Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

An outsider’s view of the U.S. election

October 18, 2016

Hat tip for the video to peteybee.

Tariq Ali is a distinguished British left-wing writer, born in Pakistan, who has lived in London for the past 50 or so years.  In this commentary, he sums up the issues in the U.S. election calmly, objectively and accurately.

He refutes progressives who say that anybody who fails to support Hillary Clinton is objectively a supporter of Donald Trump.

It is as if the two leading candidates were Richard Nixon and George Wallace, and leading liberal politicians and newspapers accused anybody who criticized Nixon of being pro-Wallace.

My great fear is not that Trump will win the current election, but that he and his supporters will become the main alternatives to the status quo.

There is a real possibility Hillary Clinton will blunder into nuclear war with Russia.   Even if that can be avoided, we can expect more military intervention and failure to cope with the next recession.  Her policies will make the Trump movement stronger—unless progressives can offer a better way.

Why white supremacists support Donald Trump

October 18, 2016

A good article in Mother Jones tells how Donald Trump has sought and received the support of avowed white supremacists.

Nowadays the word “racist” is used very loosely, like the word “Communist” during the McCarthy era.   I’ve even been called a “racist” myself in conversation a couple of times.  By “racist”, I mean people who state that members of certain races are genetically inferior and should not have equal rights.   Such racists exist.   And Donald Trump has successfully sought their support.

He has done this by quoting them (without attribution) and by using their talking points.   An example of this was an infographic, taken from a white supremacist Twitter feed, falsely claiming that blacks were responsible for 81 percent of homicides of whites.  The truth is that 82 percent of homicides of whites are the result of white-on-white crime.   But Trump refused to back down or retract in the face of the facts.

That is not to say that the mass of Trump supporters are racists, any more than the mass of Clinton supporters are war hawks and plutocrats.   That’s not the issue.   The issue is whether Trump as President or, more likely, as a permanent opposition voice will promote racism.


How Donald Trump Took Hate Groups Mainstream by Sarah Posner and David Neiwrt for Mother Jones.

Time for another Reconstruction?

October 14, 2016

Black people in the South were liberated during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War.   It was followed by a white backlash and the Jim Crow era, in which most of their newly won rights were taken away.

Then came the civil rights era of the 1960s and 1970s, which the Rev. William J. Barber, leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, calls a second Reconstruction.  Another white backlash attacked the gains from that era.

wbarber-3rdreconstruction978-080708360-4Rev. Mr. Barber says it is time for a third Reconstruction.   Like the first two, he said, it requires fusion politics—blacks and whites working together for the common good.   The backlash succeeds only when they are divided.

To see what he means, take a look at the Constitution of North Carolina, originally drafted in 1868 and retaining much of its original wording.  It is a very progressive document, even by today’s standards.

It states that not all persons created equal and have the right not only to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to  “the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor.”

It guarantees free public education as a right.  It states that beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate and the orphan is among the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state.   It guarantees all the rights in the U.S. Constitution and eliminates property qualifications for voting.

All these provisions are the result of Reconstruction.  North Carolina’s present Constitution was drafted at a constitutional convention immediately following the Civil War.   The 133 delegates included 15 newly enfranchised African-Americans and 18 Northern white men (so called carpetbaggers).

It was ratified by a popular vote in which 55 percent voted “yes”.   As a result, more African-Americans were elected to public office in North Carolina in the following period than at any time since.


Fear and loathing of Bernie Sanders

October 14, 2016

Swat Team: The media’s extermination of Bernie Sanders and real reform by Thomas Frank for Harper’s magazine.  What the Washington Post’s coverage of the Sanders candidacy reveals about the liberal establishment mentality and the future of American journalism.

Moral Mondays and the new fusion politics

October 13, 2016

A Bible-believing black minister in North Carolina is the leader of a new movement called that has brought tens of thousands of people of different races, creeds and backgrounds into the streets in support of social justice.

He is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C.  Firmly rooted in the African-American church tradition, he brings together people of all races and many creeds.

wbarber-3rdreconstruction978-080708360-4I read about his work in his new book, THE THIRD RECONSTRUCTION: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics and the Rise of a New Social Justice Movement.

He wrote that the histories of Reconstruction following the Civil War and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which he calls the Second Reconstruction, show that black people achieve their goals only through “fusion politics”—white and black people working together for their mutual benefit.

In 2005, soon after being elected president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, he joined with Al McSurely, an experienced white civil rights activist, to organize a meeting of a broad cross-section of reformers in the state—advocates of education funding, living wage, health care, affordable housing, environmental justice, immigrant justice, criminal justice reform and many others.

He had each group draw up its goals on a big sheet of butcher paper and then, on another sheet, list the obstacles to achieving those goals.

The goals were diverse, but the obstacles were the same—North Carolina’s state government and the corporate interests that controlled it.

This was the birth of a new movement called HKonJ, which stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street, the location of the state legislature in Raleigh.  Each year they bring together a People’s Assembly, which hears testimony of victims of injustice and speakers about how injustice can be remedied, and then closes with a sermon and prayer.

Then they march on the legislature to make their voices heard.  Because they represent such a large cross-section of North Carolinians, it is hard to dismiss what they say out of prejudice against a particular group.


Why Trump supporters aren’t going to go away

October 12, 2016

Six reasons for Trump’s rise that no-one talks about by David Wong for

How the GOP locked in control of Congress

October 12, 2016

Democrats stand an excellent chance of keeping control of the White House and a reasonable chance of regaining a majority in the Senate, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives not only for the next two years, but for the next 10 years or more..

That’s because of a successful plan, code-named REDSTATE, that Republican operatives implemented starting in 2010.  By targeting money at key state legislative races, they ensured Republican control of state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida.

rat666c-838x621Then they used Big Data to draw legislative and congressional districts in such a way as to guarantee Republican majorities, even when Democrats won a majority of the state’s popular votes.

David Daley described this in his book, Rat-F**ked: How the Democrats Won the Presidency But Lost America.   I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read an excerpt and interviews, to which I link below.

Gerrymandering goes back to the early days of the Republic, and has been used by Democrats and Republicans.  What’s new about REDSTATE is the use of Big Date—detailed demographic information and computer analysis—to make gerrymandering more precise and impregnable than ever was possible before.


Black voters matter

October 11, 2016


Fatal police shootings of black people are fewer in states where black voter registration is higher.

Statistically, the higher the percentage of an eligible black voters are actually registered to vote in any state, the less likely it is that a black person in that state will be shot and killed by police.


An Intriguing Link Between Police Shootings and Black Voter Registration by Maimuna Majumder for Wired.

All we talk about is Trump! Trump! Trump!

October 10, 2016

A great many important issues face us Americans as a new Presidential term begins—nuclear weapons, trade agreements, fracking, climate change, economic stagnation, the likelihood of financial crash.

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Campaign Rally in Vandalia, OhioBut among my circle of acquaintances, hardly anybody wants to talk about these things.  All anybody wants to talk about is Donald Trump, and the outrageous things he says.   It can be highly enjoyable to have such an obvious target.

I think that it is an objective fact that Trump is temperamentally, intellectually and morally unfit to be President of the United States.   I think this is becoming more manifest as the campaign goes on.  I base this more on his record as a business owner and public figure than what he says on a day-to-day basis, but what his statements show a lack of knowledge and a lack of discipline.

The problem is that the real problems of the country go unaddressed, and the most that can be hoped for in this election is a preservation of a bad status quo.


The money vote

October 10, 2016

In the 2010 federal elections, a quarter of all campaign donations came from the top 1% of the top 1% of Americans, by wealth; who gave $10,000 or more.   The differences are much more extreme now.

Source: Government for the Super Rich |

How the power of money was unleashed

October 8, 2016


In a way, the enormous amounts of money that are spent in U.S. elections reflects the democratic nature of American institutions.

If the political process were controlled by a few party leaders, as during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century and other times in the past, it wouldn’t cost so much to control the process.

Many reforms were enacted in the 20th century to limit corporate power and make the government more democratic.  The Tillman Act of 1907 forbid corporations to contribute to political candidates or elections.  The Constitution was amended in 1913 so that Senators would be elected by the public instead of chosen by state legislators.

Over time limits were placed on campaign spending, and the Democratic and Republican parties began to nominate their candidates through primary elections rather than party conventions.

These reforms made possible the legislation of the Progressive era and the New Deal, which subjected corporations to unprecedentedly strict regulation and rich people to taxation at top rates reaching 90 percent, while providing Social Security, unemployment insurance and extensive public works.

Business leaders made a concerted and successful effort to turn things around.  They altered the climate of opinion, both among educated people and the public.   They supported candidates committed not only to the interests of particular businesses, but support of unrestricted capitalism in general.

And they worked through the courts, just as liberals had, to change the limits of what was legally permissible.

What follows is a (very incomplete) list of milestones in their progress, with an emphasis on the legal milestones.


Money and oligarchy in U.S. elections

October 7, 2016

We Americans take it for granted that we are a democracy.  Some of us think we have a right and responsibility to spread out democracy to other countries.

Yet a couple of social scientists have determined that the United States is governed as if it were an oligarchy.

reinsdemocracyMartin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern looked at 1,779 issues on which Americans were polled from 1981 through 2002, and then how Congress acted on these issues.

They found that Congress followed the wishes of the top 10 percent of income earners most of the time, and the bottom 90 percent hardly ever.

That is the classic profile of government by oligarchy—government by  a small group, usually of rich people.

The survey found that Americans who band together in interest groups, such as the American Association of Retired People or National Rifle Association, have more influence than numerous, but separate, individuals, but business groups have more influence than other groups.

How can this be?  A rich person’s vote does not count any more than anybody else’s vote.

But rich people, especially corporate executives, have means of influencing policy that the rest of us lack.  They are:
▪    Campaign contributions to influence elections.
▪    Second-career jobs for politicians and government employees
▪    Propaganda to influence opinion, both among the public and the elite.

In this post, I’ll deal with the first.


How Clinton’s benefactor cashed in on the crash

October 3, 2016

Back in 2006, Donald Trump said he was sort of looking forward to the coming housing crash, because he could cash in—presumably by buying up distressed properties.

However, Trump didn’t do anything to cause the housing crash.   In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s benefactor and social friend, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, not only benefited from it, but helped to bring it about.

His firm bought up subprime mortgages.   That meant lenders could make “liar’s loans” they knew would never be paid back, and eliminate their risk by selling them to Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs converted the mortgages into securities, like stocks or bonds, and sold them on the open market.   They got rating agencies to label the securities as high quality investments, even though Goldman Sachs management knew they weren’t.

They made other investments based on the assumption that the market would crash and the securities would become worthless.

Other Wall Street companies did similar things, but Goldman Sachs was a leader.  All this seems like financial fraud to any normal person, but the Obama administration decided not to prosecute.

All this happened when Lloyd Blankfein was CEO of Goldman Sachs.  He became CEO in 2006 and before that was chief operating officer.

Goldman Sachs has given Hillary Clinton $675,000 for making three speeches, and husband Bill Clinton $1.55 million in speech fees.

The firm’s employees as a group are among the top five contributors to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns.

Goldman Sachs also hosted the Clinton Global Initiative; the video above shows a picture of Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Blankfein at a CGI meeting.

How likely is it that a Clinton administration would prosecute Goldman Sachs officials for financial fraud?  How likely is it that a Clinton administration would bring financial malpractice under control?  The likelihood is next to zero, in my opinion.


The trouble with corporate personhood

October 3, 2016


If Trump & Clinton were D&D characters

September 28, 2016

If the presidential contenders had Dungeons & Dragons alignments, Hillary would be lawful evil, and Trump would be at best neutral evil, at worst, chaotic evil.

Source: Rod Dreher | The American Conservative

Hillary Clinton as the more effective evil

September 27, 2016


In last night’s debate, Hillary Clinton demonstrated that she is more fit to be President than Donald Trump in terms of temperament, experience and understanding of the issues.

She is able to rule her emotions.  She has the background knowledge required of a world leader.  She would not be a national embarrassment to the United States on the world stage.

But I don’t think these qualities will, in fact, make her a good President.  They will make her a more effective evil.

Compared to Trump, she would face fewer obstacles in leading the United States into war, and she would be better able to defuse opposition to Wall Street and the monopolization of wealth by a tiny elite.

Trump, by reason of his inexperience, ignorance, lack of self-control and lack of allies in the Washington establishment, would be easier to stymie—which is not to say that a Trump administration would be harmless.


What I think about Donald Trump

September 21, 2016


Source: Joel Pett, Lexington (Ky) Herald-Leader.

The passing scene: Deplorables, debt and Osama

September 21, 2016

Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand White People by Jason Johnson for The Root.

Progressives Are Targets of Hillary’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Speech by John V. Wash for Counterpunch.

Donald Trump tries to reassure supporters they’re not really racist.   Hillary Clinton tries to reassure supporters it’s okay to be elitist.

The Coming European Debt Wars by Michael Hudson for Defend Democracy Press.

The European Union is in crisis because it insists on repayment of debts that are too great to ever be repaid.

An Anniversary of Shame by Michael Hirsch for POLITICO.

Some in the CIA say the “war on terror” could have been won in six months if the U.S. government had not given “regime change” priority over capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.

Hard choices and lesser evils: links 9/15/2016

September 15, 2016

The Clinton Foundation’s Problems Are Deeper Than You Think by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs.

The Question No One’s Asking About the Clinton Foundation by David Corn for Mother Jones.  [Added 9/22/2016]

How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people’s money by David A. Fahrenthold for The Washington Post.

Guess which candidate’s foundation was caught in illegal campaign funding by David A. Fahrenthold for The Washington Post.

Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems by David A. Fahrenthold for The Washington Post.  [Added 9/20/2016]

American Greed: Trump’s Economic Team Is a Who’s Who of What’s Wrong by Richard Eskow for Campaign for America’s Future.

Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a ‘Who’s Who’ of the Warfare State by Zaid Jilani, Alex Emmons and Naomi LaChance for The Intercept.

How The Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security by Kurt Eichenwald for Newsweek.

How I became radicalized

September 14, 2016

For most of my life, I thought my country was fundamentally sound and moving in the right direction.

I knew there were serious problems and injustices in American life, but I thought that these were aberrations, contrary to our democratic ideals, which under our democratic system would be reformed over time.

radicalismstock-photo-fake-dictionary-dictionary-definition-of-the-word-radicalism-180290102I rejected the Communist belief that the crimes of capitalism are systemic, while the failures of Communism are failures to correctly understand or follow Marxist doctrine.

But my own beliefs were the mirror image of this.  I believed that the crimes of Communist countries were the inevitable result of a bad system, while the crimes of Western countries were aberrations that could be corrected.

The first step in my radicalization was the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001.  I was shocked at how fundamental liberties, such as habeas corpus and trial by jury, could be simply wiped off the blackboard, and the majority of Americans would see nothing wrong with this.

I always thought of torture as the ultimate crime against humanity, because it destroys the mind and soul while leaving the body alive.   Torture became institutionalized, and even popular—possibly because of the illusion that it would be limited to people with brown skins and non-European names.

But I still thought of this as an aberration, part of a scheme by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others to restore executive power that had been lost after the Watergate hearings.  I voted for Barack Obama with great enthusiasm in 2008, not because I believed he would be a strong reformer, but because I thought he would restore the country to normal.

I soon learned that there was a new normal, one that was different from what I thought it was.


Hard choices and lesser evils: links 9/14/2016

September 14, 2016

These linked articles provide worthwhile information and food for thought.   I don’t necessarily agree with the writers in all respects.

If Libertarian Gary Johnson Was President, Here’s What Would Happen to the U.S. Economy by Emily Stewart for The Street.

If Donald Trump Was President, Here’s What Would Happen to the U.S. Economy by Emily Stewart for The Street.

If Hillary Clinton Is Elected President, Here’s What Will Happen to the U.S. Economy by Leon Lazaroff for The Street.

What Jill Stein, the Green presidential candidate, wants to do to America by Max Ehrenfreund for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

What Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for president, wants to do to America by Max Ehrenfreund for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

What Donald Trump wants to do to America by Max Ehrenfrend and Jim Tankersley for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

What Hillary Clinton would do to America by Max Ehrenfreund and Jim Tankersley for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Is Jill Stein Worth Voting For? by Robert Nielsen for Whistling in the Wind.

Could Gary Johnson Be Relevant in 2016? by Robert Nielsen for Whistling in the Wind.

Hard choices and lesser evils: links 9/13/2016

September 13, 2016

The Perfect G.O.P. Nominee by Maureen Dowd for The New York Times.   Hillary Clinton, the ideal Republican.

The Only Shocking Things Donald Trump Has Yet to Do by David Rees for The Baffler.

Here’s what happens if a presidential nominee has to drop out of the election by Jeff Stein for Vox.

How the GOP honored Labor Day 60 years ago

September 5, 2016

GOP Labor Day 1956

Race, economic inequality and the 2016 election

August 31, 2016


During the presidential primaries, Clinton supporters were prone to downplay the importance of economic inequality.

Black people, they said, were only concerned about racism and racial discrimination, not the gap between rich and poor.

But a Pew Research Center survey indicates that economic inequality is in fact the top issue among African American voters.

The survey indicates that 77% of American black voters view the gap between rich and poor as a very big problem, followed by crime (68%), with relations between racial and ethnic groups coming in third (61%).

Black Americans are much more concerned about crime than white Americans, which should not be surprising, because, as a group, they are much more likely to be victims of crime.

Interestingly, black Americans are less worried about immigration than white Americans, or even Hispanic Americans, are.


Populists vs. liberals in American history

August 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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