White Supremacy and the Obama Legacy

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

One World (2017)

Book Review

This remarkable book is a collection of essays about white privilege, Obama’s inability to live up to his campaign promises, and the role of his presidency in setting the stage for Donald Trump.

Coates’ approach to the topic of white privilege is largely historical. He traces the brutal reversal of Reconstruction reforms and re-institution of de facto slavery with Jim Crow laws; the Great Migration north of 6 million African Americans during the early 20th century; the deliberate exclusion of African Americans from New Deal programs such as Social Security, Aid to Families with Dependent Children and FHA (Federal Housing Administration) mortgage insurance; as well as the War on Drugs and mass incarceration of African Americans.

Coates has the best definition of white supremacy I have seen anywhere. In his words, white privilege is “banditry.”

“To be black in America is to be plundered. To be white is to execute and benefit from it.”

Coates gives numerous examples to justify this view: the exclusion of African Americans from wealth creation programs such as FHA and VA (Veterans Administration) mortgage loans, long time job discrimination and wage suppression, the recurrent decimation of prosperous Black communities via white race riots, predatory owner “contract” financing of home purchases, and predatory targeting of Blacks for subprime mortgagae they can’t repay.

My favorite essay is the one advocating for African American reparations, based on the argument that systematic exploitation of Blacks didn’t end with slavery but continues to the present day. As a precedent Coates cites the $7 billion (in today’s dollars) West Germany paid Israel in 1953 in compensation for Germany’s genocidal treatment of European Jews during World War II.

 

Cards Against Humanity: Stopping the Wall

According to the November 19  New Zealand Herald, Cards Against Humanity is a politically incorrect party game in which players complete fill-in-the-blank statements with offensive, risqué or politically incorrect statements (see their website).

In 2018, they launched a Kickstarter campaign which enabled donors to purchase tiny parcels of vacant land on the US-Mexican border for $15 each. More than 150,000 people who bought parcels now collectively own thousands acres of land on which Trump plans to build his wall.

Cards Against Humanity has also hired a prominent eminent domain law firm to protect the new owners’ property rights. Their hope is to make construction of the border wall prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

They explain their campaign in this holiday video:

For more information about the organization and their border wall campaign, go to Cards Against Humanity Stops the Wall

The Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Washington DC Lawsuit Against Donald Trump

All the President’s Profits

Al Jazeera (2008)

Film Review

All the President’s Profits is a documentary about the current lawsuit again Donald Trump by the attorneys general of Washington DC and Maryland. The suit concerns the continued operation of the Trump International DC hotel, which they assert violates the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.* The latter expressly forbids any sitting president from personally accepting payments from foreign governments.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, many delegations from foreign governments have stayed in the DC Trump hotel or held lavish events there. In nearly all cases, their motives – to curry favor with the President (eg favorable trade deals, foreign/slash military aid packages, etc) – have been really obvious.

In framing the Constitution, the founding fathers sought to prevent foreign policy decisions that enabled sitting presidents to line their pockets to the detriment of the American people.

Trump is the first president in history to refuse to either divest himself of his businesses or to place them in a blind trust.* * Instead he has turned them over to his family to run. The lawsuit alleges he continues to have knowledge of and influence over the operation of the Trump DC hotel (he has visited the hotel 12 times since his election). He’s also able to draw profits from it any time he chooses.

The lawsuit seeks to force him to divulge exactly which foreign governments have stayed or entertained there and how much they have paid for this privilege. It also seeks to make his tax returns public.

The US Justice Department is defending him against the suit.


*Foreign Emoluments Clause: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State” (from Article I).

**A blind trust prevents a business owner from having any knowledge, influence or benefit from the operation of their business.

 

The Deceptive Promise of Free Trade

A Game of No Rules: The Deceptive Promise of Free Trade

DW (2018)

Film Review

Produced in response to the protective tariffs Trump has enacted, this documentary shows the negative side of globalization and free trade. It maintains that most free trade treaties are one sided and significantly increase inequality. According to the filmmakers, the primary purpose of free trade is to give wealthy countries cheap access to the resources of developing countries.

Most of the film focuses on the  protective (aka “punitive”) tariffs Europe has been using for years to protect their domestic industries from cheap imports. In contrast, most US politicians have rejected protective tariffs in favor of free trade. The result has been the failure of many domestic American industries unable to compete with cheap Asian imports.

The film starts with the example of Germany, which charges punitive tariffs (50%) on imported Chinese bicycle frames. In all, the EU imposes punitive tariffs on 53 Chinese products, including steel, porcelain and ironing boards.

At the same time the EU imposes tough “free trade” treaties on African countries, prohibiting them from enacting protective tariffs to protect their farmers. This allows European countries to dump cheap agricultural surpluses on their economies, putting local farmers out of business when they can’t produce food cheaply enough to compete.

A Game of No Rules argues that local food production should be sheltered (by protective tariffs) in both developing and developed countries and that Third World countries should be allowed to enact protective tariffs while they establish local industries. Prohibiting Third World countries from enacting protective tariffs ultimately creates mass unemployment and a flood of economic refugees to the industrial North.

 

 

The Electronic Whorehouse

The Electronic Whorehouse

by Paul Sheehan

McMillan Australia (2003)

Although 15 years old, this book offers valuable historical insight into the major transformation of traditional media in the 21st century. Paul Sheehan is a columnist and former senior editor for for The Sydney Morning Herald. His book is pretty wide ranging. As a point of departure, he examines the simultaneous rise of Fox News and Alex Jones, just as total network news viewership dropped from 60 to 30%, with a comparable reduction in newspaper readership.

One of Sheehan’s most important points is that the rise of the Internet has ended exclusive control by politicians, bureaucrats, media executives and journalists over the flow of public information. A second relates to the role of Fox News in forging a divergence between the “cultural elite” (represented by the traditional TV networks and CNN) and “mainstreet.” In describing Fox News’ appeal to blue collar white workers and Christian evangelists (almost never reflected in network news coverage – despite representing 46% of the US population), Sheehan eerily foreshadows the Trump phenomenon and the battle currently being played out between Trump and heritage media.

Sheehan goes on to decry the growing blurring between news, opinion and entertainment, as well as the exponential growth of the public relations industry as the source of most western news.

His conservative political bias comes across loud and clear in his diatribe against so-called “economic” refugees*, who he claims cheat the asylum process, and antiglobalization protestors (like myself), who in his view are merely trade unions playing the system for higher wages.

Oh really? That’s news to me – and I’m sure to conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan, as well.


*With the chaos the US and allies have inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the distinction between “economic” and “political” refugees has become purely arbitrary. When the basic infrastructure of a society has been totally destroyed, the question of basic survival becomes even more acute than if a refugee has received actual death threats.

 

 

Al Jazeera Film Challenges Trump’s Election Win

Unfair Game

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The them of this documentary is that Trump used unfair tactics to win the 2016 electoral college vote, despite losing the popular vote by 3 million.

Most of the the film focuses on the California subsidiary of Cambridge Analytica, which purchased personal data from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Internet data harvesting firms. It then used sophisticated algorithms to individually target potential Trump supporters in swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

According to filmmakers, Cambridge Analytica compiled 4,000 data points regarding the personal lives of 23 million voters. They then used the data to generate paid “dark posts” on Facebook. Dark posts are the weird personal ads and messages that pop up briefly on your Facebook news feed and then disappear.

Although it was intriguing to learn how Cambridge Analytica massaged personal data to identify and influence potential Trump voters, I objected to the way the documentary blames the Trump campaign for introducing microtargeting (potential supporters) to US elections. It was actually the Obama campaign that pioneered microtargeting, which is largely credited for his ability to overcome Republican vote rigging and vote suppression efforts in 2008 and 2012.

When the Obama campaign engaged in microtargeting, they were widely hailed as ingenious public relations innovators. When the Trump campaign does it, he’s branded as a liar and a thief. While I have no love for Donald Trump, the clear bias in this film really irritates me. I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton, who inherited many of Obama’s campaign staffers, also used microtargeting in her campaign.

That being said, I found it significant that Cambridge Analytica was actually an offshoot of the British Strategic Communications Laboratory, which was widely used by NATO, NSA, the State Department and other deep state actors to influence US and global opinion and meddle in foreign elections. I was previously unaware that the California branch of Cambridge Analytica was headed by Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon and mainly funded by Trump’s biggest campaign donor, Robert Mercer.

The first 15 minutes of the documentary in which, “mainstream” corporate journalists decry the unregulated dissemination of “fake news” by “ultra right wing” online publications, is frankly embarrassing.It was the collective decision by so-called “mainstream” media to become a propaganda mouthpiece for the CIA, State Department and Pentagon that led Americans to look to the Internet for alternative sources of information.

Trump Instructs Top Advisors to Review Joining TPPA

Trade For People and Planet

Popular Resistance

Donald Trump has instructed United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, and National Economic Advisor, Larry Kudlow, to review re-joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) according to declarations given by Senator Ben Sasse to reporters after leaving a meeting on trade that Trump had with lawmakers and governors from farming states just a few hours ago.

“[Trump] said that he was going to deputize, again, Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer with reentering the TPP negotiations,” Senator Sasse said. “The president multiple times reaffirmed in general to all of us and looked right at Larry Kudlow and said, ‘Larry, go get it done.’

We must show that the people are watching their every move! Help us make the hashtag #NeverTPP viral! Click on any of the tweets below to tweet now or create your own tweet and mention us at @FlushTheTPP.

BREAKING: Trump orders review of #TPP. We never trusted @realDonaldTrump to be the end of the #TPP. We defeated the deal under Obama & will again under #Trump if need be. Say NO to reviewing joining the TPP! #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

BREAKING: Trump tells @USTradeRep to review joining #TPP. @realDonaldTrump forgot that this deal is POLITICALLY TOXIC. Join us in saying #NeverTPP ! @FlushTheTPP 

.@FlushTheTPP on Trump’s reconsideration of TPP: It was the people who defeated the TPP, not Trump, and we will do it again. See more at –> https://bit.ly/2qqkKFe #NeverTPP pic.twitter.com/v8KyOLEHww

BREAKING: Trump tells @larry_kudlow to review joining #TPP. This deal is the ultimate power grab and will be opposed by the people across the political spectrum. Say NO to rejoining the TPP. #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP

BREAKING: Trump instructs top trade aides to review joining the TPP. Fair trade is the exact opposite of the TPP. We will resist! #NeverTPP @FlushTheTPP