Saturday, December 31, 2016

For I also am a steward

“The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”Gandalf to Denethor, Steward of Gondor, in The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, December 30, 2016

Twitter Harassment Is Stochastic Terrorism

So can we prosecute Donald Trump as a terrorist? What about the G*m*rg*t*rs?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Public Remembers: the Obama Recovery

While the Democratic leadership points to the recovery since 2008, the public remembers losing their homes and having their wages cut.

But, hey, the economy had nothing to do with the 2016 election results.

Trump: People Have Forgotten How Bad It Can Get

Americans have forgotten how bad it can get:  hyperinflation, mass unemployment, hunger, disease, these were all things good government shielded us from for 60 years. Trump promises to bring them all back.

Tweets: the Democratic Party and the Working Class

While the Democratic leadership points to the recovery since 2008, the public remembers losing their homes and having their wages cut. Democratic policies may have been enough to allow a recovery, but the public remembers how the banks were bailed out, and not the public.

The party of the working class must act openly on behalf of the working class.

Democratic Coalition Blues

Young people and older women are the coalition that elected Obama. I think there would be little such a coalition could not do. — myself, writing on health care in 2009
But in 2016 that coalition split and now we have not only a crazy Republican President, but also Republican control of the House and Senate.

Wotta revoltin' development.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Econodisaster ahoy!

The combination of Kudlow as head of the Council of Economic Advisors and Mulvaney as head of the Office of Management and Budget is a one-two punch for the economy:

Paul Krugman:
Cutting taxes on high incomes probably has a low multiplier: the wealthy are unlikely to be cash-constrained, and will save a large part of their windfall. Cutting discretionary spending has a large multiplier, because it directly cuts government purchases of goods and services; cutting programs for the poor probably has a pretty high multiplier too, because it reduces the income of many people who are living more or less hand to mouth. — Krugman, “Will Fiscal Policy Really Be Expansionary?
 Kudlow, 2005:
Why not apply the same tax laws that have benefited home owners to stock market investors and home buyers? If this were to come about, even more wealth would be created in America, leading to even more new business and job creation. — quoted in Delong, “Monday Smackdown: No, Larry Kudlow Is Not an Economist II.” Read the previous and following posts on Delong's blog for a comprehensive takedown of Kudlow.
Mulvaney, 2010:
"I have heard people say that if we don't do [raise the debt ceiling] it will be the end of the world," he said. "I have yet to meet someone who can articulate the negative consequences." — quoted by Jon Perr, “Trump Risks U.S. Default with Debt Ceiling Denier Mulvaney as Budget Chief.
Ezra Klein, quoted in the same article, summarizing the likely results:
It makes perfect sense unless you, like me, had spent the previous few days talking to economists, investors and economic policymakers about what could happen if we start playing games with the debt ceiling. Their answers were across-the-board apocalyptic. If the U.S. government is so incapable of solving its political problems that it can't come to an agreement on the debt ceiling, they said, that's basically the end of the United States as the world's reserve currency. We won't be considered safe enough to serve as the investment of last resort. We would lose the most important advantage our economy has in the global financial system — and we'd probably lose it forever. Skyrocketing interest rates would slow our economy and, in real terms, make it even harder to pay back our debt, which would in turn send interest rates going even higher. It's an economic death spiral we associate with third-world countries, not with the United States.
So we have Kudlow's stupidity weakening the economy even further, while Mulvaney promises to blow up the credibility of the US Treasury for generations.

Thanks, Republicans.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Unwinding: World Trade

If enough of these factions, all alike and all hating each other, come together the global economy will unravel. The networks of trade that make us a rich world, if not all of us rich people, will be dismantled and all nations will be the poorer for it. Refugees will be turned away to be crushed under brutal autocrats. Possibly shooting wars will follow. — myself, Brexit: Are We Without the Peace?
And now we have:
Trump plans - using the good offices of Nigel Farage, at least is a go-between - to boost the UK's leverage in its Brexit negotiations by moving quickly to conclude a free trade agreement with the UK. […] Trump hopes to follow, using the model of the US-UK deal to strike separate bilateral trade deals with Germany, France and down the line, in essence breaking up the EU. — Josh Marshall, Trump Has a Plan to Break Up the EU
 Right on track.

I don't know how likely of success this is — I am not sure that the Trump administration will not crash and burn — but give it 1 in 10 odds of success. No. One in six. Russian roulette odds.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Counting and Recounting: Tinfoil?

Here we have we have a short recounting of the events at one Michigan recount, from Nick Sharp:
Trump’s legal team was there in force, circling the room like sharks. They were challenging everything, gumming up the works and disqualifying whole precincts. I was only aware of a single Green Party attorney plus one law student in my (large) room. Many challenges had one or more Trump lawyers speaking with election officials, and no legal advocate present for the other side; they were simply outnumbered and outgunned.
Going into the election, the Trump campaign had this in their back pocket. So they were planning on making any recount difficult. It is possible that the plan all along was to steal the vote in key states, and then block any recount. This would, for instance, explain why Trump, at the third debate, would not say he was willing to concede. Because he knew that not only was his campaign going to fix the the election, but it was going to make sure that the fix was not investigated. It would also explain why the pre-election opinion polling disagreed with the final tally: the opinion polling was correct; the final tally was deliberately miscounted.

Do I believe this? No. Do I think this is possible? Yes. A full, thorough, and well-funded recount would be appropriate but, for whatever reason, the Democratic Party has chosen not to undertake it. Until our voting procedures are made secure against these tactics, it will always be possible for a campaign that has stolen the election to bury the evidence of that theft; no recount or audit will be allowed.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Not Tinfoil Anymore: The Russian Connections

Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House

Charles Pierce is furious, reminding us of the history of tolerating such crimes.

Even Marci Wheeler is starting to come around.

It's OK if you're a Republican. Even treason, apparently.

One ray of hope in this: the treason of Nixon and Kissinger remained secret for decades; likewise the treason of Reagan administration officials. This has perhaps come out in time to do some good.

Progress. Slow, but progress.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tinfoil: Who Are Donald Trump's Foreign Policy Advisors?

The world order shook when Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. At first, it looked like more ignorant Trumpery. But it has since become clear that it was long-planned by foreign policy hawks:
Immediately after Trump won the Nov. 8 election, his staffers compiled a list of foreign leaders with whom to arrange calls. “Very early on, Taiwan was on that list,” said Stephen Yates, a national security official during the presidency of George W. Bush and an expert on China and Taiwan. “Once the call was scheduled, I was told that there was a briefing for President-elect Trump. They knew that there would be reaction and potential blowback.” — Washington Post, Trump’s Taiwan phone call was long planned
The New York Times has since reported that Bob Dole Worked Behind the Scene on Trump-Taiwan Call.

This has weakened the One China Policy, a long-standing diplomatic compromise dating back to 1972 wherein China agreed to leave Taiwan alone, and the USA agreed to say that there was only one China (and never mind who governed it), made by none other than Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Since that time, China has become a major US trading partner and US capitalists have moved much manufacturing to China. The One China Policy has long been unpopular with US hawks, who want conflict with China, and who Trump is sympathetic too. But how would this work in practice? As with the ACA repeal, no-one seems to know how to abandon the One China Policy without dire consequences.

Trump has been refusing national security briefings and, apparently, contact with the State Department, and seems to have foreign policy advisors he has not yet named. So who are these advisors?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Protectionism and Jobs: It Could Work, But…

If trade barriers barriers are raised, I speculate it could be  jobs will be created. BUT. We know this history. It is the history of the Soviet Union, which forbade trade which capitalist countries. The USSR did, indeed, make consumer products on its own. Shoddy, expensive ones which everyone hated. Bootleg Western products were prized. Consider US-made automobiles; they are among the least reliable and comfortable.

I don’t see how the USA can produce consumer products at anything like the price or in anything like the quantity that foreign producers do; all the US ability to do so has been taken apart. (Much of it was shipped to China by none other than Mitt Romney.) Meantime, though, we’ll be putting up with appalling quality at high prices.

There's probably other negatives here I can't see, but I'm pretty sure they are yuge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Health insurance: return of the bad old days

Richard Mayhew, at Balloon Juice, is an insurance industry middle-manager who writes at Balloon Juice. A week ago he wrote a piece entitled "Recission and the Bad Old Days," about all the excuses insurance companies could use to withdraw coverage and dump people into medical bankruptcy. Which of course is an excellent reason to maintain or improve on the ACA.

But I wonder…Mayhew was in the health insurance industry well before the ACA was passed. How did he sleep at night, knowing what was paying his salary? How did any health insurance employees sleep?

And the Trump administration is committing to bringing those times back.

Why So Many Bad Doctors?

Dr. Ben Carson, who everyone remembers from the Republican primary as being uninformed and uncompassionate, is Trump's choice for Director of Housing and Urban Development. Now the word is that Dr. Tom Price, who is anti-abortion, homophobic, ammosexual, and who wants to turn Medicare into an underfunded and inadequate insurance system, is going to be head of Health and Human Services.

Does anyone else think it is odd that such horrific people have medical licenses? Dr. Carson, I gather, is at least an excellent surgeon, but I doubt that Dr. Price is even that. Doctors, as licensed professionals, are required to act ethically. How did Price ever slip through?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two Baskets

This is from Hillary Clinton's speech, in which she called out that fascists of the alt-right who supported Trump and was roundly blasted for calling all of Trump's supporters deplorable. She was right, and has been consistently misquoted.

Now, she probably ought not to have said this. People hate hearing they are wrong, especially when they are. And her husband's administration had a big part putting people into the second basket, the people who "feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change." Still, I am not at all sure that saying it made much difference. Her words were endlessly twisted during the campaign, apparently out of simple sexism. When Trump said something awful and crazy, he got the benefit of the doubt; when Clinton said something decent, sympathetic, and valid, she got blasted.

So here's the "two baskets" quote, and as things go more and more wrong in a Trump administration we can remember that she got it right.

I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

[Laughter/applause]

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well. —Time.com

Sunday, November 27, 2016

25 years to losing

I've discussed the short-term reasons for the Democratic electoral loss in "It's the Sexism, Stupid." But the long-term reason is 25 years of support by both parties for the interests of the wealthy over everyone else. So when Trump offered even a tiny bit of hope, enough voters latched on to it to make common cause with the basket of deplorables and, here we are.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Case for Auditing the Vote

Or, Jill Stein may have done us an actual service.

J. Alex Halderman:

Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. — J. Alex Halderman, Director, University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, medium.com

Ron Rivest:

“I wouldn’t be surprised, in light of the DNC, that major voting systems have been compromised,” said Ron Rivest, a founding father of modern encryption systems and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who won the Turing Award, computing’s version of the Nobel Prize. “We do need to be concerned about the integrity of our voting systems in the face of possible attacks by foreign nation-states.— bostonglobe.com

Barbara Simons:

“If it’s a swing state, those votes could conceivably decide which party wins that state,” said Barbara Simons, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery and an adviser to the US Election Assistance Commission. — bostonglobe.com, previous cite.

These are not lightweight figures. Rivest in particular is a major figure in cryptography. We may be doing this for all the wrong reasons, but it’s a worthwhile thing to do; audits ought to be routine.

Still, going to be one more excuse for Republicans not to count votes. But then, they don’t need excuses.

Deflationary Policy and the Gig Economy

So, what happens?

Uber and the other Transportation Network Companies

Near as I can figure, Uber will start turning drivers away in harder-hit cities; it's the only way to keep the service going. Who is going to bother working with a service that scarcely will provide any work at all? If Uber is going to keep going, it will have to require drivers to put in minimums, and select from among those who do. And, no unemployment insurance for the now out-of-work drivers.

Of course, the founders having made their pile and then some, they could just fold the company.

AirBNB and similar firms

Likely AirBNB goes under. Most of the "unlicensed hotel" AirBNB sellers and similar do go under; they most likely borrowed to fund their services and will not be able to keep up their payments. The legal AirBNB providers may also get hammered; some of them have borrowed to build extensions to their homes and will have also have trouble making the payments. Some people may lose their homes. On the other hand, it may be that regular hotels in cities that are hit hard enough that the whole market switches to AirBNB instead.

That whole thing about entrepreneurship, capitalism, and so on

You're an entrepreneur if you on take financial risk. During a downturn, businesses go under and small businesses of limited capital, like Uber drivers and small AirBNB sellers, go first.

If a Trump administration tanks the economy, there's going to be a lot of unhappy people!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Deflationary policy, or "Mom, they're nuts!" part II

We have here a Krugman post titled, "Why is deflation bad?"

The short-short summary is: (1) it discourages investment; (2) it makes debt harder to bear; (3) it can lead to mass unemployment. If the Republicans do what they say they're going to do, a slam into depression is possible.

I wonder if the people already impoverished by 30 years of neo-liberal economics will, reject the leadership of the Trump administration, or if instead they will double down, and blame the (Jewish, Muslim, African-American) bankers.

Republican Money or "Mom, they're nuts!"

(This is lifted from my post from September. Short summary: the current Republican leadership is bugfuck on banking and monetary policy.)

In addition to all that follows, there's a not-so-subtle thread of anti-semitism running through this: the postmodern Jewish bankers are destroying our manly gold currency, blasted out of the ground by manly miners.

Mike Pence, VP pick: He’s a goldbug.
The U.S. abandoned [the gold standard] in 1971, and as Krugman notes: Since then the price of gold has increased roughly tenfold, while consumer prices have increased about 250 percent. If we had tried to keep the price of gold from rising, this would have required a massive decline in the prices of practically everything else — deflation on a scale not seen since the Depression. This doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House: His idea is from Ayn Rand.
The Fed would have to raise interest rates when commodity prices go up, regardless of the state of the economy. This is all kinds of crazy. Commodity prices have shot up the past decade as developing nations have developed — unrelated to inflation here. It makes no sense to make our economy worse because China's economy is getting better. 
Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Leader, is not a public gold bug, but he doesn’t like the Federal Reserve and believes there has been substantial inflation in the past eight years (there hasn't.)

Ted Cruz, influential Republican Senator, is a gold bug: "I think the Fed should get out of the business of trying to juice our economy, and simply be focused on sound money and monetary stability, ideally tied to gold.”

2016 Republican Platform is goldbug:
Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. In 2012, facing the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we proposed a similar commission to investigate ways to set a fixed value for the dollar. 
With Republican leadership, the House of Representatives has passed legislation to set up just such a commission. We recommend its enactment by the full Congress and the commission’s careful consideration of ways to secure the integrity of our currency.
How do we deal with this?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Working Class and the Credibility of Liberal Economists

Economist Jared Bernstein complains at the Washington Post "The problem isn’t that the facts aren’t out there; it’s that they don’t seem to be gaining much traction." Yet one cannot credibly argue one is for the downtrodden when one has spent that last 25 years compromising with the people treading on them. People eventually see through you, and then there is nothing left to be said.

Justice has to be seen to be done, as well as done. If the Dems and the policy liberals like Bernstein want the respect of the masses, you have to be for the masses and be seen to be for the masses. Otherwise, why should the masses believe you?

Which also seems to explain the results of the recent election. Obama was for the bankers first. Everyone could see it. Why should he or his party be trusted? And, conversely, he clearly was for women and people of color. Of course the white masses resented being left behind. And why not?

As Bernie Sanders knows, but seems not to have said, policy cannot address social equity without also addressing economic equity: the masses will invariably regard both policies as coming from the same sources.

I have a friend who comments that the young white men she went to high school with felt entitled to decent jobs with decent pay without educational effort. She is contemptuous of them. But aren't decent jobs with decent pay a reasonable expectation? Isn't that what we ought to be aiming at for everyone who is willing and able to work? There will always be some people who feel they need someone to be above, and an egalitarian society cannot grant that; privilege must be earned, and cannot be permanent. That group will necessarily be resentful in an equal society. But if the majority loses ground they have common cause with that resentful faction.

The whole idea of "socially liberal and economically conservative” was, in the past few decades, translated to "raise up women and people of color, while doing nothing to maintain the lot of white men as their jobs and security were taken away." How could this fail to provoke resentment? If we are serious about egalitarianism, "everyone or no-one," how can we not, in our policy-making, consider moderating inequities of wealth and making sure that social gains in wealth are shared?

This is going to have to be thought on. I'm sure it can be attacked as a defense of white privilege. I would say, though, that rather than taking privilege away from white men, we ought instead to extend it to women and people of color. We cannot have an upper class without also having a lower class, and that must be forbidden, but we can see that everyone is fed, housed, and clothed, and that everyone has the freedom to live a full life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

On John Scalzi's Blog: An Overview of the Problem

(This was written in response to this post. I am reposting it here, partly so I have these links somewhere where I can find them again.)

I think looking at the proposals for advisers and formally-named cabinet secretaries gives ample reasons for terror. Now, it may be that the Senate will find reasons to reject some of secretary nominations, but I would not count on it. So if, for instance, Sen. Jeff Sessions becomes attorney general, goodbye to Federal civil rights enforcement. And what do we do if we get an anti-abortion Supreme Court majority?

The public response to the election of Trump is one of the most hopeful things I have seen, but it can be worn down by harassment. Just as in the fascist countries in the 1930s, It is likely to be hard to maintain opposition in the face of possibly violent harassment, and we will not be able to count on Federal support against our abusers.

The sheer corruption of the incoming administration, even before Trump is actually inaugurated, is astonishing; we are back to Warren Harding days with much larger amounts of money.

And, finally, the Koch Brothers connection is also troubling. Trump originally promised to protected Medicare and Social Security and is now promising to sign legislation dismantling them both.

BTW, Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo is all over this. Could do worse than to pay attention to him, at least before Trump sues TPM out of existence.

Some TPM links:
  Appointments —
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/trump-cabinet-spex
  Corruption —
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/more-details-trump-macri-call
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-corruption-will-be-endless
  Koch brothers influence —
   http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/behind-make-america-great-the-koch-agenda-returns-with-a-vengeance

Allies in Defeat: A Call For Unity On the Left

Listen up you-all: the Democratic primaries are over: it is time to unify. We lost to Trump due to sexism, racism, bad press, and bad luck, but above all to sexism. If Sanders had been the candidate, we might instead have lost to the Republicans two-foot thick folder of opposition research on Sanders. The party and the candidates knew it: both made concessions to bring the Democratic Party together and, if it hadn't been for the appalling conduct of the press and malfeasance on the part of FBI director Comey, perhaps that would have been enough.

But now, both factions are acting like the cat who bites the vet. The vet isn't the cat's enemy, but the vet is in reach, so the cat is biting. Even more than before it is necessary for Americans to come together to oppose the fascists. So let's do it!

Sanders on Fascism and Party Unity

Sunday, October 21, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts:
“There is a lot of racism in this country. There is a lot of sexism, a lot of homophobia,” he said. “I don’t have to explain to anybody here the racist background of Mr. Trump … I don’t have to tell anybody here about the slurs, the awful things he has said about Mexicans … Muslim people … and obviously … his attitude towards women.”

Sanders urged his audience to unite in order to resist bigotry.

“When we bring millions of people together, here in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, when we do that, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” he said, acknowledging cheers of affirmation from the audience.

Sanders highlighted the plight of the middle class in America, a problem he frequently spoke about on the campaign trail.

“For 40 years, the middle class of this country has been in decline,” he said. “You see enormous pain and confusion as to why the people on top make huge amounts of money, while the middle class continues to shrink, and 43 million Americans live in poverty.” — The Daily Free Press (Boston University)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fascist Synergies

This election was won by sexism, racism, bad press, and bad luck, more-or-less in that order. This doesn’t mean that all Trump supporters were sexist and racist; many of them have not taken him at his word. But the sexists and racists tipped the balance, as well as the media sexism that made a woman’s minor failings seem major while ignoring the huge failings of a man.

But Trump…Trump is only part of the story here. The rest of the story is the brutal fairly-tale world of Mike Pence and Paul Ryan. Ryan, I think, imagines himself as St. John Galt; a combination of religious conservative and crazed individualist. But neither of these views relate to the real world. Pence seems to me one of these people who hides himself in religion. Reading his speeches, I am struck by the sheer intensity of his sexual fears, and am left wondering if he is a man intellectually crippled by child abuse.

What none of these people are doing is thinking realistically about consequences: they are doing what they feel is right. Trump is feeding his vast ego. Pence is assuaging his fears. Ryan is fulfilling his fantasies.

Put all of these together and — what? There seems no way to tell, except it is likely to be cruel, destructive, and expensive. And they are playing on a world stage, and in a physical world. We don't know how their various crazinesses will interact with the crazinesses of other countries, and we don't know how this will interact with growing environmental problems.

Bozhe moi!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It's the Sexism, Stupid!

I was involved in one of those interminable discussions of Why We Lost, wherein every pet theory is brought out. I don't buy into these. The loss was not by very large numbers; Trump didn't win by a landslide. There was a lot of luck and bad media involved.

And then I asked myself: what if Hillary Clinton had been male? What if it had been Harry Clinton rather than Hillary?
  1. Harry Clinton would not have been blamed for his wife's sexual conduct.
  2. Harry Clinton would have protected their e-mail privacy just the way W. Bush did. (Both Bush administrations used insecure servers and deleted millions of emails on the way out of office.)
  3. Harry Clinton would have probably been complemented for their stern handling of events in Libya and Syria, and encouraged to do more.
And most likely, in an electoral contest with Donald Trump, Harry Clinton would have won.

Why did I not ask myself this question before the election?

F— the patriarchy.

Hillary Clinton is a better man than Donald Trump!

…and would Donald Trump's sexual conduct — the harassment, the alleged rapes — have been excused if she were Donna Trump?
(2016-11-27 changed the masculine version of Clinton's name to "Harry" from "Hilliard" for the sake of readability.)

New Senate Democratic Leadership

The first fight will be in the Senate over cabinet nominations. If the Democrats don't come out fighting, I think the Republicans will just roll over them. So in one corner we have…

Senate Minority Leader Schumer. The whip will be Durbin, and third-ranking is Patricia Murray from Washington State. Sanders and Manchin will have roles.

Schumer opposed Obama’s Iran deal.

Manchin (D-Coal): “If President-elect Trump comes with good policies, I’m going to be 1,000 percent behind him. Okay? Maybe the rest of my caucus will not, but I’m going to find a pathway forward,”

Murray is the Senator who made the budget deal with Paul Ryan which cut off unemployment insurance to families which direly needed it. One person I know lost theirs on their birthday and is still bitter about it.

Can someone find me some positives here, please? Except for Sanders, who is apparently relegated to a PR role, I don't think this lot is going to fight.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Trump: The Real Estate Developer As Chief Executive

A developer doesn't manage anything beyond their own organization. They make deals, arrange financing, design, and construction, and then move on. Once the developer is done, the responsibility for managing the project goes to the owner and their facilities manager. So, Trump. Who has never managed the on-going business of even one major building and is most likely deeply uninterested in the day-to-day operations of facilities management, which quite literally includes taking out the garbage, as well as other pleasant tasks like cleaning the floors and changing light bulbs.

Many of Trump's deals go sour; the properties go bankrupt and the owners and investors are left to take a loss. But Trump has moved on before they fail.

The work of the executive is mostly on-going management; implementing legislation that is developed in Congress. The Chief Executive also has a role as "head of state"--the visible symbol of the USA. Trump wants to be head of state, but he also has the job of chief executive. So I suppose he will shirk the job, leaving the Koch mouthpiece Mike Pence and his merry men to do the work, which they are not qualified for, and the Republican-led Congress to develop policy, which they also are not qualified for.

Is the Republic to end because of incompetence?

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Fate of the ACA in the Trump Administration


We now have Trump saying, “Trump told the Wall Street Journal in a Friday interview that he wants to keep the prohibition against insurers denying coverage because of patients pre-existing medical conditions, and allow children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they’re 26.”

This will, of course, probably destroy the individual health insurance market, or at least make it very much more expensive. But the ACA is profitable for a wealthy industry, and this may protect it. When all is said and done we may be more likely to see modest changes to the ACA (I am guessing a relaxation of the MLR limits) and modest cuts to Medicare (or possibly a greater push for privatization), sold, respectively, as “repeal and replace” and “improvements/Obama’s fault.”

(Edited for clarity the following day.)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Narratives: What James Kwak Said

At the end of the day, we know that the “white working class” supported Trump much more strongly than it supported Romney, but we can’t tell from polling data if that was because of their judgments about Trump’s policies, their feelings about race, or their feelings about their economic status. In practice, different people in the same demographic group make political choices based on different combinations of those (and other) factors. I think it’s important to try to understand the relative importance and the interactions of these different motivations, and how those have shifted over time. But if there’s one thing I want you take away, it’s that you can’t answer these questions by looking at aggregate polling data—even though many people will try to do exactly that in the next few days. — Narratives

The Ammosexual and Misogynist Votes

(An earlier version of this was posted in comments [comment still in moderation] to Crooked Timber.)

Yesterday, elsenet, someone told me that Donald Trump’s sexual assaults were minor, and, besides, Trump had promised to protect “second-amendment rights.” And so, we have elevated a sex offender to the most powerful elected office in the world. I have been saying for years that there are very few things in current politics that are not, at least in part, influenced by masculinity doubts and this is a stunning confirmation of it.

Just how much did “second-amendment rights” argument influence the election, and how much sexism, not just in misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton, but in the forgiveness of Trump’s assaults?

This implies policy. First, of course, the feminist argument may reasonably be relied on. Why, during all the madness of this campaign, was the question “Would you leave your teenage daughter alone with Donald Trump?” not asked often? That reaches past the issues of policy to simple human basics and would sway many conservatives. But, second, we need to undertake to change popular thinking about firearms and lethal force, debunking the claim that the Second Amendment was intended as an unlimited firearms license. Rural people who genuinely depend on firearms must also be reassured that their firearms will not be taken away. I know a farmer who routinely defends her chickens from coyotes with a .22, so this is a very real issue for rural people.

We lost, at least in part, to misogyny and the desire of rural people to protect their families and property.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Now What?

Me, on Brexit: "If enough of these factions, all alike and all hating each other, come together the global economy will unravel. The networks of trade that make us a rich world, if not all of us rich people, will be dismantled and all nations will be the poorer for it. Refugees will be turned away to be crushed under brutal autocrats. Possibly shooting wars will follow." And here we are. Now what?

Vote. Vote! VOTE!

Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it. So make your voice heard!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Vote. Vote!

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it. That's why they don't want you to do it.

And vote downticket, too! The Senate is up for grabs, and it makes a difference!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Vote.

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it. That's why they don't want you to do it!

Friday, November 4, 2016

On the revelation that Melania Trump violated immigration law

Article at Talking Points Memo: Melania Trump Modeled in US Illegally Without Work Visa

I don’t expect an official response from the Clinton campaign, but Clinton will probably be asked, and I’m worried about the impact on voting. Clinton cannot say Melania deserves amnesty without losing votes. Clinton also cannot say “Deport Melania” without looking heartless. (Don’t underestimate the sympathy that Melania will get, just for her appearance.) So what ought Clinton say? This is such a mess of an election that this might even work to Trump’s advantage.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Law is the Loser, Part 3: Short Early Notes on the Malheur Verdict

As my readers probably know by now, the prosecution of half of the various people who occupied the Malheur Wildlife Reservation failed. Apparently jurors believed the the theory that "They got together and robbed a bank, but they're really not a gang."
There's going to be a lot said and written on this in the future, so this has to be regarded as informed speculation.
It seems that one juror, juror 4 who remains anonymous, swung the decision, and even apparently got another juror, juror 11, Curt Nickens, removed from the jury for disagreeing with him. As I said, I regard the legal reasoning for the acquittal specious. I expect that more about the jury deliberations will come out, and perhaps we will know more in a year or so. But I am thinking that the legal reasoning here is similar to that of the Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts Supreme Courts, when Scalia was sitting on the Court. There are all these fine arguments in favor of indefensible rulings. This has penetrated the public consciousness, to the point where many people regard law as a matter of abstract reasoning, unfair and disconnected from reality, and find it appropriate to render verdicts in a similar way.

Vote, You Suckers!

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it. That's why they don't want you to do it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Third-Party Voters: There Is No-one To Receive Your Message

"The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless."—Alan Moore

This election has seen widespread support for third party candidates, ceding the choice of officials to other voters who vote for one of the major-party candidates or, worse, the side which has better party discipline. There is much talk of "sending a message." There is no-one to send a message to, only our peers. There is no-one to receive that message, no god, no king. If we do not set our hands to the tiller, the world goes adrift.

Vote, puny humans!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Two Things President Trump Would Do: Deport Mexicans and Default on the Debt

Because he's been a racist for decades, and because he always defaults, if he can get away with it.

Heather Digby Parton: "Trump has a long history of racism, of a very ugly sort." That goes back to an incident in May of 1989, during which Trump "took out a full-age ad in four New York City newspapers with the title 'BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK THE POLICE!'" Five young African-American and Hispanic men were sentenced for that crime…but several years later, they were exonerated, and they sued the city and won a $40 million settlement. And what did Trump have to say about that? "Forty million dollars is a lot of money for the taxpayers of New York to pay when we are already the highest taxed city and state in the country. The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city."

And then we have Trump on CNBC, back in May.

The U.S. never has to default on debt "because you print the money," … Asked if the U.S. needs to pay its debt in full or if it could negotiate a partial repayment, Trump said: "I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal." — CNN. Analysis on Politifact.
I think he would default, because that's what he does. F—, f—, f'ity F—.

Friday, September 16, 2016

War, Peace, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton

Let us keep silent about Clinton’s presumed faults until we are through this election and after, until it is no longer necessary. The fragile imperfect peace we won after World War II, is being torn apart in a wave of reaction, and we have to fight for that. We have, in the high income world, had perhaps two generations of peace, and it has changed us more than we know. A huge number of people no longer believe that war is normal and healthy. Is that not an objection, a constant and wearying objection, of our reactionaries, that there is not enough conflict to toughen us, to make men of us? (And all the while we fight distant wars for no good reasons.)

I am seeing complaints that Hillary Clinton is a warmonger. Well, perhaps. But Trump? The very basis of his campaign is hostility to non-whites, non-Americans. Someone, anyone, here who is defending him, can you honestly write that Donald Trump is a man of peace? We all know he is not!

Please, everyone, it is direly important that we stand for the future, for peace.

Short Reflections on Donald Trump's Health

(Based on my exasperated remarks in Crooked Timber's comments section.)

Trump is one of the oldest people to stand for the Presidency. He does not look healthy. He is considerably overweight, and what is with that orange color? And…he is male. His life expectancy is shorter than Clinton’s, for that reason alone. Overweight, male, ruddy…if he doesn’t have hypertension and significant atherosclerosis I would be surprised.

And then there are his speech patterns. He sounds impaired. Perhaps he is, perhaps his peculiar incantory speech, that speaking in triplets, is in fact a result of some sort of mild aphasia. Is he perhaps a stroke survivor, or had a series of microstrokes? He has other oddities: he believes that Barack Obama is not a US citizen and has held to that belief despite all evidence. This is delusion.

Now, I realize that everyone is looking desperately to find something wrong with Clinton, but the threat that Trump presents is yuge and it deserves attention.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Republican Leadership and Money

We got through 9/11 with a few attacks on Muslims but no serious acts of Islamic terrorism in the USA. This ought to convince us that Da'esh is weak; if they could have done something, they would. So today I woke up wondering if Mike Pence was a gold bug, and what the Republican leadership and platform had to say about the Federal Reserve and the currency.

So I looked. Yup. And the Republicans, if they gain control of Congress and the Presidency are likely to pass policies that would make the crash of 2008 look like a minor blip.

Mike Pence, VP pick: He’s a goldbug
The U.S. abandoned [the gold standard] in 1971, and as Krugman notes: Since then the price of gold has increased roughly tenfold, while consumer prices have increased about 250 percent. If we had tried to keep the price of gold from rising, this would have required a massive decline in the prices of practically everything else — deflation on a scale not seen since the Depression. This doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House: His idea is from Ayn Rand.
The Fed would have to raise interest rates when commodity prices go up, regardless of the state of the economy. This is all kinds of crazy. Commodity prices have shot up the past decade as developing nations have developed — unrelated to inflation here. It makes no sense to make our economy worse because China's economy is getting better. 
Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Leader, is not a public gold bug, but he doesn’t like the Federal Reserve and believes there has been substantial inflation in the past eight years (there hasn't.)

Ted Cruz, influential Republican Senator, is a gold bug: "I think the Fed should get out of the business of trying to juice our economy, and simply be focused on sound money and monetary stability, ideally tied to gold.”

2016 Republican Platform is goldbug:
Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. In 2012, facing the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we proposed a similar commission to investigate ways to set a fixed value for the dollar. 
With Republican leadership, the House of Representatives has passed legislation to set up just such a commission. We recommend its enactment by the full Congress and the commission’s careful consideration of ways to secure the integrity of our currency.
Hey, us corvids will be here to pick over the bones of the economy.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Today is the start of the hajj

Tomorrow is 9/11.

Pray for peace.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The World Economy is Stumbling and Shipowner Hanjin Has Filed For Bankruptcy

From the Washington State labor blog, The Stand:
In today’s Seattle Times — Bankruptcy of Hanjin, key Port of Seattle customer, stalls shipments of consumer goods — Hanjin Shipping Co.’s vessels are getting stranded at sea after the South Korean container mover filed for court protection, roiling the supply chain of televisions and consumer goods ahead of the holiday season. Hanjin is the key user of Seattle’s Terminal 46. The Port of Seattle agreed to millions of dollars in improvements to the terminal in 2012 to assure Hanjin remained a customer.

From KING — Hanjin Shipping files for bankruptcy — Marine ports worldwide, including in the Northwest, are scrambling after South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy Wednesday.

Business Insider: There's now a fleet of ghost ships with nowhere to go after its owners went bankrupt

Seeking Alpha. Part 1: Hanjin Bankruptcy: What Does It Mean To The Global Containerized Shipping Industry? Part 2: Hanjin Bankruptcy, Part 2: Shipping Industry Must Find Solutions Beyond Alliances And Mergers

This is very odd. We keep hearing the world economy is OK, and now this. If trade with Asia is falling, the economy is not OK.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trump: Democracy is the Loser, part II



(Talking Points Memo masthead, 2016-09-03)

As I wrote about Brexit last June, how can we say that the conservative fears about democracy and democratic institutions are wrong when they are producing this result?

I think, at this time, given the nature of modern mass media and balloting processes, we ought to be very, very afraid of direct democracy: demagogues have far too much power in this environment.

"Strange women handing out swords" is looking better and better.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Companies

It occurs to me that the current health insurance kerfluffle, with several major companies withdrawing from the Exchanges in several states, is another instance of the dirty-effing-hippies being right again. "The health insurance companies will be good corporate citizens," "this system will work, no problems."

Yeah, right.

Maybe the big insurance companies really do lose money in some of the Exchange markets. Maybe. I'm not convinced (and this would be an excellent moment for a Congressional committee to subpoena some of their records to find out) but maybe. But they practically wrote that part of the law! If letting them write the law wasn't enough, what would be?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

PUMA: to a group of mostly Clinton supporters at Balloon Juice

Please, please, come back from there. I’ve been telling Sanders supporters that it’s important we unify. Now I’m telling Clinton supporters here the same thing. Clinton’s polling looks good now, but margins usually narrow as election day draws near. After 81 days of Bannon’s anti-Clinton propaganda, and Conway’s excuse-making for Trump, who knows where we will be?

Please, everyone, it’s not the time for Democrats to be trolling each other.

(Added) And, my gawrsh, they just go right on doing it. Do these people want to win this election or what?

Link.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In which the Trump Campaign goes full-on fascist

So now Kellyann Conway is Trump's campaign manager and breitbart.com's President Steve Bannon is Trump's campaign chair. Bannon is covered here; he appears to be a smart, narcissistic opportunist, rather like Trump himself. He is one of the people who made the right-wing anti-Hillary Clinton smears mainstream. Bannon, in his tenure at breitbart has embraced white supremacism. Conway is a right-wing lawyer, a pollster, anti-feminist, legal defender of rape apologist Senator Todd Akin. She seems to be an expert in teaching misogynists how to sound less misogynistic; clearly something Trump needs.

Things are going to get uglier.

Towards a theory of leadership on the left

For this bird, one of the most discouraging things about current US Presidential campaign, and indeed about current global politics, is the inability to unify, even against terrible enemies. I am recalled to Germany in 1932, where the Social Democrats and the Communists together had the votes to defeat the Nazis, but could not form a coalition, not even long enough to do that desperately necessary thing. So now we have the Democratic Party in the USA having difficulties coming together to defeat Trump, even though this is desperately necessary. It is a wider issue than that, however: Europe cannot agree how to deal with over a million Syrian refugees, and the whole world cannot agree to act on climate change, though that is a life-or-death crisis for global civilization.

I am left thinking that the conservatives are right in this: to act in politics it is necessary to come together behind some leader or group of leaders, and the left seems to have an exceptionally hard time of this. So we need a theory of leadership on the left, that does not leave us following the likes of Stalin. Marx perhaps swung the focus of philosophical debate on history towards systems rather than individuals: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living." This is surely a welcome correction from monarchism. But perhaps it is time to swing back, and ask ourselves what sort of individuals we want to focus power in, how that power is to be granted or taken away, and what sort of relations we may have with them. It takes no subtlety to know that a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Trump (the last, I suppose, repeating history as farce) ought be let nowhere near the levers of power. Yet we seem unable to keep them away from power, or conversely to reliably choose leaders who we might reasonably vest power in.

And, having posed the question, I am left with no obvious answer. There is a lot of political philosophy this bird has not read, so perhaps such work exists and I do not know of it, yet I can think of little leftist literature which addresses this issue. The right talks much about "character," but in practice they seem to focus on military virtues and zealous moral rigidity, neither of which make for good peacetime leaders. So what would be good character for the leaders of a social democratic state? What would their relations be like with other members of their political faction and the working government?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Multiple currencies in an electronic banking world

When so many transactions are electronic, it is no longer difficult to have multiple currencies in a geographic region; there is no longer any practical reason for a single currency in the Eurozone.

Noam Chomsky and the lesser evil

Noam sez:
… their memories extending to the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow. — An Eight Point Brief for Lesser Evil Voting
He was there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Election 2016: the women men don't see vs. the fascists

It seems to be coming down to The Women Men Don't See (and don't take public positions because men shout them down or threaten them) vs the fascists. The gods help us all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

To Leftists Who Think The Harms of a Trump Presidency Acceptable

(The orignal discussion is here. It is long and horrifying.)

How exactly do you expect Mexico to absorb 7 million refugees? They would end up in camps. Many would die. Many brown-skinned US citizens would be swept up in the wave of deportations and the force which executed those orders would go on to become a brutal internal security agency, putting all US citizens at risk. Likely more and more brutal international wars would follow.

This, about everyone in this discussion willing to use lives as pieces on a Go board: every now and again I learn something new about political thinking. What I learned in this discussion is that some leftist radicals are every bit as willing to sacrifice innocents as any conservative advocate of realpolitik. I had thought that question settled by the horrors of the 20th century, but it seems the lesson is not yet learned; without compassion we are no better than our opponents.

The reality of this election is that if there is a path forward for the left it is through a Clinton victory. There is no reason to believe that a Trump victory is unlikely, or that it would be anything but a global and national disaster, and actions taken that increase the odds of a Trump victory are akin to those of one of those high-flown suicides who want to take others along with them. Survivors of such attempts almost invariably regret them the minute the moment of decision is past. (Which also explains the thinking of many Trump voters who wish to "shake things up.")

No. I reject this.

Voters, Get Out and Do It!

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it. That's why they don't want you to do it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Normality of War: Reading the History of Europe

Authors who wrote before 1950 regarded war as normal, something rather like bad weather. Many authors even thought it was healthy.

We do not yet understand how much even a short period of imperfect peace has changed us.

"We have been making this journey all our lives"

With the nomination of Trump, Republicans (and not a few libertarians and Democratic conservatives) are now seeing the great gates surmounted by “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” and are panicking. A Trump Presidency, we know, would be a disaster. It would probably include wars, outbursts of anti-Islamic, racist, anti-semitic, and nationalist violence, and an economic collapse that would make 2008 look minor. I am seeing reactions to these likelihoods that seem to me grossly out of touch with reality.

We have:
The final step into Satanism. Many Republicans, libertarians, Democratic conservatives, and even some Sanders supporters who ought to know better are simply supporting Trump outright.
The gates appeared from nowhere. Ezra Klein, quoted by Brad Delong (knew there was a reason I don't subscribe to Vox): "And I am, for the first time since I began covering American politics, genuinely afraid. Donald Trump is not a man who should be president." Almost everything Trump has said has been said before. In many ways, Trump is a coarser Ronald Reagan. But, no, there must have been no precedents. For a pundit to acknowledge otherwise would be to acknowledge complicity.
That's a stage set, not the real gates. The socialist scholar Corey Robin surprised me by claiming, first, that Trump has no chance (which is what liberals had been saying all along even as he rose to the Republican Presidential nomination) and then, second, by then pointing out that Trump's terrifying pronouncements on foreign policy had precedents. Which is true, but unlike those prior pronouncements they come at a time when the peace of European Union is unraveling and are therefore far more dangerous. The nightmarish echoes of the response to fascism on the part of some European socialists seem to me strong. Orwell, in response to Wells's errors during the depths of World War II, wrote: "Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them." For people holding this view, it would seem that the threat is too terrifying to even acknowledge.

For myself, "I would see the White Tree in flower again…" I would rather see the threat acknowledged and actions taken to knit up the rents in our peace. But I'm a damn radical.

Why are peace and prosperity so hard to love? Why are these simple things so very radical?

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Plea for Solidarity

The world order is wobbling like a poorly-thrown pot on a potters wheel and Trump, May, and all the rest of the various neo-fascist movements want to see it go splat. This is the wrong time to repeat the division on the left of the 1932 German elections.

Can we please stop squabbling among ourselves long enough to keep the vulgar talking yam out of power?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reflections on Kissingerism

None of the mechanisms of US constitutional democracy controlled Kissingerism. No matter what the offenses of the Kissinger-guided Nixon administration committed — secret wars, genocide, even treason — the only thing that shut it down was a third-rate burglary.

To The Democratic Party: Deliver!

Back in 2011, I wrote: “To win the first election you have to message. To win the next election you have to deliver.” The Democratic Party has not delivered for millions. The formative experiences of younger voters include the second Iraq war, the fraudulent taking of people's houses, and living in an economy that promises to leave most of them in poverty for the rest of their lives. If the Democratic Party wants them, the Democrats are going to have to credibly promise to deliver and then make good on the promises. Maybe with Sanders and Warren campaigning for Clinton, and working in the Senate, it is possible. But the Democrats will have to win back at least one house of Congress, and stifle their 1% wing.

Brief note on Sanders concession speech

"This speech is the best speech. It is a great speech. And if you don't like the TPP, come vote for me."—fakeDonaldTrump

And not a word on trade. The Democrats just couldn't dump the damn TPP.  That's going to hurt, come the general election. The anti-global sentiment is strong. So, Brexit. Perhaps, so Trump.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Kissinger's Shadow

(This name has come up during the bruising politics of the current Presidential election. I decided to go learn something about this bĂȘte noire of the left, hence reading this book and my review of it. Review is also posted at Goodreads. If you want to buy a copy, I recommend powells.com or your local bookstore.)

Grandin, Greg. 2015. Kissinger's Shadow: the Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman. Henry Holt, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2015. 279 pp.

A short easily readable political biography of the remarkable Henry Kissinger by respected New York University history professor Greg Grandin. The book covers Kissinger’s theoretical writings as a brilliant college student, his success as statesman, and his evolution into a respected elder statesman.

As only an amateur political scientist, it is hard for me, personally, to assess the book’s accuracy. At least, it is not obviously falsified and there are extensive citations. Some 10% of the book’s pages contain endnotes, and there are many long discursive footnotes as well. But multiple stories can be told from any set of facts and I can only wonder what other stories might be told from these. Still, it is hard for me to see how the record of military interventions and deaths that grew from Kissinger’s policies could lead to a story which gives a positive account of Kissinger. It is also difficult for me to see how one can honestly deny the long-term failure of these policies. Kissinger himself would probably say that these realities which US policy created can themselves be changed, but that does not in fact appear to be the case; the US ability to control the long-term results of its policies becomes less and less as allies and enemies become exhausted and resentful of abuse, and as new media technology makes quickly visible the results of policy. It was possible, back in the days of Nixon, for a compliant media to bury the endless deaths that US foreign policy produced and this is no longer so. Kissinger, as a student in the 1950s, hated the idea that policy could be grounded in measured sociological reality, what today we would call “big data,” but big data, aided by the internet, seems to have won the day.

Kissinger is the original “policy creates reality” man, a German Jewish refugee who came to the USA with his family at 15, yet it is striking to me how horrible the realities he created were. Was there never, in his philosophy, the idea that he might create peace and justice rather than simply making his adopted nation strong and terrible? Perhaps there was. Faced with a sufficiently powerful enemy, he did negotiate, creating pacts with the USSR and China. While these probably would have eventually been negotiated had Kissinger not been involved, it remains true that he did negotiate these deals, earning him the ultimate hostility of the far right, and his own marginalization. The peak of Kissinger's power came with the Nixon administration. By the time Reagan came to power, he was shut out.

Grandin argues, I think correctly, that the monster Kissinger created, which Grandin names “Kissingerism,” has outlived Kissinger’s direct participation. Kissinger was consulted by both Bush administrations. His ideas of power and intervention, and their uses in persuading a democratic polity to war, live on.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Brexit: Are We Without the Peace?

Unraveling, Coming Together, and Reaction

The purpose of the European Union is to make and keep peace within Europe and in Europe's relations with the rest of the world. Yet every state within the EU has its reactionary factions, which would rather leave the EU, regardless of consequences. People are driven in to the anti- side by years of steady immiseration and then the hard drop into poverty caused by austerity policies, and there is the queasy sense of loss of national identity.

If enough of these factions, all alike and all hating each other, come together the global economy will unravel. The networks of trade that make us a rich world, if not all of us rich people, will be dismantled and all nations will be the poorer for it. Refugees will be turned away to be crushed under brutal autocrats. Possibly shooting wars will follow.

In every country I have examined I can find specific issues, yet somehow all these issues have come together all at once. So I seek a unifying model. In the increasing unification of the world, I think I have found one. The world is now a global village, and people are not comfortable with their new neighbors. I seek in history for parallels, and I find them in the periods before the world wars. As the world become more and more connected, first by rail and telegraph and then by radio, we had vast reactions: World War I and World War II. And, indeed, the world became less unified for a while. But the process of unification continued, and now we have television and the internet, and global challenges that can only be addressed by more unification. And we have a reactionary movement. Dare I hope we can keep the peace?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit and the EU: Keeping the Peace

We so quickly forget that the purpose of the European Union was not to promote the economic interests of countries whose names begin in G and end with Y, nor to raise Northern European values over Southern. The point of the European Union was to make and keep peace.

The EU is not keeping the peace, not even trying hard. If they were trying, the ECB would be forgiving Greece's debt, while urging Britain to reconsider. In the long term, to keep the peace, the EU would be promoting Keynesian macroeconomic policies intended to reduce income inequality, and taking in the Syrian refugees, both because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate and because shutting them out will breed future conflict.

I would like to see a return to the internationalism that the EU was founded on. The business of the EU is not promoting the interests and ideology of Germany and, to a lesser extent, France. It is to make peace and create and maintain prosperity in Europe.

(Minor editorial changes, day after posting.)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit and Trump: Exasperated comments to some Sanders-bashing Clintonites

Folks, did you even listen to what Sanders said?

If there's one single thing that has gone wrong with the Democrats it is the failure to listen.

Meantime, please, enough with the Sanders-bashing. We need everyone on deck for this one. The British faction that won Brexit is similar to the faction the supports Trump, and it won.

Brexit: What Next?

We don't know. Likely enough, Britain leaves the EU. Likely enough the United Kingdom splits. But the wide consequences? There is no way of knowing, but the likelyhood of their being on balance positive in the next 20 years is poor.

(Added) And one possible wide consequence is the collapse of a shaky economic recovery in the USA. Thanks, guys.

Brexit: Democracy is the Loser

The loser here, I think, is democracy and democratic institutions. All conservative fears about both have been confirmed.

I think, at this time, given the nature of modern mass media and balloting processes, we ought to be very, very afraid of direct democracy: demagogues have far too much power in this environment.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

"Terrorist suspects"

Just by the way, I hope someone else is annoyed by the attempt to make the terrorist watch and no-fly lists a reason for anything other than watching. The terrorist watch list has over a million people on it, and is therefore near-useless. The no-fly list is easy to get on, and near-impossible to get off. Secret courts, secret laws, secret lists: these things are un-American.

ACLU Letter to the Senate.

A bit on the history of the Second Amendment

(Some version of this is in negotiation on Wikipedia. I have doubts that it will survive, so I am posting it here. Comments are open for the usual period.)

Possibly the first use of "well-regulated militia"

Scots MP Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun used the phrase “well-regulated militia” in his 1698 pamphlet, "A Discourse Of Government With Relation To Militias". By this he meant a universal draft.

In the ''Discourse'' Fletcher strikes a number of notes that were to echo through the US constitution. Fletcher wrote of the oppressive potential of standing armies and argued against the hiring of mercenaries, recommending instead reliance on “a well regulated militia” [1]. He wrote of the need for baronial control of the militia to check unjust royal power, and in this we may see an origin of the division of state and federal authority over the militia.

To the objection that the typical citizen was a poor soldier, Fletcher replied that they made up an “ordinary and ill-regulated militia.” He then set out his idea of a well-regulated militia:

What I would offer is, that four camps be formed, one in Scotland, and three in England; into which all the young men of the respective countries should enter, on the first day of the two and twentieth year of their age; and remain there the space of two years, if they be of fortunes sufficient to maintain themselves; but if they are not, then to remain a year only, at the expense of the public.
He goes on to praise the martial virtues such training would instill (he had after all himself been a soldier) and adds that all male citizens should continue to drill four hours a week.

The relevance of Scottish militia history to the USA

It's a pretty amazing history. The right of the Scots to participate in the militia was lost in the Acts of Union, which unified the parliaments of Scotland and England. The Scottish Militia Bill of 1707, which would have restored the Scots right to participate in the militia, was vetoed by Queen Anne, in the last royal veto in British history. Thereafter, the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1746 persuaded Parliament to pass the 1716 Disarming Act and then the 1746 Act of Proscription, which intensified penalties and even forbade the wearing of "highland dress" [2].

The relevance to the USA is set out by Konig [3]. It comes through Fletcher and James Burgh, who was quoted by Franklin and who corresponded with John Adams. To sum up a fairly complex history, the suppression of the Scottish militias and weapons ownership influenced the writing of the Second Amendment, and the phrase "well-regulated militia" is a direct reference to that history.

A few final thoughts

As I went through my very light overview of the history, some things became clear. First, the phrase "well-regulated militia" is a direct quote of the Scottish authors Fletcher and Burgh, and probably others. The Framers were referencing those ideas when they included it. (And, yes, that means that Heller was wrongly decided. Justice Scalia, I do not miss you.)

Second, the nature of the militia obligation and the militia gets narrowed by succeeding authors and legislators. From Fletcher's universal draft of men, the service requirement was reduced by Burgh to to a draft of "all men of property." Hamilton, in Federalist Paper 29, reduced the training requirement still further. Once the US militia was a going thing, militia service turned from a much-demanded right into an onerous, expensive, and resented obligation, and in the 1830s and 1840s the states exempted most men from it.

Third, what I suppose one might call the British theory of the militia was built around the weapons technology its day. The whole idea of an individual right to go armed was, first, taken for granted, and second, not taken seriously. One man with a musket, or more likely two pistols, could be a robber, but it took numbers and organization to make a revolution. With the invention of the modern rifle, we achieved such a level of lethality that a single individual with a good rifle can be as lethal as a whole team of cannoneers and with a cannon in the old days. I can't see that any of the Scots and English militia theorists would have advocated widespread distribution and carrying of such lethal weapons without at least some restrictions on who could carry them routinely.

References

[1] Ironically, Fletcher had himself been a mercenary in Hungary. See http://www.johngraycentre.org/people/movers_shaker/andrew-fletcher-of-saltoun-the-patriot-1655-1716
[2] Which sounds very odd, but consider the suppression of gang colors in US schools.
[3] Konig, David Thomas (Spring 2004). "The Second Amendment: A Missing Transatlantic Context for the Historical Meaning of 'the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms'". Law and History Review (American Society for Legal History, Inc.) 22 (1): 120–159. doi:10.2307/4141667.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sanders: Going to the Convention

There is a lot of talk about how Sanders, not going to win the nomination, ought now quietly withdraw before the Democratic National Convention. But why? With roughly 40% of primary voters supporting him, he and his faction ought to get something, especially if the Democratic Party expects his supporters to turn out for the party, and work on Clinton's campaign.

There is symbolic weight in walking into the convention with nearly 1900 pledged delegates at your back, even if Clinton has 2200. (There are approximately 600 "superdelegates," Democratic officials of various sorts, who are swing votes. Clinton needs only 80 of them to clinch the nomination.) Back when, before the internet, the power of those numbers was immense: delegates and reporters would walk into a crowded hall and see the support. Television made that visible to the whole world. Even now, seeing those numbers, seeing those people, carries weight. I hope the Clinton campaign and the Democratic leadership will pay attention.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Democratic Primary: It's down to negotiation now

So we have the votes of every state; only the District of Columbia itself, with its 20 delegates remains. As Charles P. Pierce puts it, "[Sanders] entire strategy seems now to be based on convincing members of the dreaded Democratic establishment to do something for him that they weren't even willing to do en masse for Ted Kennedy in 1980 […] And he has to get 300 of them to do it."

President Obama has agreed to meet with Sanders at the White House on Thursday and they will "continue their conversation about the significant issues at stake in this election that matter most to America's working families." To unify the Democrats, Obama will have to offer Sanders some concessions which Sanders, in turn, can offer to his supporters as a plausible reason to vote for Clinton in November. But what can he offer? Obama has delivered far less than enough on employment, banking, and foreign policy. To get the new Sanders voters to turn out, he will have to offer them something substantial, and I cannot imagine what that could be. In early 2010 I wrote, "The  party leadership will have a difficult time persuading most Democrats that the party represents them," and this is still the case.

Join the People's Progressive Libertarian Party. Peace, prosperity, and weed!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review: Scahill's *The Assassination Complex*

(If you want to buy this book online, I recommend doing so at powells.com.)

The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare ProgramThe Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program by Jeremy Scahill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of articles based on leaked material published on the web site The Intercept at https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/ with a foreword by Edward Snowden and an afterword by Glenn Greenwald.

The Assassination Complex covers the US policy of assassination using electronic surveillance and drone aircraft as it has developed since 9/11, with side trips into the use of similar electronic surveillance technologies by civilian police in the USA. There is much horrifying and terrifying information given here, but perhaps the central terror is the lawlessness of the practice: people, US citizens and not, are condemned in secret courts and executed without a chance to see their accusers or defend themselves. The executions are usually made based electronic surveillance without on-the-ground checks, with the result that sometimes the wrong people are killed; not even questionable execution but simple murder.

So far as is known, civilian police in the USA are not using armed drones, but they are using the same electronic surveillance technology, and the idea of sloppy, over-worked, trigger-happy US police with even that much power is not a happy one.

This is an important book and anyone who cares about such matters should read it. I think, also, a companion volume on the legal issues this technology raises is badly needed. There are issues of both international and domestic law. I am not even sure assassination is forbidden by any treaty. It has been used historically, but it has never been common; it is far too difficult to carry out with human agents and it seldom achieves useful military objectives. With electronic surveillance and drones, it has become routine, though, as with other forms of air war, though, if TAC is to be believed, it is apparently largely effective at terrorizing civilians and still ineffective at achieving military objectives. Beyond that is the shadow of proliferation. For the moment, this is a technology limited to a few governments, but that will change; unless international treaties are drawn up, it will come to pervade the world. In US domestic law, it is simply not permitted, unless one adopts the most tortured readings of the law: the Framers forbade execution or even legal punishment without trial because of bitter personal experience, and the Constitution and Bill of Rights forbid them, unless, perhaps, there is a declared war. It has never been mooted in court that I know of, but I do not see how the law reasonably allows the United States to declare war on an abstract noun: wars are between governments and peoples, not simply on "terror" or "drugs."

I will venture, now, two criticisms: first, that it is a poorly-designed book; the use of red backgrounds and text detracts from the work, and the fonts chosen are jarring and distracting. Simon and Schuster is a major publisher, and they can do better. Second, I do wish that paper copies of the online documents the book relies on had been archived and published. It is so very easy for electronic evidence to be erased.

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Oh, Hillary, no: Nixon, Clinton, Kissinger

Two of Nixon's most Nixononian and criminal acts as candidate and President, the prolongation of the Vietnam war and the CIA-orchestrated coup in Chile, were Kissinger's ideas. I am left wondering how much of Clinton's Latin American foreign policy is also Kissinger's idea. It is at least Kissinger-influenced; Clinton acknowledges Kissinger as friend and mentor. I am left thinking that much of Clinton's often criticized hawkishness is the influence of Henry Kissinger. And yet Kissinger's policies have often failed, making enemies worldwide, and his body count is astonishing: at least in the hundreds of thousands and arguably in the millions.

Oh, Hillary, no.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hillary Clinton's nomination: I feel a great distubance in the Force

So, according to CNN, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Presidential nominee, barring disaster or superdelegates flipping their pledged votes. This news comes a day before the last round of primaries, where six states, total population 53 million, would be voting. CNN did a lunk-headed thing, making voters in six states feel their votes don't count.

Today I met a young woman who told me that, having been told that, because of her age, she knows nothing by Clinton supporters at her state's Democratic caucuses, was having doubts about voting for Clinton.

What I am hearing from Clinton supporters is that they are looking forward to abandoning the Sanders supporters. But the election is not won yet, and the Democratic Party may yet regret that decision, if it is indeed the decision of the Party leadership.

Meantime, we have Trump, who is becoming increasingly unhinged. I am starting to be concerned that instead of the buffoonish, incompetent Trump, Clinton may face the dislikeable but smart and effective Ted Cruz in the general election. If so, the Republican right will be much less inclined to cross party lines, and the Democratic Party may yet need the Sanders voters.

Or perhaps something else will go wrong. Perhaps this bird just has indigestion. But I have the sick feeling that my side has lost.

"The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come." — Gandalf

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Greece, near-on a year later

Of course one day the Greek economy will recover, just as the Irish famine came to an end.
Good historical context; the analogy with Ireland is apt and the 1944 Polanyi quote is eerie in its prescience.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Veterans Day: No Man's Land




And I can't help but wonder, now Willie Mcbride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you 'The Cause? '
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie Mcbride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again. 

— Eric Bogle, "No Man's Land"