Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

When the United States rigged Russia’s election

February 14, 2017

Twenty years ago, the U.S. government intervened in Russia’s election to put Boris Yeltsin in power.

Mark Ames, editor of the English-language eXile magazine in Moscow in the 1990s, explained all this in an interview with Abby Martin for The Empire Files.

He told how the Clinton administration managed his election campaign, and the International Monetary Fund pumped money into Russia to keep the Russian government going.

With the guidance of economists from Harvard University, Yeltsin sold off Russia’s national assets to foreign corporations and Russian individuals who became the oligarchs who dominate Russia today.   With U.S. approval, he shut down the Russian parliament and concentrated power in his own hands.   Independent journalists were murdered.   Oligarchs took over the independent press.

The Russian people were reduced to a state of misery not seen since Stalin’s rule in the 1930s.  The death rate soared and the birth rate fell.  Eventually even the Russian stock market crashed.

Source: The Diplomat

Source: The Diplomat

Vladimir Putin was Yeltsin’s right-hand man.   The U.S. government accepted him as a reliable successor to Yeltsin.  But when Putin refused to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. turned against him.

I wrote in a previous post that Vladimir Putin is a killer.  But every abuse of power by Putin was made possible by Yeltsin.

Boris Yeltsin in fact was more of a killer than Putin, but the American government didn’t care because he was willing to subordinate Russia’s national interests to the interests of American and other foreign corporations.

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Donald Trump in 2008 on Bill & Hillary Clinton

November 4, 2016

Hat tip for this to Mike the Mad Biologist.

The new normal: links Nov. 2, 2016

November 2, 2016

A Tale of Three Foundations: Carter’s, Clinton’s and Trump’s by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

Forget the FBI cache: the Podesta emails show how America is run by Thomas Frank for The Guardian.

Too Smug to Jail: ‘The Economist’ issues a myopic defense of the white-collar criminal by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Michael Moore Owes Me $4.99 by David Swanson for Counterpunch.

Could the GOP become the pro-worker party?

August 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bipartisan policies create a bad economy

August 15, 2016

naftaclinton1

naftaclint2

FRED.Glass-Steagall13934750_10209785410649165_8065315486002334298_n

Many Americans are suffering because of the loss of good jobs during the last 20 years.

This is largely due to bi-partisan government policies that began in the late 1990s.   The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and later trade agreements, in the name of free trade, limited the power of national governments to regulate banks in the public interest.

Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 allowed banks to engage in risky investments, but retained the U.S. government’s guarantee of individual deposits.   This was part of an overall economic policy, which continued under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, of deregulating financial institutions, bailing them out when they failed, refusing to enforce the anti-trust laws and refusing to prosecute financial fraud.

Concentration of wealth destroys the mass consumer market, which was the source of American prosperity during most of the 20th century.   It means that what economic activity there is goes to serve the needs and wishes of the upper 10 percent or upper 1 percent of the population, which can be done without high wages or full employment.

These were the conditions that led to the 2008 financial crash and probably will lead to a worse financial crash to come.

Eventually someone — either a great statesman or a great demagogue — will emerge to change all this.   Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is that leader.

Hillary Clinton, whose personal income and campaign contributions depend on these powerful institutions, cannot be expected to fix the problem.  Neither can Donald Trump.   While Trump has criticized corporate trade agreements, the rest of his economic program is lower taxes on the rich, deregulation of business and economic austerity, which will make conditions even worse.

LINK

The Day After Election Day by Rob Urie for Counterpunch.

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

August 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

Source: Jason Johnson | The Root

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

I’m still waiting for that to happen.

The daily news cycle seems to go like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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Will Hillary Clinton run as a conservative?

May 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hillary Clinton seeks the moderate GOP vote

May 6, 2016

GOPvotersClinton1-20-2016_04

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

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

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

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

LINKS

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

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

Hillary Forces Target Bush Donors by Ben White for POLITICO.

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

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Why was (and is) Bill Clinton so popular?

March 17, 2016

Thomas Frank has published another excerpt from his new book, Listen, Liberal., which I look forward to reading.  This one is about Bill Clinton, and why he is still so popular among working people and minorities despite having done so little for them when in the White House.

I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president.   Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

Bill Clinton in 1992

Bill Clinton in 1992

It proved difficult for my libs.  People mentioned the obvious things: Clinton once raised the minimum wage and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He balanced the budget.  He secured a modest tax increase on the rich.  And he did propose a national health program, although it didn’t get very far and was in fact so poorly designed it could be a model of how not to do big policy initiatives.

Other than that, not much.  No one could think of any great but hopeless Clintonian stands on principle; after all, this is the guy who once took a poll to decide where to go on vacation.  His presidency was all about campaign donations, not personal bravery—he basically rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, for chrissake, and at the end of his time in office he even appeared to sell a presidential pardon.

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The Clinton legacy and the Democratic Party

February 17, 2016

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations taught the Republicans to accept the New Deal.

In recent times, the Clinton and Obama administrations taught the Democrats to accept Reaganomics.

Democrats cannot adequately represent working people unless they free themselves from that legacy.

Thomas Frank wrote a good article in The Guardian about this:

In my younger days, the Democratic party seemed always to be grappling with its identity, arguing over who they were and what they stood for all through the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

What Democrats had to turn away from, reformers of all stripes said in those days, was the supposedly obsolete legacy of the New Deal, with its fixation on working-class people.

What had to be embraced, the party’s reformers agreed, was the emerging post-industrial economy and in particular the winners of this new order: the highly educated professionals who populated its clean and innovative knowledge industries.

The figure that brought triumphant closure to that last internecine war was President Bill Clinton, who installed a new kind of Democratic administration in Washington.

Rather than paying homage to the politics of Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton passed trade deals that defied and even injured the labor movement, once his party’s leading constituency; he signed off on a measure that basically ended the federal welfare program; and he performed singular favors for the financial industry, the New Deal’s great nemesis.

Source: Thomas Frank | The Guardian

In the Reagan era, I thought that since the Republican Party had become an ideological party of the right, the Democratic Party would become an ideological party of the left, and this would result in meaningful choice for voters.

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The passing scene – August 18, 2015

August 18, 2015

Peculiarities of Russian National Character by Dmitry Orlov for ClubOrlov.

Expansion of Russia Under the Czars.

Dmitry Orlov provided good insight into Russian history and how Russians deal with enemies and invaders.  But he neglected Russian expansionism.   It wasn’t by successful defense that the Russian Tsars acquired one-sixth of the world’s land surface, the largest empire in history except for the short-lived Mongol Empire.

Orlov mentioned President Putin’s offer to European nations to join his Eurasian Economic Union instead of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  I’m glad that no important European leaders are interested in Putin’s EEU, but Russia and its partners, as exporters of energy and raw materials, would complement Europe’s manufacturing industry, and I presume that Putin’s proposed agreement doesn’t involve special privileges for multinational corporations.

Permaculture and the Myth of Overpopulation by Lisa DePiano for the Permaculture Research Institute.

Environmental degradation is due more to the behavior of rich people than to the number of poor people, and it is due more to unjust systems than to large families.   Lisa DePiano rightly says that people of good will should focus on self-determination, including reproductive rights, and not talk about human population as if it is a problem in wildlife management.

Why Bill Clinton’s Apology and Barack Obama’s Prison Drive-By Token Clemencies Are Election-Year Posturing by Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, through their ability to relate to African-Americans on the emotional level, have won their votes even though their policies promoted mass incarceration of black people..

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The passing scene – August 6, 2015

August 6, 2015

I may add links during the day.  Feel free to use the comment thread for general and off-topic comments.

The Suicide of the American Left by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.

John Michael Greer recalled a time when there were Democrats who fought for the interests of famers and factory workers against financial speculators, and Republicans who fought against foreign military intervention and excessive government power.   Now both parties are pro-corporations and pro-government power.

Hillary Clinton is an example of what’s wrong with liberals and progressives, Greer wrote.  She thinks that all she has to do to be elected President is talk about how bad the Republicans are.

Dear NYT: When the GOP Is Your Assignment Editor, You Miss Real Stories by Mike the Mad Biologist.

Seriously, what has happened to the NYT? by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire.

HIllary Clinton

HIllary Clinton

While there is much in Hillary Clinton’s record to criticize, the Washington press corps does not focus on these things.  Instead it subjects her to a constant stream of attacks based on falsehoods, trivialities or, at best, controversies that involve grey areas.

My explanation is that all the legitimate grounds for attacking Hillary Clinton apply at least as much and probably more to her Republican opponents.  The only reasons for singling her out are bogus ones.  That applies to Barack Obama as well.

Donald Trump Is a Serious Candidate by Jeet Heer of The New Republic.

Koch Brothers Declare War on Donald Trump by Shannon Argueta for Addicting Info.

Donald Trump talked politics with Bill Clinton weeks before launching 2016 bid by Robert Costa and Anne Gearan for The Washington Post.  [Hat tip to Unqualified Offerings]

It’s hard for the other Republican candidates to oppose Donald Trump because he is just like them or at least just like they pretend to be, only more so.  I can see why Hillary Clinton would rather run against him than against Jeb Bush.

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Bernie Sanders and African-Americans

July 28, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders, whose voting record is rated near-perfect by the NAACP, has a problem relating to African-Americans.

His recent mishandling of a #BlackLivesMatter protest at the Netroots Nation convention shows how style can matter as much to people as substance.

Bill Clinton was a master of style.   My guess is that more poor black people remember Clinton playing the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show than his 1994 crime bill or 1996 welfare bill.

I have no reason to doubt that Clinton genuinely liked black people, but the important thing is that as a candidate for Governor of Arkansas, he needed the votes of black citizens.

Bernie Sanders' 12 points

Bernie Sanders’ 12 points

Bernie Sanders is from Vermont, a state that is as near to 100 percent white as it is possible to get.  When talking about civil rights, he talked to other white people about the principles of justice.  He never had to convince black people that he represents their interests.

I am sure that he, like me, is righteously indignant about the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail after being arrested for no good reason.  But I do not think of the deaths of Sandra Bland, or all the other black people recently in the hands of police, as something that could happen to me.   My guess is that the same is true of Sanders, and that is why the #BlackLivesMatter protestors found Sanders wanting.

Sanders’ 12-point platform is a program for economic justice, not specifically for racial justice.  (Double click on the graphic to read it.)  There is a point about equal rights for women, but not one for equal rights for racial minorities.

I don’t take this to mean that Sanders is indifferent to racial justice.  I take it to mean that, as a product of the socialist tradition, he sees economic justice as the fundamental question and that, as a practical politician, he sees economic justice as the issue that will bring him the broadest support.

You can’t have racial justice without economic justice, or vice versa.   The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spent as much time speaking in union halls as he did in churches, and his last campaign was the support of a garbage collectors’ strike in Memphis, Tenn.

LINKS

Can Bernie Sanders Be Less White? by Barrett Holmes Pitner for The Daily Beast.  Thoughts of a black man who once worked in Sanders’ Washington office.

Give the People What They Want by Seth Ackerman for Jacobin.  Opinion polls indicate that economic justice is not a “white” issue.

On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears by John Halle on Outrages and Interludes.

Dems support politicians they don’t believe

June 10, 2015

One oddity of American political life is the voter who support Democratic candidates because he or she doesn’t believe their campaign rhetoric.

I encountered this in 1992 when I talked to a United Auto Workers leader who was working to elect Bill Clinton for President because he was convinced that Clinton didn’t mean what he said about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

True, the UAW guy said, Bill Clinton said he’s for NAFTA, but he also said he is for a lot of other things, such as treaty protection of labor and environmental rights, that would negate NAFTA.  So in effect, his reasoning went, Clinton is really against NAFTA.

But Clinton betrayed him.  He pushed NAFTA though, just as he said he would.  The part he wasn’t serious about was the protection of the labor and environmental rights.

I saw the same thing among supporters of President Obama.  Every time Obama would do something such as offering to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of a budget-balancing deal, they would say this is something he “had to” do.

Really?  “Had to”?  Did somebody like the Luca Brazzi character in The Godfather put a pistol to his head and make him an offer he couldn’t refuse?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Now we have the same thing with Hillary Clinton, but with a twist.  She is trying to steal Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ thunder by talking about economic inequality, while signaling that she doesn’t really mean it to the Wall Street figures, who have made her rich by paying her six-figure fees to give speeches.

It will be interesting to see where Clinton comes down on the Trans Pacific Partnership.  She historically has supported trade agreements and in her 2014 book called the TPP the “gold standard” for such agreements.  Now she declines to take a clear stand.

A lot of the political commentary describes her “dilemma” over the TPP—the dilemma consisting of the politics of the TPP, not the merits of the agreement.

If she were to come out strongly against the TPP when her opposition might have some effect in defeating it, I would give her credit for a sincere change of heart.  I don’t expect this to happen, but I would be pleased to be proved wrong.  Otherwise I will view Clinton’s campaign rhetoric with the same skepticism that is being asked of her Wall Street supporters.

I don’t think this happens so much in the Republican Party because there is less of a disparity in the Republican Party between what’s said to the voters and to the financial backers.

LINKS

Hillary Clinton Traces Friendly Path, Troubling Party by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman for the New York Times.

In Classic Clintonian Fashion, Dems Insult Their Own Voters by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Is Clinton Still Down With TPP? by Freedom Partners.

What I learned from being wrong

September 17, 2014

obama.foreignpolicy

A blogger named Lance Mannion issued this challenge to all those critics who think they’re smarter than President Obama.

Arguments [of many Internet doves] seem to me to be based on the assumption that we should get ourselves out of the Middle East no matter what because there’s basically nothing we can do to make things better and just by being in there we make them worse by stirring up suspicions and hatreds.  Those are the smart ones.  But I would think that since I’m inclined to agree.

I’m inclined to agree.  That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree.

There are others, though, who’ve based their case on the bumper sticker-profound idea that War is Never the Answer and plenty of others whose arguments are based on a vague and circular logic: “This reminds me of what George Bush did in some way I can’t put my finger on but it must be wrong because of that or else I wouldn’t be reminded of George Bush.”

17-40f10I’m not bothering with any arguments that are based on the assumption that whatever we do is wrong because we’re the ones doing it.

So I’m asking for help.

Should we do nothing?  Why or why not?  What should we do and how would that work?  And what I want to know, more than that you were right about Iraq in 2002, is if you think Bill Clinton failed morally and geo-politically when he did nothing about Rwanda.

Also what are your thoughts on Kuwait, the Kurds, Kosovo, Tora Bora, killing bin Laden, and Libya?

via Smarter than the President?  Not me.  I’m too smart not to know how dumb I am.

 I’ve been wrong more often than I’ve been right on all the issues Mannion mentions.  My claim is that, while it has taken longer than it should have done, I have learned something from my mistakes.

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The passing scene: Links & comments 7/1/14

July 1, 2014

The Clintons’ web of wealth: Where did Bill and Hillary get all their money? by Zaid Jilani for Al Jazeera America.

After stepping down as President, Bill Clinton repeatedly received six-figure fees for speeches from Citicorp, Goldman Sachs and other banking and financial firms that benefited from his administration’s policies.  He also received six-figure speaking fees from business interests in the Middle East while his wife was Secretary of State.

This information is from financial disclosures required of office-holders and their spouses when Hillary Clinton was a U.S. Senator and then Secretary of State.   News reports indicate she has received two $200,000 speech fees from Goldman Sachs since leaving office.

While these facts raise suspicions of payoffs and conflicts of interests, Jilani pointed out that it isn’t unusual for Washington office-holders to cash in like this after they leave public service.

Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater by James Rissen of the New York Times.

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq.

But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

People on the move by Dmitry Orlov.

Most Americans seem quite incapable of making the simple connection between destroying somebody’s house and having that somebody then move in to share yours.

An estimated 50 million people are refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers and unauthorized immigrants.  Dimtry Orlov pointed out that a high proportion are from countries disrupted by the U.S. war on terror, the U.S. war on drugs or U.S. intervention to protect dictators against radical guerrillas.   These include 7 million from Mexico and 3 million from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Bush, Obama and the federal deficit

October 2, 2013

deficits-since-2000The great economist, John Maynard Keynes, said that governments should set taxes and expenditures so that they run a surplus when times were good and a deficit when times are bad, but balance over the period of the economic cycle.   This is much like the advice that Joseph gave to Pharaoh in the Bible.

The Clinton administration, with maybe some nudging from Republicans in Congress, followed that advice.   Bill Clinton was lucky in his timing.  He came into office at the start of an economic recovery and got out before the next crash.

The boom in itself helped bring the government’s budget into balance.  Tax revenues increased, and it was easier to cut spending.  Clinton made good use of that opportunity.  A commission headed by Vice President Al Gore streamlined the government so that, at the end of his administration, there was less spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) and fewer civilian employees [1] than at the beginning.

Clinton persuaded Congress to increase taxes [2] by a few percentage points, which also helped.  Taxes still were low compared to what they were prior to the Reagan era.

I don’t think increasing taxes makes it easier to spend money.  On the contrary, the fact that it is necessary to pay for what is spent creates an incentive to avoid unnecessary spending.

President George W. Bush changed this.  He persuaded Congress to cut tax rates while launching an expensive war.  Nevertheless, the economic recovery during his administration brought the federal budget closer to being in balance, until the crash.

Notice that a fiscal year starts on October 1 of the previous year.  Thus fiscal 2001 began on Oct. 1, 2000, and fiscal 2009 began on Oct. 1, 2008.  This means the first Bush budget was in 2002 and the first Obama budget was in 2010.

deficits-2018

In 2010, the first Obama budget, the federal budget deficit began to close.  Maybe the need to appease Republicans in Congress had something to do with this.  Maybe the decrease is not enough since, even though the deficit is being reduced, it still exists and the debt in cumulative.   I won’t argue either point.

What I will argue is that if budget balance is your main priority, the Clinton era shows how to do it.  Cut unnecessary spending, raise enough taxes to cover the rest and hope for economic growth.

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The kind of political rhetoric we need

January 14, 2011

Soul brothers: Carter, Clinton, Obama

September 15, 2010

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were white men who were Governors of Southern states.  President Barack Obama is a black man who was a Senator from a Midwestern state.  Yet in their politics and policies, they are more alike than they are different.

All three ran for office as outsiders.  They had little or no experience on the national scene, but they turned that liability into an asset.  They said they would break with politics as usual in Washington, and bring about a new era.  Once in office, they claimed to transcend partisanship, and to have got beyond traditional liberal vs. conservative thinking.

In fact, none of them represented a break with the past.  They filled their Cabinets from the ranks of the Washington establishment.  They weren’t exactly failures.  They all had certain accomplishments.  But neither Carter nor Clinton was a transformative President in the way that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were, and I expect the same will be true of Obama.

Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have been outstanding in their intellectual mastery of the details of policy and government – much more so than Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.  But Reagan and Bush knew something more important.  They knew their own minds.  They had guiding philosophies which informed their judgments and the judgments of their superiors.

Carter and Clinton were pragmatists, as is Obama. They rejected “ideology.”  Their aim, like Obama’s, was to support whatever produced the best results.  But in practice, they seemed to flounder.  In contrast to the Reagan and Bush administrations, their administrations lacked direction.  Pragmatism was un-pragmatic.  It didn’t work.

Reagan and Bush met the “elevator speech” test; you could state their principles to somebody on an elevator before the person got off at the next floor.  Their basic principle was that government was evil and its activities should be minimized, except in regard to national security and preserving order, in which case its powers should be absolute.  I don’t agree with this philosophy, but it is understandable.  I could not give an elevator speech explaining Carter’s philosophy, nor Clinton’s, nor Obama’s.

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