Donald Trump in South Sudan

May 4, 2016

Nick Turse is a reporter in South Sudan, covering a civil war that has taken the lives of an estimated 50,000 to 300,000 people.  And guess what the South Sudanese are most worried about?

voiceofamerica.southsudanA600DC57-6E0F-4145-A36B-D53CC28FFBDF_mw1024_s_nA lantern on a nearby table casts a dim glow on an approaching aid worker, an African with a deep knowledge of this place.  He’s come to fetch his dinner.  I’m hoping to corral him and pick his brain about the men who torched this town, burned people alive, beat and murdered civilians, abducted, raped, and enslaved women and children, looted and pillaged and stole.

Before I can say a word, he beats me to the punch with his own set of rapid-fire questions: “This man called Trump — what’s going on with him? Who’s voting for him? Are you voting for him?”  He then proceeds to tell me everything he’s heard about the Republican front-runner — how Trump is tarnishing America’s global image, how he can’t believe the things Trump says about women and immigrants.

Here, where catastrophic food insecurity may tip into starvation at any time, where armed men still arrive in the night to steal and rape. (“They could come any night. You might even hear them tonight. You’ll hear the women screaming,” another aid worker told me earlier in the day.)  Here, where horrors abound, this man wants — seemingly needs — to know if Donald Trump could actually be elected president of the United States. “I’m really afraid,” he says of the prospect without a hint of irony.

Source: The Unz Review.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest independent country.   This nation, which is mostly African, won their independence from Sudan proper, which is mostly Arab, in 2011.  Since then it has been torn by civil war between its two largest ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Neur.

Somebody started a rumor that President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, had endorsed Trump, but that was a hoax.  Nevertheless, Trump does have his supporters in South Sudan, Turse reported.

It is an extreme example of how the news media distract people from their real problems and make them into spectators at the American reality show.

LINKS

Donald Trump in South Sudan by Nick Turse for TomDispatch.

The War Nerd: Mo cattle and oil, mo problems in South Sudan by Gary Brecher (John Dolan) for Pando Daily (2013).  Good background information.

Donald Trump is the last Republican standing

May 4, 2016

trumpclinton,eononline.rs_1024x759-150709052426-1024.Donald-Trump-Hillary-Clinton-JR-70915_copyIt looks as if we Americans in November will have a choice between Hillary Clinton, a defender of the status quo, and Donald Trump, a right-wing populist.

I don’t think Donald Trump can be elected President, but, then again, I didn’t think, six months ago, that he would become the Republican nominee.

If he is elected, I know who the Democratic establishment will blame.  It will be Bernie Sanders, for arousing false hopes.

Their underlying assumption is that conservative Republicans have the power to bring about change, but we liberal Democrats do not, and therefore the best we can hope for is to ward off the Donald Trumps.   This attitude makes the Donald Trumps inevitable.

LINKS

America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny by Andrew Sullivan for New York magazine.  An establishment viewpoint.

Here’s Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.  Another establishment viewpoint.

Here’s A List of Hillary Clinton’s Accomplishment, So Quit Saying She Doesn’t Have Any on Addicting Info.  Positive but modest.

Can Hillary Win Sanders Supporters and the Never-Trump Faction? by Bill Scher for The New Republic.

∞∞∞

I wouldn’t be surprised if President Trump nominates Ted Cruz to the Supreme Court.

John Kenneth Galbraith on changing one’s mind

May 4, 2016

john-kenneth-galbraith-proof-300x169

How Hillary Clinton used liberalism to justify war

May 3, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s has been a steadfast proponent of aggressive war throughout her career in national politics.  The interesting thing is how she has justified this in the language of liberalism, humanitarianism and human rights.

As unofficial adviser to her husband, President Bill Clinton, she pushed for military intervention in the former Yugoslavia.  As a U.S. Senator, she joined with Senator John McCain in pressing for military confrontation with Russia.   As Secretary of State, she talked President Obama into the disastrous intervention in Libya.

Unprovoked attacks on foreign nations were defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal as a war crime.   But Clinton and other militaristic liberals have found a way to justify such crimes in terms of preventing crimes against humanity.

Diana Johnstone

Diana Johnstone

Diana Johnstone, an experienced American freelance journalist living in Paris, has written a new book,  QUEEN OF CHAOS: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, which is about Clinton’s foreign policy record.  I read it last week.

Johnstone has one chapter each on Secretary of State Clinton’s support of a brutal military coup in Honduras, the destruction of Libya and military confrontation with Russia.

But the heart of the book is her account of the Bill Clinton administration’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia, and how this constituted a field test of methods used by subsequent administrations for leading the American and European publics into support of war.

The key step on the path to war, according to Johnstone, is Hitlerization—designating an enemy as a new Hitler who has to be dealt with as the original Hitler was.  This goes along with charges of genocide.

Western public opinion agrees that the Holocaust of the Jews was the ultimate crime.  Public opinion mostly agrees that all the mass killing in World War Two was justified because it was necessary to prevent the ultimate crime.

But what the crime consisted of was the attempted extermination of a people based on their race, religion and culture.

It follows from this that any attack on an ethnic or religious group is in a different and higher category of evil than, say, killing labor leaders or bombing cities because the latter are not potentially genocidal.

It also follows from this that, once you have identified a situation as genocide, any attempt at peacemaking represents appeasement, as at Munich.

If one side, such as the Hutus, is equivalent to the Nazis, and another, such as the Tutsis, is equivalent to the Nazi’s victims, compromise is not only impossible, but wicked.  Fighting has to go on until Nazi-equivalent side is crushed.

Furthermore, since the nations of Eastern Europe, the Near East, South and Southeast Asia and Africa are patchworks of different nationalities and religions, often lumped together within arbitrary boundaries down by colonial powers, there is always some ethnic conflict going on almost anywhere.

The path to war includes (1) a propaganda campaign against a foreign leader, who is identified as the equivalent of Hitler, (2) funding and arms for discontented groups, who are identified as victimes of genocide, followed by (3) economic sanctions and maybe (4) protests from human rights organizations or (5) some sort of resolution from an international body.

Any international body will do, but the best outcome would be an indictment by the International Criminal Court (even though the USA does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC) because diplomacy becomes a matter of law enforcement.

Economic sanctions almost always fail, and rebel groups almost never win, so next comes (6) a “no fly” zone and then (7) a bombing campaign.  If and when they fail, as is probable, there seems to be “no choice” but to send in troops, rather than give up.

Read the rest of this entry »

What are Bernie Sanders’ options if he loses?

May 2, 2016

What could Hillary Clinton offer Bernie Sanders if she wins?  What could he accept?  Above all, will he turn over his list of 2 million small donors and on what terms?

Peter+Daou+on+Twitter_+_THE+CAUSE_+If+Bernie+Wants+Real+Progress+He%E2%80%99ll+Align+HisSome of Clinton’s supporters say they aren’t willing to modify the Democratic platform in order to placate Sanders.  From their standpoint, that makes sense.

Sanders already has done immense damage to Clinton by raising peoples’ hopes.  The whole argument for Clinton is that nothing much good can be done, and she is the one qualified to keep things from getting worse.

I think Clinton’s election strategy will be try to persuade corporate conservatives that she is preferable to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz—which, from their standpoint, she is.  She will treat progressives and Sanders supporters as an embarrassment—which, from her standpoint, they are.

What she could offer Sanders is the promise of not trying to block him from retaining his Democratic Senate committee assignments and seniority rights.  This would be important to him carrying on the progressive fight from the Senate.

His endorsement of Clinton wouldn’t help her much, but the lack of an endorsement, or a lukewarm endorsement, would hurt.

Sanders’ core supporters back him because of his positions on important issues.  Some still are under the illusion that Sanders and Clinton stand for the same things, except that he is a bold idealist and she is a cautious pragmatist.  The first group would not be influenced by his endorsement or lack of endorsement; the second group might.

The big thing that Sanders has to offer is his donors list—the 2 million people who kept him in the race, mostly with donations of less than $200 each.

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A review of Hillary Clinton’s record

May 2, 2016

I urge you to watch this if you are a progressive and think of Hillary Clinton as a kindred spirit.

Bernie Sanders: nice guys finish second?

May 2, 2016

Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and senator who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992 and who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton in the current race, said Mr. Sanders might be winning now if he had relentlessly pressured Mrs. Clinton since last fall over her closed-door speeches to Wall Street banks, her role in the finances of Clinton Foundation programs, and other vulnerabilities.

Mr. Sanders did not raise the paid-speech issue, after long resistance, until late January.

“Making the transcripts of the Goldman speeches public would have been devastating” to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Kerrey said. “When the G.O.P. gets done telling the Clinton Global Initiative fund-raising and expense story, Bernie supporters will wonder why he didn’t do the same.”

Source: The New York Times

Two New York Times reporters wrote last month that Bernie Sanders would have done better in his campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination if—

  • He had been harder-hitting in his attacks on Hillary Clinton
  • He had spent more time on the campaign trial and less time tending to his duties in the Senate.

Measured by the standards of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, I think the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been relatively genteel.

LINKS

Early Missteps Seen as a Drag on Bernie Sanders’ Campaign by Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor for the New York Times.

Sanders’s Strength of Character Hurt His Campaign by Russ Baker for Newsflash.

This Is What Will Happen at the Democratic Convention by John Laurits for Nation of Change.  How Bernie Sanders could still win.

The difference between Trump and Sanders

May 2, 2016

Donald Trump promises to address the grievances of white American working people.

Bernie Sanders promises to address the grievances of American working people.

The Dalai Lama on talking and listening

May 1, 2016

Dalai+Lama+When+you+talk

Why sex is like a cup of tea

April 30, 2016

Hat tip for this to my friend Julie Todoro.

The seeds of America’s culture wars

April 29, 2016

David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a ground-breaking 946-page book I never got around to reading, and probably won’t.  But I think I got the gist of it by reading a review by Scott Alexander on his Slate Star Codex blog.

Fischer’s argument is that basic patterns of American culture were set by migrations of four very different groups of migrants from the British Isles:

  • Albion'sSeedhek32xef_largePuritans to New England in the 1620s.
  • Cavaliers to Virginia in the 1640s.
  • Quakers to Pennsylvania in the 1670s.
  • Borderers (aka Scots-Irish) to the Appalachians in the 1700s.

Those who came after, he said, had to adapt to social systems established by these four groups—the moralistic Puritans, the aristocratic Cavaliers, the tolerant Quakers and the warlike Borderers—even though the biological descendants of these groups ceased to be in the majority.

It’s interesting and, I think, at least partly true.   Alexander’s review is long for a blog post, but much shorter than the book, and even those uninterested in his basic theme will enjoy reading his lists of fun facts about each group.

Read the rest of this entry »

The nuclear temptation

April 28, 2016

B61-12nukedt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls

The Obama administration is preparing a new generation of tactical weapons that supposedly would give the U.S. the power to fight and win a war against Russia or China.

The weapon is called the B61 Model 12.  It is a precision-guided atomic missile, with a computer that can guide it to its target and a “dial-a-yield” feature that would control the size of the explosion.  It could be launched from bombers that also drop conventional bombs, creating uncertainty in the targeted enemy.

The argument for such weapons is that, being precise, they would be more effective militarily and result in loss of less innocent life.   The argument against is that, for this very reason, there is a greater danger they would be used.

The U.S. government and its allies are increasing their forces along the borders of both Russia and China, but it is unlikely that they were be a match for larger Russian and Chinese forces fighting in their own neighborhood.  But deployment of tactical nuclear weapons would not necessarily change that equation, because the Russian and Chinese military have their own weapons.

Both Russia and the USA are currently undergoing modernizations of their nuclear forces.  Modernization is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $30 billion a year—$1 trillion over 30 years.

Modernization does not, in and of itself, increase the threat of nuclear war.  If there are to be nuclear weapons at all, the machinery needs to be updated and replaced to avert the danger of an accidental explosion or accidental launch.

The development of battlefield-capable weapons, however, does increase the scope and likelihood of war.  But the greater mistake is a military buildup along the borders of Russia and China—two powerful nations that are not threatening the United States, but may be provoked into doing so.

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Clintonism, Trumpism: a win-win for the 1%

April 28, 2016

In American politics today, there are three main factions and only two parties to represent them.  One faction has to lose and, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are nominated, it will be the Bernie Sanders progressives.

fatcatHillary Clinton represents the Washington and Wall Street elite, committed to perpetual war and crony capitalism.  Wall Street bankers have made her and her husband rich, neoconservative war hawks praise her and Charles Koch has said she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees.

Donald Trump speaks to the concerns of working people—especially pro-corporate trade deals and deindustrialization—but he has no real solution.

His economic nationalism, while not a complete answer to U.S. economic problems, is preferable to the corporate trade deals of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

But by pitting white working men against Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and feminists, he prevents the working class as a whole from ever having enough clout to defend their interests.

Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book about how the Republicans may be the party of the wealthy elite, representing the upper 1 percent of American income earners, but the Democrats are the party of the educated professional elite, representing the rest of the upper 10 percent.

This year’s political realignment may change this, as he himself implicitly acknowledged in a new article in Vanity Fair.  Under Hillary Clinton, Democrats are becoming the party of the upper 1 percent as well.  Here is the meat of what Frank wrote.

Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million.   But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.

And what about Donald Trump?  Will rich people suffer if he is elected president?  Well, yes.  Yes, they will.  Because we all will.  But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things.  Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything.  Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class.  Rich people do not like that idea.

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A good motto

April 27, 2016

Nanyang

Source: Marginal Revolution.

This is the motto of the School of International Relations of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The emergence of hierarchy

April 26, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005)

bookchin-quote

chapter three: the emergence of hierarchy

In the dawn of recorded history, the human race was in the midst of a social, political and technological revolution.  Agriculture has started to replace hunting and gathering.  New technologies such as the wheel, the pottery kiln, the metal smelter and the loom generated increased wealth, making possible societies with much larger populations than villages and hunting clans.

Hardly any of this, however, went to improve the overall human material standard of living.  Instead the increased means of power and wealth went to support emperors, priesthoods, aristocracies, armies and merchants.   Human beings gained both increased power over nature and increased power over other human beings.

Studies of grave sites indicate that the average human in ancient civilizations was in poorer health and was more poorly nourished that the so-called savages living in hunting and gathering societies.

Most historians, including Marxist historians, recognize this, but they think it was a good thing, not a bad thing.

If the increased wealth had been spread among the populace, they say, it would have resulted only in a moderately prosperous mediocrity.  The concentration of wealth made it possible to create science, philosophy, literature, the fine arts and more new technologies, which is turn allowed humanity to advance through stages to the good life we enjoy today—or, according to the Marxists, create the material basis for a utopian society of the future.

Murray Bookchin disagrees.  For one thing, he does not believe that history proceeds in pre-ordained stages.  He believes that the different periods of history offered choices of roads to take, some good, some bad, most of them mixtures of the two.

The rejection of hierarchy would have been a good choice, he wrote.  There are many non-Western societies in which people, in Gandhi’s words, have enough for their need, but not their greed.  Such societies are rich in tradition and culture, and people are at least as happy as modern Americans and Europeans.

I am not as sure as Bookchin that such a choice was feasible.  Once one civilization devotes itself to militarism and acquisition, the rest must submit or find a method of defense, and the most obvious method of defense is to become militaristic and acquisitive themselves.

This is a dilemma that still exists today, and which thinkers such as Gene Sharp have tried to find answers for.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why people distrust Hillary Clinton

April 25, 2016

Senator Hillary Clinton said the following about gay marriage in 2004.

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.  I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage.  So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.

Presidential candidate Clinton said the following in January of this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality represents America at its best: just, fair and moving toward equality.  Now we have more work to do.  I’ll fight to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have full equality under the law, and to end discrimination in employment, housing, schools, and other aspects of our society.

Source: Hillary Clinton gay marriage – Google Search

There are three possible ways to interpret these two statements.

  1. Hillary Clinton sincerely opposed gay marriage in 2004, but changed her mind and sincerely supports gay marriage in 2016.
  2. Hillary Clinton favored gay marriage in 2004, but for tactical reasons, pretended to oppose it in order to effectively oppose a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
  3. Hillary Clinton has no strong convictions on gay marriage one way or the other, but takes whatever position is most politically expedient.

I don’t criticize anybody for changing their minds.  I see a lot of things, including gay marriage,  differently from how I saw them 12 years ago, and very differently then from how I saw them 12 years before that.

The problem with Hillary Clinton is that there are so many things about which you have to ask the same kinds of questions.

Did she vote in favor of giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq because she sincerely believed that was the right thing to do, or for tactical political reasons?  How about her statements during his husband’s administration in favor of putting more people in prison and cutting people off from welfare?

Her supporters tell me that she “had to” do and say these things.  How, then, can they tell the difference between what she really stands for and what she “had to” pretend to stand for?

The outlook of organic society

April 23, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005)

chapter two: the outlook of organic society

Drawing on archeological evidence, mainly from the Near East, and anthropological research, mainly among American Indians in the Southwest, Murray Bookchin constructed a picture of human society before the emergence of hierarchy.

murraybookchin.ecologyoffreedom512T99r4GjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_He saw primal human societies as “organic”—one in which everybody shared, nobody gave orders and all regarded themselves as members of an extended family.

He gave the example of the Kintu Indians, who have no words for “have,” “take” or “rule.”  A Kintu mother does not “take” a baby with her, she “goes with” it.  A Kintu husband does not “have” a wife, he “lives with” her.  A Kintu leader does not rule, he “stands with” his people.

People in organic societies typically see plants and animals as living things like themselves, Bookchin wrote; they seem themselves as part of the natural world and not separated from it or dominating it.

They have private property in that each person has their individuals have personal claims to tools and other possessions.  But they typically have usufruct—the right to take anything you need for survival.

Nobody in an organic society would deny anyone food, clothing or shelter, no matter what their work contribution.  In a community living close to the margin of survival, this would be the equivalent of a death sentence.

Bookchin wrote that organic societies have a sexual division of labor.  Women bear children and raise them.  Because of this, they have less mobility than the male hunters and warriors.  Instead they are gardeners, potters and keepers of the hearth.

Kinship was based on descent from common mothers.  Bookchin did not believe that organic societies were  matriarchal, in the sense that women gave orders to the men, but he did believe they were matricentric, in their unity was based on kinship, and because they honored the values associated with hearth and home.

Organic societies extended their sympathies by extending family ties—by intermarrying with other kin groups, or by adopting strangers into their own kin group

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An example to live by

April 23, 2016

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without alcohol,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

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U.S. recruiting falls short of superpower needs

April 22, 2016

Senator Ted Cruz thinks the American military needs to be up-sized, not down-sized.

Our entire fighting force is shockingly undermanned and ill-prepared.  Last year, the Chief of Staff of the Army stated that his units were at “historically low levels” of combat readiness and the Commandant of the Marine Corps declared that “half of our non-deployed units are suffering personnel, equipment and training shortfalls.”

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force recently proclaimed that “we are getting too small to succeed.”  And, for the first time since 2007, the United States Navy was unable to maintain a carrier presence in the Arabian Gulf.  Every single portion of our Armed Forces has felt the strain.

In 2010, the U.S. Army was authorized 562,400 active duty soldiers, by the end of 2016 that number will have dropped precipitously to 475,000.

And this administration has plans to drive it even lower, to only 450,000 soldiers by the end of 2018. Unless our leaders are able to prioritize our national defense appropriately, there is a possibility that the Army could be reduced to as few as 420,000 soldiers by 2020.   Attempts to garner this “peace dividend” are assuredly met with enthusiasm by our adversaries.  [snip]

The entire end-strength of our Armed Forces must be rebuilt; we must strive to have a total active-duty force of at least 1.4 million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.   Anything less creates a continuing training and readiness gap that risks the lives of the men and women who volunteer to serve this great Nation.

Source: Cruz for President

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter wants to continue to project American military power worldwide—to deal with what he terms the national security threats of terrorism, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran on a global basis.

Ted Cruz is right to point out that our armed forces are not large enough, and well-enough equipped, to carry out such a global mission.   As Andrew Bacevich, a respected military scholar, points out, it probably would take 500,000 troops each just to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq, let alone Carter’s more expansive goals.

Recruiters and potential enlistees at Fort Sill, OK

Troops and potential enlistees at Fort Sill, OK

But the problem is that U.S. military recruiters are barely able to fulfill their recruiting targets as it is.  A large proportion of enlistees are rejected because they are obese, or high school dropouts, or have criminal records.

It is impossible to increase the size of the U.S. armed forces as Cruz proposes without doing one of two things.

  •  Lower standards for recruitment.
  •  Re-institute a military draft.

The Obama administration has responded to the recruitment problem by trying to figure out ways to wage wars with minimum numbers of troops—bombings, targeted killings and plans to deploy precision tactical nuclear weapons.  Opening up the military to women and to openly gay enlistees also helps the recruitment problem, but probably not enough.

I have an alternate suggestion.

  • Limit the mission of the U.S. military to defense of the American homeland.

Read the rest of this entry »

Voter suppression in Brooklyn, USA

April 21, 2016

Democratic election officials in Brooklyn aremay be using the same tactics to purge voter rolls as used by Republicans in Florida, Wisconsin and other states.  Investigative reporter Greg Palast has the story.

Greg Palast

Greg Palast

Francesca Rheannon, whom you may know as the host of Writers’ Voice radio, did the civic thing by volunteering to work the polls in a town east of New York City.

“I just got off my 17 hour shift as an election official. In my election district, out of 166 Democratic voters, 39 were forced to file affidavit ballots. The last [election] I worked in, exactly ONE voter needed an affidavit ballot.”

That’s nearly one of four voters. Why? Their names had gone missing from the voter rolls.

An affidavit ballot (called a “provisional” ballot in most other states) is a kind of placebo ballot.  You get to pretend to vote – but the chance it will actually be counted is …well, good luck.  If your name is wrongly removed, kiss your vote – affidavit or not—goodbye.

Rheannon’s experience was hardly unique.  In Brooklyn alone, over 125,000 names were quietly scrubbed from the voter rolls in the five months leading up to the primary.

To put it in prospective, the number of voters purged equals about half of the number who got to vote. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller will now audit the Elections Board–now that the election is over. Hey thanks, Scott.

Neal Rosenstein, the lead voting rights attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which plans legal action, notes that part of the problem is that partisan hacks sit on the Elections board in New York—hacks from both parties.

Brooklyn is under the control of the Kings County Democratic Party, one of the last of the big city machines.  Would they attack their opponents’ voter registrations? 

I don’t have to guess: in my wasted younger days, I was in the Brooklyn County elections office with the hacks where we were assigned by the Party to challenge voters’ signatures en masse.  (I wouldn’t and nearly lost my state job.)

Am I saying the machine “fixed” the election for Hillary Clinton?  Without further investigation, it would be irresponsible for me to pronounce judgment.  Some of the purged may have moved, some have died.  But those who waited in line only to fill out affidavit ballots are unlikely to be deceased.

If the Machine had been aware of the mass purge underway, would they have stopped it? As they say in Brooklyn, Fahgeddabouddit.

Source: Greg Palast.

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The threat of a global holy war

April 21, 2016

One of the worst thing that could happen is an escalation of the U.S. “war on terror” into a global war between Christendom and Islam.  That is the goal of al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

If it happened, the United States and much of Europe would become as beleaguered as Israel is today.  The devastation that has been visited on Gaza, Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Syria would be spread to the whole world.

That is why Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were careful to distinguish jihadist terrorists from Muslims in general.

Unfortunately, there are Americans, such as Lt. General (ret) William “Jerry” Boykin, who don’t.

President Bush fired him in 2007 from his post as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence for saying that the United States is in a holy war of Christian crusaders against Muslim jihadists.  Even though Boykin was a brave and patriotic soldier, Bush acted in the best interests of the United States.

Boykin has endorsed Ted Cruz for President, and Cruz has appointed him as one of his top advisers.  I think Cruz also wants to make the “war on terror” a religious war.

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If Sir Isaac Newton had a Smartphone

April 21, 2016

isaacnewton.smartphonet

Via Nusaireyat.

The concept of social ecology

April 20, 2016

This is part of a chapter by chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin (1982, 1991, 2005)

chapter one: the concept of social ecology.

The Ecology of Freedom begins with an account of Norse mythology and how the Vikings saw the world’s precarious balance.  There was Asgaard, the celestial domain of the gods above; Midgard, where human beings lived on the earth; and Niffleheim, the dark, icy domain of giants, dwarves and the dead.

murraybookchin.ecologyoffreedom512T99r4GjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_These domains were linked by the great World Tree, which was sustained by a magic fountain that infused it continually with life.  Odin, the god of wisdom, and his mighty son Thor kept the great wolf Fenris, and the great serpent of Midgard and the hostile giants at bay.   They enforced the keeping of oaths and treaties and invited the bravest of warriors to dine with them in Valhalla.

Odin attained wisdom from drinking of the waters of the World Tree, but the price he had to pay was the sacrifice of an eye.  So his wisdom was a one-eyed wisdom, like that of modern science, which reveals the scientific laws that govern the world, but blinds us to the uniqueness of each individual thing, especially living things.

Order began to break down when the gods tortured the witch Gullveig, the maker of gold, to make her reveal her secrets.  Corruption, treachery and greed began to rule the world.  Warriors sought gold and forgot their blood oaths.

The end will be Ragnarok, a war in which the giants, Fenris the wold and the great serpent will destroy humanity and the gods and make the universe a void of cold and darkness.

In one version, that is the end.  In another, gods and humans will regenerate, learn from their mistakes and live in joy.

Modern scientific knowledge, according to Bookchin, gives us the possibilities both of Ragnarok or a world of joy.  It depends on whether we have a one-eyed or a two-eyed wisdom.

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Sanders started too late—or too early

April 20, 2016

I don’t think Bernie Sanders became a candidate for President with the idea that he could actually win.

I think he filed in order to make progressive ideas part of the national political debate.

Bernie SandersI think he filed only because he saw that no other progressive Democrat was going to enter the race.

I think he would have been perfectly happy to support Elizabeth Warren or some other progressive Democrat.

As it was, he started late and started from behind.

Every American knew who Hillary Clinton was.  Hardly anybody outside Vermont had heard of him.

He had to build a campaign organization from scratch.  Hillary Clinton already had a network of campaign supporters in place from 2008 and had been working for the nomination since 2013.

She began with an enormous head start, with a campaign staff already in place, a strategy already prepared, millions of dollars in campaign funds and support of established leaders of the Democratic Party.

If Sanders had decided to run in 2013 instead of 2015, he would have better name recognition and a better organized campaign than he does now.  He wouldn’t have to be learning as he goes.

But he has been catching up.   The fact that he is a real contender may be as big a surprise to him as it is to most people, including me.

I hoped he would do better in New York state than he did, but, when he filed, nobody would have dreamed he would have done as well as he did.

The reason he is a stronger candidate than Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich and progressive insurgents of the past is that the USA is now ripe for such a candidate.

Sanders was the catalyst for bringing together people who participated in the Fight For Fifteen, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and the anti-Walker protests in Wisconsin.

Such movements will grow and multiply as long, but this may not be their year.  At this point it is unlikely Sanders will catch up, although it is still possible – as I will explain below.

I don’t think Sanders is under any obligation to drop out, any more than Clinton was in 2008 when she was trying unsuccessfully to catch up with Barack Obama.  His obligation now, as hers was then, is to his supporters.

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NYC has standing-room-only space for the world

April 19, 2016

NYC1

Tim Urban on his Wait But Why web log calculated that the area of New York City is enough to provide standing room for the world’s population.

Click on 7.3 Billion People, One Building for his post.


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