Don’t Lose Hope, America

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President-elect Trump. A fact that would have appeared unthinkable not long ago came true in the early hours of Wednesday morning. In a result that stunned not just America but the world, Trump pulled off one of the greatest upsets in political history.

As many Americans are still coming to terms with this seismic result, many people are wondering how this was possible. How could someone who espouses the most absurd conspiracy theories, promotes vicious racism and misogyny and overtly expresses authoritarian tendencies win a democratic election to become the most powerful man on the planet?

There is not one solitary answer to that question. A multitude of factors all coalesced to provide Trump with an opportunity of victory. If you listen to some Democrats, the answer is simple! The result is easily explained by racism and sexism, and other factors such as class, anger at the establishment and the incompetence of the Democratic Party should be discounted.

There is no doubt that prejudice contributed to Trump’s victory. His base is overt in their hostility to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and movements like Black Lives Matter which aim to confront the racism which greatly plagues the US. The Republican Party has also spent many decades whipping up hostility towards minorities and this marks the culmination of that, Trump is certainly no more prejudiced than contemptible racists like Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney, but unlike them he makes no effort to sanitise it which is why he has received such enthusiastic support from the KKK and people like David Duke.

But attributing the victory exclusively to prejudice does not compute. If there genuinely was a huge revolution for Trump, and massive voter turnout which favoured him there would be more credence to that claim. While votes are still being counted it looks like turnout among Democrats and Republicans was the lowest since 2000 – Trump won fewer votes than Bush in 04, McCain in 08 and Romney in 2012. It’s quite clear what happened here and Sanders and his supporters predicted this long before the eventual outcome. The Democratic vote collapsed which gave Trump a clear path to 270 electoral votes. Trump managed to win key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina but what was unmistakable was how he breached Clinton’s supposed firewall. Blue states that voted Democrats for decades turned red – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all voted for Trump in narrow margins despite the confidence the Democrats had in holding these states. The results clearly show that Trump pulled this upset off not because he managed to inspire millions of new voters to come out for him, but because there was very little enthusiasm for Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Sanders’ prophetic words in 2015 on why the Democrats would likely fail:

Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout. With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old will not be successful.
The people of our country understand that — given the collapse of the American middle class and the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing — we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.
We need a political movement which is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which represents all Americans, and not just corporate America and wealthy campaign donors. In other words, we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of it”

Some people have discounted the idea that income and poverty levels played any role in the defeat of the Democrats. They cite statistics showing Clinton winning among voters who earn below 50k a year and claim this debunks the notion of a working-class revolt; this is misleading however. Low-income voters always tend to vote for the Democratic Party opposed to the GOP but what occurred in this election was pretty staggering. They swung significantly in favour of the Republicans greatly reducing the margin of victory Democrats usually enjoy in that income bracket. A 16% percentage swing in favour of the Republicans among voters earning below 30k a year is highly significant bearing in mind how slim the margins of victory were in this election. Low voter enthusiasm among this group for a party they feel alienated and abandoned by was most likely the primary factor in this huge swing.

The Democratic establishment will vigorously deny this fact but Clinton was a woeful candidate who should have never been chosen to lead the party in one of the most important elections in decades. Some people have also tried to pin Clinton’s defeat on voter suppression but the evidence indicates it had little impact on the final outcome of the election. In most of the key states that Clinton lost, no new voting restrictions had been passed prior to the election. Her lacklustre campaign failed to resonate with most of the electorate and they were complacent and neglected states they assumed would remain blue; for instance throughout the whole general election campaign Clinton didn’t make one stop in Wisconsin. Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said: “It’s is nothing short of malpractice that her campaign didn’t look at the electoral college and put substantial resources in states like Michigan and Wisconsin,”

So the natural question to ask is would Bernie have won? Obviously this question can’t be answered with a high degree of certainty but there certainly is a compelling case to be made that he could have performed better than Clinton in some of the key states that she lost. Bernie didn’t have the unpopularity and untrustworthiness issues that Clinton had, and was in fact one of the most popular senators in America. Clinton’s supporters counter this by claiming that once Bernie became the nominee the Republicans would have waged a vicious campaign on him and his popularity would have plummeted, they also contend that it’s delusional to believe Bernie could have turned Trump voters into Democratic voters. On the latter point they’re correct, but it misses the point. The Democrats didn’t lose because they failed to persuade Trump supporters to vote for them, they failed because of voter apathy and the fact they couldn’t inspire millions more people to come out and vote. Clinton and her strategists put more of a priority on switching disillusioned Republicans than they did on motivating uninspired Democrats to come out and vote, the miscalculation was reflected in the fact more Democrats switched and voted Republican than vice versa. Sarah Jaffe writing for the NYTimes summed it up perfectly: “Mrs. Clinton opened her arms to disaffected Republicans rather than wooing the disaffected within and around her own party. Most of the television ads she ran were more about painting Trump as a dangerous aberration, an outsider unfit for office, than pitching any plan of her own for change.” More than 40% of people eligible to vote didn’t in this election, which isn’t particularly anomalous but Sanders’ campaign showed quite clearly he had the potential to inspire new voters, and that his message was resonating with a large number of Americans. In addition during the Democratic Primaries Bernie beat Clinton in two of the key states she lost – Michigan and Wisconsin. The dominant theme in politics at the moment is hostility towards the establishment, this manifests itself not only in people voting for anti-establishment politicians but also for people simply refusing to vote for establishment candidates and parties. Bernie was unapologetically anti-establishment and has spent his entire life fighting to make America’s economic system fairer, during times when it was unpopular he fought against racism and stood up for LGBTQ Americans. People would have seen that he was authentic, and that his message wasn’t simply a facade to gain votes.

Most Bernie supporters do not take great delight in Clinton’s defeat, and we aren’t criticising the Democratic establishment due to vindictiveness. The reason we think it’s vital not to downplay Clinton’s failings is because we fear the Democratic Party won’t learn anything from this humiliating defeat. We feel the party is out of touch with most Americans, and that unless it goes in a different direction, one more in tune with Bernie’s message, they will continue to suffer in congressional and presidential elections.
The Democratic Party in its current state will not inspire Americans disillusioned by the political system and it’s the politically apathetic voters they need to reach if they want to defeat the Republicans in upcoming elections.

What’s been striking since Trump’s victory is how the markets have responded. Despite predictions from pundits that the markets would crash and wouldn’t recover, the precise opposite has happened. They’ve surged with the Dow closing at an all-time high on Thursday evening. Unlike Brexit which ensured long-term uncertainty, the Republican victory in the presidential race and Congress actually satisfies Wall-Street executives, bankers and investors because Trump and the Republicans are determined to deregulate the financial system by repealing the modest regulation Obama put on the financial system and provide tax-cuts to the wealthy. In the next 4 years we’re going to see a return to extreme neoliberalism which will further exacerbate the economic inequality in the country and which will greatly increase the risk of another financial crisis. The Trump supporters who bought into Trump’s rhetoric of ‘draining the swamp’ and ‘shaking things up’ will most definitely be disappointed; they have been duped by a narcissistic demagogue who will now embrace the political and financial establishment.

Before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination the media provided him with disproportionate coverage compared to other candidates. It’s ironic that Trump complained so much about the media coverage of him, because without them it’s highly doubtful he would have won. The amount of exposure a candidate receives in the media strongly correlates with how successful they are. If they’re largely ignored by the media, they will struggle to compete in the primaries. The mainstream media gave unprecedented coverage to Trump, which greatly facilitated his campaign for the simple reason that coverage of Trump was profitable. When you contrast this with how little coverage Bernie got in comparison despite the thousands of people he was attracting to his rallies and events you can see why his supporters feel a little aggrieved. Far from conjecture, this is substantiated by empirical data from a study conducted by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics Public Policy.

“Of all the indicators of success in the invisible primary, media exposure is arguably the most important. Media exposure is essential if a candidate is to rise in the polls. Absent a high poll standing, or upward momentum, it’s difficult for a candidate to raise money, win endorsements, or even secure a spot in the pre-primary debates… In the early going, nothing is closer to pure gold than favorable free media exposure. It can boost a candidate’s poll standing and access to money and endorsements. Above all, it bestows credibility. Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials. If Trump had possessed them, his strategy could have been political suicide, which is what the press predicted as they showcased his tirades. Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally.”

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I do not hold animosity towards the Democrats for expressing their willingness to work with Trump. The Democrats lost the senate, the house and the presidency. They are not in a position of strength, and therefore trying to undermine Trump’s presidency would be completely counterproductive and would only lead to Trump doubling down on some of his extremist ideas. Every effort should be made by the outgoing president and elected congresspeople to mitigate the damage of a Trump presidency and there’s no conceivable way to do that without working with Trump’s administration. But Trump’s presidency has no moral legitimacy, and in an ethical political system he would have long ago been disqualified for his advocation of criminality. That’s not to say overthrowing him or advocating violence towards him is the solution, but people should exercise their 1st amendment rights and demonstrate against him. Trump and the dark forces that he represents have to be shown that there’s a significant portion of the country unwilling to give legitimacy to his presidency.

The United States is a deeply divided country and that won’t change anytime soon. But the country is a much more tolerant and progressive place than it was 30 years ago. Socially, the country has been moving in the right direction over the last few decades. Trump’s victory is a major setback, and considering that the Republican Party is one of the most dangerous political organisations in human history, the stakes couldn’t be much higher but the result has the potential to motivate hundreds of thousands of people to become politically active, and build a powerful progressive movement in the country. The future of the world very much hinges on whether they’re successful.

Trump Must Be Beaten

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This November the US public will elect their 45th president to succeed incumbent president Barack Obama. The choice is decidedly grim – the nominee for the Democrats is former First-Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who is regarded by many as the quintessential establishment candidate with close ties to Wall Street and weapons contractors. The Republican candidate is the infamous business tycoon Donald Trump who has secured the Republican nomination by masquerading as an anti-establishment candidate while pandering to the very worst prejudices of the American people.

The outgoing president Barack Obama won an historic election in 2008 becoming the first African American to serve as president of the United States.
Obama who is an adept campaigner, deceived people into believing that he would be a president who would address the legal and ethical violations of the Bush administration and who would be a force for change in the US political system. Following his inauguration it became immediately apparent that this wouldn’t be the case and that Obama’s policies would resemble Bush’s more than Democrats would care to admit.

With regard to the economy, Obama hasn’t been disastrous as the Republicans predicted, but his success is wildly overstated by his supporters. Obama had the misfortune of inheriting an economy which was in its worst state since the 1930s, an economic crisis which was precipitated by increasing financialization of the economy and the deregulation of the banks which had bipartisan support in the US. Obama’s decision to pursue a stimulus was certainly better than the huge cuts in public spending which the Republicans recommended but it didn’t go far enough and the introduction of modest legislation like Dodd-Frank was a positive step, but Obama’s policies are designed to mitigate the extent of a crisis, not to prevent the crisis itself. The same financial structures which led to the crisis in 2008 are still intact, and make another economic crisis all but inevitable. It also is important to note that accountability for criminal behaviour is an important step to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If those engaged in criminal activity are shown leniency where is the disincentive for others to refrain from illicit risk-taking especially when the rewards are so lucrative? Under Obama’s presidency, Wall Street has been shielded from legal consequences for their acts of illegality and considering Wall Street donated significant sums of money to Obama’s campaign in 2008 it’s not difficult to see why. Obama touts the declining unemployment rate as one of his finest achievements as president yet it’s not the resounding success he portrays it to be. Gauging the strength of an economy solely on the rate of employment while disregarding other key factors is facile and doesn’t give a true understanding of the health of the economy. Things that should also be judged are quality of employment, labour participation rate, wages and job security. When judged collectively it’s clear that the US economy is in a more fragile state than Obama’s optimism would indicate. Since the US economy crashed the bulk of the job growth has come in low-wage employment whereas the middle-income bracket has been shrinking due to losses in jobs in construction and manufacturing. In fact the decline of the Middle-Class in America is not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening since the neoliberal policies were ushered in by the Regean administration, and while wages have been skyrocketing for CEOs and top executives, the wages of middle-class people have been stagnating. In addition Obama has supported harmful trade agreements like TTIP which would undermine democracy and provide corporations with even more power than they already have. Obama does deserve credit for helping avert a financial depression, but his deceptive statements about the state of the US economy are insidious especially when there is a desperate need to address the extent of wealth inequality in the US.

Owen Jones on the US economic recovery:

“The gains of economic recovery have certainly been beneficial to those of great wealth – including the culprits behind the crash – but have meant little to the average American. Of course, that has everything to do with the structure of the US economy since Ronald Reagan swept to power. Consider this: according to the Economic Policy Institute – a thinktank close to the embattled US labour movement – between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% seized 53.9% of the entire increase in US income. It is often suggested that male median income has been stagnant in the US since the 1970s, hidden only by a flood of women into the workforce: how that’s worked out depends on all sorts of qualifications, such as which price index you choose. Yet even by the most optimistic calculations, if university-educated American men have enjoyed a boost in salaries, those with only high school qualifications endured sliding incomes between 1979 and 2013. But if Reaganism engineered this model, Obamaism failed to replace it. According to Emmanuel Saez, a US economics professor, between Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and 2013, pre-tax income among the top 1% has jumped from $871,100 to $968,000; for everybody else, it practically stood still.”

The US health system is rife with problems and when compared to health-systems in other industrialised countries it’s clear significant change is needed. Most of the issues stem from the fact that the US system lacks universal health care coverage, costs are also astronomically high and contributing factor to why low income Americans are less likely to visit a physician when sick or visit a dentist than their counterparts in other countries. Over 50% of physicians in the US also acknowledge their patients have difficulty paying for care. The Affordable Care Act was an attempt to mitigate some of these problems and reduce the rate of uninsured in the US but it lacked a public health care option. It has made improvements, but it’s going to take something much more ambitious to adequately deal with the problems of the health-system in the US.

A lot of criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy centre around his apparent failure to resolve the Syrian Civil War. Some neocons have described Obama as an enabler of genocide for his failure to overthrow the Syrian government and they lament the lack of US intervention. It goes without saying that this is complete drivel and no one who is serious about addressing the Syrian crisis should heed the opinions of those who are partially responsible for one of the most destructive and violent wars since World War 2. The idea that the US haven’t intervened in Syria has no grain of truth either, since 2011 they have poured weapons into the country, many of which have ended up in the hands of extremists, have imposed sanctions which are said to have caused untold damage to the civilian population of Syria and have implicitly allowed Saudi Arabia and Qatar to fund and arm extremists while also illegally invading Syria to bomb ISIS. To this day the more extreme hawks are still demanding an imposition of a no-fly zone which is a pretext for war and virtually guarantees a military confrontation with Russia; there’s too much at stake for Russia in Syria and the expectation that once militarily confronted by the US, they’ll simply stand down fails to take into account Russia’s long-standing loyalty to the Syrian government. Negotiations haven’t been particularly fruitful so far, but then no one expected a miraculous resolution to this bitter war which is now in its fifth year. But it still beats the alternative which is a full-scale military intervention by the US and its allies which could put the world on a path to a nuclear war. Obama’s primary foreign policy failures are not in Syria, but in Yemen, Gaza and Egypt. In Yemen, Obama has facilitated the Saudi’s war of aggression in Yemen by supplying them with weapons, providing intelligence, refuelling their planes and also giving diplomatic cover for their crimes. Just weeks ago the Saudis bombed a funeral which killed more than a hundred people using US-supplied weaponry and recent reports from renowned writer Robert Fisk also indicate the Saudis are deliberately targeting Yemen’s agricultural industry which will lead to starvation among an already beleaguered country. In Palestine, Obama has rewarded the violence and criminality of the Israeli government by supplying them with the largest military aid package ever given to another country, and protected Israel at the UN from accountability by vetoing several resolutions designed to bring some form of justice; Neantahyu and his vicious government will never make concessions when they know that not only will the US ignore their human rights violations, but will actually reward them; the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank are case in point. The US has always had a pretty deplorable history in Egypt, supporting the despotic and violent Mubarak government up until he decided to stand down due to severe pressure from the Egyptian people in 2011. Once the Muslim Brotherhood were democratically elected the US didn’t really change its position, and were clearly interested in maintaining the close relationship with Egypt. In 2013 many Egyptians became disillusioned with the Brotherhood due to economic issues, constitutional issues and lack of security. But the disillusionment was exploited by the Egyptian military to launch a coup and install army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt. What’s followed since then is appalling, the military has returned to the Mubarak-levels of repression and has crushed dissent, the most notable atrocity occurring in August 2013 where at least 800 civilians were massacred. Obama made verbal condemnations but the support and aid to Sisi’s government continues to this day.

When Obama campaigned for president he pledged to be a protector of whistleblowers, he said they were “the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government” and saying that “such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled” we now know of course that this was insincere and an electioneering tactic and that the Obama administration has actually waged war on whistleblowers. Under Obama the NSA has become almost an exact manifestation of an Orwellian dystopia which indiscriminately collects data on Americans including telephone records and online communication; many of these programs are regarded as illegal by legal experts. The courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden selected journalists from The Washington Post and The Guardian to examine the documents he took and ascertain which of those were in the public’s interest. Obama and many who criticise Snowden said he could have gone through the ‘proper channels’ instead of leaking to the press, the people who make this claim know that it hasn’t a whiff of truth, but rely on the public being ignorant of the facts. Most people know who Edward Snowden is, they may not know who Thomas Drake is, who similar to Snowden was aghast at what the NSA were doing without the consent of the US public. He tried the approach advocated by Snowden’s critics and he was destroyed and his concerns disregarded. If Obama genuinely understood the importance of whistleblowing he would do what the NYTimes has said he should do: Offer Snowden a presidential pardon. In addition he should offer Chelsea Manning a pardon, and this is probably more urgent considering the degree of abuse inflicted against her has intensified in the last year. Chelsea Manning exposed severe crimes during an illegal war the US waged on another country, her leaks shed light on the US’ human rights abuses and there’s no evidence they harmed any US military personnel but even if they did, the responsibility is on the warmongers who launched the war in the first place.
Obama has also been described by award-winning NYTimes journalist James Risen as the “greatest threat to press freedom in a generation”. Now whether you think Risen’s characterisation is hyperbolic or not, the fact remains that Obama’s attitude to the press and whistleblowing has been troubling to say the least. He’s employed the repressive and anachronistic Espionage Act several times and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all of his predecessors combined. Over time, his authoritarian attitude towards the press and whistleblowing will rank as one of the worst aspects of his presidency.

Justin Raimondo on the injustice of charging Chelsea Manning but excusing Hillary Clinton:

“The “crimes” of Chelsea Manning weren’t crimes against people but against the US government, i.e. they were acts of conscience that should be rewarded rather than punished. Nothing she did hurt a single person, except those persons in power whose hypocrisy and venality was exposed: not a single US casualty in our interminable “war on terrorism” can be traced back to the leaking of the materials that have been posted on Wikileaks via Manning. Indeed, the material that was released to the world exposed the very real crimes of our rulers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. This is Chelsea’s real “crime,” one for which she is paying dearly. On the other hand, let’s take a look at another lady who stands accused of mishandling US secrets, including material classified “Top Secret”: Hillary Rodham Clinton. While serving as Secretary of State, she violated US government protocol by conducting both her professional and personal email correspondence on her own private server. This alone is illegal, but her crimes don’t stop there. When this unusual arrangement was discovered, she refused to hand over the server: instead, she separated out those emails she deemed “personal,” handed some over to the US State Department, and then erased the entire contents of the server – thus covering up whatever violations of national security standards may have occurred during her tenure.”

Two of Obama’s foreign policy successes (and it’s important to highlight considering how extreme the Republicans are on these issues) is the Iran nuclear deal and the rapprochement with Cuba. Neither of these policies would have been possible under a Republican presidency. Most of the world agreed with Obama on the sensibleness of the Iran nuclear deal but his administration faced extreme hostility from Republicans in Congress and the extremist government in Tel-Aviv, both who are eager for war with Iran, in fact Israel would have launched a war on Iran long ago if it weren’t for the effective military deterrent the Iranians have. The nuclear deal has been successful and reduces the chance of a conflict with Iran and that warrants credit. Secondly, the US has a shameful record with regard to its treatment of its small neighbour, Cuba and Obama whitewashes the US record of terrorism and destabilisation by referring to it as ‘attempts at democratising the island’ but nevertheless regardless of Obama’s intentions, the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries is a step in the right direction in terms of relations between the two countries. The Republicans who consider an end to US criminality towards Cuba as tantamount to surrender are hellbent on preventing the lifting of the economic embargo, an embargo which the vast majority of Americans oppose.

Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008 and it’s long been clear that she’s been the Democrats preferred successor to Obama. Similar to Obama, she will likely make history by becoming the first woman to lead the country since its independence 240 years ago. But she is a much weaker politician than Obama, and lacks his charisma and charm which has helped Obama avoid the scrutiny his presidency warrants. In fairness to Clinton, Obama is the exception not the rule, most politicians do not have the ability to inspire in the way he does but this does pose a problem for the Democrats. Rationalising a lot of what Obama has done has been made much easier by the fact that the presidency of his predecessor was marred by the scale of illegality it committed both domestically and abroad. The liberal press has also been much more lenient on Obama because of his likeable personality and amongst liberals, aversion to Obama is seen as a great sin. Clinton won’t have these luxuries, animosity towards Clinton among the general public is considerably more prevalent than Obama and liberals do not revere her in the same fashion they do with Obama. It’s also no secret that the catastrophe of the other candidate has made it taboo to be very vocal in your disdain for Clinton. Once Clinton is elected president there should be no hesitancy or reluctance among those on the left to hold her to the standard a leader of the most powerful country on the planet should be held to. Her deplorable record of supporting odious policies and people should not be whitewashed simply because the alternative candidate was such a monstrosity.

Clinton has long been regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the Democratic Party, and for good reason. When you consider how close a relationship she has with a vicious war-criminal like Henry Kissinger and the fact she describes people like Mubarak as friends of her family it’s easy to understand why. Her voting record on US military interventions abroad paints a bleak picture, but perhaps her most shameful moment in regard with foreign policy is how she played an instrumental role in the US’ participation of the Libya intervention in 2011 which decimated the Libyan government and left a vacuum for jihadists to fill. Once Gadaffi was butchered on the street, a despicable way to be killed regardless of his crimes, Clinton boasted by quipping “we came, we saw, he died”. Following the overthrow of Gaddafi, like so many interventions before it became clear the US had no intention of rebuilding the country and investing in infrastructure, the only goal was to destroy.

David Mizner of Jacobin on Hillary’s disastrous legacy in Libya:

“The humanitarian case for war depended not just on the prospect of mass atrocities by Qaddafi but also on the existence of a superior alternative. Administration officials and others depicted the opposition as gloriously and uniformly progressive. When the United States recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as Libya’s governing authority in July 2011 — and gave it access to $30 billion — Clinton described it as “steadfast in its commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The TNC, far from a representative sample of the opposition, was a collection of expats, former Qaddafi loyalists, and other elites who rose to power with the apparent help of France. One of Blumenthal’s memos to Clinton asserts that France funded the nascent council in exchange for the promise of financial favors. French intelligence “expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” Whatever its nature, the TNC was merely the figurehead atop a loose coalition that included vicious racists and other reactionaries. Indeed, it was immediately evident that the threat of mass atrocities came not from the government but from the opposition.”

Another flaw of Clinton’s is how intimate she is with Wall Street executives and the latest Wikileaks revelations have only reinforced how close she is to them. Three of Clinton’s top 5 individual donors have been Wall Street banks – Goldman Sachs, Citibank and JP Morgan. Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticised Clinton throughout the campaign for receiving so much money from Wall Street, and stating this undermined her ability to reform it. Clinton claims Wall Street’s enormous donations haven’t influenced her voting record, but CEO’s of Wall Street banks seem very confident that a Clinton presidency will shield them from losses in enormous profits. Clinton like Obama claims to be a friend of the American worker, but there is a clear conflict between trying to reduce the scourge of inequality in America and being beholden to Wall Street; they don’t donate that kind of money for nothing.

It may very well be true that Clinton’s foundation has done some good things around the world, but that should be no reason for it to be immunised from scrutiny, especially when there are troubling relationships with some of the most autocratic governments on the planet. The Saudi government has donated between 10 million and 25 million to the Clinton foundation, and other gulf countries have donated too. During Clinton’s time as Secretary Of State, the state department supplied these regimes with billions worth of weaponry. Clinton insists that there was no quid-pro-quo but even some of her supporters have been able to recognise the clear conflict of interest that arises because of donations made to the foundation.

Just fathom for a second how absurd it is that someone who has awarded Israel with its most expensive military package ever is apparently not loyal enough to Israel. Well Clinton has expressed her wish to resolve this ‘rift’ that developed between Obama and Nentanyahu and strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States by taking it to “the next level”, which simply means more enabling of war crimes, and more impunity. She has also denounced BDS and linked it to anti-semitism, which is appalling when you consider BDS is probably only one of the mechanisms in which Israel can be held accountable for its actions.

Before the Democratic National Convention in July, Wikileaks revealed information that proved the Democratic National Committee conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign using black propaganda. The information led to the resignations of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other high level officials. There is little doubt this was in the public’s interest; Democrats and Bernie supporters had the right to know how their candidate was mistreated by the committee before the official nomination of Clinton.

The more recent leaks from Wikileaks have revealed more interesting information. They’ve been dismissed by Clinton partisans on the basis that they’re not shocking, but it doesn’t have to be to be newsworthy. Leaked emails show Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta claiming that Saudi Arabia and Qatar funded ISIS, that she has disdain for environmentalists and that she is an eager promoter of fracking despite it’s harmful effect on the climate.

Wikileaks has a sterling record of releasing pristine, authentic data to the extent that it’s been used in 100′s of court cases to convict people of crimes and to free those falsely accused from prison and their data has many references in academia. Its role in shining light on how those in power operate and often abuse their power has been a tremendous service to the world. Wikileaks is not infallible and have been legitimately criticised by whistleblowers and journalists who are mostly supportive of their cause for their lack of curation and at times their leaks have done harm to innocent people. But claims that they’re a front for the Kremlin is just a propagandistic tactic used in an attempt to delegitimise the important work they do.

Clinton and Trump are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates of all time. Popularity or lack of doesn’t exactly correlate with success as we see that Obama currently has a very impressive popularity rate, but at a time when the country is plagued by division, America needed a candidate who could repair some of this division. Sanders was that candidate.

Strong, healthy democracies do not nominate someone who incites violence and who is as racist, misogynistic and abusive as Donald Trump to be one of the two contenders for leading the country. Trump’s ascension is not just an indictment of the extremist Republican Party but much of the country and indicates that racism and sexism are still pervasive in America. With the election only weeks away, it looks like Trump has squandered his chance at victory with one too many scandals, but any relief should be tempered with the reality that there is a significant appetite among Americas for someone who is overt in their prejudice and that the movement that drove Trump to the head of the Republican Party is going nowhere. The fear is that someone much more charismatic and competent than Trump comes along who genuinely is a fervent right-wing nationalist but unlike Trump is much more adept at navigating the US political system. If such a figure arises in the next decade or two, this could spell major trouble for both the US and the world.

It’s important to note that the Republican party gave up on parliamentary politics years ago, in fact following Obama’s election many in the party made it their mission to sabotage Obama’s presidency and engage in obstructionism, because the Republican Party has very little to offer the country apart from tax breaks to the wealthy and more military intervention abroad, they’ve instead prioritised attacking Obama and Clinton opposed to rebuilding their party. Nevertheless the Republicans do have a solid base of voters who can always be relied on to vote so while the party has struggled to win many presidential elections in the last few decades, they have been able to retain control of US congress. But many Republican voters have also become disillusioned with the direction of the party, they feel abandoned by what they call political elites in Washington and want to “shake things up” and this partly explains the appeal of Trump to them.

While Trump can’t legitimately be described as anti-establishment as he wants to further entrench economic inequality in the country, and make America’s military even more powerful than it is today, he’s certainly considered an outsider compared to the usual Republican candidates like Bush, Romney, Rubio and McCain. Trump completely destroyed every Republican candidate in the Republican nomination, illustrating just how significantly the party has changed in the last few years. Jeb Bush the brother of George W Bush was expected to at least compete in the race, but Republican voters sent a clear message that they have no appetite for another Bush presidency.

Trump’s unwillingness to engage in political correctness and say exactly how he’s feeling is also something his supporters find refreshing, they see the progress America has made in regard to women’s rights, gay right and civil rights and feel like they’re losing their country. Seeing Trump given such an enormous platform to spew his venomous prejudice fills them with a sense of nostalgia. “Make America Great Again” a catchy, effective political slogan is simply code for undoing the social progress the country has made over the last few decades.

Oliver Laughland on the horrific injustice inflicted on the Central Park 5 who were convicted of a crime someone else committed and Trump’s hideous role in it:

“Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted. Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened. He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.” Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled. “We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.” All five minors had already been paraded in front of the cameras and had their names and addresses published, but Salaam said he and his family received more death threats after the papers ran Trump’s full-page screed. On a daytime TV show two days later, a female audience member called for the boys to be castrated and echoed the calls for the death penalty if Meili died. Pat Buchanan, the former Republican White House aide, called for the oldest of the group, Wise, to be “tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park by June 1”

There’s no doubt Trump has capitalised on distrust of media. Like many leftists his supporters condemn the mainstream media for its biased news coverage. Distrust of US media is not misplaced and the evidence that it is subservient to power is overwhelming. The problem that arises is that those disillusioned by the mainstream media seek out sources which at times are even worse. Examples include RT, Breitbart and Infowars, which has a big influence on Trump supporters. This is why it’s imperative that those on the left spread awareness about sources of alternative media which are reliable, don’t kowtow to the US government and have a record of providing responsible coverage of the news. Democracy Now, Alternet and Truthout to name a few.

One of the vexing things about this election is the attempt to depict Trump as uniquely evil when judged against previous GOP presidents. It involves whitewashing the long list of crimes committed by Republican administrations. Reagan for instance is revered by these so-called moderate and respectable conservatives but he was one of the most warmongering, racist presidents the US has had in recent time. What separates Trump from previous Republican presidents and nominees isn’t so much that he advocates criminality and violence but that unlike them he doesn’t embellish it in fancy doublespeak. It makes it much easier for reasonable people to recognise the threat Trump poses, but I doubt I’m alone in thinking the overt manner in which Trump displays his extreme political views is less of a threat. So many Republican politicians like Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, John McCain and Dick Cheney have escaped the level of vitriol aimed at Trump because unlike him they’ve been more competent at sanitising their horrific involvement in or advocation of violence.

Some people claim when it comes to nuclear weapons and the possibility of nuclear war that Hillary Clinton is much more dangerous than Donald Trump because of some of her hawkish views on Syria. I believe this to be a misguided position. While Hillary Clinton’s actions while in government have been a threat to world peace there is no indication she is unaware of the threats of nuclear war. In Syria she has advocated for a no-fly zone, which would be a reckless policy to impose, but in private she has recognised the dangers. I also doubt Clinton would be the type to directly disobey the warnings or advice from the military. Trump on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand nuclear weapons at all, and as commander in chief would have the power to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike against another country. Trump also is depicted as somewhat of a dove by his supporters who has no interest in meddling in the affairs of other countries, but this is highly misleading

Physicist Lawrence Krauss on the perils of Trump leading a country which has possession of nuclear weapons:

“Donald Trump’s candidacy has been a source of anxiety for many reasons, but one stands out: the ability of the President to launch nuclear weapons. When it comes to starting a nuclear war, the President has more freedom than he or she does in, say, ordering the use of torture. In fact, the President has unilateral power to direct the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Cabinet members may disagree and even resign in protest, but, ultimately, they must obey the order of the Commander-in-Chief. It’s all too easy to imagine Trump issuing an ultimate, thermonuclear “You’re fired!” to China, Iran, or another nation—and perhaps to the whole human race. This summer, Scarborough cited an unnamed source who said that Trump, in discussing nuclear weapons with his foreign-policy advisers, had asked, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Trump’s campaign has denied that he asked this question. But elsewhere Trump has said he would consider using nuclear weapons against isis and suggested that it would be good for the world if Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquired them. These comments demonstrate a fundamental confusion about the role nuclear weapons have played among the superpowers.”

The Democrats have also attacked Trump for his alleged connections to the Russians. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that a businessman like Trump does have connections but the conspiracy theory that Putin is the one pulling the strings and commanding Trump to do as he pleases is amusingly absurd. Putin most likely supports Trump which is hardly controversial, Trump is less hostile towards Russia than Clinton and has showed more willingness to cooperate with them. In 2012 Putin endorsed Obama over Romney for the same reason, Romney was much more critical of Russia than Obama and the Democrats ridiculed him for living in the past. In addition one could be excused for forgetting that Bill Clinton himself was attacked over connections to Russia in the 1992 elections by Bush. Are Democrats pleased they have come to mimic the Republicans they once derided for engaging in these McCarthyist-like tactics?

A real issue throughout the election has been the scarcity of coverage or discussion about the crisis of climate change. During the debates it wasn’t even mentioned. At a time when the scientific evidence is painting a really bleak picture, it is crucial the most powerful country on the earth is at the very least devoting adequate time to its discussion. But for the media it just doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. There are many positions of Trump that should disqualify him from even running for president but you’d be hard pressed to find more than denial of climate change and his pledge to exit the climate agreement the US signed in Paris last year. In addition to Trump’s scientific illiteracy he believes the most absurd and problematic conspiracy theories like the long debunked one that vaccinations cause autism.

Trump being the narcissist he is can’t fathom the idea that he might actually lose something, so he had to find some reason to justify a probable defeat. He’s chosen to claim that the election is rigged and that there’s significant voter fraud. US elections aren’t the paragon of democracy they’re portrayed as, and there’s no disputing that certain candidates are given favourable coverage by the media and have unfair advantages over others but voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the US. One of the real ways elections are unfair is voter suppression, but this actually favours the Republican party over the Democratic party and to no surprise the Republicans have no interest in helping confront this problem.

In 1996 an advisor to nationalist candidate Pat Buchanan predicted the Trump phenomenon were seeing unfold, and it explains that there’s an economic dimension to Trump’s rise as well. Trump and his supporters unlike the elites in the party aren’t as dogmatic in their support of Really Existing Capitalism and have criticised ‘free-trade’ agreements like NAFTA and TTIP which should come to no surprise of those aware of the damage NAFTA inflicted on American workers. But Trump is not a genuine nationalist, but simply a narcissistic opportunist, in reality his economic proposals would do considerable damage to the American worker, and considering his record of tax avoidance it’s amusing how he can describe himself as a friend of the American worker with a straight face. While it’s true many Trump supporters harbour prejudiced beliefs, there are also genuine economic grievances that have to be addressed. If these concerns are disregarded and Trump supporters are abandoned by the political system, their radicalisation will only get worse.

What’s not amusing is his treatment of women, and the degree which his supporters have tried to trivialise his misogynstic abuse. The latest allegations and the leaking of the video showing Trump basically expressing intent to sexually assault a woman have reinforced what a sexist man Trump is, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. Trump’s degrading attitude towards women goes back years, and accusations of sexual assault towards him are not new. In the 90′s he stated that the media’s opinion of him was irrelevant “because as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass it doesn’t matter”, at the beginning of this election when Megyn Kelly, anchor of Fox news criticised him for previous episodes of sexism he referred to her as a “bimbo” who “wasn’t capable of objectivity when there blood coming out of her whatever”, he’s also routinely insulted the appearances of women who have been critical of him including the women who accuse him of sexual assault. It’s also been noticeable just how misogynistic his supporters have been to Hillary Clinton often referring to her in sexist terms.

A troubling theme of this election has been Democrats’ unhealthy hysteria regarding Russia. You don’t have to be an apologist for Putin’s regime to be concerned about the direction the US is going in regard to its relationship with the Russian government.
Putin is an authoritarian and a militarist but the idea that he’s the next Hitler or has ambitions to reclaim the territory that gained independence from the Soviet Union is arrant nonsense.
What explains the US’ recent hostility to Putin and Russia? The idea that it’s Putin’s repressive policies or merciless bombing doesn’t stack up because this was occurring even when the US and Russia were on good terms.

The reason is quite simple, for probably the first time following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has directly challenged US power. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has been expanding eastwards despite a verbal promise to the Russians that this wouldn’t occur. In Ukraine the US supported an unconstitutional coup, and a government which is no less violent or corrupt than the one it replaced but it is opposed to the Russian government. Russia fearing a loss of access to their military bases in Crimea illegally annexed the peninsula, and supported the rebels in Ukraine who were opposed the coup government supplying them with a BUK missile which downed a civilian airliner. Russia’s role in Ukraine is criminal and disgraceful but US policy of expansion in Eastern Europe has been dangerous and decreases the chance of peace between the two countries.

In Syria the US claims to be offended by Russia’s bombing campaign yet recent history shows the US are in no position to moralise about war crimes. The priority for the US in Syria was never the people of the country but undermining a government which was a threat to US, Israeli and Saudi power. Weakening Assad’s government by extension weakens Iran which remains enemy number 1 in Israel and Saudi. Thankfully Israel and the US have not been able to launch a campaign of terror against Iran because they have an effective military deterrent but in Syria the US and Saudi could arm rebels and Jihadists in an attempt to oust the regime. And for a while it appeared as this approach was working, Assad’s military was demoralised and had lost significant territory by the summer of last year. But then Russia intervened and everything changed, by unleashing horrendous terror the Russian military reclaimed key territories in Syria like Palmyra and Latakia. They’re currently inflicting severe misery on the civilian population of eastern Aleppo in an attempt to help the Syrian regime retake it from rebels. The US now has no effective strategy to overthrow Assad, barring a major military intervention which would require thousands of US boots on the ground and the American public do not find another major war appealing. While the threat of nuclear war lingers, it’s still not a likelihood at the present moment, but we may be returning to the Cold War, where Russia and the US avoid direct military confrontation but back proxies to weaken eachother. It goes without saying that this should be resisted. While we were fortunate to avoid a nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War, the amount of violence and extremism that occurred on both sides made life unbearable if you were in a country targeted by Moscow or Washington. In Eastern Europe the repression inflicted on the people was inhumane while in Latin America the US terrorised many countries under the guise of fighting communism. There is no great solution to this problem, each power is not driven by social justice or humanitarianism but simply amassing more power, compromise on each side is the only effective way of reducing tensions.

The US government also formally accused the Russian government of interference in the US elections, essentially implying that they’re hacking the US government to change the outcome of the election. It’s impossible to discount this claim completely of course because of the state of relations between the two countries at the moment but the US has yet to provide any evidence of this interference and considering its previous lies with regard to WMDs in Iraq and dishonesty about mass surveillance they should be taken with a large grain of salt. There’s also a deep irony to the US complaining about interference in their elections considering the degree to which they’ve interfered in the political system of other countries. Amusingly former NSA director Michael Hayden claimed that the alleged hacking would be no different than what the US government does to other countries and that he would not like to have to deny it in a court of law.

Glenn Greenwald on the pernicious trend regarding Russia throughout this election:

“Strongly insinuating that the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has nefarious, possibly treasonous allegiances to Moscow has migrated from Clinton-loyal pundits into the principal theme of the Clinton campaign itself. “The depth of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin is revealing itself by the day,” her website announced yesterday, and vital “questions” must be answered “about Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.” The Clinton campaign this weekend released a 1-minute video that, over and over, insinuates Trump’s disloyalty in the form of “questions” – complete with menacing pictures of Red Square. Democrats cheered wildly, and really have not stopped cheering, ever since the ex-Acting CIA Director (who, undisclosed by the NYT, now works for a Clinton operative) went to The New York Times to claim “that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” But this smear tactic extends far beyond Trump. It is now used to vilify anyone perceived to be an impediment to Clinton’s victory. When WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails shortly before the Democratic Convention, which ultimately forced the resignation of four top officials, it was instantly asserted that it was The Russians who gave them those emails (even though The Washington Post cited an intelligence official as saying that “the intelligence community . . . has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks” and “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none”). Democrats not only treated this evidence-free conspiracy theory as Truth, but – following the Clinton campaign – proceeded to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin operation: After converting Trump and WikiLeaks into arms of the Kremlin, Democrats turned their smear campaign to media outlets and journalists who simply reported on the contents of the leaked DNC emails: beginning with The Intercept, the first to report on it. That The Intercept and its journalists and editors proved themselves to be witting or unwitting Kremlin weapons and guilty of being Russia apologists and sympathizers was pronounced by MSNBC’s most enthusiastic neo-McCarthyite host, a Clinton-revering Boston Globe columnist, the Communications Director of California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi (including the outright lie below), and one of the growing legion of Hillary’s neocon supporters.”

The highlight of this election has undoubtedly been Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who has a history for standing up for social justice, and fighting for the average worker in America. If Trump’s ascension showed the worst of America and portended trouble ahead, Sanders’ rise showed the best of the country and indicated that there is great potential for the country to move beyond its period of violence and extremism. Sanders inspired thousands upon thousands of younger Americans and managed to get them active in politics which is a real achievement. When you look at the state of the US political system, and the shenanigans with Trump it’s easy to see why young people may simply want to disregard politics as much as possible, but people like Sanders convey the importance of making your voice heard and getting politically active. Sanders managed to attract impressive attendances to his rallies, and his messages surrounding economic justice really resonated with a significant number of people; Sanders is also a major supporter of unions and understands that strengthening them is a necessary step to deal with the inequality in the country. The odds were always stacked against Sanders, but he gave the Clinton’s a run for their money when they were expecting a coronation. Throughout the election he defied convention and criticised certain things that were previously considered to be beyond the pale. For instance, he showed no hesitancy in admonishing Clinton for her relationship with Henry Kissinger and correctly described him as a war criminal who has been responsible for a large amount of violence during his time as Secretary Of State. He also condemned US foreign policy, most notably for its polices in Latin America and its support of terror in Nicaragua. The hope is that Sanders’ campaign emboldens many people on the left to become more active, and to confront the US government on some of its deplorable policies. As inspiring as Sanders was, there was never a realistic expectation that he alone could make radical changes to US policy, even if he won the presidency he would have lacked congressional representatives and governors. The real change to US policy will not come from within the system but pressure exerted from the people. For all the flaws of the US government, it still has important democratic elements which mean if properly organised the people can affect real change. Sanders’ campaign has increased the prospect of that change, and for that we should be thankful for the energy he expended throughout this election.

The smearing by the Democrats of the honourable Ralph Nader who has done so much good work in America was really deplorable. This arose when the Democrats were trying to shame people who were considering giving their vote to Jill Stein. Nader, if you’re not familiar was a third party candidate during the 2000 election in which George W Bush controversially and narrowly beat Al Gore, a result which some still consider illegitimate. The Democrats claim that Nader is the reason Bush is the president, but what they neglect to mention is the amount of Democratic supporters who voted against the party in favour of The Republicans. If the Democrats managed to retain their own voters, they would have won the election. While we disagree with voting for Stein in this election, especially if you’re in a battleground state, if Clinton loses it would be absurd and unfair to pin the blame primarily on Stein’s supporters. If Clinton loses this election with the might of the media and large donations behind her campaign it would be a political humiliation of epic proportions for the Democratic Party and they will try and scapegoat Stein and third party voters. If Clinton is unable to beat someone as clownish as Donald Trump, the people who will bear most of the blame outside of Trump’s supporters are those who backed Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a much better candidate than Clinton.

Anthony L Fisher on the myth that Nader handed Bush the election:

“What that oft-cited factoid leaves out are the inconvenient truths laid out by Jim Hightower in Salon way back when, including the fact that only about 24,000 registered Democrats voted for Nader in Florida, whereas about 308,000 Democrats voted for (wait for it…) Bush! Further, approximately 191,000 self-identified “liberals” voted for Bush, as opposed to the fewer than 34,000 who went with Nader. The conventional thinking goes like this: Nader voters lean left and Gore is to the left of Bush, therefore votes for Nader would have gone to Gore. But leftist academic Tim Wise pushed back on this summation in 2000, writing that “Exit polls in Florida, conducted by MSNBC show that Nader drew almost equally between Gore, Bush, and ‘None of the above,’ meaning his presence there may have been a total wash.” In 2006, Michael C. Herron and Jeffrey B. Lewis authored a UCLA study on the effect of third party voting on the 2000 election. Among their findings: “Only approximately 60% of Nader voters would have supported Al Gore in a Nader-less election. This percentage is much closer to 50% than it is to 100%. One might have conjectured, that is, that Nader voters were solid Democrats who in 2000 supported a candidate politically left of the actual Democratic candidate. This conjecture, we have shown, is wrong: Nader voters, what participating in non-presidential contests that were part of the 2000 general election, often voted for Republican candidates. Correspondingly, [Reform Party candidate Pat] Buchanan voters voted for down-ballot Democratic candidates. Thus, the notion that a left-leaning (right-leaning) third party presidential candidate by necessity steals votes from Democratic (Republican) candidates does not hold.” So why hasn’t there been 16 years of hand-wringing over the thirteen percent of voting Florida Democrats going turncoat for the Republican nominee? What about the traditionally Democratic-voting bases of white women and seniors who both went for Bush, or lower-income voters, who mostly tilted for Gore but nearly forty percent of whom voted for Bush? Why is Ralph Nader the boogeyman of the left and not Al Gore himself who (despite being a VP in a popular administration which had the dumb-luck of presiding over a booming economy) was unable to win his home state of Tennessee, a state with enough electoral votes to send him to the White House even without Florida? Simple. Nader must be vilified because of the popular notion that the two major parties are entitled to your votes, and if you have any agency at all it’s to prevent the more terrible of the two from taking the reins of power. That’s how Gore, despite running an uninspiring campaign where he benched uber-campaigner Bill Clinton and chose the hawkish and moralistic Joe Lieberman as his running mate (thus turning off a great many off the liberals whose votes many feel were Gore’s birthright as the Democratic nominee), gets let off the hook, as do the hundreds of thousands of Republican-voting Democrats (in Florida alone), while “Ralph Nader” becomes shorthand for the folly of idealism.”

This election has caused severe embarrassment to the US and led to international derision and regardless of the outcome of the election, the US’ status as an oligarchy with severe democratic deficits and an imperialistic foreign policy will remain firmly intact. Clinton’s policies will be conducive to further inequality at home and violence abroad, but from a careful analysis of both their history and political views it is our view that a Trump presidency poses more risk to both the United States and the world. Therefore it is imperative that Trump tastes defeat this November.

Murray, A Champion Not A Bottler

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Throughout his career Andy Murray has not only had to contend with the difficulties of competing with some of the all-time greats like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic but with the noxious idea that he’s a bottler, that mentally he’s simply not equipped to be a legend of the game. On the contrary, Murray’s 2nd victory at Wimbledon not only dispels the idea that he’s mentally weak but actually is a demonstration of his wonderful mental fortitude.

There is no denying that Andy Murray is an inferior player to the aforementioned greats, nor is there any shame in that. He exists in an era where tennis has been graced by three players with indescribable ability, who have broken innumerable records, amassed an abundance of major titles and contributed enormously to the game. Murray has also faced great heartbreak in the game losing several finals to both Djokovic and Federer which led to some doubting whether he had the qualities to win a Grand Slam. It would have been easy for Murray to yield to the forces he was up against, to indulge in self-pity at the misfortune of playing in the generation of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. But instead he rose to the challenge. The pivotal moment in Murray’s career came in 2012, when he had to endure arguably his most crushing defeat of his career to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
It’s moments like those which reveal whether someone has the attributes to become a champion. Murray answered in the most resounding fashion possible. Only a month after the devastation suffered at the hands of Federer, Murray faced him again in the final of the Olympics at Wimbledon but this time he produced a masterclass defeating Federer in straight sets. The elusive slam finally came in September 2012 where he beat Novak Djokovic in the US Open and his greatest triumph came less than a year later where he beat Djokovic again to win the most coveted championship in the game. In the years since his consistency hasn’t wavered but he was unable to clinch a third slam until now.
A beaten finalist twice this year, Murray’s hard work was finally rewarded against Milo Raonic in the final. The road to glory was undeniably made easier by Djokovic’s early exit and the lack of fitness of both Nadal and Federer. But Murray delivered an exceptional performance in the final, not having his serve broken once and showcased arguably his greatest asset: his return of serve. The highlight of the match was Murray not just returning a serve of 147mph but winning the point. While Murray will bask in the glory of a second victory at Wimbledon he will now set his sights on Rio, New York and achieving the world number 1 ranking. While a lot will depend on how Djokovic performs in the upcoming months, Murray’s confidence is arguably at its highest. He has the potential to win a few more slams to add to his impressive collection.

Murray embodies the very best of what a champion is: He’s passionate, tenacious and dedicated to the game. For many years he had to endure the agony of losing several finals.
The adversity has made his success all the more gratifying. Even his most ardent critics must now concede he’s one of the greatest British sportspeople to have existed.
Now surely he will get the recognition he thoroughly deserves.

The Real Reason Behind The Plot To Oust Corbyn

Ever since it emerged that there’s a plot to oust Jeremy Corbyn – the leader of the British Labour Party – it’s been conspicuously obvious that the motivation behind it was nothing to do with the outcome of the EU referendum or concerns over Corbyn’s electability. The events of the last few days, in addition to solidifying that view have revealed that the people trying to orchestrate Corbyn’s downfall are motivated purely by self-interest and not by the interests of the Labour Party.

It’s important to bear in mind that Jeremy Corbyn inherited a party that was in crisis. The traditional Labour Party voters have felt alienated by a party that has abandoned them due to reckless wars, discredited economics and the failure to offer a coherent alternative to the inhumane policies of the Tories. Gordon Brown left power in 2010 and they had ample time to setup a political agenda that would take down the Tories. Not only did they fail, but they were responsible for Labour’s greatest election defeat in decades. When Miliband went, the Parliamentary Labour Party failed to have a political awakening leaving a vacuum for Corbyn to fill. Recall that Corbyn was not initially eager to contest the leadership election but was convinced to put his name forward for candidacy and received just enough votes from MPs to run. His reluctance quickly turned to enthusiasm when he realised just how many people were willing to support him. Some credit must go to Ed Miliband for democratising the Labour leadership contest changing it from a three-way electoral college to a one member, one vote system which made Corbyn’s ascension possible. Previously Trade Unions and MPs had considerably more leverage than average voters on who would win an election, Miliband changed the system so that the voice of the voters took precedence, which in effect means someone who signs up to Labour for 3 pound has as much power as someone like Tony Blair. Ironically it’s Miliband’s single greatest decision as leader that has plunged the party into its worst crisis in decades exposing the disdain many party elites harbour for the democratic will of Labour voters. In the past few days we’ve seen people claim that the only reason Corbyn won is because of ‘entryism’ and the hijacking of the party by leftist extremists. Of course anyone with any awareness of the facts knows that’s unmitigated bilge simply designed to remove the legitimacy of Corbyn’s democratic victory. While it’s undoubtedly true that the entrance of thousands of new and old Labour voters increased Corbyn’s margin of victory, he won the backing of full members and affiliate trade unions.

The plan to oust Corbyn was cynically planned months in advance, the result of the referendum was extraneous to the decision but the Brexit result provided them with the opportunity to make it appear like it was motivated by concern over Corbyn’s performance during the campaign. Angela Eagle one of the proponents of the coup and the woman that is supposedly going to run against Corbyn in a leadership contest actually praised Corbyn during the campaign for his arduous work on behalf of the remain camp, but was critical of the media for not covering it, she also retweeted a link from the news website The Canary which praised Corbyn for coming out fighting on side of Remain. In contrast, in her resignation letter she claimed that under his leadership the case to remain was made with half-hearted ambivalence. If the coup was genuinely about electability concerns there would have been a planned alternative ready in the scenario Corbyn resigned but all indications are there wasn’t. Hilary Benn was sacked on Saturday night, and the resignations began immediately after but it took until Wednesday evening for it to be revealed that Eagle was to challenge Corbyn announcing it on Thursday at 3PM which has now been delayed too, again demonstrating that the people trying to bring Corbyn down are totally devoid of any competence whatsoever. It’s not just the pathetic dithering over the selection of a candidate to challenge Corbyn, but the people they’re contemplating that reflects a serious lack of judgement. Both Tom Watson and Angela Eagle have horrific records as MPs, they both voted in favour of the Iraq War and against an enquiry into it. Eagle has also voted for increases in tuition fees, and abstained on the deplorable Tory welfare bill in July last year. Even her own local Labour party want Corbyn to remain and have setup up a petition pleading with Angela to resign. Eagle’s political values do not conform with Labour Party members, she is a quite dismal and unenthusiastic speaker and certainly would not ‘unify’ the Labour Party which just goes to show this whole manoeuvre to oust Corbyn has nothing to do with electability concerns and much more to do with their revulsion for his humane political values. The other likely motivation is the release of the Chilcot report which is due imminently, and according to a source of the Independent is set to be highly critical of Tony Blair and expected to damage the reputations of other officials who were involved. What lends credence to this possibility is People like Watson, Eagle and Benn who all voted for the war and against an enquiry do not want someone of Corbyn’s integrity leading the party when it’s released because it’s unlikely he will sanitise the findings. He’s said he’s prepared to call for an investigation into war crimes committed by the Blair government and has vowed to apologise on behalf of the Labour party for its role in the war. It is of course true that not all people who want Corbyn to go are Blairites or people involved in the hideous invasion of Iraq, some reasonable people like Ed Miliband have also expressed their desire to see him go, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the main architects of the coup are revolting people whose politics have no place in the Labour Party.

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It’s not only Labour MPs waging war on Corbyn, much of the media want him gone too and there have been more instances of blatant dishonesty on their part in the last few days. Yesterday it was reported that the renowned economist Thomas Piketty quit as his advisor because of his weak campaign during the EU referendum debate. This was factually wrong as Piketty himself confirmed and his friend and accomplished economist Mariana Mazzucato castigated the Guardian for misleading its readership. The Piketty story was important because the media could frame it in a way that it wasn’t just Corbyn’s ideological enemies against him, but someone who obviously influences him and Corbyn respects. More appalling however were the events of today, the much awaited Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour Party was released this morning, many of Corbyn’s foes were patiently waiting to seise on the results in an attempt to heap further pressure on Corbyn to resign. But the conclusion actually vindicated Corbyn and said that while there were cases of anti-semitism in the party, the party is not overrun by prejudice towards Jewish people which was claimed during the scandal which emerged in April. Without the result that they hoped for, they resorted to something much more malicious. In the report about anti-semitism it stated that expecting Jewish people to have an opinion on Israel simply on the basis of their faith is as wrong as expecting a Muslim person to have an opinion on an atrocity committed in the name of Islam simply because they’re Muslim. Corbyn said in his speech that “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of the Israeli or Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations” There was absolutely nothing unreasonable about that statement, Corbyn was not making a comparison with Israel and Jihadist groups but a criticism of the guilt by association fallacy which is used by both anti-semites and anti-Muslims to denigrate them. Despite this several media outlets claimed he was making a direct comparison between Israel and ISIS and some even had the temerity to smear Corbyn and claim it constituted anti-semitism; thankfully Cathy Newman, a reporter for Channel 4 who actually has integrity corrected the wilful misquotes.

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Corbyn has been described as weak and gutless. This week has proven he’s anything but. Despite the sheer lengths some are going to get rid of him, he refuses to succumb to the pressure and will not be bullied into submission. Because the patronising calls for resignation have now failed, the personal attacks on him are becoming increasingly nasty.
The fact Corbyn is going on is a testament to his resilience and mental strength.

Corbyn Must Stay

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In the wake of the EU referendum which Britain voted to exit the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a crisis where several members of the Labour Party shadow cabinet have resigned following the sacking of Hilary Benn. Much of the media who have been hostile to Corbyn since the beginning are exerting pressure on him to quit, but Corbyn refuses to succumb to the pressure, maintaining that if he is to leave it will have to be through a democratic election.

Since Corbyn won the Labour leadership contest in September with a huge mandate, winning an unprecedentedly high share of the vote there have been several attempts to undermine his leadership, most prominently during the Syria vote in December and the manufactured anti-semitism scandal in April. The claim in December was that because Corbyn failed to unite his party into voting against the airstrikes his position had become untenable, which failed to take into account that most of the MPs in favour of airstrikes in Syria failed to provide a coherent reason for why the airstrikes would make a significant contribution in weakening ISIS and didn’t address the futility of bombing ISIS without the presence of a diplomatic plan to deal with the underlying causes of why ISIS has risen to power in Syria; the fact they refused to listen to persuasive arguments against the bombing in Syria reflects poorly on them, not Corbyn. The vote also underscored the ideological divide between Corbyn and other MPs, many of the MPs who were in favour of the bombing subscribe to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention where Western militaries are a force for good in the world. Indeed the man who made headlines during the Syria vote was Hilary Benn, he made a stylish speech which led to many in the media fawning over him but his speech was devoid of substance as he failed to outline a feasible strategy for defeating ISIS. The fawning from the media illustrated just how incompetent they are at doing their job, Hilary Benn may be an eloquent speaker but his views on the Syria vote should have been immediately dismissed on the grounds of his previous role in illegal and murderous Western interventions. He supported both the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, which serve as an indictment of his judgement on foreign policy. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Iraq war was a humanitarian disaster, he expressed no remorse for the way he voted and even worse has voted against enquiries into the war. The fact that much of the media extolled his Syria speech despite his voting record underscores how uncritical of power they are. The anti-semitism scandal which erupted in late April was manufactured to sabotage Corbyn’s leadership before his first important test in the UK local elections at the beginning of May, many MPs seised on the accusations and implied Corbyn had made anti-semitism acceptable within the Labour Party. The coup would have to be put on hold though as the disastrous results many predicted for Corbyn in the elections failed to materialise. While the anti-semitism scandal was a plot designed to weaken Corbyn, there were instances of inexcusable posts and statements made by both Naz Shah and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Corbyn acted decisively and suspended both members and explicitly stated that anti-semitism would not be tolerated within the party displaying clear leadership during a moment of crisis. But the real animosity for Corbyn stems from his dedication to the Palestinian cause, he has been a relenting and vigorous critic of the state of Israel which continues to commit crimes in Gaza and the West Bank with impunity. Many of the MPs in the Labour party are apologists for Israeli terror and find it very unsettling that someone who is overt in their hostility to the state is the leader of their party. To many of them opposition to Israeli war crimes is indistinguishable from anti-semitism which again demonstrates the invidious position Corbyn is in.

When Corbyn was elected in September he tried to pacify some MPs by assembling a shadow cabinet which consisted of people who had views quite divergent from his. But it was always bound to fail as the divisions are too severe to be reconciled. In truth Corbyn should have confronted this problem much earlier and sacked disloyal members and unified his party. But it’s good news that this problem will finally have a resolution because the situation Labour found themselves in was clearly unsustainable. It certainly was not in Corbyn’s interest to have this problem persist for much longer as a general election within the next 12 months is not inconceivable, by the time that arises ,the party has to be united behind Corbyn therefore the exodus of anti-Corbyn MPs is necessary if a Corbyn Labour can succeed. The PLP have opportunistically used the result of the EU referendum in an attempt to stage a coup against Corbyn, the glaring flaw with this strategy is most Labour party voters are closer to Corbyn’s position on the EU than with those opposed to Corbyn. Corbyn for years has been a critic of the EU as have many leftists like Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis, Owen Jones and Noam Chomsky. Many of the criticisms include the EU’s embrace of neoliberal capitalism which has had a disastrous effect on most of the world, it’s harsh imposition of austerity in peripheral EU states like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the creation of the Eurozone which has been an undeniable failure, even acknowledged by the former president of the European commission and most recently its appalling handling of the refugee crisis. The lack of enthusiasm for the EU is entirely of its own making and if Corbyn fully embraced the EU after years of reasonably outlining the very flaws of it, he would have completely lost credibility with the electorate. Voters deserve honesty, not deception and Corbyn gave them the best possible defence for remain, he like Jones, Mason and Varoufakis harbour a lot of disdain for the EU, but they understood that without a progressive alternative in place, leaving would not yield a successful outcome. In addition it’s been claimed Corbyn sabotaged the remain campaign by refusing to collaborate with Tory prime-minister David Cameron, a claim which is ludicrous in the extreme. The man who bears responsibility for the lack of cooperation is Cameron himself, as he is the man who called the referendum and the was the leader of the country campaigning to remain in the EU, it was his responsibility to avoid alienating the leader of the opposition, but in the months following Corbyn’s election Cameron labelled him as a threat to national security and a terrorist sympathiser, the hyperbolic and inflammatory language he used rendered any chance of cooperation remote. In addition, if Corbyn campaigned with the Tories he risked making the same mistake Labour did during the Scottish independence referendum when several Labour MPs campaigned alongside Tories to remain in the United Kingdom, in the general election only months later they were destroyed. The truth is, the outcome of the EU referendum is simply a pretext for the attempted coup, Corbyn campaigned without deception unlike many on the leave side and he should be commended for that.

The last few days have also reinforced just how hostile to Corbyn the media are. Despite Cameron’s humiliating defeat, the disarray the Tories are in, the lies from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson who misled the electorate, the media have instead decided to focus much of their attention on Corbyn. The notion that the media are yearning for Corbyn to fail is not some crackpot conspiracy theory but one very much grounded in fact. A study from November showed the British systematically tried to undermine Corbyn’s leadership with their extremely critical coverage of him and in May former chair of the BBC trust said it was likely the BBC had shown bias against Corbyn. In addition just this weekend the appalling Daily Mail posted a very offensive picture of Corbyn with the word “Labour Must Kill Vampire Jezza” emblazoned on it, this less than 14 days after the left-wing politician Jo Cox was assassinated for her political views. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone, the establishment media are averse to anyone who challenges power, and setup in way which is conducive to biased political journalism. Years ago with so many powerful forces opposed to Corbyn the likelihood that he could survive would have been remote. But with the advent of social media and the profusion of alternative media, the power they wield isn’t quite as formidable as it once was. Corbyn’s many loyal supporters are well connected on social media, and won’t let the coup succeed without a fight. Already thousands have signed a petition backing him to stay as leader, and there are plans for a demonstration in support of Corbyn tonight in London. The support from the trade-unions, grassroots movements and the Labour party members should be enough to stave off the coup attempts from the deplorable MPs. They will probably succeed in winning a vote of no confidence but it will likely trigger another leadership contest which Corbyn hopefully will win. It’s claimed that Corbyn has been a failure as a leader, but in fact his victory and the support he has received remains one of the most positive developments in UK politics for some time. In May 2015 when Ed Miliband led the party to one of its most humiliating defeats in electoral history Labour Party membership stood at 201,000, by January 2016 it rose to a whopping 388,000 a huge success on Corbyn’s part, in addition the amount of younger voters flocking to the party has exponentially increased since his victory. A criticism of Corbyn is that he comes across as mundane and uncharismatic, but I myself find that refreshing. At a time when extremism is on the rise, and dramatic figures like Trump and Boris Johnson are dominating the headlines the calmness of Corbyn is somewhat appealing, he isn’t a great orator but he speaks honestly and from the heart and I’d much prefer that than someone like Obama who has the ability to inspire and exhibits great charisma but is so disappointingly lacking when it comes to policy or principles. The claim that he’s done nothing is also absurd. Since his victory in September he’s helped force U-turns for Saudi prisons and police cuts, helped stopped Osborne’s 4.5bn welfare cuts plan, got firefighters to re-affiliate with the party, made re-nationalisation of railways an official policy, and spoke out against the UK’s role in Saudi’s hideous war in Yemen.

Study from the Media Reform Coalition in November:

Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn’s first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a “neutral” stance (133 articles), the report says.

The research, given exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, looked at news, comment and editorial leaders – and claims that “the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn during his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage”. … In the days after he was selected, Corbyn was criticised for his controversial shadow cabinet appointments, policies that were at odds with the views of many of the party’s leading figures, his decision not to sing the national anthem and his poor relationship with the media after pulling out of an interview on the Andrew Marr show. … “One might expect news items, as opposed to comment and editorial pieces, to take a more balanced approach but in fact the opposite is true. A mere 6% of stories classed as news (19 out of 292) were positive, versus 61% negative stories and 32% taking a neutral stance.”

“This ‘default’ position is particularly significant given how these stories make up the bulk of the coverage during Corbyn’s first week”. … The research is part of the Media Reform Coalition’s project campaigning for a reduction in the monopoly of the UK’s media ownership, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

“Newspapers have every right to take a partisan line in their reporting and freedom of the press is a key component of democratic societies,” the reports author Emily Seymour wrote, but she stressed their concern about the monopoly over ownership of UK newspapers, which they called “profoundly anti-democratic”. … “What concerns us, however, are the ownership structures underlying this degree of political intervention,” the report said. “The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it’s hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolised in the way that they are.”

If Corbyn is ousted, it’s the end of the Labour party. It would be a betrayal of voters and would lead to an exodus of Labour party members. I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future, there is no guarantee Corbyn could win a general election and perhaps his message won’t resonate with most of the electorate, but he’s the best man Labour have got at the moment. He’s also dragging the party further to the left which is necessary after the disaster of Blair’s tenure, and the terrible campaign Ed Miliband led. The foundations for future success are being built, Corbyn must continue.

Update: In a huge display of solidarity thousands of people have congregated to express their support of Jeremy Corbyn in both London and Newcastle. The vote of no confidence by secret ballot takes place tomorrow.

The Stuff Of Dreams

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At the beginning of the Premier League season Leicester City were 5000-1 odds against winning the league title, to have merely suggested a title challenge would have elicited mockery from the most esteemed journalists in the game, a fantasy that could not be achieved in the real world. Well, to hell with reason, Leicester City have achieved the unachievable.

It’s almost impossible to convey the magnitude of this feat but for much of last season Leicester languished in the relegation zone, which was no great surprise considering they were only promoted the season before. They ended the season strongly managing to stave off relegation and finished in a respectable 14th position. Their fans were delighted, and perhaps dreamed of an even better finish this season, but this historic victory has surely exceeded even their wildest expectations. The man who took Leicester City to glory was the humble and endearing Italian Claudio Ranieri, remarkably he hasn’t managed a Premier League team since he was sacked by Chelsea in 2004 who felt Ranieri didn’t have the calibre to win the title, but what a return it’s been, throughout his career titles have eluded Ranieri wherever he’s managed but all the years of failure must have been worth it for this one season of splendid triumph. When Ranieri was appointed last June, many were apprehensive and for good reason. Ranieri had just come off one of the most humiliating debacles of his career with the Greek national team which included a pitiful defeat to minnows, The Faroe Islands. His reputation was greatly damaged and there was little reason to suspect that Ranieri had the capacity to take the club forward, but never before have so many people been delighted to have been proven so wrong. Ranieri has remained grounded all season instructing his players to take it one game at a time and implored them to not get carried away with the prospect of a famous victory. And unlike in many underdog stories where the underdog relies on luck, few will deny that Leicester have been the superior and most consistent team during the whole season. And while Leicester depended on a remarkable defensive effort which saw them record twelve 1-0 victories courtesy of magnificent performances from players like Kanté, Huth and Morgan, they also bedazzled many fans with scintillating football by virtue of the skill and guile displayed by players like Mahrez, Okazaki and the clinical finishing from Ulloa and Jamie Vardy a former non-league player. But most of all, their togetherness and unity drove them to paradise which Ranieri must take great credit for.

As upsets go, it can’t be disputed that this is one of the best in the history of not just the game but all of sport. Leicester City have defied logic, done the unthinkable and have inspired the world. Their season of glory will forever be etched in the annals of sporting history.

Spieth’s Shocking Surrender!

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With 9 holes to go at Augusta National Jordan Spieth looked on course to win consecutive Masters titles and his 3rd major championship in 12 months. With 4 consecutive birdies on the final holes on the front 9 he established a 5 shot lead. Many thought the remaining 9 holes would be a coronation, with Spieth cruising to victory, what unfolded however was a capitulation of epic proportions.

By his own admission Spieth hadn’t produced his best golf all week, his ball-striking was inconsistent and his driving was errant, but Spieth who is renowed for his clutch putting managed to hold onto his lead by making key putts when he needed them most. There were signs throughout the week that Spieth was uncomfortable with his game, a sloppy finish on Friday cut his lead to one, and on Saturday after restoring a sizeable advantage he faltered late in the round playing the final two holes in 3 over par. Despite this, mentally he looked unflabbable, driven by sheer determination to win his 2nd Masters despite the obvious shortcomings in his game. But on the 12th hole it all caught up with him and the weaknesses were exposed in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Amen Corner which is notorious for its perilous and merciless layout had claimed another victim. Spieth arrived at the breathtakingly beautiful 12th at Augusta on the back of consecutive bogeys at the 10th and 11th, his lead had been cut to only a solitary shot. Despite the intense pressure few would have expected him to have folded under these circumstances, after all Spieth had demonstrated all week his ability to bounce back from bogeys and he has proven his competence at the highest level in this game with two major championships.
Spieth struck his shot aiming to play a fade, but long before the ball found the creek Spieth recoiled in digust, certain of the outcome. If Spieth could have mitigated the damage and salavaged a bogey or a double-bogey a recovery would have not been inconceivable, but he compounded his error by finding the water again with his 3rd shot from the drop zone. He hit the shot so fat and atrociously that the ball barely even reached the hazard, Spieth visibly furious turned his back and couldn’t even bear to watch. He finished the hole with a quadruple-bogey and faced a deficit of 3 shots. In a testament to Spieth’s mental strength he responded remarkably well, birdying 2 out of the next three holes and gave himself a slim chance of catching the leader, Danny Willett but the damage was too extensive, there was to be no revival. The old adage that “the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday” was most certainly true today. Golf has seen its fair share of meltdowns over the year, Greg Norman in 96 at the Masters, Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999, Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in 2006 and Mcilroy at the 2011 Masters but Spieth’s was arguably the most astonishing considering how impervious he appeared to the pressure most of the week.

Spieth was gracious in defeat, and in accordance with Masters tradition draped the green jacket on Danny Willett and congratulated him on his victory. Willett who nearly missed the Masters because of the birth of his child was the worthy winner. He shot an almost immaculate bogey-free 67 which included 5 birdies and he displayed tremendous nerve on the 17th to scramble an unlikely par. Willett’s victory will inevitably be overshadowed by Spieth’s collapse, but this was one of the best final round performances you’re likely to see at Augusta National.

Spieth understandably will be reeling from this loss for a while, but he can take great solace in the fact that he came so close to creating history. He’s played 3 Masters and his record is T2nd, 1st & T2nd which includes leading in 7 consecutive rounds. In addition he’s becoming scarily consistent in the majors, since the beginning of 2015 his record in the majors is 1st, 1st, T4th, 2nd & T2nd and yet he’s still only 22 years old.
There is no reason to suspect Spieth won’t bounce back from this, if anyone is mentally equipped to deal with a diaster of this scale, it is him. Champions overcome adversity, and Spieth is a champion. He will comeback from this nightmare.

Reflections On Obama’s Cuba Visit

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The shot of Air Force One coming into land in Havana was iconic and the perfect way to begin this new chapter in relations between the US and Cuba. There are moments in history you don’t want to miss, and this momentous visit by Barack Obama was undoubtedly one of them.

The reestablishment of bilateral ties between the two countries faced many obstacles, most prominently Cuba’s well grounded suspicion of the US government. The breakthrough came in late 2013 when anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela died. Mandela held the Castro brothers in great esteem and was grateful for their contributions in facilitating the defeat of the apartheid government in South Africa which Reagan’s administration embraced. Both Raúl Castro and US president Obama were invited to the funeral which put the US president in an invidious position. Be courteous towards Castro and face the wrath of extremists back home, or snub the Cuban president and disrespect Mandela’s family. Obama thankfully chose the former and recognised that Cuba’s president had a right to attend the event. This then provided the foundation for the relationship to develop with Castro expressing his appreciation for Obama’s civility at the funeral.

Obama’s politics are odious, of that there is little doubt but as a politician he is remarkably competent. It was clear that throughout the visit to Cuba, Obama was totally in his element – you could readily discern that he was fully enjoying being a part of this historic visit. Obama honoured Cuban hero José Martí and laid a wreath at his memorial. Amusingly during the ceremony, a mural of Che Guevara loomed large in the background, quite expectedly US Republicans reacted with fury. During Obama’s press conference the condescension about human rights was accompanied by praise of what Obama called Cuba’s “enormous achievements” in healthcare and education, and their humanitarian contributions in east Africa where their doctors have put their lives on the line to alleviate the suffering of people who contracted Ebola. Castro maintained that the occupation of Guantánamo Bay and the inhumane embargo would remain as impediments to full normalisation of relations. The trip ended on a good note, where both Obama and Castro attended a baseball game between Cuba and The Tamba Bay Rays. Many must have thought their eyes were deceiving them when Obama and Castro participated in the Mexican wave, which again aroused rage from Republicans. Raúl Castro then travelled with Obama to the airport and waved goodbye as Obama departed to Argentina.

While’s Cuba’s grievances with the United States cannot end during one visit, there is now a path towards reconciliation which is a step in the right direction. Neither Cubans nor the vast majority of Americans have much interest in a return to violence, and a majority of Americans want the deplorable embargo to be lifted. It would be nice for both countries if ‘American democracy’ delivered what their people want.