Thursday, May 17, 2018

JEROME CORSI: A HACKNEYED RIGHTWING PROPAGANDIST

 


SELLING BOOKS BY REINVENTING REALITY

A JACK RANDOM REVIEW OF
KILLING THE DEEP STATE: 
THE FIGHT TO SAVE PRESIDENT TRUMP
By Jerome Corsi

A Novel Charading as History


Jerome Corsi, renowned conspiracy theorist and Washington D.C. “bureau chief” for the rightwing website Info Wars, has published a new book plucked from the annals of contemporary Republican Talking Points: Killing the Deep State – The Fight to Save President Trump.  The work is sure to be a bestseller and one of the least read bestsellers in modern history. 

This is how they perpetuate Alternative Facts and call them the Truth.  This is how they manufacture a reality that conforms to their warped vision of a return to a white dominated, Christian society free of restless minorities and vanity driven liberals.  This is how they get back at the establishment father figures that rejected their thoughts and ideas and forced them to toil in relative obscurity. 

As a writer of political fiction featuring grand conspiracies (Ghost Dance Insurrection, A Patriot Dirge, Pawns to Players: The Stairway Scandal, A Match for the White House, The Putin Gambit), I can admire the impudent boldness and mendacity of a writer claiming to chronicle history when clearly his vision is the product of pure imagination. 

Corsi is a fully indoctrinated rightwing propagandist, plain and simple.  He is likely a failed fiction writer who – like Bill O’Reilly – has discovered that if you write for an entrenched political faction, they will buy your books – or at least pretend to buy them in order to place them on the bestsellers list. 

Jerome Corsi has written a book that is proudly fact free.  If you state a premise rejecting all legitimate sources of information, including the New York Times and the Mainstream Media, then you can be sure that what follows has little resemblance to fact or truth in the real world. 

Corsi asserts with feigned astonishment:  “Just 24 hours after losing the election, Hillary was already touting the Russian collusion theme.”  The fact is:  Russian interference in our election on behalf of Donald Trump was established long before the election.  Trump’s collusion was already under investigation. 

Corsi asserts that the FBI as an institution was backing Hillary and attempting to sabotage the Trump campaign.  It is almost amusing how the rightwing conspiracy theorists attempt to deal with the stone cold fact that then FBI Director James Comey turned the election to Trump in the eleventh hour by announcing that the bureau had reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  Other than Vladimir Putin, no one on the planet had a more prominent roll in placing Trump in the White House than Comey. 

Corsi asserts that the Obama-Clinton administration gave Russia military technology and “20% of all US uranium production.”  The fact is the Obama administration attempted to secure Russian nuclear weapons and materials in an attempt to block their deliverance to rogue nations or terrorists.  The rest is pure fiction. 

Corsi asserts that the “Deep State” forced mainstream media to fire Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs.  Let me get this straight:  Fox fired Glenn Beck and hired Lou Dobbs as a part of a mind control conspiracy?  The fact:  Beck was coming unhinged on the air.  Buchanan and Dobbs are old and withered.  Their place on the airwaves had run its course. 

Corsi asserts that former president Obama is actively pushing black America against Trump.  The truth:  Black America needs no help from Obama to turn against a man who declined to criticize the KKK on the eve of the Alabama primary and pretended he didn’t know former Grand Wizard David Duke. 

Corsi asserts that an FBI agent softened the wording of James Comey’s speech decrying Hillary’s handling of her emails from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless”.  Really?  If that’s the best the Deep State could do we have absolutely nothing to worry about. 

Corsi asserts that the government covered up the fact that the Christopher Steele dossier was a fake.  It was and is not a fake and renaming it the Fusion GPS dossier does not change that fact.  Republicans sponsored it in the primaries and Democrats took over after Trump won the nomination.  Who cares?  The dirty dossier remains compelling and its contents have largely been validated. 

Corsi asserts that Trump has a plan.  He will manufacture or otherwise use a “game-changing national security crisis” to decimate the Deep State.  This is hardly news.  All presidents use the inevitable national security crisis to their political advantage.  Given the president’s record for competence, however, good luck with that. 

The fact is:  There may well be a Deep State in some sense of the term but my suspicion is those who belong to it are extremely wealthy individuals who control the global flow of money.  (The Donald only wishes he could join them but he’s neither rich enough nor powerful enough.  He’s only a temporary chief executive.)  They meet in places like Davos and they manipulate governments and markets to facilitate their profits.  They are not spies who have infiltrated the institutions of government.  That sort of thing happens but the Deep State wouldn’t bother. 

A question for you:  If I’m right and the Deep State is a secret cabal of money-motivated elites who gather power through wealth, why wouldn’t they fall in line behind Donald Trump?  The Donald poses no threat as president or businessman and has already delivered a historic tax cut to the richest of the rich. 

If you conspiracy theorists want some real fiction try Pawns to Players – The Chess Trilogy.  I assure you these three works will get you a lot closer to the truth than the hackneyed work of some Harvard educated propagandist. 

A final note:  Corsi advertises his book as a New York Times bestseller but I can find no evidence of that endorsement.  (Source:  Paid Advertisement, Modesto Bee 5/16/18.)


Jack Random, Author of the Jazzman Chronicles

Monday, May 14, 2018

SAVING FAIR TRADE: A JAZZMAN CHRONICLE

RADICAL SOLUTIONS FOR RADICAL TIMES.





THE MEANING OF FAIR TRADE

By Jack Random



Much has been said on trade policy since Donald Trump became leader of the free world.  Trump boldly pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership – which of course never was ratified and never took effect.  He announced that NAFTA and CAFTA were dead and promptly pulled back from that position by suggesting that everything was open to negotiations. 

It is surprising how similar Trump is to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama on trade issues.  When the rhetoric is swept away and the election promises are buried and forgotten, Fair Trade becomes a concept that no one seems able to define – no less advocate. 

Now Trump has opened negotiations with the beast of Free Trade:  China.  His demands are all about the numbers.  We demand that the imbalance be rectified to the tune of $200 billion per year.  We demand that government subsidies be reduced if not eliminated.  We demand that the Chinese stop stealing technology developed by American corporations.  We demand that China stop manipulating currency to effect trade imbalance. 

The one thing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his circle of Trump negotiators never mention are the rights of labor– including the right to a living wage.  It has become clear that what the rest of us mean by Fair Trade and what Trump means are separate and distinct concepts.  It is therefore necessary to establish the meaning of Fair Trade.  To Trump it is simple mathematics.  If the trade deficit of all nations engaged is at or near zero then the policies governing trade are fair.  If the deficit tips to one side or another then the policies are unfair. 

To Fair Trade advocates like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown this is not what we had in mind.  Maybe it’s not clear what we had in mind.  Maybe the concept is deliberately cloudy so that Democratic candidates can claim to be pro Fair Trade when in fact they fall in line with the Free Trade mandate enacted by Republican Democrat Bill Clinton back in the nineties.  It has taken us decades to challenge that mandate and now we find it is being usurped by a pretender:  a president so clueless he will surely destroy the concept for another quarter century. 

For the record here’s what Fair Trade means to me: 

First, we need to scrap the entire framework of international trade as it exists today.  We need to dismiss the idea that NAFTA, CAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership only require minor revisions to meet the goals of Fair Trade.  A few concessions to labor and a provision for the environment will bring things into balance.  No, they will not.  What we need is wholesale and systemic change. 

We must understand that the world has accepted the tenets of Free Trade and will not agree to any systemic change without a fight.  This includes all of Europe and Great Britain as well as China, Russia and less developed nations. 

In this sense, America must lead.  There was once hope that the European Union could lead the march to Fair Trade but that hope has faded like a photograph left too long in the sun.  European leaders from the socialists of Spain to the progressives of Greece and Italy will tell you that the train has left the station.  Globalization is an indelible fact and its rules are set in concrete.  The World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund are the arbiters of trade and cannot be challenged. 

It is unthinkable that the very institutions that enforced austerity across the continent are now considered untouchable.  Let us abandon that thinking and demand a new system. 

We must establish new criteria for trade by creating and enforcing new tiers of trade status, ranging from preferred to prohibited. 

TIER ONE:  PREFERRED TRADE STATUS.  Preferred trading partners would be held to the highest standards of living wages, the right to establish unions, the right to binding arbitration, the right to safe working conditions, as well as retirement and health benefits.  Preferred status would be reserved for nations whose governments do not provide subsidies to affect a competitive advantage.  We would also expect exemplary records for human rights, civil rights and environmental protection.  Preferred trading partners would also be expected to enforce the same standards on its trading partners.  Failure to do so would automatically drop a nation from preferred status. 

Those nations that are granted Preferred Trade status would be rewarded with unencumbered trade free of tariffs or regulatory barriers. 

Clearly, if we are to hold others to a high standard we should be expected to hold ourselves to an equivalent standard.  That is not the case today.  We do not uphold a living wage.  We deny the right to unionize in those states that uphold “Right to Work” laws.  We fail to provide universal healthcare.  We are compromised on human rights (capitol punishment and mass imprisonment) and civil rights (our justice system discriminates on the basis of race and religion; our economic system on the basis of race, religion and gender).  And we do not uphold the highest standards of environmental protection (under Donald Trump it’s not even close).  We have also subsidized industries (auto, steel and banking) in times of economic stress. 

But let that go for now.  Let us assume that we are working to improve our own status and stipulate that we cannot hold others to a higher standard than we are able to achieve. 

Without detailed analysis the nations that would qualify for preferred trade status under a Fair Trade system would include western European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea and perhaps some African and Latin American nations.  It would include none of the Middle Eastern nations and would decidedly exclude China, India, Pakistan and Russia. 

TIER TWO:  CONDITIONAL TRADE STATUS.  Conditional trading partners would be subject to penalties and limitations proportionate to their failures in upholding the standards of Tier One partners.  For example, a nation that upholds standards in all respects except for a temporary subsidy to its auto industry might be subject to a one-time fine or granted an exemption based on exceptional circumstances.  A nation that blocks unionization and fails to provide health and retirement benefits would be subject to more severe penalties.  The guiding principle is that it should be to a nation’s advantage to uphold all standards to the highest possible extent.  It would require periodic review and adjustment and that would require a new international institution to adjudicate.  I suggest the International Fair Trade Commission under the auspices of the United Nations.  It is essential that any such body be independent of political influence to the greatest possible degree. 

The vast majority of the world’s nations would be placed in the second tier.  If we were honest and objective, it would include the United States as well. 

TIER THREE:  PROHIBITED TRADE STATUS.  Prohibited trading partners would include any nations with gross violations of labor rights, human rights, civil rights and/or environmental protection.  For example, any nation whose government engages in ethnic cleansing or genocide would be prohibited from trading with the United States or its preferred trading partners. 

Prohibited trading partners would likely include such human rights violators as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Philippines, Congo, Myanmar, Turkey and North Korea.


Preferred trading status is not new.  There are a variety of preferential trading zones currently in operation for any number of reasons.  None of these trade agreements, however, are established with Fair Trade standards as the unifying principle.  Consequently, while Fair Trade principles are frequently discussed at trade negotiations, they lack leverage.  Labor representatives are rarely invited to participate and when they are they serve primarily as symbols. 

The key difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade is the absence of labor in the former and the prominence of labor in the latter.  That is the imbalance that must be rectified if the divergence of wealth between the haves and the have-nots is to be reduced by any significant margin. 

Liberals, neo-liberals, conservative and neoconservatives alike have argued that using trade policy to guide social development would only punish the people who already suffer under oppressive governments.  Such arguments are self-serving and short sighted.  America’s middle class did not spring from the air.  It required that the people extract a price from their elected leaders for their defiance of human rights.  It required resistance and establishing institutions like labor unions that stood up for workers against all odds.  Those who fought for unions and labor rights in this country paid a price in blood and sacrifice.  They persisted until political institutions and leaders finally stood up for them. 

We are losing our middle class because those institutions that stood with the working people have crumbled.  Unions are in steep decline.  Right to Work laws block union organizers.  Democrats only pretend to be the worker’s party at election time while they collect their share from the corporate coffers and govern very much like the corporate Republicans. 

Systemic change never comes easy but it comes.  It comes after years and decades of pushing and refusing to settle for the lesser of evils.  Donald Trump, for all his inadequacies, has tapped the anger of the people and proven that what was once considered extreme is now completely acceptable.  That goes for radical visions for positive change as well as delusional visions of self-aggrandizement. 

If we do nothing, Donald Trump will destroy any chance of Fair Trade for the foreseeable future.  He will turn it into something that upends economic gains and turns the stock market downward.  He will turn it into nationalism and patriotism, us against them, in a battle of numbers until we no longer care how it affects the poor and the working poor.  Donald Trump doesn’t care about the workers.  He will bring industrial jobs back only if they operate on cheap labor or automation. 

The coming world must be planned and plotted to provide for working people.  We all have a right to live in dignity and good health.  We have a right to pursue happiness even if we do not have wealth.  Fair Trade is one important step in getting there. 

Automation is coming.  The robot labor force is coming.  There is no job on the open market that robots cannot do faster and more efficiently than humans.  The transition will be stunning for industrial labor but it is coming for us all.  Unfortunately, we cannot all serve as maintenance workers for a robotic labor force.  We will have to be creative in finding new lines of work and new endeavors for human kind.  In this future world, a world that has already arrived at our door, it will be more important than ever that all of us – not just the CEO’s – are represented. 

The pundits and political class will line up against us.  They will bring warnings of global economic collapse.  They will predict a market crash.  They will tell us that Free Trade brings cheap products to our local Walmart.  They will tell us there is no turning back. 

To some degree they are correct.  A transition to Fair Trade will not be easy.  It will mean higher prices for consumer goods.  But it will also bring better paying jobs not only to our nation but to other nations as well.  It will ultimately yield benefits to all people.  It will serve as a warning to the corporate powers that workers will be represented at the global economic bargaining table.  It will serve notice that you cannot build a sustainable economy on the exploitation of the labor force. 

Donald Trump had the corporate elites running scared for a while.  The markets reacted like a junkie on his last hit when he threatened to make good on his promise to pull out of NAFTA.  The monetary pundits cried out in horror when he announced in a twit of impulse that he was slapping a tariff on steel and aluminum.  But it turned out he was just another politician who speaks with a forked tongue.  Like so many before him, he talks Fair Trade but when it all comes down he doesn’t mean a word of it. 

Jazz. 

Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles, Hard Times: The Wrath of an Angry God and the Chess Trilogy. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A REFLECTION ON JAKE'S ROOMS

Note:  Those who have followed my work at all know that I am a great fan of the Alabama artist Jake Berry.  In my seminal work Wasichu: The Killing Spirit, I named the lead male Jake partially in tribute to Jake Berry.  He is a man for all seasons in the world of art and his latest works add immeasurably to his legacy.  What follows is a reflection as well as a review of ROOMS IN WHICH WE EXISTED by Jake Berry and Peter Ganick.  Readers are encouraged to look it up online and purchase a copy.  While art should be free, artists need to survive. 

ROOMS IN WHICH WE EXISTED
By Jake Berry and Peter Ganick
Argotist Books

A REFLECTION BY JACK RANDOM

To believe that abstract drawings can speak in words is a form of madness that goes to the heart of artistic expression.  Of course drawings speak.  Of course there are words to be heard.  It requires a willingness to listen and interpret and a defiance of normative values that disallow such a process. 

Jake Berry is uniquely qualified to the task of interpreting abstract images.  He creates in both forms – verbal and visual.  In fact, he creates in all sensual forms.  If it were possible to create in other forms – smell and taste and touch and forms beyond the senses – he would do that as well. 

From the chaotic dream imagery of scribbled lines over lines he finds mystery and pulls at themes that touch the soul.  The artist struggles to express essential truths.  Sounds emerge from the cacophony.  Images find meaning.  Madness finds a home in the quietude of daily life.  Everything has meaning and everything lies.  Everything changes from form to form, from substance to substance, and finds itself reborn. 

A strip of light suddenly rips across the eye, revealing far too much of who we are in what we see.  The brazen light of twisted figures we’d rather not welcome into our field of play.  We drown in the sea of infinite change.  We have always drowned.  We are drowning still and falling through time as if we had weight and exist in the finitude of space. 

Dead limbs rise toward … the gloaming…

Forces greater than our imaginations can behold propel us forward, tearing us apart before allowing us to be whole and rest once again.  We dream.  The beauty pulls at our senses.  We stumble and fall without resistance.  The rapture awaits.  We seek pleasure in the simplest notions. 

Hear the music and see the order in delightful colors.  Let it beckon us into the raging winds of fire and fury.  There can be no relief.  Memories exist in layers and layers over the symphony of thought and feeling, pain and sorrow, joy and forgiving. 

Drink long and deep.  The geography is bleeding. 

The unending search for order and harmony.  The chorus is missing.  The dream emerges and plants itself just beyond our world of structure.  A ballerina descends a winding staircase, nude and unashamed.  The joy she brings is beyond word and imagery.  The sorrow must follow.  It is the way.  Like life follows death.

The promise of a life to come. 

We know by raw intuition it can never make sense.  It can only offer a vision to ease our walk along the path.  It is the way. 

The heart has a manner of cognition the mind can never anticipate. 

The explosion of the senses is inevitable.  We cannot endure.  There are far too much and too many stimuli.  We cannot assimilate.  We sleep.  We dream and often we wish never to awaken.  But we do awake and endure for the beauty and the wonder pull us to consciousness. 

coffee is all that matters…

We have secrets.  Secret lives and secret histories.  Buried children and stolen dreams.  We own nothing and claim everything.  We speak loudly to protect the silence.  We are lost once again in the implosion of stimuli. 

There is order here.  There is an algorithm that describes it precisely.  If we are to find our way home it is the key.  But do we want to go home?  Or do we want to fly in random order like a murder of crows? 

Are we done with reckless supposition? 

No.  We are never done.  Not while we still breathe the shifting winds and curse the closing darkness.  Let’s get drunk and do it again! 

Sleep has become a construction from which the debris of such violence hangs in a tattering wind.  Who would ever want to sleep again? 

We awaken and find comfort in the arms of a lover, in the smile of a child, in the warmth of a rising sun.  Sing me a song, old woman.  Make me alive again. 

There is something greater than ourselves.  There is a reason to rise and reach and journey to the sea.  There is hope.  There is love.  There is hardship.  There is trouble.  There is always trouble.  Death shadows behind the rocks and screeching harlots of horror.  Can we escape?  No but we can survive.  Drink the water.  We have almost reached our destiny.  There is hope. 

Decipher it and lose all traces of destiny. 

We must suffer and we must endure. 

Why are there barricades in the desert where there is nothing to protect? 

It goes beyond the reach of my madness.  And yet I have been here before.  I have drunk from the well.  I have tasted the seed.  I have reached for promises that were never there.  I will reach again if I am able.  This much I know. 

a horse designed by Dali… 

We are humans.  We strive to make sense of it all.  It is our nature.  We take scattered events in the vacuum of time and create patterns.  And from those patterns we create history and logic and structure.  In the end it all makes sense. 

But what is rational is convex and playful. 

The child is born in writhing pain that becomes penultimate joy.  The propagation of life is a tragic comedy.  The dissolution of life is a comic tragedy.  Time unfolds to push and pull at our cords.  The books are empty, devoid of wisdom, and the worms inhabit our bloodlines.  Pour me a drink and buy me some time. 

You will know that compassion has found your veins. 

We approach the answer though the question evades.  It is there in the darkness.  It is there in chorus of cicada.  It is there beyond the bushes where the wild things lie. 

Where the crows take them to see and be seen. 

There is wisdom there but it has no words, no sight nor sound.  There is truth but it has no name.  If you see the Buddha kill him for she is not the Buddha. 

But it was nothing a good fire couldn’t fix. 

I don’t know what this is but this is important.  It is the birth of religion.  It is the ancient and singular truth.  It is the Eye and the Bee and the Know and the Say.  It is the all that is nothing.  It is. 

With every bright new species religion is born and the na├»ve eye explodes against itself. 

We are rising and we have risen.  We are falling and we have crashed into the depths of a dark an unknown sea.  We have seen all there is to see and we have learned to crave more.  It is the way. 

The archaeologists will never understand the smell of gunpowder year after year and the deep carnality of an uncertain god. 

The play’s the thing and only the children understand.  We grow old and we lose our sense of play.  We mold our worries and fears onto objects as if to give them meaning.  The only meaning they have is the meaning we give to them.  God bless the children.  Never sacrifice your youth. 

Let him sleep.  Leave the poison by his bed.  It is no longer necessary. 

Jake Berry and Peter Ganick have given us an opus, the death and birth of a new religion as old as the barren sea.  This is the ultimate message of a master who has visited many dreams and dove into infinite mysteries with the will to be lost.  I don’t know about Peter but as for Jake:  It is a wonder and a miracle that he has survived these great adventures to the deepest depths of knowledge and mystery to climb out of the void and bestow upon us, his readers and consumers, the meaning and the message. 

This is yet another work of great genius.  May he live forever. 

Jack Random – Author of the Chess Series.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Valentine's Day Massacre at Stoneman Douglas High

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES:  MARCH 2018. 




VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE:  A FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY

By Jack Random


To most of us the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in affluent Parkland, Florida was an unconscionable tragedy.  To some it was a call to protest.  To others it was a call to arms – literally.  To the National Rifle Association it was an opportunity for a dramatic explosion in sales of firearms and they wasted little time exploiting it. 

According to the NRA the solution to mass shootings by mad killers with high volume killing machines is more killing machines in the hands of more people vetted for mental illness or not.  It is not a coincidence that such an approach would require a massive expenditure for guns, gun training and ammunition.  Forget the idea that we need more mental health services.  No gun-toting, gun-pimping politician has ever gone to bat for increased mental health services.  They just use it as a talking point every time one of these tragedies occurs.  Indeed, most gun advocates – being good Republicans – have consistently voted against increased mental health services. 

The new approach is one the NRA crowd can really get behind:  Guns in churches, guns in schools, guns in concerts, guns in bars.  Guns everywhere!  The more the better.  As long as it pads the bottom line let the killing go on.  It doesn’t really matter how many die as long as we protect the most extreme and absurd interpretation of the second amendment. 

It’s time gun advocates accepted the second amendment for what it is and what it was when it was drafted:  A protection against a hostile takeover of the federal government.  The right to bear arms in a “well-regulated militia” is the right to rebel against an authoritarian dictatorship. 

Only in this light does it make sense to defend an individual’s right to weapons of war.  The intended war is against our own government:  The people against our leaders. 

Is that what the second amendment defenders want?  Do they really believe that it is or will be necessary to defend our democracy against tyranny?  How do they suppose that battle will end? 

I believe democracy will survive despite the constant attempts of some to subvert it.  It has survived since the constitution was adopted.  We have had many horrible presidents and numerous members of congress that were and are an affront to human dignity and still our democracy endures. 

We do not need some federation of private militias turning our fields of plenty into killing fields in the name of freedom.  Rather we need to educate our citizenry so that inept individuals like Donald Trump have no chance of being elected to high office.  We need to defend our democratic institutions so that when mistakes like the Trump presidency happen they can be corrected in four years or less.  Disasters can be corrected by the ballot box – not by the bullet.  In some cases they can be corrected by legislative or judicial means. 

Virtually all our democratic institutions are badly in need of repair.  The most obvious flaw in our system is the Electoral College.  That we are still employing a system designed to subvert democracy is absurd to the point of unforgivable.  Needless to say, two of the worst presidents in modern history could have been avoided if the election was determined by a popular vote.  Other desperately needed reforms include:  Outlawing partisan gerrymandering, universal suffrage through automatic registration, strict laws and penalties against deliberate efforts to discourage voting or attempts to disenfranchise voters, week-long elections and easy access to voting polls. 

Critically, we need to break our dependence on a two-party system that has lost the support of the majority of our people.  As it stands a candidate for public office must conform to one of two sets of policies and ideas that have moved closer over time.  It stunts creative thinking and compels anyone who seeks a leadership position to accept the money of major corporate contributors and all that goes with that attachment.  We desperately need to get the money out of politics so that decent, intelligent people can go to Washington and solve problems like the proliferation of weaponry. 

Beyond the election process itself, we need to reform the media and education.  There was a time when the mainstream media was sufficiently trusted by the people that we could all agree on a foundation of facts.  Now we invent our own facts.  There was a time when our public schools delivered essentially the same narrative – albeit a biased narrative – of history and civics so that Americans shared a sense of identity and values. 

We cannot and should not go back to simpler times but we can do better.  Journalism needs to observe a standard of objectivity.  The institutions of record – the Times, the Post, the major networks and cable news sources – have lost all credibility.  They cannot be regarded as consistently objective news sources when they have a financial incentive to distort the news whenever corporate interests are involved.  The recent convergence of opinion that Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are disastrous is a case on point.  There is a debate to be had on the use of tariffs to enforce fair trade policies.  It is by no means an accepted truth that tariffs are bad and free trade is good but that is how the media has generally delivered the story. 

Journalism must understand that one bad story is worth a hundred or a thousand well-sourced and unbiased stories.  When the war in Iraq was being debated, the revelation that Judy Miller served as a fence for White House propaganda set the Times back years.  The accepted practice of imbedded journalism set all of mainstream media back. 

The only reform that goes to the heart of the matter would be to separate journalism from corporate interests.  That is not going to happen any time soon.  It will therefore fall to self-governance to restore media credibility so that unscrupulous politicians like Trump can no longer get away with the standard denial of “fake news” or alternative facts. 

Education must also share responsibility for the loss an informed electorate that is able to separate fact from fiction and employ objective analysis to arrive at logical conclusions.  More and more our schools are themselves becoming propaganda machines.  That is one reason so many Republicans defend local control of the curriculum.  If they can control what kids are taught there is an excellent chance they can control the vote for years to come. 

In the end the only way to stop violence in the schools and on the streets of our cities is to throw all the bums out who allowed this to happen.  The kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are absolutely right.  Failure to address this distinctly American problem is bullshit.  

Jazz. 

Jack Random is a novelist and freelance writer now retired and living in Northern California.  He can be reached at jackrandom@earthlink.net. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A VAMPIRE MARKET


JAZZMAN CHRONICLES IN THE AGE OF TRUMP:  FEBRUARY 2018.




THE VAMPIRE MARKET

THE NEXT GREAT ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
 
By Jack Random
 
 

Corporate America is having a party.  In the age of Trump they get everything they want and the markets are rallying like it’s never going to end.  All hail the Donald!  The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed from approximately 20,000 to 26,000 since the election of Trump.  Standard & Poor’s 500 went from roughly 2,300 to 2,800 and the NASDAQ 100 shot up from 5,000 and change to nearly 7,000.  By any account that is one hell of a rally. 

The question is why?  Is the economy truly in such great shape?  The gross national product, housing starts, corporate profits and employment have all been on a steady rise since the election of Barack Obama.  The price of homes has been on the rise since 2012. 

The overall pattern of positive economic growth is a steady rise since the collapse of 2008.  But the markets did not begin to celebrate until the Donald was elected at the end of 2016.  CNN describes the Trump rally as “runaway freight train” [1] and that is exactly what it is.  Like the Amtrak passenger train on its virgin run in Washington state, the markets are rolling faster than reason can justify and the safeguards to slow it down are not in place. 

Bucking the upward trend are stagnant wages and personal debt.  Despite the repeated assertions of Trump and his trumpeters, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates real average hourly wages rose by 0.4 percent in the last year. [2] That is an increase that even the poor would hardly notice.  Market Watch noted that household debt had surpassed the critical levels of 2008 by August of 2017 and Pew Research noted that real wages have not moved significantly since the 1970’s. 

What gives?  The numbers do not reveal any significant divergence except that the Republicans – the corporate supreme party – now has complete control of government.  While Barrack Obama was certainly a friend to Wall Street, his replacement is a complete sellout.  Any concerns Wall Street might have had that the Donald meant what he said about helping working people – striking down NAFTA, CAFTA and Free Trade policies – seem to have been alleviated with the passage of time and tax reform – a massive transfer of wealth to the wealthy.  The White House has worked overtime eliminating regulations and enforcement of regulations on both industry and the financial sector. 

The watchdogs, the oversight agents and the regulators are all on vacation and the alchemists are back in town.  Despite the great crash that signaled the failure of their first massive experiment in converting crap to gold, they remain confident that the dark art will work in the long run.  They can create wine from water if only the doubting crowd will turn their heads and allow them to operate in secrecy.  It’s all hocus-pocus anyway so why not go all the way? 

The real question is:  How long can you continue to feed the markets on the investments of the wealthy alone?  The workers have no money to spare.  The ever-shrinking middle class is waking up to the fact that they can hardly make ends meet.  The last time the ordinary people invested in the markets they got burned and burned badly.  They learned that the small investor is the first to take a hit.  They learned that what the markets consider a correction is enough to knock them out of the market at a cost of their savings, their college funds, their retirement and their rainy day fund. 

Here’s my prediction:  If the ordinary people take the bait and come back in the markets, they will almost immediately be knocked out.  That’s how the money people cash their checks.  That’s where the money comes from.  Only the wealthy can afford to buy back in when the market bottoms out.  When they do they will own twice what they owned before on the same money. 

Donald Trump is right about one thing and one thing only:  The system is rigged.  Unfortunately, the system is rigged in his favor.  The tax cut was not the biggest in history but it was one hell of a bump.  Republicans will have no problem raising contributions for the midterm elections.  If they succeed in keep control of congress the party will go on but it cannot go on indefinitely. 

It will end when the people finally decide they’ve been ripped off one too many times.  It will end when they put leaders in power who are determined to look behind the curtain.  It will end when the voodoo priests are exposed as charlatans and the alchemists are run out of town on a proverbial rail.  It will end when the market – built on a foundation of lies – collapses of its weight. 

It ends when the real world invades the fantasy world where the party goes on forever.  It ends and then the cycle begins again.  The market waits like a vampire in the shadows of jazz town until the people have forgotten the danger and are once again willing to stay out after the witching hour.  The market will once again offer sweet temptation – a party that never ends, intoxication without a hangover – and the ordinary people will be pulled into the maze. 

I began writing this piece at the end of January when euphoria was taking hold.  As it stands now on the fifth of February the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost some 1,800 points over two trading days.  Realty injected a jolt of caution to all individuals who were considering investing in the Trump market.  In one fifteen-minute stretch, while the president pimped his tax reform in some plant in Ohio, the Dow lost seven hundred points.  During those fifteen minutes careful listeners could hear a great flushing sound.  It was the sound of small investors being flushed from the market at a dizzying loss.

Most analysts delivered the counter-intuitive narrative that institutional investors were spooked by an incremental rise in wages.  They believe it foreshadows a rise in inflation and inflation is the death knell of bull markets.  [3]

How ironic is that?  A rise in real wages is exactly what the real economy needs.  A proportionate rise in inflation – the cost of goods – would negate increased wages while simultaneously stimulating increased interest rates.  Increased interest rates would of course boost the bond market but kill the stock market. 

The market is therefore fully invested in stagnant wages, minimal inflation, increased corporate profits and low interest rates.  It is a corporate market and its enemy is the working class.  If you work for a living, why would you invest in a machine that consumes you like a lump of coal in a hot furnace? 

Don’t be a fool.  This is a rich man’s market.  It steals your money and transfers it to the top.  It consolidates wealth and secures power in the hands of the one percent.  The only place reserved for the small investor is labeled:  Sucker.  Stay out of it. 

Until they reform the market from top to bottom by empowering the small investor, reintroducing regulations with bite and regulators with both the power and the inclination to use it, this market has no place for the likes of you or me. 

Jazz.

[1]  “Dow 26,000: The stock market is a runaway freight train” by Matt Egan.  January 16, 2018. 
[2]  “Earnings and Wages:  Bureau of Labor Statistics.”  January 3, 2018. 
[3]  “Dow Jones suffers worst fall in two years amid fears of interest rate rise” by Richard Partington.  February 2, 2018. 


Jack Random is a retired educator, publisher, essayist, novelist and the author of the Jazzman Chronicles. 

Sunday, February 04, 2018

THE RUSSIA THING: SPLINTERING THE LEFT

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES IN THE AGE OF TRUMP:  FEBRUARY 2018. 




THE DOUBTERS:

THE SPLINTERING OF THE LEFT

BY JACK RANDOM



I consider myself an objective observer.  I try not to allow my ideological leanings and loyalties to influence my interpretation of events even though I know that pure objectivity is an impossible ideal.  During the campaign to stop the Afghan and Iraq Wars – otherwise known as the opening act of the Global War on Terror – I learned not to trust the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN or any other mainstream source of information.  I learned to cultivate new sources and alternative analysts:  Democracy Now, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice and others too numerous to name.

As our former president declared, everything changed after September 11th 2001.  The Times became a fence for White House propaganda.  The media abandoned journalism and jumped on the propaganda bandwagon.  Everyone on corporate owned television and radio was compelled to take a patriot test.  I distinctly remember Dan Rather using his platform at CBS to pledge his allegiance to war – whatever war George W. Bush wanted to fight. 

Those of us who opposed the war on terror from its beginning were often accused of aiding the enemy.  Our opposition did not hesitate to use the word: treason.  We were ostracized from the society of acceptable discourse.  We developed new lines of communication and new alliances.  We formed a resistance movement that defied group think and reminded the American people that the best minds of our generation were those that opposed military aggression and proposed a new way of conducting the nation’s business. 

We became an army of resistance from San Francisco to New York, from Seattle to Miami, from Portland Maine to Portland Oregon, and our collective voice was heard around the globe.  We became a force that not even the Democrats could ignore for long. 

We could not sustain the unity of the antiwar movement.  People on the left of the ideological scale embrace differences until they no longer serve a common cause.  The antiwar movement yields to Black Lives Matter and the March for Women’s Rights.  The fight for fair wages gives way to the environmental movement.  The fight for equal pay gives way to universal Medicare.  Universal Medicare yields to the rights of immigrants.  On and on we go until the movement is no longer a singular unifying force. 

We begin to splinter and continue to divide until some great evil arises to unite us once again.

We have arrived at the point of division.  The great splintering of the left has begun and the source of this division is a great surprise to many of us who naively thought it would be a unifying evil.  It is the Russia-Trump divide. 

Those who doubt the Russia-Trump conspiracy include such leftist luminaries as filmmaker Oliver Stone and journalist Glenn Greenwald in tentative alliance with the venerable linguist-philosopher Noam Chomsky and writer-editor Tariq Ali. 

I’ve grown a little tired of the claim that those who believe there was a conspiracy to defraud our election are suffering under some kind of delusion born of wishful thinking.  The doubters repeatedly state that there is no evidence of such a conspiracy.  Since there is clearly an abundance of evidence I assume that they mean there is no direct evidence that Donald Trump Sr. conspired with agents of the Russian government to defraud, distort or otherwise influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  They will not be satisfied with anything short of a recorded interaction or a full confession – and even that may not be sufficient. 

I’ve taken something of a survey and found the following arguments against the importance of and/or validity of the Trump-Russia investigation. 

The Russian collusion narrative is made for TV drama.  I too am a critic of media obsession – a practice that compromises journalistic responsibility in favor of ratings.  Simply because the media are obsessed, however, does not mean the story is without validity.  OJ did in fact kill Nicole and the LAPD was in fact corrupt. 

Every government does what it can to manipulate the elections of other countries.  I don’t believe that every country does it though it would hardly make it more acceptable if they did.  I have seen compelling evidence that Russia waged concerted web-based propaganda campaigns in France, Germany and the United States.  Putin exerted influence more directly in Ukraine.  I have not seen evidence that France, Germany or any other European nation has done the same – though a reciprocal action might be understandable.  Then again, Russia does not have legitimate elections.  You may well question whether the US has free and fair elections – and I do – but comparing the US to Russia on a democratic scale is like comparing a Cadillac to a Chevy Nova. 

The United States has a history of injecting itself into other nation’s elections – most recently in Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.  Our attacks on the democratic process – whether emerging or established – have inevitably had disastrous consequences.  Think Pinochet of Chile.  Whether you believe it is a common practice or not, all attempts to thwart, manipulate or distort the will of the people in fair elections should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. 

I do not think Trump conspired with Putin.  Whether Donald personally conspired with Vladimir or agents of the Russian government is almost irrelevant.  Almost.  How did Putin manage to place so many Putin loyalists – read compromised – in Trump’s campaign?  Do you believe that Trump & Sons are beholden to Russian oligarchs under Putin’s thumb?  Does Putin have compromising information on our president?  Do you believe the Steele dossier was completely fabricated?  Was Trump a beneficiary in Russian money laundering through Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus?  How do you explain Trump’s pro-Russia positions – his visionary strategic foresight?  Why would Trump’s son and son-in-law take a meeting with agents of the Russian government – in Trump Tower no less?   Why did our president – with all eyes on the Trump-Putin scandal – refuse to enforce the post election sanctions? 

I believe there is compelling evidence that Trump is in partnership with Putin and the manifestations of their arrangement have yet to be fully seen – thanks largely to the media magnifying glass.  I believe that Putin is a bad actor on the world stage, a corrupt politician who has stolen a massive fortune from the Russian people, a killer of journalists and political opponents and an avowed enemy of democracy.  I also believe he is a master manipulator who has played Trump & Sons for fools. 

You need to make up your own mind and not be swayed by mainstream media propaganda.  Agreed.  We need to gather available information and come to our own conclusions.  Lacking certainty, we need to remain open to the possibility that we are wrong. 

The specter of collusion has been so consuming it has distracted us from the assaults on the environment, the working poor and global peace.  Once again we can object to media obsession while acknowledging the validity of Russian interference and Trump complicity.  To ignore the original sin of this illegitimate president is like ignoring Native American genocide so that we can give more attention to the inhuman scourge of slavery.  Any discourse on inequality in America can and must begin with the natives and any account of the Trump administration must begin with the illegitimacy of his election. 

Democrats should consider not only the evidence but also the politics of wishful thinking.  This argument takes a pragmatic point of view and holds that the “Russia thing” will not only fail to remove Trump from office but will fall short of persuading those who voted for Trump not to do so again.  Besides, the argument holds, successfully impeaching Trump would only land us with Mike “The Puritan” Pence.  I am reminded of the case of Richard Nixon.  Who would have guessed that a burglary at the Watergate Hotel would remove Nixon from office?  Who would have thought that anyone would care?  Besides, Nixon’s removal would only land the nation with Spiro Agnew – a man not even his Republican colleagues could support.  But Nixon did resign and Spiro Agnew was safely removed to enable a relative moderate in Gerald Ford to take over.  The electorate removed Ford from the presidency at first opportunity.  The point is:  We cannot predict the future with certainty yet it must not prevent us from doing what we believe is right.  If we believe that Trump and Putin defrauded our democracy we must fight back. 

What if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation vindicates Trump?  While all things are possible, that prospect seems increasingly unlikely.  It is difficult to prove conspiracy beyond all doubt but Trump is on record obstructing the investigation first by firing FBI Director James Comey and then by drafting a cover story for his son concerning the infamous Trump Tower meeting.  Moreover, would Mueller let former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn off the hook without compelling information to indict the president?  I think not.  That Trump is leading a campaign to discredit Mueller is a reflection of a desperate man – a man who is going down.  But let’s say that Mueller falls short.  Will that really vindicate Trump?  How many of his underlings will go down in the process?  How many will be indicted?  How many will go to jail?  Will the fallen include his son and son-in-law?  It is hard to imagine that Trump wins any hearts and minds with the Russia investigation no matter what conclusions Mueller draws. 

Focusing on Russia will distract us from more compelling issues:  tax reform, minimum wage, climate change, etc.  The attack on Trump in the next election – assuming he’s still in office – should engage numerous issues, including his broken promises on NAFTA and CAFTA and rebuilding the middle class with higher paying jobs.  But let’s not bury the lead:  Trump is an illegitimate president elected by an antiquated, anti-democratic system with the assistance of a foreign adversary. 

Focusing on Russia distracts from the “complete fucking disaster” the Democratic Party has become.  Once again the Russia-Trump story does not prevent anyone from attacking the feckless opposition party on any number of grounds.  In fact, the feckless Democrats seem to have taken their lead from the doubters.  The standard line is that the voters don’t want to hear about Russia; they want to hear about the things that affect them directly.  I disagree.  The reason the media place disproportionate attention on the Trump-Russia thing is that consumers want to know.  When is the last time you heard anyone outside the Black Caucus use the words “treason” or even “impeachment”?  Glenn Greenwald used to be one of the most respected left-leaning journalists in the world.  Now, he’s a rich man yelling in the wind about the Democratic conspiracy to defraud the legitimacy of the Trump administration.  Get real.  I am reminded that Greenwald once supported the invasion of Iraq.  Switching sides is not new to Greenwald.  Like Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, we need to revisit our assessment of those we once admired. 

What are we to think and who can we trust?  The only thing certain at this point is that if we are going to mount an effective resistance to the current government, the power structure and the corporate media, then we have to find common cause.  We can disagree on any given issue – even one as divisive as the Trump-Russia conspiracy – but we must come together on the greater goals of achieving political and economic equality, justice, peace and environmental awareness. 

It is important to recognize that there are greater things at stake than being right. 

Jazz.

SOURCES: 

“The Russia Thing” by Andrew Day.  Counterpunch, January 8, 2018. 

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept (Formerly of The Guardian):  “Does this Man Know More than Robert Mueller?” by Simon van Zuylen-Wood.  New York Magazine, January 21, 2018. 

“Noam Chomsky’s Surprising Take on the Russia Scandal” by Paul Ratner.  Big Think, August 16, 2017. 

Ryan Cristian, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
The Last American Vagabond