Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?

July 22, 2019

I respect both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  They are the only two current Presidential candidates, except maybe Tulsi Gabbard, that I’d vote for.  Unfortunately I can’t vote for both.

Warren has a better and deeper understanding of policy.  Sanders’ ideas (for example, the Walmart tax) are sometimes half-baked.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Via Vox

But Sanders has a better and deeper understanding of public opinion and political power.  When he started campaigning for a $15 an hour minimum wage and Medicare for all, these ideas were regarded as crackpot.  He understands that public opinion is not a given.  It can be changed.

He also understands that it is not enough to have correct ideas or even to have popular ideas.  You have to have a political force behind you that is powerful enough to push these ideas through.

That is why he gives so much support to striking workers and protest demonstrations.  They represent a potential counterforce to the power of big money.

He regards billionaires and CEOs of big corporations as his enemies, and his aim is a political revolution that takes away their power.

Warren’s aim, on the other hand, is to make the system work the way it should.  That’s why Wall Street regards her as the lesser evil.

So even though many of her specific proposals are similar to Sanders’ proposals, the two represent different philosophies.

Warren wants to win an argument.  Sanders wants to win a battle.

My main reservation about the two is that neither Warren nor Sanders are full-fledged peace candidates—although Sanders is closer to being one than Warren is

If both are on the ballot in next year’s New York Democratic primary, I would vote for Sanders.

LINKS

Warren and Sanders: Compare and Contrast by Rob Hager for Counterpunch.  The case for Warren.

Why the Differences Between Sanders and Warren Matter by Zaid Jilani for Jacobin.  The case for Sanders.

Sanders and Warren voters have astonishingly little in common by Holly Otnerbein for POLITICO.  Sanders’ voters are more likely to be young or black, make less money, have fewer degrees and be less engaged in politics previously.

Wanted: an immigration policy

July 18, 2019

Donald Trump’s immigration policy is to discourage crossings of the southern border by means of deliberate cruelty.

But it is not enough for liberals and progressives to protest President Trump.  They need to come up with a policy of their own.  This they have not done.  Until they do, the present situation will continue, which will be to Trump’s political advantage.

The policy of cruelty did not originate with Trump.  Under the Clinton administration, the U.S. government built walls at key border crossings, so that unauthorized immigrants would be forced into the desert and risk death by thirst.  Under the Obama administration, conditions were terrible in detention centers.

The Trump administration doubled down on all these policies.  And a cynic could make the argument (although I don’t) that control by cruelty is working.  It probably has a deterrent effect, while sufficient unauthorized immigrants make their way into the U.S. to supply employers’ need for low-paid labor.

But what is the alternative?  Is it open borders—no controls on immigration at all?  I know of nobody who has made that argument.  I know of no government that has such a policy.

Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren and others have proposed repealing a 1929 law that makes it a crime to cross into the United States without authorization.  That wouldn’t be the same as open borders.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could still turn you back.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and others propose abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is responsible for enforcing immigration laws in the interior of the United States.

This would not necessarily affect the sister Customs and Border Protection agency, which is responsible for controlling entry into the United States.  But AOC and Omar also oppose any additional funding for detention centers or deportations.  Some immigrant rights groups oppose all funding for detention centers or deportations.

In practice, all this means no limit on immigration at all—open borders in all but same.  The alternative to control by cruelty is no control at all.

AOC, Omar and others also call for a “Marshall Plan” to promote economic development in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three main countries that asylum-seekers are fleeing.  But the original Marshall Plan was to rebuild democratic nations of western Europe after World War Two, not dictatorship like these three countries.

There is no point in aiding oppressive governments that are creating the problem in the first place.  Far better to aid the democratic governments of Costa Rica, Belize and Panama and the semi-democratic government of Nicaragua, and cut off support for the dictatorships.

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Why ‘the squad’ are under attack

July 17, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Aylessa Presley are not under attack because they are women of color.

Although they have been attacked on the basis of their ethnicity, that is not the reason why they were attacked.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley (AP)

They are under attack because they threaten the system by which corporate and wealthy donors dominate the legislative process.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed a Green New Deal.  Ilhan Omar questioned the power of the Israel lobby.  All four traveled to the border and exposed the cruelty of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to asylum seekers.

If they’d just kept quiet, nobody would care that Ilhan Omar is an immigrant from Somalia, that Rashida Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian Arab immigrants, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican heritage or that Ayanna Pressley is African-American.

Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are fond of pointing out that there are only four of them.  But if they are so few and unimportant, why the fuss?

Some time ago Ocasio-Cortez said that the reason she as a freshman representative has been able to make an impact is that she has time to do her job.

And the reason she has time to do her job is that she does not follow the guideline of spending three hours a day on the phone to raise money.

That was a powerful statement.  It was threatening to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats and Republicans.  Their power depends on fund-raising from powerful interests.

If a congresswoman or a Bernie Sanders shows you can win power in defiance of those interests, this threatens the careers and even the livelihoods of those who depend on the donor class.

It is to Donald Trump’s interest to highlight this division within the Democratic Party, although he and the Republicans, if anything, are worse in this respect.

Top leaders of both political parties must be hoping for Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat.  The same is true of the other three.  I hope they all provide good constituent service.

LINKS

Nancy Pelosi Has Lost Control by Zach Carter for Huffington Post.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border, an interview for the New Yorker magazine

Rashida Tlaib Wants to Tax the Rich, Save Detroit and Free Palestine, an interview for Jacobin magazine..

Once again Trump commands the headlines

July 17, 2019

Donald Trump has a superpower—the ability to keep the attention of the public and the press on himself and his tweets rather than on issues he doesn’t want discussed.

He manifested this superpower in his tweet about whether certain Democratic congresswomen shouldn’t just “go back and fix the crime infested places from which they came.”

Last week Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley traveled to the southern border and exposed the terrible conditions under which asylum seekers were forced to live—children forced to sleep on concrete floors under bright lights, ICE staff joking about women having to drink out of toilets.

Press coverage was about these bad conditions, and whether they should be called “concentration camps” or not.

AOC and Trump. CNNNews

All this was wiped off the blackboard.  Now press coverage is once again focused on President Trump’s tweets and whether they are acceptable or not.

Trump wins again, despite the House of Representatives vote condemning him.  He has kept the focus on himself and diverted attention from what is going on in the world.

The kryptonite for Trump’s superpower is for the press and the opposition to not take it more seriously than it deserves.  Respond to tweets with other tweets – not with press conferences and congressional resolutions.

Ocasio-Cortez  and her three friends are not under attack because they are women of color.  This is a red herring.

They are under attack because they threaten the system by which corporate and wealthy donors dominate the legislative process.

Some time ago Ocasio-Cortez said that the reason she as a freshman representative has been able to make an impact is that she has time to do her job because she does not follow the guideline of spending three hours a day on the phone to raise money.

That was a powerful statement.  It was threatening to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats and Republicans.  Their power depends on fund-raising from powerful interests.

If an Ocasio-Cortez or a Bernie Sanders shows you can win power in defiance of those interests, this threatens the careers and even the livelihoods of those who depend on the donor class.

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How to undo legislative gerrymandering?

July 9, 2019

Click to enlarge.

It’s not an accident that Democrats won a majority of votes for state assemblies in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, but Republicans won a majority of the legislative seats.

It’s because legislative districts were intentionally drawn by Republican state legislatures to give Republicans an advantage.  You can comply with the Supreme Court’s “one man, one vote” ruling and create legislative districts with equal population, and still draw the lines so as to give one party an advantage.

Click to enlarge

Both parties have done this through American history.  The word “gerrymander” comes from Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, whose party, the Democratic-Republicans (forerunner of today’s Democrats), drew up a strangely-shaped state senate district in 1812 to dilute the voters of the rival Federalists.

But Republicans during the last round of redistricting after the 2010 census used big data and computer analysis to lock in their control of legislatures in key states.  Democrats would have to do much more than win a majority of the votes to take back control.

They complained to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court turned them down, in a 5-4 decision.  Chief Justice John Roberts said the court can’t take up the burden of drawing legislative district boundaries for the states.

But Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that there is an accepted procedure for doing just this.  It consists of having a computer process draw up many different maps of legislative districts of equal population that are geographically compact and respectful of existing boundaries, and then allowing the state legislature to choose one of them.

If the state and federal courts do not do something about gerrymandering, who will?  State legislatures elected in gerrymandered district are unlikely to change the system that put them in power.  Congress? State legislatures draw congressional district boundaries, too.

But the fact is that the Supreme Court is not going to change its decision until and unless a new justice is appointed and maybe not even then.

What remains for Democrats is to try to get a large enough vote to offset a rigged system.  Or propose amendments to state constitutions to set up a fair process for drawing legislative districts.

LINK

Chief Justice Roberts OKs Minority Rule by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  Hat tip to him for the chart.

Why failed Donald Trump may win in 2020

May 30, 2019

Donald Trump has a good chance of being re-elected despite his poor record as President.

If Joe Biden is nominated, Trump will be able to attack him from the left as a defender of the status quo, just as he did Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

If Bernie Sanders is nominated, the Democratic establishment will turn on him, as their predecessors did McGovern.  The Washington press corps already is against him.

There’s a possibility that, because of the large number of Democratic candidates, no candidate will go into the Democratic convention with a majority, in which case the super-delegates will decide.  Their most likely choice would be Biden or, if his candidacy fades, the most conservative Democrat still in the running.

I don’t think impeachment or doubling down on Russiagate will help the Democrats, but they’ll also pay a price by giving up and tacitly admitting they’re wrong.  They lose either way.

Donald Trump has failed to deliver on any of his promises.  He’s started a trade war with China, but this hasn’t helped unemployed factory workers.  He’s done a lot of unnecessarily cruel things to unauthorized immigrants, but he hasn’t addressed the immigration issue.  He hasn’t “cleaned the swamp.” He doesn’t have a plan for replacing Obamacare with something better.  He doesn’t have an infrastructure plan.

All these failures create an opening for Democrats.  But do they have something better to offer?

Bernie Sanders is the only one who can bring about needed social change because he is the only one who has created a campaign organization and source of funds that is independent of big donors and the Democratic Party machinery.  If elected, he would have a power base independent of the big donors and a means of putting pressure on Congress to enact his program.

That’s precisely why the Democratic Party establishment would be against him.  Re-electing Trump would only keep them out of office.  Electing Sanders would threaten their careers and their sources of power.

Joe Biden is their preferred candidate.  Biden is an unapologetic supporter of the financial elite and the warfare state. He takes up for rich people and has “no empathy” for struggling Millennials.  I’ll give him credit for honesty.  He doesn’t pretend to be progressive.

Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard have good ideas, but they would have less power to bring about change than Sanders would.  Neither one is the head of a mass movement as Sanders is.  The Justice Democrats and Our Revolution support Sanders, but their aim is to change American politics as a whole and not just elect one candidate.

I’ve not researched all the other candidates, but at this point, I think of them as like bottles of soda pop in a vending machine.  They’re different flavors, but they’re basically all the same sugar water.

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Two wolves and a sheep vote on dinner

May 16, 2019

There’s an old saying that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.  For some amusing ideas of what that may mean in practice click on Two Wolves and a Sheep on Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex blog.

Why the Democrats shouldn’t nominate Joe Biden

April 26, 2019

Joe Biden Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.

Joe Biden Is Hillary Clinton 2.0 – Democrats Would Be Mad to Nominate Him by Medhi Hasan for The Intercept.

Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Pure and Simple by Norman Solomon for truthdig.

Three Democrats who shouldn’t be President

April 10, 2019

Joe Biden.

Pete Buttigieg.

Kamala Harris.

Click on the links for reasons why.

Is there a real peace candidate in the race?

April 8, 2019

The Black Agenda Report carried a good article evaluating the political records of all the announced Democratic candidates on issues of war and peace.

Peace activists Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J.S. Davies wrote that Senator Bernie Sanders’ record is by far the best.  He voted against military spending bills 16 out of 19 times since 2013.

He opposes a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Syria and opposes military intervention in Venezuela.  He’s a leader is trying to get Congress to invoke the War Powers Act to stop U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen.

The biggest blot on his record is his support for the expensive and useless F-35 fighter project, in order to create jobs in Vermont.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a National Guard officer who served in Iraq, is an outspoken opponent of regime change wars and one of the few to oppose the new arms race with Russia.  But she voted in favor of military spending bills 19 out of 29 times, and has been a consistent supporter of expensive weapons systems.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand deserve consideration.  Warren sponsored a resolution to renounce U.S. use of nuclear weapons except as retaliation for a nuclear attack.  Gillibrand has the second-best record of opposing proposed military budgets.

The spiritual writer Marianne Williamson is the only declared candidate who wants to dismantle the military-industrial complex and transition to a peace economy.  Politically, that is a fringe position.  It is realistic only in terms of what is actually needed.

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White liberals more militant than average blacks

April 3, 2019

Americans are becoming more anti-racist, which is a good thing.  But this change is being driven by just one segment of the population—white liberal Democrats.

Public opinion polls show white liberals are more militantly anti-racist than black voters and also Hispanic voters on a whole range of topics.

The difference of opinion between white liberals and white conservatives is greater than the average difference of opinion between whites and blacks.

I gave additional examples in a previous post.  Here’s another.

Self-described liberals with positive feelings about Donald Trump

Matthew Yglesias called what’s going on a Great Awokening—comparable to the abolitionist fervor in the Great Awakening prior to the Civil War.  He didn’t have a good explanation as to why it’s happening now, except that use of social media makes the whole world aware of incidents such as the Trayvon Martin killing, which might have been ignored in an earlier era.

The New England Yankee abolitionists fought bravely against the evil of slavery, but many of them had a blind spot, and some of today’s white  liberals have the same blind spot.  The campaign for justice for the black slave in the distant South often went along with contempt for the Irish immigrants and other white working people in their midst.  They—not every single one of them, of course—had a strong sense of social superiority based not on race, but on education and social class.

I encounter similar attitudes when I was growing up in the 1940s in rural Maryland. Many educated white people back then would say things like, the Negroes were all right, it was the white trash you had to look out for.  Well-brought-up boys were taught that using the now-taboo words for black people was the same as swearing, cursing, using bad grammar, smoking cigarettes in the school lavatory or telling dirty joke.  It was something that marked you as a lower-class roughneck.

Don’t get me wrong.  The abolition of slavery was more important than getting rid of “No Irish Need Apply” signs.  My elders were right to teach me that the N-word is taboo.  Today’s white liberals are right to combat racist ideology and racial prejudice.  But they should think about how much they want to redefine racism upward.
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The opinion revolution in thinking about race

April 3, 2019

Matthew Yglesias, in an article called The Great Awokening, documents the revolution in white American thinking about race during the past five or so years, especially among Democrats.

Democratic presidential candidates, including those who call themselves centrists and moderates, are talking about reparations and systemic racism.  These issues would have been considered too hot to handle five years ago.

The charts he ran with the article tell the story.

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The needed radicalism of the Green New Deal

March 22, 2019

The Green New Deal resolution of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey is more radical and far-reaching than Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original New Deal.

The non-binding resolution calls for a mass mobilization of American government and society against catastrophic climate change, on a scale as great or even greater than mobilization to fight World War Two.

The mobilization Ocasio-Cortez and Markey call for would mean a closing down or drastic shrinkage of industries that depend on fossil fuels.  This would be a threat not only to the profits of powerful vested interests, but to the livelihoods of millions of good, hard-working people.   

That is why the Green New Deal is also a deal.  It includes social reform and a job creation program  to get buy-in from working people and minorities, who might otherwise

There are two problems with the resolution.  One is that it is too radical to gain political acceptance anytime soon.  The other is that, radical as it is, its proposals may not be enough to deal with the crisis.

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If you read my previous post or the text of the resolution, you’ll see that it is largely a wish list of the environmental and labor movements for the past 20 or so years.  Getting these movements on the same page would be a big accomplishment, because they haven’t always been friends.

The environmental movement has sometimes worked to the benefit of the well-to-do, such as subsidies for electric cars and solar panels, while putting the burden of change on the less-well-off, with higher gasoline and fuel prices.  The labor movement has sometimes accepted the argument that it is necessary to sacrifice health, safety and the environment just to protect jobs.

Working people have good reason to be suspicious of promises that, if they give up what they have, they’ll be given something else just as good or better.  This was the promise of NAFTA and the other trade agreements under the Clinton administration and after—that the loss of grungy industrial jobs will be offset by new bright, shiny high-tech jobs.  This didn’t happen.

An expression that occurs repeatedly in the resolution is “vulnerable and frontline communities.”  This refers to the communities left behind by de-industrialization and globalization during the past 30 years.  It also refers to the communities that will bear the brunt of climate change—usually poorer, often minorities, such as the people left stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrine.  The resolution promises they won’t be left behind this time.

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Bernie Sanders and the Democrats: links

March 15, 2019

Bernie Sanders Wants You to Fight by Meagan Day for Jacobin.

Actually the Democrats Don’t Care About Identity by Branko Narcetic for Jacobin.

A Way-Too-Early Handicapping of the 2020 Presidential Race by Thomas Neuburger for Down With Tyranny!

Fantasy League U.S. presidential elections

March 1, 2019

Click to enlarge. Source Philip Kearney Cartography.

Could Bill Clinton have beaten Donald Trump?  Could Ronald Reagan have beaten Barack Obama?  Who would have won if Bill Clinton had somehow been able to run against Hillary Clinton.  George H.W. Bush, the elder, against George W. Bush, the younger?

A cartographer-blogger named Philip Kearney calculated hypothetical results, based on the percentage of the popular vote each candidate won in each state the first time they ran.  The answers to the questions are “no,” “no,” “Hillary” and “Bush 41.”

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Bernie’s progress

February 28, 2019

Of all the announced U.S. presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the one who is unequivocally on the side of American working people (including but not limited to the “white working class”).

He has done more than any of the others to provide a rallying point for those who support labor in its battle with the oligarchy of wealth.

I wish he also was a peace candidate.  He’s moving in a good direction, he’s closer to being a peace candidate than anyone in the field except Tulsi Gabbard, but he does not challenge the U.S. neoconservative foreign policy in the same way that he challenges neoliberal economic thinking.  At least not yet.

LINKS

Six Thoughts on Bernie 2020 by Caitlin Johnstone.  Excellent.  She says it all.

Foreign Policy Distinguishes Bernie Sanders in 2020 by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic.  The case for Sanders.

Think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the same?  They aren’t by Bhaskar Sunkara for The Guardian.

Populism, immigration and white majorities

February 20, 2019

2.1 children per woman is the replacement rate.  Click to enlarge.

I recently read WHITESHIFT: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities by Eric Kaufmann (2018, 2019)

It’s about the response of white people in North America, western Europe and Australasia to the fact that their birth rates are below the replacement rate, and that the likely sources of immigration are all from non-white countries with higher birth rates.

Kaufmann, a professor of political science at the University of London, said white fears of immigration are the driving force behind the election of Donald Trump, the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Community and the rise of right-wing populist parties throughout western Europe.

He sees four white responses to population shifts:

  • Fight.  Reduce or eliminate immigration from non-white countries.
  • Repress.  Avoid thinking about the issue and suppress discussion in the name of anti-racism.
  • Flee.  Retreat to white enclaves and avoid diverse neighborhoods, schools and social networks.
  • Join.   Assimilate and inter-marry with non-whites to form a new beige majority.

I wrote about the fourth possibility in a 2012 blog post.  I noted how, in the USA, the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority evolved into a white majority that includes Catholics and Jews.  I speculated on the possibility of a further evolution into a new “non-black” majority including white Hispanics, mixed-race people who identify as white and possibly Asian-Americans.

The great danger, as I saw it,  is that the new majority would be as much, or maybe even more, prejudiced against black people as the old majority..

Kaufmann, who grew up in Vancouver, hopes for a more benign evolution—a inclusive majority based not on ancestry, color or facial features, but on loyalty to the nations’ original European cultural roots, but also tolerant of minorities who reject that culture.

He’s an example of what he advocates.  He is by ancestry one-fourth Latino and one-fourth Chinese, but identifies as white.  (The fact that he “identifies” rather than “passes” as white shows progress that has occurred in my lifetime.)

I have long believed that American patriotism should be based not on race, religion or national origin, but on loyalty to the Constitution and the ideals of equal rights contained in the Declaration of Independence.

Kaufmann thinks such civic ideals are too thin to command strong loyalty.  A nation can and should have principles of good citizenship, but real national identity requires a sense of being part of a community with a shared history, whether defined by language, religion, ancestry or culture and customs.

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The politics of the USA, the UK and many other countries are defined by a revolt of an anti-immigration Populist Right  against what Kaufmann calls a Left-Modernist cultural and political elite, which defines opposition to immigration as racist.

Exceptions include the English-speaking parts of Canada, where no Populist Right has emerged, and nationalistic countries of Eastern Europe, where Left Modernism has never gained a foothold.  In Quebec and Scotland also, the cultural elite is on the side of French Canadian and Scottish ethnic nationalism.

Left-Modernism, as Kaufmann sees it, originated among bohemian intellectuals of a century or so ago, who rejected the conventions of the conformist middle-class majority.  In the USA, this was a revolt against the Puritan heritage and an embrace of everything anti-Puritan, from sexual freedom to  jazz music.

Over time these values came to dominate academia, the news and entertainment media and the political elite.  Along the way, though, the Left Modernists ceased to value radical individualism and self-expression and developed a kind of reverse Puritanism, based on conformity and guilt.  Nowadays it is the Populist Right that is transgressive and provocative.

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Tulsi Gabbard is more of an anti-war candidate

January 15, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, is more of an anti-war candidate than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or any other presidential candidate who has announced so far.

She opposes “regime change wars” on principle, which no other high-profile politician has been willing to say since Rep. Ron Paul left Congress.  Such wars, as she pointed out in the interview, have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous suffering to ordinary people in the Middle East and elsewhere without making Americans safer or better off.

Ending regime change wars would be a big change for the better, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean giving up the U.S. empire of bases and cutting back the U.S. military mission to defense of the homeland and fulfilling treaty obligations to allies.  If you really want to crush Al Qaeda’s successors and imitators, the first step would be to stop arming them to so as to bring about regime change.

Most of the commentary on Gabbard’s announcement ignored all of this.  Instead it focused on her opposition to gay rights moe than 15 years ago..

She is one of a number of people who was raised as a social conservative, and changed their minds over a period of years.  I can understand this, because my own opinions, including on LGBT issues, have changed in the past 15 years.  But some commentators think this will sink her campaign before it gets started.

Gabbard comes from an unusual background.  According to her Wikipedia page, her father is part Samoan and a Catholic; her mother is a convert to Hinduism.  She was elected to the Hawaii state legislature at the age of 21, then was deployed to Iraq as a member of the Hawaii National Guard.  She is now serving her fourth term in Congress.

In 2016, she resigned from the Democratic National Committee in order to support Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president.

The video of of an interview with Joe Rogan gives a good overview of what she believes.  It runs an hour and 43 minutes, a little long to watch on a small screen.  Here are starting points of the highlights:

  • 7mn.  Why North Korea has nuclear weapons
  • 9mn.  Regime change wars (the key segment)
  • 22mn.  Authorizing war with Iran
  • 30mn.  Russian troll farms.
  • 32mn.  Why she supported Bernie Sanders
  • 49mn.  Paper ballots and electronic voting
  • 1hr4mn  Pros and cons of universal basic income
  • 1hr13mn  Affordable higher education and health care
  • 1hr22mn  Threats to civil liberties
  • 1hr33mn  Legalizing marijuana

I agree with everything she said in the Joe Rogan interview and most of her views as given on her Wikipedia page.

My main concern about her is her praise of the authoritarian nationalist government of President Narendra Modi of India and her alignment with  Hindu nationalists in the Indian-American community, which is reportedly a large source of her funding.  I also object to her statement in a 2014 interview that torture may be justified under certain circumstances.

Aside from this, I’m favorably impressed with her, not only because I think she is right on policy, but because of her calm, self-assured and well-informed way of answering questions.  Also, that she was not afraid to say “I don’t know.”

Win or lose, she will force the Democrats to debate war and peace issues on a more fundamental level than before.

LINKS

Tulsi Gabbard Wikipedia page.

Five Reasons I’m Excited About Tulsi Gabbard’s Candidacy by Caitlin Johnstone.  Lots of good links with this.

Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 Campaign May Be Over Before It Starts by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone.

Tulsi Gabbard Is a Rising Progressive Star, Despite Her Ties to Hindu Nationalists by Soumya Shankar for The Intercept.  Why her ties to right-wing Hindu nationalists are troubling.

Top Democrats once voted for a border fence

January 14, 2019

This photo, published in 2011, shows a section of the border barrier built under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

In the debate over a southern border wall, we might remember that 650 miles of “fence” already has been built along the border with Mexico, and many top Democrats voted to authorize it.

The barrier was built under the Secure Fencing Act of 2006, which was proposed by President George W. Bush and supported by a majority of Democrats, including Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein, and also by then-Rep. Sherrod Brown.

Admittedly there’s a difference between a wall and a fence—although what President Trump means by a wall isn’t completely clear.

And, to be sure, some Democrats opposed the 2006 law, including Rps. Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi and Senators Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and John Kerry.

Even so, with this history, it’s hard for me to see why the Democratic leadership chose this particular issue to go to the wall over (so to speak).

The bill was part of a package that included a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the United States and stricter controls on new unauthorized immigration, including the border fence.

In 2011, President Obama declared the fence had been completed, but his opponents claimed the result wasn’t what Congress intended.

The original bill called for a double row of fencing, but it also gave the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to choose alternatives if deemed more suitable for the location.  Only 36 miles were built as double fencing.  Federal officials said the fence includes 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence.

The U.S.-Mexican border in its entirety is about 1,950 miles long.

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The mirage of “electability”

January 11, 2019
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I don’t think much or have much to say about “electability.”   If I were a politician considering who to support, I’d have to think about it.
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As a mere voter, I just vote for the candidates I think would be best, based on their platform, record and proposals.  Voting “strategically” means voting based on a guess as to how others will vote.  We who vote our own minds have some influence, however small, on who are and who are not electable.
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My litmus test for who I’d support is twofold:
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  • Would they try to break the financial and corporate oligarchy’s lock on public policy and are they willing to do without donations from financial and corporate interests?
  • Would they try to break the military-intelligence complex’s lock on foreign and military policy and give up the goal of world military domination.
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The only prospective candidates I know who meet the first test are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in that order.  Neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren is a real peace candidate, although they are less militaristic that the Democratic leadership as a whole, which nowadays is even more hawkish than Republicans.
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The odds are against any truly progressive candidate.  Any progressive candidate will have to fight the power of big money, a political system rigged against them and a mainstream press aligned against them.
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Any progressive candidate is going to be under attack for irrelevant reasons, such as the BernieBros smear and the Pocahontas smear.  If someone else occupied the same niche as Sanders or Warren, something equivalent would a tagged to them.  Right now there’s a frantic search going on for something to hang on Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
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If you’re a progressive, there are two reasons to support a candidate who stands for what you believe in.  The first is that the candidate might just win.  The second is help to shift public opinion by raising questions and presenting fact that the public doesn’t usually hear.  Hammer away at public opinion long enough, and winning follows.
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The Green Party is widely regarded as the lunatic fringe.  But its idea of a Green New Deal has become mainstream.  Bernie Sanders was regarded as a crackpot for proposing Medicare for all.  Now this idea is mainstream, too.
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The current discussion as to which Democratic politician is “electable” is like a discussion of who should play the lead role in a movie or TV mini-series like the West Wing.  Do we want a likable old white guy with a working-class background (Joe Biden)?  Or a hard-nosed prosecutor who happens to be a black woman (Kamala Harris)?  Or maybe a sophisticated younger black man at home in the worlds of politics and finance (Corey Booker, Deval Patrick)?  Or maybe an appealing Kennedyesque young guy from Texas (Beto O’Rourke)?  Or an actual Mexican-American from the Southwest (Julian Castro)?
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None of these candidates is being promoted on the basis of their record or their platform
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News coverage of elections is largely based on who can win or who is likely to win.  It should be based on giving the public enough information that they can judge who should win.
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LINKS
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What Does Electability Mean in 2020? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.
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Thoughts on Warren and Sanders: How Much Change Is Needed in 2021? by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny!
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Should the Left Unite Behind Elizabeth Warren? by Eric Levitz for New York magazine.

Behind the BernieBros smear

January 11, 2019

[Introduction revised 1/15/2019]

Bernie Sanders supporters been dogged by the “BernieBros” tag, the idea that they opposed Hillary Clinton because they’re prejudiced against women.

Lambert Strether, writing on the Naked Capitalism web log, noted a recent charge of sexual harassment within the Sanders campaign and pointed out how easy these charges are to make and how hard to refute.

He predicted that the Sanders campaign is going to be singled out for such charges because supporters of the status quo regard him as a threat.  Here is what he wrote—

“Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate” [Politico]. “The woman did not report the incident at the time because the campaign was over. But over the past several months, [convention floor leader Robert Becker], who is not on Sanders’ payroll, has been calling potential staffers and traveling to early primary states to prepare for another presidential run — activities that Sanders’ top aides did not endorse, but did not disavow, either.”

• Apparently, nobody seems to have written Sanders a letter.  Odd.

Lambert here: Since the story will be weaponized, I’m going to put questions of truth or falsity aside.  A few comments:

(1) It was inevitable that #MeToo would merge with oppo. Now it has. A narrative initially framed as applying to a toxic campaign culture generally (whatever “toxic” means) has oddly, or not, been applied, at least in national venues, only to the Sanders campaign. (Contrast the two sex and meth deaths at Clinton donor Ed Buck’s house, where coverage has remained local to Los Angeles.)

(2) If Sanders and his campaign-in-waiting think this line of attack will go away, or can be dealt either by pointing to improvements made in the Sanders Senate 2018 campaign or by keeping relentlessly on-message regarding policy, they are naïve in the extreme.

(3) There will be more. That’s what Operation Mockingbird and Cointelpro tell us.  From today’s post on the “Integrity Initiative“: “[Simon Bracey-Lane] appeared on the American political scene as a field worker for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary run, earning media write-ups as the “Brit for Bernie.”   Now, the young operator was back in the US as the advance man for a military-intelligence cut-out that specialized in smearing left-wing political figures like Jeremy Corbyn.” Anybody who thinks Bracey-Lane was the only sleeper in the Sanders campaign — or Democratic Socialists of America, for that matter — is also naïve in the extreme.  There were surely more.  Some of them will be anxious to share their stories (and then go on book tours).  The same will be true of political mercenaries generally.

(4) The Clinton operation dealt successfully with respected party elder Bill Clinton’s workplace abuse issues and rapes by attacking the women The Big Dog abused and assaulted. (James Carville: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”)  Hopefully the Sanders campaign can do better.

(5) Doing better than the Clintons would imply not counter-attacking the accusers.  If it were possible, I’d “shoot the messengers” (“#MeTools”) doing the weaponizing.  I think that’s the recommendation 2016 Sanders advisor Adolph Reed has been working up to (see this important article from Reed I flagged yesterday: “There’s no point trying to communicate with those whose resistance stems from such material investment; no matter what their specific content, their responses to class critique always amount to the orderly Turkle’s lament to McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—’This is my f*cking job!’”)  It’s not clear to me that shooting the messengers will work, though it would be interesting to know how trusted the press is by the Sanders base.

(6) It’s also not clear to me what Sanders should do, other than hire somebody to deal with the matter, ideally a person both identitarian-proof and ruthlessly effective.  Sanders also needs to get the idea firmly fixed in his mind that he is not in the Senate now, and there is no comity.

Source: 2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2019 | naked capitalism

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The Yellow Vest revolt in France

December 12, 2018

I’m not well-informed about French politics, but I think the “Yellow Vest” revolt is (1) important and (2) an example of ordinary people rising up against a government and political system that does not represent them.

LINKS

Yellow Fever in France by Bernard Dreano for openDemocracy.

The Indiscreet Charm of the Gilets Jaunes by C.J. Hopkins for The Unz Review.

Le Giles Jaunes – A Bright Yellow Sign of Distress by Diana Johnstone for Global Research.

Two Roads for the New French Right by Mark Lilla for the New York Review of Books.  Not directly related to the protests, but interesting.

2018: Year of the Democratic woman

November 25, 2018

American women did very well in the 2018 elections for themselves, and also for the Democratic Party.  The results aren’t all in, but here’s a preliminary tally.

At least 102 women were elected to the House of Representatives, including 89 Democrats and just 13 Republicans.  Among the 36 newcomers, only one was a Republican.

The makeup of the Senate stayed the same, with 17 Democratic and six Republican women.  There’s a runoff election in Mississippi on Tuesday, in which a white Republican woman is running against a black Democratic man, so there’s a possibility of one more Republican woman.

A record 43 women of color were elected to Congress.  Only one was a Republican.

The number of women governors increased from six (two Democrats, four Republicans) to nine (six Democrats, three Republicans).  The number of women serving in state legislatures will cross 2,000 for the first time.  I don’t know how many are Democrats, but I bet a lot of them are.

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What the 2018 results mean for 2020

November 24, 2018

The establishment Democrats won the 2018 primaries and general election.  They could win the 2020 presidential election if the presidential vote mirrors this year’s congressional vote.

By establishment Democrats, I mean the Democrats who, like Nancy Pelosi, seek to strike a balance between the desires of the donor class, who finance campaigns, and working people and racial minorities, who are their core voters.

The establishment Democrats focus on President Trump’s obnoxious personal behavior, the Russiagate investigations and racial and gender issues that don’t affect the power elite.

By progressive Democrats, I mean the Democrats who, like Bernie Sanders, raise money from small donors and regard the Wall Street banks and the billionaire class as enemies.

The progressive Democrats advocate policies such as Medicare for all, a $15 an hour minimum wage and the breakup of the “too big to fail” banks.

The establishment Democrats’ strategy is to win over independents and moderate Republicans who are disgusted with Donald Trump.  They see their mandate as putting things back the way they were before President Trump was elected.

The progressive Democrats’ strategy is to rally labor union members, people of color and other historic Democratic constituencies who’ve grown apathetic because of failure of the Democratic leaders to represent their interests.

Nancy Pelosi, who is almost certain to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019, said she will pursue a policy of fiscal responsibility, which rules out much of the progressive agenda.

She will insist all new spending be on a pay-as-you-go basis—that is, every new appropriation be accompanied by a tax increase or a spending cut elsewhere.  She also will insist on supermajorities for tax increases on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers.

This would rule out an ambitious infrastructure program, a Green New Deal jobs program, Medicare for all and most of the other programs of the progressive Democrats. What she will offer instead is strong support for reproductive rights and investigations into Trump administration scandals—although she has ruled out impeachment of the President.

Democrats got 8.9 million more total votes than Republicans in elections for the House of Representatives.  Their margin of victory in the popular vote was 8 percent, versus 2.3 percent for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.

Democrats raised much more money than Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.  The average Democratic Senatorial candidate raised $3.5 million; the average Republican, $1.5 million.   The average Democratic House candidate raised $612,203; the average Republican, $502,805.

Catalyst reported that 56 percent of voters lived in suburban census tracts, versus 26 percent in rural tracts and 18 percent in urban tracts.  The voters were 76 percent white and 63 percent age 50 or older.

The influence of big donations and the nature of the electorate explains why establishment Democrats did so well.  But progressives made gains.  Democrats gained compared to 2014 among their historic core supporters as well as independents and moderate Republicans.

∞∞∞

Democrats have good reason to be hopeful for 2020.  Right now President Trump has a 40 percent approval rating, compared to 46 percent for Barack Obama and 45 percent for Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies.

The Republican loss of 39 or more Congressional seats is above average for an incumbent party in a mid-term election, but it is less than the 63 lost by Democrats two years into the Obama presidency and 54 lost two years into the Clinton presidency.

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What’s so great about democracy?

November 14, 2018

My core political beliefs are the ideals of American freedom and democracy I was taught as a schoolboy.  My belief in freedom as a political ideal was challenged by a book I read recently, Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen (2018).

Now I have read another, Breaking Democracy’s Spell  by John Dunn (2014), a gift from an old friend of mine, which questions democracy as a political ideal.

Dunn believes that the idea of democracy—especially as understood by 21st century Americans—is incoherent.  Unlike Deneen with liberalism, he does not have a theory of democracy; he just criticizes the shallowness of American thinking on the topic.  Oddly, he deals with the experience of only three countries, the USA, India and China.

He maintains that most Americans fail to realize that—

  1. Democracy does not guarantee good government.
  2. Democracy does not guarantee human rights or the rule of law.
  3. Voting affects governmental decisions but little.  Its main purpose is to give the public the impression they are in control.
  4. Democracy has been in bad repute through most of Western history.  
  5. Democracy’s current popularity is a product of specific circumstances in the past few centuries and may not last.
  6. China’s authoritarian system may prove to be more lasting than democracy as practiced in the USA or India.

Here are my thoughts.

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