Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The race card and the economic issue.

May 23, 2016

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

Barbara J. Fields

Barbara J. Fields

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

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

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

Source: VersoBooks.com.

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One victory Bernie Sanders has already won

May 23, 2016

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

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

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

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What’s the matter with the Democrats?

May 21, 2016

This was originally published on March 28, 2016

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

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

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

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hillary Clinton backed wars that aided terrorism

May 20, 2016

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

  • Serbia
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Syria
  • Libya

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

  • Iran
  • Russia

Hillary Clinton supported all of them.

hillaryclinton.lowryinterpreter.image.axd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obama extends overtime pay over GOP objection

May 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS

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

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

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

Hillary Clinton is not an incremental reformer

May 16, 2016

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

It is not.

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

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

acceptchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Election fraud charged in Democratic primaries

May 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Counterpunch.

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

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

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The ever-changing views of Donald Trump

May 11, 2016

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

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

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

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Will Hillary Clinton run as a conservative?

May 9, 2016

Back in 1972, Democratic voters nominated a candidate, George McGovern, who was unacceptable to the Democratic leadership.  Top Democrats such as Lyndon Johnson silently supported Richard Nixon, who won in one of the biggest landslides in American history.

GettyImages-480679428.0Hillary Clinton seems to be basing her campaign on the top that the same thing will happen in reverse—that the top Republicans and also upscale Republican voters will support her, or remain neutral, because they can’t support Donald Trump and she is a sensible conservative

This would be bad for the nation.  It also would be a disaster for the Democratic Party.

Trying to out-Republican the Republicans was the strategy of her husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s.  He stole the Republicans’ thunder by balancing the budget, cutting back welfare, support mass incarceration and deregulating finance.

Barack Obama used the same strategy.  His legislative program consisted of asking Republicans in Congress to enact their own past policy proposals.  The Republican responded by simply everything Obama proposed regardless of merit—except, of course, pro-corporate trade deals, military intervention and shielding Wall Street from prosecution.

From the standpoint of political expediency, this strategy worked to the extent that Clinton and Obama won re-election, the first Democrats to do so since Franklin Roosevelt.  The strategy failed to the extent that, during both their administrations, Democrats lost control of Congress.

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Can Donald Trump win the conservative vote?

May 9, 2016

The following is by Josh Barro for Business Insider.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Trump is the candidate who finally figured out how to exploit the fact that much of the Republican voter base does not share the policy preferences of the Republican donor class, and that it is therefore possible to win the nomination without being saddled with their unpopular policy preferences.

He will not be the last candidate to understand this.

Future candidates will seek to rebuild Trump’s coalition, and they will follow in his footsteps by opposing free trade, promising to protect entitlements from cuts, questioning the value of America’s commitment to military alliances, and shrugging at social changes like the growing acceptance of transgender people.

All three of the supposed “legs” of the Republican coalition stool — libertarian economics, social conservatism, and militarism — are at risk from Trump and the populist-imitator candidates he will spawn.

Source: Business Insider

I, too, oppose pro-corporate trade deals, want to preserve Social Security, question the value of military alliances and have no commitment to social conservatism.

If the Republican Party really is changing the way Barro says, this is a good thing, not a bad thing.  If I thought Donald Trump was a principled enemy of militarism and crony capitalism (what we have is not economic libertarianism), I would vote for him myself.   Knowing his record as an opportunist and con man, I never would.

The temptation for Democrats is to run as moderate conservatives rather than progressives.  That would split the Democratic Party—or, I should say, widen the split in the Democratic Party—as the Republican Party is being split now.

LINKS

Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton: Equally Terrible for Conservatives by David French for National Review.

Donald Trump and the GOP’s Crisis by Josh Barro for Business Insider.

What Will Republicans Do Now? by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  [added later]

Which Republicans Support Trump? A Cheat Sheet by David A. Graham for The Atlantic [added later]

Does Trump represent U.S. working people?

May 7, 2016

The following is from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight web log.

Trump-Iowa-supporters-Getty-640x480It’s been extremely common for news accounts to portray Donald Trump’s candidacy as a “working-class” rebellion against Republican elites.  There are elements of truth in this perspective: Republican voters, especially Trump supporters, are unhappy about the direction of the economy.  Trump voters have lower incomes than supporters of John Kasich or Marco Rubio.  And things have gone so badly for the Republican “establishment” that the party may be facing an existential crisis.

But the definition of “working class” and similar terms is fuzzy, and narratives like these risk obscuring an important and perhaps counter-intuitive fact about Trump’s voters: As compared with most Americans, Trump’s voters are better off. The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.

Source: FiveThirtyEight

Other polls indicate that Trump supporters represent a cross-section of the population rather than just wage-earners.  And, in general, people who vote, especially in primary elections, are on average better educated and better off than the population in general.

But, as Silver noted, a great deal of Trump’s appeal is in his promise to get the economy moving again.

What’s going on?  I think it is the discontent of middle class people who are losing their middle class income and status—people who once had good professional or skilled trades jobs, but are now just getting by with a series of temporary and part-time jobs; young people with good educations under a crushing burden of student debt; employees of large organizations who live under the threat of downsizing.

Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer, wrote that poverty and oppression, in and of themselves, do not cause political and social upheavals.  If they did, the world would be in a constant state of revolution.  Revolutions occur, he wrote, when people lose something they feel they’re entitled to, or when they’re given false hopes, and those hopes are taken away.

I think there are a lot of people in both these categories in the USA, and I think Trump and Sanders, in their different ways, speak for them.

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Hillary Clinton seeks the moderate GOP vote

May 6, 2016

GOPvotersClinton1-20-2016_04

[I updated and expanded this about three hours after I originally posted it.]

Hillary Clinton is already trying to pry the moderate Republican vote away from Donald Trump.  As the chart above shows, she has a long way to go.

As a defender of the status quo, I think she will be the choice of big-money donors who give to both parties, but aren’t loyal to either one.  Beyond that, I can’t predict how successful she will be in creating a bipartisan coalition of the status quo.

The significance of her attempt to appeal to Republican moderates is on how she will campaign and how she will govern, if elected.  If she is to have any chance at all in appealing to moderate conservatives, she will have to distance herself from Bernie Sanders and progressive Democrats.

LINKS

Hillary Clinton is already wooing anti-Trump Republicans.  It’s a huge mistake by Ryan Cooper for The Week.

The Upcoming Battle for Upscale Whites by Noah Millman for The American Conservative.

Hillary Forces Target Bush Donors by Ben White for POLITICO.

Donald Trump Isn’t Rich Enough to Defeat Hillary Clinton by Paul Waldman for The Week.

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Will Trump drive GOP voters to Clinton?

May 5, 2016

Donald Trump has alienated a large part of the Republican leadership.  Hillary Clinton has problems with rank-and-file Democratic voters.  We live in interesting times.

Elizabeth Warren says Donald Trump has more support among leaders of the KKK than among leaders of the GOP.  This is true.

Many prominent conservatives see Clinton as the lesser evil.  From their point of view, she is.

Many poor white people see Trump as their only hope.  Most people will choose a false hope over no hope.

Who are you going to vote for if you’re mad as hell?

An anthropologist explained why he thinks it’s inevitable that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

Yes, we live in interesting times.

Donald Trump is the last Republican standing

May 4, 2016

trumpclinton,eononline.rs_1024x759-150709052426-1024.Donald-Trump-Hillary-Clinton-JR-70915_copyIt looks as if we Americans in November will have a choice between Hillary Clinton, a defender of the status quo, and Donald Trump, a right-wing populist.

I don’t think Donald Trump can be elected President, but, then again, I didn’t think, six months ago, that he would become the Republican nominee.

If he is elected, I know who the Democratic establishment will blame.  It will be Bernie Sanders, for arousing false hopes.

Their underlying assumption is that conservative Republicans have the power to bring about change, but we liberal Democrats do not, and therefore the best we can hope for is to ward off the Donald Trumps.   This attitude makes the Donald Trumps inevitable.

LINKS

America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny by Andrew Sullivan for New York magazine.  An establishment viewpoint.

Here’s Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.  Another establishment viewpoint.

Here’s A List of Hillary Clinton’s Accomplishment, So Quit Saying She Doesn’t Have Any on Addicting Info.  Pretty thin soup.

Can Hillary Win Sanders Supporters and the Never-Trump Faction? by Bill Scher for The New Republic.

∞∞∞

I wouldn’t be surprised if President Trump nominates Ted Cruz to the Supreme Court.

What are Bernie Sanders’ options if he loses?

May 2, 2016

What could Hillary Clinton offer Bernie Sanders if she wins?  What could he accept?  Above all, will he turn over his list of 2 million small donors and on what terms?

Peter+Daou+on+Twitter_+_THE+CAUSE_+If+Bernie+Wants+Real+Progress+He%E2%80%99ll+Align+HisSome of Clinton’s supporters say they aren’t willing to modify the Democratic platform in order to placate Sanders.  From their standpoint, that makes sense.

Sanders already has done immense damage to Clinton by raising peoples’ hopes.  The whole argument for Clinton is that nothing much good can be done, and she is the one qualified to keep things from getting worse.

I think Clinton’s election strategy will be try to persuade corporate conservatives that she is preferable to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz—which, from their standpoint, she is.  She will treat progressives and Sanders supporters as an embarrassment—which, from her standpoint, they are.

What she could offer Sanders is the promise of not trying to block him from retaining his Democratic Senate committee assignments and seniority rights.  This would be important to him carrying on the progressive fight from the Senate.

His endorsement of Clinton wouldn’t help her much, but the lack of an endorsement, or a lukewarm endorsement, would hurt.

Sanders’ core supporters back him because of his positions on important issues.  Some still are under the illusion that Sanders and Clinton stand for the same things, except that he is a bold idealist and she is a cautious pragmatist.  The first group would not be influenced by his endorsement or lack of endorsement; the second group might.

The big thing that Sanders has to offer is his donors list—the 2 million people who kept him in the race, mostly with donations of less than $200 each.

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A review of Hillary Clinton’s record

May 2, 2016

I urge you to watch this if you are a progressive and think of Hillary Clinton as a kindred spirit.

Bernie Sanders: nice guys finish second?

May 2, 2016

Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and senator who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992 and who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton in the current race, said Mr. Sanders might be winning now if he had relentlessly pressured Mrs. Clinton since last fall over her closed-door speeches to Wall Street banks, her role in the finances of Clinton Foundation programs, and other vulnerabilities.

Mr. Sanders did not raise the paid-speech issue, after long resistance, until late January.

“Making the transcripts of the Goldman speeches public would have been devastating” to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Kerrey said. “When the G.O.P. gets done telling the Clinton Global Initiative fund-raising and expense story, Bernie supporters will wonder why he didn’t do the same.”

Source: The New York Times

Two New York Times reporters wrote last month that Bernie Sanders would have done better in his campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination if—

  • He had been harder-hitting in his attacks on Hillary Clinton
  • He had spent more time on the campaign trial and less time tending to his duties in the Senate.

Measured by the standards of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, I think the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been relatively genteel.

LINKS

Early Missteps Seen as a Drag on Bernie Sanders’ Campaign by Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor for the New York Times.

Sanders’s Strength of Character Hurt His Campaign by Russ Baker for Newsflash.

This Is What Will Happen at the Democratic Convention by John Laurits for Nation of Change.  How Bernie Sanders could still win.

The difference between Trump and Sanders

May 2, 2016

Donald Trump promises to address the grievances of white American working people.

Bernie Sanders promises to address the grievances of American working people.

The seeds of America’s culture wars

April 29, 2016

David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a ground-breaking 946-page book I never got around to reading, and probably won’t.  But I think I got the gist of it by reading a review by Scott Alexander on his Slate Star Codex blog.

Fischer’s argument is that basic patterns of American culture were set by migrations of four very different groups of migrants from the British Isles:

  • Albion'sSeedhek32xef_largePuritans to New England in the 1620s.
  • Cavaliers to Virginia in the 1640s.
  • Quakers to Pennsylvania in the 1670s.
  • Borderers (aka Scots-Irish) to the Appalachians in the 1700s.

Those who came after, he said, had to adapt to social systems established by these four groups—the moralistic Puritans, the aristocratic Cavaliers, the tolerant Quakers and the warlike Borderers—even though the biological descendants of these groups ceased to be in the majority.

It’s interesting and, I think, at least partly true.   Alexander’s review is long for a blog post, but much shorter than the book, and even those uninterested in his basic theme will enjoy reading his lists of fun facts about each group.

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Clintonism, Trumpism: a win-win for the 1%

April 28, 2016

In American politics today, there are three main factions and only two parties to represent them.  One faction has to lose and, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are nominated, it will be the Bernie Sanders progressives.

fatcatHillary Clinton represents the Washington and Wall Street elite, committed to perpetual war and crony capitalism.  Wall Street bankers have made her and her husband rich, neoconservative war hawks praise her and Charles Koch has said she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees.

Donald Trump speaks to the concerns of working people—especially pro-corporate trade deals and deindustrialization—but he has no real solution.

His economic nationalism, while not a complete answer to U.S. economic problems, is preferable to the corporate trade deals of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

But by pitting white working men against Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and feminists, he prevents the working class as a whole from ever having enough clout to defend their interests.

Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book about how the Republicans may be the party of the wealthy elite, representing the upper 1 percent of American income earners, but the Democrats are the party of the educated professional elite, representing the rest of the upper 10 percent.

This year’s political realignment may change this, as he himself implicitly acknowledged in a new article in Vanity Fair.  Under Hillary Clinton, Democrats are becoming the party of the upper 1 percent as well.  Here is the meat of what Frank wrote.

Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million.   But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.

And what about Donald Trump?  Will rich people suffer if he is elected president?  Well, yes.  Yes, they will.  Because we all will.  But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things.  Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything.  Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class.  Rich people do not like that idea.

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Why people distrust Hillary Clinton

April 25, 2016

Senator Hillary Clinton said the following about gay marriage in 2004.

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.  I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage.  So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.

Presidential candidate Clinton said the following in January of this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality represents America at its best: just, fair and moving toward equality.  Now we have more work to do.  I’ll fight to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have full equality under the law, and to end discrimination in employment, housing, schools, and other aspects of our society.

Source: Hillary Clinton gay marriage – Google Search

There are three possible ways to interpret these two statements.

  1. Hillary Clinton sincerely opposed gay marriage in 2004, but changed her mind and sincerely supports gay marriage in 2016.
  2. Hillary Clinton favored gay marriage in 2004, but for tactical reasons, pretended to oppose it in order to effectively oppose a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
  3. Hillary Clinton has no strong convictions on gay marriage one way or the other, but takes whatever position is most politically expedient.

I don’t criticize anybody for changing their minds.  I see a lot of things, including gay marriage,  differently from how I saw them 12 years ago, and very differently then from how I saw them 12 years before that.

The problem with Hillary Clinton is that there are so many things about which you have to ask the same kinds of questions.

Did she vote in favor of giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq because she sincerely believed that was the right thing to do, or for tactical political reasons?  How about her statements during his husband’s administration in favor of putting more people in prison and cutting people off from welfare?

Her supporters tell me that she “had to” do and say these things.  How, then, can they tell the difference between what she really stands for and what she “had to” pretend to stand for?

U.S. recruiting falls short of superpower needs

April 22, 2016

Senator Ted Cruz thinks the American military needs to be up-sized, not down-sized.

Our entire fighting force is shockingly undermanned and ill-prepared.  Last year, the Chief of Staff of the Army stated that his units were at “historically low levels” of combat readiness and the Commandant of the Marine Corps declared that “half of our non-deployed units are suffering personnel, equipment and training shortfalls.”

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force recently proclaimed that “we are getting too small to succeed.”  And, for the first time since 2007, the United States Navy was unable to maintain a carrier presence in the Arabian Gulf.  Every single portion of our Armed Forces has felt the strain.

In 2010, the U.S. Army was authorized 562,400 active duty soldiers, by the end of 2016 that number will have dropped precipitously to 475,000.

And this administration has plans to drive it even lower, to only 450,000 soldiers by the end of 2018. Unless our leaders are able to prioritize our national defense appropriately, there is a possibility that the Army could be reduced to as few as 420,000 soldiers by 2020.   Attempts to garner this “peace dividend” are assuredly met with enthusiasm by our adversaries.  [snip]

The entire end-strength of our Armed Forces must be rebuilt; we must strive to have a total active-duty force of at least 1.4 million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.   Anything less creates a continuing training and readiness gap that risks the lives of the men and women who volunteer to serve this great Nation.

Source: Cruz for President

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter wants to continue to project American military power worldwide—to deal with what he terms the national security threats of terrorism, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran on a global basis.

Ted Cruz is right to point out that our armed forces are not large enough, and well-enough equipped, to carry out such a global mission.   As Andrew Bacevich, a respected military scholar, points out, it probably would take 500,000 troops each just to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq, let alone Carter’s more expansive goals.

Recruiters and potential enlistees at Fort Sill, OK

Troops and potential enlistees at Fort Sill, OK

But the problem is that U.S. military recruiters are barely able to fulfill their recruiting targets as it is.  A large proportion of enlistees are rejected because they are obese, or high school dropouts, or have criminal records.

It is impossible to increase the size of the U.S. armed forces as Cruz proposes without doing one of two things.

  •  Lower standards for recruitment.
  •  Re-institute a military draft.

The Obama administration has responded to the recruitment problem by trying to figure out ways to wage wars with minimum numbers of troops—bombings, targeted killings and plans to deploy precision tactical nuclear weapons.  Opening up the military to women and to openly gay enlistees also helps the recruitment problem, but probably not enough.

I have an alternate suggestion.

  • Limit the mission of the U.S. military to defense of the American homeland.

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Voter suppression in Brooklyn, USA

April 21, 2016

Democratic election officials in Brooklyn aremay be using the same tactics to purge voter rolls as used by Republicans in Florida, Wisconsin and other states.  Investigative reporter Greg Palast has the story.

Greg Palast

Greg Palast

Francesca Rheannon, whom you may know as the host of Writers’ Voice radio, did the civic thing by volunteering to work the polls in a town east of New York City.

“I just got off my 17 hour shift as an election official. In my election district, out of 166 Democratic voters, 39 were forced to file affidavit ballots. The last [election] I worked in, exactly ONE voter needed an affidavit ballot.”

That’s nearly one of four voters. Why? Their names had gone missing from the voter rolls.

An affidavit ballot (called a “provisional” ballot in most other states) is a kind of placebo ballot.  You get to pretend to vote – but the chance it will actually be counted is …well, good luck.  If your name is wrongly removed, kiss your vote – affidavit or not—goodbye.

Rheannon’s experience was hardly unique.  In Brooklyn alone, over 125,000 names were quietly scrubbed from the voter rolls in the five months leading up to the primary.

To put it in prospective, the number of voters purged equals about half of the number who got to vote. Scott Stringer, the New York City Comptroller will now audit the Elections Board–now that the election is over. Hey thanks, Scott.

Neal Rosenstein, the lead voting rights attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which plans legal action, notes that part of the problem is that partisan hacks sit on the Elections board in New York—hacks from both parties.

Brooklyn is under the control of the Kings County Democratic Party, one of the last of the big city machines.  Would they attack their opponents’ voter registrations? 

I don’t have to guess: in my wasted younger days, I was in the Brooklyn County elections office with the hacks where we were assigned by the Party to challenge voters’ signatures en masse.  (I wouldn’t and nearly lost my state job.)

Am I saying the machine “fixed” the election for Hillary Clinton?  Without further investigation, it would be irresponsible for me to pronounce judgment.  Some of the purged may have moved, some have died.  But those who waited in line only to fill out affidavit ballots are unlikely to be deceased.

If the Machine had been aware of the mass purge underway, would they have stopped it? As they say in Brooklyn, Fahgeddabouddit.

Source: Greg Palast.

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The threat of a global holy war

April 21, 2016

One of the worst thing that could happen is an escalation of the U.S. “war on terror” into a global war between Christendom and Islam.  That is the goal of al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

If it happened, the United States and much of Europe would become as beleaguered as Israel is today.  The devastation that has been visited on Gaza, Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Syria would be spread to the whole world.

That is why Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were careful to distinguish jihadist terrorists from Muslims in general.

Unfortunately, there are Americans, such as Lt. General (ret) William “Jerry” Boykin, who don’t.

President Bush fired him in 2007 from his post as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence for saying that the United States is in a holy war of Christian crusaders against Muslim jihadists.  Even though Boykin was a brave and patriotic soldier, Bush acted in the best interests of the United States.

Boykin has endorsed Ted Cruz for President, and Cruz has appointed him as one of his top advisers.  I think Cruz also wants to make the “war on terror” a religious war.

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Sanders started too late—or too early

April 20, 2016

I don’t think Bernie Sanders became a candidate for President with the idea that he could actually win.

I think he filed in order to make progressive ideas part of the national political debate.

Bernie SandersI think he filed only because he saw that no other progressive Democrat was going to enter the race.

I think he would have been perfectly happy to support Elizabeth Warren or some other progressive Democrat.

As it was, he started late and started from behind.

Every American knew who Hillary Clinton was.  Hardly anybody outside Vermont had heard of him.

He had to build a campaign organization from scratch.  Hillary Clinton already had a network of campaign supporters in place from 2008 and had been working for the nomination since 2013.

She began with an enormous head start, with a campaign staff already in place, a strategy already prepared, millions of dollars in campaign funds and support of established leaders of the Democratic Party.

If Sanders had decided to run in 2013 instead of 2015, he would have better name recognition and a better organized campaign than he does now.  He wouldn’t have to be learning as he goes.

But he has been catching up.   The fact that he is a real contender may be as big a surprise to him as it is to most people, including me.

I hoped he would do better in New York state than he did, but, when he filed, nobody would have dreamed he would have done as well as he did.

The reason he is a stronger candidate than Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich and progressive insurgents of the past is that the USA is now ripe for such a candidate.

Sanders was the catalyst for bringing together people who participated in the Fight For Fifteen, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and the anti-Walker protests in Wisconsin.

Such movements will grow and multiply as long, but this may not be their year.  At this point it is unlikely Sanders will catch up, although it is still possible – as I will explain below.

I don’t think Sanders is under any obligation to drop out, any more than Clinton was in 2008 when she was trying unsuccessfully to catch up with Barack Obama.  His obligation now, as hers was then, is to his supporters.

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