Archive for January, 2019

The ‘deep state’ plan to remake Latin America

January 31, 2019

Evidently the Trump administration’s demand for regime change in Venezuela was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.

It is part of a long-range plan to remake Latin America, along the lines of the failed plans to remake the Middle East.  Other targets are Cuba and Nicaragua.

At best, this will result in increased misery for millions of people who have never harmed or threatened us Americans, and an increased flow of refugees.

At worst, it will result in all these things, plus an increased Russian and Chinese presence in Latin America.

By ‘deep state,’ I mean all the U.S. military, intelligence and covert action agencies that set their own policies and operate out of sight of the U.S. public.

LINKS

Venezuelan Coup Attempt Part of US Plan to Remake Latin America by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal for Consortium News.

Sanctions Are Wars Against Peoples by Moon of Alabama.

‘You’re either for us or against us’

January 30, 2019

Every time a U.S. President targets some nation as an enemy, and tries to drag other countries into the conflict, he creates the possibility of a backlash.

“You’re either for us or against us.”  Say that too many times, and the answer is likely to be, “we’re against you.”

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Why the push for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela?

January 29, 2019

National Security Adviser John Bolton explains U.S. Venezuela policy.

I think I’ve seen this script before.  The unpopular ruler of an oil-rich country cracks down on the opposition.  The U.S. government sees an opportunity and tries to bring about a change in regime.

What can go wrong?  In Iraq, this led to an inconclusive quagmire war in which thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives.  In Libya, it led to the collapse of civil order, leaving Libyans worse off than before.  In Syria, it led to another inconclusive war, benefitting no one.   The chief result of these wars was the European refugee crisis.

Now the U.S. seems to be playing out the same script in Venezuela—doing the same as before and expecting a different result.

The Trump administration has recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro.  Guaido is indeed the leader, but that’s because the leadership is rotated among the parties, and the Trump administration’s decision happened on his watch.

To support Guaido, the administration has blocked Venezuela’s oil company from collecting revenue from its oil exports.  Instead the money goes into a blocked account until Guaido takes power.

And if he doesn’t?  “All options are on the table.”

As far as I’m concerned, this is a pass-fail test of political leadership.  Only those who oppose intervention are lovers of peace.  So far Bernie Sanders passes this test, as do Democratic Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

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A sequel to The Three Musketeers

January 25, 2019

TWENTY YEARS AFTER by Alexandre Dumas (1845) is the first sequel to The Three Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers was the first and maybe the best of the swashbuckling action-adventure novels.  I enjoyed it a lot, and I enjoyed this sequel, too.  It would make a highly enjoyable TV miniseries.

The first novel ended with the 20-year-old D’Artagnan being rewarded for her heroism with a commission as lieutenant in the King’s Musketeers.  As this one begins, he is a hardened veteran of 40, somewhat embittered  at never having been promoted further.

Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII are dead.  France is ruled by Cardinal Mazarin, an Italian, and the widowed Queen Anne, a Spaniard,  who is regent for the 10-year-old Louis XIV.

D’Artagnan happens to command a military escort to protect Mazarin from the rebellious Paris mob one night, and Mazarin, impressed by his professionalism, takes the trouble to learn his history.

He asks D’Artagnan to reassemble his team—Aramis, who’s entered the Catholic priesthood; Porthos, who’s married a rich widows; and Athos, who has resumed his life as a high-ranking nobleman.

But D’Artagnan only succeeds in recruiting Porthos.  Unknown to him, Aramis and Athos have joined the Fronde—a coalition of rebellious nobles and commoners united against oppressive taxation and foreign influence.

Mazarin wants them to carry a message to Oliver Cromwell that he will not oppose Cromwell’s overthrow of King Charles I and persecution of Catholics if Cromwell will not support the Fronde or attempt to protect French Protestants.

Also unknown to him, Cromwell’s emissary, Mordaunt, is the son of the evil Lady De Winter, who has sworn vengeance on the musketeers for supervising the execution of his mother for her crimes.

When D’Artagnan and Porthos reach England, they meet Athos and Aramis, who persuade them to change sides. 

D’Artagnan’s idea is that as a soldier, his duty is to obey orders, and that, as a Frenchman, he has no concern with what happens in England.

But Athos convinces him that he has a higher duty, a duty to the idea of royalty, which stands for everything that noble and honorable.  Oliver Cromwell, in this version, is neither; he is suspicious, cunning and ruthless, like a Mafia don.

The four attempt to save King Charles, but D’Artagnan’s various plans are thwarted by Mordaunt, who nearly succeeds in killing the four musketeers as well.

Mazarin is naturally angry at D’Artagnan’s disobedience of orders, but through a combination of force, blackmail and Queen Anne’s influence, he gets a promotion to captain and rewards for all his friends.

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Addiction, depression and the war on drugs

January 23, 2019

Hat tip to Pete’s Politics and Variety.

Johann Hari is the author of Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs (2015) and Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions (2018)

In the first book, he argued that drug addiction is not mainly a chemical dependency; it is an escape from pain and misery.  In the second, he argued that depression is not mainly a result of a chemical imbalance, it is a reaction to pain and misery.

The answer to both addiction and depression, Hari believes, is to enable people to fulfill their basic needs, material and psychological.

Late last year he was in Brazil, promoting the Portuguese-language version of Lost Connections, and did a wide-ranging interview with Glenn Greenwald about addiction, depression and drug policy.

The most interesting part, to me, starts at about the 38 minute mark.  It is about Switzerland’s successful drug legalization policy, which began in 1991.  

In Switzerland, a heroin addict can visit a clinic and get a medically-supervised injection of heroin.  This does not, as I might have thought, lead to an increase in heroin use.  Just the opposite!

The reason is that Switzerland uses the money saved from not enforcing drug laws to help addicts obtain jobs. housing and therapy.  Over time they commonly find they no longer want to escape from reality.

This fits in with the famous “rat park” experiment.  Scientists found that rats in cages prefer heroin to food and water to the point where they literally will die of starvation.  But one scientist decided to create a “rat park,” containing everything that might constitute a good life from a rat’s point of view.  Happy rats had no interest in heroin.

Unfortunately I don’t think such an experiment is feasible in the United States.  The reason is that millions of Americans, maybe a majority of the population, are stressed and fearful.  Many can’t pay their medical bills.  Many are burdened with student debt. Many are losing ground economically.

I think they would be very jealous if the minority of the population who are addicted to drugs are guaranteed jobs, housing and even drugs themselves.  It is actually more practical to make things better for the American public as a whole than for a targeted group, such as addicts.

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What does the US want all these bases for?

January 21, 2019

Click to enlarge

This map appeared in Smithsonian Magazine’s current issue, and represents a conservative estimate of the extent of U.S. military power.

It shows the U.S. military has a presence in 80 countries.  But Nick Turse, a reporter whose work is published in TomDispatch, was told that the total is really “more than 160” countries.

He said it’s impossible to get an exact number of the bases, the names of the countries in which they are located or even the number of countries in which they’re located.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there is no single individual in the Pentagon who actually has a complete list.

“Because we have been conservative in our estimates, U.S. efforts to combat terrorism abroad are likely more extensive than this map shows,” the Smithsonian writers stated.  “Even so, the vast reach evident here may prompt Americans to ask whether the war on terror has met its goals and whether they are worth the human and financial costs.”

The question is just what those goals are.  Is the worldwide network of bases intended to wage war on terror, or is the war on terror a means to the goal of creating a worldwide network of bases?  Do they make the U.S. more secure, or more likely to be drawn into foreign conflict?

While the U.S. is building bases worldwide at the expense of the American taxpayer, China is building infrastructure throughout Africa and Asia by means of loans to be paid back by the host country.

LINKS

This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism by Stephanie Savell and SW Infographics for Smithsonian Magazine.

Bases, Bases Everywhere….Except in the Pentagon’s Report by Nick Turse for TomDispatch.

Has the Government Legalized Secret Defense Spending? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Why the U.S. shouldn’t build any more foreign bases by Akhilesh Pillalamarri for Defense News.

A giant floating ice disk forms in Maine

January 19, 2019

This video, taken last weekend, shows a massive spinning ice disk in the Presumptscot River near Westbrook, Maine, which is just west of Portland.  Local residents say it is 100 yards across, which would make it possibly the largest such ice disk on record.  Wonders never cease.

Click on A Massive Naturally Occurring Ice Carousel by Jason Kottke for more information.

Why I’ve given up watching network TV news

January 18, 2019

I recommend you view this in the enlarged version, if you can’t see the dates of the various short clips in the upper right corner of the screen.

 I’m not a supporter of President Trump, but this is ridiculous..

A closer look at Tulsi Gabbard’s war on terror

January 17, 2019

After the 9/11 attacks, almost the whole world proclaimed its solidarity with the United States, including leading Muslim clerics and pro-US sympathizers in Iran.

This would have been a great opportunity for the United States to lead the world in suppressing Al Qaeda and other jihadist terrorists.

 Instead the George W. Bush administration chose to use the “war on terror” as an excuse to invade Iraq.  The Obama administration actually armed jihadist terrorists to overthrow the governments of Libya and Syria.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii and a long-shot candidate for President, wants to replace the bogus war on terror with a real war on terror.

After serving with the U.S. military in Iraq, she concluded that intervention was a mistake.  She opposed “regime change” proxy wars against Libya and Syria.  She courageously questioned the official narrative about chemical weapons in Syria.

After some misgivings, she endorsed the nuclear deal with Iran.  She opposes U.S. support for the Saudi war on Yemen.

She is not a peace candidate.  She just wants to replace the bogus war on terror with a real one.

She has praised President Assad of Syria for fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Nusra (successors to Al Qaeda) fighters.  She has praised President el-Sisi of Egypt for suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood.  She is aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, a radical authoritarian anti-Muslim nationalist.

She favors drone warfare and continued Special Operations missions against terrorists.  She has said that the root of terrorism is in “radical Islam” and criticized President Obama for his refusal to use that word.

The Al Qaeda terrorists were in fact members of an extremist Muslim sect, the Wahhabis or Salafists, who are the established religion of Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis have promoted their version of Islam all over the world, especially in Pakistan.

This is true, but it is not the whole truth.  Just being an extreme Muslim authoritarian doesn’t make you a terrorist.  The reason terrorism has cut an appeal is the U.S. military presence in so many majority-Muslim lands, U.S. manipulation of so many majority-Muslim governments and the death and destruction caused by U.S. forces in so many Muslim lands.

U.S. policy serves the interests of Saudi Arabia more than it does Americans.  That’s because of a long-standing deal, going back to the 1970s, in which the Saudis agree to guarantee an oil supply, buy U.S. weapons and keep the oil profits in dollars in return for U.S. military support.

Gabbard is right to oppose wars to serve Saudi interests.  Her policy would be an improvement over Trump’s, Obama’s and George W. Bush’s.  She is not a peace candidate, but right now she is closer to being one than any of other candidates I know about.

At the same time, her policy is compatible with maintaining the Pentagon budget and the military contractor establishment in all its bloated glory.

Killing terrorists, in and of itself, won’t end terrorism, any more than killing drug dealers will end drug addiction.

LINKS

Tulsi Gabbard Wikipedia page.

Tulsi Gabbard and the Great Foreign Policy Realignment by James P. Pinkerton for The American Conservative.

Tulsi Gabbard, controversial 2020 Democratic candidate, explained by Zack Beauchamp for Vox.

Tulsi Gabbard Is Not Your Friend by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.

Yes, Tulsi Gabbard Opposed the Iran Deal by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin [Added 1/19/2019]

Maybe the shutdown is a goal, not a tactic

January 17, 2019

I criticized President Trump in a previous post for being willing to close down the government and possibly declaring a national emergency in order to get his way on building fences along the southern border.

But maybe I’ve got things backwards.  Maybe the goal is not to build more border fence, but to shut down the government and declare a national emergency.  This increases his power and frees him from constitutional checks and balances.

I’m not saying this is his plan.  I’m saying his actions are consistent with him having such a plan.

His administration has ordered tens of thousands of federal employees to work without pay, which from his point of view is an ideal situation.  It shifts the cost of the shutdown onto others and shelters him from the political consequences of his nation.

Right-wing plutocrats don’t care about government employees and they don’t care whether the government is well-administered or not.  They regard government regulations as a nuisance and government services as unnecessary.

If government fails to work under their watch, they can say that this just proves that government is a failure.

This also was the attitude of President George W. Bush to some extent.  One thing you can say for President Obama is that he appointed highly qualified people to top administrative positions, and that he was concerned that the government work.

Civil servants don’t advertise.  We the citizens don’t appreciate or even know all the ways we depend on them quietly doing their jobs.  We scorn public service at our peril.

LINKS

The Government Shutdown Is Bad, But It Could Get Much Worse by Bloomberg News.

A Shutdown for the 99 Percent, Concierge Government for the 1 Percent by Eoin Higgins for The Intercept.

Inside Trump’s Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.’s Scientists by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair.

Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From the White House by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair.

Bad news for Gannett, my old employer

January 16, 2019

Gannett Co., which owns the newspaper on which I worked for 24 years, may be bought out by Digital News Media, which is owned by a hedge fund and is known for ruthless cost-cutting.

On Monday, Digital First Media offered $1.36 billion for Gannett.  The Associated Press reported it claims it can run Gannett more profitably through cost-cutting and consolidation of operations.

Gannett is known for its flagship newspaper, USA Today, but it also owns many other dailies, including the Democrat and Chronicle here in Rochester, N.Y.  Its profits and circulation are falling.

Things are already tough for the D&C.  The reporters do a good job with what they have, but they are stretched thin and the paper has less space for news.  The newspaper is night-and-day different from what it was when I joined it back in 1974.  But things could get worse—much worse—under the new owner.

[Digital First Media co-founder William Dean] Singleton was a pioneer in “clustering”: developing groups of newspapers that centralized a variety of functions, including production, ad sales, business operations and, in some cases, editorial.

For example, the Alameda Newspaper Group in suburban San Francisco in the mid-1990s had a central newsroom in Pleasanton, California, that did all the copy editing, layout and page makeup for five daily papers.  Upon acquiring the diverse group of papers, Singleton consolidated several news sections (such as sports and features) to one local office away from the metropolitan area, having a few reporters do the job of many people.

Source: Digital First Media – Wikipedia

I wonder what would happen to my Gannett pension if the buyout went through.  The company doesn’t have any contractual obligation to pay it.  But I still would have my Social Security pension and my savings, so I’d be more secure than those actually working for Gannett.

When I was a reporter, I felt sure that if I did a reasonably good job, my job would be safe.  That’s certainly not true of people working in journalism today.

I’m glad I was able to work on newspapers when I did and I’m glad I was able to retire when I did.  I lived in a golden age and didn’t know it.

LINKS

Digital First Media Wikipedia page.

Gannett Wikipedia page.

Company known for deep cost-cutting offers to buy Gannett by Mae Anderson for the Associated Press.

Digital First Media Gannett bid too low, cost cuts likely unrealistic, analysts say by Mike Snider for USA Today.

Tulsi Gabbard is more of an anti-war candidate

January 15, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, is more of an anti-war candidate than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or any other presidential candidate who has announced so far.

She opposes “regime change wars” on principle, which no other high-profile politician has been willing to say since Rep. Ron Paul left Congress.  Such wars, as she pointed out in the interview, have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous suffering to ordinary people in the Middle East and elsewhere without making Americans safer or better off.

Ending regime change wars would be a big change for the better, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean giving up the U.S. empire of bases and cutting back the U.S. military mission to defense of the homeland and fulfilling treaty obligations to allies.  If you really want to crush Al Qaeda’s successors and imitators, the first step would be to stop arming them to so as to bring about regime change.

Most of the commentary on Gabbard’s announcement ignored all of this.  Instead it focused on her opposition to gay rights moe than 15 years ago..

She is one of a number of people who was raised as a social conservative, and changed their minds over a period of years.  I can understand this, because my own opinions, including on LGBT issues, have changed in the past 15 years.  But some commentators think this will sink her campaign before it gets started.

Gabbard comes from an unusual background.  According to her Wikipedia page, her father is part Samoan and a Catholic; her mother is a convert to Hinduism.  She was elected to the Hawaii state legislature at the age of 21, then was deployed to Iraq as a member of the Hawaii National Guard.  She is now serving her fourth term in Congress.

In 2016, she resigned from the Democratic National Committee in order to support Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president.

The video of of an interview with Joe Rogan gives a good overview of what she believes.  It runs an hour and 43 minutes, a little long to watch on a small screen.  Here are starting points of the highlights:

  • 7mn.  Why North Korea has nuclear weapons
  • 9mn.  Regime change wars (the key segment)
  • 22mn.  Authorizing war with Iran
  • 30mn.  Russian troll farms.
  • 32mn.  Why she supported Bernie Sanders
  • 49mn.  Paper ballots and electronic voting
  • 1hr4mn  Pros and cons of universal basic income
  • 1hr13mn  Affordable higher education and health care
  • 1hr22mn  Threats to civil liberties
  • 1hr33mn  Legalizing marijuana

I agree with everything she said in the Joe Rogan interview and most of her views as given on her Wikipedia page.

My main concern about her is her praise of the authoritarian nationalist government of President Narendra Modi of India and her alignment with  Hindu nationalists in the Indian-American community, which is reportedly a large source of her funding.  I also object to her statement in a 2014 interview that torture may be justified under certain circumstances.

Aside from this, I’m favorably impressed with her, not only because I think she is right on policy, but because of her calm, self-assured and well-informed way of answering questions.  Also, that she was not afraid to say “I don’t know.”

Win or lose, she will force the Democrats to debate war and peace issues on a more fundamental level than before.

LINKS

Tulsi Gabbard Wikipedia page.

Five Reasons I’m Excited About Tulsi Gabbard’s Candidacy by Caitlin Johnstone.  Lots of good links with this.

Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 Campaign May Be Over Before It Starts by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone.

Tulsi Gabbard Is a Rising Progressive Star, Despite Her Ties to Hindu Nationalists by Soumya Shankar for The Intercept.  Why her ties to right-wing Hindu nationalists are troubling.

Donald Trump and the power of sociopathy

January 15, 2019

Donald Trump is what I call a sociopath.

This not a psychiatric diagnosis, but an observation that he cares nothing for moral and ethical rules, for the law, for his pledged word, for objective facts or for the consequences of his actions to other people.

The power of a sociopath is that normal people have norms of behavior—at least to some extent—and don’t know how to deal with people who don’t recognize norms.

President Trump’s signature pledge during the 2016 presidential campaign was that he would solve the problem of unauthorized immigration by building a wall along the southern border, and make Mexico pay for it.

The cost of building a physical barrier along the entire 1,900-mile border with Mexico would be enormous.  The idea that Mexico can be compelled to pay for it is absurd.

Yet he is willing to close down the government and threaten to declare a national emergency in order to build a barrier along a relatively small portion of the border.  It is more important to him to win this symbolic victory than to have a functioning government.   He doesn’t really care whether the United States has a functioning government at all.

But the fact that establishment Washington politicians and journalists put up so little resistance to Trump shows how little these supposed norms have come to mean.

During the Bush and Obama administrations, the “norms” included invasions and proxy wars against countries that did not threaten us Americans, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, maybe a million all told, who never harmed us.  It meant prosecution of whistleblowers for telling the truth about abuse of governmental power.  It meant refusal to prosecute financial fraud and other crimes committed by members of the financial elite.

There is little that the Trump administration is doing, including governmental shutdowns, that does not have some sort of precedent.  What the Trump administration shows us is how acceptable sociopathy has become.

LINKS

What Is a Government Shutdown? by Kimberly Amadeo for The Balance.

Government shutdown: the border wall fight explained by Dara Lind for Vox.

Biggest Effects of the Government Shutdown by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone.

Here’s What’s Really Happening at the Border by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

The Wall May Be a Waste, But It Is not a Crisis by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

Wall B.S. and the Politics of 2020 by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

Why Pelosi and Schumer Should Back Down Now by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire.

Top Democrats once voted for a border fence

January 14, 2019

This photo, published in 2011, shows a section of the border barrier built under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

In the debate over a southern border wall, we might remember that 650 miles of “fence” already has been built along the border with Mexico, and many top Democrats voted to authorize it.

The barrier was built under the Secure Fencing Act of 2006, which was proposed by President George W. Bush and supported by a majority of Democrats, including Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein, and also by then-Rep. Sherrod Brown.

Admittedly there’s a difference between a wall and a fence—although what President Trump means by a wall isn’t completely clear.

And, to be sure, some Democrats opposed the 2006 law, including Rps. Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi and Senators Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and John Kerry.

Even so, with this history, it’s hard for me to see why the Democratic leadership chose this particular issue to go to the wall over (so to speak).

The bill was part of a package that included a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the United States and stricter controls on new unauthorized immigration, including the border fence.

In 2011, President Obama declared the fence had been completed, but his opponents claimed the result wasn’t what Congress intended.

The original bill called for a double row of fencing, but it also gave the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to choose alternatives if deemed more suitable for the location.  Only 36 miles were built as double fencing.  Federal officials said the fence includes 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence.

The U.S.-Mexican border in its entirety is about 1,950 miles long.

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The mirage of “electability”

January 11, 2019
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I don’t think much or have much to say about “electability.”   If I were a politician considering who to support, I’d have to think about it.
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As a mere voter, I just vote for the candidates I think would be best, based on their platform, record and proposals.  Voting “strategically” means voting based on a guess as to how others will vote.  We who vote our own minds have some influence, however small, on who are and who are not electable.
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My litmus test for who I’d support is twofold:
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  • Would they try to break the financial and corporate oligarchy’s lock on public policy and are they willing to do without donations from financial and corporate interests?
  • Would they try to break the military-intelligence complex’s lock on foreign and military policy and give up the goal of world military domination.
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The only prospective candidates I know who meet the first test are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in that order.  Neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren is a real peace candidate, although they are less militaristic that the Democratic leadership as a whole, which nowadays is even more hawkish than Republicans.
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The odds are against any truly progressive candidate.  Any progressive candidate will have to fight the power of big money, a political system rigged against them and a mainstream press aligned against them.
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Any progressive candidate is going to be under attack for irrelevant reasons, such as the BernieBros smear and the Pocahontas smear.  If someone else occupied the same niche as Sanders or Warren, something equivalent would a tagged to them.  Right now there’s a frantic search going on for something to hang on Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
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If you’re a progressive, there are two reasons to support a candidate who stands for what you believe in.  The first is that the candidate might just win.  The second is help to shift public opinion by raising questions and presenting fact that the public doesn’t usually hear.  Hammer away at public opinion long enough, and winning follows.
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The Green Party is widely regarded as the lunatic fringe.  But its idea of a Green New Deal has become mainstream.  Bernie Sanders was regarded as a crackpot for proposing Medicare for all.  Now this idea is mainstream, too.
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The current discussion as to which Democratic politician is “electable” is like a discussion of who should play the lead role in a movie or TV mini-series like the West Wing.  Do we want a likable old white guy with a working-class background (Joe Biden)?  Or a hard-nosed prosecutor who happens to be a black woman (Kamala Harris)?  Or maybe a sophisticated younger black man at home in the worlds of politics and finance (Corey Booker, Deval Patrick)?  Or maybe an appealing Kennedyesque young guy from Texas (Beto O’Rourke)?  Or an actual Mexican-American from the Southwest (Julian Castro)?
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None of these candidates is being promoted on the basis of their record or their platform
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News coverage of elections is largely based on who can win or who is likely to win.  It should be based on giving the public enough information that they can judge who should win.
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LINKS
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What Does Electability Mean in 2020? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.
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Thoughts on Warren and Sanders: How Much Change Is Needed in 2021? by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny!
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Should the Left Unite Behind Elizabeth Warren? by Eric Levitz for New York magazine.

Behind the BernieBros smear

January 11, 2019

[Introduction revised 1/15/2019]

Bernie Sanders supporters been dogged by the “BernieBros” tag, the idea that they opposed Hillary Clinton because they’re prejudiced against women.

Lambert Strether, writing on the Naked Capitalism web log, noted a recent charge of sexual harassment within the Sanders campaign and pointed out how easy these charges are to make and how hard to refute.

He predicted that the Sanders campaign is going to be singled out for such charges because supporters of the status quo regard him as a threat.  Here is what he wrote—

“Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate” [Politico]. “The woman did not report the incident at the time because the campaign was over. But over the past several months, [convention floor leader Robert Becker], who is not on Sanders’ payroll, has been calling potential staffers and traveling to early primary states to prepare for another presidential run — activities that Sanders’ top aides did not endorse, but did not disavow, either.”

• Apparently, nobody seems to have written Sanders a letter.  Odd.

Lambert here: Since the story will be weaponized, I’m going to put questions of truth or falsity aside.  A few comments:

(1) It was inevitable that #MeToo would merge with oppo. Now it has. A narrative initially framed as applying to a toxic campaign culture generally (whatever “toxic” means) has oddly, or not, been applied, at least in national venues, only to the Sanders campaign. (Contrast the two sex and meth deaths at Clinton donor Ed Buck’s house, where coverage has remained local to Los Angeles.)

(2) If Sanders and his campaign-in-waiting think this line of attack will go away, or can be dealt either by pointing to improvements made in the Sanders Senate 2018 campaign or by keeping relentlessly on-message regarding policy, they are naïve in the extreme.

(3) There will be more. That’s what Operation Mockingbird and Cointelpro tell us.  From today’s post on the “Integrity Initiative“: “[Simon Bracey-Lane] appeared on the American political scene as a field worker for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary run, earning media write-ups as the “Brit for Bernie.”   Now, the young operator was back in the US as the advance man for a military-intelligence cut-out that specialized in smearing left-wing political figures like Jeremy Corbyn.” Anybody who thinks Bracey-Lane was the only sleeper in the Sanders campaign — or Democratic Socialists of America, for that matter — is also naïve in the extreme.  There were surely more.  Some of them will be anxious to share their stories (and then go on book tours).  The same will be true of political mercenaries generally.

(4) The Clinton operation dealt successfully with respected party elder Bill Clinton’s workplace abuse issues and rapes by attacking the women The Big Dog abused and assaulted. (James Carville: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”)  Hopefully the Sanders campaign can do better.

(5) Doing better than the Clintons would imply not counter-attacking the accusers.  If it were possible, I’d “shoot the messengers” (“#MeTools”) doing the weaponizing.  I think that’s the recommendation 2016 Sanders advisor Adolph Reed has been working up to (see this important article from Reed I flagged yesterday: “There’s no point trying to communicate with those whose resistance stems from such material investment; no matter what their specific content, their responses to class critique always amount to the orderly Turkle’s lament to McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—’This is my f*cking job!’”)  It’s not clear to me that shooting the messengers will work, though it would be interesting to know how trusted the press is by the Sanders base.

(6) It’s also not clear to me what Sanders should do, other than hire somebody to deal with the matter, ideally a person both identitarian-proof and ruthlessly effective.  Sanders also needs to get the idea firmly fixed in his mind that he is not in the Senate now, and there is no comity.

Source: 2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2019 | naked capitalism

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Are police shootings only a race issue?

January 9, 2019

African-American men are shot dead by American police at a much higher rate than white men.  Almost everybody knows this, or should.

In 2012, according to FBI data, African-Americans were 13 percent of the population, but 31 percent of those were shot dead by police, and 39 percent of those shot dead who weren’t attacking.   

But what about shootings of white men?  Are they all justified?  Should we be worried about them?

The World Socialist Web Site pointed out that in some areas of the USA, poor white men are at just as much risk of being killed by police, or even greater risk, as black men.

[There is a] vast and rising death toll among working-class white men in rural and small-town America, who are being killed by police at rates that approach those of black men in urban areas.

Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men.

Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates. What unites these victims of police violence is not their race, but their class status (as well as, of course, their gender).

Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer who now teaches criminal justice at CUNY, reported that the states with the highest-rates of police killings have lower-than-average black populations, and the states with the higher percentages of black people have lower-than-average rates of police killings.

Utah has a murder and violence rate below the national average, a low poverty rate, and is 90 percent white. And yet people in Utah are almost five times as likely an in New York to be killed by a cop.  Utah has murder rate lower than NYC, 1/5 the poverty rate, far fewer cops, and Utah is 90% white.  In 2018, the rate of people shot and killed by police in Utah is multiple times higher than NYC.

I’d speculate significant variables are (in no particular order) training, fewer cops per capita, fewer cops per mile (no backup), one-person patrol, more guns, gun culture, more meth, more booze, and race (with more white states having more police-involved shootings).

The ten leading states — as in cops most shootingest states — in rank order, are New Mexico, Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, West Virginia, Montana and Idaho.  It certainly seems like if we were to focus on the states that have the highest rates of police-involved shootings (and by far), we could find some low-hanging fruit to reduce the number of said shootings.  But to do this we’d have stop thinking of police-involved shootings as primarily related to race.

Collectively the top-10 states are 4.9 percent African-American (compared to 13 percent nationally). These are the cowboy states out west. The 10 states with the highest percentage of black population (collectively 25%) have a rate of police-involved homicide (0.24) that is below the national average.

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Why do we whites refuse to admit we’re racists?

January 5, 2019

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Robin DiAngelo has spent more than 20 years conducting diversity workshops in which she tries to explain to white people that they are intrinsically racist.

By her own account, she has been unsuccessful.  But she does not see this as an example of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

She maintains in her new book, WHITE FRAGILITY: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018), the the stubborn refusal of white people to admit their racism just goes to show how racist they are.

∞∞∞

Historically, racism was an ideology that said that humanity was divided into races, and that the white race was superior to the black race.  It came into existence to justify slavery and colonialism.  

Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, among others, were proud racists.

Racist ideology fell into disfavor after the war against Nazi Germany and the 1960s struggle against segregation.  

DiAngelo says racist attitudes persist in the form of unconscious prejudice, even among liberal white people who think we’re anti-racist.

She says a white person can have black friends, be nice to black people and oppose to racial discrimination in any form and still have false derogatory opinions about black people and behave in ways that make black people feel uncomfortable and stressed.

This is true—as far as it goes.  

It is true of me.  

White people, myself included, ought to welcome feedback on how we are perceived by black people and what we may be assuming that isn’t true.  To the extent that she provides this, she is doing a good thing.

The book’s main value consists of DiAngelo’s many stories of ways in which white people unknowingly insult or condescend to black people, and the lessons to be learned from this.

∞∞∞

Why do liberal white people resist her message?

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One problem is her vocabulary.

When you accuse white people of being “racist,” you are putting them in the same category as the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Brotherhood.  I don’t react well to that, and neither do most white people.

DiAngelo says this is a misunderstanding.  When she calls people “racist,” she says, she does not intent to imply that we are bad people, and she we shouldn’t react as if she was.

But it is her choice to use such highly-charged words as “racism” and “white supremacy” rather than milder words such as “implicit bias” or “racial insensitivity.”  Such language puts people on the moral defensive, and I’m pretty sure that’s her intent.

She says she is not making a moral statement, but she is saying is that (1) whites—all whites—harbor attitudes that produce great evils in the world, (2) we need to change, but (3) in fact we never can—not completely.  

This is akin to the theological doctrine of original sin.  For her, being a racist, like being a sinner, is something you are, not something you do.  In the Christian context, awareness of sin and repentance is followed by redemption.  But for DiAngelo, there is no redemption.  Whites can diminish, but never eliminate their inherent racist sinfulness.

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