that he is against offshoring Americans’ jobs. The fact that corporations have moved middle-class jobs overseas really hurts Americans and the American economy. He is against having tensions with Russia. He realizes that there is no real need for NATO. So, people are supporting him for these reasons. If he sticks to these issues, he will win. But the question is what could he do even if he gets into office. It may turn out that he can do nothing, but he’s the only hope we have.

But at this moment, there is the chance that the Democrats will try to sabotage the elections. Voting in the US is largely handled by electronic machines. It has no paper trail. So, whoever programs those machines can determine the voting outcome. And nobody will ever know. Unless Trump has some kind of experts who can ensure that the voting machines are programmed correctly, I suspect that the machines will be programmed to vote for Hillary, especially because so many in the Republican political establishment are opposed to Trump. If he relies on them, they will cooperate with Hillary’s people and program the machines so that Hillary wins. There is no paper balance to recount it. This is the way a lot of elections have been stolen in recent years. This may happen again.


Poll: Just 7 Percent Of Russians Care About Democracy

Russians care about economic and political stability, not democracy, according to a new poll conducted for news agency Interfax. Run by the Levada Center for Independent, the poll asked 1,600 Russian respondents to rank issues they viewed as important. Respondents first and foremost chose economic and political stability. In contrast, only 7 percent of Russians said they cared about democracy. The same poll was conducted in 1999 and at that point in time only 50 percent of Russians chose economic and political stability. Stability has taken the center stage above unemployment at 48 percent and personal safety at 45 percent. Other values traditionally associated with liberal-democratic countries also took a plunge. Freedom of speech, expression and the right of assembly dropped from 11 percent in 1999 to 9 percent now in 2016. Despite liberal-democratic values falling in importance, a majority of Russians still consider themselves free. A second Levada Center poll in December found that 66 percent felt they were free.


We're suffering the consequences of too much democracy
Democracy, you could argue, is pretty much like sunshine, cold beer and ice cream. They’re all great - until you have too much

Too much Democracy? That’s not possible, is it? In fact it may be. Some economists and political scientists are suggesting as much in the wake of the Brexit vote and the subsequent wave of “Leave the EU” sentiment that’s sweeping across Europe. And you can look to a big honking use case right here in the US to make that argument.

It’s way too early to tell how Brexit will affect the economy of the UK at this point — although early days have been rocky enough with the crashing pound, stumbling stock market, and political chaos. But I would argue the biggest negative of Brexit will be the messiness and uncertainty that ensues. The UK will be forced to rewrite tax rules, as well as draft and implement new legislation. It will have to craft a new relationship with Europe. And the UK will more than likely haggle over referendums in Scotland and Northern Ireland. An OECD report says Brexit could cost the UK 3.3% of its GDP by 2020.

Despite those headaches and risks, “Leavers” across Europe have taken up the call — including those in France, the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Finland. A Citibank note says “… political risks in Europe are high and probably rising, in our view, and ‘referendum risk’ contributes significantly to these risks …” Those risks include outright withdrawal from the EU, scuttling of EU policies, and shying away from EU-centric policies that could bolster local economies. Citi notes that Italy and Hungary will likely both have referendums on matters pertaining to the EU this year. So what does this have to do with the US, besides the collateral damage of a potentially basket-case Europe — (no small thing that by the way)? Because while referendums are actually rare in the UK, (the Brexit vote is only the third to cover the whole UK), they are much more common in the US.

Twenty-six states — mostly Western ones — plus Washington D.C., allow for initiatives and referendums. And over the years, there have been various successes and failures, never mind wackiness. (One of my favorites was the 2006 Arizona Voter Reward Act which would give a single Arizona citizen $1 million in every general election. It was defeated.) But other ballot initiatives of course are more serious and in some states referendums and such have had real teeth. Nowhere more so than in California, where it has been elevated to a powerful form of governance, with its high-profile Propositions. For those of you old enough to remember, the watershed moment of the California Proposition movement was 1978 with the passage of Proposition 13, which capped real estate taxes. (Remember Howard Jarvis — the leader of the movement — on the cover of Time Magazine: Tax Revolt!)

The success of that vote ushered in a golden age of referendums for the Golden State, although that may be a mischaracterization. Since then the state has voted on hundreds of referendums on gun control, abortion, marijuana and the death penalty. But mostly the initiatives have tended towards the fiscal, i.e., taxes, budgets and bond issues. To some this has been a shining era of democracy. Others are not so sanguine, saying Prop 13, for example, helped lead to the gutting of education budgets. One thing that is undoubtedly true is that this so-called direct democracy model has made governing more difficult. The Economist delved into this in great length in a 2011 special report:

“This citizen legislature has caused chaos. Many initiatives have either limited taxes or mandated spending, making it even harder to balance the budget. Some are so ill-thought-out that they achieve the opposite of their intent: for all its small-government pretensions, Proposition 13 ended up centralizing California’s finances, shifting them from local to state government. Rather than being the curb on elites that they were supposed to be, ballot initiatives have become a tool of special interests, with lobbyists and extremists bankrolling laws that are often bewildering in their complexity and obscure in their ramifications. And they have impoverished the state’s representative government. Who would want to sit in a legislature where 70-90% of the budget has already been allocated?”

The best evidence of the effects of this dysfunction perhaps is that during this period, California experienced a precipitous decline in its credit rating. In 1980, California had a triple AAA rating. By the early 1990s it had fallen to single A, and it bounced around that level for decades until as recently as 2014, when it was the second-lowest rated state in the nation. (This is a state of course with Silicon Valley, Hollywood, oil and gas, timber, minerals and the richest farmland in the nation.) Say what you will about Jerry Brown, (twice!) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson, but it ain’t all the governors’ fault. In fact it may be Jerry Brown’s multi-term experience with government by referendum that has allowed him get a handle on the state’s finances and help boost its credit rating back up to AA (from S&P), its highest rating since 2001. But that’s hardly consolation.

Direct democracy does have a shining example of efficacy, and that is Switzerland, though there certainly are reasons particular to that country — homogeneity being one — that explain why it has worked there. Otherwise, I would argue that direct democracy is best used sparingly, for local initiatives perhaps. A big drawback of direct democracy is that those who want change — no matter its validity — are much more fired up than those who want to maintain the status quo, and therefore many more of the “Changers” go to the polls, as was perhaps the case in the Brexit vote. Think about the consequences of that.

I know it sounds horribly anachronistic, but checks and balances, branches of government, and slow, messy and deliberate governance actually has its place. It is true that both in the case of Britain’s relationship with the EU and with real estate taxes in California in the 1970s, real change was needed. In cases like this, and probably just in general, politicians need to step up more briskly than they are typically comfortable doing. But putting the onus all back on the people may not be the answer. One thing’s for sure, it certainly has its consequences.