Hat tip for this to my friend Julie Todoro.
Archive for April, 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:
- Puritans 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.
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.
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.
Hillary 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.
Source: Marginal Revolution.
This is the motto of the School of International Relations of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
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.
There are three possible ways to interpret these two statements.
- Hillary Clinton sincerely opposed gay marriage in 2004, but changed her mind and sincerely supports gay marriage in 2016.
- 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.
- 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?
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
Democrats who support Bernie Sanders, but don’t expect him to win, say that his contribution will be to pull Hillary Clinton to the left.
If she has to be pulled to the left, that means her heart lies elsewhere.
She may change in campaign rhetoric in response to Sanders. But if you know that is the reason for the rhetoric, how much can you really trust it.
Big Wall Street banks and other industry groups have literally given her millions of dollars in speaking fees—the content of which she refuses to reveal.
She challenges opponents to give an instance in which a money contribution changed her decision. Of course that’s not how the system works. Elected and appointed officials make decisions based on their own judgment, and then those who benefit from those decisions do things that express their gratitude for services rendered and their anticipation of future benefits.
Hillary Clinton is in the upper 1 percent of income earners, but the people she hangs out with are in the upper 0.1 percent. In her social circles, she may well find herself the most liberal person in the room and the least well-off person in the room. That still doesn’t mean she has anything in common with real reformers or real people struggling to make ends meet.
For the past 25 years, Clinton-Obama Democrats have told us that what we have now is the best we can hope for, and we should vote for them because the alternative is something worse.
If you believe that, by all means vote for Hillary Clinton. But don’t kid yourself that she represents fundamental change or can be pushed into representing fundamental change
If she were to become an opponent of the financial oligarchy and an advocate of peace, she would not be “pulled to the left.” She would have undergone a radical, life-changing conversion.
The first third of your campaign is money, money, money.
The second third is money, money, money.
The final is votes, press, and money.
Source: Rahm Emanuel
In American presidential nominating process, there are two primaries. One is to determine who can get the most votes. The other is to determine who can raise the most money, it is virtually impossible to campaign for votes without money.
I visited the Open Secrets web site to learn how the candidates are faring in the money primary, and where their money support is coming from, which is a better indicator of where they stand than their campaign rhetoric.
Hillary Clinton is the front-runner in the money primary, having raised $222.6 million as of the end of February. She received $48.7 million from just 20 donors, representing a range of financial institutions, labor unions and charitable foundations.
Her top contributor was Soros Fund Management, headed by the billionaire speculator George Soros, which gave her campaign $7 million.
Organizations aren’t permitted to give directly to candidates. The Soros donation, and all the organization donations I mention in this post, are totals of donations by Political Action Committees and by officers, employees and their families.
Bernie Sanders is the runner-up. He raised $140.2 million, of which $92.6 million came from small donations, which are defined as donations of $200 or less.
His top contributor was Alphabet Inc. (formerly known as Google). Sanders doesn’t accept PAC money, so Alphabet’s $254,614 contribution was all from officers and employees. His other top contributors were the University of California, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.
Ted Cruz is the front-runner among Republicans. He raised just under $120 million. Just three companies contributed $36.1 million of that. His top contributor was Wilks Brothers, a fracking company, which gave $15,069,000. Its owners are strong supporters of the religious political right.
Donald Trump hasn’t bothered much with fund-raising so far. He received $36.7 million, which included a $24.7 million loan – a loan, not a gift – from his personal funds. His top contributor was Manchester Financial Group, a real estate developer, which gave $50,000.
John Kasich raised $22 million, including $1 million from the Boich Companies, a coal marketing and trading business.
Of the three remaining Republican candidates, John Kasich has the least chance of being nominated, but would have the best chance of winning if somehow he were nominated.
The reason is that voters dislike Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. They don’t dislike Kasich. In fact, he is the least disliked of all the candidates.
A Pew Research poll found that John Kasich is the only one of the five remaining major-party candidates of whom more people who think he’s make a great or good President than a poor or terrible President.
His net favorability rating is 13 percent, meaning that 33 percent of voters polled think he’d be great or good and only 20 percent think he’d be poor or terrible.
That is better than Bernie Sanders, who breaks even, or Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, who have net unfavorability ratings of 7 percent, 13 percent and 33 percent.
Pew Research found that 59 percent of those polled think Donald Trump would make a poor or terrible President. Only 20 percent think John Kasich would be poor or terrible.
Another recent poll indicates that voters would prefer Kasich, but not Trump or Cruz, to Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Kasich is serving his second term as governor of Ohio. Before that he served eight terms in Congress, representing the 12 congressional district, which consists of suburban counties north and east of Columbus.
He is a conservative Republican, a defender of the status quo. He is a scourge of Planned Parenthood, but no threat to either Wall Street or the military industrial complex. I would not vote for him, but he does have certain merits.
Opponents of Ted Cruz link him to Dominionism, a little-known Christian theology espoused by his father, the Rev. Rafael Cruz, a traveling Pentecostal preacher and lecturer.
They’re circulating videos of a sermon that Rev. Cruz gave at a Dallas-area mega-church, New Beginnings, in 2012, about how true Christians are “anointed kings” whom God has appointed to take dominion over the earth.
When I watched the short version of the video, which at the top of this post, I found his ideas both strange and alarming. When I watched the complete version, which starts at the one-hour point in the next video, my alarm was a lot less.
Rafael Bienvenido Cruz was born in Cuba in 1939 and raised a Roman Catholic. He came to the United States in 1957, worked his way through the University of Texas and went into the oil business. He married, fathered two children and divorced, then married a second wife, Eleanor Darragh Wilson. They were in the oil business in Calgary, Alberta, when Ted was born in 1970.
Somewhere along the line Cruz lost his religion. He had a drinking problem, left his wife and 3-year-old son and returned to Houston. He accepted a co-workers’ invitation to join a Bible study group, had an epiphany and became an Evangelical Protestant. He turned his life around and invited his wife and son to rejoin him. Ted Cruz said that if not for his father’s conversion, he would have been raised by a single mother.
Rev. Cruz accepts a theology called Dominionism. In the sermon, he said that God has created “anointed priests” and “anointed kings” with dominion over society He said is the right and duty of the “anointed kings” to “go into the marketplace and … take dominion over it” as part of an “end-times transfer of wealth”.
That’s the short version. If you have the patience to watch the long version, you’ll see that what this means in practice is that people become “anointed warriors” by being baptized in a church and pledging to turn over a large portion of their income to the “anointed priests,” the pastors of their.
The test of faith, according to Cruz, is how much of your income you are willing to turn over to the “anointed priest”. A tithe (10 percent) is the minimum, half your income is desirable and there are those who give 90 percent.
When you make the commitment, you will move immediately from the “land of not enough” and “the land of just enough” to the kingdom of abundance. The priest, of course, does not use the money for his own benefit, but to advance God’s purposes.
This is foolish and sad. I don’t question Rev. Cruz’s sincerity. But a lot of people who believe this will be disappointed. I wonder what Rev. Cruz will say to poor people who give to the church at great financial sacrifice in the hope of becoming “anointed kings” and then find they are still poor. Perhaps that their faith was not strong enough!.
[Added 4/14/2016] I think that of all the five current Democratic and Republican candidates, Ted Cruz would do the most harm if elected. The reason is that he says what he means, and means what he says. When he speaks of carpet-bombing and torture, it is not hyperbole. He should be taken literally.
The post-Reagan Republican Party has been supported by three pillars—(1) the so-called neo-conservatives who think there is a military solution to all problems, (2) the so-called neo-liberals, who think there is a corporate solution to all problems, and (3) the so-called religious right, who think there is a Biblical solution to all problems.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is a hard-line supporter of all three, but his championship of the religious right is what is most politically significant, both for him and for religious conservatives.
The reason is that the interests of military contractors and Wall Street bankers are well-represented in both parties, but fundamental Christian preachers are represented only in the Republican Party and, from their standpoint, not too well. Unlike the military and high finance, they are not part of the so-called “deep state“.
Ted Cruz’s platform on his web site gives
more information about the specifics of where he stands than that of any of the other candidates. It shows that he has obviously given a lot of thought not just to what he believes, but how he would accomplish it.
That makes him a more formidable candidate than Donald Trump, who answers questions about policy as if he were thinking about the issues for the very first time.
I have respect Cruz as a intelligent and committed ideological warrior. But adoption of his political program would mean perpetual quagmire war, upward redistribution of wealth and a vain and divisive attempt to enforce the morality of an earlier America.
Donald Trump has warned of riots if the Republican national convention denies him the nomination. And he has called upon supporters to converge on Cleveland July 18-21 to engage in non-violent protest if that happens.
But Trump to date has won only 37 percent of the Republican vote that has been cast. In what universe is 37 percent a majority?
Although he has won only 37 percent of the vote, he has 45 percent of the pledged delegates to date. On what basis does he claim the system is rigged against him?
If a candidate lacks a majority of pledged delegates and also a majority of the popular vote, and the other delegates absolutely do not want him, on what theory are they obligated to vote for him anyway?
The purpose of a nominating convention is to nominate a candidate. Why would Republicans in 2016 abdicate that responsibility?