Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Populists vs. liberals in American history

August 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Could the GOP become the pro-worker party?

August 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jill Stein’s strange choice for Green VP

August 10, 2016

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

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

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

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Daily Kos writer smears Jill Stein

August 9, 2016

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

Source: Daily Kos

JillSteinGreenPartyUntitled-1-181

Jill Stein

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

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

Here are the facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

Source: Jason Johnson | The Root

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

I’m still waiting for that to happen.

The daily news cycle seems to go like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The influence of third-party candidates

August 6, 2016

040116-Third-Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Five American parties on war and peace

August 6, 2016

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

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

To sum them up:

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

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

∞∞∞

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

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Donald Trump sets a trap for his campaign donors

August 6, 2016

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

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

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

LINK

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

The perils of bipartisanship

August 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Richard Eskow | Campaign for America’s Future

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

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

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

LINK

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

The five major parties and their candidates

August 5, 2016

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

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

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

DEMOCRATIC PARTY

For President: Hillary Clinton.

For Vice-President: Tim Kaine.

REPUPLICAN PARTY

For President: Donald Trump.

For Vice-President: Mike Pence.

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

For President: Gary Johnson.

For Vice-President: William Weld.

GREEN PARTY

For President: Jill Stein.

For Vice-President: Ajamu Baraka.

CONSTITUTION PARTY

 For President: Darrell Castle.

For Vice-President: Scott N. Bradley.

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Why limit your choice to just two parties?

August 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Democrats embrace legacy of Ronald Reagan

August 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

Source: Corey Robin — Crooked Timber

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

What a real US fascist movement would look like

August 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

∞∞∞

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

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Trump woos workers, Clinton woos Republicans

July 29, 2016

Donald Trump is going after the vote of blue-collar workers who, rightly, feel abandoned by the Democratic leadership, while Hillary Clinton is trying to woo anti-Trump Republicans.

For struggling American workers, Clinton is like a physician who says your terminal illness is incurable, and also charges bills higher than you can pay.  Trump is like a quack who offers you a treatment that probably won’t work, but you may be willing to try for lack of an alternative.

Thomas Frank, writing in The Guardian, summed up the situation well:

Thomas-Frank_250

Thomas Frank

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning.  He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times) and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care.  Peter Thiel denounced the culture wars as a fraud and a distraction.  The Republican platform was altered to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall.  I didn’t hear anyone talk about the need to bring “entitlements” under control.  And most crucially, the party’s maximum leader has adopted the left critique of “free trade” almost in its entirety, a critique that I have spent much of my adult life making.

It boggles my simple liberal mind.  The party of free trade and free markets now says it wants to break up Wall Street banks and toss NAFTA to the winds.  The party of family values has nominated a thrice-married vulgarian who doesn’t seem threatened by gay people or concerned about the war over bathrooms.  The party of empire wants to withdraw from foreign entanglements.

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Memo to Donald Trump: Don’t tell jokes

July 28, 2016

Donald Trump was asked yesterday about the hack into the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails.

220px-Donald_Trump_August_19,_2015_(cropped)The Republican nominee said he did not know if Russia was behind that attack, but that he would like to see the Kremlin turn its attention to the 30,000 messages Mrs Clinton deleted prior to the FBI investigation into her email practices.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said.

Mr Trump, who was giving a press conference in Florida, said it gave him “no pause” to essentially sanction Russian cyber hacking on an American official.

“Hey you know what gives me more pause? That a person in our government – Crooked Hillary Clinton – that a person in our government would delete or get rid of 30,000 emails,” he said.

“Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean to be honest with you I’d love to see them.”

Source: The Telegraph (UK)

I thought that was funny, and I thought his joke had a point.  But almost every comment I’ve come across this morning treats Trump’s comment as a serious and shocking proposal.

Trump should have learned by this time something I learned very early as a newspaper reporter.  When you engage in humor or irony, vast numbers of people will not recognize it as such unless it is labeled as humor or irony.

Clinton conceded next to nothing to Sanders

July 28, 2016

Pearls Before Swine - pb160724comb_ts.tif

When Barack Obama was nominated for President in 2008, he offered Hillary Clinton, as the price of her support, a Cabinet post and the promise to back her candidacy in 2016.

Bernie Sanders asked much less in return for his support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy—merely a non-binding Democratic platform that supported his progressive agenda.   He didn’t even get all of that.  The Democrats have come around to a $15 an hour minimum wage, but refuse to take a stand on fracking or the odious Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

The difference between 2008 and 2016 is that Obama and Clinton were both candidates of the status quo (which I didn’t realize then) whereas the Sanders candidacy was a real threat to the moneyed interests that who support Clinton.

It is not that Sanders supported anything radical.   Although he called himself a socialist, he ran as a Hubert Humphrey Democrat.  He supported restoration of New Deal programs that worked well in the past and a few programs, such as Medicare for all, that have worked well in foreign countries, while having little to say about foreign policy.

But to enact these modest reforms would require a real political revolution because they are unacceptable to the kind of  bankers and billionaires who made Bill and Hillary Clinton rich.

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War hawk Clinton vs. pro-Putin Trump

July 27, 2016

Putin-Clinton-or-Trump-is-Irrelevant-The-Real-Problem-is-U.S.-‘Imperial-Ambitions’-600x338

Donald Trump admires Vladimir Putin and wants better a partnership with Russia.

Hillary Clinton has compared Putin with Hitler, and is willing to risk war with Russia.

This is a big difference, and an important campaign issue.

With Hillary Clinton, you have the likelihood of more war and useless bloodshed, and the real possibility of a nuclear that will leave much of North American and northern Eurasia in smouldering, radioactive ruins.

With Donald Trump, you have the likelihood of a President of the United States, whose judgment is erratic to begin with, and who is under the influence of a wily and ruthless foreign ruler.

I don’t agree with either, but, of the two, I think Clinton represents the greater danger.  Russian influence could be checkmated and rooted out.  A nuclear war would be the end of everything.

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Thomas Frank at the Democratic convention

July 27, 2016

People say that a vote for a third-party candidate such as Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.  But in reality, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to empower future candidates such as Donald Trump.

Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, and Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of Truthdig, talk about how the candidacy of Donald Trump is a product of the failures of Democratic leaders such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

For the past 20 or so years, as Frank points out, the leaders of the Democratic Party have turned their backs on working people on the theory that such people have nowhere else to go.

Now Donald Trump has come along and given them somewhere else to go.  He doesn’t have good answers, but he is the only one of the two major-party candidates who is an alternative to the status quo.

If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will pursue the same policies, and, four years from now, there will be another Donald Trump—but one more self-disciplined, less openly racist and less obviously foolish and ignorant.  And that Donald Trump will likely be elected.

The video above is 47 minutes long, but worth watching.   Thomas Frank is an entertaining talker and he knows what he is talking about.

Nothing new about a woman leading a nation

July 23, 2016
Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

The possibility of electing the first woman President of the United States is a big deal for many of us Americans.  But the rest of the world may well ask: What took you so long?

Even in the days when women were not eligible to enter the professions or earn university degrees, they still could be queens and empresses.

Rulers such as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia showed that women could play power politics with the best of them.

Since women in the 20th century received the right to vote and run for office, they’ve had the opportunity to become heads of government on their own merits and not as family dynasties.  Here are some examples.

1969 – Golda Meir (Israeli Labor Party) became Prime Minister of Israel.

1979 – Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

1990 – Jenny Shipley (National Party) became Prime Minister of New Zealand.

1991 – Edith Cresson (Socialist) became Prime Minister of France.

1993 – Kim Campbell (Progressive Conservative) became Prime Minister of Canada.

1993 – Tansu Çiller (True Path Party) became Prime Minister of Turkey. [added later]  (Hat tip to S. Glover)

2005 – Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) became Chancellor of Germany.

2010 – Julia Gillard (Australian Labor Party) became Prime Minister of Australia.

2011 – Dilma Rousseff (Brazilian Labor Party) became President of Brazil

Here are some examples of women who achieved power as members of family dynasties.

1966 – Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, became Prime Minister of India.

1974 – Isabel Peron, widow of Juan Peron, became President of Argentina.

1986 – Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino Jr., became President of the Philippines.

1988 – Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulifikar Ali Bhutto, became Prime Minister of Pakistan.

2001 – Magawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Sukarno, became President of Indonesia.  [added later]

It is an interesting question as to whether Hillary Clinton, if elected, belongs on the first list or the second.  She is a successful and effective politician, but would she have been elected Senator from New York or been appointed Secretary of State if she had been Hillary Rodham rather than Hillary Rodham Clinton?

Currently Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Liberia, Lithuania, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Namibia, Nepal, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom all have women as heads of state, heads of government or both.  Also Burma (sort of).

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Donald Trump’s excellent adventure

July 21, 2016

When Donald Trump phoned his pal Bill Clinton a little over a year ago, and asked his advice about running for President, I doubt that either of them thought that Trump would get as far as he did.

150930093139-bill-clinton-donald-trump-large-169I have no way of knowing Trump’s thinking, but I suspect that he figured that he had everything to gain and nothing to lose.

At worst, he would promote the Trump name and add value to the Trump brand.  At best, he would show up and pay back politicians and journalists who treated his political ambitions as a joke.  Coming in a strong second or third for the Republican nomination would have accomplished that.

But did he think he actually would be nominated?  I’m reminded of the Mel Brooks comedy, The Producers, in which two characters hatch a Trump-esque scheme to make money from a losing Broadway play.   They choose a script, “Springtime for Hitler,” which they think is sure to fail.  But, much to their consternation, it succeeds.

Unlike the Mel Brooks characters, I think Trump will take his own “Springtime for Hitler” production as far as it will go.  But if he loses, which at this point seems likely, I can imagine him sitting down a year or two from now with his friends, the Clintons, and having a good laugh about the whole adventure.

LINKS

Inside the Fraternity of Haters and Losers Who Drove Donald Trump to the GOP Nomination by McKay Coppins for Buzzfeed.  Coppins thinks his ridicule of the idea of a Trump Presidential candidacy may have goaded Trump into actually running.

36 Hours On the Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump by McKay Coppins for Buzzfeed (2014).  This is the article that Coppins thinks may have set Trump off.

Donald Trump’s ghostwriter tells all by Jane Mayer for The New Yorker.  Donald Trump as seen through the eyes of the ghostwriter who wrote The Art of the Deal.

Three good articles about the political scene

June 30, 2016

The U.S. Presidential election campaign offers a choice between a candidate of the status quo, and a candidate who represents a leap in the dark.  Here are three good articles about why voters might risk a leap in the dark.

Defying the Investors: Thomas Ferguson on how voter alienation from corporate candidates produced this year’s dizzying election results, an interview in Jacobin magazine.  (via Mike the Mad Biologist)

The Terrible Cost to Democrats and Our Nation of Ignoring Tom Frank’s Warnings by William K. Black for New Economic Perspectives (via naked capitalism)

Why Trump Wins: He knows border wars have replaced culture wars by Scott McConnell for The American Conservative

Brexit: the revolt of the losers

June 28, 2016

The dominant neoliberal economy sorts people into winners and losers.  Brexit is a revolt of the losers.

The winners are the credentialed professionals, the cosmopolitan, the affluent.  The losers are the uncredentialed, the provincial, the working class.

Losers are revolting across the Western world, from the USA to Poland, and their revolt mostly takes the form of nationalism.

The reason the revolt takes the form of nationalism is that the world’s most important international institutions—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank—are under the control of a global financial elite that does not represent their interests.

17149339-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Neoliberalism-with-related-tags-and-terms-Stock-PhotoI don’t fully understand the decision-making process in the European Union, but looking at its web site, my impression is that public debate is not a part of it.

The only vehicles for exercising democratic control, at the present moment in history, is through democratic national governments.  I am in favor of international cooperation, and I don’t know how I would have voted on Brexit if I had been British, but I certainly can understand Britons who don’t want to be at the mercy of foreign bureaucrats and the London governmental, banking and intellectual elite.

Democratic nationalism is the only form that democracy can take until there is a radical restructuring of international institutions.  Without a strong progressive democratic movement, the only alternative to neo-liberal globalization is right-wing anti-democratic populism as represented by Donald Trump, the United Kingdom Independence Party, Marine le Pen’s National Front in France, Greece’s Golden Dawn and others.

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An alternate conspiracy theory of the DNC hacks

June 22, 2016

The Democratic National Committee’s computer system has been hacked by somebody calling themselves Guccifer 2, which some have charged is a front from the Russian security services.

I and others speculated that this might be Vladimir Putin’s way of helping his friend Donald Trump.  But “Lambert Strether,” posting on the naked capitalism web log, offers an alternate conspiracy theory.

Readers, as you know I’m always skeptical of digital evidence, arguing that “digital evidence is not evidence” absent a chain of provenance to a known and trusted creator; digital material is too easy to fake.

And I’m old enough to remember — summarizing the chain of events very tendentiously — that evil genius Karl Rove settled the controversy over Bush’s (Vietnam War-evading non-)service in the TANG (Texas Air National Guard) by (1) feeding CBS news true information (2) in discreditable form, and then (3) arranging for it to be discredited (by an Atlanta blogger named Buckhead, in a post that blew up from nothing to utter dominance in a single news cycle, an amazing achievement).  So Rove used faked true evidence to impeach the story and saved Bush’s bacon.  (The CBS reporter, Dan Rather, was later fired, along with his reporting team.)

So if I look at Guccifer, I’m seeing steps (1) and (2), and I worry about step (3).  That is, if we suppose that the information on Clinton corruption is true, but the form is discreditable, and then imagine it is discredited, Clinton’s reputation would be laundered, at least until the impeachment hearings begin.  That is, a sponsor at the DNC or from the HillaryLand would take on Rove’s role in the TANG play from Rove’s playbook.

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Russian cyber-warriors and the U.S. election

June 17, 2016

The Democratic National Committee charges that Russian hackers penetrated its files on Trump opposition research.   Some people also speculate that Hillary Clinton’s e-mails have been hacked.

If Vladimir Putin—I emphasize if—is intervening in the U.S. election on behalf of Donald Trump, this could backfire not only against Trump, but in a dangerous way against Putin and Russia.

Vladimir PutinPutin and Trump have repeatedly praised each other.  Trump advocates better relations with Russia (which I agree with) while  Clinton has compared Putin to Hitler, which is the worst thing you can say about a Russian leader.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s main campaign adviser, managed the comeback of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovitch as President of Ukraine in 2010.   A Hillary Clinton protege, Victoria Nuland, helped engineer the overthrow of Yanukovich in 2014.  A leaked phone conversation in which she discussed strategy may well have come from Russian intelligence services.

So you have an American election aligned with factions in a conflict in a foreign country.  This is not good.

It is true that Russians, Chinese and other foreign hackers are attacking U.S. computer systems all the time, and that the CIA and NSA hack foreign systems.  It is true that U.S. intelligence agencies have been interfering in foreign elections for decades.  And it is true that foreign lobbyists actively try to influence American policy.

But this would be the first time a foreign intelligence service was caught intervening on behalf of a presidential candidate in an American national election.

We don’t know the full story yet.  Maybe this is less sinister than it seems.   But maybe Putin sees electing Trump as a way of crippling the United States without a nuclear strike.  Or maybe somebody is playing some sort of double game.  We’ll see how it plays out.

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Bernie Sanders’ strength and weakness

June 17, 2016

Transcript of Bernie Sanders’ speech in Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

∞∞∞

Bernie Sanders, in (sort of) conceding the primary election campaign to Hillary Clinton, gave an excellent speech Thursday night about what Americans need from their government.

And the decision to give priority to defeating Donald Trump is an honorable decision.

The problem with this speech is that he said nothing whatsoever about military intervention, the threat of nuclear war or the quest for peace.

I think that Sanders might be more hesitant than Clinton or Trump to go to war.  But he said nothing, and nothing during his campaign, about the war system.

He criticized Clinton for voting to authorize President Bush to use military force against Iraq—which, by the way, was also supported by Al Gore and John Kerry.   But Sanders has been much less critical of military interventions conducted under Democratic administrations.

I don’t oppose Clinton because of her vote on Iraq intervention, but that she has not learned anything from that mistake.  She replicated the mistakes of Iraq in Libya, she supported radical jihadists trying to overthrow Assad in Syria, she supported the coup in Honduras, and she brought the United States into confrontation with Russia in Ukraine.

The main innovation of the Obama administration is to carry on the Bush administration policies without large scale use of American troops, by means of special operations teams, flying killer robots and subsidies to foreign fighters.

The killing of harmless people in foreign countries continues.   Brown lives matter.  All lives matter, not just American lives.

I don’t mean to deny Sanders credit for his courageous campaign, for rallying support for important domestic reforms and for enabling all sorts of disparate reform groups to join in a common cause.  I am proud that I voted for Sanders in the New York primary.  I recommend listening to the full speech, or reading it, because it sets forth the domestic agenda that Americans need.

But unless there is peace, it is hard to push domestic reform.  If there is war with Russia, domestic issues will not matter.


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