But at the end of April I left my position as a “Senior Fellow” at Campaign for America’s Future, and haven’t written much since. I’ve started working at the Center for Media and Democracy and will start writing regularly there at same point. But right now I’m having a problem writing.
The problem has a few causes (I think).
I’m overwhelmed with incoming crap, mostly about bad things Trump does. But also so much breaking news about investigations, corruption, collusion with Russia, things like that. So things are moving so fast. I feel like by the time I finish writing a piece, it’s irrelevant.
I can’t even imagine how it is for people who produce a show like Chris Hayes’ or Rachel Maddow’s. They book guests in advance, do a lot of research to prepare, and then 10 minutes before the show Trump does something really bad or really stupid, or some news breaks about some new connection between Trump and Putin… and all that work is down the drain.
A feeling that whatever I write it won’t do any good. I spent year writing warnings that we are on a path that could lead to a Trump. Now we’re there, no warnings are needed. I’m not sure how we get out of this.
Those are the main reasons. I’m still doing lots of radio shows, and those are just fine. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say.
My friend (known as) Meteor Blades suggested trying to write small pieces. So this is a small piece about having trouble writing.
The things that come out of President Trump’s mouth seem to depend on who he talks to or what he sees on TV in the minutes immediately preceding his mouth motion.
Based on his recent switchbacks, Trump has been spending a LOT of time talking to the alums of Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs who now form his inner circle.
“Changed His Tone”
Trump has reversed himself on policy after policy, sometimes days or even hours after reaffirming positions he then reversed. The New York Times describes this phenomenon:
But Mr. Trump has changed his tone and backtracked on pledges and policies he supported days earlier. The shift suggests that the moderate financiers of Wall Street brought to the White House are eclipsing the populists led by Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief political strategist.
The Washington Post’s Daily 202, written for DC-area insiders, describes this new direction as “Trump’s lurch toward corporatism, globalism.”
● He reversed his position on NATO, saying, “It was once obsolete; it is no longer obsolete.”
● He reversed his position on labeling China as a currency manipulator, after saying last week that China is “the world champion” of currency manipulation.
● He reversed his position on Fed Chair Janet Yellen, after having said she and other “global special interests” had ruined life for middle America.
● He reversed his position on interest rates, saying “I do like a low-interest-rate policy, I must be honest with you.”
● He reversed his position on the Export-Import Bank, saying now, “It turns out that… lots of small companies are really helped!”
Why all these sudden switches?
A Goldman Sachs Administration
Most of these reversals bring Trump’s positions as president nicely in line with the interests of Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce and the giant investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Is it just a coincidence that this comes after Trump has lined his administration with former Goldman Sachs executives? Headline after headline explains that Trump has hired “yet another” veteran of the firm.
One of the latest, with very high influence, is Gary Cohn, Goldman’s former President and CEO, now chairman of the National Economic Council. According to Mother Jones, Cohn left Goldman with “an estimated $285 million severance package.”
Damian Paletta at The Washington Post writes about Cohn capturing Trump’s ear:
The growing strength of Cohn and like-minded moderates was on display this week as Trump reversed himself on several high-profile issues – including a less confrontational approach to China, an endorsement of government subsidies for exports and the current leadership of the Federal Reserve. The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of Cohn and others on Wall Street, not to mention mainstream Republicans and Democrats.
It was the clearest sign yet that an alliance of moderates in the White House – including Cohn; senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and another influential Goldman Sachs alumnus, Dina Powell – is racking up successes in a battle over ideology and control with hardcore conservatives led by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who held sway at the start of the administration.
Goldman Sachs? You might remember (or tried to forget but haven’t yet) how Trump reviled their influence in his now-notorious “closing” TV ad. It featured images of Wall Street, stock tickers, Lloyd Blankfein, the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, and financier-philanthropist George Soros.
In the ad, Trump says ominously:
It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.
That was then. It worked; he got the votes.
This is now. Yes, Goldman Sachs.
Why does this matter? Matt Taibbi’s great 2010 article for Rolling Stone described how Goldman Sachs manipulates our economy for the benefit of its executives and investors. The Great American Bubble Machine begins,
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
Taibbi includes the warning,
…a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.
And here’s the latest lie. Campaigning in Nebraska Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said, “Well, we’re not going there, my friends. I’m telling you right now we’re going to write fairer rules for the middle class. And we aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
Now Donald Trump is running an ad with a doctored transcript that says Clinton said, “And we are going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
The Clinton campaign told PolitiFact that Clinton said “aren’t,” not “are.” And a transcript of Clinton’s prepared remarks uses the line, “We aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
CBS News reported that when the video is slowed down, it becomes more clear that Clinton said “aren’t.” And several reporters agreed with that.
Here is the Trump ad, you can clearly hear her say “aren’t” – but even so everyone knows what she meant:
Nice. Changing a word in a speech to make it sound like Clinton said the opposite of what she actually said. Will people fall for that?
Remember when President Obama said that businesspeople didn’t get there on their own, they had help, that they didn’t build the roads, bridges and other public facilities that they used for their success? Then Republicans took the quote out of context, claimed he said businesspeople “didn’t build that,” meaning they didn’t build their businesses. They actually built an entire campaign around that lie. Well, here they go again.
“Governor Snyder’s actions are a perfect portrayal of Republican priorities: they let diseases spread, they permit trains to crash, and now they are telling parents to watch their children suffer. All of this in the name of the almighty dollar,” said Agenda Project’s President Erik Altieri, “It is a disgusting, yet totally expected move from this, quite literally, toxic political party.”
Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder was following the Republican mantra of “all budget cuts are good cuts” when he broke Flint away from Detroit’s water system in 2014 to save an estimated $15 million a year. He pursued this plan while ignoring reports that showed Flint’s river water was contaminated with lead and unsafe for drinking. But, like any “good” Republican, the governor decided that the risk of poisoning an entire city was a small price to pay in order to save some money.
The day before the Paris terrorist attacks, “the Paris of the Middle East” – Beirut – was attacked by ISIS. Terrorist set off two bombs in a busy shopping area, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 240.
Then, on Sunday, a string of ISIS bombs in Baghdad killed at least 7 people and injured 15 others.
The terrible attacks on Paris have ignited a fury of reaction. But the Paris attacks were just part of a series of ongoing attacks by ISIS. Civilians have been attacked by ISIS all across the Middle East, in Iraq, in Syria and most recently in Beirut. The wave of refugees entering Europe are people fleeing ISIS attacks along with the Syrian civil war.
The recent ISIS attacks in Arab countries are barely mentioned in the discussion of ISIS and terrorism. The outpouring of sympathy for and solidarity with people in Paris is not matched by sympathy and solidarity for the people in the Middle East who are constantly suffering similar attacks. Why not?
Do Arab lives matter less than non-Arab lives? Was it because the attack on Paris is an excuse to cast this as an Islam vs. West battle?
But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.
Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.
The terrorists certainly had civilisation in their crosshairs. They spread chaos and killing through a city famous for its culture, its intermingling of influences, its freedom of expression. In as much as they targeted one of Europe’s great capitals, it was an assault on European values – the way our citizens choose to live and behave. However, it is wrong to frame the atrocities as attacks on “western civilisation” alone.
[. . .]
First of all, it downplays the suffering of Middle Easterners at the hands of Isis. On Thursday, for example, 43 people in a mainly Shia part of Beirut were murdered by Isis suicide bombers. Although that city is far more used to violence than Paris, it still represented an assault on normal, civilised life. The most immediate opponents of the violent jihadists are the people they live among – the Muslims, Christians, Alawites and Yazidis of Iraq and Syria…
Secondly, it distorts our ability to recognise who our proper allies are. There is a broad risk of tarring the whole Middle East with the brush of extremism – as though the violent ideology of Isis is typical of the entire region, and life across it carries on in an utterly different mode to our own. Here in the west, that can mean those of Arab or Muslim heritage being blamed and abused.
In 2003, conservatives blasted France for its reluctance to join in the invasion of Iraq. They called the French “surrender monkeys” and renamed French fries on congressional cafeteria menus to “Freedom fries”.
Now that the consequences of that invasion have, as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it in Saturday’s Democratic debate “unraveled the region completely,” conservatives have unleashed a wave of hatred for the people fleeing attacks like those in Beirut, Baghdad and especially Syria.
These are the same people who were trying to keep children fleeing violence from Central America from receiving asylum in the U.S.
These are the same people who were trying to keep people from Africa out of the U.S. because of Ebola.
We can’t say there is a “we” behind this special resonance of Paris. It is not a “we” of civilization; Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. We can’t say this is “Westerners” expressing a sympathy of similars; there are millions of people in the U.S. who are of Middle Eastern descent, and they are part of the “we” that is the United States. There are millions more who constitute the “we” of Europe.
So what about Beirut? What is it about the people in Beirut – and Baghdad and Syria and so many other places under attack by ISIS – that makes them somehow different from the people in Paris, somehow less worthy of our attention and empathy and solidarity?
ISIS is at war with humanity, and those of us who are human should express our sympathy for and solidarity with all humans suffering these attacks.