Bolton Claim Set to Scramble Impeachment Proceedings – Rebecca Ballhaus Updated Jan. 26, 2020 9:45 pm ET


Draft of his book says Trump sought to keep aid to Ukraine frozen over Biden probe

President Trump’s lawyers will continue their defense in the impeachment trial this week. Photo: alex edelman/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

WASHINGTON—A draft of a forthcoming book from former national security adviser John Bolton alleges that President Trump told him in August that he wanted to keep aid to Ukraine frozen until the country aided investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. The development threatened to throw into turmoil the careful choreography of the Senate impeachment trial of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bolton’s claim, which was reported by the New York Times and confirmed by a lawyer for Mr. Bolton, goes to the heart of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and contradicts the White House’s argument that the decision to hold up nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine wasn’t related to the president’s push for investigations there. Democrats have said the president abused his power by leveraging aid approved by Congress to get a foreign leader to undertake actions that would benefit him politically.

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, said he sent a copy of his manuscript to the National Security Council in December so it could be reviewed for classified information, adding that he did so on the assurance that the contents of the book wouldn’t be disclosed to anyone not involved in that process.

“It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the prepublication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” Mr. Cooper said.

News of the manuscript’s claims comes on the eve of the defense team’s second session on the Senate floor, in which it was expected to present the bulk of its argument. The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment on Mr. Bolton’s description of his conversation with the president.

Mr. Trump has denied any connection between his decision to hold up the aid to Ukraine and the investigations he sought. “I have never had a direct link between investigations and security assistance,” he said in November.

Democrats immediately intensified their calls for the Senate to vote in favor of calling more witnesses later this week, chief among them Mr. Bolton, who has said he would testify if he were subpoenaed by the Senate. Details of what Mr. Bolton might say could sway the four Republican senators who have said they are on the fence about the vote in favor of more testimony. If all Democrats vote in favor, they would need four Republicans to join them for the vote to pass.

“It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton… as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Democrats have also wanted to bring in acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and two other witnesses.

The White House has sought to block testimony by Mr. Bolton and the other witnesses on the Democrats’ list.

Mr. Trump said in a news conference last week that testimony by Mr. Bolton would be a “national security problem” and added: “I don’t know if we left on the best of terms. I would say probably not.”

Mr. Bolton’s book also includes details of cabinet officials’ discussions about Ukraine and about Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney who led the campaign for investigations in Ukraine, according to the New York Times. Mr. Bolton wrote that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said privately that Mr. Giuliani’s claims that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt weren’t true, and that he shared his concerns about Mr. Giuliani with Attorney General William Barr after the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Mr. Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to work with both Messrs. Giuliani and Barr on investigations, the Times said. Mr. Bolton wrote that he told the attorney general Mr. Trump had invoked him on the call.

A Justice Department official familiar with the matter said Mr. Bolton did call Mr. Barr to express concerns about Mr. Giuliani and his shadow foreign policy in Ukraine. It wasn’t clear what, if anything, the attorney general did with that information.

Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec denied that Mr. Barr learned of the Ukraine call from Mr. Bolton. The department has repeatedly said he learned about it in mid-August.

The alleged conversation between the president and Mr. Bolton also sheds more light on an exchange that took place later in August between Mr. Bolton and Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.). According to Mr. Johnson, Mr. Bolton urged him to call Mr. Trump directly about the Ukraine aid matter. Mr. Johnson spoke to Mr. Trump on Aug. 31 and asked the president if the aid to Ukraine was contingent on new investigations by Ukraine. Mr. Trump responded by vehemently denying that that was the case, Mr. Johnson said.

News of Mr. Bolton’s claims shook the White House, where several top advisers hadn’t read the manuscript. As of late Sunday evening, the press office hadn’t yet decided whether to issue a statement on the matter.

In their first day of arguments on Saturday, the president’s lawyers argued for two hours that Democrats had failed to make a compelling case and were relying on circumstantial evidence to conclude that the Republican president had conditioned aid to Ukraine on investigations that could benefit him politically. Mr. Bolton’s manuscript would provide a first-person account of the president doing precisely that.

Among other matters, the president’s team was expected to argue on Monday that Mr. Trump was right to press Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden, a Democratic candidate for president, and his son, Hunter, the person familiar with the discussions said. They will argue that it was corrupt for the younger Mr. Biden to serve on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father as vice president was overseeing U.S. efforts to combat corruption in Ukraine. No evidence has emerged of wrongdoing by either Mr. Biden or his son, though Hunter Biden has said serving on the company’s board while his father worked on anticorruption efforts showed poor judgment.

Republican lawmakers have echoed the president’s calls for an investigation into the Bidens, which Democrats say amount to an effort by the White House to enlist a foreign country’s help in interfering in this year’s election.

The president’s team plans to present arguments Monday beginning at 1 p.m. EST and likely wrapping up by about 8 p.m., according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Constitutional law professor Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsel Kenneth Starr will likely speak Monday, the person said. Depending on how the session goes, the team may not use its session on Tuesday, the last day it has to make arguments before senators begin their questioning.

If the Senate votes against calling more witnesses, it would proceed soon afterward to a vote on whether to convict or acquit the president. Mr. Trump faces little prospect of conviction, which requires a two-thirds majority of senators to remove him from office.

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Interim Bolivian Government Taps the Same Lobby Firm Hired to Sell the Coup in Honduras – Lee Fang January 26 2020, 3:30 a.m.


Interim Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez, who came to power in November, has rejected claims that her predecessor, Evo Morales, was ousted in a coup — while cracking down on dissent and calling for new elections to solidify the rule of conservative opposition forces that seized control of the government in Morales’s absence.

As many critics have noted, the cycle bears a striking similarity to the coup d’etat that ousted Honduran President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya a decade ago. The left-wing leader was whisked out of office by the military, only to be replaced with an interim government led by right-wing opposition forces that swiftly consolidated power through a controversial election process.

The parallels were apparently not lost on the Bolivia’s new rulers. The Áñez government has retained the services of the same Washington, D.C., consultants hired by the Honduran interim government to build American support.

In December, Bolivia inked an agreement with CLS Strategies to provide “strategic communications counsel” for new elections this year and other interactions with the U.S. government. The lobbying firm, previously known as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, provided remarkably similar work after Zelaya’s ouster, helping the interim Honduran government earn backing from American policymakers and media outlets as the country held new elections.

CLS Strategies did not respond to a request for comment.

The crisis in Bolivia mirrors the 2009 coup in Honduras in many ways. Morales and Zelaya both forged ties with Venezuela, raised the minimum wage, expanded social services, and opposed the privatization of major industries. The two leftist presidents faced mounting criticism over what looked like attempts to undemocratically remain in office. Zelaya sought a referendum on whether he could pursue a second term in office, which was prohibited by the constitution. Morales sought an unprecedented fourth term, raising questions over whether he was slowly bending Bolivia’s institutions into allowing permanent rule by his party.

The military also played a crucial role in the downfall of both leaders. In the dead of night, on June 28, 2009, military officers forced Zelaya’s resignation at gunpoint, arresting him at his residence. Morales fled Bolivia after the commander in chief of the military asked for his resignation on November 10, 2019.

And in both cases, right-wing opposition forces seized power after the downfall of Morales and Zelaya, and sought international recognition to build legitimacy.

After the coup in Honduras, then-Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., announced he would lead a group of lawmakers to the capital city of Tegucigalpa as a gesture of diplomacy with the new interim government. Initially, the Obama administration refused to provide military aircraft for the trip, and DeMint responded by unilaterally blocking Obama nominees. Eventually, the Obama administration relented, and DeMint was granted a plane to travel to Honduras.

Behind the drama, lobbying disclosures show the the firm now known as CLS Strategies played a part in the strategy. Juan Cortiñas, a partner at the firm, briefed legislative staff and served as DeMint’s personal translator with Honduran government officials. The team from CLS Strategies also attempted to place opinion columns, pitched reporters at major newspapers, and scheduled interviews on cable networks to promote the interim government’s opposition to Zelaya’s return.

The interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti, from the right-wing National Party, suspended civil liberties, cracked down on protests, and blocked the transmission of several media outlets, including CNN, Telesur, Channel 8, and Radio Globo.

CLS Strategies again played a background role. After the coup, David Romero, a host with Radio Globo, known for its sympathies with Zelaya, went on an anti-Semitic rant that suggested Israel and Jews were to blame for the Zelaya ouster. Romero apologized, claiming he was caught up in the moment, but his hate-filled rant gave an opening to the Micheletti government, which shut down the radio station and confiscated his equipment. As international outcry grew over Micheletti’s censorship of many different media outlets, CLS Strategies circulated Romero’s comments and condemnation of Radio Globo in multiple press releases, refocusing attention on Romero’s rhetoric.

In the end, controversial new elections were held in Honduras that established National Party as the official party in control of government. The National Party, despite years of corruption scandals and growing evidence that leading figures in the party have been directly involved in drug cartel operations, has controlled the Honduran presidency ever since. President Juan Orlando Hernández sacked opponents on the Supreme Court and passed a change to term limits, the very issue that ostensibly led to Zelaya’s ouster. Hernández subsequently sent military police to violently suppress protests around the disputed results of the 2017 presidential election, which elected him for a second term.

In Bolivia, a similar story appears to be playing out. Áñez, former conservative opposition leader in Bolivia’s senate, took power after Morales’s ouster, and moved immediately to remake the government, replacing military and cabinet officials. She also announced her intention to prosecute Morales and members of his political party as terrorists. Several people who protested the Áñez government have been killed. The interim Bolivian government claims Morales supporters are plotting violence.

The haze of uncertainty around the future has left the public wary of whether the elections will truly be fair. In its registration statement, CLS Strategies indicated that it will reach out to public officials, government agencies, newspapers, and civil groups in the U.S. on behalf of the interim Bolivian government. Cortiñas, who served as DeMint’s translator, is now registered to represent the Bolivian government.

https://theintercept.com/2020/01/26/bolivia-evo-morales-honduras-coup-lobby-pr/

Is Heineken brewing a better Africa? – Olivier van Beeman 27 Jan 2020


Like elsewhere, marketing is of great importance and to the delight of the industry there are few limits for advertising in many African countries.(Image: Olivier van Beeman)

In the Netherlands, there’s an old secret that involves a local, world-famous beer brand. Only we Dutch know that Heineken is actually an average beer: nothing wrong with it, but nothing special either. It’s somewhat similar to eating a hamburger at McDonald’s: the taste is unlikely to upset most people and you can even experience a burning desire to eat one, but you know it’s not great and might regret it afterwards.

However, thanks to decades of successful marketing campaigns, people across the globe believe that Heineken is a so-called premium beer, for which many are prepared to pay a premium price. People consider Heineken a drink for winners who compete in European Champions League soccer and Formula One auto races, just two of the major sports events the corporation is sponsoring. These days, even secret agent James Bond alternates between his classic vodka martini and the green bottle from Amsterdam. An iconic former CEO of the brewing company, Freddy Heineken, used to say: “People don’t drink beer. They drink marketing.”

In Heineken’s global beer empire, Africa holds a special place. The company doesn’t only expect substantial future growth from the continent’s emerging economies, it already makes mouth-watering profits here. According to the latest available results, Africa is 42 percent more profitable than the worldwide average for Heineken. Nigeria is one of the three most important global markets for the company, ahead of big western markets, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, or France.

Like elsewhere, marketing is of great importance and to the delight of the industry there are few limits for advertising in many African countries. In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Heineken has painted whole neighborhoods in the color of a popular local brand, including beer logos on a police station, pharmacies, and school buses. In several countries, the brewing company has put logos on the walls of primary schools it has renovated. And in Lagos, Nigeria, Heineken has organised several beer and health conferences, where the audience was told that drinking beer would increase their life expectancy, prevent diseases, and make them more beautiful. People were recommended to drink 1.5 litres of beer each day to benefit from all the supposed advantages.

Across the continent, Heineken hires thousands of young women to promote its beer at bars and clubs. They used to be called “promotion girls” but Heineken now calls them “brand ambassadors.” Many of them have to deal with sexual abuse at work: they are victims of groping, are put under pressure to have sex with managers to keep or get the job, and/or sell sex to supplement their meager earnings.

In 2018, when I first uncovered the widespread sexual abuse of these women, Heineken promised quick improvements. If the company couldn’t guarantee good working conditions in a particular country within three months, it would cease its promotion activities there. Yet, when I discovered that in Kenya nothing had changed after the self-imposed deadline, Heineken broke its own promise and simply continued exposing the women to sexual harassment.

Moreover, instead of taking full responsibility, Heineken’s current CEO, Jean-François van Boxmeer, blamed the intermediary agencies that hire the women in most countries. “We can’t control everything,” he said in an interview in the Dutch financial newspaper FD. Commenting on the short and tight dresses the women have to wear on the job, in which many feel uncomfortable, he said: “Should they walk around in a sack of potatoes instead of a nice dress? You can endlessly discuss about that.” Van Boxmeer further pointed at the “huge cultural differences” between various countries. The Heineken CEO considers #MeToo “a western phenomenon.”

During last year’s annual shareholder meeting, he admitted to having an affair with a beer promoter when he was expat director in Kinshasa in the 1990s. He called it “a consensual love relationship” and he was applauded by his shareholders for admitting to the affair, which had no consequences for his position.

The treatment of the promotion women is one of many examples of Heineken’s controversial business conduct in Africa. After more than six years of investigating its operations, I discovered that the global number two beer company (behind Anheuser Busch Inbev) got involved in structural malpractice and numerous alleged crimes, including high-level corruption and fraud. Through a Belgian subsidiary, the company has set up a scheme of tax avoidance.

In my book Heineken in Africa, I show that the company was also allegedly complicit in crimes against humanity. Currently in Burundi, Heineken’s activities represent 10% of the GDP and more than 30% of the tax revenues. Thus it’s the main pillar and lifeline for Pierre Nkurunziza’s authoritarian regime, and it can be argued that Heineken is complicit in the crimes that were committed there; in Congo, the company collaborated with the violent rebel movement RCD and was a source of revenue for another, M23; while in Rwanda, it played an important role in the 1994 genocide. There, Heineken continued to brew beer in Rwanda, knowing that it was used to motivate and reward the killers. And it continued to pay taxes to the regime that committed the genocide.

The book also argues that Heineken’s contribution to economic growth, employment and development in most countries is negligible and likely to be negative, if the costs for the economy and society are taken into consideration.

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The debunked “Russian influence” nonsense is infantilizing liberals – Michael Lind JANUARY 27, 2020 12:30AM (UTC)


The Russian money spent to influence the election was negligible. Its persistence as an explanation is bad for Dems

The populist wave in politics on both sides of the Atlantic is a defensive reaction against the technocratic neoliberal revolution from above that has been carried out in the last half century by national managerial elites. Over the last half century, the weakening or destruction by neoliberal policy makers of the intermediary institutions of mid-twentieth century democratic pluralism, particularly labor unions, has deprived much of the working class of effective voice or agency in government, the economy, and culture. Populist demagogues can channel the legitimate grievances of many working-class voters, but they cannot create a stable, institutionalized alternative to overclass-dominated neoliberalism. Only a new democratic pluralism that compels managerial elites to share power with the multiracial, religiously pluralistic working class in the economy, politics, and the culture can end the cycle of oscillation between oppressive technocracy and destructive populism.

That is the thesis of this article. It is a minority viewpoint within overclass circles in the US and Europe. A far more common view among transatlantic elites interprets the success of populist and nationalist candidates in today’s Western democracies not as a predictable and disruptive backlash against oligarchic misrule, but as a revival of Nazi or Soviet-style totalitarianism. One narrative holds that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime, by cleverly manipulating public opinion in the West through selective leaks to the media or Internet advertisements and memes, is responsible for Brexit, the election of Trump in 2016, and perhaps other major political events. A rival narrative sees no need to invoke Russian machinations; in this view, without aid from abroad, demagogues can trigger the latent “authoritarian personalities” of voters, particularly white working-class native voters, many of whom, it is claimed, will turn overnight into a fascist army if properly mobilized. These two elite narratives, promulgated by antipopulist politicians, journalists, and academics, can be called the Russia Scare and the Brown Scare (after earlier “brown scares” in Western democracies, with the color referring to Hitler’s Brownshirts).

The reductio ad absurdum of this kind of mythological thinking is the adoption of the term “Resistance” by domestic opponents of President Donald Trump, which implies an equation between Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans and the heroic anti-Nazis of the French Resistance. The anti-fascist theme also provides the name for the Antifa movement which, like the earlier “black bloc” anarchist movement, is made up chiefly of the privileged children of the white overclass who abuse leftist ideology as an excuse to dress up as movie-style ninjas, vandalize property, and harass people.

It is no doubt emotionally satisfying for members of the embattled managerial overclass to identify antiestablishment populism with pro-Russian treason, fascism, or both. But this kind of paranoid demonological thinking has the potential to be a greater danger to liberal democracy in the West than any particular populist movements.

To begin with, both the Russia Scare and the Brown Scare betray a profound contempt on the part of members of technocratic neoliberal national establishments for voters who support populist causes or candidates. These voters are assumed to be gullible dimwits who are easily manipulated by foreign propaganda or domestic demagogues. Even worse, attributing populism to the irrational impulses of maladjusted voters prevents embattled establishments on both sides of the Atlantic from treating specific grievances of those voters as legitimate.

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Worst of all, the myth that Russia swung the 2016 US presidential election from Clinton to Trump, and endlessly repeated comparisons of current events to the rise of the Nazis in Germany’s Weimar Republic, provide the managerial overclasses in Atlantic democracies with excuses to increase their near-monopoly of political, economic, and media power by freezing out political challengers and censoring dissident media. If most opponents of neoliberalism are Russian pawns or potential Nazis, then mere disagreement with neoliberal policies on trade, immigration, taxation, or other subjects can be equated with rejection of liberalism or democracy, if not outright treason. Confronted with peaceful challenges via the voting booth to neoliberal orthodoxy from outsiders on both the populist right and the socialist left, the instinctive reflex of many in the besieged establishment is to call for censorship and repression.

* * *

In the 1950s, McCarthyism on the right took the form of conservatives accusing establishment liberals of being pawns of Soviet Russia. Today, a new McCarthyism of the center takes the form of establishment neoliberals accusing populists of being pawns of post-Soviet Russia.

If the Russia Scare version of the establishment’s anti- populist story line is to be believed, the government of Russian president Vladimir Putin successfully used Western social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to hypnotize substantial numbers of citizens of North America and Europe into voting against their natural inclinations for Brexit or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders in 2016. Even the French yellow vest protests and the gains made by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the British general election of 2017 have been attributed to Russian machinations online.

The “Russiagate” scandal began before Trump’s election as the Clinton campaign, some anti-Trump Republicans, elements in the Obama administration, and various members of the US law enforcement and national security establishments spread rumors of alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign to the media, including the false story that Trump was being blackmailed by Moscow with a videotape of him consorting with Russian prostitutes. When Trump won, his political enemies in the Democratic and Republican parties claimed that Russia had swung the election against Clinton. Putin had installed his puppet in the White House, it was widely asserted, by one of two methods (or both). One was Russian assistance to the website WikiLeaks, which leaked material damaging to Clinton and her allies. The other method of Russian interference in the 2016 election took the form of propaganda on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms to suppress black voters and encourage some white voters who had voted for Obama in 2012 to vote for Trump in 2016.

In Spring 2019, after a two-year investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, leaving many Americans who had believed that the president would be exposed as a traitor disoriented and depressed. However, Mueller and his team, in addition to indicting some Trump campaign officials on unrelated charges, did charge a number of Russians with criminal interference in the 2016 election, allowing Trump’s opponents to salvage the thesis that Clinton would have become president of the United States but for Putin’s interference.

Like any detective thriller movie or novel, this narrative seeks to achieve realism by weaving facts into a formulaic conspiracy-based plot. It is a fact that Putin, like many Russians, resents the treatment of Russia by the West after the Cold War, symbolized by the incorporation of former Russian satellites into the European Union and the expansion of NATO. Russian nationalists and many populists in Europe and the US share a common hostility to the transnational European Union as well as contemporary transatlantic social liberalism. In addition, Western intelligence authorities claim that Russian intelligence operatives have engaged in trying to promote conflict in the US and other countries by helping whistle-blowers like WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden leak stolen or classified information and by bombarding carefully targeted audiences with Internet memes and ads.

Let us stipulate that this is all true. It was also true in the 1950s that there really were a small number of communists in the US, including a few high-ranking government officials, who spied for the Soviet Union, as well as many more Soviet sympathizers. There were also genuine Soviet disinformation campaigns in the Cold War West. But only the lunatic fringe of the anticommunist right during the Cold War drew the conclusion that the president was a Soviet agent or that main- stream politicians were secret communists. In contrast, influential members of today’s American establishment, not only marginal conspiracy theorists, in order to absolve Hillary Clinton of blame for losing the 2016 election, have promoted the claim that the forty-fifth US president was installed by a foreign government and does its bidding. A Gallup poll in August 2018 showed that 78 percent of Democrats believed not only that Russia interfered in the election but also that it changed the outcome, denying Hillary Clinton the presidency.

It is not enough to demonstrate that Putin hoped that Hillary Clinton would be defeated. Great numbers of Americans hoped that she would be defeated as well. It is necessary therefore to demonstrate that the Internet activity of Russian trolls, rather than purely domestic opposition to her candidacy, was the decisive factor in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

In the context of election-year advertising, the quantity of Russian memes was negligible. According to Facebook, only 1 in 23,000 pieces of content on its platform could be traced to Russian sources. Facebook ads linked to Russia cost $46,000, or 0.05 percent of the $81 million that the Clinton and Trump campaigns themselves spent on Facebook ads.

Is it possible that the Russian memes, although mere drops in the ocean of advertising by the Clinton and Trump campaigns, were disproportionately effective in influencing American voters because of their unique sophistication? One anti-Clinton ad on Facebook attributed to Russian trolls showed a photo of Bernie Sanders with the words: “Bernie Sanders: The Clinton Foundation is a ‘Problem.'” A pro-Trump meme, presumably targeting religious conservatives, showed Satan wrestling with Jesus. Satan: “If I win Clinton wins!” Jesus: “Not if I can help it!”

To believe the Russia Scare theory of the 2016 US presidential election, we must believe that the staff of Russia’s government-linked Internet Research Agency and other Russian saboteurs understood how to influence the psychology of black American voters and white working-class voters in the Midwest far better than did the Clinton and Trump presidential campaigns. The Russians knew which memes or leaked memos would cause black Democrats to vote in lower numbers for Clinton in 2016 than they had voted for Obama for president in 2008 and 2012 and also knew exactly what material would motivate a significant minority of white working-class Obama voters to vote for Trump. In addition to being very flattering to the intelligence of Russian Internet trolls, this is very condescending to those two groups of voters, to say the least.

As it happens, the US election results can be explained with no need to posit the ability of the Russian government to alter the outcomes of US elections by brainwashing American voters, even if it sought to do so. In December 2015, the progressive documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told Busi­ness Insider: “Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the Republican candidate for president of the United States.” In July 2016, after Trump won the nomination to become the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Moore wrote an essay on his website, “5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win.”

Russian meme warfare on the Internet was not one of Moore’s five reasons. According to Moore, who had achieved fame by documenting the industrial decline of the Midwest, the most important reason why Trump would defeat Clinton was the regional economy:

Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes—Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states— but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). . . . Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. . . . From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England—broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the country- side with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. . . . What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. . . . And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he’s expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn’t need Florida. He doesn’t need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.

Moore was not the only observer who pointed out that Trump had a possible path to victory in the electoral college. In February 2016, the progressive political analyst Ruy Teixeira told MSNBC that even if Trump alienated black and Latino voters, he might win by sweeping the upper Midwest: “You could see a situation where someone like Trump could carry Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, maybe Pennsylvania.” In the event, Trump got a higher share of the black vote and the Latino vote than Romney in 2012.

For what it is worth, on May 24, 2016, at a forum in Los Angeles on “Populism Past and Present” hosted by Ian Masters that featured me and the historian Michael Kazin, I was asked if I thought Trump could win. I replied, “I think it’s possible. I wouldn’t bet on it.” I noted that sometimes “a big chunk of the former electoral college presidential majority migrates to the other party.” I said that I doubted there would be a “big enough chunk of people who formerly voted Democratic moving over to put Trump in the White House” but I hedged my bets by saying, “I may look foolish in November.”

The political scientist Alan I. Abramowitz has observed that Trump actually performed less well than might have been expected in 2016 in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, given shifts already under way from the Democrats to the Republicans in those states: “There is no evidence here that Russian interference, to the extent that it occurred, did anything to help Trump in these three states.”

In 2018, Hillary Clinton told Britain’s Channel Four News: “The real question is how did the Russians know how to target their messages so precisely to undecided voters in Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania–that is really the nub of the question.” No, the real question is why so much of the US and European establishment accepted and promulgated Clinton’s alibi for her failure to follow her husband into the office of president of the United States. A Clinton or a Bush was president, vice president, or secretary of state in every year between 1981 and 2013, an era in which working-class incomes stagnated, offshoring devastated US and European manufacturing, the world suffered the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the US plunged into multiple disastrous wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Trump became president by running against a Bush in the Republican primaries and a Clinton in the general election. The desire of many American voters to disrupt the quarter-century cycle of nearly identical versions of technocratic neoliberalism under alternating Bushes and Clintons is quite sufficient to explain the presidential election of 2016.

# # #

Adapted from “The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite” (Portfolio; January 21, 2020) by Michael Lind. © 2020 Portfolio Books.

Michael Lind is the author of more a dozen books of nonfiction, fiction and poetry. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Politico, The Financial Times, The National Interest, Foreign Policy, Salon, and The International Economy. He has taught at Harvard and Johns Hopkins and has been an editor or staff writer for The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New Republic, and The National Interest.

Why It’s Literally Raining Iguanas In South Florida – Jan 23, 2020


Floridians woke up to some unusual conditions Wednesday morning: frozen iguanas scattered across the grounds. “Don’t be surprised if you see iguanas falling from the trees tonight,” the Miami National Weather Service office tweeted on Tuesday. The weather forecast was pretty spot-on. The temperatures were low enough to throw iguanas into shock. Miami temperatures dropped to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature in nine years.

Is FOBO Paralyzing the Democratic Primary? – By PATRICK J. MCGINNIS 01/26/2020 07:00 AM EST


What is happening here? It’s simple: The Democrats have FOBO, or Fear of a Better Option.

Haven’t heard of FOBO? Let me tell you where it comes from.

Back in 2004, while I was a student at Harvard Business School, I coined the term FOMO in an essay for the school newspaper. In the piece, I skewered a student culture that was permeated by “Fear of Missing Out,” thanks to the seemingly unlimited menu of things to do on campus. All these years later, FOMO has been added to the dictionary, but the other acronym in my column—FOBO—has languished in obscurity.

It shouldn’t. FOBO is becoming only more trenchant in modern life, political and otherwise. When you’re faced with a proliferation of choices, and you know you can’t predict the future well enough to know how your choice will turn out, you’re driven to keep all of your options open for as long as possible. Who knows—you may have even more choices if you keep waiting. In other words, having too many options leads to decision paralysis.

The upcoming Iowa caucuses tell the story. With the large field of candidates and a voter pool that is feeling the FOBO, indecision might emerge victorious on February 3. Seriously, indecision could actually win the caucuses. It might be unlikely, but here’s how it would work. Under the rules for the Iowa caucuses, upon arriving to their caucus site voters will declare a first-choice candidate. They may also choose to remain “uncommitted.” At that point, any candidate (including uncommitted) that surpasses 15 percent support in the initial “alignment” will move on to the next round while the rest will be eliminated. If enough voters declare themselves uncommitted early on, the winner of the Iowa caucuses may end up being … no candidate at all. In such a scenario, Iowa would be represented by a slate of FOBO delegates that could further muddle a close race later on. If you think that sounds crazy, think again. Uncommitted won the caucuses twice back in the 1970s.

Why Are Democratic Voters Stuck?

The first thing to understand about FOBO is that it’s everywhere. Most Americans have slowly awoken to the reality that they live in a world of overwhelming choice. Thanks to Amazon, Seamless, Tinder and Netflix, whether you’re shopping for everyday household items, ordering food, dating or choosing what to watch, you are drowning in options. Making even mundane decisions has become incredibly time-consuming, and stressful, because of the piles of perfectly acceptable possibilities at your disposal. As a result, you spend precious time and energy poring over all of your possible choices only to procrastinate well past the point when you should have decided. You also increase the chance that you will never decide at all: FOBO is the reason that we live in an age that David Brooks calls the “Golden Age of Bailing.” If you just can’t bring yourself to commit, you are prone to never pick anything at all.

Over the past several years, I’ve studied how FOBO has gradually infiltrated daily life, from choosing how you spend your time to how you run your business. Now, the 2020 election cycle has provided the ideal conditions for FOBO to spread to politics.

You cannot have FOBO without choice. This year, an unprecedented field of over 25 candidates threw their hats into the ring. With a cast of characters that has at times included governors, members of Congress, mayors, billionaires and a former vice president, voters are spoiled for choice. In this field, there is something for everyone. There are so many candidates that it can prove difficult to tell them apart, as is particularly evident when they’re herded together in groups of 10 or more, as they were in six of the eight debates thus far.

Trying to pick a favorite candidate when the stage is crowded with faces familiar and unknown is as overwhelming as choosing what to stream on Netflix. So much selection often feels bewildering, especially when a late choice enters the field. It can feel nearly impossible to make sense of it all.

Voters are also drowning in information. The election has overtaken the national narrative, hijacked the internet and consistently dominated the news cycle. A ceaseless onslaught of political advertising and news—fake or otherwise—only serves to exacerbate analysis paralysis. This has caused voters to sit on the sidelines. Why not wait for the next debate, the next hot take, or next the clash on Twitter to make up your mind? Rather than make a decision, you can kick the can down the road, live in the maybe and avoid the hard work of choosing just one option.

When the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

The problem with FOBO is that it cultivates a sense of ambiguity and dissatisfaction among voters who are otherwise laser-focused on choosing a candidate who can beat President Trump. For 40 percent of Democrats, the most important trait in a candidate is that person’s ability to win in the general election. In fact, beating Trump polls ahead of kitchen table issues like healthcare (12 percent), the economy (14 percent), and the environment (8 percent) taken together. Despite this shared aspiration, the lack of consensus means that the race has the potential to drag on for months, consuming financial support that could be directed toward the general election and cultivating damaging internecine feuds. Rather than celebrating the diverse and talented set of candidates vying for their support, voters will risk looking for the “perfect” candidate (hint: there’s no such thing) and many will end up disappointed and filled with regret regardless of who prevails at the convention.

This is clearly not the outcome that Democratic Party envisioned when it designed the primary process.

If the Democratic Party wants to avoid FOBO in the future, what can be done? It could start by adopting a democratic reform that is gaining ground in pockets of the country: ranked-choice voting. Under such a system, voters select a first-choice candidate but then have the option of ranking other candidates as well. When votes are tabulated, the least popular candidate is removed, and his or her votes are reassigned based on each voter’s personal ranking. This instant run-off process is repeated until one candidate reaches 50 percent support. In this way, ranked-choice voting eliminates the agony and the FOBO of picking just one name on the ballot; voters can have their cake and eat it too. Meanwhile, candidates recognize that they have to do more than just win a plurality of voters. Instead, they must cultivate a broad swath of support so that they can accumulate additional support during the instant run-off process. For precisely these reasons, voters have recently passed referendums that are leading to its adoption in Maine and New York City and other states and municipalities may soon follow.

Ironically, while Democrats struggle to coalesce around a candidate, the GOP has done the exact opposite. So far at least nine states have scrapped their primaries and will effectively award their delegates to the president. While that move has provoked an outcry from parts of the party, it seems that the GOP is feeling so anxious about winning in 2020 that it’s decided there is no room at all for FOBO this year. While that might be a win for the president, it’s a win that comes at the detriment of voters. If you value democratic principles one thing is clear: Voters are better off having to deal with a Fear of Better Options—and having a vote—than having no options at all.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/01/26/fobo-democratic-primary-iowa-caucuses-103963?fbclid=IwAR08L5rUBExGYgZGzLdTLpilM2Ft051KDXwmnHZPLW6Vfp5VxvovA5D1swU