Category Archives: Noteworthy

Predicting Trump’s rise in the Weimar America


The late Richard Rorty’s title was Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University, but he was so much more.

He was one of the most brilliant philosophers America has produced, a prodigy who won admittance into the University of Chicago at the ripe old age of 14, when he received by bachelor’s and master’s degrees, then won his Ph.D. at Yale. He was also awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genus award,” and taught at Princeton for two decades before migrating West.

Rorty was also a theorist of consciousness, and his writings on the subject have been cited by numerous psychologists and evolutionary theorists, and provided our own introduction to this seminal 20th Century thinker.

All-in-all, impressive credentials.

But it is a quotation from Rorty’s final book, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, which has captured the attention of many in the days since we were presented with the reality of a President Donald Trump.

From page 89 comes a prescient prediction, a perfecting synopsis both of Trump’s victory and Clinton’s loss, coupled with a stark warning:

Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Sadly, Rorty died nine years before his prediction came to pass. We’d’ve loved to hear his comments on the ascendancy of President Pussygrabber.

Another group cheered by Trump’s election: ISIS


Yep, they see him as their best recruiting tool in years.

From Reuters:

A top Islamic State commander has warned how the election of Donald Trump will make it easier to recruit thousands of jihadists to their cause.

Abu Omar Khorasani, a top IS commander in Afghanistan, told Reuters, Mr Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail against Muslims could be used as a propaganda tool to bring new fighters to their battlefields.

Taliban commanders and Islamic State supporters claim Mr Trump’s call for a total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States will aid their recruitment efforts, especially for disaffected youth in the West.

“This guy is a complete maniac,” Khorasani said.

“His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands.”

When ISIS calls a guy a maniac, you know he’s really out there.

A socialist analysis of the roots of Campaign 2016


If history teaches us anything, it’s that the best analyses of political conditions within a nation usually come from outsiders, with Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America the shining example.

Consider this excerpt from Volume II of the French nobleman and diplomat’s magnum opus, written in 1840 and foreshadowing not only the Civil War but the divisions surfacing in Campaign 2016:

The weak rarely have confidence in the justice and reason of the strong. So the states that are growing less quickly than the others cast a look of distrust and envy on those that fortune favors. From that comes this profound malaise and this vague uneasiness that you notice in one part of the Union, and that contrast with the well-being and confidence that reign in the other. I think that the hostile attitude taken by the South has no other causes.

The men of the South are of all Americans those who should most hold on to the Union, for they are the ones who above all would suffer from being abandoned to themselves; but they are the only ones who threaten to break the bond of the confederation. What causes that? It is easy to say: the South, which provided four Presidents to the confederation; which knows today that federal power is escaping from it; which each year sees the number of its representatives to Congress decrease and those of the North and of the West increase; the South, populated by ardent and irascible men, is getting angry and is becoming uneasy. It looks at itself with distress; examining the past, it wonders each day if it is not oppressed. If it comes to find that a law of the Union is not clearly favorable to it, it cries out that it is being abused by force; it complains ardently, and if its voice is not heard, it becomes indignant and threatens to withdraw from a society whose costs it bears, without getting any profits.

The socialist analysis

One group of outsiders, Americans with socialist sympathies, cam surprising close to capturing the Democratic presidential nomination.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders were, by and large, young and alienated from a system which has seen wealth concentrate to unprecedented levels, with millionaires and billionaires controlling national and state legislatures and the White House itself.

[In the present campaign, we are seen one candidate worth a nine-figure fortune battling another with a fortune estimated in the ten-figure range. Meanwhile, the college-educated young are facing a lifetime of indentured servitude simply to pay off the costs of their college educations.]

And now for an excerpt from a trenchant analysis of America’s political duopolistic impasse from the World Socialist Web Site:

Both campaigns insult the intelligence of the American people. Trump appeals to raw anger, denouncing his opponent as a criminal who should be put in jail. Clinton and the Democrats alternate between portraying Trump as a sexual predator and smearing him as a tool of Moscow. Neither offers any serious program for improving the living standards and social conditions of the working class, the vast majority of the American people.

The election campaign is one more sign of the profound dysfunction of the US political system, in which two corporate-controlled parties, each defending the interests of the super-rich, enjoy a political monopoly. . .The two-party system leaves working people disenfranchised.

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Abby Martin tackles John Podesta and his emails


In one of her most important efforts yet, Abby Martin digs beneath the rhetoric to show the real importance of the cache of Wikileaked emails from the account of Democratic National Committee chair John Podesta.

What she reveals is the heart of darkness beating beneath the skin of the American political system, the same system that has given us a presidential race pitting the two most unpopular candidates since polling began.

In an attempt to discredit the emails and what they reveal, the mainstream media have presented without questioning claims that the hack was executed at the behest of the Russian government without offering any verification for their assertion.

But no less than James Bamford, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and attorney who became the most distinguished journalist ever to cover and blow the lid off illegal spying programs by the National Security Agency, Bamford questioned the government’s claims in an incisive essay for Reuters, where he writes:

The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.

Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.

There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction.

Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment.

But what is certain, beyond question, is that John Podesta represents everything that’s wrong about American politics, where claims of democratic openness are belief by secret deals in which big banks and powerful corporations, not workers and their families, are the real beneficiaries.

And Abby Martin is on the story.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes John Podesta

Program notes:

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank “Center for American Progress.” Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven.

Headline of the day: A striking intervention


From TheLocal.es:

No more homework! Spanish parents go on strike

  • Children have long complained about homework but parents in Spain are now joining in and have decided to go on strike against their offspring’s school load for the whole month of November.
  • Called by the Spanish Alliance of Parents’ Associations (CEAPA), a network that covers some 12,000 state schools across the country, the strike targets weekend homework for primary and high school students.
  • Jose Luis Pazos, president of the CEAPA, told AFP Wednesday parents had launched the unprecedented initiative due to “the absolute certainty that homework is detrimental” to children, damaging their extra-curricular development.

Marshall McLuhan: Still prescient, 49 years later


Back when esnl was a budding journalist, no name was better known in media theory than Marshall McLuhan of the University of Toronto School of Communication Theory.

McLuhan’s theories about the role of mass media in shaping the consciousness of the 20th Century sparked endless hours of coffee house conversation.

But McLuhan has largely dropped out of sight, enduring mainly on DVD’s of Annie Hall, in one of most memorable movie cameos ever:

But McLuhan’s theories prove remarkably resilient, most notably his prescient understanding of the computer-enabled panopticon and the power of television to shape and mobilize emotions on behalf of corporate agendas.

He also grasped that the dramatic first-person journalistic reports and prime network coverage by the free-roving reporters of the Vietnam War would lead to draconian restrictions liked the “embedded reporters” who covered the two Bush Wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

Indeed, he even foreshadowed the rise of the presidential candidacy of a creature such as Donald Trump.

And that brings us to today’s video, a remarkably documentary aired on NBC 19 March 1967:

blog-mcluhan

And now for the video. . .

Aired 49 years ago, yet remarkably timely, it comes from from Marshall McLuhan Speaks:

This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage

Program note:

Featuring Marshall McLuhan, and narrated by Edward Binns.

Marilyn Waring: Economics as if people mattered


Marilyn Waring is one of the world’s most remarkable economists, a former New Zealand legislator — the youngest-ever national lawmaker when elected in 1975 — who brought a government down over her opposition to nuclear weapons, then went on to earn her doctorate in political economy.

She won her degree with a revolutionary thesis on the  a thesis on the United Nations System of National Accounts, the system of valuing a national economy solely on the financial value of tangible goods produced.

That system was devised by British economist John Maynard Keynes to engineer the British Empire’s participation in World War II, and ignored, among other things, all of the household labors of women, labors which, literally “kept the home fires burning.”

Waring’s critique forced the U.N. to revise its accounting system, and as Bloomberg reported three years ago:

Waring gained international prominence with “If Women Counted,” also published as “Counting for Nothing.” Praised by the feminist Gloria Steinem and the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, the book lambasted national accounting systems as sexist for excluding unpaid women’s work. Canada’s National Film Board in 1995 made it into a documentary called “Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics.”

While Waring wasn’t the first to criticize the exclusion, her book drew attention for its thorough and persuasive analysis, said Joann Vanek, a former director of social statistics at the UN.

“She demystified the national accounts,” Vanek said. “Many feminists had taken pot shots at national accounts, but Marilyn went into the body of it and disaggregated the specific assumptions that were made and how that really shaped what ended up being a bias against women.”

Waring’s knowledge and outspokenness made the critique credible, Vanek said. “She was unafraid. These guys, these national accountants, are somewhat oracle-type figures, and she would confront them.”

In 1993, the UN revised the system of national accounts to recommend that all production of goods in households for their own consumption be included in the measurement of economic output, a definition excluding childcare, elder-care, cooking and cleaning.

But Waring’s critique is much broader, and is superbly outlined in a just-re-released 1995 documentary from the National Film Board of Canada:

Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics

Program notes:

In this feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.