Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Prof. Robin, Apologize and Engage Reality

My remarks in Crooked Timber comments:
 Prof. Robin, this president you call weak still commands the most powerful military in history and the vast internal police force of the Department of Homeland Security, which has gone rogue. Half the reason the AHCA went down to defeat is that it was not cruel enough for the fascist wing of the Republican Party, and Trump will seek revenge for that humiliation. The Middle East is likely to explode in war soon (watch Yemen.) If so, that will provide the Trump administration and the various factions of the Republican Party with more excuses to expand their fascist domestic policy.
Prof. Robin is a very smart man with historical insight, but he seems incapable of apologizing or admitting error.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Liberal Victories?

(In answer to Jim Wright's "Winning Civilization.")

Or we could try mobilizing women and young people for liberal causes.  There's a lot of women who have discovered what feminists knew all along: that, in the clinch, Republicans will oppress them.  Young people, who grew up during the depression that followed on the crash of 2008, knew that all along.  If liberals can assemble a coalition of women and young people, there would be little it could not do.

Against that, we have to look at Democratic betrayals.  Huge numbers of people long-term unemployed, huge numbers of people losing their homes, these things are not lightly set aside, and the Obama administration fell far short of what it could have done.  In the crash of 2008, the Democratic leadership served their rich donors, rather than the whole of the people, and the people know.  I have before alluded to the gospel saying that a man cannot serve both money and god. I would say rather money and the people, but the point stands: though the Democratic leadership is far more decent than the Republican leadership, both are far too dominated by big-money contributors.

We also have to understand better organizing in the electronic media environment. Electronic media are an enormously powerful way to motivate people, but getting them to actually organize into political factions and parties is enormously difficult, and revolutions have failed because activists have treated formal organization as unnecessary: consider Occupy and the Arab Spring. We need to concentrate, therefore, on formal organization.

Finally, we need to embrace our own activists. We must not, as Martin Luther King wrote in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," confuse the false peace that comes from exhaustion or oppression with the true peace that comes from social justice. I do not care if activists are unsettling and disturbing, so long as they are active!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

In Which a Supreme Court Nominee Perjures Himself

This is another "what Charles Pierce said" post.

Charles Pierce writing about Neil Gorsuch's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen Whitehouse (D-RI):
What's interesting is that this group sees a difference between him [Garland] and you that I don't understand…now we have $10 million going the other way. That's a $17 million delta and for the life of me, I'm trying to figure out what they see in you that makes that $17 million worth the spending. Do you have any answer to that?
Pierce summarizes Gorsuch's reply:
If Whitehouse wanted to know who they were, he should ask them.
Sen. Whitehouse:
I can't. I don't know who they are. It's just a front group.
 Gorsuch:
Senator, I have no information about anything you just described. I don't know about that.
Pierce:
This is not remotely believable. As Senator Al Franken pointed out later, when he read from e-mails dating back to Gorsuch's days as a high-level Republican lawyer, specifically about his work for the 2004 Bush re-election campaign, Gorsuch has been a political being for his entire adult life and, at the same time, he hasn't spent a second in elected office, so his politics were formed and were exercised almost entirely through the conservative Republican institutional infrastructure.
So here we have a nominee for the highest Court in the land, perjuring himself.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Body Count

Approximately 17,000 people could die in 2018 who otherwise would have lived if a House Republican health proposal endorsed by the Trump administration becomes law. By 2026, the number of people killed by Trumpcare could grow to approximately 29,000 in that year alone. – ThinkProgress

The USA Cannot Implement the AHCA and Remain a Democracy

Tweets, originally:
  1. Has any democracy every before made policy that would kill hundreds of thousands of its own citizens?
  2. We are with the AHCA in the domain of the Great Hunger in Ireland or the Holodomor in Ukraine.
  3. The USA cannot implement the AHCA and remain a democracy.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

2018, 2020, and beyond

Jim Wright, over at Stonekettle Station, writes about increasing progressive turnout. He complains that liberals don’t show up and that if they did, the conservatives would be toast. Late in the long essay, he writes is: “It’s going to require a hell of a lot more work. It’s going to require organization. It’s going to require rational liberals and rational conservatives to work together and find common ground. […] It’s going to require compromise. […] Compromise not with hate, but with fear.”

Yet conservatives have crossed the line to unjust violence — fascism — and people who have done that seldom cross back. It takes strong people to admit to unforgivable sin, and repent. Most never do, never will. Can we bring the Republican Party back, when it has embraced fascism?

The Democratic Party, in the last 30 years, has tried to serve both Mammon and the people. Can't be done, and the Obama administration failed spectacularly at it.  No jobs program, no relief for embattled homeowners, no prosecutions for mortgage fraud or servicing abuse. (And if you doubt that, read David Dayen’s Chain of Title.) At least, the Obama administration did not practice the economic destruction the Republicans promise. This made it possible for people to work out a modest recovery. But I do not think there is one of us who does not know someone who has lost their home, or spent years out of work.

Why would people turn out for a party which did that? I have a friend who is represented by Senator Patricia Murray (D-WA.) She made the budget deal with Paul Ryan that cut off my friend’s unemployment benefits on my friend’s birthday. Now (says my friend) my friend voted for Senator Murray during the last election with difficulty. And yet my friend is an educated activist who will determinedly vote for the lesser evil. Someone who had lost their house or had years of unemployment and is not ideological? Why would they vote Democratic? Why would their family, friends, and neighbors? The amazing thing, perhaps, is that turnout was as good as it was.

What turned out enthusiastic liberals in the last election? Jobs, banking, environment,… The socialist program of Bernard Sanders. The socialist Bernard Sanders. And perhaps his proposals did not pencil, likely they could not have been implemented as written. But the process of attempting to implement them would have produced positive results. Likely also Sanders would not have won the general election: the Republicans would have painted him as a misogynistic racist communist traitor and they would have had the help of disappointed Clinton supporters. Yet as much as there was anyone implementing your program of connecting with the opposition, of coming together, Sanders tried. He talked to coal miners and auto workers. He visited Liberty University. When Clinton won the primaries, he turned over his delegates to Clinton and campaigned for her.

But it was not enough.

What will be enough? Well, to begin with, let’s look at the old progressive or liberal or democratic socialist program: jobs, environment, equity, justice. “Vote for us: we bring peace, prosperity, and weed.” What’s not to like about that? (Weed makes me cough. But other than that.) Well, turns out that that means one isn’t allowed to be rapacious in business, that one has to give up the feeling of moral superiority that anti-abortion activism offers, and no racism, no sexism. We have just elected a racist President who brags about the size of his penis! Whose party has a history of rape apologetics. Whose anti-abortion platform protects rapists and child molesters.

At the root of this great reaction is in part threatened masculinity. The other part, I think, is a revolt against modernity. A revolt against the communications technologies which connect us. A revolt against a world where Western culture is one of many.

So we have four things to account for the Democratic loss: racism, patriarchy, a revolt against modernity, and personal economic losses. What will be enough to turn out voters against the Republicans? Perhaps organization of the enormous opposition that has emerged. As I have been writing since 2008, young people and women are mobilized. If they can organize, they can win. Time and Republican failures will work in their favor. Trumpworld is a glitzy place, but also a harsh, corrupt, and unfair one, and the public is likely to hate the reality of fascism; it is much more attractive as a vision than a reality.

But who will organize them? The party that turned people out of their homes and left them to fall into poverty is not going to be easily forgiven. Its leadership does not want to admit error. Charles Schumer, the Senator who most represents the hated financiers of Wall Street, is the Democratic Senate leader. Tom Perez, though personally liberal, was candidate of the losing party establishment for chair of the Democratic National Committee, and has won.

In the clinch, most Sanders supporters stood with Clinton. It is not clear to me if the reverse would be so. I have seen far too much denial of the problems of the Democratic Party from Clinton supporters, and if the Democrats do not change, they will keep on losing.

Our Revolution, which grew out of Sanders campaign, has its own problems. The revanchist Clinton supporters obviously, but also the unpopularity of socialism. Yet the strength and depth of the opposition to the Trump/Republican program is astonishing. If that can organize, it can defeat the Republicans.

2020. Look to 2020. The country will be a shambles by then, but with luck, organization, and leadership an opposition can win in 2020. We can try things in 2018, but by 2020 I hope we are ready.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Health insurance: return of the bad old days, II

Richard Mayhew, now writing under his wallet name of David Anderson at Balloon Juice, offers two more bad old days stories. My reaction, which I did not post in full:
The question arises as to why such business are allowed to continue operation, and why insurance company executives and employees are not prosecuted. At least the mortgage bankers only (only!) stole people's homes. After reading enough such stories I decided I wouldn't care if the entire industry was nationalized and all the holders of health insurance business stock lost all the value of their stock. Might teach our corporate citizens not to commit mass murder. 
It does, though, explain in part why it is that there is not more horror of fascists. Horrors are built into our society; not only in the health insurance industry, but in policing, and many other places as well. We are, in fact, already desensitized.