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How the New York Times Lies About Lies: Obama v. Trump as Example

Eric Zuesse

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Although the New York Times says that President Donald Trump lies vastly more than did President Barack Obama, the definite liar in that comparison — based on the factual record, to be presented here — is the New York Times itself. It lies in alleging this, which isn’t to say that either President lies more frequently than the other, but instead, that the Times’s calculation fails to count, at all, but instead altogether ignores, some of President Obama’s very worst lies — ones that were real whoppers. These were lies that were essential to his maintaining support among Democrats (such as the owners of this corporation, the NYT, are), and that would keep Democrats’ support only if they judged him by his words and not by his deeds: failed to judge him by his actual decisions and actions (such as the NYT’s owners do — or else they secretly know the truth on this, but prevent this truth from being published by their employees). Even to the present day, Obama is evaluated by Democrats on the basis of his lies instead of on the basis of his actions. He’s admired for his stated intentions and promises, which were often the opposite of what his consistent actual decisions and actions turned out to be on those very same matters, on which he had, in retrospect, quite clearly lied (though this was covered-up at the time — and still is).

For example, among the list of lies that the NYT counts from Obama, is excluded Obama’s having asserted on 20 May 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act: “This bill nearly doubles the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That’s why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It’s also why it expands DOJ’s authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes — institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago.”

Also not counted, but excluded, by the NYT, as having been an Obama lie, was his 24 January 2012 State of the Union Address assertion: “Tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.”

But both statements were lies. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” and reported that Obama’s promises to prosecute turned out to be just lies. DOJ didn’t even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited.” Not just that, but, “Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases.” This was important because, “Capturing such information would allow DOJ to … better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders.”

Privately, Obama, early in his Administration, had told Wall Street executives that he would protect them. That statement, made in private to the leaders of Wall Street, turned out to have been honest. Though he lied often to the public, he never (so far as the available public record has shown) did so in private (except that he lied in private to Vladimir Putin, but neoconservatives such as the NYT’s owners and executives and editors don’t mind that at all — but they also don’t count it, at all).

On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House, and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised them “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. It was never on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers (such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange). What the DOJ’s IG indicated was, in effect, that Obama had kept his secret promise to them.

Here is the context in which he had said that (from page 234 of Ron Suskind’s 2011 book, Confidence Men, with boldfacings by me):

“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.

But then Obama’s flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem,” he said. “And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices.” According to one of the participants, he then said, “I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you. But if I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation.”

No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn’t seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none: neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.

After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.

Obama said “Everyone has to make sacrifices,” but he was talking to people who simply refused to be included in that “everyone.” As the mega-crooks who had been profiting from the crimes that had brought about the global economic collapse, those “sacrifices” should have been life-imprisonments. Only by means of such accountability, would their successors not try anything of the sort that these banksters had done. But such was not to be the case. So, the crimes continued.

Obama kept his word to them. The banksters got off scot-free, and kept their personal hundreds of millions of dollars ‘earned’.

He had been lying to the public, all along. Not only would he not prosecute the banksters, but he would treat them as if all they had was “an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem.” And he thought that the people who wanted them prosecuted were like the KKK who had chased Blacks with pitchforks before lynching. According to the DOJ, their Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was “established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.” But, according to the Department’s IG, it was all a fraud: a fraud that, according to the DOJ, itself had been going on since at least November 2009.

The IG’s report continued by pointing out the Obama-appointed Attorney General’s lies, noting that on 9 October 2012, “the FFETF held a press conference to publicize the results of the initiative,” and:

“The Attorney General announced that the initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives, in 285 criminal indictments or informations filed in federal courts throughout the United States during the previous 12 months. The Attorney General also announced that 110 federal civil cases were filed against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims. According to statements made at the press conference, these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims and total losses estimated at more than $1 billion.

“Shortly after this press conference, we requested documentation that supported the statistics presented. … Over the following months, we repeatedly asked the Department about its efforts to correct the statistics. … Specifically, the number of criminal defendants charged as part of the initiative was 107, not 530 as originally reported; and the total estimated losses associated with true Distressed Homeowners cases were $95 million, 91 percent less than the $1 billion reported at the October 2012 press conference. …

“Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases. … According to DOJ officials, the data collected and publicly announced for an earlier FFETF mortgage fraud initiative – Operation Stolen Dreams – also may have contained similar errors.”

Basically, the IG’s report said that the Obama Administration had failed to enforce the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009. This bill had been passed overwhelmingly, 92-4 in the Senate, and 338-52 in the House. All of the votes against it came from Republicans. (Perhaps Obama was secretly a Republican.) The law sent $165 million to the DOJ to catch the executive fraudsters who had brought down the U.S. economy, and it set up the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and had been introduced and written by the liberal Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. President Obama signed it on 20 May 2009. At that early stage in his Presidency, he couldn’t afford to display publicly that he was far to the right of every congressional Democrat, so he signed it.

Already on 15 November 2011, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports had headlined “Criminal Prosecutions for Financial Institution Fraud Continue to Fall,” and provided a chart showing that whereas such prosecutions had been running at a fairly steady rate until George W. Bush came into office in 2001, they immediately plunged during his Presidency and were continuing that decline under Obama, even after the biggest boom in alleged financial fraud cases since right before the Great Depression. And, then, on 24 September 2013, TRAC Reports bannered “Slump in FBI White Collar Crime Prosecutions,” and said that “prosecutions of white collar criminals recommended by the FBI are substantially down during the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2013.” This was especially so in the Wall Street area: “In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions — 27.8 percent — was the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).” On 29 July 2015, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports headlined “Federal White Collar Prosecutions At 20-Year Low,” and linked to their full study, which showed that, whereas in fiscal year 2004-2005, under George W. Bush, “Bank Fraud” had been the #1 most-prosecuted of all ”white collar crime matters,” it was, in the latest fiscal year, 2014-2015, only #3.

These were extremely serious crimes: they crashed the world’s economy in 2008. But there was no White House interest in pursuing them. Instead, the Obama Administration blocked any such prosecutions, or even investigations into specific cases. An example: In January 2011, there was “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report” from the Commission (FCIC, or Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission) that was appointed by the President and the leaders of both political Parties in Congress. It was rigged. An instance of this rigging appeared even in the NYT. On 21 September 2013, a non-NYT reporter, William D. Cohan, formerly of Wall Street but now an independent investigative journalist, managed to headline there, “Was This Whistle-Blower Muzzled?” and he described how Richard M. Bowen III, who had testified to the FCIC, was muzzled by them. Bowen’s attorney told him that Bradley J. Bondi, the FCIC’s deputy general counsel, demanded changes in his testimony, and personally threatened that he “thinks that the way it’s written now, Citi will declare war on both you and the F.C.I.C., and it will primarily consist of an effort to discredit you.” Bowen was advised by his attorney, “Remove the names of people at Citi,” as the way to prevent further retaliation. It was done.

However, when a bilked federal agency sued the banksters, quashing the crimes wasn’t quite so easy. Shahien Nasiripour, at huffingtonpost, bannered, on 16 May 2011, “Confidential Federal Audits Accuse Five Biggest Mortgage Firms Of Defrauding Taxpayers,” and he reported that the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had carried out audits of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial, and found, in each case, that they had swindled the Federal Government. “The internal watchdog office at HUD referred its findings to the Department of Justice, which had to decide whether to file charges” under “the False Claims Act, a Civil War-era law crafted as a weapon against firms that swindle the government.” All of “the audits conclude that the banks effectively cheated taxpayers by presenting the Federal Housing Administration with false claims: They filed for federal reimbursement on foreclosed homes … using defective and faulty documents.” Obama’s ‘Justice’ Department refused even to prosecute, much less to pursue, any of these mega-crooks, who had cheated the U.S. Government — ultimately U.S. taxpayers.

At lower levels of the Federal Government, there was a desire to prosecute banksters. The official “2010 Mortgage Fraud Report” by the FBI analyzed “the breadth and depth of mortgage fraud crimes perpetrated against the United States and its citizens during 2010,” and found that, “Mortgage fraud continued at elevated levels in 2010, consistent with levels seen in 2009.” However, the FBI is only an investigative arm of the U.S. Government, not actually a prosecutorial agency. Only the Executive is that: the President, via his chosen U.S. Attorney General, refused to prosecute banksters.

So: if these sorts of lies weren’t outright frauds against the American public, then what could possibly be?

But that’s not all of what belongs in the “whopper” or “Big Lie” category from Obama: he lied constantly about Ukraine, and about Syria, and about Russia and about his intentions toward Russia, and about his proposed international-trade treaties: TPP. TTIP, and TISA.

None of these whoppers was included in the listing that the NYT presented in their 14 December 2017 article “Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s”.

In addition, Obama lied massively regarding his foreign-policy intentions and actions, and the NYT (like other U.S. ‘news’media) hid and hide the truth and asserted, and they continue to assert, his lies on those matters, even though they were often blatantly false; so that the NYT’s ‘news’-reports on those key matters of U.S. foreign relations — not only on the U.S. Government’s actions, but even on its intentions — constitute egregiously false ‘history’ on those key matters of Obama’s foreign policies, and no historian (but only, at best, a ‘historian’) can unquestioningly trust that newspaper regarding those matters. Especially, a citation of the NYT as presenting truth regarding either Syria or Ukraine should elicit strong suspicion from a reader, not trust. This is not to say that other American newspapers are any better, nor that highly respected American journalists who are employed by other U.S. media deserve to be trusted, but only that the NYT isn’t, and doesn’t. No intelligent person can trust it. The record of its deceitfulness is clear, especially on important political matters.

I am nonpartisan toward persons and toward political parties, and consider all of America’s Presidents since 1981 (if not since 1968, but with the exception of Carter) to be and have been loathsome people (not even well-intentioned), but ‘news’media such as the New York Times aren’t any more trustworthy (nor more honest) than these Presidents have been, and the pontifications from such ‘news’media (in both their ’news’-reporting and opinion-pieces) are just propaganda, mixtures of truths with lies — and more and more of the public are coming to recognize this disgusting fact, so these media’s pretenses to honesty and trustworthiness are having fewer and fewer believers. But these media claim that fake ‘news’ comes only from their non-mainstream competitors (some of which are actually far more honest than they). Preserving their cartel is crucial to them. And it’s crucial to the people who benefit from this cartel.

Author’s note: this piece first posted at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Gallup: Americans Tend to Trust Only News That Confirms Their Beliefs

Eric Zuesse

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On September 11th, Gallup headlined “Bias in Others’ News a Greater Concern Than Bias in Own News”, and reported (based upon polling a randomized sample of 20,046 American adults) that:

69% of Americans say they are more concerned about bias in the news other people consume than its presence in their own news (29%).” In other words: 69/29, or 2.38 times, as many Americans are closed-minded (prejudiced) regarding information-sources which don’t fit their ideology, than are not. Overwhelmingly in America, only Democratic Party information-sources are trusted by Democrats, and only Republican information-sources are trusted by Republicans. Each side distrusts the other’s information-sources. Gallup’s news-report aptly noted the important fact that “This plays into the political polarization in the U.S. national discourse.” The more prejudiced a population are, the more polarized it will be. Of course, one would expect this to be the case, but Gallup has now found striking new empirical evidence for it — that the public’s closed-mindedness is greatly increasing America’s political polarization. Each side is craving propaganda instead of truth, but each side’s voters want only the type of propaganda that is funded by the billionaires who also fund that side’s politicians and control that side’s ‘news’ media. Consequently, American politics is controlled by the conflict between liberal billionaires versus conservative billionaires — totally controlled by billionaires (instead of by the public). There is the liberal herd, and the conservative herd, but they’re both herds — not by the public in an actual democracy. And each of these two herds is controlled by its shepherd, who are its billionaires. (Here is how that’s done.) Billionaires control each Party and thereby control the Government. This is why the Government ignores the preferences of America’s public. As will be shown here, the September 11th Gallup findings help to explain how and why that results.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans can become exposed to the other side’s evidence and arguments unless they see those — the other side’s evidence and arguments, both for its own case and against the opposite side’s case (i.e., against the case that oneself believes). Not to see the opposite side’s viewpoint is to be blind to it, and thus to become locked into whatever oneself believes. This 69/29 is like a jury’s rendering its verdict and nearly three quarters of the jurors having not listened to — and thus not considered — the opposite side’s presentations. That’s a frightening situation to exist in any court of law, and it is an equally frightening situation to exist in any nation’s electorate.

As a consequence of Americans’ strong tendency to be closed-minded, America’s politics are, to a very large extent, driven more by prejudices than by the realities that the public are actually facing. Individuals are seeking for sources that will likeliest confirm what they already believe, and are seeking to avoid sources that are the likeliest to disconfirm their beliefs. This is consequently a population that’s highly vulnerable to being manipulated, by playing up to, and amplifying, the given Party’s propaganda, to which the given individual already subscribes. Republican Party billionaires (by their use of their conservative newsmedia and think tanks, etc., which they control) can easily manipulate Republican Party voters, and Democratic Party billionaires can, likewise, easily manipulate Democratic Party voters, by their liberal media, think tanks, etc. That’s billionaires, on each of the two sides, guiding each of the two Parties’ voters; and, therefore, the nation is an aristocracy — a country which is controlled by its wealthiest fewinstead of an authentic democracy (which is controlled not by the numbers of dollars, but actually by the numbers of residents, each one of whom is independently and open-mindedly seeking for credibly documented facts).  An aristocracy rules any such land. The public are not the rulers in such a nation. It’s not a democracy; it is a collective dictatorship, by its billionaires (its aristocracy). Both of the two Parties’ voters vote in accord with their billionaires’ agenda, but especially in accord with whatever is on the agenda that’s shared by both liberal and conservative billionaires — billionaires fund both of the national Parties: Democrats and Republicans, and thereby control both Parties. Billionaires, in each Party, have their very golden, very heavy, thumbs, pressing down hard upon the scale of any such ‘democracy’, such that regardless of which group of billionaires ends up winning any ultimate election, the public inevitably will lose, because it’s really just a contest between billionaires, who are stage-managing the nation’s entire political proceedings. This is like two boxers fighting in a ring, in which the selection-process which placed them there was corrupt; and, so, even if the ultimate winner is not equally corruptly pre-determined, the final result has nonetheless already been rigged (during the primaries). When the contenders have been selected by a corrupt process, the ultimate outcome cannot be a democracy.

This happens not only regarding elections, but regarding particular issues. For example, in 2002 and 2003, “regime-change in Iraq,” and “Saddam’s WMD,” were just as much agendas of liberal billionaires’ media and think tanks as they were of conservative billionaires’ media and think tanks (and were thoroughly based on lies); so, a closed-minded public were actually trapped, into the lies that were agreed-upon by both sides of the domestic American political spectrum — the sides that are funded and controlled by the liberal billionaires, and by the conservative billionaires. The nearly $2 trillion cost of the invasion and military occupation of that country, and the consequent destruction of that country, were done for America’s billionaires, and produced nothing for the American people except that enormous public debt and those injuries and deaths to America’s soldiers and to Iraqis. And that’s typical, nowadays, in this (just as in any) aristocracy: the aristocracy are served; the nation’s public serve to them. (In the U.S., this has caused “U.S. Satisfaction at 13%, Lowest in Nine Years”, as Gallup headlined on 4 August 2020; and it has caused Americas’ satisfaction with their Government to have ranged from its all-time low of only 7% in 2008, to its all-time high of only 45% at the very start of 2020 — well below 50%, for as long as Gallup has surveyed this.)

What all of the billionaires want is what the American public get as their Government. It’s bipartisanship amongst its billionaires. That’s what produces this Government’s policies. It’s what determines the Government that Americans get. However, what is basic in making it a dictatorship of the aristocracy-type (such as this America is) is that the population is very prejudiced, not open-minded — not each individual constantly seeking solid evidence to change one’s mind about how society works (what the reality in the nation actually is), so as for one’s view to become increasingly accurate over time. Instead, one’s myths are constantly being fed. Such a public, as this, are not individuals, in a democracy, but more like mobs, very manipulable

Often, America’s bipartisan views are based upon lies that virtually all billionaires want the public to believe. In such cases — and these instances are frequent — the truth is being simply ignored, or else outright denied, by both sides (and by the media, for both sides). Individuals’ prejudices are thus being increased, instead of reduced, by what the public see and hear in “the news.” Everyone has prejudices, and truth can predominate only if people are constantly skeptical of the sources that they are relying upon — constantly trying to root out and replace whatever false beliefs they have. This is the essence of scientific method. Democracy depends upon it. Aristocracy requires the opposite. America has the opposite.

Change away from this present situation, to a democracy, would be difficult. On both of America’s political sides, there needs to be far less trust of the Establishment (including its politicians, its media, its think tanks, etc.), in order for any real democracy to become able to exist. It’s not even able to exist now. And, therefore, it does not exist.

But what is even more depressing is that America’s educational system, most especially its colleges and universities, are encouraging, instead of discouraging, this situation, this closed-mindedness. The more educated an American is, the more closed-minded that person becomes — as is further shown in this same September 11th Gallup news-report:

Whereas 52% of Americans with a high school education or less are more concerned about bias in others’ news than in their own [and 45% of that minimally educated group think that the news which they are reading might be biased], the figure is 64% among those with some college education and is even higher among college graduates (73%) and those with postgraduate education (77%) [and only 22% of that maximally educated group think that the news which they are reading might be biased].” The most-educated Americans are the most-manipulable (the most closed-minded) Americans.

No finding in this Gallup report was as extreme as the finding that the more highly educated an American is, the less open that person is likely to be to changing his or her mind (outlook) about the situation. In other words: the more educated an American is, the more closed-minded that person tends to become. Higher education in America increases, instead of decreases, an individual’s closed-mindedness. However, other contrasts which were almost as extreme are:

“Those who identify as liberal (80%) are more concerned than conservatives (68%) and moderates (65%) with other people’s media bias. In other words: liberals are 80/65 or 1.23 times as closed-minded as are moderates, and are 80/68 or 1.18 times as closed-minded as conservatives are.

“While 58% of Black adults are more concerned about bias in others’ news than in their own, fully 73% of Asian Americans and 72% of White adults say the same.” Thus, African-Americans are 58/72.5 or 80% as closed-minded as are Euro-Americans and Asian-Americans.

This is the worst combination possible: it’s a closed-minded population, which is especially closed-minded amongst its most educated segment. The leading segment is also the most closed-minded segment. These are crucial agents of the billionaires, and they crucially inculcate into the next generation of Americans the aristocracy’s values.

This means that the leaders keep themselves, conceptually, inside a cocoon. They have minimal contact with the most vulnerable members of the society, which is the less-educated members. That enhances inequality of opportunity, throughout the society. Since the most-highly-educated Americans are the group that are the most-closed to opinions which are contrary to their own, it’s easy for the most-highly-educated Americans to view individuals who disagree with those persons’ views as being simply a “basket of deplorables.” Their disagreement then becomes their contempt. ‘Facts’ about politics are — for those persons, highly educated persons — more derived from their values and priorities, than their values and priorities are derived from the political facts. Scientific epistemology is being turned upside-down, regarding political issues, in such a country. Overwhelmingly, some sort of faith, instead of any sort of science, determines what individuals in such a country believe about politics. In every aristocracy, this is the way that both conservative and liberal persons view any persons in the general public who oppose themselves: they’re viewed as being a “basket of deplorables.” It’s the very essence of elitism — on both sides. (For prominent examples of this: both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had contempt for each-others’ voters — blotted them out.) 

The leadership’s minimal contact with the public makes exceedingly unlikely the leadership’s compassion, concern about the sufferings that they, themselves, are causing down below. Actually, though every aristocracy claims to want to improve conditions for their public, the reality is that whenever doing that would entail their own losing power, that claim becomes exposed to be sheer hypocrisy — a lie; often a self-deception, and not merely a deception against the public. Deceiving themselves about their own decency is easy, because they have minimal contact with the most vulnerable members of the society, the very people whom they claim to care the most about (and to be working in politics to help). Fakery is built into each and every aristocracy. Americans’ strong tendency to be closed-minded causes the aristocratic con to be widely accepted as if it were instead truth. (Again: the “WMD in Iraq” con was a good example of this — the aristocracy’s media just blocked-out the reality.) Scientific studies have even demonstrated that the wealthier a person is, the less compassion the individual tends to have for people who are suffering.

Furthermore, since the less-educated persons aspire to be more-educated, they are — even without knowing it — aspiring to become less open to contrary views, instead of to become more open to such views. One bad consequence of this is: it strangulates imaginativeness, openness, and creativity, in favor of being rote, rigid, and bureaucratic. Another bad consequence of it is that the authority-figures, in such a society, are, in some important ways, actually inferior to the rest of the population. Moreover, America’s colleges and universities are not increasing their students’ open-mindedness (as they should) but the exact opposite — they are reducing their students’ open-mindedness. Even if professors are teaching some truths, the professors are training their students to be authoritarian, instead of to be open to a more truthful, comprehensive, and deeper understanding, which encompasses those truths, but also many more — which the majority of professors either ignore or else deny, because such deeper understanding violates the existing Scripture, or standard viewpoint (shaped by both sides’ billionaires). At least in the United States, this is now the normal situation. That Gallup poll showed it not merely weakly, nor even only moderately, but extremely.

This is a perverse situation, which bodes ill for the future of the entire nation. Any country which is like this is not only an aristocracy instead of a democracy, but it is greatly disadvantaged, going forward. It will be disadvantaged both in the arts and in the sciences. Its future will be stultifying, instead of dynamic. Aristocracies tend to be this way. Also, because it will remain highly polarized, its internal ideological frictions will waste a large proportion of the nation’s efforts. As a nation, its forward-motion, its progress, will thus largely be crippled, by its internal discord and distrust, between the two warring factions of its aristocracy — and friction between the respective followers on each side. 

This describes a declining culture — a nation that is in decline.

That’s what this poll-report, from Gallup, indicates, as clearly as any poll-findings can.

It indicates a nation in decline.

During the Presidential primaries in the Democratic Party, a major point of difference between the two major candidates, Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders, was whether billionaires are bad for the country: Biden said no; Sanders said yes. (This was a major reason why the billionaires made sure that Sanders would lose.) In any country where wealth-inequality is so extreme, there can be no authentic democracy. America’s extreme inequality of wealth makes democracy impossible in this country. America’s other problems follow from that. In reality, it’s a one-party state, and that party is controlled not actually by the counts of voters, but by the counts of dollars. It is an aristocracy; and its decline — to what has been documented here — follows from that fact. Whatever democracy America might once have had is gone now. It has become replaced by a land of mass-deceptions, which are bought and sold.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

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What is the pocket pinch to stay at the White House?

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If you’re thinking about running to be leader, get ready to pony up more than half a billion dollars, judging from the last two campaign cycles and current fundraising trends.

Presidential elections are an expensive venture. At first glance, it may not appear that standing on a stage telling people why they should vote for you would be costly. However, the costs associated with getting a candidate’s name out there nationwide for all to become familiar with can be quite expensive.

It’s very difficult to track campaign expenditures across time. Changes in the numbers might be due to different campaign finance disclosure requirements. For example, thanks to the Citizens United decision in 2010, politicians can rely on outside groups called Super PACs to run advertisements, even if they technically aren’t supposed to “coordinate” with each other. Campaign operations have also changed significantly over the last few decades, evolving from a focus exclusively on TV and radio to robust online advertisements. Even when adjusted for inflation the amount of money it takes to become President has increased more than 250-fold from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump. Super PACs have no limit on contributions. Corporations, labour unions, and other organizations may contribute as much as they want.

The catch is that a Super PAC must be independent and cannot contribute directly to a candidate and must disclose their donors (although by funnelling through a non-profit organization, disclosure rules can often be avoided or obfuscated). Super PACs can run ads supporting preferred candidates or bashing their opponents — they are just not able to coordinate with the candidate’s campaign or have a direct connection.

The amount of funds raised from corporations and other groups outside traditional campaign committees increased with the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which, along with other legal developments, loosened laws around election fundraising and spending. In addition, it seems campaigns are feeling more pressure, with each subsequent funding cycle, to raise more and outside groups are getting better at raising money.

These loopholes allow candidates to raise money through Super PACs they support and remain separate enough to stay within the law. Jeb Bush delayed his campaign specifically to raise as much money as possible directly through Super PACs. You are not violating any laws if you have not declared as a Presidential candidate yet.

To win the 2004 election, George W. Bush spent $345 million, which was the most expensive campaign in history at the time. The record didn’t last long: In 2008, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, the total amount of money spent by and for Barack Obama came in at $730 million, far surpassing Republican nominee John McCain, who spent a mere $333 million—and more than double Bush’s outlay.

Usually, the candidate who spends the most money wins. However, that did not prove true during the 2016 elections, when the runner-up, Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, spent $768 million, nearly twice as much as the eventual winner, Republican candidate Donald Trump, who spent $450 million. Many also noted that the figure could have been even higher had Trump not used free media coverage.

But fundraising in the 2020 presidential race is outpacing that of the last two campaigns. Bernie Sanders with about $74 million, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with about $60 million and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with $51 million, based on Federal Election Commission data posted on Oct. 16. Despite polls showing former Vice President Joe Biden as the front-runner, his fundraising lagged at about $37 million.

Since Trump is planning to run for re-election in 2020, he chose not to terminate his campaign committee. He has targeted $1 billion as the total he would like to raise for his campaign.  The Trump campaign said it raised $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, bringing the campaign’s cash on hand to $40.8 million.

It’s worth wondering if these numbers are anything to worry about. Is a billion dollars that much money when it comes to deciding who should be President? To keep things in perspective, Americans spent over $1.8B on peanut butter in 2017 alone. Picking a President seems much more serious and rather inexpensive by comparison, even if Trump decides to advertise during the Super bowl.

To address the original question: you can spend as much as you want in running for President, but if you want to win, the ante is somewhere around $500 million, and it may actually top $1 billion per major party candidate this year. Yes, it seems outrageous, but keep things in economic perspective. We spent almost $600 million on snacks during the last Super Bowl. Surely, a Presidential election is more important than halftime guacamole.

So, if you’re planning to make a run for the White House, you’ll want to start saving your money now!

Note: All information collected from the data in Investopedia website

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Americas

Presidential Evil And American Good: Can They Coexist?

Prof. Louis René Beres

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Niccolò Machiavelli

If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they cover themselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrifice some high value for the sake of a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice.-Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

When Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr posited the tragic choice of evil for the sake of good – a choice inherent in both the “human condition” and the anarchic state of nations – he was not focused on differences within a specific national government. Today, however, in the dissembling United States, a similarly tragic choice confronts America’s citizens in particular. Here the apparent choice is bold and straightforward:

               Shall Americans support an evil president in the greater interest of some wider political good?

               Though plausible in principle, no such dilemma actually exists. In  current US political circumstances, there is no supportable argument that Donald Trump’s disjointed and seat-of-the-pants policies, either foreign or domestic, can bestow any verifiable net benefits. To the main point, by allowing a willfully corrosive president to act in its name, the United States has defiled American national interests and  global human interests simultaneously.

               Apropos of proper logic, one presumptive conclusion is unambiguous: There is notragic” choice involved here (the choice identified above by Realpolitiker[1] Reinhold Niebuhr),  just an obvious and overriding imperative to rid both nation and planet of Trump-era toxicity. Prima facie, in this case at least, presidential evil and American good are mutually exclusive.

               There is more. With each passing day, weary Americans must face several stark and ironic contradictions. At an historical  moment when uplifting numbers of good people are making great personal sacrifices to help others (e.g., medical communities working against Covid19;  firefighters in the west; hurricane search-and-rescue personnel in the south, etc.), a US president acts wittingly to undermine his own country’s safety and security. This behavior includes a continuously incomprehensible stance of support for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who it would appear can wish no harms upon the United States.[2]

               While according to any reasonable criteria of intellectual assessment these cumulative Trump behaviors are injurious and inexcusable,[3] millions of US citizens still maintain that his plainly deranged presidency represents a calculable “net positive.”

               What does this really mean? By definition, even now, these Trump-supporting Americans believe that manifest presidential evil can be compatible with national welfare and national progress. Somehow, in this case, they believe that such once-unimaginable evil can also be good. Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers, “I believe because it is absurd.”

               How can all this be helpfullyexplained? Conceptually, it would be best to begin at the beginning. The contradiction we are so painfully witnessing with this stumbling White House administration is not uniquely American. Already, back in the sixteenth-century, philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli observed famously,  “A man who wishes to  make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.”

               Machiavelli need not always be clarifying or relevant. There is nothing here to suggest that this classic argument from The Prince would in any way support Donald J. Trump’s foreign and/or domestic policies. This president’s particular descents into wrongdoing and dereliction are not an expression of any gainful policy “realism.” Rather, they are singularly lamentable expressions of wantonly gratuitous harms.

               In an unsteady age when the risks of a nuclear war[4] could coincide with expanding biological destructions – that is, with the devastating microbial assaults of a Corona-Virus “plague”[5] – such harms can have no conceivable justifications.

               None at all.

               There is more. Context is important. All humans, wherever they may live, must bear persistent witness to the distressingly thin veneers of  “civilization.” Recalling William Golding’s marooned boys in Lord of the Flies, we must repeatedly discover, beneath any delicate varnish of supposed coexistence, a lascivious human inclination to brutalize  certain “others.”

               However informally it may be calculated, this primal inclination is “normally” judged agreeable and cost-effective.

                Science and technology notwithstanding, empathy and compassion remain in calculably short supply on planet earth. Accordingly, substantial fractions of humankind remain slouched in a perpetually bruising darkness, hoping not to create promising new forms of human civilization, but to “better” inflict myriad varieties of unspeakable slaughter. During the debilitating “Trump Years,” years of steadily-expanding presidential evil, the United States has made an egregious choice.

               Knowingly, it has placed itself directly within such nefariously cascading “darkness.”

               As “analysts,” Americans should now be more policy-specific. In Donald Trump’s United States, there is always some blatantly self-serving presidential explanation for human rights abuse. To wit, we are instructed, the latest victims are despicable, “illegal” or, in some ways at least, not fully human. Always, they are “others,”  mere others. And as we are repeatedly informed by the president’s reliably obsequious minions, this particular victim population is not at all like us. It is deserving of necessary “punishment.”

               Credo quia absurdum.  “I believe because it is absurd.” It is a very old story. The struggle between “Us and Them” is very plainly generic, not US-specific. If we are “good,” they are not. Period. Such grimly bifurcated reasoning is especially perverse and ironic today, during a pandemic crisis when the common biological “oneness” of the human species couldn’t possibly be more obvious

               In high tragedy, as originally performed back in fifth-century BC Athens, humans were routinely presented as inherently flawed guests in a divinely-created universe. This ancient presentation, though presently “modified” with assorted  regional and religious nuances, remains difficult to dispute. After all, following even a “small” nuclear war –  a plausible event, at least in the currently downward trajectory of world affairs – cemeteries the size of whole cities could be needed to bury the uncountable dead.

               Then, recalling the pre-nuclear imagery of poet T S Eliot, there could be no “lilacs breeding out of the dead land.” Then, there would be no discernible “good,” only variously decaying bearers of “evil.”

               Promptly, in far-flung parts of the world, both within and between individual nation-states, a “waste land” could become the new normal. Such “normalcy,” one substantially worse than even the new-normal of Covid19 life on earth, ought never become an intentionally sought-after expectation. For rational thinkers, this point hardly requires any present-moment clarifications.

               No sane person can be in favor of necropolis.

               “Art is a lie,” noted Pablo Picasso, “that lets us see the truth.” In this paradoxical description, theatrical tragedy can remind us that earthly spheres of order, justice and good remain severely compromised  by evil, and that  no amount of technology or science can ever compensate for our species’ multiple leadership transgressions. If, as in high tragedy, we humans should sometimes be punished in apparent excess of our specifically personal wrongdoings –  “Whom God wishes to destroy,”  warned the Greek tragedian, Euripides, “He first makes mad.” –  even this “unfair” fate could not declare us to be “innocent.”

               Not reasonably.

               There is more. Always, it is the gripping silence and self-inflicted fears of ordinary people that sustain the human world’s abundant madness. Often, these primal fears center on certain irrepressible expectations of personal death. But sometimes they can also rest on various corollary anxieties about personal exclusion. More than anything else, and for several markedly different yet intersecting reasons, we humans continue to seek the comfortingly calming warmth of  “mass.”

               It is the “mass man.” an elucidating and derivative construct of Spanish existentialist philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset (The Revolt of the Masses,1930) who created US President Donald J. Trump. Stated differently, this American president, who promises to “Make America Great Again” is the openly evil product of American “mass.”[6] By itself, this collective does not intend to create evil, but intent is not at all determinative.

               It is quite enough that the mass prefers baseless opinion to documented fact and a willful anti-Reason to proper learning or tangible science.

               There is more. As a species, not just as Americans, there exists no compelling or defensible reason for us to fawn upon myriad past mistakes. Now, instead, with a view to achieving some still-plausible and verifiable progress, Americans must look back courageously. “How much treasure,” they must finally inquire, “how much science, how much labor and planning, how many vast oceans of sacred poetry, have we already ransacked, just to render our disparate human civilizations even more miserable and more imperiled?”

               I don’t know each pertinent answer. I do know, however, that our shallow and corrupted civilizational institutions, including America’s humiliating presidential elections, can never save us. This nation’s most revered universities,  perched deliberately above the distressingly mundane clamor of work, politics and family, remain unmindful of the world’s most urgently important intellectual questions.

               Thoroughly unmindful.

               Unassailably, though painfully indelicate to acknowledge, higher education in the  expansively deranged Trump-Era proceeds hand in hand with a ubiquitously crude and predatory commerce. In partial consequence, our colleges and universities shamelessly crush most residual reflexes of lingering student intellect or individuality. This crushing is not undertaken with any insidious intent – and the challenges to academic success during a pandemic are anything but minor –  but the US posture of anti-Reason is nonetheless destructive. Sorely destructive.

               In today’s Trump-defiled United States, American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson’s once venerable goal of a people that is “plain living and high thinking” is more than just forgotten. This once-lofty objective presently now lies very far beyond any identifiable popular interest or hint of public imagination. Why not? Living together with unhidden presidential evil, what else should we expect?

                The American university, a dutifully obliging adjunct of the wider corporate/political universe, now lies distant not only from human learning, but also from human survival. French philosophers of the eighteenth-century Age of  Reason had preferred to speak optimistically of a siècle des lumieres, a “century of light,” but today, the ivy-covered walls are inestimably fouled by a congealing darkness, by a suffocating pall of excruciating conformance, vulgar self-interest and even a peculiarly-fashionable loathing of anything detached from money.

               There is a professionally favored euphemism here. It’s called “wealth maximization.” The language provides cover for a nation’s abject indifference to serious learning.

               None of this devaluation was initially created by the Trump “ascendancy,”[7] but it has been strongly reaffirmed in absolutely every respect by a starkly unworthy American president.[8]

               As an easily verifiable matter of human history, resisting evil has had little to do with human intelligence. More often than we may care to admit, such intelligence is conveniently manipulated to justify or enlarge certain “others'” most excruciating forms of  human suffering. Indeed, looking over the still-mounting wreckage of Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States, we see the palpably grim results of such manipulation,  both domestically and in various other countries harmed by the dissembling American foreign policies.

               In some cases, these are harms of US omission or inaction, rather than of commission. A specific case in point would by Syria, where Trump’s immutable unwillingness to get on the wrong side of Vladimir Putin has already created societal disintegration and unspeakable torment.[9]

               The main theme or question before us allows only a single coherent response. There is no way that a “good” American society can be created or sustained by an “evil” American president. Period. Before the United States allows itself to become even more thoroughly lost to any still credible hopes for human improvement  and national survival, American citizens will have to build more purposefully upon this rudimentary wisdom. To be sure, we remain disturbingly far from understanding (let alone electing) Plato’s “Philosopher King,”[10] but now we are at least better advised to reject American presidential evil at absolutely all costs.

               Donald J. Trump does no evil for the sake of good. There is nothing “tragic” about his persistent across-the-board choice of evil              postures and policies. In essence, he makes these barbarous choices because he is authentically committed to evil for evil’s own sake.

               Left uncorrected, Trump will continue to bring to these deeply unhappy United States a self-inflicted future of national humiliation and determined anti-reason.

               No such future could ever “make America great again.”


[1] On Realpolitik or power politics, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpoliitk: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington Books, 1984). See also his later book: Louis René Beres, America Outside the World: The Collapse of US Foreign Policy (Lexington Books, 1987).

[2] Incontestably, of course, Russia remains a significant nuclear threat to the United States. See, for example, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The War Room (US Department of Defense: Pentagon): https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[3] Journalist Bob Woodward called Trump’s efforts to conceal his knowledge of the virus from the public “one of the most tragic, outrageous acts by a sitting president in, maybe in history.”

[4] For early and informed assessments of nuclear war risks and consequences by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   Louis René Beres,  Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986). See also, by Professor Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/

[5] Such biological assaults have thus far been considered only as natural occurrences. Going forward, however, it is possible that pertinent pathogens could be weaponized, and that future instances of “plague” could emerge as a deliberate form of warfare and/or terrorism.

[6]Like Jose Ortega y’Gasset, the Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung spoke usefully of  “mass.” Earlier, Friedrich Nietzsche, had referenced this demeaning phenomenon as the “herd;” Sigmund Freud, as the “horde;” and Soren Kierkegaard, as the “crowd.”

[7] See,  by this author, at The Daily Princetonian, Louis René Beres: https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[8] See, by this author, at Yale Global Online, Louis René Beres: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trump-and-destruction-american-mind

[9] These are not just matters of moral responsibility. The United States is obligated by the international law of human rights to intervene on behalf of such cruelly victimized populations. These international legal obligations are also incorporated in the national law of the United States, per Article 6 of the US Constitution (the “Supremacy Clause”) and several major US Supreme Court decisions. In the precise words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).

[10] See, by this author, at Oxford University Press, Louis René Beres: https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/

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