As a child growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, I used to absolutely love to watch science fiction television shows. Especially the ones that were “safely” scary, like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone in which my mind would be tickled without too much gore and violence. As I explore his Cabinet picks, who would have thought that fifty years later, I’d actually have a front-row seat with an intimate view in a real-life Twilight Zone called the Administration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump?
Trump Swearing In
Many who tuned in to see the swearing in of the 45th President of the U.S. thought it was the beginning of yet another U.S. Presidential Administration. But, this is not just any other U.S. Administration: the Donald J. Trump Presidency has already been declared in the media over 1,000 times as an uncomfortable episode in the 1950s US science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.
“You unlock this door with the key with the key of imagination: beyond it is another dimension—the dimension of sound; the dimension of sight; a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the twilight zone.”
So begins one of the versions (I found three) that introduced the TV series. It is this intro that I read into the Congressional Record about the Presidency of George W. Bush. But, only a few days into his Presidency, I do believe that Donald J. Trump has even surpassed W. After his election win, there was much media speculation on how the spoils of war would be distributed—and who would get what plum positions. On November 15, Trump tweeted that only he knew who his finalists would be; therefore, all the wild speculation was just that. Now, one week into his Presidency, let’s just take a look at who actually got what, focusing on his Cabinet picks thus far.
Alabama U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions, was President Trump’s first nomination, for the Attorney General slot, taking over leadership of the Justice Department from President Obama’s Loretta Lynch. Although he was the Trump’s first nomination, Sessions is yet to be confirmed by his Senate colleagues. Southerners who are “men of their times” are often dogged by allegations of being racist because they did not rise above that time. I personally know some of those making the most egregious allegations against the Senator whose judgeship aspirations were derailed due to the charges. This time, the Senator seems poised to take office in the Trump Administration—maybe before this month ends.
Next, Trump announced that he was considering General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Pentagon Secretary. Of course, I objected because of the doctrine of civilian control that Trump was just obliterating with his nominations. Then, Dr. Ben Carson was announced as Trump’s choice for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and I complained because despite Dr. Carson’s obvious talents as a world renowned neurosurgeon, and despite his knowledge of health care and how the neoliberal health industry drains dollars from the public, but fails to demonstrate enough care about public care, it appeared to me that Trump had selected the Black man to deal with the Cabinet post perceived to deal with the issues of urban America—a euphemism in polite circles for Black and Brown people in the U.S. So, I tweeted back to Trump, “Why HUD and not HHS [Health and Human Services]??????” This is a classic way to pigeon-hole someone with the intent to “keep them in their place.” Tellingly, Congressman Dr. Tom Price from my home state of Georgia, an orthopedic surgeon, was selected by Trump to serve as his HHS Secretary. Trump nominated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, and previous Secretar
y of Labor under President George W. Bush, Taiwan-born Elaine Chao, to serve him at the helm of the Department of Transportation.
In stunning fashion, Trump kicked off nominations on what seemed to be “Billionaire Week” when he selected billionaire Betsey DeVos (who is also the sister of Blackwater founder, Erik Prince) to serve as his Secretary of Education. He rounded out the week by tapping Wilbur Ross to become the country’s Secretary of Commerce; hundred millionaire Steve Mnuchin (who is registered to vote in both California and New York, according to Fortune) to serve as Treasury Secretary; and from a billionaire family, Todd Ricketts, to back up Ross as the second in command at Commerce. A few days later, Trump stuck with the hundred millionaire club when he nominated Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO at ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State.
Serving at Cabinet-level positions, while not formally being in the Cabinet, are Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Haley is already on the job representing the U.S. at the United Nations while President Trump is rumored to be considering an executive order threatening drastic cuts in current U.S. funding levels at the global body. Therefore, as of this writing, President Trump has only two Cabinet officials actually serving in office right now, other than his Vice President: Secretary of Defense General Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly, who oversaw torture and illegal detentions at the U.S.-held prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. Thus, so far, the Trump Cabinet can be seen largely as a group of multimillionaires and billionaires and generals. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts says that President Trump needs strong personality types who won’t be pushed around by bullies in the press or in Congress. While that is probably true, too, still I wonder if this is the right mix of leadership to put the U.S. on the right track. And honestly, I wonder if people who have been so consumed with personal interest and bottom line corporate interest even possess the necessary character and personality ingredients to become servants of the public interest—a greater good than the bottom line. I wonder if generals who are trained and prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat should command offices like Pentagon Secretary; and if the general at Homeland Security is willing to work his way out of a job by abolishing that Bill of Rights nightmare after ushering in immigration reform and securing U.S. borders— whatever that means—when a clear and more present danger to the U.S. honestly exists within the U.S. Congress. But that’s another topic for another day. Therefore, I have to end this article exactly where I began it: on the outskirts of The Outer Limits (another popular TV show of the same genre and time period) and on my way to my ringside seat in The Twilight Zone.
Actually, it was a newspaper in Scotland that first intoned The Twilight Zone moniker for the Trump Presidency by publishing this: “After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history.” It was writing about the Trump inauguration. But in an even stranger twist of facts, some intrepid social media maven was able to track down a 1950s-era TV show entitled Track down which focuses on the Wild West of the U.S. during the late 1800s. One particular 1958 episode is entitled “The End of the World.” And believe it or not, the star of this episode is a fellow by the name of Dr. Walter Trump who claims that by building a wall he can prevent the world from coming to an end by midnight at the end of that very day—November 14th. Robert Culp (1930–2010) plays the role of Hoby Gilman, the Texas Ranger charged with tracking down crooks and criminals—and in this episode, the crook is Dr. Trump. In the end, Gilman gets his man, arresting Dr. Trump for fraud. Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction—including science fiction. And every time I think about the Trump Cabinet of Generals and Billionaires, I can’t help but wonder if I’m a two-bit star in The Twilight Zone, The X Files, or The Prisoner.
In decadence and decline, the U,S. has produced two strong strains of fascism that now vie for supremacy. The First Black President, now outgoing, represents the “cosmopolitan, global obsessed” variety of fascist. Donald Trump hails from an older fascist strain, “crude and petty, too ugly for global prime time.” At this stage in history, the two corporate parties seem incapable of producing anything other than fascists of one kind or the other.
Locating Fascism on the Home Map
“The merciless downsizing of the American worker is a central element of Obama’s legacy.”
Barack Obama was a savior – of a drowning ruling class. Under his administration, Wall Street rose from near-death to new heights of speculative frenzy, awash in capital brutally extracted from the vanishing assets and past and future earnings of the vast majority of the population, or gifted in the form of trillions in free money at corporate-only Federal Reserve windows. The Big Casino, reduced to a rubble of its own contradictions in 2008, ushered in the New Year just shy of the once-fantastical 20,000 mark. Analysts credited Donald Trump’s victory for the bankers’ bacchanal, but it was Obama who made the party possible by overseeing the restructuring of the U.S. economy to accommodate and encourage the hyper-consolidation of capital -- another way to describe the deliberate deepening of economic (and political) inequality. Having accomplished the mission assigned him by Wall Street in return for record-breaking contributions to his first campaign, Obama is said to be angling for a hot-money squat in Silicon Valley, the super-rich sector that was most supportive of his presidency.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is melting quicker than the Wicked Witch of the West, principally due to the failure of traditionally Democratic working (and out of work) people of all races to turn out on November 8 -- a perfectly understandable response to a party and a system that offers them absolutely nothing but grief, in ever quickening increments. The merciless downsizing of the American worker is a central element of Obama’s legacy. Real wages had been frozen or declining for decades. However, economic restructuring in the Age of Obama demanded that millions of workers be crushed all the way through the floor to a lower level of hell: temporary, contract, not-really-a-job, part-time “gig” employment. If the 1930s squatter shanty-towns called “Hoovervilles” were testaments to President Herbert Hoover’s economic policies, then the maddeningly precarious, no guaranteed hours, no benefits, zero job security, fraction of a shift, arbitrarily scheduled employment of today should be called “ObamaJobs”. A new study by economists at Princeton and Harvard universities shows that an astounding 94 percent of the 10 million jobs created during the First Black President’s two terms in office were “ObamaJobs”. This sub-sector of employment increased by almost half under Obama, from 10.7% of the working population to 15.8%.
“The structural lowering of the employment floor to a precariat sub-basement makes all workers more insecure and less able to bargain with the bosses.”
According to the study, one million fewer people are working under any kind of formal employment than before the Great Recession. The researchers also calculate that Obama’s claim of creating 15 million new jobs is off by 5 million.
Low income workers, especially females, were hurt worst under the “ObamaJobs” regime. But, the structural lowering of the employment floor to a precariat sub-basement makes all workers more insecure and less able to bargain with the bosses -- which is precisely what the new employment order is designed to do, and what Barack Obama intended. The President’s apologists claim Republican obstructionists prevented Obama from acting on his alleged progressive instincts. However, as frequent BAR contributor Pascal Robert points out, Obama “expended no political capital to push a jobs agenda at any time in his presidency.”
Republicans did not force Obama off his stride, causing him to stumble and lose his bearings on the way to a progressive agenda. From the very beginning, this consummate corporate politician had a grand social/economic strategy, beyond the overarching mission of resurrecting the Gilded Age of finance capital.
First, he would insulate the pharmaceutical and insurance industries from the threat of single payer, the world standard of health care that has been favored by 60-plus percent of Americans for at least the past three decades. Once those corporate interests were made safe -- possibly for a generation -- Obama immediately began attempting to forge a Grand Bargain with the Republicans to establish a bipartisan austerity regime. Core labor issues, including the “card check” bill that would have allowed unions to reverse their membership death spiral, were nowhere on his agenda.
“Obama’s assault on FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War on Poverty seemed to come from out of the blue.”
Obama declared war on social spending before even taking the oath of office. In early January, 2009, he informed the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post that all “entitlements” would be “on the table” for cutting under his presidency, including Medicare and Social Security. Obama’s assault on FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War on Poverty seemed to come from out of the blue; the battered Republicans were in no position to pressure anybody, and remembered how badly George Bush had been burned when he attempted to privatize Social Security, in his first term.
Obama seemed positively relieved when the GOP took control of the House, in 2010; he needed a stronger Republican Party on Capitol Hill to make his planned Grand Bargain look like a compromise, so that he would appear like a statesman practicing the politics of bipartisan give and take. But the GOP, the “White Man’s Party” whose organizing principle is race, could not bring itself to seal the deal, even after Obama offered a package of spending cuts approximating the Republicans’ own demands: about $4 trillion. Instead, Democrat-GOP relations calcified into gridlock. Thus, the nation was saved from Obama’s Grand Bargain, which Kansas City Black Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, then chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called a “Satan Sandwich.”
Obama has not offered a comprehensive economic plan of any kind since the collapse of his courtship with the GOP, which was too mean, narrow and racist to accept his eagerly offered surrender.
“Barack Obama dared to push through Congress a bill authorizing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military, without trial or charge.”
One does not embark on a campaign to lower wages and savage the social safety net without simultaneously buttressing the national security state. In addition to the exponential expansion of the U.S. domestic and global surveillance regime inherited from George Bush, Barack Obama dared to push through Congress a bill authorizing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military, without trial or charge. The 2011 New Years Eve insert to the National Defense Authorization Act (NNDA) effectively demolished the principle of due process of law in the United States. Although George Bush claimed the same authority, as inherent in the powers of the commander-in-chief, he never attempted to pass legislation to that effect, knowing that Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill would fight him, tooth and nail. But, Obama’s bill sailed through both chambers of Congress.
When Donald Trump moves into the White House on January 20, he will be empowered to imprison whomever he chooses, without recourse to law as we know it, thanks to Barack Obama. Who, then, is the “fascist”?
President Obama’s greatest foreign policy challenge was to put the United States back on the global military offensive, following George Bush’s humiliation in Iraq. This required a new doctrine, to replace Bush’s discredited crusade to “spread democracy.” On March 17, 2011, Obama loosed his “humanitarian” military intervention doctrine on Libya, effectively negating centuries of international law and custom. As interpreted by Obama, national sovereignty and the inviolability of borders means nothing if the superpower, standing in for the planet, deems a government to be a threat to its own people -- even if crimes against humanity have not yet occurred. Absent the principle of sovereignty, international law ceases to exist.
Obama’s methodical nullification of international law is, itself, the gravest aggression and crime against peace. The U.S. and its NATO and Gulf Arab allies deployed massive air power and foreign and Libyan jihadists to destroy the Libyan state and its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, butchered thousands of his supporters, and ethnically cleansed Black Africans from much of the country.
“Obama’s methodical nullification of international law is, itself, the gravest aggression and crime against peace.”
On a roll, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved thousands of jihadists to Syria, whose largest city, Aleppo, was captured by sectarian terrorists in 2012. From the moment Obama became the protector-in-chief of jihadists in Libya and Syria, virtually all the “news” about the wars in the region has been fake, false, lies. The now indisputable fact that the U.S. has, variously, armed, financed, shielded, transported, trained, directed and otherwise nurtured Islamic jihadists, including al-Qaida, is the truth that cannot be spoken on corporate media. If widely understood and internalized by the public, such a truth would shatter U.S. ruling structures. Therefore, it must be suppressed at all costs.
The sick superpower fends off the smell of death with a daily diet of lies: mainly about Russia and China and other states that refuse to buckle under to U.S. imperialism. The U.S. rulers’ biggest secret -- the one that requires many layers of lies to conceal -- is that the Lords of Capital see their demise as imminent and inevitable unless they somehow alter the general scope and direction of global economic development. The U.S. share of the world economy is inexorably shrinking -- which means, the only way the U.S. can sustain its superpower status is through lawless force of arms abroad, and a crackdown on dissent (truth-telling, or just being Black) at home.
If you are searching for the real meaning of fascism in the superpower under late stage capitalism, you will find it in the nexus between the presidencies of Obama and Trump. Donald Trump’s fascism is the vintage kind that held sway for 70 or 80 years in Dixie under Jim Crow. Still stuck in apartheid, it seems inflexible, crude and petty, too ugly for global prime time. In some ways, this kind of fascist’s ambitions have shrunk to U.S. territorial size, or less.
Obama’s fascism -- of the same brand as the Clintons’ -- is global-obsessed, because it needs to feed on the whole planet to survive. It’s a cosmopolitan, world-stealing Dracula, that cannot imagine life on Earth without itself in charge. It no longer indulges heavily in ideological justifications for its predations; whatever detracts from its hegemony is the enemy. Increasingly, it is engaged in a War Against All. Most recently, it simultaneously attacked both Russia and Donald Trump’s apartheid branch of fascists.
One fascist is fond of race war. The other isn’t so picky.
2016 was another challenging year for African Americans and Muslims. From the increase in black girls getting suspended from school, to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to President Obama visiting his first American masjid at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, to the charter school controversy, to the rapid rise in hate events against blacks and Muslims, many are welcoming the end to 2016 and bracing for an even more challenging 2017.
Black Girls and School
Growing numbers of black children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade are finding it harder and harder to get a quality education because they get suspended or expelled in disproportionate numbers, especially girls, and especially in the south.
“Far too many students across the country find themselves suspended, expelled, or involved with the criminal justice system for misbehaviors that occur during school,” explained Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in the executive summary of a new report by the Penn Graduate School of Education (PGSE).
“Making all of this worse is the fact that these punishments are not applied equally. From the data available, we know that black students are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and referred to the criminal justice system by schools. The overuse of these punishments and their disproportionate use on students of color are serious problems that we have to address right now.”
President Obama’s Mixed Review Visit
President Obama’s first visit to a mosque, February 3, was condemned by critics who questioned the choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB), seen by some as linked to terrorism and Muslims who felt it as a slap in the face considering the countless numbers of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that have killed innocent Muslims.
However his supporters were impressed with his words of support for Islam and the rights of Muslims to live in America without fear.
“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion -- and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country -- we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion,” said the president.
The hashtag #toolateObama was all over social media. @AfrixaAF wrote, “Years of surveillance, drone strikes an negligence and a visit to a Masjid is supposed to mean what? Fix what?” (There is something missing after drone strikes. - SR)
@DarakshanRaja wrote, “This entire speech was paternalistic to Muslims. It belittled our pain, the collective punishment we face.”
What About the Children of Flint?
Flint, Michigan's water crisis placed thousands of children at risk. There is no cure for lead-based poisoning. "Increasing evidence shows that there is no safe blood lead level and that lead disproportionately impacts low-income children. Lead has been linked to decreased IQ and an increased likelihood of ADHD, delinquent behaviors, total arrests, and increased rates of arrests involving violent offenses,” said pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.
“There are other adverse effects on health attributable to lead exposure, including but not limited to hematological, cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine.”
2016 began with many students, who were forced to go before school to go get water for their family. They trudged through the snow and bad weather to get free water from the numerous donation sites around the city.
Then they went to school.
“The Flint Community Schools will need additional support in the form of expanded special education resources. We need lead-free facilities for all students so time can be spent on what matters most – teaching and learning. We need resources to measure the intellectual and emotional damage done to each, and possibly every child. This will require complete testing – both medical and intellectual assessment – to understand the magnitude of our issues,” explained Superintendent Bilal Kareem Tawwah, of the Flint School District.
“We need early intervention programs to provide the educational support so that each student will have the opportunity to lead a productive life, and year-round schooling to deliver these services. We need the resources to attract and retain talented specialists who are trained in
special learning needs.”
Charter School Controversy
The Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP, who have long expressed concern about charter schools, recently called for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charter schools.
“The NAACP is not anti charter as a policy,” explained Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP . “But we want to put the brakes on opening new schools. We’ve found that charter schools’ suspension rates are higher and some of their expulsions are more. In Philadelphia now that we have a monitoring system, we’ve found that charters are not performing better than public schools.”
“Everyone that opens a charter, are they really qualified to run a school? We have hedge fund managers applying for charters. They quadrupled the amount they want for administration. They profit off the backs of black children. They get $6-$7 million a year to run a school. There are very good charter schools in Philadelphia but a lot of them are performing poorly.”
The resolution, voted on during their annual convention won’t become final until an NAACP Board vote in the fall, includes the following language:
“Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system.”
“Weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education.”
“Researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm…”
Calls for a moratorium from two widely known and supported organizations have drawn a line in the sand about school choice. Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., was quick to respond.
“The NAACP isn’t even considering what’s best for black children. If they were considering what’s best for black children the first thing they would be doing is getting black children out of the schools that lead to the prison pipeline. Over 90% of black children are attending traditional schools that have failed since they opened to educate black children. So much so that the venerable NAACP came to prominence in large part due to its efforts to get black children out of those schools,” he explained.
“The teachers' union has thrown a couple of dollars at them and it isn’t even real money. They literally take on the teacher’s union perspective. The teacher’s union which by the way is over 90% white and overwhelmingly female. They take on a suburban white female platform at the expense of black, Latino and poor children of all colors. The second thing is the data is so clear that black children in general and black males in particular are doing better in charter schools in particular and school choice in general.”
Hate’s on the Rise
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is calling for the termination of a 67-year-old Department of Labor employee from Brooklyn accused of verbally assaulting a Muslim woman December 5, yanking her hijab off and throwing it to the ground.
"This was an act of hate against the Islamic faith, as well as an attack on her as a woman," Mayor Baraka explained. "In the present climate of violence against Muslims across America and around the world, hate crimes must be recognized for what they are and they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
As 2016 comes to an end, this is just the latest in an increase of incidents ignited by hate that continue to soar across the country on almost a daily basis with blacks and Muslims as the primary targets according to FBI statistics.
“This is a reflection of where America has always been,” political scientist and Sirrius XM Radio host, Dr. Wilmer Leon told The Final Call. “After the election of Donald Trump, people feel more empowered to express their hatred and xenophobia. America has always had deep seated hatred. It tends to ebb and flow with a downturn in the economy and threats from abroad.”
“Usually when the US is vanquishing its opponents things are more stable. Since the illegal invasion of Iraq, instability of the Middle East and the assassination of Ghaddafi, it's only getting worst. One of the consistent things his supporters say is, ‘He’s saying exactly what I think but have been afraid to say.' Donald Trump’s election is evidence they are. Looking at his cabinet selections, we’re in for a very, very ugly time.”
He added, “Compound everything I’ve said with his ability to nominate two to three Supreme Court justices. He will have Supreme Court back up to what he does. It’s not about the writing of the law but the interpretation of the law which is what the Supreme Court does.”
2016 promises to be a record year for hate with 2015 not far behind according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics Report of 2015, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest compilation about bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation.
In 2015, law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 5,850 criminal incidents, a 6.8% increase from the 5,479 incidents reported in 2014, and 6,885 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity in 2015.
The report revealed 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. A percent distribution of victims by bias type showed that 59.2 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias, 19.7 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias, and 17.7 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias.
Rethinking School Discipline for Black Girls
President Obama’s Masjid Visit Gets Mixed Reviews
Flint Water Crisis
Charter School Controversy
Rise in Hate Crimes