Voices from Russia

Sunday, 20 January 2019

20 January 2019. Back After Three Months of Hell…

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It’s been three months since my last post in October. Nicky’s health continued to deteriorate and I was getting about two to four hours of sleep a night, combined with six-day work-weeks. Finally, in November, he had to go to hospital. He’s now in rehab. This has given me the chance to recover from that period of too much work and not enough rest. I’m still working hellish hours, as that’s the only way that I can earn enough to pay the bills. I’m also going to be 65 and I’m unable to retire because of Republican cuts to Social Security (the new age of full retirement benefits is now 70, thanks to Republican greedsters allied with Establishment Dem Corporate Ass-kissers).

The system of oppression put in place by Reagan and refined by Clinton, Bush II, and Obama put most working people under the boot of worthless sorts such as hedge-fund managers, subcontractors, real-estate developers, and stock-market drones. The “conservatives” and “liberals” are the same… it’s like the last scene of Orwell’s Animal Farm… there’s no difference between Establishment Republicans and Democrats… both favour the fatcats over the common man. The worst came this January… I got a raise… from 11.00/hour to 11.10/hour, that is, I now get 4.00 USD more a week. That’s because the minimum wage in New York State went up to 11.10/hour. In effect, my employer said to me by doing that:

If we could pay you less, we would, but the law won’t let us. Now, take this extra dime and be grateful for it. We won’t give you any more. We deserve it far more than you do.

This is common throughout the USA. For the first time in its history, the USA is full of quietly desperate people. You see, since the Affluent Effluent are doing well, that’s the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter that hedge-fund shysters ruined Sears and Toys r’ Us deliberately to earn short-term profits… the affluent managers got off relatively scot-free. The workers got fucked with no vaseline? That’s just the “invisible hand of the market”… the management class says:

We’re not to blame. We didn’t make the system. This is the world is, the way it’s always been, and the way it’s always going to be!

That’s not so. Bernie scares the shit out of them. The new class of US Representatives includes people who truly rile he Corporate Class. Trump and Clinton were of the same social background… they were “strivers”, people who wanted to be in the upper reaches, but who were kept out by the Rockefellers, Whitneys, Mellons, Scaifes, and Gardners. Obama, as a Harvard-educated corporate lawyer, was actually of higher social standing than those two are. These two are the poisoned fruit of the noxious era brought forth by Reagan, refined by the Clintons, continued by Bush II, and brought to its logical culmination by Obama. Remember, in 2008 Obama had plenty of aid for fatcats impacted by the Great Recession, but next to nil for ordinary folks. 

However, do note that the NYT, WaPo, and CNN all ignore the Yellow Vests in Europe… the media is trying to bury it. Yet, reality has a way of asserting itself. The most popular Dem candidate for 2020 is Bernie… not Warren… not Biden… not Gabbard… but will the DNC pull its head out of its ass and go back to FDR? Remember, the first president to attack the New Deal was Harry Truman… not a Republican. He was a corrupt Pendergast Machine pol who made deals with Republicans… he allowed Taft-Hartley and he instigated the Cold War. McCarthy ran rampant because Truman let him (Ike stopped McCarthy… never forget that). However, the existence of the USSR meant that the American Corporate class didn’t want to let the working people get influenced by socialism. They used two things… one, they allowed the workers to have relative prosperity, and two, they used relentless propaganda to demonise socialism. When the USSR fell and the USA congratulated itself on winning the Cold War (wrongly, but that’s what happened), the Managerial Class felt that they could do as they pleased. The Clintons did more to harm working people than Reagan ever did. 

Yet, we’re at the end of an era, not the beginning of one. Trump is a result, not a cause. Hillary Clinton is a result, not a cause. Remove both, and the infection is still there. However, we can bring back the New Deal, and take it further. Socialism is the most-favoured political stance of the young… it’s simple… the greed of the Corporate moloch has ground them down with massive student debts. Shall we see a change? Yes… the only question is how violent the transition will be. I hope that it would avoid that. God willing, I’d hope that would be so.

Well, I’m back. Maybe, not every day, but I’m feeling well enough to take my place on the firing line. Keep it focused and keep it prudent. You win nothing by pointless bravado or pseudo-intellectual vapouring. Take my hand… the way won’t be easy, but we can make it if we stand united…

BMD

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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

13 March 2018. They’re Really One Party

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They’re really one party… the neoliberals and neocons… they believe that “might makes right” and “winning is the only thing”. Liberals are paying the cost of enabling the Clintons… Conservatives are paying the cost of enabling Reagan. The late V S Zorin (a Gosteleradio staffer in DC for years) said:

I never forgot that Reagan was an actor.

Apparently, the American people didn’t remember that… opening the way for the present Dark Age.

BMD

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Barack Obama is Using His Presidency to Cash In, But Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter Refused to Do So

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Defenders of Barack Obama’s decision to do things like accept a 400,000 USD (22.8 million Roubles. 2.76 million Renminbi. 25.68 million INR. 548,000 CAD. 532,000 AUD. 368,000 Euros. 312,000 UK Pounds) check for a speech to a Wall Street brokerage house argue that the former president might as well cash in… everyone else does. That was Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s defence of Obama:

People are like, “Why doesn’t he not accept the money?” No, fuck that. So the first black president must also be the first one to not take money afterwards? No, no, no, my friend. He can’t be the first of everything! Fuck that, and fuck you. Make that money, Obama!

This argument, while common, comes from historical ignorance. It assumes that presidents have always found a way to leverage their political connections post-presidency to make money from interest groups and wealthy political actors. However, that isn’t the case. It used to be the norm for presidents to retire to ordinary life after their stint in the White House… just ask Harry Truman. When the Democratic president was getting ready to leave the White House in 1953, many employers approached him. The Los Angeles Times noted:

If he’s unemployed after he leaves the White House it won’t be for lack of job offers … but [he’s] accepted none of them.

One of those job offers was from a Florida real estate developer, asking him to become a “chairman, officer, or stockholder, at a figure of not less than 100,000 USD”… the sort of position that’s commonplace today for ex-politicians. Presumably, had Truman taken the position, it would’ve been a good deal for both parties… the president’s prestige and connections would also enrich the company. Truman declined. He wrote of his refusal to influence-peddle:

I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialise on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency.

Although he had a small pension from his military service, Truman had little financial support after leaving office. He moved back into his family home in Independence MO. He insisted on being treated like anyone else. He’d tell people not to call him, “Mr President”, and settled into an ordinary routine once he was back in Independence. He’d take a morning walk through the town square. He kept an office nearby where he would answer mail from Americans. He chose to engage with just about anyone who walked into his office… not only people who wrote him big checks or invited him onto their private yachts and private islands. He once said:

Many people feel that a president or an ex-president is partly theirs… they’re right to some extent… and that they have a right to call upon him.

Indeed, his office number was in a nearby telephone directory. He eventually agreed to write a memoir for Life magazine, but it was a lengthy project, which paid a far-from-luxurious stipend. Truman’s modest life post-presidency moved Congress in 1958 to establish a pension that provides an annual cash payout as well as expenses for an office and staff.

Nevertheless, Gerald Ford shattered precedent when he joined the boards of corporations such as 20th Century Fox, hit the paid speech circuit, and became an honorary director of Citigroup. However, his successor, Jimmy Carter, who grew up in a modest home in Plains GA, didn’t follow Ford’s example. He refused to become a professional paid speaker or join corporate boards. He moved back to Plains and a crowd of neighbours and supporters welcomed him home. He quickly made himself busy as a nonprofit founder and a volunteer diplomat. He did make money post-presidency…but by serving ordinary people, not the élite. He wrote dozens of best-selling books bought by millions of people across the world… the post-presidency equivalent of small donors. Carter explained his thinking to the Guardian in 2011, telling them:

My favourite president and the one I admired most was Harry Truman. When Truman left office, he took the same position. He didn’t serve on corporate boards. He didn’t make speeches around the world for a lot of money.

The presidents who came after did not choose the same path. At a time when Japan was a major trade rival with the United States, Ronald Reagan flew to Japan for a series of paid speeches after he left office. He accepted 2 million USD (114 million Roubles. 13.8 million Renminbi. 128.4 million INR. 2.74 million CAD. 2.66 million AUD. 1.84 million Euros. 1.56 million UK Pounds) for a pair of 20-minute speeches to the Fujisankei Communications Group. An additional 5 million USD (285 million Roubles. 34.5 million Renminbi. 321 million INR. 6.85 million CAD. 6.65 million AUD. 4.6 million Euros. 3.9 million UK Pounds) went for expenses related to the visit. Both Bushes also joined the paid speech circuit, and the Clintons made over 100 million USD (5.7 billion Roubles. 690 million Renminbi. 6.42 billion INR. 137 million CAD. 133 million AUD. 92 million Euros. 78 million UK Pounds) from banks and other corporations, shortly after the Clinton presidency deregulated Wall Street. Bill Clinton lamented to a student group in 2009:

I never made any money until I left the White House. I had the lowest net worth, adjusted for inflation, of any president elected in the last 100 years, including President Obama. I was one poor rascal when I took office; but after I got out, I made a lot of money.

Obama was hardly facing poverty. He already has a 65 million USD book deal (3.705 billion Roubles. 448.5 million Renminbi. 4.173 billion INR. 89.05 million CAD. 86.45 million AUD. 59.8 million Euros. 50.7 million UK Pounds) and that 200,000 USD annual pension (11.4 million Roubles. 1.38 million Renminbi. 12.84 million INR. 274,000 CAD. 266,000 AUD. 184,000 Euros. 156,000 UK Pounds). By joining the paid speech circuit… his spokesman Eric Schultz told the press that paid speechmaking will be a fixture for the former president… Obama was making a conscious choice. Obama could have been like Truman or Carter, but instead chose to be like Bush and Clinton.

1 May 2017

Zaid Jilani

The Intercept

https://theintercept.com/2017/05/01/barack-obama-is-using-his-presidency-to-cash-in-but-harry-truman-and-jimmy-carter-refused/

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Today’s Republicans Aren’t Conservative

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ALL “conservatives” are either dupes or conscious liars… Whiteford is the former… Dreher and Potapov the latter… no one who calls themselves “conservative” (in the Anglosphere definition) has any part of Christ. Such is clear even to fools… it’s clear to HH, as the above quote proves. Christ CHOSE to incarnate in a working family… not that of a priest, of a functionary, of a merchant, of a professor, of a “professional”, or of an official… he’d didn’t choose to live in the “conservative” milieu. Ponder that one…

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On Tuesday night, Republican presidential hopefuls took to the stage in Milwaukee to duke it out for the fourth time and to try to win the hearts and minds of Republican voters. One candidate after another took their turn trying to convince Republican viewers that their policies are more conservative than any of their opponents were. They disagreed on immigration policy, they disagreed on the role of the American military in world affairs, and they disagreed about how best to gut Obamacare and what agencies to gut to balance their budget. However, they could all agree on a few things. For example, they all attacked Dodd-Frank with claims that it’s killing community banks and making it easier for big banks to get bigger. They all had their own ideas for how to reform the tax code to even further line the coffers of corporations and the super-rich. Nevertheless, those ideas aren’t “conservative”, so, the Republican Party isn’t really a conservative party anymore.

This Republican Party isn’t the party of Barry Goldwater and Dwight D Eisenhower conservatives anymore; it’s not even the party of conservative Federalist John Adams. It hasn’t been “conservative” ever since the “Reagan Revolution”. Oh sure, they all call themselves conservatives, Donald Trump even evoked Dwight Eisenhower’s conservatism during Tuesday’s debate. However, if you look at the history of American conservatism, it’s clear that this Republican Party isn’t my father’s conservative Republican Party. Before the Reagan Revolution, for literally hundreds of years, conservatives and liberals differed mainly in their understanding of human nature and the role of government in society. Nevertheless, conservatives and liberals were still similar in that they still promoted improving the quality of life for working people in America.

For hundreds of years, the major difference between conservatives and liberals wasn’t whether government had a role to play in improving society. The major difference was that conservatives wanted very slow gradual improvements, and liberals argued for rapid social changes. Most of our Founding Fathers were liberal progressives, heck, they were revolutionaries, they took up arms and fought a bloody revolution to rapidly establish independence and fundamentally transform the agricultural American colonies into a self-sustaining independent country. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine both argued for rapid and frequent changes, Jefferson famously supported a new constitutional convention every generation, every 19 years, so that the Constitution could reflect how society’s values change over time.

America’s original conservatism really has its roots in Europe, mainly in Britain, with Sir Edmund Burke being one of the more outspoken supporters of conservatism during America’s early years. However, Burke was a British aristocrat, one who supported low taxes on the rich to ensure the exact opposite of what Jefferson wanted. Burke argued that laws and customs of England should never really change, and the way to do that is to make sure that the richest families in a country passed their wealth from generation to generation, thus “conserving” Britain’s aristocracy and the status quo at the time. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the American conservative movement really emerged, mostly in reaction to anti-slavery movements at first, and later against child labour laws, women’s suffrage, and racial integration. It’s not that conservatives were always 100 percent against all of those issues, but they never supported rapid changes to America’s norms and laws.

Conservatives weren’t obstructionist, but they were circumspect and slow-to-action. Conservatives weren’t totally against change, but they didn’t want to try to improve society too quickly and risk destabilising everything. They wanted to make sure that any changes happened gradually, slowly, and without disrupting the status quo too much. By the way, that is pretty much how one defines “conservative”. Barry Goldwater’s Republican Party wasn’t completely against integration, but they didn’t want it to happen all at once for fear of destabilising society.

However, America’s 200-year tradition of conservatism all changed with Ronald Reagan’s election. Suddenly, the Republican Party was the party of rapid change, rapid deregulation, extreme and rapid tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, and a new focus on increasing the volume and speed of global trade in goods and services. Suddenly, the Republican Party wasn’t conservative in how it saw America’s place in the world, and Reagan wasn’t conservative about the speed of social and economic changes he pushed through, if anything, he was a revolutionary radical.

Reagan’s tax cuts took place almost overnight, and they followed Burke’s conservatism in only one way, by concentrating the wealth in the hands of a few hundred corporations and the billionaires, the new aristocracy that bought Reagan to power. Thirty-four years on, the post-Reagan Revolution reality is that the Republican Party is no longer “conservative” and has no interest in improving society anymore. Instead, the entire focus of the party is enriching the rich and impoverishing the working class and the poor. They want to give tax cuts to the rich and the corporations, and they want to pay for it by gutting social services to the elderly and the poor, like Social Security and Medicaid.

On the other hand, as Ted Cruz proposes, they want to make more room in the budget for corporate giveaways by gutting government agencies like the EPA and HUD, agencies that protect our commons and help the least among us get housing. In addition, going back to Dodd-Frank, they want to gut any financial regulations that keep the banks from defrauding the public and making unimaginable profits as a result. This isn’t “conservative”; it’s a coup by the super-rich. For the modern Republican, government is no longer here for the benefit of the nation or its working people. For the modern corporatist Republican, society and individuals are just pawns used to maximise profits for corporations and to increase the amount of wealth concentrated in the hands of the new aristocracy.

Today’s Republicans aren’t conservative. They’re corporatists… what Benito Mussolini called “fascists”… the takeover of the state by corporate power. It’s time to call them out for what they are, and stop the charade.

13 November 2015

Thom Hartmann

Sputnik International

http://sputniknews.com/radio_thom_hartmann_show/20151113/1030035089/todays-republicans-arent-conservative.html

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