Insightful Noam Chomsky Interviews

Much of importance is worth noting here.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: I do think that the way that we won in New York 14 is a model for how we can win almost anywhere. I knew from the outset that—you know, I had no misconceptions of the fact that the New York political machine was not going to be doing me any favors. And so I didn’t—I tried to kind of come in as clear-eyed as possible. And I knew that if we were going to win, the way that progressives win on an unapologetic message is by expanding the electorate. That’s the only way that we can win strategically. It’s not by rushing to the center. It’s not by trying to win spending all of our energy winning over those who have other opinions. It’s by expanding the electorate, speaking to those that feel disenchanted, dejected, cynical about our politics, and letting them know that we’re fighting for them.

[…]

AMY GOODMAN: And the issues you ran on?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIOCORTEZ: And the issues I ran on were very clear, and I think it was an important part to us winning: improved and expanded Medicare for all; tuition-free public colleges and universities, as well as trade schools; a Green New Deal; justice for Puerto Rico; an unapologetic platform of criminal justice reform and ending the war on drugs; and also speaking truth to power and speaking about money in politics not just in general, but how it operates in New York City.

[…]

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think there’s—her victory was a quite spectacular and significant event. I think what it points to is a split in the Democratic Party between the—roughly speaking, between the popular base and the party managers. The popular base is increasingly, essentially, social democratic, following, pursuing the—concerned with the kinds of progressive objectives that she outlined in those—in her remarks, which should be directed not only to expanding the electorate but to the general working-class, poor population of the world, of the middle-class population of the country, for whom these ideals are quite significant. They can be brought to that.

[…]

I think she was right in saying that the policies she’s outlined should have broad appeal to a very large segment of the population. We should bear in mind that, for now almost 40 years, since the neoliberal assault began, taking off with Reagan, on from there, a large majority of the population are living in conditions of stagnation or decline. Real wages are—for, say, male real wages—are about what they were in the 1960s. It’s been—there has been productivity growth. Hasn’t gone to working people. It’s gone into the very few extremely overstuffed pockets.

[…]

Notice, as everybody’s well aware, the tax scam was a purposeful effort not only to enrich the super-rich and the corporate sector—corporate profits, of course, are overflowing—but it was also an effort to sharply increase the deficit, which can be used—and Paul Ryan and others kindly announced to us right away what the plans were—the deficit could be used to undermine any elements of government structure which benefit the general population—Medicare, Social Security, food for poor children. Anything you can do to shaft the general population more can now be justified under the argument that we have a huge deficit, thanks to stuffing the pockets of the rich. This is an astonishing phenomenon. And under those conditions, a properly designed progressive program should appeal to a large majority of the population. But it has to be done correctly and not shaped in ways which will appease the donor class.

[…]

We should be considering why people are fleeing from their homes. Not because they want to live in slums in New York. They’re fleeing from their homes because their homes are unlivable, and they’re unlivable, largely, because of things that we have done. Overwhelmingly, that’s the reason. That tells you right away what the solution to the crisis is: rebuild what we’ve destroyed, compensate for the atrocities that we’ve carried out. Then the flow of refugees will decline. And for those who come with asylum pleas, they should be accommodated in a humane and civilized way. Maybe it’s impossible to imagine that we can reach the level of civilization of the poor countries that are absorbing refugees.

[…]

AMY GOODMAN: Federal officials say 711 children remain separated from their parents, despite Thursday’s court-imposed deadline for the Trump administration to reunite all migrate children separated from their parents by immigration officials at the border. More than 400 of the children have parents who have already been deported from the United States.

[…]

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it’s a major scandal, of course, and properly condemned throughout the world. Taking children away from their parents, sending them off somewhere, losing track of them, you know, it’s hard to think of a more brutal and sadistic policy.

[…]

You’ll notice there’s one—there’s two countries in the region from which there haven’t been refugee flows. One is Costa Rica, which happens to be the one country that sort of functions, and not by accident, the one country that the United States has not—in which the United States does not intervene militarily to overthrow the government and run a military regime. The other is Nicaragua, which differed, which also suffered severely in the 1980s from Reagan’s assaults. But Nicaragua was unlike the other countries of the region: It had an army to defend it. In the other countries, the army were the terrorists. In Nicaragua, the army could, to some extent, defend the population from Reagan’s terrorist forces. And though there’s plenty of problems in Nicaragua, it hasn’t been the source of refugee flow.

So, essentially, what President Trump is saying is, we’ll destroy your countries, slaughter you, impose brutal regimes, but if you try to get out, you’re not going to come here, because America is full.

[…]

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, my frank opinion is that—I must say I don’t pay much attention to television, so I don’t know a great deal about it. But, in general, I think the media—first of all, Fox News is, by now, basically a joke. It’s, as you said, state media. The other media, I think, are focusing on issues which are pretty marginal. There are much more serious issues that are being put to the side. So, the worst of—even on the case of immigration, once again, I think the real question is dealing with the roots of immigration, our responsibility for it, and what we can do to overcome that. And that’s almost never discussed. But I think that’s the crucial issue. And I think we find the same across the board.

[…]

NOAM CHOMSKY: Trump has basically one principle: me first. That’s almost all of his policies, and wild statements and so on are perfectly well explicable within—under the assumption that that’s what’s driving him. Now, that—crucially, for him, he has to ensure that the Mueller investigation is discredited. Whatever they come up with, if it implicates him in any way, the way the media and political culture function, that will be considered of enormous significance, much more significance than his pursuing policies on the environment which may destroy human civilization.

[…]

NOAM CHOMSKY: We can’t overemphasize the fact that we’re in a unique moment of human history. In fact, we have been, ever since 1945. In 1945, human history changed dramatically. In August 1945, humans demonstrated that their vaunted intelligence had created a means to destroy life on Earth. Didn’t quite have it yet at that point, but it was obvious that it was going to extend and expand, as it in fact did.

A couple of years later, 1947, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists established its famous Doomsday Clock. How far are we from midnight, terminal disaster? It was set at seven minutes to midnight. It once reached two minutes to midnight, 1953, when the U.S. and then the Soviet Union detonated thermonuclear weapons, which do have the capacity to essentially destroy life. Then it’s oscillated variously. It’s now back at two minutes to midnight—with an addition.

It was not known in 1945 that we were not only entering the nuclear age, but entering a new geological epoch, what geologists call the Anthropocene, an epoch in which human activity is having severe and deleterious effects on the environment in which human and other life can survive. We also entered into what’s now called the sixth extinction, a rapid extinction of species, which is comparable to the fifth extinction 65 million years ago when an asteroid, huge asteroid, hit the Earth, we know.

The World Geological Society finally settled on the end of World War II as the onset of the Anthropocene—sharp escalation and destruction of the environment, not only global warming, carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases, but also such things as plastics in the ocean, which are predicted to be greater than the weight of fish in the ocean not far in the future.

The Amazing Victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s Primary

In the U.S., elections at higher levels have long been mainly won by whichever side spends more money. This is another way of saying that the elections there are pretty much bought. The data on this is compelling — political scientist Thomas Ferguson has done extensive work (shown in his book Golden Rule) revealing that going back decades, the campaign that spent more money usually won the election.

So when a victory such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who didn’t have a SuperPAC) defeating the corporate-indentured incumbent Joseph Crowley happens, it’s significant. The progressive Ocasio-Cortez campaign was outspent by an estimated 16 to 1, yet it still managed to achieve a fairly strong victory.

About 75 percent of Americans want some form of campaign finance reform because of how obvious it is that political elections have been corrupted by too much money in politics. So while it’s very good that a candidate such as Ocasio-Cortez has shown the ability to win, if America had a fairer campaign finance system, it would be easier for a candidate such as her to do so. That’s something important to know for the future, so that more good candidates can be elected to positively reform America.

Republican Budget Would Cut $5.4 Trillion from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid Over the Next Decade

The classic Republican scheme in the modern era — cut taxes on the richest people in the country (those who are already the big beneficiaries of the massive upwards redistribution of income over the last four decades) and then cut the safety net programs vital to the majority of the population. If policies like this one continue to be enacted, America is simply going to be further ruined for the vast majority.

With the nation’s attention rightly fixated on President Donald Trump’s horrific treatment of immigrant children, House Republicans on Tuesday quietly unveiled their 2019 budget proposal that calls for $537 billion in cuts to Medicare, $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, and four billion in cuts to Social Security over the next decade in an effort to pay for their deficit-exploding tax cuts for the wealthy.

“It’s morally bankrupt, patently absurd, and grossly un-American,” the advocacy group Patriotic Millionaires said of the GOP’s budget proposal, which calls for $5.4 trillion in spending cuts from major domestic programs.

[…]

Progressives have been warning for months about the GOP’s plan to axe crucial safety net programs following the passage of its deeply unpopular $1.5 trillion tax bill, which has sparked a boom of corporate stock buybacks while doing little to nothing for most American workers.

“Each GOP budget is more fraudulent than the last,” Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote on Tuesday. “We know what they stand for: tax cuts paid for with healthcare cuts.”

In addition to proposing devastating safety net cuts, the House GOP budget also calls for partial privatization of Medicare and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a move that would throw tens of millions off their health insurance.

Patriotic Millionaires: “Just Tax Us More, PLEASE”

There’s really something wrong going on when there’s a group called the Patriotic Millionaires that advocates for left-leaning policies to help the general population.

According to a new report released yesterday by Medicare trustees, the program is projected to run out of funding three years earlier than previously expected, now running out of money by 2026. A partner report stated that the funding for Social Security would run out in 2035.

In response to this news the Patriotic Millionaires released the following statement:

“This is beyond absurd, this is morally bankrupt. The GOP is waging a war on everyday Americans on behalf of their donor class. Why else would they stand by and watch programs that 40% of Americans benefit from dry up all while signing a $1.9 trillion tax cut for the wealthy into law?

Millions of American seniors depend on these programs every day. Maybe GOP members of Congress are not thinking about those seniors, about 2026 or about 2035 because they plan to have skipped through the revolving door to lucrative K Street lobbying jobs by then. Whatever the reasoning, it’s become clear the the GOP has plans for the type of America they want to live in, and it is not the type of America we want to live in.

We want to live in an America with a healthy population, a population that is able to live in retirement with dignity, and a population that is not under constant attack by Republican lawmakers. So tax us more. Tax us more to fund these programs and give us a healthy workforce, to give us retirees who can afford to buy our goods and services, and to give us a country that we can be even prouder to call home.”

The group also has a good statement on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to unjustly diminish political democracy:

This afternoon, in response to the news that the Supreme Court upheld by a 5-4 decision Ohio’s process of purging individuals from its voter rolls, the most extreme in the nation, as not violating the National Voter Registration Act, the Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires Morris Pearl, former managing director at BlackRock, Inc., released the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is not just a mistake, it is the latest blow in a war over the fate of our democracy. On one side, the people. On the other, the conservative officials and wealthy oligarchs who wants more money in politics and less voting. This decision does not make our elections safer or more fair, it just makes it harder for lawmakers to be held accountable by their constituents. At a time when public trust in government has never been lower, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to vote.”

The Importance of Using Different Language for Political Messaging Effectiveness

Language can be used as a method of influencing or controlling thought. I have my disagreements with the cognitive linguist Lakoff, but he does present a useful analysis on why it’s important to use different language to defeat the extreme right-wing in political messaging. One example is that he tells progressives to avoid the phrase “death tax” when referring to the estate tax, instead recommending the counter be the “billionaire’s tax” since less than 0.002% of people will have to pay it. According to Lakoff, this is how the negative connotation to taxing extreme wealth can be countered.

Without knowing it, many Democrats, progressives and members of the news media help Donald Trump every day. The way they help him is simple: they spread his message.

Think about it: every time Trump issues a mean tweet or utters a shocking statement, millions of people begin to obsess over his words. Reporters make it the top headline. Cable TV panels talk about it for hours. Horrified Democrats and progressives share the stories online, making sure to repeat the nastiest statements in order to refute them. While this response is understandable, it works in favor of Trump.

When you repeat Trump, you help Trump. You do this by spreading his message wide and far.

Nobody knows this better than Trump. Trump, as a media master, knows how to frame a debate. When he picks a fight, he does so deliberately. He tweets or says outrageous things, knowing they will be repeated millions and millions of times. When the news media and Democrats repeat Trump’s frames, they are strengthening those frames by ensuring that tens of millions of Americans hear them repeated over and over again.

Quick: don’t think of an elephant. Now, what do you see? The bulkiness, the grayness, the trunkiness of an elephant. You can’t block the picture — the frame — from being accessed by your unconscious mind. As a professor of brain science, this is the first lesson I give my students. It’s also the title of my book on the science of framing political debates.

The key lesson: when we negate a frame, we evoke the frame. When President Richard Nixon addressed the country during Watergate and used the phrase “I am not a crook,” he coupled his image with that of a crook. He established what he was denying by repeating his opponents’ message.

This illustrates one of the most important principles of framing a debate: When arguing against the other side, don’t use their language because it evokes their frame and not the frame you seek to establish. Never repeat their charges! Instead, use your own words and values to reframe the conversation.

Wall Street Deregulated More by Congress, Increasing the Risks of Another Economic Crash

Congress deregulated Wall Street in 1999, and then less than a decade later, the crash of 2008 that lead to the Great Recession happened. There’s a similar story from the deregulation of the 1920s that lead to the 1929 crash and the Great Depression. And big banks already make record profits, and lessening oversight and regulation of them will allow them to push those profits higher at the expense of consumers.

In a strong indication that they are well aware of how politically toxic a vote to reward big banks is in the eyes of the American public, not a single one of the 33 Democrats who voted for the bill—many of whom have received substantial sums of campaign cash from big banks—had the courage to speak in favor of it on the House floor.

By approving the deregulatory measure, which weakens oversight of 25 of the nation’s 38 largest banks, the House cleared the final obstacle on the bill’s path to Trump’s desk. In a tweet early Wednesday, the president applauded the measure’s passage and vowed to sign it into law “shortly.”

“It is reprehensible that our Congress has abdicated this responsibility in a clear move to cater to Wall Street,” Morris Pearl, chair of Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is bipartisanship at its worst—members of both parties coming together to bow down to their wealthy donors on Wall Street instead of protecting their constituents. 2008 was just a decade ago, have we already forgotten the lessons we learned?”

Other article:

On Capitol Hill, Congress passed sweeping legislation to exempt thousands of banks from key regulations in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, meaning the vast majority of banks will no longer have to follow the regulations aimed at preventing another financial meltdown. The Dodd-Frank Act was passed after the 2008 economic crisis, which was provoked by years of risky lending by Wall Street banks.

Yet, in a rare bipartisan effort Tuesday, House lawmakers voted 258 to 159 to exempt banks with less than $250 billion in assets from many of these regulations, even though banks’ profits are soaring. A report issued Tuesday from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said the net income of banks and saving institutions hit $56 billion in the first quarter of this year—a 27 percent increase from a year ago. Thirty-three Democrats joined their Republican counterparts in voting for the financial regulation rollback, which, if signed into law, would leave fewer than 10 banks in the U.S. subject to stricter federal oversight.

An Abuser of Human Rights Shouldn’t be Appointed CIA Director

The CIA has a grotesque past, from helping to install dictators in various countries to leaving explosives under an American school bus for a week. It doesn’t need to be made worse by appointing a known torturer, especially when torture is a war crime and has shown to not even be effective.

On Capitol Hill, President Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, repeatedly refused Wednesday to call the CIA’s post-9/11 treatment of prisoners “torture,” and declined to state whether she believes torture is immoral. CIA Deputy Director Haspel’s comments came in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee as she made her case to become CIA director.

Haspel is a 33-year CIA veteran who was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, where at least one prisoner was waterboarded and tortured in other ways during her tenure. Haspel also oversaw the destruction of videotapes showing torture at the black site.