Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Hillary and Jeb are the bankers’ favorites

November 18, 2015


Source: Who Are Bankers Backing for President? by Victoria Finkle for The American Banker.

The trouble with Ben Carson

November 11, 2015

bencarson20151113cover1800-x-2400By all accounts, Dr. Ben Carson is a fine human being and a dedicated and gifted pediatric neurosurgeon.

I think he richly deserves all the honors he has received for his philanthropy and civic work.

But he is no more fit to hold public office than I am to practice medicine.

His fault is not in his lack of knowledge, which could be remedied over time, but in his lack of knowledge of his lack of knowledge.


The World Through Ben Carson’s Surgical Magnifying Glass by Emily Cadei for Newsweek.

The 2016 Stump Speeches: Ben Carson by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

I’d rather have Trump by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

The USA needs real presidential debates

November 10, 2015

The so-called Presidential debates are not debates.  They are televised group press conferences.

The so-called US Presidential debates are not debates.  Going back to the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, they are televised group press conferences.  The American voting public would be better served by actual debates.

An actual debate would be over just one question, selected in advance.  Candidates would be given time to speak their minds, and then to rebut what the other candidates said.

The role of the moderator would be to enforce debate rules.  Any questions would be asked by the candidates of each other.

The press conference format measures the ability of the candidates to think on their feet and to memorize and remember information.  A debate format would measure the depth and breadth of their thinking, and give an idea of what they would do if elected.

Such a format might not be commercial enough for the major networks, but I am sure PBS and C-SPAN would be willing to host a real debate.

Second thoughts on Hillary Clinton and guns

November 2, 2015

I have to backtrack a little bit on a previous post, in which I cited the following question.  What I wrote was not exactly wrong, but not the whole story.

Why does Clinton keep getting away with saying that gun manufacturers are the only industry that is immune from being held accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products?  Almost NO manufacturers are, by law, accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products.  Someone should ask her to name one that is.

True, no manufacturer is held responsible for the criminal use of their legal products, unless it can be shown that they knowingly or negligently sold the products to criminals.  What makes gun manufacturers different is that in their case, this is spelled out in positive law, a law that Bernie Sanders supported.

hillaryclintongunsCQXNDpCWIAAn0NJHillary Clinton was giving a dog whistle to members of the anti-gun movement, who would have understood she was referring to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Based on the exceptions written into the PLCAA, I don’t think it bars reasonable lawsuits against gun manufacturers or dealers.  The significance of the issue in the context of the Democratic Presidential debate is that it shows Bernie Sanders has more sympathy for gun owners and gun manufacturers than Hillary Clinton does.


Summary of Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  (Hat tip to Gary Young)

How to Bring a Successful Case Against Gun Manufacturers and Sellers by Daniel R. Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Hillary Clinton’s push on gun control marks a shift in presidential politics by Philip Rucker for the Washington Post.

Bernie Sanders Walks a Fine Line on Gun Control by Jessica Taylor for National Public Radio.


Five candidates’ economic policies reviewed

October 28, 2015

The Street, an on-line business news site, has published a series of reports on the economic policies of some of the candidates and their possible impact on stock prices and business profits.

I’m more interested in the possible impact on wages, jobs and overall prosperity, but these articles contain good information and fair comment.   The various writers aren’t all that impressed with any of the candidates.


If Jeb Bush Becomes President, Here’s What Would Happen to the U.S. Economy by Tobias Burns for The Street.

If Ted Cruz Were President, Here’s What Would Happen to the U.S. Economy by Ross Kenneth Urken for The Street.

If Ex-HP Chief Carly Fiorina Was President, Here’s What Would Happen to the U.S. Economy by Carleton English for The Street.

If Socialist Candidate Bernie Sanders 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.

The latent strength of the Republican Party

October 27, 2015


Democrats like to think that the political tide is running their way.  African-Americans and Hispanics are a growing proportion of the population.  Young people are more liberal than older people.  Public opinion is slowing shifting toward a liberal position on gay marriage and abortion rights.

But this may not translate into political power, at least not anytime soon.  The map above shows which political parties control state legislatures, before and after the 2014 elections.  The map below also shows how Republicans won most 2014 elections for governor, senator and representative.

I would have thought that the manifest failure of Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana would have caused voters to turn against the Republican Party, but this didn’t happen.


The reason is, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out in a recent article, is that the Republicans are more united as a political party, and more pro-active, than the Democrats.

Republicans have unified control of 25 states. Along with the usual set of tax cuts for high-income individuals and business-friendly regulations, the result has been:

  • An unprecedented wave of restrictions on abortion rights
  • The spread of union-hostile “right to work” laws into the Great Lakes states
  • New curbs on voting rights, to further tilt the electorate in a richer, whiter, older direction
  • Large-scale layoffs of teachers and other public sector workers who are likely to support Democrats

Source: Vox

He said the Republicans are likely to control the House of Representatives for the indefinite future.  The distribution of voters, with Democrats more concentrated in cities, favors the Republicans to begin with.  Control of state legislatures enables the Republicans to gerrymander districts so as to give them an even greater advantage.

There are two sources of political power in the United States, money power and people power.  The Republicans have both.  No matter how much certain Democrats cater to big business, the Republicans will always be able to out-do them.  But the National Rifle Association, the right-to-life movement and other conservative causes give the Republicans grass-roots support as well.

As Yglesias pointed out, there is no state, not even Vermont, in which corporate business is not influential.  And, I would add, no politician, not even Bernie Sanders, who could or wants to eliminate business as a factor in American politics.

Organized labor, on the other hand, is strong only in certain states, and the Republican Party has a feasible strategy for eliminating labor.

Yglesias went on to say:

Winning a presidential election would give Republicans the overwhelming preponderance of political power in the United States — a level of dominance not achieved since the Democrats during the Great Depression, but with a much more ideologically coherent coalition.

Nothing lasts forever in American politics, but a hyper-empowered conservative movement would have a significant ability to entrench its position by passing a national right-to-work law and further altering campaign finance rules beyond the Citizens United status quo.

Source: Vox

The Republicans, and the conservative movement within the Republican Party, got to where they are through decades of effort.  It’s unlikely that it will be reversed overnight.  It will take a concerted effort such as Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy on a permanent basis.

Democrats base their hopes on Republican failure.  But that will only give them temporary victories.  The political party that achieves a lasting majority will be the party that advocates policies that will achieve peace and prosperity, convinces the public the policies will work, and makes a good-faith effort to implement the policies.


Democrats are in denial.  Their party is actually in deep trouble by Matthew Yglesias for Vox.

Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/23/2015

October 23, 2015

Iceland Just Jailed Dozens of Corrupt Bankers for 74 Years, The Opposite of What America Does by Jay Syrmopoulos of the Free Thought Project (via AlterNet)

Iceland sentences 26 bankers to a combined 74 years in prison by gjohnsit for Daily Kos (Hat tip to my expatriate friend Jack)

Icelandic courts have sentenced 26 bankers to prison terms for two to five years each—a total of 74 years—for financial fraud and manipulation leading up to the financial crash of 2008.

The important precedent here, and the great contrast with the United States, is that Iceland prosecuted individuals, not banks.  An organization structure cannot commit crimes, any more than a bank building can commit crimes.   It is the individuals within the structure who have criminal responsibility.

JADE: A Global Witness Investigation Into Myanmar’s Big “State Secret” (hat tip to Jack)

High-quality jade is the most valuable product of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.  But the government and people of the country get little benefit from it.  Instead the trade is controlled by military elites, corporate cronies and U.S.-sanctioned drug lords.

Nawal El Saadawi: ‘Do you feel you are liberated?  I feel I am not’ by Rachel Cooke for The Guardian (Hat tip to Jack)

An interview with the formidable 83-year-old Egyptian author, freethinker, feminist, medical doctor and campaigner against female genital mutilation.


In search of a peace candidate

October 20, 2015

I wish there was a peace candidate in the Presidential race.  Though I like Bernie Sanders, he doesn’t qualify.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

He is less militaristic than Hillary Clinton and she is less militaristic than Ted Cruz and most of the other Republicans, but they all accept as a given fact that the United States must be ready to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at the sole discretion of the President.

I voted for President Obama in the hope that he would disengage from the disastrous U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not start any new wars.  Instead he invented new means of intervention that don’t involve large numbers of American troops.  Sanders would not break from Obama’s policy.

Most of the Republican candidates criticize Obama for not being war-like enough.  Jeb Bush endorses the disastrous policies of his brother, George W. Bush.

Compared to the rest of the GOP field, Donald Trump sounds relatively sensible.  As Patrick Cockburn wrote in Britain’s The Independent:

Asked by an NBC news presenter if Iraq and Libya had been better off when Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were in power, a question most politicians would have dodged, Trump said: “Iraq is a disaster … Libya is not even a country. You can make the case, if you look at Libya, look at what we did there – it’s a mess.  If you look at Saddam Hussein with Iraq, look what we did there – it’s a mess.”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

This should not be controversial stuff.  Many Iraqis and Libyans are glad to have got rid of the old dictators, but they have no doubt about the calamities that have befallen their countries since the change of regime.  [snip]

Speaking about the White House’s policy of supporting the Syrian armed opposition, Trump truthfully said the administration “doesn’t know who they are.  They could be Isis.  Assad is bad.  Maybe these other people are worse.”

He said he was bothered by “the concept of backing people they have absolutely no idea who they are”.  Again, US officials admit that they have armed opposition fighters who, on entering Syria promptly handed their weapons over to Jabhat al-Nusra, the local representatives of al-Qaeda.

Trump added: “I was talking to a general two days ago.  He said: ‘We have no idea who these people are.’”

Then again, he has boasted of being “the most militaristic person in the room.”  He has advocated sending American ground troops to seize ISIS-controlled oil fields or destroying those oil fields through bombing.


Election 2016: small money vs. big money

October 19, 2015


BernieSandersScreen+Shot+2015-10-18+at+6.50.17+AMBloomberg Business had an interesting set of charts, showing how much money the different candidates received in small donations (under $200) versus large donations.

Bloomberg’s bar for small donations was lower than for some of the other charts I’ve published on this web log.  Some of what the writers consider “large” donations aren’t all that large.  Nevertheless, Boomberg’s figures give a general figure of which candidates raise significant amounts from the general public and which depend on the wealthy.

The only Democratic candidate supported mainly by small donations is Bernie Sanders.  Among Republicans, Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee all received more in small donations than large.

GOPcandidatesScreen+Shot+2015-10-18+at+6.57.29+AMThe figures are as follows:

Bernie Sanders

Large donations: $6.02 million.

Small donations: $20.19 million.

Ben Carson

Large donations: $8.29 million.

Small donations: $12.43 million.

Donald Trump

Large donations: $1.04 million

Small donations: $2.78 million

Mike Huckabee

Large donations: $500,000

Small donations: $730,000

These figures don’t include contributions from Political Action Committees, or the amounts that the candidates spend out of their own money.  Those are particularly important in the case of Donald Trump.


The rise of the Money Power

October 18, 2015

Click to enlarge.

This chart shows how both Republicans and Democrats have become dependent on wealthy donors during the past 30 or so years.

In 1980, both political parties received well over half their donations from small donors—those who gave less than $1,500 in 2012 dollars.  In 2012, they both received more than a quarter of their contributions from mega-donors–people who could afford to give more than $5,616.

Mega-donors are expected to account for an even larger share in the 2016 election.   So far 158 families, who’ve contributed more than $250,000 each, have contributed $176 million to the campaign.   Together with 200 additional families who’ve given more than $100,000 each, that is more than half the reported campaign contributions.

But, as Ben Carson shows among the Republicans and Bernie Sanders among the Democrats, big money is not invincible.   A sufficiently popular candidate can raise as much in small donations as their rivals can obtain from a few super-rich people.


How Did the Democrats Become Favorites of the Rich? by Thomas B. Edsall for The New York Times.

The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election by Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish for The New York Times.

Why is there no real party of the people?

October 12, 2015

A conservative Christian writer and blogger named Rod Dreher is disgusted with how the Republican Party serves the interests of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.  But he won’t vote for the Democrats because he is opposed to gay marriage and abortion rights.

He wonders why there can’t be a party that represents the interests of the common people on economics and the views of the common people on social issues?

The reason why economic and social issues are aligned the way they are is the power of big money in politics.

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic leaders are strongly pro-business.  But they can never be as pro-business as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney or the other Republican leaders.

So in order to appeal to rich people, the Democratic leaders have to differentiate themselves on non-economic issues.  A Wall Street banker or Silicon Valley CEO who was gay or female or an immigrant or a marijuana user, or had relatives or friends who were, would prefer Democrats to Republicans unless the Democrats were an actual threat to their wealth and power—which Democrats have not been for decades.

Social issues work the other way for Republicans.   Abortion, gun rights, immigration and gay marriage are issues that enable the GOP to appeal to middle-income voters who might otherwise vote Democratic.  And, in fact, many Democrats would prefer to campaign on these issues than press for raising the minimum wage, breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks or preserving Social Security and Medicare.


The Election 2016 money race so far

October 10, 2015


Preliminary figures on campaign fund-raising indicate that:

  • Hillary Clinton has so far raised more money than any other candidate of their party.
  • Bernie Sanders has so far raised more money than any Republican candidate.
  • Ben Carson has so far raised more money than any other Republican candidate.
  • Ted Cruz has so far raised more money than Jeb Bush.

Now these figures are incomplete because the candidates have until October 15 to report the totals.  When they do, the Republican candidates’ totals may well exceed the Democrats’ totals.   The figures also omit supposedly independent Political Action Committees.

Still, I think it is significant that Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson have been able to raise so much from small donations.   Sanders and Carson (whom I do not support) show that a middle-class person can run for President without having to beg for money from the super-rich.


Bernie Sanders is raising more money than every Republican candidate by Rick Newman for Yahoo News.  Source of the chart.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

Bernie Sanders Is Awash In Cash From Individual Donors by Emily Atkin for ThinkProgress.

Ben Carson raising millions to become fund-raising juggernaut by CBS News / Associated Press.

The GOP Establishment’s Sneaky Ben Carson Fundraising Ploy by Russ Choma for Mother Jones.  An indication of Dr. Ben Carson’s grass-roots appeal.

Bernie Sanders outpolls Donald Trump for 2016

October 5, 2015

sanders-trump-e1444054156866Hat tip to Harry’s Place.

This is the latest poll of how Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would do if they were the Republican and Democratic candidates.

RealClearPolitics reported that the average of the last four public opinion polls shows Sanders ahead 45.3 to 41.3 percent.   Sanders came out ahead in six out of eight public opinion polls matching him against Trump.

My expectation was that I would vote for Bernie Sanders in the New York Democratic primary, and then vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party in the general election rather than Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush.

I never expected to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate again and, to be honest, I still don’t.  But who knows?


RealClearPolitics – Election 2016 – General Election: Trump vs. Sanders.

Stop Comparing Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders by Nate Silver for FiveThirtyEight.

Just Think: Donald Trump Versus Bernie Sanders in 2016 by Peter Lawler for The Federalist.

The passing scene – October 4, 2015

October 4, 2015

Roger Millikin: The Man Who Launched the GOP’s Civil War by Jonathan M. Katz for Politico (hat tip to naked capitalism)

Roger Millikin, a right-wing textile magnate, was a driving force in transforming the South from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican, and the Republican Party from the party of Lincoln into the party of Strom Thurmond, Jessie Helms and Trent Lott.

If not for him, or someone like him, Rick Perry might still be a Democrat and Elizabeth Warren might still be a Republican.

The Invisible Poverty of ‘Poor White Trash’ by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

I never use expressions such as “redneck” or “white trash.”  The word “redneck” originally to poor white farmers who worked in the hot sun in long-sleeved shirts.  It was a term used by educated people to express their contempt for manual labor and lack of schooling.  The term implies that poor white people are more racist than affluent white people, which in my experience has not been the case.

One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the U.S. Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.  (Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack).

Bubbles Always Burst: the Education of an Economist by Michael Hudson, author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.

Debacle Inc.: How Henry Kissinger Helped Create Our “Proliferated” World by Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman.


The Republican problem with immigration

September 29, 2015


Donald Trump vs. right-wing political correctness

September 16, 2015

22-alabama-trump-supporters.w529.h352.2x-e1440694001809Source: The Daily Caller

I confess that I can’t help but enjoy the uninhibited way Donald Trump runs rings around the other Republican candidates by ignoring all the conventions of right-wing political correctness.  I think he would be a great commentator for Fox News or, better still, Comedy Central.

I felt the same way about George Wallace in 1968 and 1972.   I deplored what he stood for, but, in spite of himself, I enjoyed hearing him speak.   He had great wit and a great sense of timing, and he deftly punctured the hypocrisy of the other candidates.

Other Republican candidates haven’t been able to answer Trump because of all the taboos they’ve imposed upon themselves over the years about what they can and can’t say.

Immigration is an example.   Most Republican presidential candidates have to strike a balance between their corporate financial backers, who want more legal and illegal low-wage workers in the United States, and their constituents, who fear having to compete with and live with such immigrants.

Trump need not worry about striking a balance.  There is nothing to stop him from appealing to Americans’ worst fears.

That is very different from being qualified to be President of the United States.  Your convictions have to be based on something more solid than a showman’s sense of what will please the audience.


Bernie Sanders at Liberty University

September 15, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke yesterday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., a conservative Christian college founded by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority movement.

Liberty University deserves credit for inviting Sanders, whose views on abortion, gay marriage and other subjects are opposed to what virtually call conservative Christians believe.

Sanders deserves credit for the respectful but unapologetic manner in which he addressed the students.   Often when politicians go before a potentially hostile audience, they either talk down to its members or insult them, but don’t make an effort to convince.

Judging by the look of the audience, I don’t think Sanders changed many minds.   Attendance at the student convocation was compulsory.  A few students cheered him loudly, but most listened in polite silence.

Rod Dreher, a writer and blogger for The American Conservative, said he wished the Republicans had a candidate like Sanders who was on the side of the common people, but socially conservative.

I would vote for such a candidate rather than a socially liberal candidate who is aligned with Wall Street, the energy industry and the military-industrial-surveillance complex.


The cruel logic of treating abortion as murder

September 1, 2015

For a long time the leaders of the Republican Party have said that “abortion is murder,” but, until now, they haven’t meant this literally.

130306_prolife_abortion_605_reutAll the Republican presidential candidates from George H.W. Bush to Mitt Romney have opposed abortion, but made exceptions, such as for women who are pregnant as the result of rape or incest.

No such exception would be allowed by Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee, according to a report by Thomas B. Edsall of the New York Times.

If you honestly believe that abortion is murder, it is logical to say, as Huckabee did, that friends of a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay who became pregnant after being raped by her step-father has no more right to commit murder than anybody else.

Edsall noted that the top 15 Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina, all agree that life begins at conception.  This sounds strict to me, but Edsall pointed out that, to some of the most powerful anti-abortion groups, it is not enough.  To these groups, life begins at fertilization.

The difference is that conception begins when the fertilized egg is implanted in the womb.  Most fertilized eggs fail to be implanted.

The importance of this difference is that the “morning after” birth control pill works by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg.   Experts disagree on whether IUDs prevent implantation of fertilized eggs.   Extremist anti-abortionists think such forms of birth control are the same as abortion.


Bush, Clinton and why Americans vote for Trump

August 31, 2015


A conservative writer named Alex CAntellanos explained the appeal of Donald Trump.

We have the largest government we’ve ever had, and yet it governs nearly nothing.  Not our economy, which is stagnant.  Not our place in the world, where we have lost respect.  Not our fiscal affairs, where we have been rendered destitute.  Not our borders, made of smoke.  Not our health care, rendered increasingly unaffordable by a cynically named “Affordable Care Act.”

The list of big, old, factory-like government’s broken promises is unending.  Everything Washington’s elite said they would deliver, from better race relations and peace in our inner cities, to stability abroad, ends up both a larger challenge and more expensive.

We have been scammed — and we know it.

Our ruling class cannot see that their forest of quixotic promises has been stripped bare, but the American people can see nothing else.  These woods are leafless now, barren of accomplishment.


Given a forced choice, I would pick either Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.  He advocates policies that only a military dictator could implement.

But it is precisely the failed policies that Bush and Clinton represent, and would continue, that cause people to turn to Donald Trump.


Trump is the strongman we don’t need by Alex Castellanos for CNN.   I don’t think any actual socialist considers what we have in the USA today as “socialism”.  I’d call it “corporatism.”  Otherwise I pretty much agree with this article.

How Close Was Donald Trump to the Mob? by David Marcus for The Federalist.

Donald Trump says he’s “the most militaristic person there is,” proves it by demanding “we bomb the hell out of” Iraq, Iran and ISIS by Scott Eric Kaufman for Salon.

The passing scene – August 26, 2015

August 26, 2015

Coal Dethroned by Laura Gottesdiener for TomDispatch.

In Appalachia, the coal industry is in collapse, but the mountains aren’t coming back.

Donald Trump – Man of War by David Cay Johnston for the National Memo.  (Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow)

21 Questions for Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston for the National Memo.

Donald Trump’s history includes business ties with known Mafia figures and employment of illegal immigrants from Poland.

The Secret History of Jaywalking: The Disturbing Reason It Was Outlawed – And Why We Should Lift the Ban by Ravi Mangla on AlterNet.

Should Prison Sentences Be Based on Crimes That Haven’t Been Committed Yet? by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Ben Casselman and Dana Goldstein for FiveThirtyEight.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

The political scene – August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015

The Do-Something-Else Principle by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

The simple-minded populism that controls the GOP by Paul Waldman for The Washington Post.

teaparty.GOP.USA.worldDoug Muder and Paul Waldman wrote about how the leading Republican candidates operate on the principle that “ignorance is strength”.

They not only are uninterested in the details of policy.  They lack understanding of how a Constitutional government works.  They seem to think that Presidents can do anything they want by decree, and the only qualities needed are decisiveness and average common sense.

Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump have no experience or interest in government.  Senator Ted Cruz, although he holds public office, also manifests no interest in actually governing.  The popular appeal of such candidates is a measure of the frustration of the American public with the present bipartisan consensus.

One-party system: What total Republican control of a state really means by Herman Schwartz for Reuters.

The Republican Party has much more grass roots strength at the state level than the Democrats.  But except for those who think gun rights and the suppression of abortion are more important than anything else, they’re not governing in the interest of American working people.

The Age of Imperial Wars by James Petras.

Insouciance Rules the West by Paul Craig Roberts.

The establishment Democrats and Republicans understand the workings of government better than the Tea Party Republicans do.  But in their overall policies, they, too, are either disconnected from reality or powerless to change the direction of a government that is on automatic pilot for drone warfare, covert warfare and proxy warfare.


The passing scene – August 20, 2015

August 20, 2015

Struggle and Progress: Eric Foner on the abolitionists, Reconstruction and winning “freedom” from the Right, a conversation with Jacobin magazine writers.

Eric Foner

Eric Foner

Historian Eric Foner pointed out that the abolition of slavery was truly a second American Revolution.  It involved the confiscation without compensation of the most valuable form of property at the time—enslaved African people.

The Civil War is sometimes interpreted as a triumph of industrial capitalism over a backward agrarian economy.  Foner said that, although this is true in a way, the pre-Civil War capitalists got along very well with the slaveowners.

The abolitionists included moderates, radicals, wealthy philanthropists, lawbreakers, politicians, former black slaves and racists who opposed slavery because it was harmful to white people.  Although sometimes working at cross-purposes, Foner said their diverse approaches created a synergy that made the movement stronger.   This has lessons for our own time.

The Last Refuge of the Incompetent by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.

John Michael Greer wrote that a successful revolutionary movement will (1) discredit the existing order through relentless propaganda, (2) seek alliances with all those with grievances against the existing order, (3) create alternative institutions of its own and (4) offer a vision of hope, not despair.

In the USA, this program is being carried out not by what Greer called the “green Left,” but the “populist Right”.


The passing scene – August 17, 2015

August 17, 2015

Seven Myths about the Greek Debt Crisis by Stergios Skaperdas, a University of California economics professor.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism).

An economist argues that (1) default would not be the worst outcome for Greece, (2) the troika (European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Commission) is not trying to rescue Greece, (3) Greece’s problems are not caused by corruption and bad policy, (4) no Greek government could have carried out the troika’s policies, (5) the troika’s policies would not have benefited Greece, (6) exiting the Eurozone would not be catastrophic for Greece and (7) the Greek government in fact does have bargaining power.

Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Care That Much About Abortion Rights by Ted Rall for Counterpunch.

Instead of trying to persuade judges that abortion is a constitutional right, why don’t Hillary Clinton and other liberal Democrats support legislation to guarantee abortion rights?  Ted Rall thinks Democrats hold back because they cynically want to keep abortion alive as a issue.  But maybe they’re just timid.

Clown Genius by Scott Adams.   (Hat tip to Rod Dreher)

The creator of the Dilbert cartoons thinks most people probably would buy a used car from Donald Trump because his campaign demonstrates mastery of the classic techniques of salesmanship.


Jeb Bush blames Obama, Hillary Clinton for ISIS

August 15, 2015

Gov. Jeb Bush blamed President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the rise of the bloodthirsty Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) because they abandoned the policies of his brother, President George W. Bush.

In fact, Obama and Clinton contributed to the rise of ISIS by following the policies of George W. Bush.

jebbush-hillaryclintonThe Islamic State’s predecessor, Al Qaeda, had no presence in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  Al Qaeda and later ISIS were able to establish themselves in Iraq because the U.S. invasion destroyed the governmental structure of Iraq, and nobody was able to put it back together again.

But didn’t the withdrawal of American forces open the door to ISIS?  Whether it did or not, the withdrawal was begun under an agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush in his last year in office with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.   The reason for the agreement was that the American occupation was highly unpopular in both countries.

Realizing this, President Bush stopped listening to Vice President Dick Cheney and replaced Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates.   President Barack Obama retained Gates and implemented the Bush agreement.

President Obama’s most important foreign policy innovation was to make interventionism politically sustainable by finding a substitute for American boots on the ground—flying killer drones, Special Forces assassination teams and subsidies for Arab fighters.

During the 14 years since the 9/11 attacks, radical Islamist terrorists have grown stronger, and they gave grown strongest in those countries in which the U.S. military has been most active.  This includes Libya, which Hillary Clinton reduced to the same state of bloody chaos and ISIS-friendly environment as Iraq.

She and Jeb Bush are both war hawks.  She is the more experienced and knowledgeable war hawk, but there is no reason to think either would change the bad course of American foreign policy.


Memo to Jeb Bush: It was W’s surge that created ISIL, not Hillary by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Republicans Can’t Face the Truth About Iraq by Eric Margolis via Unz Review.  [Added 8/16/2015]

George Bush didn’t know anything about Maliki, but put him in charge of Iraq anyway by Zack Beauchamp for Vox.

The Planned Destruction of Libya by John Wight for Counterpunch.

Hillary, the Ultimate Hawk by David French for National Review.

The passing scene – August 14, 2015

August 14, 2015

Will Trans Pacific trade deal go up in smoke over anti-tobacco proposal? by Adam Beshudi for POLITICO.

The latest word is that Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators have agreed to exclude the tobacco industry from provisions giving corporations the right to sue governments before private tribunals.  Tobacco companies have successfully sued countries under other trade agreements over restrictions on cigarette sales and advertising.  This is a deal-killer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and others from tobacco-growing states.

Torturing Chelsea Manning in Prison by Stephen Lendman for Counterpunch.

The imprisoned whistle-blower is being repeatedly put in indefinite solitary confinement.  His offenses include using a tube of toothpaste past its expiration date.

The 10 Trump Rules by Barry Lefsetz for The Big Picture.

Donald Trump understands how American politics has changed, and the other candidates don’t.



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