Posts Tagged ‘Joe Biden’

Biden says he told Putin he doesn’t have a soul

March 19, 2021

There are a number of disturbing things about President Biden’s interview on ABC News last Wednesday.  One is that he plans to retaliate against Russia over something that has not been defined and for which there is no evidence.

Another is his lack of discipline in his speech, and how easily he was led to say things that have important diplomatic repercussions.  He talked to George Sephanopoulos as if he were talking to a good friend in private over drinks, not to a reporter on public record.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Director of National Intelligence came out with a report today saying that Vladimir Putin authorized operations during the election to under — denigrate you, support President Trump, undermine our elections, divide our society. What price must he pay?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He will pay a price. I, we had a long talk, he and I, when we — I know him relatively well. And I– the conversation started off, I said, “I know you and you know me.  If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you know he doesn’t have a soul.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I did say that to him, yes. And — and his response was, “We understand one another.”  It was– I wasn’t being a wise guy.  I was alone with him in his office.  And that — that’s how it came about. It was when President Bush had said, “I looked in his eyes and saw his soul.”  I said, “Looked in your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.”  And looked back and he said, “We understand each other.”  Look, most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of ’em over my career, is just know the other guy. Don’t expect somethin’ that you’re– that — don’t expect him to– or her to– voluntarily appear in the second editions of Profiles in Courage.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he’s a killer?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Uh-huh. I do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So what price must he pay?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The price he’s gonna pay we’ll– you’ll see shortly.  I’m not gonna– there’s– by the way, we oughta be able that ol’ — that trite expression “walk and chew gum at the same time,” there’re places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together.  That’s why I renewed the START agreement with him.  That occurred while he’s doin’ this. But that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity, that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.  But that and SolarWinds as well.  He’s been — they’ve done some mischievous things, to say the least.  And so we’re gonna have — I’m not gonna announce what I’m doing, but he’s gonna understand that —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Mohammad —

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: — it’s not free.

Source: ABC News

What’s all this about looking Vladimir Putin in the eye?  Is there a ZOOM connection between the White House and the Kremlin?

What’s all this about being alone with Putin?  Was he able to speak to Putin without an interpreter?

What gives an American President standing to accuse any other foreign leader of being a “killer”?  Doesn’t he remember that the U.S. has been waging war by means of assassination since the George W. Bush administration?  Doesn’t he remember that President Obama boasted of being “pretty good at killing people”?

Did he really tell Putin that he doesn’t have a soul?  How does that help where “there are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together?”

This is much like the kind of interview Ronald Reagan might have given in his declining years.

If President Biden goes along with ramping up a new cold war with Russia and China, while continuing to wage other big and little wars all over the world, then his other announced goals won’t be achieved and probably won’t matter.

It’s early days yet, so Biden’s course is not set.  It is encouraging that he is at least willing to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which President Trump refused to do.  One can hope.

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Insurrection hysteria and civil liberties

March 5, 2021

As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to It More Desperately Than Ever by Glenn Greenwald.  “If the threat of ‘armed insurrectionists’ and ‘domestic terrorists’ is as great as some claim, why do they have to keep lying and peddling crude media fictions about it?”

Department of Pre-Crime: Left-Wing Protester Arrested by FBI for Being on ‘a Path to Radicalization’ by Thomas Neuberger for God’s Spies.  “We’re on the road to the next 9/11, but not in the way you think.”

Biden made a great statement on labor rights

March 3, 2021

President Joe Biden made a great statement last Sunday about labor union rights.

He called attention to what the law requires, as well as certain basic facts.

That may not seem like much.  But it has been decades since any President has been willing to speak up for labor.

Republicans from Reagan to Trump have been hostile to organized labor.  Democrats from Carter to Obama have been indifferent.  This has been a disaster.

Labor unions, as Biden said, made possible the middle class prosperity the United States (and many other countries) enjoyed following World War Two.  They also were essential to electing Democrats.

As unions have declined, so has the middle class.  And so has the Democratic Party. 

Recent public opinion polls indicate that 65 percent of Americans approve of labor unions, and 48 percent of non-union workers would join a union if they could.  

But only 10.3 percent of American workers actually belong to unions.  It would take a long time to get back to the 34.8 percent of the work force that belonged to unions in 1954.

Biden’s statement, without mentioning names, referred to labor union efforts to organize Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama.  This sets him against Jeff Bezos, who is possibly the world’s richest man and also the owner of the Washington Post.

If Biden is willing to make an enemy of Bezos, I have to respect him. I hope he doesn’t walk back his statement.

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The Biden governing coalition emerges

January 23, 2021

The Joe Biden administration represents a coming together of most of the power centers in American society.

Biden and the Democratic National Committee have the support of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the national press, the intelligence agencies, the Black Lives Matter movement, the liberal churches, academia and most self-described liberals and progressives.

[Added 1/24/2021]  I forget to mention key elements of the governing coalition—Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and Facebook, Google and Amazon.]

[Update 1/25/2021]  President Biden is really down on Mark Zuckerberg.  Maybe Facebook isn’t part of the governing coalition after all.

This is the culmination of what neoliberal Democrats such as Bill Clinton sought for decades, the displacement of the Repubican Party by the Democratic Party as the party of the establishment and the monied elite.

Last night I watched a good discussion of this by Thomas Frank with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper on the Useful Idiots program.  It’s well worth watching.

If the Biden administration can actually bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, and if it can bring the economic crisis under control, Biden could become the most beloved American leader since Eisenhower and the Democrats would make themselves a majority party for a long time to come.

In principle, there’s nothing in the nature of the Biden governing coalition to prevent this.  It is not to the interest of owners and managers of large corporations to see large numbers of their customers broke or dying.

But I don’t see any signs this will actually happen. We’ll see. 

I do see signs that the new governing coalition intends to crack down on dissent, both right-wing and left-wing.  To me, this is more alarming than the threat of any fanatic mass movement from below.

Where does this leave the Republicans? Their only choice is to combine opposition to what’s called political correctness and Woke-ness with a populist appeal to working people.

I think the populism of Republicans such as Senator Josh Hawley or Fox news commentator Tucker Carlson is mostly fake, like Donald Trump’s.

A political movement combining cultural conservatism with genuine populism would be powerful, but I don’t think it is likely. Again, we’ll see.

LINKS

Can President Joe Biden mend a torn America? by Thomas Frank for Le Monde diplomatique.  [Added 1/28/2021]  He says what I said, but much more eloquently and to the point.

The Next Neoliberal President by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny!

As Death Toll Tops 410,000, Biden Pursues “Wartime Effort” to Fight COVID, But Could More Be Done? an interview of Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, on Democracy Now!  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon is paid $31.5 million after decrying income inequality by Dominic Rushe for The Guardian.  (Hat tip to O).

US Companies Cut Off Donations to Republicans Who Rejected Biden Certification by Gregory Korte and Bill Allison for BLoomberg News.

We Need to Stabilize’: BIg Business Breaks With Republicans by David Gelles for The New York Times [Added 1/25/2021]

Zuckerberg’s Biden Problem by James Clayton for BBC News.  Maybe not a member of the governing coalition after all.  [Added 1/25/2021]

The Class Composition of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut) by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.

The Organizational Capacity and Behavioral Characteristics of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut) by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.  This article and the preceding one are the most objective reports I’ve seen so far about who the Capitol rioters where and what they were up to.  Conclusion: They were paper tigers.

The Echo Chamber Era by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

The Moronic Firing of Will Wilkerson Illustrates Why Fear and Bad Faith Mob Demands Reign Supreme by Glenn Greenwald.

The Biden administration begins

January 20, 2021

Joe BIden is sworn in as President

Joe Biden would be a reasonably good President for a nation enjoying peace and prosperity.

He is a nice person who doesn’t want to upset anybody’s apple cart. Like Warren G. Harding a century ago, he represents the human desire for “a return to normalcy.”

His predecessor’s administration was one long series of self-created crises, until last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

I don’t know how well a Biden administration will deal with the pandemic, but, unlike Donald Trump, Biden won’t be actively against doing reasonable things (like masking) to deal with the crisis. 

He has said he’ll bring the United States back into the World Health Organization, mandate masks on federal property and interstate travel and push for a huge $1.9 trillion COVID relief package (which may or may not get through Congress).  He’ll extend restrictions on evictions and foreclosures and continue the pause in student loan payments.

This could be good.  But he is not going to push for any overhaul of the U.S. health insurance or public health systems.  And the restrictions on evictions, foreclosures and student loan payments are not sustainable long term.  BIden assumes a quick return to normal, which may not happen.

Biden, unlike Trump, is not actively opposed to action on climate change.  He will rejoin the Paris climate accords, push for a “climate world summit” and order the drawing-up of a plan for 100 percent clean energy and zero net emissions by the year 2050—that is, 30 years from now.

We Americans have made progress in reducing emissions.  But to accomplish the goals that Biden has set forth would require shutting down the coal, oil and natural gas industries, and the industries that burn these fossil fuels, and replacing them with new industries that provide just as many jobs and, hopefully, just as much business profit.

There is a name for such a transition.  It is called a Green New Deal.  It would be a big change, bigger than the original New Deal.  I don’t know if Biden would be up for so big a change or not.

Biden promised to end the “Muslim ban,” which restricts travel and immigration to the U.S. from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, plus five non-Muslim countries added in 2020.  But he has not to my knowledge said anything about ending military intervention in those countries, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions being made refugees.

The USA needs to end our forever wars if we are to regain our self-respect and the respect of the world.  But it would be no easy task.  A peace economy would mean shutting down a big part of the U.S. economy.  I don’t know whether Biden has even thought about this.

Lastly a large part of the U.S. population regards the present administration as illegitimate.  Biden has to deal with rioters and insurrectionists, while trying to unite the American people as a whole.

The new President faces challenges that would task the ability of an Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt.  I don’t expect greatness of Joe Biden.  I expect him to be better than Donald Trump, which is a low bar.

LINKS

Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address.

What Joe Biden has promised to do on Day One and his first 100 days as president by Ed Erickson for CBS News.

Hard Times: Will America recover under Biden? by Andrew Cockburn for Harper’s magazine.

Biden’s American Rescue Plan and Its Opponents by Jack Rasmus.

The CDC’s Mission Impossible by “Yves Smith” for Naked Capitalism.  The pandemic crisis.

The New Domestic War on Terror Is Coming by Glenn Greenwald on Substack.

Image via Chicago Tribune.

Domestic fossil fuel industries in crisis

December 28, 2020

The domestic U.S. fossil fuel industry is in trouble.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake.  President Joe Biden will face a choice: try to save them or replace them with something better.  There is a good article in Dissent magazine about this.

In 2016,  [Donald] Trump charged Barack Obama with waging a “war against coal” and promised to bring the sector back to its former glory.

He manifestly failed to do so, but his rhetoric still proved an effective bludgeon against Hillary Clinton in Appalachia during the campaign.  In fact, more coal plants were retired under Trump than in either of Obama’s terms in office.

U.S. coal production had already been declining for years, as cheap natural gas edged it out of the energy mix used in power plants.  Coal jobs had been disappearing for years even before that, as the industry replaced workers with machines.

At its peak in the 1920s, the industry employed over 800,000 people in the United States.  Today, only about 42,000 coal mining jobs remain.

As coal companies have gone bankrupt, they have shed their pension obligations to former workers, leaving the federal government to pick up the bill.  Last December, Congress bailed out nearly 100,000 coal miners’ pensions.

In the long run, this was a good thing, not a bad thing.  Of all the important sources of energy production, coal is the dirtiest.  It generates the most air and water pollution and the greatest hazards to its workers’ health and the public health.  Still, that is no consolation if your livelihood depends on coal.

As energy researchers point out, coal is the canary for other fossil fuel industries. Oil isn’t on quite the same decline yet, but it’s headed in that direction.

The American fracking industry has expanded rapidly in the past decade with the use of cheap credit, and with encouragement from Obama, who boasted of making the United States the world’s leading oil producer.

But the shale oil that fracking produces is only profitable when oil prices are relatively high, and the overproduction of shale gas has glutted global markets.

The combination of a pandemic-spurred decline in demand and a price war between Saudi and Russian producers sent oil prices plummeting this year, resulting in a record number of bankruptcies among American oil producers.  An estimated 107,000 oil industry workers lost their jobs in the United States this year.

While some of those may come back as the economy recovers (whenever that is), many will not. Some energy analysts suggest that the world may have hit “peak oil demand,” as renewable energy begins to replace fossil fuels.  The Houston Chronicle reports that oil production employment in Texas “may never fully recover” as the overextended shale oil sector consolidates and learns to get by with fewer workers.

Source: Dissent Magazine

The fact that the fracking industry, or any other fossil fuel industry, is unprofitable doesn’t necessarily mean it will cease operations.  The economic incentive for an industry in the red is to do everything possible—in this case, extract every little globule of shale oil and gas—to minimize the loss.

Of course, moving away from fossil fuels is a good thing, not a bad thing—also overall.  Global warming is not imaginary.  Greenhouse gas emissions are real.  But what about all the people whose jobs depend on oil and gas?

We need something like a Green New Deal to create useful and sustainable jobs to replace jobs lost.  Without some such program, Americans will be forced to choose between short-run economic survivable and a livable planet in the long run.

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Waiting for Biden

December 11, 2020

Trump’s Gone, So What’s Next for the Democrats? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.  “The party needs to find another message besides ‘We are not Trump.’ “

The Biden Presidency: a New Beginning or a Fragile Interregnum? by Walden Bello for Foreign Policy in Focus.  (Hat tip to Steve from Texas)  “Hewing to its centrist instincts will be a disaster for the Biden administration.  The left must seize the initiative.”

The YouTube Ban Is Un-American, Wrong and Will Backfire by Matt Taibbi for TK News. “Silicon Valley couldn’t have designed a better way to further radicalize Trump voters.”

With News of Hunter Biden’s Criminal Probe, Recall the Media Outlets That Peddled the “Russian Disinformation” Lie by Glenn Greenwald.

Who the #Resistance Was Actually #Resisting These Past Four Years by Caitlin Johnstone.

Hope Lives: My Journey from Obama Loyalist to Advocating for Inclusive Justice by Teodose FIkremariam for Ghion Journal.

Neera Tanden is an usually bad appointment

December 1, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Neera Tanden to head the key Office of Management and Budget is terrible, and not just because she is a long-term advocate of cutting Social Security benefits.

LINKS

Joe Biden’s Neera Tanden Pick Is Even Worse Than You Thought by Walter Bragman for Jacobin.

With Tanden Choice, Democrats Stick It to Sanders Voters by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Biden Appointee Neera Tanden Spread the Conspiracy Theory That Russian Hackers Changed Hillary’s 2016 Votes to Trump by Glenn Greenwald.

The coming pandemic economic crisis

November 30, 2020

Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of a nation in which millions are unable to pay their bills and most of the programs to help them will have expired.

There will be much that he can do, with or without the cooperation of the Senate.  But what he will do is another question.

Here’s the deal.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that—

  1. Nearly 26 million American adults—12 percent of all adults—reported they sometimes or often had difficulty in putting enough food on the table during the first week in November.  That’s triple the pre-pandemic percentage.
  2. An estimated 13.5 million adult renters—about one in five renters—were behind in their rent.
  3. Nearly 81 million adults—one in three—reported it was somewhat or very difficult to pay their usual bills.
  4. In September, some 31 million Americans met the official definition of “unemployed” or were part of a household of an unemployed person.

Bankruptcy filings are mounting, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Many owners of failed small businesses can’t even afford to file for bankruptcy.  State and local governments, meanwhile, are running out of money.

Most of the federal emergency programs to alleviate the crisis will expire at the end of the year.  The $600-a-week supplement to state unemployment insurance expired July 31.  The rest of the unemployment insurance supplement will expire at the end of the year.  An estimated 13.5 million Americans benefit from pandemic-related unemployment relief.

The Senate and House of Representatives are deadlocked  on how to extend emergency programs.

So will the moratorium on evictions decreed by the Centers for Disease Control.  That wasn’t sustainable as a permanent policy anyway.  Property owners who make a living from rental income need that income to maintain the properties and usually to pay for utilities.

And the moratorium on student debt payments decreed by President Trump also expires at the end of the year.  About 32 million Americans had loans eligible for suspended payments. 

Both the renters nor the student debtors still owe the full amount.  They got a temporary suspension of payments, not relief.

∞∞

Joe Biden is the first President to be take office in the middle of a national crisis in which one house of Congress is controlled by the opposition political party.  This limits his freedom of action, but progressives say existing law gives him a great deal of power.

The Higher Education Act gives the Secretary of Education authority to settle all publicly-held student debt and cancel all or part of it.  David Dayan of The American Prospect says that covers 95 percent of American student debt, which is up to $1.5 trillion.  This would help stimulate the economy by making it easier to get a home mortgage or an auto loan.

Biden also would have the authority to forgive up to $50,000 of student debt by executive order.

The Affordable Care Act authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a pilot program to cover medical expenses of anyone who suffers from an environmental health problem.   The coronavirus, Dayan said, is an environmental health problem.

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It’s still the economy, stupid

November 29, 2020

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were elected President primarily because of the economic failures of their predecessors.  Each of them faced a backlash in the midterm elections following their victories, at least partly because of their economic policies.

The same thing will happen to Joe Biden unless he can act decisively and quickly to meet the impeding economic and pandemic crises, according to political scientist Thomas Ferguson in an interview with podcaster Paul Jay. 

Clinton ran in 1992 on the slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  But during his two years, he did little to improve the economy.  He pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement, which had been part of the Reagan agenda and was opposed by organized labor.  He failed to get Congress to even consider a health insurance reform bill.  Republicans won control of both houses of Congress in 1994

Obama was elected during the 2008 recession.  His administration rescued failed banks, but did not fully implement a law to rescue victims of foreclosures.  Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in 2010.

The decisive factor in the 2016 election was the voters, of all races, who supported Obama in 2008 and 2012, but either voted for Trump and declined to vote at all in 2016. 

The notion that racism and sexism were the primary factors driving the Trump vote is not borne out by the data, he said.  Economics was very important too.  Trump’s promise to revitalize manufacturing and impose tariffs on imports gave him just enough votes to squeeze out a majority in key industrial states.

The rural working-class found their lives a little better under Trump and don’t believe the Democrats care about them.  Some of this was the momentum of the economic recovery that had begun under Obama.  Much of it, according to Ferguson, was due to the Federal Reserve System artificially pumping up the economy by holding down interest rates.

He said polls indicate Biden’s margin of victory came from voters in the income brackets between $100,000 and $200,000—not the ultra-rich, but not the wage-earning class, either—who are uncertain about their economic future.  Biden’s message was reassurance and a promise of economic stability.

Trump’s gains among Mexican-American voters along the Texas border were due to so many of them working in the oil and gas industry, he said; some of them found construction work in building Trump’s border wall.

The received wisdom is that big business leaders supported Biden over Trump because they thought Trump is too erratic.  Biden did get a lot of campaign contributions from Wall Street, but much of corporate America supported Trump—the oil and gas industry, the pharmaceutical industry and pollution-heavy industries such as pulp and paper making.

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The 2020 election hasn’t really settled anything

November 6, 2020

Trump’s election plan (in addition to standard voter suppression, like having almost no machines in poor ridings [election districts]):

  1. Tell Republicans not to vote by mail, and claim there is a lot of fraud.
  2. Have DeJoy, his man in the Post Office slow down and damage mail delivery, slowing down ballot delivery and losing ballots.
  3. Have Republican legislatures in important states forbid counting mail in and early vote ballots before election day.
  4. If the election is close, go to court to stop the counting of votes after election day.

Source: Ian Welsh

As of this morning, it looks as if this strategy has failed, mainly because the courts didn’t co-operate, and Joe Biden is virtually certain to win an Electoral Vote majority.

But if President Trump hadn’t mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, or hadn’t had so many obvious character flaws, he might well have won the election fair and square.

The basic reason Biden gave voters to support him is that he isn’t Donald Trump.  Anybody else would be better, and Biden was someone else.

The Democrats in this election were backed by big business.  In money terms, they massively out-raised and out-spent the Republicans. 

Joe Biden’s campaign promises were (1) to not enact Medicare for All, (2) to not support a Green New Deal and (3) to not ban fracking. 

The main achievement he boasted of was beating Bernie Sanders.  The main reason he gave for voting for him was that he wasn’t Donald Trump.  That was enough—but just barely.

Democratic support among key constituencies continued to erode, as it did in the previous two Presidential elections.

Let’s be very clear: the Democratic Party screwed this election up massively.  Trump actually did better than he did in 2016 in areas with high COVID-19 deaths.  Union members in Ohio appear to have gone for Trump, and most of the people who saw the economy as the top issue voted for Trump, even though this should theoretically be the issue on which the Democratic Party is strongest.

Source: Current Affairs.

Preliminary exit polls indicate that the Republicans increased their vote share among woman, African-Americans and Hispanics, including poor Mexican-Americans in south Texas who’ve historically been reliable Democratic voters for maybe a century.

The result is that Republicans will probably keep control of the Senate, increase their representation in the House of Representatives and keep control of enough state legislatures to keep their gerrymandering advantage.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have the upper hand.  What this means is that things will continue just as they are, except that Donald Trump will no longer be using the White House as a stage for his psychodrama.

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A choice between bad and worse

November 2, 2020

I voted by mail several weeks ago for Howie Hawkins, the Presidential candidate of the Green Party.

My idea was to send a message that neither Donald Trump or Joe Biden is acceptable.  I would vote for Jo Jorgenson of the Libertarian Party if she were the only alternative.

The question is not, as in the last few Presidential elections, which candidate has the best policies. 

The question is whether either of them are capable of dealing with the coming perfect storm of emergencies—the pandemic, unemployment, a financial crisis, disruptions in international trade and emergencies caused by drought, fires, floods and storms brought on by global warming.

Based on their records, I have no confidence in either of them.

I live in New York state, which is virtually certain to go for Joe Biden, so nothing was at stake in my vote.

I think there is great danger of civil disorder if Donald Trump claims victory tomorrow night on the basis of early returns or if he actually ekes out a narrow victory.

His margin of alleged or real victory, if there is one, would almost certainly be the result of purging of voter rolls or manipulating the election progress. Greg Palast has done good reporting on this.

And most major and many small U.S. cities have had George Floyd protests, so there is a core group that is ready and able to mount a protest on short notice.

I don’t know how I would have voted if I lived in a swing state. I certainly would not have voted for Donald Trump, but I don’t think I could have brought myself to vote for Biden.

LINKS

The Day Before the U.S. Election by Ian Welsh.

Donald Trump Exposed Truths About Both Parties by Ross Douthat for The New York Times.

How Trump damaged science—and why it could take decades to recover by Jeff Tolletson for Nature.

Deluge After the Donald? by Ted Rall.

We Can’t Follow Obama Back to Brunch by David Sirota and Andrew Perez for The Daily Poster.

(more…)

Biden, Harris and their hidden constituency

October 15, 2020

Joe BIden and Kamala Harris have turned their backs on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  Biden rejects Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.  Harris promised a Biden administration won’t ban fracking.  Biden is possibly more of a war hawk than Trump isSo is Harris.

Why would they refuse to pay even lip service to popular reforms?  I think it is because they are appealing to a different constitutency—-the un-elected parts of the American power structure, the permanent government, the deep state, the power elite, call them what you will.

These include Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the military-industrial complex, the intelligence agencies, the news media, the corporate lobbyists and the big campaign donors. 

They’re fed up with Donald Trump’s antics.  They’d prefer someone more predictable, provided that person doesn’t threaten their power or wealth.  Biden and Harris fit that bill.

Trump is losing support because of his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.  I think he’s also hurt by his administration’s hamstringing of the Postal Service.  Many people depend on prompt mail delivery of medications and pension checks.

His only path to victory, as I see it now, is in Republican interference with the election process.  This includes purging of voter rolls of minority voters and students, making it difficult for minorities and students to vote and demanding that results be announced before all the votes are counted.

This isn’t new.  Such tactics provided the margin of victory for Trump in 2016 and for Bush in 2000 and, according to investigative reporter Greg Palast, for Bush in 2004 as well, not to mention whole lot of other Republican governors, senators and congressional representatives.

I think we’re  in for a repeat of the 2000 Florida recount crisis, except spread across many states.  In that crisis, the news media, the Supreme Court and other powers that be sided with George W. Bush.  But I don’t think the powers that be will side with Donald Trump.  Biden and Harris haven’t given them any reason to.

LINKS

Rochester AFL-CIO Calls For General Strike if Trump Steals Election by Mike Elk for Payday Report.

How Could Everyday People Stop a Coup? by Enzo Lorenzo with Unity and Struggle, an anarchist collective. 

[Added Later] Why would anybody in the political establishment want to risk mass strikes and political demonstrations if they could keep their power without that risk by supporting Biden and Harris?

News about the Hunter Biden scandal

October 15, 2020

Shhh! Don’t Talk About Hunter Biden by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian biz man to dad by Emma Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge for the New York Post.

Obama’s legacy is normalization of war

September 15, 2020

The Obama foreign policy was a continuation of the Bush foreign policy by other means.  

It is a mistake to think of Obama’s election as a change of direction, as I and others hoped and expected at the time.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ex-General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO, visited old friends in the Pentagon.  

One of them showed Clark a copy of the long-range strategy.  After a supposidly easy victory in Iraq, U.S. forces would go on to invade Syria, Libya, Somalia and other countries including Iran.

The American public, thinking this had something to do with fighting terrorism, went along with this for a while, but after a while became sick of seeing their sons and brothers coming home in flag-draped coffins for no apparent reason.

Barack Obama, running in 2008, said, “I’m not opposed to wars.  I’m opposed to stupid wars.”  He instead waged “intelligent” wars based on flying killer robots, teams of trained assassins and subsidies to local armed factions who supposedly would serve U.S. purposes.

He did not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and instigated new wars in Libya and Syria.  Yes, there were pro-democratic protests in those countries that provided an excuse for intervention, but the purpose of U.S. intervention had nothing to do with those purposes.

The war in Syria would long ago have died down if not for U.S. forces there, U.S. bombing and U.S. and Saudi subsidies to rebels, many of whom are Al Qaeda rebranded.

The U.S. meanwhile has special forces carrying on war in more countries in Africa, Asia and Latin American than any member of the public and probably any member of Congress knows.  

I don’t know to what degree Obama’s policies represented his sincere conviction and how much he simply acquiesced in what he thought he had to do to protect his political career.  I do give him credit for trying to establish normal diplomatic relations with Iran and Cuba.

On the other hand, his administration instigated a new proxy war in Ukraine.  It engineered the overthrow of an unpopular and corrupt but legitimate government before the incumbent could be removed by means of an election.  This set off a conflict that continues to this day.

I think one purpose of the Russiagate investigations, now largely discredited, was to cancel the possibility that Donald Trump might make peace with Russia.

Donald Trump from time to time talks about winding down wars, but then backs down.  He has stepped up drone warfare and war by economic sanctions, and increased the danger of nuclear war with Russia by canceling important arms control treaties. 

There is no reason to think Joe Biden will be any better.  Normalization of the forever wars is the continuing Obama legacy.

LINKS

Let’s Be Real: President Biden Would Probably Be More Hawkish Than Trump by Caitlin Johnstone.

On Foreign Policy, Biden Is Worse Than Trump by Ted Rall.

Expect More ‘Liberal Interventionism’ Under a Joe Biden Presidency by Derek Davidson and Alex Thurston for Jacobin.

Joe Biden and the George Floyd riots

September 1, 2020

Strong and wrong beats weak and right.  [Attributed to Bill Clinton]

A month or two ago, I thought that the Presidential election would be a referendum on President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and that Trump would probably lose.

Now it is shaping up as a referendum on the George Floyd protests, which will work against the Democrats.

The American public may support peaceful protests for just causes.  Looting and revolutionary violence are a different matter.

Reports of major violence are in cities with Democratic mayors and states with Democratic governors—Washington, D.C.; New York City; Chicago; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Minneapolis; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of no breakdown in civil order in cities with Republican mayors in states with Republican governors.  And I don’t think this is because white people are more racist in states like Minnesota than we are in states like Texas.

It is ironic and unfair that Joe Biden should get the blame for this.  He has been pro-police and in favor of harsh penalties for crime throughout his political career, as has Kamala Harris.

On the other hand, the Trump administration and right-wing street fighters, some working with the official police, have been adding fuel to the fire.

Some news accounts tell of police attacking peaceful protesters, which I am sure happens.  Other news accounts tell of vandals and looters destroying small businesses, which I am sure also happens.

There is almost no overlap between the two types of reports.  I don’t know what weight to give to each.

Joe Biden upholds the right to peacefully protest, while condemning vandalism, looting and mob violence.

I completely agree with him on that.  But I don’t think either side will accept an even-handed approach that equates themselves with the opposition.  Unfortunately.

LINKS

The Trap the Democrats Walked Right Into by Andrew Sullivan for The Weekly Dish.

One Author’s Argument ‘In Defense of Looting’, an interview of Vicky Osterweil for National Public Radio.

When Violence Is Justified to Defend Civil Society by Tony Woodlief for The American Conservative.

You Know In Your Heart the Day of Real Resistance Is Coming by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests by Michael Tracey for Unherd.

White Vigilantes Have Always Had a Friend in Police by Christopher Matthias for HuffPost.

Joe Biden Whispers the Riot Act, Sort Of by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Obstacles to a new New Deal

August 31, 2020

The USA is heading into an economic crisis with evictions, foreclosures, small-business failures and unemployment rates like those of the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, made worse by the pandemic and catastrophic climate change.

But Thomas Ferguson, a political scientist whose specialty is money and politics, said that a second Great Depression will not necessarily result in a second New Deal.

The Great Depression was touched off with a crash in the financial markets.  Banks closed.  Business profits fell.  This weakened both the credibility and political power of big business.

No such situation exists today, Ferguson noted.  The Federal Reserve is propping up the banks and the financial markets.  The super-rich are actually richer and more powerful than ever.

President Roosevelt’s first response to the crisis was the National Recovery Act, a kind of democratic corporate state.  It was only when big business turned against him that the New Deal as we remember it emerged. with Social Security, the Wagner Act and so on.

The impetus for the true New Deal came from the new labor movement organized by John L. Lewis and the CIO.

Conditions today are different. Ferguson said.  Big business is entrenched in both parties and is able to block popular and necessary reforms such as Medicare for all.

There are wildcat strikes and a few militant unions, but nothing as yet like the labor movement of the 1930s.

Ferguson saw some long-range hope in the insurgent movement in the Democratic Party as represented by the Justice Democrats and other factions.  But in the long run, as someone said, we are all dead.  The crisis is not going to put itself on hold until 2022 or 2024.

LINKS

Biden Blurring Almost Everything, an interview of Thomas Ferguson for theAnalysis.com.

Joe Biden’s Platform for 2020: Anti-Populism by Bill Scher for POLITICO.

The Non-Voter by Chris Arnade for American Compass.

How Trump could win: (1) with political strategy

July 27, 2020

The Electoral Map as some pollsters see it. Source: Naked Capitalism

I don’t expect Donald Trump to be re-elected.  I expect him to self-destruct.  But that’s what I expected in 2016.  The election campaign isn’t over until it’s over and, even then, it may not be over.

The thing to remember about Trump’s strategy, and the strategy of Republicans in general, is that it is not to win over voters from the opposing party.  It is to hold onto core supporters and to try to reduce the Democratic vote by fair means and foul.

This is done by two means.  One is by manipulating the election process.  This includes gerrymandering, eliminating likely Democrats from voter registration lists, making voting difficult in predominantly Democratic districts and, possibly, tampering with electronic voting machines.

The great investigative reporter, Greg Palast, has been working on this issue for years, and he summed up his findings in his new book, HOW TRUMP STOLE 2020: The Hunt for America’s Vanished VotersI’ll review his book in a follow-up post.

The other is by persuading core Democratic constituencies that it isn’t worthwhile to vote.  This was the strategy of Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager.  He used social media to target African-Americans, women and college students and convince them that it wasn’t worthwhile to vote for Hillary Clinton.

In 2016, Trump received a slightly smaller percentage of votes than Mitt Romney in 2012.  What brought him within reach of victory was a long-term decline in the Democratic vote, which began after the 2008 election.  The big question is whether this decline can be reversed.

Harper’s magazine earlier this year sent a reporter to Kenosha, Wisconsin, a formerly prosperous manufacturing town with strong labor unions, that has been emptied of its industry.

The reporter expected to find people full of despair and anger.  Instead he found that most had come to accept industrial decline as a fact of life, and were trying to make the best of things as they were.

Some were indignant about workers in local Amazon workhouses being put at risk of coronavirus infection.  Nobody outside knew what the health risks were because Amazon simply refused to allow the county government to make inspections.

Most of them took it for granted that both political parties and the national government were under control of elites who cared nothing for people like them.  The administrations of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump himself had killed any audacity of hope.

Joe Biden is not someone to reawaken hope.  The two main themes of his political history are support for the financial industry and support for the police.  He told his big-money financial backers that nothing is going to change and he’s not going to propose any legislation that will harm their interests.

He supported NAFTA and other pro-corporate trade treaties.  He is even more of a war hawk than Donald Trump; he has accused Trump of appeasing China.

All these things are politically significant because they dampen enthusiasm for Biden, and as possible points for targeted social media by the Trump campaign, the same as in 2016.

But Biden has one big advantage.  He is not Donald Trump.  In 2020, this is no small thing.

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Joe Biden’s newest problem

April 13, 2020

Krystal Ball First On-Camera Interview With Tara Reade On Joe Biden Sexual Assault Allegation.

Evaluating Tara Reade’s Allegation Against Joe Biden by Nathan Robinson for Current Affairs.

Time’s Up Declines to Fund Joe Biden #MeToo Allegation by Ryan Grim for The Intercept.

The mysterious appeal of Joe Biden

March 23, 2020

Why is Joe Biden apparently the last man standing among the Democratic candidates?

He did virtually no campaigning and he wasn’t even able to raise enough money to carry on a major campaign until Super Tuesday.  His public image has always been that of a good-natured bumbler.

Joe Biden

Yet he led in public opinion polls all through the campaign.  Bernie Sanders never quite caught up to him.

More than any politician since the late Robert F. Kennedy, Biden got the votes of both African-Americans and white blue-collar workers—despite never having been a strong supporter of either civil rights or organized labor.

I think most people who voted for him would have a hard time identifying any major achievement of his or any cause that he stood for.

Part of Biden’s appeal is that he appears to be a genuinely nice person.  He was nice to Bernie Sanders, nice to Barack Obama and, in an earlier era, nice to the white supremacist Strom Thurmond.

He is nice to elevator operators and to the Amtrak workers he meets in his shuttles from Washington, D.C., to his home in Delaware and back.  He’s also friendly with the corporate lobbyists, particularly for the credit card industry, which is concentrated in his state.

Everybody likes him.  Unlike with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, nobody is passionately loyal to him, but nobody hates him and nobody fears him.

In the 2008 vice-presidential debates, the worst thing that Dick Cheney could find to say against him was that he couldn’t understand why he was running on the same ticket as Barack Obama.

Nobody smoothed his way for him.  He was in the bottom half of his classes at the University of Delaware and Syracuse University Law School.  He had to overcome a stutter.

He has not taken on the attitudes and speech habits of the cultural and financial elite, even though he is defends their interests.  He never went to Harvard or Yale.  I can’t imagine him using the expression “those people.”

He is what white Southerners used to call a “good old boy.”  A good old boy is good-hearted, extroverted and masculine, and able to get along with almost anyone.  He is somebody you can go to if you need a favor.  A good old boy doesn’t rock the boat.  He accepts the world as he finds it and makes his way in it as best he can.

He is everyman.  After 20 years of upheaval and disappointed hopes, he offers the promise of stability, safety and healing.  That’s what Dwight D. Eisenhower offered in 1952; it’s also what Warren G. Harding offered in 1920.

Will this be enough to get him elected?  Maybe not.  Aside from Biden’s lack of cruelty and vindictiveness, there are few bright-line distinctions between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

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Joe Biden’s other problem

March 6, 2020

Stop Calling It a Stutter — Here Are Dozens of Examples of Biden’s Dementia Symptoms by Caitlin Johnstone.

Democratic primary: It’s not over until it’s over

March 4, 2020

Click to enlarge.  Source: CNBC.

The Super-Tuesday primary results were a disappointment to the Bernie Sanders campaign, but the primary campaign is far from over.

We won’t know the full results until the votes in California and Maine are counted, but Vox news service reports that Joe Biden only got 60 more delegates than Sanders in Tuesday’s primary vote, and only has 57 more pledged delegates than Sanders overall. Other news services count differently.   I’ll post the full delegate count when the full results are in.

Biden will undoubtedly get the 26 delegates pledged to Pete Buttigieg and the seven pledged to Amy Klobuchar, and probably will get the 44 pledged to Mike Bloomberg.  And if no candidate gets a clear majority on the first convention ballot, he’ll undoubtedly get the 771 superdelegates who are chosen by the Democratic party establishment.

There’s no denying his advantage.  But it’s early times yet.  The Democrats have chosen 1,344 convention delegates, but there are 2,635 yet to go.

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The corruption case against Joe Biden

January 22, 2020

Zephyr Teachout, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, wrote an article accusing Joe Biden of corruption.  Sanders disavowed it and apologized. Biden accepted Sanders’ apology.

But I think Teachout was right. She pointed to three things—

Joe Biden

First, Biden’s support for finance over working-class Americans.  His career was bankrolled by the credit card industry. He delivered for it by spearheading a bankruptcy bill that made it harder for Americans to reduce their debts and helped cause the financial crisis.  He not only authored and voted for that bill, he split with Barack Obama and led the battle to vote down Democratic amendments.

His explanations for carrying water for the credit card industry have changed over time.  They have never rung true.

The simplest explanation is the most likely: he did it for his donors.  At a fundraiser last year, Biden promised his Wall Street donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” for them if he became president.  Now the financial world is raising huge money for his campaign.  It clearly thinks he’s going to be its friend if elected.  Most Americans, who get ripped off by the financial sector on a daily basis, aren’t looking for a candidate who has made their life harder.

Second, healthcare. On 25 April, the day he announced his campaign, Biden went straight to a fundraiser co-hosted by the chief executive of a major health insurance corporation.  He refuses to sign a pledge to reject money from insurance and pharma execs and continues to raise money from healthcare industry donors.  His campaign is being bankrolled by a super PAC run by healthcare lobbyists.

What did all these donors get?  A healthcare proposal that preserves the power of the insurance industry and leaves 10 million Americans uninsured.

Third, climate change. Biden signed a pledge not to take money from the fossil fuel industry, then broke his promise. Right after a CNN town hall on climate change, he held a fundraiser hosted by the founder of a fossil fuel conglomerate. He is pushing climate policy that has gotten dismal reviews from several leading environmental groups.

There are plenty of other examples that raise questions, like housing and social security. Big real estate moguls are playing a major role in Biden’s campaign. Unlike his rivals, he has no comprehensive housing plan. When he pushed for cuts to Social Security, was he serving donors or his constituents?

But then President Donald Trump is 100 times worse.  Trump’s whole administration is one giant conflict of interest.  Call this the “lesser evil” defense.

A Biden defender could point out that there’s no reason to think that Biden has broken any laws. And a defender could argue that there’s also no reason to think Biden is any more dependent on corporate interests than the average Senator.  Call this the “average evil” defense.

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The whole GRU phishing story seems fishy

January 16, 2020

Area 1 Security, a California-based cybersecurity firm, claimed that Russian military intelligence successfully hacked Burisma Holdings for dirt on Joe Biden’s son.

The GRU allegedly used what’s known as phishing—tricking people into revealing passwords and other information needed to penetrate a secure computer system.

Area 1 Security claims to have the capability of a little junior National Security Agency.  Here’s what the New York Times reported.

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency.  Mr. Falkowitz’s firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.

Source: The New York Times.

But the company’s services are limited to giving really, really good protection against phishing attacks.  I would not think a company with such superpowers would limit itself like this.

Interestingly, in the original announcement and press release, Area 1 did not claim to know that Burisma Holdings security had been breached—only that the GRU was attempting to penetrate its security through phishing.

That is probably true.  The GRU is no doubt trying to penetrate all the major corporations and government agencies in Ukraine.  But why wouldn’t Area 1 put the stronger claim in its press release?  It makes the claim that the GRU was successful seem like an afterthought..

I think the purpose of the announcement is to make Burisma Holdings, the corrupt former employer of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, off limits for discussion in the coming election campaign.  Anybody who raises this issue will be called a Russian asset.

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Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Ukraine corruption

November 15, 2019

Presidents Zelensky and Trump

I think there is a case to be made that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office.

He did threaten to withhold military aid unless the Ukrainian government announced an investigation of the Burisma oil and gas company and Hunter Biden’s involvement in it.

The problem with this is that Joe Biden, when he was vice president, did the exact same thing.

He threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless it fired the prosecutor who was investigating Burisma.

Biden’s claim is that the prosecutor was lax in investigating corruption.  But the evidence indicates otherwise, that the prosecutor was closing in on Burisma at the time he was forced out.

Hunter Biden knew nothing of Ukraine or the oil and gas business.  His only value to Burisma is that he was the vice-president’s son and therefore provided Burisma with a certain immunity from prosecution.

It hasn’t been proved that Hunter Biden did anything wrong beyond this, but then his role hasn’t been investigated.

This is not a justification of wrong-doing by President Trump.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Ukraine is a vast swamp of corruption, and Hunter Biden is not the only politically-connected American who has sought to make money there.

Donald Trump and Attorney-General William Barr oppose the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which make it a crime for an American to bribe a foreign government official.  They want to make bribery once again simply a cost of doing business.

Barr also opposes the False Claims Act, which gives any American standing to sue a person or company that defrauds the U.S. government.  In other words, both Trump and Barr want protect corruption and fraud.

It would be very interesting to know how many Americans are on the boards of Ukrainian companies, or political consultants or public relations consultants to Ukrainian oligarchs or politicians.  I’m sure their numbers would include both Democrats and Republicans.

I think Democrats in the House of Representatives would help themselves politically by investigating corruption and mismanagement in the Trump administration across the board, rather than limiting themselves to this one ambiguous issue.

True, they might uncover things that are embarrassing to their own donors.

I feel sorry for the long-suffering people of Ukraine.  Neither the U.S. government, the European Union, the Russian Federation or their own plutocrats and autocrats care anything for their welfare.

LINKS

Corruption in Ukraine Wikipedia article.

Hunter Biden’s Ukraine gas firm pressed Obama administration to end corruption allegations by John Solomon on his blog.

A Timeline of Joe Biden’s Intervention Against the Prosecutor General of Ukraine by the Moon of Alabama blog.

Is Trump the Most Corrupt President in American History? an interview of Bill Black, an expert on financial fraud, on the Real News Network.  Black’s answer: Yes.

This Is What a Legitimate Anti-Corruption Effort in Ukraine Would Look Like by Samantha Winograd for POLITICO.