The Republican wing of the Democratic Party

May 27, 2016

When Howard Dean ran for President in 2004, he said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

What I took him to mean was that he represented the traditional Democratic constituencies, especially  labor, in opposition to the Republican wing, which favored big business.

rwb-donkeysplitAs chair of the Democratic National Committee, he famously said that the Democrats ought to be able to get the votes of men who drove pickup trucks with Confederate flags because they benefit from affordable health insurance and other liberal programs as much as anybody else.

He had a 50-state strategy in which he sought to built the Democratic Party everywhere, not just in the so-called swing states.  During his tenure, 2005 through 2009, Democrats recaptured control of Congress and built their strength across nationwide.  Democrats lost ground under his more conservative successors, Tim Keane (2009-2011) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2011- )

The case for the Republican wing for the Democratic Party is that the interests of working people are compatible with the interests of Wall Street bankers and Fortune 500 executives, and that the goal of party leaders should be to seek consensus, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama attempted to do.   The blame would rest with the Republican Party for refusing to respond to their overtures.

The problem with this is that it provides no answer to the growing concentration of wealth and power the past 25 years, at the expense of all Americans except a small elite.

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Donald Trump’s $1 million promise to veterans

May 26, 2016

veterans_trump_2000x1124

Kevin Drum wrote this for Mother Jones magazine yesterday:

Here’s what Donald Trump did recently:

  • He pledged $1 million to help veterans.
  • He tried to weasel out of it for months and hoped no one would notice.
  • When he finally got caught, he ponied up grudgingly and insulted the reporter who caught him.

Even among sleazebags, this is not normal behavior. This is pathological sleaziness.  It’s literally beyond belief.  Do not let Trump distract you with his latest barrage of insults.  Do not turn your attention to the latest polls.  Do not let this be normalized away as “just another Trump thing.”

Maybe we need to put this in simpler terms.  $1 million is one ten-thousandth of Trump’s claimed wealth.  The average American household has a net worth of about $50,000. One ten-thousandth of that is $5.  In terms of its effect on his personal finances, what Trump did was the equivalent of promising five bucks to a homeless vet and then trying to weasel out of it.  What kind of person would do that?

Source: Kevin Drum | Mother Jones

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The growing danger of war with Russia

May 25, 2016

There is only one nation in the world with the power to destroy the USA, and that is Russia, with its stockpile of 1,800 operational nuclear weapons.  Russia would be destroyed in the process, so its leaders would be insane to attempt this unless Russia’s own survival were at risk.

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have brought this danger closer by extending NATO forces to the borders of Russia, conducting military exercises close to Russia and attempting to draw Ukraine and Georgia into an anti-Russian alliance.

I can understand why some people in the Baltic states, Poland and other countries formerly under Soviet domination might want U.S. protection and even a U.S. attack on Russia (just as some people in the Caribbean and Central American countries might want the reverse.)

The problem is that NATO forces probably could not defeat the Russia army in a war close to Russia’s borders, just as Russia could not successfully defend a Caribbean or Central American country.

It’s generally admitted that NATO in Cold War times could not stopped a Red Army invasion of western Europe.  That is why the U.S. government has never pledged “no first use” of nuclear weapons.  The US depended on nuclear weapons as an ultimate deterrent, and still does.

Another danger is that, if Russia’s leaders felt threatened, they might strike first.  Or war might be triggered accidentally, as has almost happened many times in the past.

Terrorist movements such as ISIS and Al Qaeda are criminal and loathsome, but they do not threaten the existence of the United States.  Nuclear war does.

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama took office saying they intended to improve relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  The fact that this didn’t happen makes me wonder about the power of the un-elected Deep State that Mike Lofgren and others have written about.

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Trump raises five good foreign policy questions

May 24, 2016

donald_trump006_16x9nationalinterestStephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian history at Princeton and NYU and a contributing editor of The Nation, said in a broadcast that Donald Trump is the only major-party candidate who raises certain fundamental and urgent foreign policy questions:

  1. (First) why must the United States lead the world everywhere on the globe and play the role of the world’s policeman, now for example, he says, in Ukraine?  It’s a question.  It’s worth a discussion.
  2. Secondly, he said, NATO was founded 67 years ago to deter the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union ended 25 years ago.  What is NATO’s mission?  Is it obsolete?  Is it fighting terrorism?  No, to the last question, it’s not.  Should we discuss NATO’s mission?
  3. Thirdly, he asks, why does the United States always pursue regime changes?  Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and now it wants a regime change in Syria, Damascus.  When the result is, to use Donald Trump’s favorite word, the result is always “disaster.”  But it’s a reasonable question.
  4. Fourthly, why do we treat Russia and Putin as an enemy when he should be a partner?
  5. Fifth Trump asks, about nuclear weapons – and this is interesting.  You remember he was asked, would he rule out using nuclear weapons – an existential question.  He thought for a while and then he said, “No, I take nothing off the table.”  And everybody said he wants to use nuclear weapons!   In fact, it is the official American nuclear doctrine policy that we do not take first use off the table.  We do not have a no first use of nuclear weapons doctrine.  So all Trump did was state in his own way what has been official American nuclear policy for, I guess, 40 or 50 years.

Source: John V. Walsh | Counterpunch

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Just how evil was Muammar Qaddafi?

May 23, 2016

Hillary Clinton is proud of bringing about the downfall of Muammar Qaddafi of Libya.

Supposedly his rule was so evil, or so much of a threat to the United States, that his downfall and death were necessary.

Just what did Qaddafi do that was so bad and so threatening?

Qaddafi in many ways was like Fidel Castro.

He was definitely a dictator, although by all accounts a popular one.  Although he listened to advice from popular assemblies, he also crushed opposition.  As in Cuba, there were neighborhood watches to identify opponents of the regime.  He supported revolutionary and terrorist movements, including the Provisional IRA, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.   He sent troops to defend the odious Idi Amin of Uganda.

He was a thorn in the side of U.S. foreign policy.  Libya was a founding member of OPEC, and an initiator of the Arab oil embargo of 1973.   He was accused of direct involvement in many terrorist attacks himself.

The best you can say of the crimes of Qaddafi’s government is that he was guilty of few things that the U.S. government was also not guilty of, and of nothing that U.S. allies have not been guilty of.

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Anti-racism: thought reform vs. social change

May 23, 2016

Minor revisions 5/24/2016

Aviva Chomsky wrote a good article for TomDispatch about the anti-racism movement on college campuses.   She discussed how it has come to focus on individual change rather than societal change, and is thereby less threatening to the powers that be.

In some of their most dramatic actions, students of color, inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, have challenged the racial climate at their schools.

In the process, they have launched a wave of campus activism, including sit-ins, hunger strikes, demonstrations, and petitions, as well as emotional, in-your-face demands of various sorts.

Aviva Chomsky

Aviva Chomsky

One national coalition of student organizations, the Black Liberation Collective, has called for the percentage of black students and faculty on campus to approximate that of blacks in the society.

It has also called for free tuition for black and Native American students, and demanded that schools divest from private prison corporations.

Other student demands for racial justice have included promoting a living wage for college employees, reducing administrative salaries, lowering tuitions and fees, increasing financial aid, and reforming the practices of campus police.

These are not, however, the issues that have generally attracted the attention either of media commentators or the colleges themselves.

Instead, the spotlight has been on student demands for cultural changes at their institutions that focus on deep-seated assumptions about whiteness, sexuality, and ability.

At some universities, students have personalized these demands, insisting on the removal of specific faculty members and administrators.

Emphasizing a politics of what they call “recognition,” they have also demanded that significant on-campus figures issue public apologies or acknowledge that “black lives matter.”

Some want universities to implement in-class “trigger warnings” when difficult material is being presented and to create “safe spaces” for marginalized students as a sanctuary from the daily struggle with the mainstream culture.

By seizing upon and responding to these (and only these) student demands, university administrators around the country are attempting to domesticate and appropriate this new wave of activism.

Source: Aviva Chomsky | TomDispatch

(Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

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The race card and the economic issue.

May 23, 2016

Barbara Fields, co-author of the newly-published Racecraft: the Soul of Inequality in Amerian Life, had this to say about racism and inequality:

Barbara J. Fields

Barbara J. Fields

Racism and inequality have the same central nervous system.  They’re a part of the same process.  People should not think, for example, Bernie Sanders isn’t addressing the problems of black people because he doesn’t have a black label on it, with a bow tied around it, saying this is for black people.  But, when he speaks for a new minimum wage and for higher-education to be within everybody’s reach, these are the inequality problems that plague everyone.

And they’re one of the reasons why racism, not race, is intense and resurgent in this country.  We have a white working population that, by and large, expected to be taken care of, to be treated fairly, so long as they abided by the rules.  And now, with good reason, they feel left out.  Not just since the crash but, in years probably going back as far as the 1970s (certainly from the 80s), they’re watching the situation deteriorate.

The same has been true for black working people, if anything, to a more intense degree.  Of course the difference is black people never expected fairness.  So they don’t react to unfairness in the same way.

Source: VersoBooks.com.

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One victory Bernie Sanders has already won

May 23, 2016

160321221404-bernie-sanders-israel-aipac-the-final-five-election-special-5-00011615-large-169The most significant thing that Bernie Sanders has done is to prove that it is possible to carry out a credible national political campaign without depending on corporate and billionaire donors and without being rich himself.

This deprives establishment politicians of their excuse that they have no choice but to cater to big-money donors.   It also shows other progressive that they don’t have to compromise with the donor class in order to win.

Even if Sanders loses, which now seems likely, he has shown the way for future, better-prepared candidates.

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What’s the matter with the Democrats?

May 21, 2016

This was originally published on March 28, 2016

I looked forward to reading Thomas Frank’s LISTEN, LIBERAL -or- What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?  I finished reading it over the weekend, and it’s as good as I thought it would be.

It is an explanation of how the Democratic Party ceased to be an advocate for the interests of working people and organized labor, and instead became the party of the credentialed professional class, as exemplified by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Thomas Frank is best known for his book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? which is about how a once-radical state became a stronghold of the right wing.  In this book, he explains how the party of the New Deal became the party of bank bailouts and pro-corporate international trade deals.

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank

The change began with the split between college-educated idealists and blue collar union workers in the late 1960s.  Young radicals thought that the New Deal was yesterday’s news and that labor leaders such as the AFL-CIO’s George Meany were obstacles to peace in Vietnam and justice for minorities and women.

The young radicals triumphed in 1972 when they nominated George McGovern for President, under convention rules written so as to guarantee representation  for minorities, women and youth, but not for union members.

When McGovern went down in humiliating defeat, the party leaders rewrote the rules so as to prevent another McGovern from arising again.  They did not, however, return to their New Deal roots.  Instead they started to bid against the Republicans for support of the business class.

These two factions of the Democratic Party – social liberals and the business conservatives – eventually came together.

Their common ground was belief that the world should be run by an elite of smart people.  Their liberalism consisted of belief that there should be equal opportunity to enter this class based on educational credentials and professional achievement.

The idea was not to raise the material standard of living poor people and the working class in general, as in New Deal days.  It was to give everybody, through access to education, an equal chance to be part of the elite, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or social or economic class.

Then, if you still couldn’t succeed, it would be your own fault.  Maybe you didn’t study hard enough in the fifth grade.

This is not to say that Democrats became the same as Republicans.

Republican leaders wanted to be governed by an elite of tough, successful competitors.  Democratic leaders want to be governed by an elite of enlightened thinkers.

Republican leaders embrace economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are moral values.  Democratic leaders accept economic inequality because they believe the laws of the free market are scientific laws.  Republicans despise losers.  Democrats sympathize with losers, but do not think it is feasible to help them.

Republicans govern in the interests of the top 1 percent of income earners.  Democrats, as Frank wrote, govern in the interests of the top 10 percent.  [1]

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Hillary Clinton backed wars that aided terrorism

May 20, 2016

In the past 25 years, the United States has waged war openly against five nations.

  • Serbia
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Syria
  • Libya

The U.S. has waged economic and covert war against two other nations:

  • Iran
  • Russia

Hillary Clinton supported all of them.

hillaryclinton.lowryinterpreter.image.axd

What’s noteworthy about this list is that the governments of all of these countries, except Afghanistan, was or is threatened by Al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadist groups.  The U.S. war effort is directed more against the terrorists’ enemies than the terrorists.

In every case except Afghanistan, the U.S. actually supported jihadist groups against the incumbent government, just as it did against the pre-Taliban Russian-backed regime in Afghanistan.

I believe that the reason for this strange policy is the American Deep State—the parts of government not affected by elections—is more concerned about maintaining global corporate economic supremacy and U.S. military supremacy than it is about protecting American citizens from possible terrorist attacks.

Among the political candidates, Hillary Clinton is the most highly committed war hawk.  She has supported every war on this list, and also favors military confrontation with China.  I don’t think the Iran sanctions deal would have been negotiated if she had remained as Secretary of State.

Bernie Sanders supports existing U.S. policies with reservations.

In many ways, I agree with Donald Trump more than I do Clinton.  He wants to stop the cold war against Putin’s Russia, and he recognizes how counterproductive the attacks on Syria and Libya have been.

But I don’t take him seriously because of his bloodthirsty and thoughtless rhetoric and because he is advised by war hawks.

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Where political change comes from

May 19, 2016

Keenanga-Yamahhta Taylor, a Bernie Sanders supporter, wrote this for the Boston Review:

When activists recall a Democratic Party that cared about ordinary people, what they really have in mind are the social movements and revolts that forced the party to respond to the needs and demands of those on the streets. 

RTW_protestThere would have been no New Deal without the Hoovervilles, rent riots, sit-down strikes, and Communist Party activism of the 1930s. 

There would have been no Great Society without Civil Rights protests in the South and rebellions in more than two hundred cities across the country during the 1960s. 

Even Richard Nixon, who won office appealing to a racist “silent majority,” waited out his first term before he began dismantling Lyndon Johnson’s welfare state, lest he provoke protests.

As the great activist and historian Howard Zinn put it, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting in’—and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”  He didn’t mean that elections are irrelevant, but he emphasized what citizens do to shape their world. 

The anger about inequality and injustice in the United States, which has been given some voice by the Sanders campaign and most certainly by the Black Lives Matter movement, should not be stifled by the pressure to organize through the Democratic Party.  It can’t be done.

Source: Boston Review

Sometimes the art of compromise is necessary, but nobody is going to compromise with you unless you represent something powerful enough that the other person feels they have to compromise.

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A good question

May 19, 2016

Oil and Gas Pipeline Construction vs. Massive Public Infrastructure Construction: Why do the building trades unions want the former rather than the latter? asks Beverly Mann for Angry Bear.

The basic principle of the rule of law

May 19, 2016

magnacartadsc05777

Magna Carta is the inspiration for the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law …”

How is this compatible, as Laurie Calhoun asked in the article linked below, with the President of the United States claiming the right to order the killing of anybody anywhere in the world based on his personal judgment that the killing his warranted?

LINK

Remembering the Magna Carta by Laurie Calhoun for We Kill Because We Can.

How Seymour Hersh uncovers the inside story

May 18, 2016

Seymour Hersh’s writings always remind me of how little I know about what is really going on.

I am better informed as a result of reading his work and watching this video, and you may be, as well.

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Obama extends overtime pay over GOP objection

May 18, 2016

overtimepay30-b2-a8-1571-1454141881Give credit where credit is due.   The Department of Labor’s new rule on overtime pay for salaried workers would benefit millions of American workers.  Such a rule would not have been proposed under a Republican administration.

But why is the rule being introduced now, and not years ago?  I suspect, although I cannot prove, that this is a response to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

A Republican administration would not have done what Obama just did.  Conservative Democrats are not advocates for working people, but they can be pressured into appeasing working people.  This is not true of conservative Republicans, who oppose high wages and pro-labor legislation.

If Hillary Clinton and other conservative Democrats are elected this fall, the lesson for labor unions, civil rights organizations and consumer advocates is to keep the pressure on to support their interests.

They should follow the example of the LGBT movement.  President Obama originally opposed gay marriage, but changed his position after LGBT supporters withheld campaign contributions.

This is the way to play politics.  Don’t support anybody unless they give you a positive reason to support them.

Politicians who depend on campaign donations from large corporations and rich people will never go against the vital interests of their donors, but they can be forced to strike a balance between donors and their core voters unless the voters passively support them.

LINKS

Obama Is Bringing Overtime Pay to Millions of Workers by Dave Jamieson for the Huffington Post.

The new overtime rule will directly benefit 12.5 million working people: Who they are and where they live by Ross Eisenbrey and Will Kimball for the Economic Policy Institute.

Republicans Move to Block New Overtime Rules by Connor D. Wolf for the Daily Caller.

Justice—equal and exact

May 17, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin.   His ideas about the evolution of human society are conjectural, but I think much of what he wrote is true, most of it could be true and all of it makes me see the world in a new light.

chapter six: justice—equal and exact

In this chapter, Murray Bookchin wrote about how concepts such as “freedom” and “justice” came into being as counterpoints to domination

The first human communities, which he called “organic societies,” practiced what Bookchin called equal treatment of unequals—what Marx later called the principle of from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.

Over time this changed into what Bookchin called the unequal treatment of equals—impersonal laws that treated everybody as if they were the same—what Anatole France called the law that in its majesty forbid rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal loaves of bread.

murraybookchin.ecologyoffreedom512T99r4GjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In organic societies, Bookchin wrote, there were no laws, judges or punishments.  Instead there was solidarity within the group.  In such societies, it didn’t matter whether you were a mighty hunter or somebody who could barely keep up.  Everybody was entitled to what they needed in order to survive.

Limitations on choice were imposed by circumstances—the weather, the availability of game, sickness and health—not human domination.

If you endangered the survival of the group, you might be put to death (as among Eskimos) or severely beaten (as among Crow Indians).  Other than that, there was free rein for eccentric behavior, sexual freedom, personal ambition (to be a “big man”), religious visions and the exercise of skill and courage.

Bookchin wrote in previous chapters how the elders of organic societies reinvented themselves as shamans and then as priests, while young warriors made blood oaths that took precedence over loyalty to the tribe.   As sacred kings emerged in Egypt and Mesopotamia, priests and warriors provided teachings and coercive force to support their rule.

Within the original small organic societies, everybody knew each other personally.  The larger kingdoms had need for impersonal laws, such as the Code of Hammurabi.   Legal obligations and punishments were different for nobles, common people and slaves, and for subjects of the kingdom and for strangers.

As empires expanded, the idea of impartial and universal justice emerged.

The Mosaic law in the Hebrew Bible, for example, deals mostly with obligations of the Jewish people toward one another, and distinguishes between Jews and strangers.  But the law contains other passages—inserted later?— prescribing the duty to be as just and kind to strangers as to one’s own.

There seems to be an evolution here.  Likewise, Yahweh is described at first as a jealous God and then as a just God.  What seems to be emerging is a need to morally justify the religion.

Ancient Greeks strongly believed that only they were free men by nature (Greek women weren’t free) and non-Greeks were naturally slaves.  Athenian democracy did not apply slaves, freed slaves, women or foreigners.

The conquests of Alexander the Great and his successors broke down this distinction.  They created empires that came and went, without resting on any fixed traditions or making any.

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Nations of immigrants and the future

May 17, 2016

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Hat tip to Jim Rose.

I’ve always thought of the United States as a nation particularly welcoming to immigrants, but the chart shows many other nations have proportionately larger immigrant populations than the USA.

I’m less surprised at the high ranking of Australia, New Zealand and Canada as at nations such as Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Ireland, which I’ve always thought of as ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

I’d be interested in the figures for Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries.

[Update 2016/5/19.  I came across an interesting interactive graphic, Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2015, from Pew Research Center that answers my question.  Also, I forgot about peoplemovin- A visualization of migrant flows, an interactive graphic to which I linked previously.]

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Hillary Clinton is not an incremental reformer

May 16, 2016

It is Bernie Sanders who is the incremental reformer.  Hillary Clinton is a defender of the status quo.  Too many people are fooled into thinking their disagreement is about the pace of change.

It is not.

Their disagreement is about whether there should be any change at all and, if so, in what direction.

He wants to limit corporate power.   She depends on corporate power, both for her campaign and her personal income.

acceptchange

Nothing Bernie Sanders advocates is radical.   Everything he proposes has been tried and worked, either in the USA or abroad.

He wants to enforce anti-trust laws and laws against financial frauds.  He wants to restore worker protections and corporate regulations that worked well in the late 20th century.  He wants to adopt a version of Canada’s popular and successful Medicare-for-all plan.

He does not—for better or worse—advocate drastic redistribution of wealth and power, only a halt to the growing concentration of wealth.  He is not a peace candidate nor a civil liberties candidate, although I think he would be less eager than Clinton to go to war or hunt down whistle-blowers.

Even though the reforms Sanders proposes are popular, Hillary Clinton says they are impossible.   She says Sanders is doing people a disservice by encouraging them to hope for the impossible.

Universal health care is “never, ever” going to happen, she says; restoring free tuition at state universities is an example of foolish “free this and free that”, and young people who hope for something better haven’t done the research.

Clinton depends for her income and her campaign funds on the corporate establishment.  That establishment is so dead set against even minor reforms that pushing them through will require the equivalent of a political revolution.

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In 15 years, most Americans became poorer

May 16, 2016

networth26945712056_ecb3393c4e_b

Americans are discontented because the majority of us are poorer than we were 15 years ago.

The exception consists of the 10 percent minority who had the most to begin with.

Your net worth is what you own minus what you owe, and Americans in all but the highest income brackets owe more than they did 15 years ago.

That’s especially true of a middle class person who has a home mortgage, is making car payments and is paying off a student loan.

Declining net worth means that a majority of Americans have less of a cushion if something drastic goes wrong in their lives—a layoff, a factory closing, a business downsizing.  It’s no wonder that voters turn to candidates who say they can do something about this.

Declining net worth means that sensible Americans are ceasing to go into debt to buy things they don’t really need.  This means trouble for a free market capitalist economy that depends on continual growth in consumer demand to fuel economic growth.  It’s no wonder that so many younger Americans are beginning to have doubts about whether capitalism works.

LINK

Americans Are Pissed—This Chart May Explain Why by Liz Weston for nerdwallet.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.)

US reserves right to ‘first use’ of N-weapons

May 16, 2016

Russia, China and now North Korea have renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons.   The United States has never done so.

I believe North Korea’s leaders because they would be fools to launch a nuclear attack, knowing that their nation would literally be obliterated by the USA in response.

They also would be fools to give up nuclear weapons so long as they are threatened by the USA.  Only possession of nuclear weapons prevents North Korea from meeting the fate if Iraq and Libya.

The United States has never renounced “first use” of nuclear weapons because US conventional forces are not a match for Russia’s in eastern Europe and possibly not for China’s in the South China Sea.

The U.S. government seeks to be the dominant military power in every region of the globe.  The tools for doing this are sea power, air power, flying killer drones, Special Operations troops and subsidized foreign fighters.

But the ultimate backup consists of nuclear weapons, and the power to make a credible threat to use them.  So long as this is U.S. policy, no other nation with nuclear weapons will disarm.  So long as this is U.S. policy, a global nuclear holocaust is still a possibility, just as in the days of the Cold War.

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Most of the universe is off-limits to us

May 14, 2016

Hat tip to kottke.org.

Based on our current knowledge of physics, humanity is limited to a tiny corner of the universe.   Almost all of the known universe is not only out of reach of humanity, but will someday be out of sight.

Then again, it’s not clear whether humanity will be able to maintain industrial civilization long enough to explore our own solar system, let alone reach planets of nearby stars, let alone the billions of stars in our own galaxy and milky way.

High technology depends on availability of energy, which so far depends on fuels that are in limited supply.  We don’t know whether this point in human history is the beginning of a Star Trek-type future or the high point before we revert to a primitive existence.

Or whether there will be changes and breakthroughs that send humanity on a path we can’t now imagine.

Election fraud charged in Democratic primaries

May 13, 2016

lawsuit-book-and-paperAn organization called Election Justice USA has filed a lawsuit charging election fraud in New York state’s primary election.  A reporter for Counterpunch obtained the complaint and the exhibits.  Here is what was charged:

According to Stewart McCauley, who helped collect the data and analyzed it by affidavit for Exhibit I, EJUSA has found that “[t]here are four broad methodologies that were used” to disenfranchise New York voters, the first two of which were also present in Arizona.

“Two by hackers (possibly), and two that had to have been carried out by BoE [Board of Elections] officials and/or employees:

1) Logging in (most likely after identifying the voter’s candidate of choice) to the BoE database remotely and tampering with registration records, including back-dating of changes

2) Crudely forged hand signatures to alter party affiliation via paper forms

3) BoE “nuclear” approach: actively purging eligible voters through a variety of methods, including intentional bouncing of maintenance letters (but note that the majority of our respondents/plaintiffs could not legally be removed as it has been less than five years since they registered)

4) BoE officials and employees actively neglecting to register new voters.”

Source: Counterpunch.

The whole U.S. civil order rests on public acceptance of the outcomes of elections as legitimate.   It is possible for a reform candidate to mobilize people power to overcome the built-in advantages that the rich and powerful have in the electoral process.  But that is only true if citizens can register to vote and the votes are counted.

The right to vote, and have your right counted, is the only way you have of ensuring your other rights are respected—short of revolution.

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The ever-changing views of Donald Trump

May 11, 2016

Donald Trump sometimes says things that I agree with.  He is opposed to the odious Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and other corporate free trade deals.  He thinks the invasions of Iraq and Libya were big mistakes.  He doesn’t see any reason for the United States to pick fights with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But being familiar with his record, I am convinced that the only thing I can count on Trump to do or say is whatever he thinks is in his interest at the time.

His ever-changing views represent a way of thinking that some call postmodernism, and others by a less polite name.  It is not lying, because a liar knows there is a difference between truth and falsehood.   It is saying what is expedient at the time without giving thought to what’s true and what’s false.

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Libya is Hillary Clinton’s Iraq

May 11, 2016
Hillary Clinton with Libyan soldiers in October 2011 (Reuters)

Hillary Clinton with anti-Qaddafi Libyan fighters in October 2011 (Reuters)

Since NATO-backed forces invaded Libya five years ago, the once stable and prosperous nation has been reduced to chaos and civil war.  Thousands of Libyans have been killed.  Millions are homeless and in fear of their lives.  ISIS has gained a foothold in Libya, which they never had under Muammar Qaddafi.

Hillary Clinton thinks the invasion of Libya five years ago was a success because it achieved its objective—the overthrow and death of its ruler, Muammar Qaddafi, who had opposed U.S. policy for decades.

Bernie Sanders thinks it was a mistakePresident Obama also thinks it was a mistake, but only because of failure to adequately plan for what came next.

Donald Trump thinks the main thing is to seize Libya’s oil wells, which, no doubt, is already an objective of U.S. policy, but by less obvious means.

The articles linked below tell why the Libyan intervention was a failure from the standpoint of U.S. self-interest.

The question that almost nobody asks—that I myself failed to ask at the time—is whether the United States has a moral right to wage a war of aggression against a foreign country just because somebody thinks it is in our interest to do so.

The Libyan invasion was worse than a blunder.  It was a crime.

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The legacy of domination

May 11, 2016

This is part of a chapter-by-chapter review of THE ECOLOGY OF FREEDOM: The emergence and dissolution of hierarchy by Murray Bookchin, which I’m doing in order to help myself understand it better.  I’m interested in Bookchin’s philosophy of social ecology, which seems like a kind of socialism without government or libertarianism without corporations.

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chapter five: the legacy of domination

Murray Bookchin believed that human beings first lived in what he called “organic societies”.  They lived more or less in harmony with nature and with each other.  They were “matricentric”—not ruled by women, but reflecting the motherly values of home and hearth.

By the time of ancient Israel and ancient Greece, patriarchy came into its own.  Israelite and Greek fathers had complete authority over their grown sons, including the right to banish and disinherit them for disobedience.

Women were taught the virtues of renunication, modesty and obedience, lest they become like Eve, Pandora or Circe—were regarded as sources of temptation, and were taught the virtues of renunciation, modesty and obedience.

In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh exercised the absolute authority of a patriarch, not only over a clan but over a whole nation.   Genesis told how Joseph, Pharaoh’s agent, collected and distributed food, and had food surpluses stored up so they would be available in hard times.

This became the typical pattern for the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world.  People became convinced they could not get along without a government to provide for them, Bookchin wrote.

The same attitude persists today, he added.  People think freedom is choosing the right form of government.  They do not question the need for government.

Ancient Athens was the shining exception to this, he wrote.

It is true the Athenians were patriarchal.  They did not accept slaves, former slaves, women or foreigners as equals, so were every other people they knew about.  But among themselves, they regarded each other as competent, self-reliant individuals, capable of self-management and management of public affairs.

Everything was decided in public assemblies, and the people who decided were the ones who carried out the decisions, including decisions regarding peace and war.

This represented an advance over the primitive organic societies, Bookchin wrote, because Athenian society was created and maintained intentionally and with full awareness, as the Funeral Oration of Pericles showed.

The oration was the equivalent of the Gettysburg address, paying tribute to Athenian soldiers who died in the war with Sparta.   Pericles said Athenians honored the right of the individual to strive for excellence in his own way, and they fought just as bravely as those who submitted to regimentation and hierarchy. did not hinder prevent the Athenians from fighting bravely.

But many Athenian thinkers, including Thucydides, who recorded Pericles’ oration, regarded freedom and democracy as a form of chaos, and chose order instead.

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