Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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.

Your vote may not count in full

June 16, 2016

gems-usa-500x315

An outfit called Black Box Voting, which has been monitoring U.S. election tampering since 2003, reports that a quarter of U.S. votes are counted by an electronic system that is designed to be tampered with.

The GEMS election management system … … counts approximately 25 percent of all votes in the United States. … … A fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes.  This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer.  Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds.

Source: Fraction Magic | BlackBoxVoting.org.

In other words, the vote counting system can be set so that every vote for candidate Jones counts as a full vote and every vote for candidate Smith counts as three-quarters of a vote or half a vote.

This is damn disturbing.   What legitimate purpose could there be for such a feature?

Global Election Management Systems are a product of the Diebold company, whose voting machines have previously been shown vulnerable to undetectable hacking.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast claims that results of all national elections starting in 2004 have been falsified.  I wish I could say I believe this is impossible.

LINK

Fraction Magic: Votes are being counted as fractions instead of as whole numbers by Bev Harris for Black Box Voting.

Donald Trump’s real art of the deal

June 14, 2016
Trump's Castle Casino on Atlantic City Boardwalk

Trump’s Castle casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk

Last September I wrote a post speculating that Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina may have been responsible for more human suffering than Donald Trump. I take that back. Based on what’s come out about Trump University and a New York Times report on Trump’s casino operations, I have to say that Trump’s business record was by far the worst of the three.

I assumed that Trump’s failures were honest business failures, such that most business owners and investors experience over the course of their careers.  Since then I have learned better.

Basically Trump set up businesses with other people’s money that were so loaded with debt that they were doomed to fail.  But he extracted a lot of money for himself before that happened.  Here are highlights of what the New York Times reported:

His audacious personality and opulent properties brought attention — and countless players — to Atlantic City as it sought to overtake Las Vegas as the country’s gambling capital. But a close examination of regulatory reviews, court records and security filings by The New York Times leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump’s casino business was a protracted failure.  Though he now says his casinos were overtaken by the same tidal wave that eventually slammed this seaside city’s gambling industry, in reality he was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing.

But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.

In three interviews with The Times since late April, Mr. Trump acknowledged in general terms that high debt and lagging revenues had plagued his casinos. He did not recall details about some issues, but did not question The Times’s findings.  He repeatedly emphasized that what really mattered about his time in Atlantic City was that he had made a lot of money there.

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Equality vs. group equality

June 13, 2016

Paul Krugman wrote that the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries shows the fallacy of trying to appeal to a majority of Americans on the issue of inequality.

History shows that Americans don’t care about individual inequality; he wrote; what we care about is “horizontal” inquality—disparities between racial, ethnic and other groups.   Politicians need to realize this in order to be successful.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

Defining oneself at least in part by membership in a group is part of human nature.  Even if you try to step away from such definitions, other people won’t.  A rueful old line from my own heritage says that if you should happen to forget that you’re Jewish, someone will remind you: a truth reconfirmed by the upsurge in vocal anti-Semitism unleashed by the Trump phenomenon.

So group identity is an unavoidable part of politics, especially in America with its history of slavery and its ethnic diversity.  Racial and ethnic minorities know that very well, which is one reason they overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton, who gets it, over Mr. Sanders, with his exclusive focus on individual inequality.   And politicians know it too.

Indeed, the road to Trumpism began with ideological conservatives cynically exploiting America’s racial divisions.

Source: Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Adolph Reed explained the problem with this kind of thinking in an interview on the Benjamin Dixon show.

Adolph Reed Jr.

Adolph Reed

We have a national politics now that has for 20 years at least, longer, given us two choices. And one of them is a party that’s committed to Wall Street and to neoliberalism and is deeply and earnestly committed to a notion of diversity and multiculturalism, and a party that’s committed to Wall Street and neoliberalism, and is deeply opposed to multiculturalism and diversity.

So, if we have to choose between those two, obviously for most of us who are committed to the ideals of justice and equality, the one that’s committed to multiculturalism and diversity is less bad than the one that’s opposed to them. 

But the deeper problem is that they’re both actively committed to maintaining and intensifying economic inequality, and … that ideal of a just society is one in which one percent of the population can control ninety percent of the stuff, but it would be just if twelve percent of the one percent were black, fourteen percent Latino, and half of them were women, and whatever percentage were gay, and what that means, then, is that most Black people, and most Latinos, and most white people, and most Asian Americans would would be stuck holding like the end of the stick with the stuff on it that I assume I can’t call by its right name.

Source: Adolph Reed | naked capitalism

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Violence has no place in politics

June 10, 2016

political violence6-7-16-1

Via Ted Rall’s Rallblog.

Vote for Clinton to stop Trump?

June 10, 2016

trumpclinton3Thomas Frank, Elizabeth Warren, Noam Chomsky and others I respect intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

I think this is an honorable position, provided that it is a one-time-only position.

The problem is that voting for bad candidates can be habit-foriming.

In defending bad policies in order to prevent worse, you risk losing sight of what good policy might be.

Lambert Strether, who posts on the naked capitalism web log, recently made a list of the things that you have to justify in order to defend Clinton.

1.  Corruption.  To protect Clinton, liberals have adopted the majority doctrine in Ctizens United: Only a quid pro quo is proof of corruption.

2.  Transparency.  To protect Clinton, liberals maintain that high government officials can, at will, privatize their communications to shield them from FOIA.

3.  Militarism.  To protect Clinton, liberals minimize her AUMF vote, ignore Libya, ignore Honduras, ignore Ukraine, and treat unwavering support for Israel as an unqualified good.

4.  Health.  To protect Clinton, liberals reject Medicare for All.

5.  Working Class.  To protect Clinton, liberals deny that there is or can be a working class electorate.  The electorate is only to be viewed through the prism of identity politics.

Two category errors follow: The “white working class” is deemed to be racist, by definition, and the non-white working class is erased.  Consequently, it’s impossible to think through the universal effects of the FIRE [financial] sector on the working class, nor its differential effects on particular working class identities.  This is not an accident.

That’s quite a platform.  And if you’re thinking the Democrat Party isn’t the Democratic Party you knew and loved, that’s not an accident either.  This has been a wonderfully clarifying primary, for which I congratulate all the players.

Source: naked capitalism

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Bernie Sanders 2016 and Gene McCarthy 1968

June 10, 2016

Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has the same significance as Eugene J. McCarthy‘s in 1968.

McCarthy was a moderate Democrat from Minnesota who chose to run against incumbent Lyndon Johnson on a platform of opposition to the Vietnam War.

Eugene J. McCarthy

Eugene J. McCarthy

He didn’t have an especially distinguished record, and he wasn’t the best possible candidate.  But he was the candidate who had the nerve to run while all the other war opponents held back.   He provided an outlet for all the pent-up anti-war sentiment.

He won a plurality of the votes in the New Hampshire primary, against two slates of delegates both pledged to President Johnson.   His victory emboldened Senator Robert F. Kennedy to run, and Johnson decided not to seek re-election.

Even if Kennedy had not been assassinated, he probably would not have been able to defeat the entrenched Democratic Party organization or to prevent the nomination of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

What McCarthy and then Kennedy did do was to open the door for a peace faction which was a continuing force in the Democratic Party independent of McCarthy himself.   I think, or at least I hope, Bernie Sanders has opened the door for a Democratic Party social justice faction that will outlive the Sanders campaign.

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Sanders, Millennials and the future

June 7, 2016

Millennials for Sanders

If Donald Trump is the candidate of angry white men and Hillary Clinton is the candidate of women, Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the young.

Across demographic groups, public opinion polls show a majority of voters under 30 support Sanders.

This is partly because younger Americans live in a more unforgiving world than I did when I was their age, and they have a stronger desire for change.

I think there is another reason.  Someone who is 19 or 29 should have a longer time horizon than I do at age 79.

My circle of friends consists mostly of liberal Democrats in my age group.  For them, the big question is: What would happen if Donald Trump is elected?

A younger person might ask: What would happen if we have eight more years of war and economic decline?  What if things go on as they are now for decades?

I think of global climate change as a problem for a future I probably won’t live to see.  Millennials can expect to see California run out of water and Miami sink beneath the waves in their lifetimes.

A Millennial voter would be more concerned than somebody in my generation—I feel silly calling myself a member of the Greatest Generation—about building the long-range future than about winning the next election.

Clinton is a defender of the status quo.  Trump is a voice for anger and frustration.  Of the three, only Sanders represents hope for the future.

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Advice to a peaceful anti-Trump protester

June 7, 2016

If you’re thinking of protesting Donald Trump at or near one of his rallies, my advice is:

Don’t.

∞∞∞

If you insist on your Constitutional right to peacefully assemble, I’ll absolutely defend your right to do it.  I’ll defend anybody’s right to peacefully protest.

Trump_protest_Chicago_ap_imgBut if you want to exercise your right to protest Donald Trump in the vicinity of a Trump rally, I advise you to think again.  It isn’t always wise to do something just to show you have a right to do it.

You may have every intention in the world of engaging in a peaceful protest.  But you don’t have any control over whether the protest is peaceful.  That decision rests with the most violent member of your group.

The most violent member may be somebody who lacks self-control.  Or it may be somebody who, unlike you, believes in revolutionary violence, like the “black bloc” in the Occupy Wall Street protests or World Trade Organization protests.

Or they may well be infiltrators working for police or intelligence organizations or for the Trump campaign.

During the anti-Vietnam protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s, police infiltration was a real thing.  A friend of mine told me of taking part in a peace march, and noticing that the two hippies in the line ahead of him were wearing the same kind of black shoes that state troopers wore.  When they stopped to pick up rocks, my friend had the presence of mind to run into a coffee shop nearby.

Police immediately descended on the marchers, clubbed some of them and took them away.  When my friend came out of the shop a hour later, nobody was left but police standing around smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, including the two apparent hippies.

Part of the Watergate scandal involved Richard Nixon agents posing as Democrats and trying to manipulate the 1972 nominating process from within.  A typical example is that Donald Segretti, a Nixon operative, send out letters purportedly approved by Edmund Muskie, the leading candidate, accusing Hubert Humphrey and conservative Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson.

Roger Stone, a famous Republican dirty-tricks specialists, got his start in politics as a college student playing dirty tricks on behalf of Richard Nixon—for example, making a campaign contribution in the name of a Nixon rival in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance, then mailing the receipt to the Manchester Union-Leader.

All that aside, any violent incident that happens in connection with your protest, whether or not it’s your fault, is going to be blamed on you.  Donald Trump thrives on violent confrontations, regardless of who starts them, because they validate what he tells his followers.

A good rule in politics is: Don’t do what your enemy wants you to do.

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What Sanders should demand from Clinton

June 6, 2016

hillary-clinton-bernie-sandersBernie Sanders would be a fool to endorse Hillary Clinton in return for concessions in the Democratic platform.

Voters don’t pay any attention to the platform, and candidates don’t, either.  The important thing for Sanders to demand is appointment of members and staff of the Democratic National Committee who will support pro-worker candidates instead pro-Wall Street candidates for Congress and state offices.

Hillary Clinton would be a fool to put Sanders people on the Democratic National Committee in return for his endorsement.

Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton wouldn’t mean that much.

Most of the Sanders supporters whom I know think of Sanders as a bold reformer and Clinton as an overly cautious reformer.  They’d vote for Clinton, regardless of what Sanders says, because they think of her, not as a lesser evil, but as a lesser good.

Sanders supporters like me, who think there is a fundamental difference between pro-worker and pro-Wall Street candidates, would not be swayed by a Sanders endorsement.  Our opinions were formed before Sanders entered the race.

What Sanders can offer Clinton that is of value is his mailing list of small donors.  That is a treasure of enormous value for any candidate or slate of candidates.  The only circumstance it which it would be worth handing over, would be if the Democratic National Committee and its staff were replaced with Sanders’ people.

Arguably such a deal would both improve Clinton’s chances of winning in November, and be in the long-range interest of progressives and working people—a win-win for both sides.  But it wouldn’t be in the interest of Clinton’s big donors, and I’d be amazed if she agreed to it.

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Dean Baker on white privilege

June 6, 2016

violentTrump-RallyThe rise of Trump has provoked a considerable outpouring of commentary from the pundits.  Most of it centered on the chief complaint that the white working class is upset about losing its privileged position and see Trump as the ticket to setting things right.

There is considerable truth to this story.  Trump’s strongest support comes from white men without college degrees, although he also does quite well among small business owners.  But before we condemn these workers as hopeless Neanderthals, it is worth stepping back a bit to consider what led them to support Donald Trump’s candidacy in the first place.

The “privilege” that these working class whites are looking to defend is middle-class factory jobs paying between $15 and $30 an hour.  These jobs generally came with decent health care benefits and often a traditional defined benefit pension, although that has become increasingly rare over the last two decades.

Trump-Iowa-supporters-Getty-640x480This is certainly a privileged position compared to billions of people in the developing world who would be happy to make $15 a day.  It is also privileged compared to women, whose pay still averages less than 80 percent of their male counterparts.  And, it is privileged compared to the situation of Americans of color who have frequently been trapped in the least desirable and lowest-paying jobs.

But these factory jobs and other blue collar occupations are hardly privileged when compared to the high flyers in the financial industry, the CEOs and other top level managers, or even professionals like doctors and dentists.  These groups have all seen substantial increases in their pay and living standards over the last four decades.

If you want to see “privilege,” look to the CEO making $20 million a year as they turn in a mediocre performance managing a major corporation.  Or talk to a cardiologist, an occupation with a median annual salary of more than $420,000 a year.

The pundits all know about these disparities in pay, but they want us to believe that they have nothing to do with privilege; rather, they reflect the natural workings of the market.  And they tend to act really ridiculous when shown evidence otherwise.

Source: Dean Baker | truthout

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#NeverTrump or #NeverHillary? – a roundup

June 3, 2016

The Devils You Know

My minimum requirements for voting for a Presidential candidate are the following:  (1) someone who won’t start pointless wars or risk World War Three and (2) someone who would enforce the law and obey the law and the Constitution.

I won’t vote for Donald Trump because I don’t know what he would do, based on his hair-trigger temperament, lack of self-restraint and manifest contempt for law and basic human decency.

I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because I think I know what she would do, based on her record as U.S. Senator and Secretary of State as a promoter of war and an advocate for Wall Street.

Whatever the shortcomings and limitations of Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, I don’t think either one would start a war with a country that does not threaten us nor refuse to enforce the law because the defendant headed a company that is too big to fail.

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately about the candidates.

2016 Election: Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary by Yves Smith for POLITICO.  A devastating and definitive critique of Clinton’s record as U.S. Senator and Secretary of State.  I strongly recommend this article to any liberal or progressive who thinks Clinton’s record is not so bad.

Trumpology: a Master Class by Susan B. Glasser and Michael Kruse.  A group interview of Wayne Barrett, Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio, Henry Hurt III and Timothy L. O’Brien, authors of biographies of Donald Trump.  The best account of Trump’s character.

Bernie Sanders Fights On: the Rolling Stone Interview by Tim Dickinson.  The longer he stays in, the more he gets his message out, and the more influence he will have over the Democratic Party future.

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Matt Taibbi on the political problem

June 2, 2016

America … is a place where a huge plurality of the population is underemployed, pissed off, in debt and barely keeping their heads above water.  A good 15 percent or so are not even doing that well, sitting below the poverty line, living in homes without adequate heat, sanitation or food.  That portion of America doesn’t appear anywhere in campaign coverage, not even as background.

It would have made more sense to have different labels.  If there was a Poor Peoples’ Party, a Disappearing Middle Class Party, and a Minimum Six-Figure Income Party, and all of them were described as legitimate and reasonable options in the press, people would have no problem pulling levers for the candidates who actually represented them.

Source: Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

The fantasy of cost-free conflict

May 30, 2016

Novelist Ben Fountain wrote an article in The Guardian on Saturday about how we Americans accept unending foreign wars as normal, although only a tiny number of us are willing to fight in those wars.

We know the fantasy version, the movie version, but only that 1% of the nation – and their families – who have fought the wars truly know the hardship involved.

Ben Fountain The Guardian

Ben Fountain

For the rest of us, no sacrifice has been called for: none.  No draft.  No war tax (but huge deficits), and here it bears noting that the top tax rate during the second world war was 90%.

No rationing, the very mention of which is good for a laugh.  Rationing?  That was never part of the discussion.

But those years when US soldiers were piling sandbags into their thin-skinned Humvees and welding scrap metal on to the sides also happened to coincide with the heyday of the Hummer here at home.   Where I live in Dallas, you couldn’t drive a couple of blocks without passing one of those beasts, 8,600 hulking pounds of chrome and steel.

Or for a really good laugh, how about this: gas rationing.  If it’s really about the oil, we could support the troops by driving less, walking more.

Or suppose it’s not about the oil at all, but about our freedoms, our values, our very way of life – that it’s truly “a clash of civilizations”, in the words of Senator Rubio. If that’s the case, if this is what we truly believe, then our politicians should call for, and we should accept no less than, full-scale mobilization: a draft, confiscatory tax rates, rationing.

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The Republican wing of the Democratic Party

May 27, 2016

When Howard Dean ran for President in 2004, he said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

What I took him to mean was that he represented the traditional Democratic constituencies, especially  labor, in opposition to the Republican wing, which favored big business.

rwb-donkeysplitAs chair of the Democratic National Committee, he famously said that the Democrats ought to be able to get the votes of men who drove pickup trucks with Confederate flags because they benefit from affordable health insurance and other liberal programs as much as anybody else.

He had a 50-state strategy in which he sought to built the Democratic Party everywhere, not just in the so-called swing states.  During his tenure, 2005 through 2009, Democrats recaptured control of Congress and built their strength across nationwide.  Democrats lost ground under his more conservative successors, Tim Keane (2009-2011) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2011- )

The case for the Republican wing for the Democratic Party is that the interests of working people are compatible with the interests of Wall Street bankers and Fortune 500 executives, and that the goal of party leaders should be to seek consensus, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama attempted to do.   The blame would rest with the Republican Party for refusing to respond to their overtures.

The problem with this is that it provides no answer to the growing concentration of wealth and power the past 25 years, at the expense of all Americans except a small elite.

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Donald Trump’s $1 million promise to veterans

May 26, 2016

veterans_trump_2000x1124

Kevin Drum wrote this for Mother Jones magazine yesterday:

Here’s what Donald Trump did recently:

  • He pledged $1 million to help veterans.
  • He tried to weasel out of it for months and hoped no one would notice.
  • When he finally got caught, he ponied up grudgingly and insulted the reporter who caught him.

Even among sleazebags, this is not normal behavior. This is pathological sleaziness.  It’s literally beyond belief.  Do not let Trump distract you with his latest barrage of insults.  Do not turn your attention to the latest polls.  Do not let this be normalized away as “just another Trump thing.”

Maybe we need to put this in simpler terms.  $1 million is one ten-thousandth of Trump’s claimed wealth.  The average American household has a net worth of about $50,000. One ten-thousandth of that is $5.  In terms of its effect on his personal finances, what Trump did was the equivalent of promising five bucks to a homeless vet and then trying to weasel out of it.  What kind of person would do that?

Source: Kevin Drum | Mother Jones

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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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