What does the Clinton Foundation actually do?

August 24, 2016

Amy Sterling Casil wrote an excellent series of articles for Medium about what the Clinton Foundation, which takes in as much money as the March of Dimes, actually spends its money on.

There is a lot to dig through, but, in summary, she described the foundation’s business model as follows:

  • clintonfoundation.cf-logo-bigTake in as much money as possible, by whatever means.
  • Expend as little money as possible on anything other than what the Principals want to spend money on, typically self-promotion and world travel.
  • Take credit for stuff somebody told you they do.  Avoid expending funds on any outside activities.

Source: Amy Sterling Casil — Medium

Charity Navigator, an organization that rates the effectiveness of charities, does not rate the Clinton Foundation because of lack of information.   Casil contrasted it to the Carter Foundation, which does good work and is scrupulously documented.

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A realistic map of Louisiana

August 22, 2016
Walkable, inhabitable land area of Louisiana

Walkable, inhabitable land area of Louisiana

Southern Louisiana, like the Netherlands, is inhabitable because of the actions of humankind.  Just as the Dutch live behind their ocean dikes, Louisianans live behind their river levees.

Inadequate maintenance of the levees by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005 worse than it might have been.

map-of-louisiana-citiesThere is a problem with the levees.  Southern Louisiana is part of the Mississippi River delta, built up of topsoil from a huge drainage area stretching from the Appalachians to the Rockies.  The wandering course of the Mississippi deposited this soil over a wide area.  With the levees, the Mississippi is confined to a narrow channel.  This prevents floods, but also prevents replenishment of the delta.  As a result, much of southern Louisiana, including New Orleans, is slowly sinking, creating a need for even higher levees.

There is a good side to this.  Sinking replaces dry land with swamps and wetlands.  Although swamps and wetlands are not walkable or inhabitable, they provide a buffer against ocean flooding by absorbing the water.

It’s complicated.  Global climate change will generate more floods, and make things even more complicated.

LINKS

Louisiana Loses Its Boot by Brett Carrington for Medium.  The source and explanation of the top map.  Also a good explanation of the need for accurate maps.

Taming the Floods, Dutch-style by Damien Carrington for The Guardian.

A realistic map of the Middle East

August 22, 2016

truemapofmiddleeastThomas_Map-01

This map of the Middle East, showing which entities actually control what territory, was published by Frank Jacobs on the Strange Maps web site.  Here’s Jacobs’ key to the map.

  • The Syrian central government (in light grey), based in Damascus, controls a coastal strip of territory in a patchwork shared with a number of rebel forces. The interior of the country is lost to government control, except a single light grey island in a sea of dark grey (for IS): the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor.
  • The ‘official’ rebels (in green) control a fragmented archipelago of territories, spread across the north, middle and south of the country – also concentrated in the east, but without coastal access.  Aleppo, in the north, is on the front line between government and rebel forces, with horrific consequences for the city and its people.
  • Large parts of northern Syria are controlled by the Syrian Defence Forces (in red): a contiguous zone in the northeast, and a smaller zone in the northwest.  Both are separated by the zone of contact between Turkey and Islamic State, although that zone has gotten a bit narrower since the takeover by the SDF of Manbij.  The SDF, by the way, are mainly Kurdish forces, and the area they control is often referred to as Rojava – Kurdish for ‘West’.
  • The Islamic State controls not only the largest part of Syria, but has also spilled over into Iraq, where it dominates mainly Sunni areas in the centre, up to and including the city of Mosul in the north.  The IS’s territory is surrounded by enemies, but has the advantage of being contiguous, with the exception of two exclaves, one in southwest Iraq, and another one in southeast Syria.
  • What remains of Iraq is controlled in the south by the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad (in light blue), and in the North by the Iraqi Kurds (in yellow).
  • The map also reflects the mainly unrecognised secession of Northern Cyprus (in dark blue) and the de facto secession of Hezbollah-dominated areas within Lebanon (in green) – both facts on the ground predating the Syrian conflict, and likely to survive it.

Source: Frank Jacobs | Big Think

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Murray Bookchin: the social matrix of technology

August 21, 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).   I’m interested in Bookchin’s work because he provides a way a deeper, broader and longer-range perspective than the false alternatives in current politics.

chapter ten – the social matrix of technology

In this chapter, Murray Bookchin debunked the idea that the level of technology determines the level of social organization.  Rather social organization itself is the most important technology.

Human beings do not have to adapt to the requirements of technology.  The machine was made for man, not man for the machine.

The Pyramids of Egypt and the great temples of Assyria and Babylonia did not depend on a high level of technology, he wrote; they were built with primitive tools.

What the great empires of ancient Egypt and the Fertile Crescent discovered was how to organize and mobilize huge numbers of people against their will, and to squeeze the maximum amount of labor out of them.   So long as they had slaves, they had no need to invent labor-saving machinery.

The same was true of the New World, Bookchin wrote.   The democratic Iroquois and the totalitarian Inca used the same types of tools.  It was their social organization that was different.

Neither did geography determine social organization.  The Inca empire and Greek democracy both arose in mountainous regions.

Rather hierarchy arose, as Bookchin noted in previous chapters, when non-productive old people reinvented themselves as priests and the young men gave their loyalty to warrior bands rather than the village clans.   This happened in many different times and settings.  It set in motion an evolution ending with supposedly sacred despots supported by priests, warriors and tax collectors.

When despotic societies arose, Bookchin wrote, organic matricentric societies had to militarize themselves or else either be conquered or driven from their lands.  What’s remarkable, he wrote, is not the spread of despotism, but how much of the world’s people remained free.

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Tragedy and hope in Louisiana floods

August 20, 2016
Blue indicates the flooded areas

Blue indicates flooded areas in Baton Rouge

During the past week or so, I’ve been reading about the disastrous floods in south Louisiana, which, according to recent estimates, have left tens of thousands of families homeless and destitute.

Middle-class people, living in places that have never been flooded before, have lose everything and depend for food and shelter on the charity of strangers.

U.S.-declared disaster area

U.S.-declared disaster area

But it is a story not only of disaster, but of hope.  Rod Dreher, a writer for the American Conservative, who lives in that region, tells on his blog how everyone in the community—white, black and Asian, middle-class and poor, Republican and Democrat—have come together to help in the face of the disaster.

Almost everybody in that part of the world owns a boat, and a so-called “Cajun Navy” has rescued many stranded elderly and sick people who otherwise would have lost their lives as well as their property.

The local churches, of many denominations, have been the main organizers of rescue and relief—which is not to say that unbelievers haven’t helped out or that the federal and state governments haven’t done their jobs.

Many people, including Dreher and his wife, have taken strangers into their homes.  Also—

My daughter spent the day at Amite Baptist church preparing meals for people who have no home, while volunteer crews tore out the water-logged carpet and pews.

My boys were part of a crew from their school who have been going out to muck houses of school families who were flooded out. They had to boat in to this one elderly woman’s house (her grandchild goes to the boys’ school) to take out drywall, pull up carpet and floorboards, and suchlike — this, in 91 degree heat, in humidity over 90 percent. While they were there, the elderly lady collapsed with a heat stroke inside the house. My older son called 911, and the crew boated across the water to pick up the paramedics and take them to the house while the others used ice from their coolers to try to keep her alive. They boated her and the paramedics back across the water to the ambulance. The lady made it, thank God, but it was a very close call.

All the boys working on the mucking crew who saved her life learned a valuable lesson today. My boys came home in clothes stinking of sewage water, with aching muscles and stories to tell.

louisiana.flood.eMucking is a dirty job that is necessary to salvage a flooded structure.  It involves getting rid of the filth and mud left by the flood, and everything that is porous, which includes most possessions, and then cleaning up what remains.  Otherwise the building will be destroyed by mildew

And here’s something from the Facebook page of one of Dreher’s friends.

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U.S. to end contracts with private prisons

August 19, 2016

The U.S. Justice Department yesterday ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to end or “substantially reduce” all of its contracts with private prison operators.

Abuses in privately-operated prisons are widespread because the economic incentive is to spend as little as possible on salaries, food, upkeep and other expenses.

This decision by the Obama administration is good news, despite the ambiguity of the phrase “substantially reduce.”   Unfortunately most private prison operations are for state governments.

LINKS

Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons by Mark Zapotosky and Chico Harlan for the Washington Post.

Federal Officials Ignored Years of Internal Warnings About Deaths at Private Prisons by Seth Freed Wessler for The Nation.

My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard by Shane Bauer for Mother Jones.

The Justice Department Is Done With Private Prisons | Will ICE Drop Them Too? by Alice Speri for The Intercept.

USA is on the brink of …… something

August 19, 2016

A blogger named Fred Reed sees parallels between the United States today and France on the eve of the French Revolution.

I know three young women of exceptional intelligence and talent, all of them mature and disciplined.  They cannot find jobs.  It is not from lack of trying, far from it.  One of them is married to a hard-working man in a highly technical field usually associated with wealth.  He is paid a low hourly wage and forced to work on contract, meaning that he has neither benefits nor retirement.  His employers know that if he leaves, they can easily find another to take his place. They have him where they want him.

[snip]  In numbers that a half century ago would have seemed impossible, the American young live with their parents, being unable to find jobs to support themselves.  Waitressing in a good bar pays better in tips than a woman with a college degree can otherwise earn, assuming that she can earn anything at all.  Employers having learned to hire them as individual contractors, they move into their thirties with no hope of a pension for their old age.

Desperation and hatred are close cousins.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon makes spaceships and buys the Washington Post as a toy and the newspapers have reported that a Croesus of Wall Street has bought a Modigliani, it may have been, for $55 million dollars.

[snip]. The homeless in San Francisco are now described as “a plague.”  There seem to be ever more of them.  But not to worry.  Never worry.  The stock market remains exuberant.  In nearby Silicon Valley, a man buys a new Lamborghini every year.

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Populists vs. liberals in American history

August 16, 2016

One of the main things I’ve learned from reading American history is that political alignments in the past were very different from what they are now, and that, prior to the New Deal, “populists” and “liberals” were rarely found in the same party.

By “populist,” I mean someone who defends the interests of the majority of the population against a ruling elite.  By “liberal,” I mean someone who takes up for downtrodden and unpopular minorities.

3080664-president-andrew-jackson--20--twenty-dollar-billAndrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party, was a populist.  He gained fame as the leader of a well-regulated militia, composed of citizens with the right to keep and bear arms, who defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans and who fought for white settlers against Indians in what later became the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

He was regarded as a champion of poor workers, farmers and frontier settlers.  In an epic struggle, he broke the stranglehold of the financial elite, as represented by the Second Bank of the United States, on the U.S. economy.   Jacksonians fought for the enfranchisement of property-less white people.

In standing up for the common people, Jackson denied any claims to superiority by reason of education and training.  He defended the spoils system—rewarding his political supporters with government jobs—on the grounds that any American citizen was capable of performing any public function.

Jackson was a slave-owner and a breaker of Indian treaties.  He killed enemies in duels.  He was responsible for the expulsion of Indians in the southeast U.S. in the Trail of Tears.   He was not a respecter of individual rights.   He was not a liberal.

This was opposed by almost all the great New England humanitarian reformers of Jackson’s time and later.  They were educated white people who tried to help African Americans, American Indians, the deaf, the blind, prison inmates and inmates of insane asylums.  Almost of all them were Whigs, and almost all their successors were Republicans.

They were liberals, but not populists.  Like Theodore Parker, the great abolitionist and opponent of the Fugitive Slave Law,  they despised illiterate Irish Catholic immigrants in his midst.  Poor Irish people had to look for help to the Jacksonian Democratic political machines.

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Could the GOP become the pro-worker party?

August 15, 2016

My parents were New Deal Democrats, and I was brought up to revere the memory of Franklin Roosevelt and to believe that the Democrats were the party of working people.

DCdivided-300x253But a strange thing happened in American politics during the past 20 years.  Blue-collar workers and high school graduates have become the base of the Republican Party, while college-educated professionals are now the base of the Democratic Party.

As recently as 1992, when Bill Clinton ran against George H.W. Bush, he had a huge lead among workers earning less than $50,000 a year, and high school graduates and dropouts.  The elder Bush won by a similarly large margin among workers earning $100,000 a year or more, and narrowly carried college graduates.

In contrast, a CNN poll conducted right after the 2016 conventions gives Hillary Clinton a 23 percent lead among college graduates and an 18 percent lead among voters earning more than $50,000 a year.  Donald Trump is competitive among voters earning less than $50,000 a year and has a 26 percent lead among whites with high school educations or less.

This isn’t because Republicans actually represent the interests of working people.  Leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan—and including Donald Trump—still believe that the key to prosperity is deregulation and tax cuts for rich people, policies which have been tried and failed for the past 25 years.

But Trump, in his saner moments, at least talks about the concerns of working people.  Hillary Clinton at the moment seems more interested in reaching out to conservatives and anti-Trump Republicans.

My guess is that she will win in November, probably in a landslide, based on an alliance of racial and ethnic minorities, women and college-educated white professionals, plus the disgust of middle-road voters with Trump’s antics.

But if she governs in the interests of Wall Street, as her political record and donor list indicate she will, Republicans could reinvent themselves as champions of the working class.

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Bipartisan policies create a bad economy

August 15, 2016

naftaclinton1

naftaclint2

FRED.Glass-Steagall13934750_10209785410649165_8065315486002334298_n

Many Americans are suffering because of the loss of good jobs during the last 20 years.

This is largely due to bi-partisan government policies that began in the late 1990s.   The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and later trade agreements, in the name of free trade, limited the power of national governments to regulate banks in the public interest.

Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 allowed banks to engage in risky investments, but retained the U.S. government’s guarantee of individual deposits.   This was part of an overall economic policy, which continued under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, of deregulating financial institutions, bailing them out when they failed, refusing to enforce the anti-trust laws and refusing to prosecute financial fraud.

Concentration of wealth destroys the mass consumer market, which was the source of American prosperity during most of the 20th century.   It means that what economic activity there is goes to serve the needs and wishes of the upper 10 percent or upper 1 percent of the population, which can be done without high wages or full employment.

These were the conditions that led to the 2008 financial crash and probably will lead to a worse financial crash to come.

Eventually someone — either a great statesman or a great demagogue — will emerge to change all this.   Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is that leader.

Hillary Clinton, whose personal income and campaign contributions depend on these powerful institutions, cannot be expected to fix the problem.  Neither can Donald Trump.   While Trump has criticized corporate trade agreements, the rest of his economic program is lower taxes on the rich, deregulation of business and economic austerity, which will make conditions even worse.

LINK

The Day After Election Day by Rob Urie for Counterpunch.

Is Russia a worse threat than terrorism?

August 12, 2016

The justification of the whole military buildup of the past 15 years has been the need to protect Americans against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.

Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter

Yet Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in recent testimony (actually several months ago, but I’m just catching up with it) ranks ranks terrorism as a lesser threat to the United States than Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

The governments of Russia, China and Iran are in fact enemies of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the successors of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.  Targeting them indirectly strengthens terrorism.

What do Russia, China and Iran threaten?  They do not threaten American citizens.  They do not threaten the American homeland.

What they threaten is U.S. military superiority in eastern Europe, eastern Asia and the Middle East.  Protecting Americans from terrorism takes a back seat to what the Pentagon calls full spectrum dominance.

Risking war with any country without a good reason is both stupid and morally wrong.   But of all the countries in the world, Russia and China are the worst ones to pick as enemies.

Russia is the world’s second-largest nuclear power.  It is the only country in the world with the military capability to literally destroy the United States as a nation.

China is the world’s second-largest or maybe largest economic power.  It has the power to ruin the United States financially by ceasing to lend money and by cutting off supplies of essential U.S. imports.

The leaders of Russia and China, being rational, would not do this because they would ruin their own countries in the process.  The only ways this would happen would be if they were backed into a corner where they thought they had nothing to lose or—in the case of Russia—they found themselves in a situation in which nuclear war could be touched off accidentally.

The United States has by far the world’s most expensive military.  We Americans spend more on our armed forces than the next 10 countries put together.  But that doesn’t mean we have the world’s most effective military, especially when fighting far from home.

In fact, the big U.S. military budgets may be counter-productive.  Decision-makers may think the U.S. is so rich and powerful that individual instances of waste and ineffectiveness don’t matter.  Or that it is not necessary to set priorities.

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Bertrand Russell on belief in God

August 11, 2016

LINK

Is There a God? by Bertrand Russell (1952)

Jill Stein’s strange choice for Green VP

August 10, 2016

What was Jill Stein thinking when she picked Ajamu Baraka as the Green Party’s vice presidential candidate?

I don’t entirely disagree with Baraka.  It is true that Sanders isn’t as eager for war as Clinton, but he does not challenge the basic assumptions behind U.S. war policies.

The problem is that mere denunciation will not change anybody’s mind.  Baraka’s rhetoric will appeal only to those who already agree with him.

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Daily Kos writer smears Jill Stein

August 9, 2016

Jill Stein is a fraud.  Check out her list of campaign contributors per the FEC. The top five donations are from corporate interests — AON, Xoom Global Money Transfer, IBM, Thoughtworks, and UPS.  Would Bernie take money from any of these?

Source: Daily Kos

JillSteinGreenPartyUntitled-1-181

Jill Stein

This sounds bad, doesn’t it?  Corporations are barred from making contributions directly, but the Vote Smart web site editors track the affiliations of individual contributors—which can be top level executives or rank-and-file workers.

The answer to the question is that Bernie Sanders would have taken $27 donations from employees of any of these organizations.

Here are the facts.

Vote Smart reported that Jill Stein has raised $859,155 so far in this election.  The top affiliations of contributors were:

  • $2,700 from AON, an insurance company.
  • $2,600 from Xoom Global Money Transfer
  • $2,000 from IBM Corp.
  • $2,000 from Thoughtworks
  • $1,550 from UPS.

Does that seem like big money?  Compare this with Hillary Clinton, who has raised $264 millionmore than 300 times as much.  The top affiliations of her contributors were:

  • $641,593 from the University of California
  • $432,615 from Emily’s List, which supports feminist and women candidates.
  • $426,910 from Alphabet Inc. (Google)
  • $414,532 from Morgan & Morgan, a law firm specializing in personal injury cases.
  • $330,433 from Morgan Stanley.

Vote Smart reported that Donald Trump has raised $89 million.  The top affiliations of his contributors are:

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When (if ever) will Donald Trump self-destruct?

August 8, 2016

It’s a good thing we have photographic evidence of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump being in the same room at the same time.

Otherwise you could really convince me that after a blowout electoral loss on Nov. 8, “Trump” will walk onstage and pull off a rubber Scooby-Doo-type mask to reveal that it was really Bill Clinton all along, acting like the dumbest candidate in the world, just to guarantee that Hillary Clinton got into the White House.

The real Donald Trump is somewhere tied up in a Brooklyn, N.Y., basement, guarded 24-7 by Clinton surrogates, wondering why he’s allowed food and drink but no access to Twitter.

That’s more believable than the idea that out of all of their options, Republicans nominated a Gold Star-family-attacking, non-party-endorsing, baby-kicker-outer to face off against an ethically challenged policy wonk who barely connects to her own party’s base.

Source: Jason Johnson | The Root

In the early days of Donald Trump’s candidacy, I never thought he would get the Republican nomination.  I thought he would soon do or say something so offensive and outrageous that his followers would turn against him.

I’m still waiting for that to happen.

The daily news cycle seems to go like this.

  • Donald Trump says some shocking and offensive thing.
  • Washington press corps and respectable politicians denounce Trump for shocking and offensive thing.
  • Donald Trump refuses to back down from shocking and offensive thing.
  • Next day: Donald Trump says or does another shocking and offensive thing.

DonaldTrumpInstagram(JPEG Image, 1160 × 629 pixels)What Trump manages to do with all this is to keep public attention focused on himself.   He says so many shocking and offensive things that it is hard for the ordinary busy person, who has a job and family responsibilities, to keep them straight.  What remains is an impression of Trump as a strong person who doesn’t back down.

Hard-core of Trump supporters believe anything and everything he says, including that President Obama is a secret Kenyan-born Muslim socialist and that Muslim sharia law is a real and present danger to the USA.   There is no way to convince them of anything different because they are not interested in separating truth from falsehood, and have no criteria for doing so.

Their support is what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls anti-fragile.  No matter what Trump’s opponents do or don’t do, their faith in him grows stronger.

Another group supports Trump not on his merits, but because they think anything is better than the status quo.  The more he outrages established politicians and journalists, the better they like it.  The size of this group is a measure of the failure of American government during the past 15 or so years.

By the standards of the past, Trump would have been a fringe candidate, as would Bernie Sanders.  Their strong showings are due less to their own qualities than to the discontent of the American public.  I don’t think Trump supporters’ will cease to be angry at the status quo because Trump makes disrespectful remarks about a Muslim Gold Star mother.

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Rural America invests in high-speed Internet

August 8, 2016
highspeedinternetsmalltownsYES!

Graphic from YES! magazine

Small American cities and rural communities are developing high-speed Internet service for themselves, following failures of President Obama’s plan to finance such service under his stimulus plan.

I read two articles on-line this morning—an old one in POLITICO about the mismanagement of the stimulus plan by the Rural Utilities Service (successor to the Rural Electrification Administration) and a recent one in YES! magazine about how local governments are acting on their own initiative to provide these services for themselves.

The two articles fit in with a long-held belief of mine—that role of government is to provide public services, such as public roads, public schools and law enforcement, under neutral rules, and not to divide up the public into worthy claimants and unworthy claimants.

I’m sure federal grants have made possible some worthy local projects that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.  Certainly the original Rural Electrification Administration did a lot to improve the lives of American farm families.

But very often grantsmanship becomes disconnected from actual needs.  There is a cost in going through the grant approval process, maybe with the help of a professional grant application writer, and in documenting compliance with the requirements for the grant, which may have nothing to do with local priorities.

LINKS

Wired to fail by Tony Romm for POLTICO (2015)

Tired of Waiting for Corporate High-Speed Internet, Minnesota Farm Towns Build Them on Their Own by Ben DeJarnette for YES! magazine.

The influence of third-party candidates

August 6, 2016

040116-Third-Party

If you go further back in history, the other notable alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans were the Populist (or People’s) Party in 1892, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in 1912 and Robert (Fighting Bob) LaFollette’s Progressive Party in 1924 and Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party in 1948.

All of these parties except Henry Wallace’s actually carried states.  TR’s Progressives actually received more popular votes and electoral votes than incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft.

The most successful third-party and independent candidates—Theodore Roosevelt, George Wallace and Ross Perot—were celebrities before they ran.

The Populists definitely influenced the major parties.  Democrats in 1896, 1900 and 1908 nominated William Jennings Bryan, who advocated most of their reform platform.

Theodore Roosevelt was not a spoiler.   Public opinion in 1912 favored progressive reform, and Woodrow Wilson, the victor, probably would have received much of the vote that went to TR.

Henry A. Wallace, interestingly, received almost as many popular votes as Strom Thurmond.  They each got about 2.5 percent (as did Ralph Nader in 2000).   But, because Henry Wallace’s votes weren’t concentrated geographically, he didn’t receive any electoral votes (nor did Nader).

It’s noteworthy how few votes Thurmond needed to carry four states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.   I wonder how much was due to apathy and how much to voter suppression.   I read somewhere that in the 1928 election, the total votes cast in the former Confederate states were less than the voter turnout just in New York state.

Thurmond’s and George Wallace’s candidacies, along with Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, were part of the transition of the South from predominantly Democratic to predominantly Republican.

Ross Perot may have been a spoiler.   Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory was narrow, and I think Perot took away more votes from George H.W. Bush than from Clinton.  Perot’s emphasis on balancing the budget may have influenced Clinton, but his opposition to NAFTA most certainly did not.

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Five American parties on war and peace

August 6, 2016

The political platform of a political party is not binding on its candidates, but it is significant because it reflects what people who are most active in the party would like to see happen.

Since I think Americans should be open to voting for small political parties as well as large parties, I look at what the top five parties advocate concerning war and peace, which I think is the most important issue.

To sum them up:

  • The Democratic Party says it wants peace, but that it is threatened by ISIS, Syria, Russia, North Korea and others.
  • The Republican Party says peace is threatened by ISIS, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and others, and no limitations should be placed on possible U.S. military action.
  • The Libertarian Party opposes military intervention and “entangling alliances” and believes in armed neutrality, like Switzerland’s.
  • The Green Party thinks the USA should be guided by the United Nations charter and only engage in military action when authorized by the UN Security Council.
  • The Constitution Party opposes undeclared wars, treaties that commit the United States to military action and membership in the United Nations and other international bodies.

None of these is exactly what I think.   I’m somewhere between the Democrats (their platform, that is) and the Libertarians and Constitutionists.

∞∞∞

Below is a slightly more detailed summary of the party platforms, with my comments.

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Donald Trump sets a trap for his campaign donors

August 6, 2016

Donald Trump’s campaign web site provides no way for campaign contributors to cancel recurring donations.

Once you sign up, there is no apparent way to stop giving—unless you cancel your credit card or possibly arrange with your bank to stop payments.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign web site has a “remove” button for those who want to stop payments.

LINK

Donald Trump’s web site won’t allow you to cancel recurring donations by Jeremy Stahl for Slate.  (Hat tip to Joseph Cannon).

The perils of bipartisanship

August 6, 2016

The GOP defections to Team Hillary were already well underway by the time of last week’s Democratic National Convention, which featured endorsement speeches from billionaire ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg and other Republicans.

Since then Hewlett-Packard executive and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has come out for Clinton.  So has Republican-leaning hedge fund billionaire Seth Karman and Republican Congressman Richard Hanna.  A CNN poll showed that nearly one in four self-identified conservative voters said they would support Clinton over Trump.

From a tactical point of view, it makes sense for Clinton to welcome their support. But it poses a dangerous temptation for her – especially when, as is the case with Bloomberg, Whitman, and Klarman, it presumably comes with buckets full of campaign cash.  She may see this support as a mandate to form something like a unity government with Republicans, a call to tack right toward the failed “centrism” and “bipartisanship” of the past several decades.

That would be a tragic error, but it would it follow a well-worn groove in recent American politics.

“Bipartisanship,” in this context, is the notion that government works best when corporate-backed politicians from both parties get together behind closed doors and decide what’s best for the country.  The “bipartisan” ideology gave rise to Washington’s long obsession with deficit reduction at the expense of more pressing concerns.  It nearly led to a cut in Social Security benefits, which would have been disastrous for millions of seniors, disabled people, and children.  It is responsible for the government spending cuts that, as economist Robert Scott explains, have been largely responsible for the weakness and slow pace of our current recovery.

Source: Richard Eskow | Campaign for America’s Future

As my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey pointed out, appeasing Republicans is not a “temptation” for Hillary Clinton.   It is her default position.   It is what she will do unless pressured to do otherwise.

The difference between an establishment Democrat such as Clinton and an establishment Republican such as Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan is that the Democrat depends on the votes of working people and therefore can be pressured to vote in their interests, provided this doesn’t threaten their wealthy donors, whereas the Republican will not vote in their interests in any case.

The pressure on Clinton would have to be unrelenting and uncompromising, and even then there is no certainty it would work.

LINK

As Republicans Defect, Will Clinton Be Tempted to Tack Right? by Richard Eskow for Campaign for American’s Future.

The five major parties and their candidates

August 5, 2016

As my friend John (Jack) Belli points out, five major parties are running candidates in this year’s election.

The five parties are the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties.   They are “major” parties because their presidential candidates are on the ballots in at least 20 states and could in principle win a majority of the electoral votes.

In this post, I merely provide Wikipedia links to the five major parties and their candidates, as basic and more-or-less neutral sources of information.  The links show that the three small parties are not only different from the two large parties, but very different from each other.  In subsequent posts, I’ll compare and contrast their platforms on important issues.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY

For President: Hillary Clinton.

For Vice-President: Tim Kaine.

REPUPLICAN PARTY

For President: Donald Trump.

For Vice-President: Mike Pence.

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

For President: Gary Johnson.

For Vice-President: William Weld.

GREEN PARTY

For President: Jill Stein.

For Vice-President: Ajamu Baraka.

CONSTITUTION PARTY

 For President: Darrell Castle.

For Vice-President: Scott N. Bradley.

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Why limit your choice to just two parties?

August 4, 2016

In a fascist or Bolshevik dictatorship, I would be forced to vote for a single party that didn’t represent me.

Since I live in a democracy, why should I limit myself to voting for one of two parties that don’t represent me?

1. reverse-courseThe Democratic presidential candidate is Hillary Clinton, who is literally a paid servant of Wall Street, who is almost certain to involve the United States in more wars and who may possibly bring on World War Three.

The Republican presidential candidate is Donald Trump, a crooked businessman who cares nothing for human rights, the Constitution or the rule of law.

So why vote for either of them?  Why not vote for a candidate who favors peace, opposes Wall Street and upholds historic Constitutional rights?

Now you may disagree.  You may think that either Clinton or Trump represents a positive good and not a lesser evil.  If you do, nothing in this post applies to you.  It is aimed at people who think they have to choose between a greater and a lesser evil.

Many liberal Democratic friends agree there is some truth in what I write about Clinton, but they see it as their duty—and my duty—to vote for Clinton.  They say that to vote for anybody but Clinton, or to refrain from voting, is the same as voting for Trump.

They have two main arguments, which I call the Nader argument and the Hitler argument, which I will address below.

The Nader argument is that people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 tipped the balance from Al Gore to George W. Bush.  So liberals and progressives should limit themselves to voting for the Democrat, no matter who, to prevent such a thing from happening again.

The Hitler argument is that Hitler came to power because the main German political parties—the Catholic Center Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party and the conservative anti-Hitler parties—were unable to bury their differences and unite against Hitler.   So liberals and progressives should bury their own convictions in the interests of stopping the supposedly Hitler-like candidate on the right.

What’s interesting about these arguments is that we all live in New York state, which is as certain to go for Hillary Clinton as anything can be.  All my presidential vote does is to express where my loyalty lies—to a political party or to my own beliefs.

Vaclav Havel, the great Czech playwright and dissident, wrote in his 1979 essay, The Power of the Powerless, about the manager of a fruit and vegetable shop under Communist rule putting a sign in his window saying, “Workers of the world, unite.”  The manager didn’t care about workers of the world uniting, and the sign wouldn’t affect whether workers of the world united or not.  What he was really doing by putting up the sign, Havel wrote, was saying: I am obedient and have the right to be left in peace.

I’m not comparing myself to somebody in a Communist country who would be persecuted for refusing to follow the party line.  The worst thing I risk is the mild disapproval of a few people.  What I am saying is that the issue is the same.  Where does my loyalty lie?

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Democrats embrace legacy of Ronald Reagan

August 3, 2016

… Ronald Reagan is the man whose name improbably electrified the Democratic National Convention … .

… . On Wednesday night, Barack Obama said:  Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.”  Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix.

On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton said:  He’s [Trump] taken the Republican Party a long way… from “Morning in America” to ”Midnight in America.”  He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

And just in case the point wasn’t clear, a former official from the Reagan administration enchanted a crowd of screaming Democrats with this one-liner …):  Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan.

Source: Corey Robin — Crooked Timber

I would say Donald Trump has more in common with Ronald Reagan than Bill and Hillary Clinton have in common with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

What a real US fascist movement would look like

August 3, 2016

Donald Trump is not intellectually, temperamentally or morally fit to be President of the United States.  If elected, he would do great harm to the United States and to the world.

Trump_1_21_againagainLike Hitler and Mussolini, he is contemptuous of laws, human rights or restrictions on mob violence.

But I don’t think he has a conscious goal of creating a fascist dictatorship, and, even if he did, he is not backed up by the kind of fascist movement that would make it possible.

A full-blown American fascist movement would have these characteristics:

  1.  A party line and strictly enforced party discipline.
  2.  An armed party militia.
  3.  A covert understanding with Wall Street.
  4.  A parallel structure of authority that superseded the legal governmental structure.

∞∞∞

Here’s why Donald Trump and his followers don’t fit that profile..

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The problem with a woman as President

August 2, 2016

thatcher-and-sisters

When I look at the lists of women heads of state and women heads of government since World War Two, I see more warrior queens—Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi—than I do motherly social reformers.

The problem with women leaders in a male-dominated society is that, in order to be respected by men, they often repress the so-called feminine weaknesses of compassion and empathy and emphasize the so-called masculine virtues of combativeness and unsentimental moral pragmatism.

I don’t know whether Hillary Clinton became a war hawk in order to earn the respect of powerful men, or whether she had the respect of powerful men because she already was a war hawk, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be a respected part of the political establishment if she were an advocate for peace.  The problem is that a war hawk is not what is needed now.

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