Despite his lies, Donald Trump is a potent truth-teller | The Guardian

fools

By James S. Gordon

Donald Trump evokes a wily and resilient mythic figure: the joker, the trickster, the fool, the one the Lakota people call the Heyoka, the contrary. Had his opponents – such as Hillary Clinton – understood this quality in him, the electoral outcome might have been different. The sooner the rest of us understand this side of him, the better.

In the European tradition, the fool holds up the mirror to the monarch and to all of us, mocking our faults and pretensions. He (the fool is almost always a man) is not constrained by deference or allegiance to truth. The Heyoka, one of the purest forms of fool, pretends to shiver when everyone else is sweating and takes off his clothes in winter.

The fool is a potent truth-teller and commands attention. Shakespeare knew this. Lear’s Fool, a gentle version of the species, skewered the arrogance and pride that were his master’s downfall, even as he comforted him. The “scabrous” Thersites in Troilus and Cressida speaks with relentless, scene-stealing venom. He paints Achilles, the Greeks’ greatest hero, as a petulant adolescent; King Agamemnon is a blowhard, Helen of Troy a hooker.

The fool is always addressing us, his audience, as well as his high-ranking targets. He performs a vital social function, forcing us to examine our own preconceptions, especially our inflated ideas about our own virtue. Trump was telling all of us – women and minorities, progressives, pillars of the establishment, as well as his supporters – that we were just like him.

The appropriate, time-honored response to the fool’s sallies is to take instruction from them. Only after we’ve acknowledged and accepted our own shortcomings do we have the integrity that allows us to keep him in his place. Perhaps if Secretary Clinton had been a more skillful, poised and humble warrior, she could have done this.

Fools serve the collective order by challenging those whose ignorance and blindness threaten it. They are meant to be instruments of awareness, not rulers. Impossible to imagine Lear’s Fool succeeding him or Thersites commanding the Greek army. Trump will not address his own limitations, cannot tolerate criticism, and takes himself dangerously seriously. This makes him a seriously flawed fool. He believes his own hyperbole and threatens democratic order.

In the weeks since his election, Trump has continued to act the fool. Now, however, the underdog’s challenges have become a bully’s beatdowns. His attack on the steelworkers’ union leader, Chuck Jones, exactly the kind of man whom he claimed to champion, was a vicious and painful lie. Unfunny, purely ugly. His more recent rants, including boasts about the crowds at his inaugural and the millions of imaginary illegal Clinton voters, illuminate his own troubled insecurity: the all-powerful winner acting the petulant, powerless loser.

Many of President Trump’s cabinet choices are like the punchlines of jokes, but punchlines with potentially devastating real-world consequences: an education secretary who disparages public education and badly botched her own effort at creating an alternative; men charged with responding to climate change who deny its existence; and a national security adviser who purveys paranoid fantasies.

There are glimmers of hope that the jester might mature to majesty. Gen James Mattis, the defense secretary, inspired a Trumpian epiphany that waterboarding might be counterproductive. Conversations with Al Gore or, more likely, ones with his daughter Ivanka could persuade him to open his eyes to the reality of climate change.

Or perhaps President Trump will implode, brought down by the damage done by perverse cabinet choices, or words and actions so intemperate and ill-advised that Congress and the courts call him to a terminal account. His challenged immigration order could be a harbinger.

Meanwhile, what are the rest of us to do? The fact that this question is even being asked is healthy, a residual benefit of his fool’s vocation. Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.

Already, people all over the US – Republicans I know as well as Democrats – are beginning to link inner awareness to small and great political action.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women of all ages, ethnicities and political affiliations affirmed their rights, celebrated their community and slyly poked at the joker: “if I incorporated my uterus,” read one demonstrator’s sign, “would you stop trying to regulate it”.

The joker who is now our president has served an important function, waking us up to what we’ve not yet admitted in ourselves or accomplished in our country. He is, without realizing it, challenging us to grow in self-awareness, to act in ways that respect and fulfill what is best in ourselves and our democracy.

It’s time for us citizens, who’ve watched the performance, to take the stage.

Source: The Guardian

How Trump Could Shrink the Government (While Still Keeping the Good Stuff) | POLITICO Magazine

Editor’s Note: This is one of the soundest analysis of what’s possible under the Trump administration focusing on solutions instead of hysteria. Please read the entire article.

By Michael Grunwald

limitedgovernmentDonald Trump’s political brand is about fighting and winning, and he has promised to fight and win a war on big government. As a candidate, he often attacked the federal bureaucracy as a bloated monstrosity teeming with “waste, fraud and abuse all over the place,” and vowed to “cut so much your head will spin!” As president-elect, he continued his clamor on Twitter, pledging to save taxpayers billions on “out of control” programs like the F-35 fighter jet.

But Trump has also proclaimed his belief in an activist government, portraying himself as a kind of father-figure leader who will “take care of people.” He insisted during the Republican primary that, unlike his opponents, he would never cut a single dollar from Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or let Americans “die on the streets.” His agenda to Make America Great Again is in many ways a big government agenda, with bleeding-heart goals like rebuilding infrastructure and reviving inner cities, as well as get-tough goals like beefing up the military and walling up the border

Trump’s critics cite this split-screen attitude toward government as evidence that he’s running a con. And his early moves, like stocking his administration with Goldman Sachs alumni, do suggest he won’t feel constrained by his drain-the-swamp campaign talk. But if Trump’s two-sided rhetoric about government sounds like a con, it should sound like a familiar con, because Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all fed us similar lines. They all argued that the federal government is too big, wastes too much money and tries to do too many things—but also that it should perform vital functions like defending the nation, supporting the elderly and providing a safety net for the vulnerable.

In fact, polls show that most Americans agree with both of those arguments, which might help explain why politicians who make them keep winning the White House. As Obama put it in The Audacity of Hope, voters “don’t expect government to solve all their problems,” but do “figure government should help.” And those dual beliefs happen to be sensible ones, not just popular ones. It’s hard to see how Americans can be assured of clean air and water, a basic level of subsistence and protection from foreign invaders without federal intervention; it’s just as hard to see why the federal government needs 200 science education programs spread across 13 separate agencies. It’s disturbing that we’re the only wealthy nation without universal health insurance, and also that our government delivers 81 billion annual pieces of junk mail. If you think about it, this amounts to a logical theory of governance that would be revolutionary in practice: Washington really should do some big stuff in a big way, while doing a lot less stuff overall. It ought to focus on policy wars of necessity rather than wars of choice—and then fight those wars with overwhelming force.

This triage approach to governance could be called “limited-government liberalism,” although Trump certainly wouldn’t use that phrase. Or perhaps, to borrow a slogan that Bush never really defined, it could go by “compassionate conservatism.” Its motto could be Clinton’s only-half-remembered 1996 declaration that “the era of big government is over—but we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves.” It’s about as close as this polarized nation has to a bipartisan political philosophy, and it’s probably the rosiest scenario, if not the likeliest scenario, for the kind of radical change Trump could bring to Washington. It would involve near-constant battles with the special interests and other insiders Trump always talks about battling; it could appeal to Trump’s self-image as a heroic disrupter of an entrenched status quo; and it could be quite popular, a quality populists tend to like. Read more…

Source: POLITICO Magazine

Trump is no fascist. He is a champion for the forgotten millions | The Guardian

trumpsupporters

By John Daniel Davidson

Amid the ongoing protests against President Trump, calls for “resistance” among Democratic politicians and activists, and the overheated rhetoric casting Trump and his supporters as fascists and xenophobes, an outsider might be forgiven for thinking that America has been taken over by a small faction of rightwing nationalists.

America is deeply divided, but it’s not divided between fascists and Democrats. It’s more accurate to say that America is divided between the elites and everybody else, and Trump’s election was a rejection of the elites.

That’s not to say plenty of Democrats and progressives don’t vehemently oppose Trump. But the crowds of demonstrators share something in common with our political and media elites: they still don’t understand how Trump got elected, or why millions of Americans continue to support him. Even now, recent polls show that more Americans support Trump’s executive order on immigration than oppose it, but you wouldn’t know it based on the media coverage.

Support for Trump’s travel ban, indeed his entire agenda for immigration reform, is precisely the sort of thing mainstream media, concentrated in urban enclaves along our coasts, has trouble comprehending. The fact is, many Americans who voted for Trump, especially those in suburban and rural areas across the heartland and the south, have long felt disconnected from the institutions that govern them. On immigration and trade, the issues that propelled Trump to the White House, they want the status quo to change.

During his first two weeks in office, whenever Trump has done something that leaves political and media elites aghast, his supporters cheer. They like that he told Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto he might have to send troops across the border to stop “bad hombres down there”. They like that he threatened to pull out of an Obama-era deal to accept thousands of refugees Australia refuses to admit. They want him to dismantle Dodd-Frank financial regulations for Wall Street and rethink US trade deals. This is why they voted for him.

The failure to understand why these measures are popular with millions of Americans stems from a deep sense of disconnection in American society that didn’t begin with Trump or the 2016 election. For years, millions of voters have felt left behind by an economic recovery that largely excluded them, a culture that scoffed at their beliefs and a government that promised change but failed to deliver.

Nowhere is this disconnection more palpable than in the American midwest, in places such as Akron, a small city in northeast Ohio nestled along a bend in the Little Cuyahoga river. Its downtown boasts clean and pleasant streets, a minor league baseball park, bustling cafes and a lively university. The people are friendly and open, as midwesterners tend to be. In many ways, it’s an idyllic American town.

Except for the heroin. Like many suburban and rural communities across the country, Akron is in the grip of a deadly heroin epidemic. Last summer, a batch of heroin cut with a synthetic painkiller called carfentanil, an elephant tranquilliser, turned up in the city. Twenty-one people overdosed in a single day. Over the ensuing weeks, 300 more would overdose. Dozens would die.

The heroin epidemic is playing out against a backdrop of industrial decline. At one time, Akron was a manufacturing hub, home to four major tyre companies and a rising middle class. Today, most of that is gone. The tyre factories have long since moved overseas and the city’s population has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s. This is what Trump was talking about when he spoke of “American carnage” in his inaugural address.

Akron is not unique. Cities and towns across America’s rust belt, Appalachia and the deep south are in a state of gradual decline. Many of these places have long been Democratic strongholds, undergirded by once-robust unions.

On election day, millions of Democrats who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 cast their votes for Trump. In those earlier elections, these blue-collar Democrats were voting for change, hoping Obama would prioritise the needs of working Americans over the elites and special interests concentrated in Washington DC and Wall Street.

For many Americans, Hillary Clinton personified the corruption and self-dealing of the elites. But Trump’s election wasn’t just a rejection of Clinton, it was a rejection of politics as usual. If the media and political establishment see Trump’s first couple of weeks in office as a whirlwind of chaos and incompetence, his supporters see an outsider taking on a sclerotic system that needs to be dismantled. That’s precisely what many Americans thought they were doing eight years ago, when they put a freshman senator from Illinois in the White House. Obama promised a new way of governing – he would be a “post-partisan” president, he would “fundamentally transform” the country, he would look out for the middle class. In the throes of the great recession, that resonated. Something was clearly wrong with our political system and the American people wanted someone to fix it.

After all, the Tea Party didn’t begin as a reaction against Obama’s presidency but that of George W Bush. As far as most Americans were concerned, the financial crisis was brought on by the excesses of Wall Street bankers and the incompetency of our political leaders. Before the Tea Party coalesced into a political movement, the protesters weren’t just traditional conservatives who cared about limited government and the constitution. They were, for the most part, ordinary Americans who felt the system was rigged against them and they wanted change.

But change didn’t come. What they got was more of the same. Obama offered a series of massive government programmes, from an $830bn financial stimulus, to the Affordable Care Act, to Dodd-Frank,none of which did much to assuage the economic anxieties of the middle class. Americans watched as the federal government bailed out the banks, then the auto industry and then passed healthcare reform that transferred billions of taxpayer dollars to major health insurance companies. Meanwhile, premiums went up, economic recovery remained sluggish and millions dropped out of the workforce and turned to food stamps and welfare programmes just to get by. Americans asked themselves: “Where’s my bailout?”

At the same time, they saw the world becoming more unstable. Part of Obama’s appeal was that he promised to end the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, restore America’s standing in the international community and pursue multilateral agreements that would bring stability. Instead, Americans watched Isis step into the vacuum created by the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. They watched the Syrian civil war trigger a migrant crisis in Europe that many Americans now view as a cautionary tale. At home, Isis-inspired terrorist attacks took their toll, as they did in Europe. And all the while Obama’s White House insisted that everything was going well.

Amid all this, along came Trump. Here was a rough character, a boisterous celebrity billionaire with an axe to grind. He had palpable disdain for both political parties, which he said had failed the American people. He showed contempt for political correctness that was strangling public debate over contentious issues such as terrorism. He struck many of the same populist notes, both in his campaign and in his recent inaugural address, that Senator Bernie Sanders did among his young socialist acolytes, sometimes word for word.

In many ways, Trump’s agenda isn’t partisan in a recognisable way – especially on trade. Almost immediately after taking office, Trump made good on a promise that Sanders also made, pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and proclaiming an end to multilateral trade deals. He also threatened US companies with a “border tax” if they move jobs overseas. These are not traditional Republican positions but they do appeal to American workers who have watched employers pull out of their communities and ship jobs overseas.

Many traditional Republicans have always been uncomfortable with Trump. They fundamentally disagree with his positions on trade and immigration. Even now, congressional Republicans are revolting over Trump’s proposed border wall, promising to block any new expenditures for it. They’re also uncomfortable with Trump personally. For some Republicans, it was only Trump’s promise to nominate a conservative supreme court justice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia that won their votes in the end – a promise Trump honoured last week by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch, a judge very much in Scalia’s mould.

Once Trump won the nomination at the Republican national convention, most Republican voters got on board, reasoning that whatever uncertainty they had about Trump, the alternative – Clinton – was worse.

In many ways, the 2016 election wasn’t just a referendum on Obama’s eight years in the White House, it was a rejection of the entire political system that gave us Iraq, the financial crisis, a botched healthcare law and shocking income inequality during a slow economic recovery. From Akron to Alaska, millions of Americans had simply lost confidence in their leaders and the institutions that were supposed to serve them. In their desperation, they turned to a man who had no regard for the elites – and no use for them.

In his inaugural address, Trump said: “Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people.” To be sure, populism of this kind can be dangerous and unpredictable, But it doesn’t arise from nowhere. Only a corrupt political establishment could have provoked a political revolt of this scale. Instead of blaming Trump’s rise on racism or xenophobia, blame it on those who never saw this coming and still don’t understand why so many Americans would rather have Donald Trump in the White House than suffer the rule of their elites.

Source: The Guardian

George Washington’s Farewell Warning: Partisanship would lead to the “ruins of public liberty,” our first president said. He was more right than he knew. | POLITICO Magazine

washington

By John Avlon

When Barack Obama takes to the lectern to deliver his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday, he’ll likely have a few things to say about a political climate that has grown viciously polarized over the past 8 years and culminated in a bruising, insult-driven campaign in 2016. If he does call out the destructive effects of hyper-partisanship on our democracy, he will be following in the footsteps of the first farewell address, by George Washington, printed in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796.

Washington warned of the dangers of political factions to democratic republics throughout history. His aversion to partisanship reflected the fact that just a few decades earlier, in 1746, political parties had driven England to civil war. This first farewell address, from our only truly independent president, hearkens back to an age when distrust of political divisions was perhaps higher than it is now—and offers a solution to what ails us today.

“I was no party man myself,” Washington wrote Thomas Jefferson,“and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.” As our first and only independent president, Washington’s independence was a function not only of his pioneering place in American history but also of political principles he developed over a lifetime.

To Washington, moderation was a source of strength. He viewed its essential judiciousness as a guiding principle of good government, rooted in ancient wisdom as well as Enlightenment-era liberalism. Much could be achieved “by prudence, much by conciliation, and much by firmness.” A stable, civil society depends on resisting intolerant extremes. The Constitution did not mention political parties, and during the debate over ratification, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton praised the Constitution’s “spirit of moderation” in contrast to the “intolerant spirit” of “those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.”

Washington was nonpartisan but he was not neutral. He was decisive after consulting differing opinions. “He seeks information from all quarters, and judges more independently than any man I ever knew,” attested Vice President John Adams.

Washington understood the danger of demagogues in a democracy. He was a passionate advocate of moderation as a means of calming partisan passions and creating problem-solving coalitions. Adams also believed that “without the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation … every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.”

And it was a source of personal pain for Washington to see his Cabinet degenerate into exaggerated suspicions and vicious slanders during his presidency. Most frustrating was to watch his motives twisted and attacked for partisan gain by “infamous scribblers” in the newspapers. Even in the days after winning independence from Britain, Washington warned of the dangerous interplay between extremes. “There is a natural and necessary progression from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny,” he wrote in his Circular Letter to the States, and “arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” As liberty in France turned to anarchy and then tyranny during his administration, it confirmed his deepest instincts.

As a young man, Washington devoured the popular early-eighteenth century essays of Joseph Addison in the Spectator of London. Addison was the author of his favorite play, Cato, and while reflecting on the sources of England’s bloody civil war in the 1640s, he had written an influential essay on “the Malice of Parties.” It’s worth quoting at length: “There cannot a greater judgment befall a country than a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers, and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is very fatal both to men’s morals and their understandings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense. A furious party spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny, and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancor, and extinguishes all the seeds of good nature, compassion and humanity.”

Addison was not the only wise voice warning the revolutionary generation against the danger of hyper-partisanship. The English poet Alexander Pope declared that party spirit “is but the madness of many for the gain of a few.” The early 18th-century British opposition leader Henry St. John, 1st Viscount of Bolingbroke, described parties as “a political evil.” Informed by experience in both journalism and politics, Bolingbroke wrote that “a man who has not seen the inside of parties, nor had opportunities to examine nearly their secret motives, can hardly conceive how little share principle of any sort, though principle of some sort or other be always pretended, has in the determination of their conduct.”

The founding fathers’ suspicion of faction was rooted in the classical tradition that celebrated the virtue of moderation—and the subsequent independence of thought and action that moderation can create. “According to the classical doctrine, membership in a political party inevitably involved defending the indefensible vices of one’s allies and attempting to dominate one’s fellow citizens in order to satisfy a narrow self-interest,” wrote historian Carl J. Richard in The Founders and the Classics in 1994. “In the eighteenth century the greatest compliment one man could pay another was to call him ‘disinterested.’ To be disinterested was to place justice above all considerations, including one’s own interests and those of one’s family, friends and political allies.”

Throughout his career in Virginia’s House of Burgesses and as president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington took labors to remain in the role of moderate. In his twenties, while serving in the Virginia legislature, when the House of Burgesses was divided between moderates and militants in their resistance to the British royals, Washington played a pivotal role by bridging the divides with personal diplomacy, dining with leaders of the different factions.

During the war, there was no political will to raise revenue to pay the soldiers. Washington’s frustration with the weak and fractured Congress helped form his belief that a strong central government led by an honest, energetic executive was essential to a successful democracy.

Amid “the want of harmony in our councils—the declining zeal of the people,” Washington wrote his friend Gouverneur Morris, “it is well worth the ambition of a patriot statesman at this juncture to endeavor to pacify party differences—to give fresh vigor to the springs of government—to inspire the people with confidence.”

Washington’s call for a “patriot statesman” echoed Bolingbroke’s call for a “Patriot King” in a widely read 1749 pamphlet that articulated an antidote to the corruption and fanaticism of parties that led to England’s civil war. For Bolingbroke, the ideal was a benign monarch who could “defeat the designs, and break the spirit of faction” in a parliamentary democracy, toward the goal of delivering “true principles of government independent of all.” Washington’s substitution of “statesman” for “king” reframed the concept for an American audience. The ideal of a strong leader who operated beyond partisanship retained its attractiveness.

When Washington became president, he intended to establish a government above faction and special interests. “No local prejudices or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities,” he promised in his first inaugural address, “will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests.”

Washington did not want or expect unanimity of opinion in his Cabinet, perhaps reflecting the idea that in a place where everyone thinks alike, no one is thinking very much. He was aware of his limits on specific issues—especially law and finance. A competition of ideas and opinions was something to be celebrated, as he made clear in a letter to the governor of North Carolina two months after taking the oath of office: “A difference of opinion on political points is not to be imputed to freemen as a fault, since it is to be presumed that they are all actuated by an equally laudable and sacred regard for the liberties of their country.”

But as Washington preached an enlightened self-interest consistent with classical liberalism, dissension grew in his Cabinet ranks, as political divisions hardened and suspicions drove onetime allies apart. He was always aware that these fault lines could rupture the fragile federal government.

“My greatest fear has been that the nation would not be sufficiently cool and moderate in making arrangements for the security of that liberty,” he wrote after nine months in office. “If we mean to support the liberty and independence which it has cost us so much blood and treasure to establish,” he wrote to Rhode Island governor Arthur Fenner, “we must drive far away the demon of party spirit and local reproach.”

In the spring of 1796, when he picked back up the first draft of his farewell address, which Washington had asked Madison to draft in his first term, Washington added new language explaining to the public that given the “considerable changes … both at home and abroad, I shall ask your indulgence while I express with more lively sensibility the following most ardent wishes of my heart.”

The next line in the draft drove right to the rise of faction: “That party disputes among all the friends and lovers of their country may subside, or, as the wisdom of Providence hath ordained that men, on the same subjects, shall not always think alike, that charity and benevolence, when they happen to differ, may so far shed their benign influence as to banish those invectives which proceed from illiberal prejudices and jealousy.”

In a line he deleted from the final draft, Washington went even further, warning that in a large republic, a military coup was unlikely to undermine democracy, even if backed by the wealthy and powerful. The base of the country was too broad. “In such republics,” he said, “it is safe to assert that the conflicts of popular factions are the chief, if not the only, inlets of usurpation and tyranny.”

Washington acknowledged that the spirit of party “unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments.” But he understood partisans’ perspective, stating plainly, “there is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true.”

Beyond those wise limits, Washington warned, rampant factions were a “fatal tendency” in democracies. The thin history of republics up to that point showed that partisan factions led by “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men” distorted democracies by pursuing narrow agendas at the expense of the national interest. Washington identified regional parties based on “geographical discriminations” as a particular danger, because they undermined national unity in pursuit of power. “Designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views” by misrepresenting the “opinions and aims” of people from other states and regions. “You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations,” Washington warned. “They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”

But the greatest danger could spring from the chaos of a dysfunctional democracy, compounded by relentless party warfare, which, Washington warned, would erode faith in the effectiveness of self-governance and open the door to a demagogue with authoritarian ambitions. “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Washington’s remedy was modest but comprehensive: Partisanship could not be removed from democracy, but it could be constrained by vigilant citizens and the sober-minded separation of powers. “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it,” Washington wrote. Doubling down for emphasis, he added that “there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it.”

For Washington, this wise balance was the prime pillar of our political liberty. By devoting so much of his farewell address to warning about the dangers of hyper-partisanship, Washington penned a manifesto for moderation, a guide for future leaders and citizens who would try to walk the line between the extremes, focused on the never-ending task of forming a more perfect union.

Now, in 2017, after an eight-year presidency that promised to bridge our divides but confronted the political reality of polarization and the election of a successor whose victory has highlighted the deep divisions in America, Washington’s vision for vigorous citizens checking the rise of extreme partisanship is striking in its relevance. We need to heed Washington’s warning.

Source: POLITICO Magazine

Assange released 500,000 diplomatic cables which reveals how the CIA created ISIS | AWD News

assange

The founder of the transparency organization WikiLeaks released a statement on 1 December upon the release of over 500,000 diplomatic cables dating back to 1979, which succinctly reveals how the CIA was essentially responsible for creating the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.

The timing of the release coincided with the sixth anniversary of WikiLeaks “Cablegate” release, which exposed the machinations of the underbelly of the U.S. empire. The latest release, known as the “Carter Cables,” adds 531,525 new diplomatic cables to the WikiLeaks’ already voluminous Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy (PLUSD).

In a statement released in concert with the release of the “Carter Cables,” Julian Assange mapped out how the events of 1979 began a series of events that have ultimately culminated in the rise of ISIS.

“If any year could be said to be the “year zero” of our modern era, 1979 is it,” said Assange.

Assange lays bare the reality that the roots of modern Islamist terrorism began through a joint venture by the CIA and Saudi Arabian government, to the tune of billions of dollars, to create a “Mujahideen” force to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan – which ultimately led to the creation of al-Qaeda.

Assange is not alone in his claims either. According to a poll by the Express, the overwhelming majority of people understand that US foreign policy created ISIS.
Assange goes on to note that the subsequent attacks of 9/11, and invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, directly led to the rise of ISIS.

“In the Middle East, the Iranian revolution, the Saudi Islamic uprising and the Egypt-Israel Camp David Accords led not only to the present regional power dynamic but decisively changed the relationship between oil, militant Islam and the world.
“The uprising at Mecca permanently shifted Saudi Arabia towards Wahhabism, leading to the transnational spread of Islamic fundamentalism and the US-Saudi destabilisation of Afghanistan,” said Assange.

The narrative laid out by Assange exposes exactly how militant Islam was nurtured by the CIA and Saudi government as a mean of usurping the communist Afghani government, which had asked for Soviet assistance in combatting Islamic terrorism.

“The invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR would see Saudi Arabia and the CIA push billions of dollars to Mujahideen fighters as part of Operation Cyclone, fomenting the rise of al-Qaeda and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The 1979 current of Islamification spread to Pakistan where the US embassy was burned to the ground and Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed.
“The Iranian hostage crisis would go on to fatally undermine Jimmy Carter’s presidency and see the election of Ronald Reagan.

“The rise of al-Qaeda eventually bore the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, enabling the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and over a decade of war, leaving, at its end, the ideological, financial and geographic basis for ISIS,” said Assange.

In addition to the rise of global militant Islam, the latest release also includes cables regarding the election of Margaret Thatcher as British Prime Minister. Three Mile Island nuclear incident is also covered as well as cables highlighting Henry Kissinger secretly working with David Rockefeller to find a place for the deposed Shah of Iran to hide.

“In 1979 it seemed as if the blood would never stop,” noted Assange. “Dozens of countries saw assassinations, coups, revolts, bombings, political kidnappings and wars of liberation.”

With the release of the “Carter Cables,” WikiLeaks’ has now published a total of 3.3 million U.S. diplomatic cables. Staying true to their motto – WikiLeaks continues to open up governments.

Below is a video interview with Assange where he highlights an email from the Podesta leak, which exposed that the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are directly funding ISIS. In that email, sent on August 17, 2014, Hillary Clinton asked John Podesta to help put “pressure” on the Qatari and Saudi Arabian governments over their support of ISIS. State sponsorship of ISIS, by what is generally considered a close ally of the United States, is something that U.S. officials continue to refuse to acknowledge publicly.

Hillary Clinton’s email to Podesta reveals clearly the reality of the situation.
“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Clinton wrote in the email.

Source: Wikileaks

Snowden (Film Review) | The Guardian

Review By Wendy Ide

For a director who customarily tackles subjects with the approach of a gorilla playing American football, Oliver Stone’s take on whistleblower Edward Snowden seems curiously muted. Audiences who are already familiar with Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’s exemplary documentary on the same subject, will be struck by the fact that, in dramatising Snowden’s story, Stone seems to have leached out much of the drama. The aim was clearly to create an All the President’s Men for the age of cyber-surveillance. But somehow the sense of peril is downplayed, diluted by too much inert exposition and pacing that could be tighter.

Playing Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the film’s main assets. His character’s ferocious intelligence is signposted with cheap details – he is forever fiddling with a Rubik’s cube and has a nerd’s enthusiasm for arcane enciphering equipment. But Snowden’s intellect is most effectively conveyed in Gordon-Levitt’s eyes – watchful, sober and clouded by doubt, they are a window into his impossible ethical quandary.

Melissa Leo is somewhat underused as Poitras. And playing Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, Zachary Quinto is tonally jarring. It feels as though Stone realised that some of the scenes were flagging, so got Quinto to shout angrily at random moments, to keep the audience on their toes.

There are some fun elements, many involving Rhys Ifans’s ruthlessly unprincipled CIA trainer Corbin O’Brian (the fact the character shares a surname with the villain of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is no accident). I particularly enjoyed a scene in which O’Brian’s massive glowering face is beamed into a conference room to berate Snowden. His carnivorous snarl fills the immense screen; he looks like a malevolent version of the Wizard of Oz. There’s a playful visual flair to this moment that is sadly lacking elsewhere in the film.

Source: The Guardian

Snowden: Stop Putting So Much Faith (and Fear) in Presidents | RT

snowden

By Jon Miltimore

Whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden remains a fugitive at large, but that didn’t stop him from popping up and chiming in on the recent presidential election.

Snowden, who in 2013 blew the lid on the NSA’s massive covert surveillance program, recently appeared on camera via livestream to talk about privacy in an event hosted by StartPage.

Naturally the topic of Donald Trump came up a few times. At one point Snowden was asked “if the outcome [of the election] was better or worse for your case.” (I presume the question was referring to Snowden’s prospect of receiving a presidential pardon.)

Snowden deflected the part of the question that spoke to a possible pardon, saying the election was not about him. But as he continued his response got interesting.

After criticizing the authoritarian tone of the campaign, Snowden said people should stop focusing so much on presidents.

This is the thing I think we begin to forget when we focus too much on a single candidate. The current president of the United States, President Barack Obama, campaigned on a platform of ending mass surveillance in the United States. He said no more warrantless wiring tapping. He said he’d investigate and end criminal activities that had occurred under the prior administration….And we all put a lot of hope in him because of this. Not just people in [the United States]…but people in Europe and elsewhere around the world. It was a moment where we believed that because the right person got into office everything would change. But unfortunately, once he took that office we saw that he actually didn’t fulfill those campaign promises.

Snowden highlighted Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo Bay and end mass warrantless surveillance as specific broken campaign promises. Snowden said he was bringing up these points simply to drive home a larger message.

“We should be cautious about putting too much faith or fear into elected officials,” said Snowden. “At the end of the day, this is just a president.”

He said if people want to change the world, they should look to themselves instead of putting their hopes or fears in a single person. “This can only be the work of the people,” Snowden said. “If we want to have a better world we can’t hope for an Obama, and we should not fear a Donald Trump, rather we should build it ourselves.”

The crowd erupted in applause following Snowden’s monologue.

Snowden makes a great point, and I found his choice of words interesting.

He says people are putting too much “faith” in politicians. Faith. It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that people increasingly treat politics as a religion and political leaders like gods or demigods. Modern man looks to political leaders for hope and sustenance, and often blames them (in their hearts, if not in words) for their pain and misfortune.

Would America not be a better place if people more often looked inward instead of putting their hopes and fears in some distant leader? Would we not be better people if we did so?

Source: RT