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The Trump Files: The Saga of Donald’s Short-Lived Weight-Loss Program

Mother Jones Magazine -

This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on October 3, 2016.

Donald Trump has long had a fixation with other peoples’ weight. He called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig,” criticized Jennifer Lopez’s butt, and said a pregnant Kim Kardashian shouldn’t dress “like you weigh 120 pounds.” After Hillary Clinton noted at the first presidential debate that Trump had once called the Venezuelan Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” because of her weight, Trump couldn’t help himself. The next morning, he insisted he had been correct. “She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” he told Fox & Friends.

Trump has not just used fat-shaming as ammunition in his feuds—he also turned it into a business venture. In the midst of the Great Recession in 2009, he began hawking a rapid-results weight-loss and nutrition program as part of a pyramid-like company called the Trump Network. And the venture flopped.

The Trump Network was a multi-level marketing company that recruited regular people to act as salesmen for its products (usually some kind of nutrition supplement) and saddled them with the losses if they couldn’t find buyers. The Federal Trade Commission received numerous complaints from people who claimed the Trump Network had taken advantage of them. “They are scamming and deceiving people, making them believe that if they ‘just hang in there’ they will make money,” one person wrote. (The FTC never took action against the company.)

As with many Trump business deals, Trump had licensed his name and endorsement to an existing company called Ideal Health, which rebranded itself with his name and logo when he signed on. Although he took no leadership role in the company, he enthusiastically endorsed its products, and his name—and promises of riches at a time of economic malaise—were central to its appeal.

“The Trump Network works with some of the best nutritionists, scientists, and technologists,” Trump explained in a letter posted on the company’s website. “As a result, our products are leaders in their categories—designed to help improve your health and wellness, putting you on a path to the lifestyle you’ve always wanted.”

In another letter to potential customers, Trump billed the company as a way for people who had lost their jobs or savings in the Great Recession to pull themselves back to prosperity. “The good news is: The Trump Network can provide you with a solution to help you and your family create a more secure future. Diversifying is a way to protect your income so that you can continue to do what you know and love, and still make money.” A chart posted on the Trump Network website predicted that it was already on a path to becoming a $1 billion company.

Trump Network

One Trump Network product was a Trump-branded vitamin that the company offered to custom-tailor to your body if you provided them with a urine sample. Another was a “botanical infusion supplement” called Quickstik, designed to “help you manage your energy throughout the day.”

And then there was the Silhouette Solution, a weight-loss program similar to SlimFast, that offered its own brand of bars, snacks, soups, and drinks. Here’s how the Trump Network website sold it:

The Silhouette Solution Program was designed to keep your hunger satiated while supporting your body with the nutrition it needs for healthy weight loss. The carefully-calibrated foods in Silhouette Solution’s 19 unique snacks ensure that the proportion of proteins to carbohydrates, fats, and calories is exactly what your body needs to satisfy hunger. You’ll receive two full months of carefully-calibrated foods. In fact, your introductory shipment contains several samples of every one of our Silhouette Staples®. This enables you to try them all and then choose the ones you prefer going forward with. The idea is that if you are eating foods you enjoy, you are more likely to stick to—and achieve—your weight loss goals. Just think, you could be slimmer, healthier, and happier than you have been in years.

The solution was to eat one “calibrated” meal per day, and a bunch of Trump Network snacks, known as “Silhouette Staples.” Those offerings, designed to “melt” the fat off your body, included “BBQ puffs,” a “Chocolate colossal shake,” a “Peanut passion bar,” and a “Vanilla creme shake.” A starter kit containing bulk packages of those snacks cost $1,325.

The Trump Network promised to deliver results in 80 days, and as with most such schemes, there were ample opportunities to buy more products. If a customer signed up the for a two-month trial of the Silhouette Solution, the Trump Network threw in a free PrivaTest, its urine-test for customized vitamins—at a savings of $140.

Here’s Trump and Trump Network president Lou DeCaprio, explaining how the Trump Network could help you make money and lose weight:

The Silhouette Solution wasn’t the only weight-control program offered by the Trump Network. The company also sold a product for kids called Snazzle Snaxxs, aimed at steering young people away from junk food. Snazzle Snaxxs, such as chocolate Snazzle Barzzs, sour cream and onion Snazzle Twissters, and cinnamon apple protein puffs were designed to “provide the same satisfaction as ‘junk’ food while helping, not hurting our kids,” according to an informational brochure.

With the purchase of either the Silhouette Solution or Snazzle Snaxxs, customers received a free book from the renowned Harvard nutritionist Dr. David Ludwig. (Ludwig told CBS News in April that he had never endorsed Trump Network’s products and was “mortified” that had been used in connection with the Trump Network’s products.)

Trump Network

Despite Trump’s predictions that customers who signed up to sell the company’s weight-loss bars and urine kits would obtain financial success, the company failed. In 2013, its owners filed for bankruptcy and the company was sold to a new firm, Bioceutica, which continued to sell its products. Trump continued his wellness education the same way he always had—shaming individuals in public.

2,000 Days Since It Began, the War in Yemen Is Poised To Turn Even More Deadly

Mint Press News -

Another grim milestone has just passed in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia’s war against the poorest country in the Middle East reached its two-thousandth day. Ostensibly, the war was launched to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power after he was ousted following Houthi-led popular protests amid the Arab Spring.

Realistically, the war has become little more than a pretext to control Yemen’s strategic sites and natural wealth. Saudi Arabia and the UAE now occupy entire southern provinces from al-Mahara to the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Somehow, though, they have not yet allowed Haddi and his old guard to return.


Grim statistics

The numbers are astonishing. Since 2015, Saudi-led coalition warplanes have pounded the country with over 250,000 airstrikes. Seventy percent of those have hit civilian targets, killing more than 100,000 people since January 2016, according to a report by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project (ACLED). Those numbers do not include those who have died in the humanitarian disasters caused by the war, particularly starvation and thousands of tons of weapons, most often supplied by the United States, have been dropped on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants.

Unexploded ordnances have been left scattered across populated areas, particularly in the urban areas of Sana’a, Sadaa, Hodeida, Hajjah, Marib, and al-Jawf, and have left the country one of the most heavily contaminated in the world.

As the war officially passes its two-thousandth day, the Eye of Humanity Center for Rights and Development, a Yemeni advocacy group, issued a report on where some of the estimated 600,000 bombs have landed. According to the non-governmental organization, those attacks have destroyed more than 21 economically-vital facilities like factories, food storage facilities, fishing boats, markets, and food, and fuel tankers and have damaged 9,000 pieces of critical infrastructure, including 15 airports, 16 seaports, 304 electrical stations, 2,098 tanks and water pumps, and 4,200 roads and bridges. At least 576,528 public service facilities, including more than 1,000 schools, 6,732 agricultural fields, and 1,375 mosques have been destroyed or damaged.

A medic checks a malnourished newborn inside an incubator at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, June 27, 2020. Hani Mohammed | AP

The blockade and bombing of civilian infrastructure, particularly hospitals, have also crippled Yemen’s health system, leaving it unable to deal with even the basic public health needs. Eye of Humanity reports that the coalition has destroyed 389 hospitals and health centers while most of the country’s estimated 300 remaining facilities are either closed or barely functioning as COVID-19 spreads through the country like wildfire.

Household food insecurity now hovers at over 70 percent, with fifty percent of rural households and 20 percent of urban households now food insecure. Almost one-third of Yemenis do not have enough food to satisfy basic nutritional needs. Underweight and stunted children have become a regular sight, especially among holdouts in rural areas.

This is Yemen after 2,000 days of war. A dirty war and a brutal siege on a forgotten people subsisting in unlivable conditions. If one is able to dodge death from war, starvation, and COVID-19, they face unprecedented levels of disease. Yemen’s average life expectancy now hovers at around 66, one of the lowest in the world. The Saudi blockade has imposed tight control over all aspects of life, severely restricting not only the movement of aid and people but also of UN flights. Last week, both the Ministry of Transportation and the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Meteorology announced that Sana’a International Airport was no longer equipped to receive the official airplane of UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffith.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is still preventing fuel tankers from delivering much-needed fuel to Yemen’s hospitals, water pumps, bakeries, cleaning trucks, and gas stations, plunging it, particularly northern districts, into a fuel crisis. The blockade has not only forced thousands to wait for days in lines as far as the eye can see but has forced many facilities to shut down altogether. All while Saudi Arabia and its local militias plunder crude oil in Marib, Shabwah, and Hadramout.


After normalization, the UAE steps up attacks

For many Yemenis, there is little reason for optimism entering what feels like the third phase of the war against their country, as Israel ostensibly enters the fray. They believe that the situation will escalate as a result of normalization between the UAE and Israel, and indeed, Tel Aviv’s entrance into the already convoluted theater appears to have already opened the door for further escalation.

Since normalization, UAE warplanes have intensified airstrikes against populated areas throughout the country’s northern provinces. In Sana’a, approximately 20 aerial attacks hit densely populated neighborhoods and brazenly targeted the Sana’a Airport, a military engineering camp, and a poultry farm, among other targets.

UAE warplanes are believed by locals to be receiving logistical support by Israel, although no evidence has yet surfaced yet to substantiate those fears. In a stark departure from the UAE’s more conciliatory tone in Yemen over the past year, UAE aircraft have carried out more than 100 airstrikes since August 13, when Trump announced the normalization between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. They also pounded the oil-rich province of Marib, located east the country, where UAE jets dropped more than 300 bombs targeting transport trucks, fuel stations, homes, and farms. Advanced military sites belonging to the Ansar Allah-led were also targeted.

Reinforcing the heir of hopelessness is that the United States continues to neglect Yemen’s suffering, despite its designation by the United Nations calling as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Even with the 2020 election looming and President Donald Trump leaning heavily into his foreign policy accomplishments, the U.S. role in Yemen has been noticeably absent from the discussion. Biden has been no better, leaving little hope that the December elections could bring an end to the war.


Half-hearted attempts at peace

There are efforts underway to bring some semblance of peace to Yemen by parties in both Qatar and Oman. Secret negotiations have been held in Sana’a, but they seem aimed at stopping the Houthi advance in Marib and not the war in general.

In reality, international voices are loudest when the war begins to affect Saudi Arabia, as they were last September when Saudi oil facilities were attacked, or when a Houthi advance threatens the Saudi border as it did in August of 2019 when an operation captured 4,000 square kilometers of Saudi territory in Najran.

Qatari and Omani efforts are not the only ones on the ground. The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is leading other efforts aimed at stopping the Houthi advance in Marib. Griffiths said during a recent Security Council session that, “The situation in Marib is of concern. Military shifts in Marib have ripple effects on conflict dynamics. If Marib falls, it’d undermine prospects of convening an inclusive political process that brings about a transition based on partnership and plurality.”

Neither the efforts in Qatar nor those by the UN even purport to be focused on bringing an end to the war or mitigating the blockade, instead, they seem only concerned with assuring the Coalition retains its competitive advantage.

2,000 days of war, in fact, have proven an insufficient term to bring peace to the war-torn country. With the exception of a fragile ceasefire in Hodeida and a small number of prisoner releases, negotiations between the two sides, even on minor issues, often reach a dead end. Numerous negotiations between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia have failed, including UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland last year.


The Houthis grow stronger

When the war began over five years ago, Saudi leaders promised a decisive victory in a matter of weeks, one or two months at most. Yet the Houthis remain steadfast in their resistance and, in fact, have grown even more powerful leading to consternation in the Kingdom, with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz dismissing the leader of the Coalition forces Fahd bin Turki and a number of senior officers following a series of recent Saudi battlefield failures.

On Thursday, Houthi forces carried out drone strikes against the al-Abha Airport in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern province of Asir. The operation was the fifth against the airport and a sign that half of a decade of war has done little to bring security to the Kingdom.

In fact, the Houthis now seem intent on moving the frontline into Saudi Arabia and UAE territory and have even promised retaliatory action against Israel should they continue to escalate their involvement in the war. According to Houthi spokesman Mohammed AbdulSalam, “the Saudi-led war on Yemen the price the Arab nation is paying for taking a firm stance against Israel,”  adding “Israelis are involved in most of the conflicts plaguing the region, including the Riyadh-led aggression against Yemen.”

Feature photo | Tribesmen loyal to the Houthis hold their weapons as they ride in a vehicle during a gathering against the agreement to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 22, 2020. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post 2,000 Days Since It Began, the War in Yemen Is Poised To Turn Even More Deadly appeared first on MintPress News.

From Our Archives, an Excerpt From Maxine Hong Kingston

Mother Jones Magazine -

Each week, we take a look at our archives for boosts to propel you into the weekend.

In Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Brother in Vietnam,” which we excerpted in 1980, the main character is simply “the brother.”

It is the Vietnam era. The draft looms. He, “the brother,” does not have a religion, a wife, a physical disability, or a desire to go to war—he has only a job teaching high school in California. So “the brother” does that, at first; he teaches. The brother waits to be called up to the war. He hopes not to be. He spouts a bit of anti-capitalism to his students in the meantime. Kingston writes:

During Current Events, [the brother] told his class some atrocities to convince them about the wrongness of war. They looked at the pictures of napalmed children and said, “Sure, war is hell.” Where had they learned that acceptance? He told them the worst torture he knew: the Vikings used to cleave a prisoner of war’s back on either side of the spine, and pull the lungs out, which fluttered like wings when the man breathed. This torture was called the Burning Eagle. The brother felt that it was self-evident that we ought to do anything to stop war. But he was learning that, upon hearing terrible things, there are people who are, instead, filled with a crazy patriotism…

He explained how water, electricity, gas and oil originally belonged to nobody and everybody. Like the air. “But the corporations that control electricity sell it to the rest of us.” “Well, of course they do,” said the student; “I’d sell the air if I had discovered it.” “What if some people can’t afford to buy it?” “Whoever discovered it deserves to be paid for it,” said the stubborn boy. “It’s Communist not to let him make all the money he can.” Although the students could not read or follow logic, they blocked him with their anti-Communism, which seemed to come naturally to them, without effort or study.

Some have written that “the brother” is likely Kingston’s own brother. Her work often swirls into an autofiction, as Hua Hsu wrote in a profile this year in the New Yorker. This roots Kingston’s story in a tangible haze of guilt. Perhaps one we all recognize today.

Hsu’s article begins where most do with Kingston: her iconic The Woman Warrior, which “changed American culture.” He describes the process of her writing the book—she burned out on Berkeley counterculture, moved to Hawaii, and, on vacation in Lāna’i, Kingston in 1973 began writing by moving a desk to face the wall.

But it is his description of her process of writing her second book—China Men, a series of stories about immigrant men published in 1980, which includes “The Brother in Vietnam”—that caught me, and made our excerpt make more sense. He writes: 

When she completed “China Men,” she and [her partner] flew to New York. After reading the manuscript, [her editor] told her that she had failed. “You don’t understand men,” she remembers him saying. “They’re lonelier than this.”

Devastated, Kingston got on a bus uptown to her friend Lilah Kan’s apartment, where she and Earll were staying. “I just felt terrible,” she said. She was met by [friends] who greeted her with champagne and pot to celebrate her big meeting. They went ahead with the party, as she retreated into the corner with her Selectric typewriter and wrote a scene based on her father’s time in New York. So much of the immigrant story is joyless hard work. America is so free that you are even free to work through the holidays, Kingston wrote. She wanted to give the immigrant workers a day off. Her father enjoys a night out on the town, ending up at a tearoom, where Chinese men could buy dances with white women. Her father fox-trots with as many blondes as he desires, then returns home alone, wondering if his wife will ever make it to America.

This work follows a similarly sly trajectory. Unsure what to do, Kingston’s “brother” actually enlists in the Navy. “He arrived at his decision by reasoning like this,” she writes. “In a country that operates on a war economy, there isn’t much difference between being in the Navy and being a civilian.” If every microwave purchase fuels the bombs what point is there?

Yet the brother cannot fully give up his hatred of the Vietnam War. As much as he tries to give in, Kingston finds that the brother keeps fighting: in small, subtle ways. It is the “sadness” of men that her editor wanted. But the strength too.

The brother cannot fully go limp, cynical, and evil. He is complicit, yes, in war, but never wages it fully. In Vietnam, as part of the Navy, he refuses to kill. And he refuses to die.

There’s a shrewd lesson there. Sometimes we must just survive.

Check out Hsu’s profile, and pick up a copy of any of Kingston’s books.

Grinding Your Teeth at Night Is No Joke

Mother Jones Magazine -

Emily Sohn writes about her recent trips to the dentist:

It was bad luck, I figured, or maybe just the reality of middle age. My dentist, Jennifer Herbert, suggested otherwise. Ever since the pandemic started, she says she has seen a surge in problems related to tooth-grinding and jaw-clenching. Perhaps, she suggested, pandemic stress was the culprit for my tooth woes, too. “It’s astronomical,” she says. “I’ve seen more patients with problems from grinding in the last few months than I have in the rest of my career.”

This is no joke. Six years ago, when my cancer diagnosis was brand new and I was undergoing my first round of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transfer, Marian was beside herself with anxiety.¹ She didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out that as a result she was grinding her teeth at night. By the time it was all over a year later, she had undergone months of dental work and had five new crowns.

This is also an easily solved problem: your dentist can provide you with a custom-fitted mouthguard that you wear at night. If the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else going on has you worried enough to be grinding your teeth at night, get it looked at right away. There’s no need to wait until your teeth are half gone.

¹And me? I’m just not the worrying type, I guess. I snore, but I don’t grind my teeth.

According to Oxfam, Rich Countries Have Already Hoarded Most Future COVID Vaccines

Mint Press News -

The world’s wealthiest nations have already quietly bought up more than half of the potential future supply of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine doses, leaving little for anyone else. International charity Oxfam studied five leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, currently under clinical trials, and found that rich countries had pumped billions of dollars into research, securing 51 percent of the promised doses. This means that the United Kingdom will have 45 times more doses per head of population than a poor country such as Bangladesh.

Worryingly, the vaccines are being researched and produced by for-profit transnational pharmaceutical corporations, who have already announced they intend to make profits on any future sales. Massachusetts-based Moderna, for example, has already sold options for all its supply to rich nations, for up to $35 per dose, effectively pricing out poorer countries who cannot afford to pay such a high price.

More concerning still, however, is that the five companies surveyed have nothing like the capacity to produce enough vaccines for all. Even if all five potential remedies succeed (an extremely unlikely best-case scenario), the large majority of the world’s population will not be able to be treated until at least 2022, Oxfam warns. Moderna, it notes, could only produce enough for around six percent of the world’s population on its own.

Without organized and committed popular pressure, big pharma has shown minimal interest in working together for the good of humanity, sharing knowledge and expertise, another example of the profit motive clashing with the public interest. “Governments will prolong this crisis in all of its human tragedy and economic damage if they allow pharmaceutical companies to protect their monopolies and profits,” said Chema Vera, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International, “No single corporation will ever be able to meet the world’s need for a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why we are calling on them to share their knowledge free of patents and to get behind a quantum leap in production to keep everyone safe. We need a people’s vaccine, not a profit vaccine.”

Pharmaceutical corporations are already engaged in serious pandemic profiteering. Antiviral drug Remdesivir has proven relatively effective in fighting COVID-19. California-based operation Gilead Sciences has been charging Americans over $3,000 for a full course of the drug, despite the fact that it costs them less than the price of a Subway sandwich to produce. Indeed, so cheap is the antiviral that the syringes and equipment needed to administer it cost more to make. Gilead’s price gouging was described as “ethically unacceptable” and “a new low” in pharmaceutical malpractice by medical researcher Dr. Andrew Hill.

While morally questionable, the pharmaceutical industry has a long history of reprehensible actions. Gilead itself is being sued in the U.S. and accused of deliberately holding back a lifesaving HIV drug for years to extend the profitability of its previous, inferior one. It has been alleged that this caused 16,000 needless deaths over a nine-year period. Gilead sells the drug for around $8 in Australia, but charges Americans $2,000 per month, thanks to U.S. laws preventing government price bargaining.

Dozens of pharmaceutical companies also took Nelson Mandela’s South African government to court for its decision to use generic HIV medication over infinitely more expensive brand name drugs, claiming it was breaching trade laws. They only dropped the case in 2001 after worldwide public pressure. 7.7 million South Africans live with HIV/AIDS, an official prevalence rate of over 20 percent, according to the U.N., although actual numbers may be higher.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a rise in highly questionable behavior from nation-states. The U.S. under Trump has led the world in confiscating and stealing vital supplies bound for other nations, seizing ventilators meant for Barbados, masks meant for Germany, and equipment Brazil, France, and Canada had already paid for. It has also used the pandemic to push for harsher sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. Nearly 7 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 200,000 have died, although some believe the official figure is too low.

The global pandemic presents an opportunity for worldwide solidarity and cooperation, with viruses not respecting international borders. Unfortunately, the crisis seems to have brought out some of the worst behavior from corporations and governments alike. It appears the most powerful nations are treating lifesaving treatments as commodities to be bought and sold, rather than a pressing need for all of humanity.

Feature photo | Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The Prime Minister toured the laboratory and met scientists who are leading the COVID vaccine research. Kirsty Wigglesworth | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post According to Oxfam, Rich Countries Have Already Hoarded Most Future COVID Vaccines appeared first on MintPress News.

Austerity at Home and Imperialism Abroad: What a Joe Biden Win Would Mean for America

Mint Press News -

As is patently obvious, the U.S. is in trouble. Climate-driven heat waves and fires grip the nation. An already faltering economy with deep contradictions can only tank given the shock of a pandemic that has necessitated varying degrees of sequestering. In fact, the downturn had already started before COVID-19 hit. An already largely privatized healthcare system run for-profit and a social ethic that rejects “socialized” public health measures could only have proven inadequate. Added to this mix, a historically racist nation was ripe for the righteous protests against overt injustices. These conditions predated Trump’s presidency and predetermined the current calamity.


The incumbent Trump card

Trump is screwing up royally, but the root causes were unavoidable. Rather than owning up to the inherent nature of capitalism, which puts profits before people as its operating principle, elite opinion needs to point a finger at an offending scapegoat. Someone must take a fall and the designated chump is Trump. Witness Republican establishment figures defecting to the Biden camp.

Trump, under normal circumstances, would have a formidable advantage as the incumbent president. Of the 13 U.S. presidents since 1933, all ran for re-election with the exception of JFK, who tragically did not have that choice. All but three won. These exceptions prove the rule that bad economic times doom the incumbent: Ford and Bush the Elder were defeated by recessions, and Carter by “stagflation.”

Today’s circumstances are not normal. Trump’s incumbency may be a fatal flaw, with conditions worse, in many respects, than they were during the Great Depression.

Added to that a collapsing economy and a nation aflame with racial justice protests, Trump has not improved his prospects by mishandling the COVID-19 contagion. A U.S. passport was once the most accepted in the world, now that the U.S. leads the world in total pandemic deaths and ranks a high eleventh in deaths by population, only eight countries in the world are fully open to U.S. tourists: Albania, Belarus, Brazil, Mexico, Serbia, Turkey, Zambia, and that most sought after destination of North Macedonia, whose national flower is the opium poppy.

The delusional fear that Trump will stage a coup to stay in power begs the question of what army and security apparatus would back him. Not the U.S. military, nor the security state agencies – FBI, NSA, CIA and other spooks. Those institutions of the permanent state are no more in favor of Trump than most of the active U.S. electorate, who will likely give him a boot this fall.


Enter the perilous next act

In the midst of the pandemic, when health insurance claims would be expected to be out of control, health insurers have been garnering obscene profits benefiting from the public health emergency. Amongst the superrich, Jeff Bezos of Amazon added $87.1 billion to his net worth since the beginning of the year and Elon Musk of Tesla accrued another $73.6 billion.

Thanks in large part to the habitual intervention by the Federal Reserve for the owners of finance capital, Market Insider predicts “2021 could be a boom year for stocks,” while prospects for working people look grim and ever grimmer. Yes, Bernie Sanders was right that the “system is rigged” for the capitalist class.

Will a Democratic victory in November change any of this? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the current highest-ranking Democrat, said it all: “we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.” Her net worth is $120 million.

Even major “liberal” Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, are doctrinaire “capitalist to the bone.” When asked to explain herself, the senator said: “I believe in markets and the benefits they can produce… for people.” True enough. The “people” who benefit from capitalism are the capitalists.

How about Democratic Party progressives like the “The Squad,” you ask? In the “graveyard of social movements” that is the Democratic Party, they are relegated to diversity window dressing with AOC getting only 90 seconds of fame at the Democratic National Convention.

Nominal independent Bernie Sanders tried an end-run for the presidential nomination but ran into the DNC’s “no progressives rule.” And if Biden wins in 2020 and Harris in 2024 and 2028, 2032 would be the first chance for a progressive Democrat to even try to run.

Speaking of the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders praised Uncle Joe for – of all things – his health care policies. Michelle Obama carried chutzpah to new heights, criticizing Trump for immigration practices inherited from her husband. Can’t the best speechwriters that money can buy come up with more convincing mendacities?

The enduring neoliberal project will continue with a likely change of guard from one party of capital to the other in January, though with a kinder face. We won’t have to contend with Prince of Darkness Pence and his buddy anymore.

The new feel-good Democratic couple will be spreading the love. And no one is feeling the “good” more than the capitalist class, rewarding the Democrats with donations of $48 million in the 48 hours after the announcement of Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential candidate. Just about every mainstream media article gushed about her amazing “qualifications,” the foremost being fund-raising. In plain English, her biggest asset is she is understood as serving the capitalist class.


The record of Democratic presidencies

It may be too soon to exhale with a Biden White House. If past performance is any indicator of future outcomes, a brief look at recently past Democratic presidencies is advised.

Under the watch of New Democrat Bill Clinton, the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, which was a factor leading to the Great Recession. NAFTA exported U.S. union jobs while destroying small-scale Mexican agriculture. He dismantled Yugoslavia and bombed Iraq, contributing to the now perpetual destabilization of that part of the world. “Welfare as we know it” was abolished and mass incarceration instituted. Clinton was on a roll, with Social Security next on the chopping block, only to be stopped by the Monica Lewinski scandal.

While these were pet projects of the Republican wing of the U.S. two-party duopoly, it took a Democrat to foist it on the populace. Notably, no major progressive legislation came out of Clinton’s watch. He adroitly felt “your pain” while inflicting it on the Democrat’s captured working class and minority constituencies, much to the pleasure of the class he served.

The next Democratic president, Barack Obama, had not even completed a term in the Senate before his meteoric rise to the Oval Office. Obama had the wiring, but part of his remarkable upward mobility came from being groomed and vetted by the ruling class to carry their water. He came out of the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project, which successfully sought to make the Democrats the favored party of Wall Street.

After promising peace, Obama led the U.S. into wars in at least seven countries. Although no major progressive legislation came out of the Obama presidency, his many handouts to the ruling elites include bailing out the banks with no one prosecuted for wrongdoing. He gifted Obamacare to the insurance industry while killing single-payer. He more than doubled fossil fuel production for which he proudly took credit.

The lesson is that it is often more difficult to mount an organized resistance to regressive policies when promoted by Democrats than Republicans. Recall the massive resistance to Bush’s war in Iraq that instantly vanished the moment Obama inherited that war and brazenly took Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates into his cabinet. Similarly, we have seen Democrats sabotaging Medicare for All, with Biden already pledging to veto it if it came before him.


Campaign promises Biden will keep

The only thing preventing Trump from self-destructing come November 3 is none other than the Democratic Party. Of all the potential candidates that could have walked over Trump – particularly Sanders with universal healthcare in a time of pandemic or even Warren with taxing corporations in a time of record profits amidst a recession – they chose the one candidate who could lose.

The former senator from Mastercard has already assured Wall Street that their privileged position will be protected on his watch. The warmongers have been assuaged with the promise that the military budget can only go up. The insurance parasites know that government-imposed private health policies are set in stone. The Zionists needn’t fret about the U.S. recognizing Palestinian rights or of reversing recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Worse than the climate deniers, Biden believes in the science of global warming and knows its catastrophic consequences. Yet he will do little about it and has already opposed a fracking ban. Fossil fuel subsidies will continue under the Democrats.

Note that these dubious promises were made on the campaign trail while trying to attract votes.


Enter the Biden presidency

Pelosi set the stage for a Biden presidency. The first thing the Democrats pushed through after “taking back” the House in 2018 was the “pay-go rule,” a fiscally conservative measure virtually guaranteeing that no progressive legislation can be funded. Then in March of this year the Democrats unanimously, and without any debate, helped pass the CARES Act, the largest single transfer of wealth from workers to the wealthy in the history of the world.

Democrats, with the Obama-Biden administration and since, have leap-frogged Republicans to the right on foreign policy issues in important respects regarding Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, etc. Democrats even oppose drawing down U.S. troops abroad.

Trump has been all over the map, ineptly and inconsistently pursuing détente with Putin and while threatening Xi Jinping. With a Democratic administration, we can be assured of a more consistent, skillful, and lethal U.S. imperialism, pursuing “full spectrum dominance” over the rest of the world.

Those who complain about Trump’s bungling should understand that the Biden alternative will be a more deadly and efficient rule of capital. We should be careful about what we wish for.

Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden talks with reporters at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, in Avoca, Pa., after a CNN town hall, Sept. 17, 2020. Carolyn Kaster | AP

Roger D. Harris is on the state central committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot qualified socialist party in California.

The post Austerity at Home and Imperialism Abroad: What a Joe Biden Win Would Mean for America appeared first on MintPress News.

Federal Judge Says USPS Delays Were “Intentional Effort” to Undermine Fair Elections

Mother Jones Magazine -

A federal judge blocked a series of actions implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that have led to widespread mail delays, calling them “an intentional effort on the part of the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections.”

In a strongly worded opinion released Thursday, District Court Judge Stanley A. Bastian of Washington state issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting DeJoy from implementing changes ranging from cutting overtime to removing 671 mail sorting machines to forcing mail trucks to leave on time even if the mail is not ready .

“Although not necessarily apparent on the surface, at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement,” Bastian wrote. “This is evident in President Trump’s highly partisan words and tweets, the actual impact of the changes on primary elections that resulted in uncounted ballots, and recent attempts and lawsuits by the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign to stop the States’ efforts to bypass the Postal Service by utilizing ballot drop boxes, as well as the timing of the changes.”

Trump has already admitted that he’s refusing to support $25 billion in funding for the USPS in an attempt to sabotage mail voting, while Bastian noted that “72% of the decommissioned high speed mail sorting machines that were decommissioned were located in counties where Hillary Clinton receive the most votes in 2016.”

It remains to be seen what impact the ruling will have. Amid public outcry, DeJoy agreed to suspend some of his changes until after the election, such as cutting overtime, reducing post office hours, and no longer treating election mail as first-class mail. Other reversals ordered by the court, such as reinstalling the removed sorting machines, could be difficult to achieve since many of the machines have already been taken apart. Meanwhile, mail delays persist in much of the country—election expert Daniel Smith of the University of Florida tweeted yesterday that mail in Gainesville is running three days behind schedule, according to a local mail driver.

But the scrutiny on DeJoy is playing out in the courts, which in recent days have issued significant rulings to combat mail delays. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that ballots postmarked by Election Day could be counted until three days after the election and the state could set up drop boxes where voters could return mail ballots. A day earlier, an Ohio court ruled that the secretary of state could not mandate that local boards of elections have only one drop box per county. Both opinions cited delays under DeJoy as a reason to expand access to the ballot.

Antonia Juhasz on the End of Oil

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

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(cc photo: Bex Walton)

This week on CounterSpin: As the coronavirus pandemic shut down business as usual around the world, some saw a kind of silver lining in emerging images of formerly gray skies returned to blue, skylines re-emerging from years of polluted muck. More than an “ironic upside,” those images were a message: that situations presented as inevitable have always been choices, that it is action—and inaction—that have kept those skies gray.

Covid-19 may be hastening things, but the oil industry was already on the ropes. And while we welcome the demise of an industry that does such harm, we have to remember that a creature can do tremendous damage in its death throes, and that a better way forward isn’t guaranteed, unless we fight for it. We learn about the “end of oil,” and what could come next, with Antonia Juhasz. She’s an energy analyst, journalist and author, whose books include The Bu$h Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time; The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry–and What We Must Do to Stop It; and, most recently, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look at recent coverage of election theft, campaign false balance and political violence both-sidesism.

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Trump Calls Howard Zinn's Work "Propaganda." Hear the Legendary Historian in His Own Words.

Democracy Now! -

This week President Trump described the work of the legendary historian Howard Zinn, who died in 2010, as “propaganda” meant to “make students ashamed of their own history.” But Zinn believed the opposite, that teaching the unvarnished truth about history was the best way to combat propaganda and unexamined received wisdom. We air excerpts from a 2009 interview with Zinn in which he explained his approach to education. “We should be honest with young people; we should not deceive them. We should be honest about the history of our country,” Zinn said.

As Fires Rage Across the West, Trump Bails Out Big Oil & Picks Climate Denier for Top Role at NOAA

Democracy Now! -

As climate-fueled wildfires continue to ravage the West, the Trump administration has tapped a well-known climate change denier for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. University of Delaware professor David Legates has written papers calling for more fossil fuel emissions and has had his work supported by the Robert Mercer-funded Heartland Institute and Koch Industries, as well as major gas companies. He was recently hired as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. We speak with David Goodrich, a former top climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who says Legates’s appointment goes against the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community. “You have about 97% of the scientists disagreeing with the position of Dr. Legates,” says Goodrich, who served as director of NOAA’s Climate Observations Division from 2009 to 2011. We also speak to David Goodrich about his latest book, “A Voyage Across an Ancient Ocean,” in which he examines the impact of the fossil fuel industry through an epic bicycle journey from the Alberta tar sands to the Bakken oil field of North Dakota.


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