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The New Leader of The Revolution? Nina Turner Gives Rousing Sermon at MLK Jr. Monument

by Sydney Robinson. The Ring of Fire Network.

On a grey Saturday afternoon, former Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner addressed an assembled crowd in front of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., calling on them to act in the spirit of the civil rights leader and take inspiration from his struggle for the fight ahead.

Sounding an awful lot like a reverend herself, Turner inspired all who listened with encouragements about the future, spreading a message of unity. She called on progressives to come together, with one hand reaching forward to climb above the struggle, with the other hand reaching behind, to pull those still struggling further skyward.

To Turner, though we feel we are facing dark times ahead, it is just a reminder of where we have been.

“The mountain might be higher, but we’ve been here before. The valley may be lower, but we’ve been here before.”

And just like we have done before, we will face the seemingly insurmountable obstacles ahead, ever fighting, ever reaching, for the things we as a united people deserve.

‘And guess what, sisters and brothers? We can’t have a testimony without a test, and we are being tested right now for whether or not we’ve got courage enough, hope enough, fight enough, love enough to do what is necessary.”


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‘A cat in hell’s chance’ – why we’re losing the battle to keep global warming below 2C

By Andew Simms.This article was first published on The Guardian.

A global rise in temperature of just 2C would be enough to threaten life as we know it. But leading climate scientists think even this universally agreed target will be missed. Could dramatic action help?

Under threat: a polar bear tries its weight on thin sea ice in the Arctic. Photograph: Mario Hoppmann/AFP/Getty Images

It all seemed so simple in 2008. All we had was financial collapse, a cripplingly high oil price and global crop failures due to extreme weather events. In addition, my climate scientist colleague Dr Viki Johnson and I worked out that we had about 100 months before it would no longer be “likely” that global average surface temperatures could be held below a 2C rise, compared with pre-industrial times.

What’s so special about 2C? The simple answer is that it is a target that could be politically agreed on the international stage. It was first suggested in 1975 by the environmental economist William Nordhaus as an upper threshold beyond which we would arrive at a climate unrecognisable to humans. In 1990, the Stockholm Environment Institute recommended 2C as the maximum that should be tolerated, but noted: “Temperature increases beyond 1C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.”

To date, temperatures have risen by almost 1C since 1880. The effects of this warming are already being observed in melting ice, ocean levels rising, worse heat waves and other extreme weather events. There are negative impacts on farming, the disruption of plant and animal species on land and in the sea, extinctions, the disturbance of water supplies and food production and increased vulnerability, especially among people in poverty in low-income countries. But effects are global. So 2C was never seen as necessarily safe, just a guardrail between dangerous and very dangerous change.

To get a sense of what a 2C shift can do, just look in Earth’s rear-view mirror. When the planet was 2C colder than during the industrial revolution, we were in the grip of an ice age and a mile-thick North American ice sheet reached as far south as New York. The same warming again will intensify and accelerate human-driven changes already under way and has been described by James Hansen, one of the first scientists to call global attention to climate change, as a “prescription for long-term disaster”, including an ice-free Arctic.

Nevertheless, in 1996, a European Council of environment ministers, that included a young Angela Merkel, adopted 2C as a target for the EU. International negotiators agreed the same in 2010 in Cancun. It was a commitment repeated in the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 where, pushed by a new group of countries called the Climate Vulnerable Forum, ambitions went one step further, agreeing to hold temperature rises to “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C”.

François Hollande and Ban Ki-moon at Paris climate accord in 2015

French president François Hollande (right) and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon (second left) celebrate the Paris climate accord in 2015. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

Is it still likely that we will stay below even 2C? In the 100 months since August 2008, I have been writing a climate-change diary for the Guardian to raise questions and monitor progress, or the lack of it, on climate action. To see how well we have fared, I asked a number of leading climate scientists and analysts for their views. The responses were as bracing as a bath in a pool of glacial meltwater.

Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has an important place in the history of climate-change research. Hansen was its director from 1981 until 2013. Donald Trump is set to strip the institute of funding for climate research. Its current director, Dr Gavin Schmidt, is categoric that we are no longer likely to stay below 2C. “The inertia in the system (oceans, economies, technologies, people) is substantial and … so far the efforts are not commensurate with the goal,” he says.

Sabine Fuss, of Germany’s Mercator Research Institute, on Global Commons and Climate Change says emissions are currently “not aligned” with the 2C target and will need to “come down more quickly”. Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, thinks there is “no chance whatsoever at current levels of carbon emissions”, and her Grantham Institute colleague, Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, is not “confident” that temperature rises can be held below 2C.

Prof Andrew Watkinson of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia thinks it “unlikely” and Prof John Shepherd, a physicist at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, calls it “not very likely at all”. Stuart Haszeldine of the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh says we have “very little chance”, and Prof Piers Forster, director of the Priestly International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds calls it, “on the fanciful edge of plausible”. Glen Peters, senior researcher at Norway’s leading climate change centre, Cicero, is unambiguous, saying: “We have emitted too much already.” And these sentiments are echoed by Prof Alice Larkin, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, and Dr Chris Vernon, a glaciologist and former scientist at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Science. Only one influential scientist preferred their comments to remain anonymous, but they too said we were off-target, because the “international negotiating process is disconnected from national policymaking”.

In short, not a single one of the scientists polled thought the 2C target likely to be met. Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, is most emphatic. “My personal view,” he says, “is that there is not a cat in hell’s chance.”

The most positive response came in the guarded words of Chris Jones, head of the Earth system and mitigation science team at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, who says that current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere “don’t preclude” successfully achieving the target. Prof Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, would “only confirm that it is still possible to keep global warming below 2C”. The last point, however, is contentious, for precisely the reason the target exists. Namely, to prevent global warming from feeding off itself by triggering long-term, potentially irreversible environmental domino effects, such as ice loss and forest die-back, and the weakening ability of things such as our oceans to absorb carbon. “The open question for me is not whether we will breach the 2C target,” says Prof Barry McMullin of Dublin City University, “but how soon.”

In addition, the temperature target is a global average, and local variations matter. In November 2016, the Arctic was already experiencing extraordinary anomalies. Temperatures were 20C above normal. A global average rise of 2C implies higher temperatures still for the Arctic, sufficient to push long-term ice loss and trigger other potentially uncontrollable climate changes. At the other end of the world, a development more bizarre than extraordinary is touching the Antarctic. Gambling with our future used to be largely a metaphor, but it is now possible to place bets on when the next giant iceberg will detach itself from the Larsen C ice shelf. At the time of writing, betting company PaddyPower is offering odds of 7/2 in February 2017 or 12/1 in August.

Hoskins says: “We have no evidence that a 1.9C rise is something we can easily cope with, and 2.1 is a disaster.” But Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, one of the countries most vulnerable to warming, warns in stark terms of the failure to stick to a much lower target: “The consequences of failing to keep the temperature below 1.5C will be to wilfully condemn hundreds of millions of the poorest citizens of Earth to certain deaths from the severe impacts of climate change.”

A rift in the Antarctic peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf

A Nasa photograph of a massive rift in the Antarctic peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf, observed in November 2016. Photograph: Nasa/EPA

“I think we actively chose to forgo the carbon budgets for a likely chance of 2C many years ago,” says Kevin Anderson, currently professor of climate change at Uppsala University in Sweden. “Judging that rate at which our emissions would need to be reduced was too politically challenging to contemplate.”

The one thing agreed by all the climate scientists was the need for immediate and dramatic transition to a low-carbon economy, at a scale and speed we have not yet remotely approached. And the truly striking thing is that a huge number of the actions we need to take are things that bring enormous economic, social and environmental benefits. Rationally, we would be choosing to do them anyway. Where there are challenging shifts in behaviour required, they mostly affect only a small, wealthy proportion of society. Take flying, for example: 70% of all flights by UK residents are accounted for by just 15% of the population.

So, what scale of change are we looking at to stay below 2C? Being optimistic about what might be achieved in terms of saving forests from being cut down and cleaning up industry, especially the production of steel and cement, Anderson estimates globally we can afford to emit around 650bn tonnes of carbon dioxide in total from energy systems. Currently, the world pumps out about 36bn tonnes every year alone. Starting from today, and assuming that poorer and industrialising nations see a peak in the emissions from energy use by 2025 and go zero carbon by 2050, Anderson calculates that this leaves a rich country such as the UK with the challenge of cutting its emissions by around 13% per year.

Chris Goodall charts the remarkable rise of renewable energy and its equally dramatic falling costs. But renewables have to substitute for fossil fuels, not merely add to overall energy supply. In the meantime, it matters as much that we reduce our total energy use. You will hear a lot of talk about technologies to capture carbon from the burning of fuel and prevent it entering the atmosphere. Most of the climate models used to project what will happen to our atmosphere rely heavily on the assumption that they will be used at large scale. While most climate scientists see these so-called “negative emissions technologies” for carbon capture and storage (CCS) as essential parts of the toolkit to tackle climate change, many are sceptical of hope being placed in them. It is easier not to burn the carbon in the first place.

“There is no guarantee that CCS will work at a sufficiently global scale,” says Dr Hugh Hunt, a Cambridge specialist on climate engineering. “These technologies will take decades to reach any meaningful scale.” Tellingly, as an engineer, he argues that our top priorities are to stop burning fossil fuels and for the biggest consumers to live less extravagantly. And, it seems, moderate shifts by the most profligate could yield huge climate dividends. Currently about half of all global emissions are the responsibility of just of just one in 10 of the global population.

Traffic on a Los Angeles freeway

Climate threat: traffic on a Los Angeles freeway. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

If just this group reduced their carbon footprints to that of the average, barely impoverished European, argues Anderson, global emissions would be cut by around one-third.

There are many ways to reach a 2C world, according to Prof Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, of the Central European University. “Their common characteristic is that they all require rapid and transformational action,” she says. Small, incremental changes won’t do it.

Retrofitting existing buildings in rich countries can save 70-90% of the energy used to heat and cool them, she adds. And such a move also tackles fuel poverty, creates local jobs and reduces deaths from cold. Switching transport from fossil fuels to electricity power by renewables cuts emissions but also removes the air pollution that is responsible for an epidemic of lethal respiratory disease. In Europe alone, about half a million people suffer premature deaths each year due to air pollution.

In November 2016, many, mostly low-income countries, from Bangladesh to Tanzania and Guatemala, committed to switching entirely to renewable energy by 2030-50 at the latest. Costa Rica, aided by favourable geography, has already managed to power itself for extended periods, relying just on renewables. Portugal has managed the same for shorter periods. But great leaps forward are happening elsewhere, too. China is installing more new wind energy capacity in a single year than the UK has in total.

So, adding to the prevailing global strangeness, the edifice of international climate policy rests on a target that no one believes it is likely can be met. And some think even that insufficiently ambitious. Yet, among climate scientists, there is a consensus that swift action is vital, and with it the target remains, at least, possible.

With the amount of carbon burned by humans, we have now created a climate not experienced on Earth since the Pliocene era, 2m-5m years ago. We are daily rolling the climate dice with the odds stacked against us. But we are also clever, quick and innovative when we want to be. Now that we understand the game better, the question we face is whether we will choose to change it, fast and enough, so that we can all have better lives.

Andrew Simms is co-director of the New Weather Institute, author of Cancel the Apocalypse and a research fellow on rapid transition at the University of Sussex.


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Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph

By George Monbiot. This article was first published on The Guardian.

Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are “scouts”, “experimenting with new styles of living”, who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these “independents” to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: “the idle rich”, who don’t have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing “fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs”. Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but “aimless display”, they are in fact acting as society’s vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is “an overwhelming case against a free health service for all” and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics.

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek’s doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world’s richest people and businesses, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

The ideologies Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan espoused were just two facets of neoliberalism.

The ideologies Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan espoused were just two facets of neoliberalism. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy. Hayek’s triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair’s expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had regulated the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn’t possess a narrative either (except “hope”), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish. The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

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Chelsea Manning, cabinet picks and poverty

By Informed Rant. This article was first published on Soundcloud.

This week on Informed Rant, we look at the long list of terrible Trump picks for cabinet positions and their confirmation hearings in a conversation with journalist Kevin Gosztola, from Shadowproof.  We then explore Chelsea Manning's commutation and the fate of other incarcerated people under Trump, with lawyer and author of The Passion of Chelsea Manning, Chase Madar.  We end the show with a personal discussion of poverty and how people are at risk of sliding into this trap in an interview with screenwriter, author and journalist Ruth Fowler

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Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?

By Andrew Levine. This article was first published on Coonterpunch.

Even troglodytes concede that Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban was poorly thought out and poorly executed.  More evolved citizens understand that it was also stupid and odious.

Was this just a case of Trump being Trump?  Or is there something more sinister going on?   Most likely, the former, but perhaps not; the only sure thing, at this point, is that it would be foolish to wait to find out.

Trump is wicked and capable of doing grave and irreparable harm.  He could start a war out of desperation or in a fit of pique.  But, by all accounts, Steven Bannon, Trump’s “chief strategist,” is qualitatively worse.

Insofar as the ban was an indicator of Bannon’s increasing influence within the Trump bubble, it is all the more urgent to deepen and expand the resistance to Trump and all things Trumpian in every way and by every available means.

It is more important still to turn that resistance into a determined and capable political opposition.  There is now no real opposition at all; there is the Democratic Party, and it is worse than useless.


As a candidate, Trump would say whatever popped into his mind at the moment; this was usually determined by whomever he had spoken to last.

To his everlasting credit, he would also sometimes utter forbidden truths — about the mediocrity of his rivals and about how corrupt both Democrats and Republicans are.

He did something like that again recently in a Fox News interview on Superbowl Sunday when, in response to a question of Bill O’Reilly’s about the evils of Vladimir Putin, he replied: “ do you think our country’s so innocent?”

Ninety-nine percent of the time, however, he would jabber on without regard to evidence or logic, and, when it served his purpose, he would flip flop with reckless abandon.

This was not just the mindless babble of a man in the grip of “alternative facts.”  It was also a sales pitch targeted at one or another or both of two broad categories of voters — white, middle aged victims of neoliberal economic policies, and the miscreants whom neoliberalism’s standard bearer, Hillary Clinton, called “deplorable.”


Now that the end of Trump’s first month in office is in sight, he is still peddling the same snake oil to the same people.  This is all the more remarkable inasmuch as the pre-Trump world already feels like a distant, barely remembered past.

One thing that has changed since those long ago days is that reactionary millionaires and billionaires, and rank incompetents, are now ensconced in the highest offices of government.  What a gaggle of scoundrels!

George W. Bush is therefore losing his claim to be, by far, the worst President in modern American history.

This is no mean feat: with Dick Cheney calling the shots, and with some real doozies of his own for advisors and in cabinet and cabinet level positions, Bush did incalculable harm to the United States.  Worse still, his wars – all of them wars of choice — destabilized large swathes of the Muslim world.  It could take decades to put back together all that he broke, even if all goes well.  Meanwhile, the consequences reverberate around the world.

It is already clear too that it will not be long before Barack Obama is no longer the unsurpassed, and seemingly unsurpassable, Deporter-in-Chief.

Hardcore deplorables must be pleased with the way things are going, but the scales are starting to fall from the eyes of at least a few of the marks the Donald conned.   It helps that nearly everything Trump does and says is embarrassing.

Naturally, it will take a while for most of them fully to fess up.  Nobody likes to admit to being wrong, and as long as they are not feeling the pain themselves, they can remain willfully blind.

Even now, though, when pressed, many of them struggle to find hopeful things to say. What they come up with usually comes down to Trump’s “authenticity.”  He may be a badass, they say, but what you see is what you get.

Seriously?  The man is as phony as a three-dollar bill.  Even the Clintons are better than that.

This is why there really is no way to say what he wants to get out of his Muslim travel ban or anything else, for that matter — except glory, of course – fat chance of that! — and money. The problem is not that he is secretive; quite to the contrary.   It is that there is no there there.

He probably does believe what he says when he says it.  This is only human; even pathological liars are momentarily sincere.  But this is a psychological phenomenon, not an indicator of relatively stable political views.

Even so, there is no need to deal with each utterance – or with each Executive Order –without any purchase at all on the beliefs and desires behind them.

To find method in the madness, we can impute rationales – rationally reconstruct them, as it were, regardless of what Trump or his appointees are thinking.

Getting this right can be helpful.  The more that reasons can be discerned, the easier it will be for the anti-Trump resistance to understand what it is up against, and therefore to defeat it.

The Muslim travel ban poses particular challenges in that regard, not least because it is so  stupid.

The stupidity starts with the claim that the Executive Order that initiated it was not actually a ban on Muslims.  It is, the story goes, just a ban on persons coming from seven “dangerous” countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan.

Trump and his people have to say this.  A ban on Muslims as such would be so ridiculously unconstitutional that even Trump knows not to go there.

Leave aside why Trump targeted those countries, but not others – for example, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, historically Muslim countries whose citizens actually have been involved with terrorism directed against Americans.  There is no mystery about that: as with all things Trumpian, follow the money – see where the Donald has business interests, and where he does not.

The Trump line – fashioned, it seems, in the crack legal mind of Rudolph Giuliani – is that the travel ban is not a Muslim ban at all because the Executive Order Trump issued does not use the word  “Muslim,” and also because there are plenty of Muslims in the world who do not fall under its scope.

The first of these contentions is too idiotic to dignify with a response; the second makes as much sense as claiming, say, that when the police kill an African American in their custody, it cannot be because their victim is black, since they don’t kill every African American they detain.


The most implausible of all the rationales for the Muslim travel ban currently in circulation is the one that Trump keeps repeating: its purpose, he says, is to keep Americans safe.

No matter that the seven targeted countries have never been implicated, even indirectly, in terrorist acts committed on U.S. soil or directed against Americans abroad.

No matter too that the ban actually makes Americans less safe by lending credence to ISIS and other jihadi groups that claim that the West is at war with the Muslim world.

In this respect, it is only an extreme version of the normal politics of the Bush-Obama era.

Obama did seem “kinder and gentler” than Bush and Cheney, but only because the wars they started in Afghanistan and Iraq had evolved in ways that made this possible, and because the weaponized drones and special ops assassins he favored didn’t raise nearly as much domestic opposition as “boots on the ground” or CIA “dark sites.”

But the Nobel laureate changed nothing fundamental.  Under his aegis, just as under his predecessor’s, the United States made more terrorists than it killed or maimed.

In the final analysis, the slogan “no justice, no peace” rings true; and nothing Trump said during the campaign indicated even the slightest interest in a just foreign policy.  But he did talk a lot about negotiating “good deals” for America.  It is far from clear what that would mean, but, insofar as the goal is to make America safe, it could hardly be worse than what Bush and Obama have been doing.

Don’t count on any changes for the better, however.

Indeed, we already have some inkling of what counts as a good deal in the Donald’s mind;  in the case of Israel and Palestine, it comes down to additional support for the settler movement and for politicians even more viciously ethnocratic than Benjamin Netanyahu.

At his joint press conference with the Bibster last Wednesday, Trump volunteered that it would be fine with him if Israel were to drop its nominal support for a “two state solution” altogether.  Needless to say, what he had in mind was not a democratic and secular state that accorded full and equal rights to all of its citizens; he meant an Apartheid state governed by a Jewish Herrenvolk.

This may be a good deal in the eyes of his hyper-Zionist son-in-law and the bankruptcy lawyer he chose to be his Ambassador to the ethnocratic settler state, but it would be a disaster for the United States – and for Palestinians and, whether they know it or not, for Israeli Jews as well.

The conclusion is clear: what Trump says he will do, and what he does are often worlds apart, even when he and the people who speak for him go on endlessly about how he is fulfilling his campaign promises.

What a risible lot those spokespersons are!

Kellyanne Conway is, by now, even more a laughing stock than the Donald himself; and if Steven Miller didn’t look quite so goofy, he could do a respectable parody of a film noir sadistic killer.  That boy’s appearances on the Sunday talk shows last week could have been scripted by “Saturday Night Live” writers.  And even if there were no “Saturday Night Live,” Sean Spicer, the Donald’s press secretary, would still be a cartoon.

Yet this is what they trot out to show the world how they are making America safer!

There is also the slightly more plausible idea that the apparently mindless way that the Muslim travel ban was set out was purposeful; that, it was somehow a riff on Richard Nixon’s “madman theory.”

Nixon is said to have thought that he could prevail in Vietnam and force the Russians and Chinese into submission if he could get his opponents to think that he was crazy enough to do anything, up to and including unleashing a nuclear apocalypse.

Of course, not even Trump would go that far just to keep a few Muslims out of the United States.  But seeming to be chaotic and out of control can be nearly as effective as being, or seeming to be, bat shit crazy.  Instead of scaring people into submission by acting nuts, the idea would be to drive people nuts – by acting like a spoiled brat beyond the reach of reason.


But this is a tactic; and tactics only matter insofar as they advance some strategic objective.

Nixon understood that; he always had an objective in mind – usually a demented one, but an objective nevertheless.   If Trump does, he has yet to tweet it out.

Another possibility is that he issued that Executive Order because, as a conman, he understands that he has to seem to be doing something, anything, to keep his marks on board.  In a good con, “atmospherics” are all.

Then the point of his travel ban would be of a piece with his fondness for appearing on stage with generals, the more bloodthirsty the better, and with mouthing off about the effectiveness of torture.

This makes him look tough to the deplorables in his base.  It also deflects attention away from what has always been obvious: that his efforts to “fix” the economy are bound not only to fail, but also to worsen the material condition of nearly everyone who is not already hyper-rich.

The only way to fix the economy is to change it.  As a class conscious capitalist that is the very last thing that Trump would do.

Trump also understands the importance of keeping the public in a state of fear.  A frightened people is a docile people.

Before Communism imploded and the Soviet Union collapsed, capitalist elites, with the political class and mainstream media in tow, managed to scare the hell out of Americans by invoking the Communist menace.

Trump’s travel ban is of a piece with that: with the Red Scare that followed the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, and with Cold War anti-Communism.  The difference is that “radical Islamic terrorism” is the Great Fear now.


Since even before 9/11, our leaders have taken it upon themselves to encourage that fear – a complicated business in view of the close political and economic ties between the Muslim world and the West.

Nevertheless, with the help of jihadis intent on provoking a “clash of civilizations,” they have been more than up to the task.  Insofar as Trump acts for reasons larger than his own needs, it may be that he wants is to keep fear alive.   From that purview, his   Muslim travel ban almost makes sense.


It is possible and even likely that Trump’s ban is the result of nothing more sinister than the nefarious instincts and clueless flailing about that is the Donald’s standard operating procedure.

When Trump is being Trump, people and institutions are harmed egregiously.  The good news, though, is that Trump is also harming himself.  Nixon finally got the axe because he was what he said he was not – a crook.   If and when Trump falls, it will be because he is an embarrassment.

Perhaps, by then, he will not have done too much irrevocable damage to the body politic and to American society generally.  There is at least some chance of that, especially if he goes sooner rather than later.


There is another more noxious possibility, however: that the man behind the Muslim ban is not so much Trump himself as his ethno-nationalist Svengali and consigliere, Steven Bannon.

Reliable journalists say that Bannon has been consolidating his power within the administration.  If they are right, this would be a disturbing development indeed.

Unlike Trump, Bannon does seem to have an ideological streak; and also unlike Trump, he does not appear to be empty upstairs.

What his ideological commitments are is unclear however; he is an ideologue without writings – unless a half dozen rightwing film documentaries count.   There is his work at Breitbart, but he was an editor there, not a journalist – the views he was trying to promote therefore have to be inferred from what he published, not from what he wrote.

Even so, his political orientation is clear enough; it is of a piece with ways of thinking current on the European hard Right – the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, for example, and the Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik.

Classical fascism was a creature of the class struggles of its time and place.  It suffered an historic defeat at the end of World War II, and can never be revived.

But the social and psychological factors that made mass fascist movements possible can be, and have been, revived – to the point where they pose a grave danger.  Insofar as they seek to explain themselves to the world and to each other, they draw, for want of better or more recent alternatives, on strains of classical fascist thought.

There never was a single fascist ideology, but there were philosophers who gave theoretical expression to the various facets of fascist politics.  Bannon may not be steeped in this literature, but he is plainly acquainted with it; and he seems to be drawing on it — picking and choosing what suits his interests.

Fascist thinkers opposed democracy and glorified political violence; they also developed distinctive aesthetic and moral theories, and had views about how capital, labor and the state ought to collaborate for the good of the Nation.  If Bannon cares about any of that, he has kept his interest hidden.

However there has been discussion of his apparent familiarity with the writings of some esoteric fascist thinkers – Julius Evola, for example – noted for their opposition not only to Enlightenment values but to modernity itself.

That strain of fascist thought glorifies notions of racial purity and of the collective wisdom of the Volk — the people, purged of outside, corrupting influences.

As Catholic and Protestant anti-Judaism gave way to anti-Semitism, Jews were the quintessential outside, corrupting influence.  Now that Muslims are the new Jews, and now that Israel has become a love interest of right-wingers the world over, the endemic anti-Semitism of the European hard Right has been muted to a considerable extent.

But deeply entrenched habits of mind die hard, and this one never did quite fade away in the first place.

Bannon, and therefore the Trump administration, is not many degrees of separation away from the hardest of hard core anti-Semites.  But hard core Zionists like Jared Kushner and David Friedman are OK with that, and vice versa.   Hard core Zionists are honorary white Americans; ordinary Jews not so much.

What an odd ethnos white America is!   Elsewhere, history and demography have conspired to make the state and the nation one (or nearly one).  But the United States is exceptional.   Therefore, our ethno-nationalists have a harder time of it than, say, their counterparts in the Netherlands or France.

Dutch and French nationalists can plausibly ground their imaginings in the purported reality of the Dutch and French nations.  Like all others, these nations are socially constructed and based, as Ernst Renan famously put it, on forgetting a great deal, but at least they are fixtures in the collective consciousness of the Dutch and French publics, respectively.

The United States is, and long has been, too “diverse” for anything quite like that.  American ethno-nationalists have only the ravings of white supremacists to work with.

Even so, there are insiders and outsiders in America too.   And like everywhere else, large influxes of outsiders can exacerbate insiders’ feelings of economic and social insecurity, causing the inner fascist in some of them to break free from the normal constraints of human decency.

Bannon, it seems, would make a virtue of this moral and psychological debility; that is what the classical fascists did, and it is what the hard Right around the world is doing today.

If Bannon’s way of thinking is, or becomes, the functioning ideology of the Trump government, we are in for big trouble.

The Muslim travel ban would then be just a foretaste of what is about to come down.


With Trump in office, it can only get worse – there will be two, three, many Muslim travel bans. The odiousness will become qualitatively worse as well.

This, again, is why it is imperative to resist all things Trumpian by any and all available means, and why it is urgent to move from resistance to effective opposition.

Rule the Democrats, the party of the Clintons and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, out for that.  By now, inveterate Trump-haters in the GOP – people like John McCain and his sidekick Lindsay Graham — are showing signs of calling for Trump’s impeachment.  But from the ranks of the mainstream Democratic Party there has been, until very recently, only deafening silence.

That now seems to be changing, for reasons that are true to form and far from good.

Redbaiting is pointless when there are no reds to bait; but that didn’t stop Clinton when she needed an axe to grind during the campaign.  Now that the campaign is over, Democrats – “progressive” and otherwise — won’t let it go. Neither will Republicans of the McCain – Graham variety.  Hallelujah — bipartisanship at last!

Of course, Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans can’t exactly redbait, but they can do the next best thing; they can go after Russia.

What is it with them?  Are they itching to start World War III?  Anyone who can stand to watch MSNBC (MSDNC) for long cannot help but think so.

The silver lining in this is that Trump’s purported ties to Russia are at least getting Democrats to start talking about impeachment.  But for all the good there is in that, there is their newfound affection for the CIA and “the intelligence community” generally, and for other nefarious components of the so-called “deep state.”

Thus the evidence mounts: while civil society may sometimes force some Democrats to do the right thing the Party itself is hopeless.

Its record on impeachment is especially pathetic.  When there was a chance in 2006 to hobble George W. Bush’s war machine by launching impeachment proceedings against him, House Leader Pelosi, Clintonite extraordinaire, put the kybosh on the idea.   She didn’t want to do anything that would put Hillary Clinton’s election in 2008 at risk.  Neither, before Obama came on the scene, did any other leading Democrat.  Too bad for all of them that “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley…”

The Democrats were the Party of Pusillanimity in 2006; they are worse now.

This is why, as resistance to Trump grows, it is important to bear in mind that Trump is not the only enemy, and to realize that if all the energy that is now spilling out into the streets ends up benefiting the Democratic Party “as we know it,” it will all have been a spectacular waste.

According to news reports, Schumer wants Bernie Sanders to tell anyone who still listens to him to support Democrats come what may.  He well might; he has already betrayed the movement he started on just those grounds.

But whoever follows his advice is going to make matters worse.  The only issue worth pondering for anyone with a progressive bone in his or her body is whether to try to smash the Democratic Party or to try to take it over Tea Party style.

Resisting Trump is Job Number One, but unless and until the Donald causes the politics of our time to change fundamentally, Trumpism is only the symptom; Clintonism (or Schumerism or Pelosiism) is the disease.

Therefore, now is the time to resist — not only Trump and his posse of vile incompetents and ignoramuses, but Democrats too.

ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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