Thursday, November 24, 2016

IS THERE A POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC LOGIC BEHIND TRUMP’S ENCOURAGEMENT OF RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA?


One may ask why does Donald Trump as president continue to encourage racism and xenophobia, as shown by his naming of Steven Bannon as chief strategist. After all, from a political viewpoint it doesn’t appear to make sense. Trump needs to veer to the center and distance himself from the extreme right to secure the support of his Republican Party, particularly in congress, and try to neutralize the mainstream media. The conclusion that some draw is that it’s all about Trump’s personality; after all, he is not a political person. Others attribute the appointment of Bannon to Trump’s racism. Still others believe Trump is appealing to racism which is widespread in the U.S. and adds up to many votes.
In fact, Trump’s triumph in key states with a large working class population was not due to his racism. Millions of Trump voters in the Rustbelt and elsewhere had previously voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Trump won because he promised to reverse globalization and the loss of U.S. jobs and investment. The xenophobic and even racist discourse served to enhance the credibility of Trump’s promises. It also seemed to demonstrate that he was serious about bringing about change, a promise made by Obama in 2008 on the basis of his race and by Hillary in 2008 and 2016 on the basis of gender.

Workers who voted for Trump did so not because he was going to build a wall on the Mexican border, but because his promise to build the wall underpinned his promise to halt the outflow of jobs and investments. It was a rhetorical ploy that worked; it got him elected.

The strategy was no easy feat. After all, Trump ran as a Republican and the Republicans, not the Democrats, fully backed Obama’s efforts to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). And the Republicans, more than the Democrats, backed Clinton’s NAFTA in 1994. The working class had all the reason to be skeptical about Hillary’s rejection of the TPP, as demonstrated by the Wikileaks emails. In order to back his claim to being anti-globalization and intent on reversing globalization, Trump had to do outrageous things. The outrageousness seemed to demonstrate that he would not be deterred from carrying out his promises, that he had the guts to buck powerful establishmed interests. And his tacit and not so tacit alliance with the racists served to demonstrate that he would do the impossible to stand up to the Mexicans and the Chinese, and above all the multinationals that invest in those nations.

Empty rhetoric is usually not completely empty. It reflects reality, albeit to widely varying degrees. When Trump pledged himself to twist the arms of Carrier to scrap its plans to move their Indianapolis plant to Mexico in 2019, only fiery anti-Mexican rhetoric could convince the workers that he meant business. Their support for Trump was not a measure of their anti-Mexican sentiment, but rather their desperation.


In the short run, Trump may be able to score some victories, but more of a symbolic nature than anything else. He may be able to get some companies to refrain from moving plants out of the country and some to actually return capital. The enticements will be tax breaks, anti-worker legislation and other benefits, more than rhetorical threats. And in the long run, not even those inducements will do the trick. What Lenin said about imperialism a century ago, is applicable to globalization: it’s not a policy, rather it’s a stage. Globalization is a result of the mobility of capital made possible by technological developments and made necessary by certain contradictions in the system that reached a threshold in the 1970s. There’s no turning back, Donald Trump notwithstanding.  

Saturday, November 5, 2016

FOX NEWS: FAIR AND BALANCED!


Having lived abroad for a considerable period of time, I have not until today had the opportunity to carefully listen to Fox News. Yesterday and today, I listened to various Fox News programs and concluded that at least you have to give them credit for being upfront about their support for Donald Trump, unlike the rest of the corporate media which supports Hillary without acknowledging their slant. Then I saw Fox’s slogan “Fair and Balanced.” Is anybody out there really that gullible, or should I say stupid?



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Interview published in Venezuelanalysis on the populist critique applied to the Chavista Venezuelan government


Second part of interview with me regarding knotty issues facing Venezuelan government and the criticisms coming from both left and right. While some of the points they raise are valid, they have to be placed in proper context. https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/12723



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

INTERVIEW ON CHALLENGES FACING THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT OF MADURO


Interview with me posted by Venezuelanalysis on the current challenges facing the Maduro government in Venezuela. The discussion deals with the system of exchange controls, the state of the Chavista movement, the makeup of the Maduro administration, the proposed presidential recall election, and the Venezuelan opposition.

https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/12716


Sunday, October 9, 2016

THE CIA-TORTURE PROGRAM WAS BASED ON A WELL-DEFINED STRATEGY

Today’s NY Times article exposes the long-term psychological effects of the CIA torture program at Guantanamo and secret prisons known as “black sites” throughout the world. The article cites the techniques that were repeatedly used: the use of dogs, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, dressing prisoners in diapers, beatings, sexual abuse, the threat of sexual abuse, the pouring of buckets of ice water over naked prisoners with their hands shackled over their heads, holding prisoners’ heads in toilets, chaining prisoners to ceilings, locking prisoners in boxes, mock executions, rectal feeding, threats to harm prisoners’ children and rape family members, and the list goes on and on.
The rationale behind the torture program was known as “learned helplessness” based on a study in the 60s with the use of electric shocks on dogs that showed that beings stop resisting once they learn they cannot stop the shocks. So the shocks were administered on a regular basis in hope that they would lead to confessions. The article also notes that psychologists at Guantanamo worked hand in glove with the interrogators.
Needless to say, many of the victims of these ghastly techniques were innocent of the charges. Those who were eventually released were not even given an apology, leading one former prisoner to say “they killed our youth in Guantanamo and then tossed us away like garbage.” 
But the issue isn’t whether these men were guilty or innocent. In either case, the torture was unjustifiable, violates international law and invites the terrorists to do the same. The real point is that those responsible for the black site torture program should be brought to justice. And one more point: The exposure of the torture program begs for a national discussion about U.S. empire and what it is all about. Neither Democratic nor Republican Party presidential candidates will do that, as demonstrated by the score or so of debates this year (including the ones Bernie Sanders participated in). Only a third- party candidate will bring these issues to the fore. One good reason to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/world/cia-torture-guantanamo-bay.html



Saturday, September 24, 2016

WILL MEXICAN PRESIDENT PENA NIETO’S POPULARITY TAKE A NEW NOSEDIVE?


Washington’s Friendly Relations with Mexico in spite of Peña Nieto’s Unpopularity – compare that with Venezuela:
In August a reputable pole put his popularity at 27 percent, after the revelations regarding the plagiarism of his BA thesis, recognized by the Universidad Panamericana where he graduated from, and the Casa Blanca scandal in which he asked Mexicans to forgive him for having bought a 7 million dollar house from the construction firm that is the major contractor of his government. Since the 27 percent poll was conducted, Peña Nieto provoke the wrath of all Mexicans by having the chutzpah to invite Donald Trump to the country, in spite of his anti-Mexican racist pronouncements and his ludicrous call for building a wall separating the two nations. Now the latest scandal is the case involving 11 women who were raped by police under the most brutal circumstances under his watch, when he was governor a decade ago. From 27 percent will his popularity reach 20 %, 15% or 10%? But the real question is not that. The real question is will the Obama administration call for regime change in Mexico as it has in Venezuela. Obviously not. Why not? Could it have anything to do with Mexico’s friendly and generous policy toward foreign investment which has increased by an annual rate of 50% under his administration?



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

WAR IN THE 1960S VERSUS WAR IN THE 21st CENTURY: I JUST DON’T GET IT!


In the 60s, there was a massive movement against the horrors of an absurd war that cost many lives and much destruction. And on the electoral front, the Vietnam War was very much in the center of debate. It actually convinced a president not to run for re-election, the very same president who four years before had run and was elected as a peace candidate. I’m referring, of course, to Lyndon B. Johnson. In ‘68 there was also a three-way race for the Democratic nomination and it was all about (or largely about) who was going to get us out of the war. And the Republican candidate (Nixon that is) got elected on that very promise. Four years later the Democrats ran a peace candidate.

Now the absurdity of war has reached a new threshold. Military strategists tell us it will go on for five decades or so. The example of Syria is just as ghastly as that of Vietnam. Libya, one of the most advanced nations in Africa and the envy of the rest of the continent, is in shambles. And yet the issue of U.S. military intervention is almost an afterthought. That despite the fact that in the 60s we had guns and butter. Now with the great recession still lingering on after eight years and a 15 trillion dollar public debt, it’s either one or the other. Don’t people realize that the military budget is largely responsible for the mess we are in? And yet you have two candidates that don’t even mention the connection between war and the economy. I just don’t get it.