Frank da Cruz
Who could have predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidential election? I'm sorry, I don't have anything original to add to the topic. A local neighborhood paper here in the Bronx sums it up pretty well in the Inquiring Photographer section in which readers were asked for "their thoughts on the outcome of the 2016 presidential race"; Johnny Gibbs of Parkchester says:
"How the heck did they allow him and the Russians [to] steal the [explitive] presidency? It was stolen... And Hillary stole it from Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump stole it from her. So Hillary shouldn't have even been in the race and Bernie could have been president."
To that I would only add that if Russia somehow overturned our electoral process to install its favored candidate, ask yourself: How many times has the USA done the same thing in Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe? Or, when that failed, simply invaded countries outright, or instigated a military coup?
Anyway, yes, Bernie was very popular here in the Bronx, where people see the effect of extreme capitalism up close every day. 20,000 people stood in long lines for hours to see Bernie in Saint Mary's Park in Mott Haven, South Bronx. But there was no way he going to be allowed to win the nomination, much less the election. I've lived through 12 presidential changeovers, starting when Franklin Roosevelt died, and I can tell you that in terms of the economy and miltarism each new president has been worse the last. You might think that a few of them weren't so bad; maybe you'll change your mind if you watch all 10 episodes of Oliver Stone's The Untold History of the United States1. Every president since FDR funneled obscene amounts of our tax money into weapons and unnecesary wars and toppling foreign governments, and every president facilitated the ongoing rollback of the New Deal, thus accelerating the massive transfer of wealth from working people to the ultra-rich. The latter process went into overdrive with Reagan, who single-handedly destroyed organized labor and drove the Democratic party to Wall street for support, thus leaving the voters with — quite literally — no choice. For the large majority of Americans, life keeps getting harder and stress higher while the upper crust wallows in unheard-of riches.
Every president since FDR has put foxes in charge of the chicken coops (cabinet departments and major federal agencies)... except for the Pentagon and Security State. The only difference this time is that Trump is more open about it, which might be a good thing — it'll be a liitle harder for the compliant corporate media to smooth over the wreckage with happy talk. But they'll do their best: "Employment is at an all time high!" "Dow breaks 30,000!" "iPhone 9 coming soon!!!"
(Notes: • Employment ain't what it used to be, is it? • The Dow Jones Industrial Average basically measures the upwards migration of wealth generated by working people into the pockets of investors who don't work. • "Smartphones" are a way to transfer hundreds of billions more dollars from poor and working people to the megacorparations and their investors... think about it: families that once paid $15 a month for phone service are now paying hundreds.)
Our precious "freedoms" have mostly evaporated. Democracy, if we ever really had it, died before most of us were born. Did we vote for all these wars? Did we vote to have our jobs outsourced? Did we vote to be spied on by our own government? Did we vote to deregulate banks so they can raise interest rates into the stratosphere? Did we vote to repeal antitrust laws so a few huge monopolies can control almost everything? Did we vote to have taxes slashed on the rich and the big corporations, to be paid for by cuts to our infrastructure? Did we vote to have funding cut to public schools to the point they barely even function? Did we vote to cut funding to public universities so now they have to charge astronomical tuition? Did we vote to have science and reality repealed? Did we vote to have our old-age benefits, funded by our own payroll deductions, turned over to Wall Street? Did we vote to have an electoral system where our own votes don't count? When did we ever have anybody to vote for (besides in a primary) who would work for the common good rather than for billionares and lobbyists?2. Elections have been nothing more than a cruel joke since FDR died. And anyway, who can even vote any more? Voter suppression has reached levels not seen since the Jim Crow days and it will only get worse.
So maybe it's time to stop patting ourselves on the back about how great we are. For example, did you ever wonder where all this "terrorism" came from? Could it have something to do with our own country going into other countries all over the world and killing people? Should we expect the survivors and refugees from our attacks to thank us for blowing up their houses and killing their families? Is this what makes America great? It is very rare that the words of one of these "terrorists" slip past media censorship, but Somali-born 18-year-old Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who attacked people on campus in November, made his feelings pretty clear3:
"I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE, I can't take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially Muslim [communities]... [if] you want us Muslims to stop carrying [out] lone wolf attacks, then make ... a pact or a treaty ... where you promise to leave them alone ... By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims."Listen to him. He was just kid, not a member or leader of any "terrorist group", watching the USA rain death and destruction on almost every country where people share his religion, blowing people up with impunity by pushing buttons in air-conditioned comfort. You don't need to be enmeshed in some sinister conspiracy to become "radicalized" if your entire people is being terrorized by American military and economic power for no reason at all.
Americans should try to have a little empathy. How would you feel if some other country was blowing up your family and friends and neighbors? The USA has been doing this year after year, decade after decade, and nobody seems to be able to stop it. What we call "terrorism", they call "fighting back". They don't have armies and navies and drones and missiles so they make weapons out of kitchen utensils or vehicles.
2016 can be seen as a delayed reaction to American atrocities over the postwar years, a turning of the tables. After all the atrocious leaders we have foisted on the helpless people of other countries, one has been foisted on us! Perhaps by Russia, perhaps by our own dysfunctional political parties and electoral system, or even by our own FBI director. And as we see increasing acts of "terror" in the "Homeland" we have to consider that they don't come out of nowhere; rather, they are a direct response to our own acts of terror in other lands. Didn't our politicians learn the Golden Rule in Sunday School? Perhaps, but there's a New Rule in town. Not so new, really; it's been in effect since 1945: The USA Must Always Have an Enemy. The USA must always be on a war footing or fighting a war because our economy is based on it. When the Soviet Union collapsed (largely due to the Afghanistan war that we engineered and the nuclear arms race that we forced them into, which bankrupted them) we needed a new enemy so we created one: "Radical Islam". It wasn't difficult. Push people hard enough and they'll push back, and poof: New Enemy. It's instructive to read the list of countries where the USA has interfered since WWII, and then ask yourself: What gives us the right?
Donald Trump said, "Hillary Clinton never met a war she didn't want other Americans to fight." And "Sometimes it seemed like there wasn't a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn't want to invade, intervene in, or topple." If he was trying to say that he would not be like that, and he means it, this might be the only significant difference between him and all of his predecessors since 1945. As for the rest? Don't get your hopes up. Trump or no Trump, good jobs are not coming back, everything that's not been privatized yet will be, and nothing will be done unless it's for profit.
Hard and scary times for almost everyone who is not a well-off white male. But due to our rapidly changing demographics and the resistence that the new administration had better engender, and to the new clarity that now exists about the total moral bankruptcy of both major parties, there is a chance that this will be the last hurrah for the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, warmongering, plutocratic elite that has ruled this country and tortured the entire planet since 1945.
Frank da Cruz
1 March 2016 (Super Tuesday)
Imagine having a president who speaks the truth.
Bernie Sanders for president! I have never endorsed a presidential candidate before, but I'm doing it now. Here's why:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, believe or not, was the president when I was born. I grew up in the afterglow of the New Deal and – for a few brief years, before the Korean War – in a time when the USA was perceived as the Good Guy of the world and America was also a pretty good place for almost everybody to live, at least from an economic standpoint. Jobs were secure with good benefits, education was good. Health care was affordable. Stress was low. Returning veterans had GI loans to buy houses and the GI Bill to pay for college.
It has been downhill ever since. And the decline has accelerated since 1980 and especially since 2007. Do I need to spell it out? The covertly sponsored coups; the wars of aggression, almost countless by now, millions upon millions dead, maimed, displaced, poisoned, and impoverished. The erasure of the once-prosperous American working class, and increasingly the middle class too. The disappearance of almost all manufacturing except of weapons. The crushing of organized labor. The voter suppression. The highly politicized and deeply dysfunctional Supreme Court and the disastrous effects of their decisions. The privatization and monetization of everything. The escalating cost of the essentials of life, as wages decline and benefits disappear. The ongoing destruction of the environment and therefore the future prospects of every living species on the planet. The ever-accelerating concentration of wealth at the very, very, very top, and the impoverishment of everybody else. The utter charade of the electoral and legislative process, with outcomes totally dictated and controlled by Wall Street and the big corporations. The destruction of public education and of any pretense of real journalism in the mass media. The vicious "free trade" "agreements". The relentless cuts and austerity in all areas of public health, infrastructure, housing, education, and safety. The neverending mergers and acquisitions of huge megacorporations, further increasing their power if that is even possible. And on and on and on without end.
Why is this happening? Only Bernie will tell you. Listen to him. Every politician except Bernie and a handful of others is bought and paid for by corporate money, or contributions from extremely rich persons, all of whom have "wants and needs". In return for financial campaign support and promises of future lucrative employment, politicians arrange tax breaks and other favors for their benefactors. Sometimes very big favors, like wars to secure foreign oil reserves, or to topple foreign governments that interfere with their profits. All the bad things that are happening, the wars, the pollution, the offshoring of jobs, the confiscation of pensions, the union busting, the high credit-card interest rates, and all the rest... These things are not happening because we, the voters, want them to happen. We didn't vote for any of them. The politicians do what their sponsors want, not what we want. In what way can the USA be called a democracy any more?
It's depressing. I have so much nostalgia for the 1930s and 40s, the Roosevelt administration when the USA was a hopeful place, building a better future for everybody. And when a war had to be fought, it was against fascism and genocide, not to rule the world. People who are younger than 60 or 70 can't even imagine how much the USA has changed since the FDR administration and the postwar years. People under 40 can't even imagine what it would be like to have a decent, secure job, 40 hours a week, with full benefits and retirement. Or to have some money in the bank, or not be drowning in debt, or not be still living at their parents' house.
That's why the election of 2016 is the most important one since World War II. This is the first chance we have had to reverse the theft of our republic and the destruction of our environment, and to end the nightmarish cycle of perpetual war. Bernie Sanders is the first presidential candidate since FDR who will put things right, or die trying. He is one of the very few politicians since WWII who is not in anybody's pocket. He is completely correct in his analysis of what has gone wrong, and he is the only one speaking the truth.
Everybody should vote for Bernie and for legislators and governors who are like Bernie. Anybody who knows history knows how to fix a rigged, dysfunctional economy because it has been done before. For example, they know the way to put people back to work is not to give trillions of dollars to big companies; it's to create decent jobs with fair pay... Directly, if necessary, as FDR did. And Bernie, like me, is old enough to remember the afterglow of the New Deal and the postwar prosperity and optimism. Even the rich and powerful should vote for Bernie, because capitalism is on course to destroy itself and our planet with it if left totally unregulated as it is now. Like 2-year-olds, corporations can't control their destructive behavior; they need grownups to set limits.
If we don't elect Bernie, nothing will change, just as nothing changed when we elected Obama. I'm sorry, but Obama has been in no way progressive on the fundamental issues. The massive upwards transfer of wealth accelerated on his watch and it will only get worse with his pet project, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The wars, the drones, the coup in Honduras, the locking up of refugees in unaccountable for-profit hell-holes, the destruction of Libya and Syria and Yemen and who knows how many other countries that don't even get in the news. And the rise of ISIS because the US and its NATO allies will just simply not leave other countries alone. Hence the expansion of American military bases to every conceivable country on earth, to stir up more anger and resentment and more reasons for retaliation, thus keeping the war machine busy and our tax money flowing into the proper pockets. But you can't kill your way to world peace. We have to relearn the Golden Rule that we were taught as children.
Obama and Clinton are good at progressive rhetoric but look at their records, then look at Bernie's. Who paid for whose campaigns? Who do you believe? Who can you trust? Obama took office in 2008 with a huge mandate as the "Anti-Bush" and with a friendly congress; he could have been the next FDR but instead, from Day One, he chose to be Bush III: the exact opposite of what we voted for. He put Wall Street sharks in charge of the economy, he prosecuted whistleblowers and let war and financial criminals off the hook, he created a health care plan that is a massive giveaway to for-profit insurance corporations and big pharmacy; he was ready to cut Social Security, he promoted fossil fuel development and fracking and nuclear energy, his regulatory agencies (FDA, SEC, FCC, OSHA, EPA, DOL, etc) do everything but regulate; his spy agencies are listening in on everybody's cell phones and monitoring their Internet activity; he proposed a trillion dollars in new nuclear warheads; he's doing his best to rekindle the Cold War by sponsoring a coup in Ukraine and pushing NATO right up to Russia's border, and he set out to topple regimes all over the Mideast that were perceived as "unfriendly to American interests" while propping up others that may be friendly, but are not exactly models of good behavior.
Seven years later, Syria and Libya are in ruins, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same horrible nightmare they have been since the Bush days, Europe is drowning in refugees, glaciers are melting at an ever accelerating pace, sea levels are rising, the weather is more and more destructive, economic inequality is at an all-time high, mass incarceration continues with for-profit prison factories demanding more and more slave labor. Racial conflicts are breaking out all over the country in response to police violence and urban decay; Central American children fleeing from countries where we facilitated coups or trained death squads are held in concentration camps; huge corporations are richer and more powerful than ever, and the entire planet is boiling over with people crazed with hatred for a United States that invades their countries and kills their families. Meanwhile most Americans don't understand what is happening or why but they are angry, stressed, depressed, losing their hair, and are escaping into drugs or fantasy because there is no joy in real life and nothing to look forward to. No surprise, then, the sharp rise in obesity, opioid addiction, mass shootings, suicides among veterans, and other symptoms of a seriously ill society.
Establishment politicians no longer inspire hope or optimism. Clinton (if elected) will be as much like Obama as Obama was like Bush. The power of Wall Street and the big banks will not be diminished. The wars will not stop. The highly profitable prison-industrial complex will continue to expand. Good jobs will not come back. There is no credible reason to believe that Clinton will make any fundamental changes. Look at her record, she's been all over the place on every issue, whereas Bernie has been consistent and sincere his whole long life. Anyway, she has said as much herself: she will continue Obama's policies, it's her whole platform.
What really do we have to lose by electing Bernie? Despite all the corporate media talk about being unelectable, inexperienced, an impractical dreamer, a one-issue candidate, on the ropes after South Carolina, doomed among Black voters, etc etc etc... If you agree that what Bernie says is true, then vote for him! Then he will be electable, and once elected, he will be the long-awaited next FDR, and the first president since FDR to stand up to big capital and to build up the country for everybody. Bernie will be better for working people, for people who wish they were working, for the former middle class; for women, old people, people of color, active duty military, veterans, children, poor people, sick people, immigrants, small business, just about everybody. Even people who would never even consider voting for him. Seriously, because we all need a stable, secure economy that works for all of us. The current fraudulent and lopsided one is simply not sustainable, and nobody but Bernie is willing to even try to fix it. Maybe he'll have trouble enacting his programs if he doesn't have a friendly congress but (a) that's why we should all vote for congressional candidates who stand for the same principles, and (b) Hillary would do no better with a hostile congress than Bernie, so why not think big? A chance like this comes along only about once in a century, don't blow it!
Or if you do, don't say I didn't warn you.
The more affluent tend to favor Hillary; the young and the less affluent and those long disaffected by our corrupt political process tend to favor Bernie but they are the ones who are disproportionately frozen out from the primaries. The system is engineered precisely to perpetuate itself.
Now the hope is that Bernie will be able to win additional policy concessions from Hillary and have some influence on the Democratic Party platform. But we all know how that goes. The hallmark of Democratic establishment politicians is that they campaign on populist issues and then upon winning the nomination, "pivot to the center", and then upon taking office, turn their backs on poor and working people and embrace horrible trade agreements, Wall Street, the big banks, the fossil fuel industry, big pharma, the big insurance companies, the arms dealers, and the war machine. It happens every time. It happens even when we know it's going to happen.
While some of us might be ready to resign ourselves to “stupid American voters get what they deserve”, the rest of the world's people might not agree; they don't get to vote in our elections and yet they've had our bombs and drones and coups and sanctions and proxy wars and outright invasions raining down on them at an accelerating rate ever since World War II ended more than 70 years ago:
In NY we have something called the Working Families party that endorses progressive candidates. NY law lets a single candidate run on more than one line. So typically a Democrat will also appear on the WF line. When a candidate gets a lot of votes on the WF line instead of on the Democratic line, they get a message that people want them to stand up for working people and against Wall Street. This way, progressive voters can express their feelings without having to vote for a third party candidate who hasn't a prayer of winning, thus splitting the vote and handing a victory to the Republicans. It's not much, but it's something. Of course the new media never report the Democrat/WF split because they want us to buy into the fiction that the US is composed only of center-right Democrats and far-right Republicans.
So today I held my nose and voted for all Democrats on the WF line, except for Charles Schumer, a very good friend to Wall Street. Our other Senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, is very nice, she is the only candidate who never said a bad word about anybody in the whole campaign. (Showing my age, I remember when there actually used to be Socialists and Communists on the ballot...)
Anyway, the depressing part is that nobody ever learns and nothing ever changes, except for the worse. Party A runs on some platform promising A Lot Of Things, gets elected, does the opposite, the people get disgusted and vote for Party B next time, which promises Lots Of Things, gets elected, and then does the opposite. The “opposite“ in both cases is whatever it takes to further enrich Wall Street and the big corporations at the expense of ordinary people, to the extent they are willing to sacrifice lives and livelihoods and the future of the country and the world to please their already obscenely rich patrons. To divert the attention of the voters from this, they busy themselves with setting up false enemies (Communists, welfare cheats, Muslims, Mexicans) to keep us frightened and preoccupied.
So I'm sure my little trip to the voting station this morning was a complete exercise in futility, no matter who wins, because it is a choice between the really bad Democrats and truly awful and scary Republicans, neither of which question the causes for our national disgrace – our ignorance, wars of agression and conquest, racism, and the unbridled, voracious, and utterly unscrupulous greed of our capitalist class and its blatant ownership and control of our government.
If we ever had a government of, by, and for the people we certainly do not have one now. The “American way” is a sick joke, nobody wants to copy it any more, they run the other way screaming. Think of it: a country that has exported all its good jobs, attacked its own working people and destroyed their unions, with a government that can function only on behalf of the oligarchy and never for the benefit of ordinary people; a country therefore entangled in endless senseless wars because our foreign policy is controlled by oil companies and the “defense” industry, and which has created its own caste of “soldier ants” who fight and kill and die and fight and kill and die again and go crazy without end while the rest of us become obese zoning out on Dancing with the Stars; a country full of angry people because they are losing their homes and their jobs and drowning in debt because every family is working two, three, or four jobs to support not only themselves but the unseen hordes of investors who do no useful work and serve no social function; a country building walls on its borders like the one that President Reagan told Premiere Gorbachev to tear down, with some 12 million undocumented immigrant workers that we can't live with and can't live without, and with the biggest prison population on earth; a country with rampant racism and poverty, a failing public school system and the cost of higher education in the stratosphere; a country where medical care is a privilege of the wealthy; a country hostage to big oil and coal companies wrecking the environment beyond repair, with a mass media that is practically devoid of actual news and one major network that is nothing more than a vicious hate and fear machine, and where most people will believe any silly lie they are told because they don't know how to think for themselves. This is a system designed by and for the super-rich; it has taken them sixty years to recover from the New Deal, but the result is a thing of beauty to behold, it works perfectly for its intended purpose; Americans who are suffering as they haven't suffered since the 1930s buy completely into the most outrageous propositions and vote consistently against their own interest, truly believing that Social Security and affordable housing and secure employment with benefits are evils that must be struck down, that public employees with unions and decent salaries and benefits and pensions (like most American working people had only 2-3 decades ago) are un-American, and that ideas such as universal health care, a living wage, and a secure old age are threats that must be fiercely resisted. It's surreal, but I have to admit it's a stunning achievement.
Suppose, one day, the people wake up and wonder if perhaps the government should be oriented more towards promoting the general welfare of the population and the economic self-sufficiency of the country. What would the people do to bring this about? That is the Question of the Twenty-First Century. Because in 2008 they thought they were doing exactly that by voting for progressives and what happened? They got pretty much the opposite.