Wednesday, August 8, 2018

AMO: Unifying the Resistance?

Me, slightly over a year ago:
At this point, what it would take to unify the Resistance would be something like a younger female version of Sanders, and I don't see anyone like that on the national stage.
And now we have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Intersectionality, Economic Anxiety, and Economic Pain

There's a whole strain of argument that economics had nothing to do with Trump's victory, that it was all racism. Certainly the racists are there. But also, the Obama administration had no jobs program, no relief for embattled homeowners, no prosecutions for mortgage fraud or servicing abuse. 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. That's the sort of economic pain that people don't forget, and it affected the election.

I have a friend who is represented by Senator Patricia Murray (D-WA.) Senator Murray 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 the Presidential election was as close as it was.

I'm not going to say that economics was the whole story of that election; many factors came together to bring the Republicans to power. Sexism was a part of it, racism was a part of it, and bad press was a part of it. So was treason. But those memories of long times out of work and losing homes were also part of it.

Jobs matter. Homes matter.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Proof Testing 3-D Printed Firearms

Would you like to be the person to proof test your shiny new 3-D printed gun?

Reputable firearms manufacturers proof test firearms – fire them with a round that is more powerful than usual – to ensure they will operate safely. This is a dangerous procedure. Reputable manufacturers have safety practices in place for it. Most of the 3-D printing processes produce rough parts; they need finishing. Do this wrong with your gun and you will have an explosion when you fire it. (And you may have one anyway, even if you do everything right.)

If you print your own gun you're the tester. It's your hand at risk.

In this bird's view, this whole thing is overblown. It's not hard to make firearms with modern machine tools; hasn't been since the late 19ᵗʰ century. A 3-D printer is just another way of doing that. The hard part is making safe, useful, good-quality firearms through a safe manufacturing process.

On the other hand, the censorship that is imposed on 3-D printed firearms is of concern. Really don't want random officials deciding what designs we can make.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Harm to the Law

(To someone defending the Chicago PD on Twitter, lightly edited.)

When you or I break the law, we do harm, but we do no harm to the law. When the police break the law, they do harm to the law. When prosecutors and judges accept this, and when elected officials do not act, they do harm to the law.

The Party of Treason: Nixon, Reagan, and Trump

On Twitter, someone asked if Nixon was quite that bad. It prompted these reflections.

Richard Nixon was a traitor, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of US soldiers. His Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, still alive, still lauded, was perhaps equally culpable. Yes, he was that bad.

The Reagan administration also probably committed treason. At least, Reagan broke his oath of office and acted in a disloyal manner. Matters are a little more complex there, since Reagan was apparently demented at the time, so a number of officials (pardoned by his Republican successor, George H W Bush) and Reagan's wife, who was governing in his stead, were responsible. None of them were punished.

I am left thinking that the Republican Party has been disloyal for over 50 years. The foreign policies it advocates fail so desperately and shamefully, and are so unpopular, that they are left undertaking crimes to enable them and to conceal them.

And now we have Trump slamming US intelligence agencies in favor of the dictator of a third-rate power.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Reflections on Historical Leftist Activism and the Present Moment

Reflections on Historical Leftist Activism and the Present Moment

I am not entirely sure I believe any of this analysis – it would be hard to validate, even were I to do extensive research. But I think it is at least a plausible way to understand the history it covers. As with other posts of mine, I expect it to be unpopular – it has something to offend everyone.

– 1 –
I had, for a long time, believed that the 1930s split between the German communists (KPD) and democratic socialists (SPD), which allowed Hitler to come to power, was a result of Soviet machinations. That split seems to me to parallel a current split between factions of the USA’s Democratic Party. There are differences, to be sure. But I want to look at the parallels.

In which Professor Lawrence Tribe speculates on the question of Trump and treason

US citizens who work with a foreign power to “levy war against the United States” are guilty of treason (Article III, US Constitution.) It was the Russian military that levied the cyberattack charged in the grand jury indictment obtained by Mueller today. “War” or not? Hmmm… – tweet
Tribe is the widely-respected Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tweets Heard

Talking productively to Second Amendment advocates.

A response to Dinesh D'Souza and a short history of American fascism in the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st from David Neiwert.

Prof. Kieran Healy: academic snark about economists: “We know it’s not a myth because over the past 30 years historians exhaustively documented its precursors, political scientists traced its structure and diffusion, sociologists analyzed its consequences, and economists published a paper discovering it this week.”

The Violence of the Facists and the Incivility of the Resistance

Stephanie Wilkinson, proprietor of the Red Hen in Lexington Virginia politely asks an unwanted customer to leave. Sarah Sanders uses her visibility and the authority of her office to summon thousands to harass Ms. Wilkinson.

Antifa shows up ready to rumble; the fascists show up with firearms.

Joshua Dukes tries to stop Marc Hokoana from using pepper spray, Elizabeth Hokoana, Marc's wife, shoots Joshua Dukes.

James Fields drives into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing one and injuring others. The President condemns “violence on many sides.”

Desperate refugees come to the United States and the United States steals their children.

Mild and limited resistance to the fascists bring down a storm of complaints about “civility.” Murder, assault, and child theft bring at most half-hearted objections from the same people.

Civility in answer to raw hatred can be complicity. The offenses from the resistance are not to be compared with the greater violence from Trump, the Republicans, and their supporters.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

A Bad (But Not The Worst) Future

Written in comments over at Crooked Timber:
Even if the Democrats retake the House and Senate in November, even if they impeach Neal Gorsuch for the perjury he committed during the confirmation hearings, even if they punish the people who have stolen refugee children at our border, it will be at least 20 years to recover from the damage Trump and the Republicans have done.

But this is not likely. The rule of law at the Federal level is over for at least a decade to come. We are now governed by the whims of the wealthy and powerful. We are back into aristocratic politics, where knowing the character of the wealthy and powerful will be necessary for almost any significant business or political success.

The next likely moves from Trump are withdrawing from the WTO and NATO. Living in that America will be very much like living in the old Soviet Union; we will work very hard for poor wages and be asked to patriotically bless the most awful products of American industry, while the rest of the world forges ahead.

Meantime, environmental degradation will continue. The seas will rise.
(So how come there is no angry raven emoji?)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Short List of African-American Socialists

These were tweets in response to an African-American objecting that socialism will not end racism. (The text has been preserved; I reworked the punctuation and paragraph divisions for this post.)

Socialists have been opposed to racism for over a century and many prominent African Americans activists have been socialist.

A short list of prominent African-American socialists: Paul Robeson; Richard Wright; Langston Hughes; Ella Baker; Angela Davis; Bell Hooks.


Rather than picking a fight, I left out W. E. B DuBois, Cornel West, and Glen Ford. Arguably, socialists could claim Martin Luther King, Jr. He didn't call himself a socialist, though in private correspondence he wrote about socialism. Instead he talked about anti-poverty activism.

I'm getting testy about this. Many people are trying very hard to erase the entire history of the African-American left. Researching these major figures online was surprisingly difficult, though I am sure that historians who study such matters are aware of their politics.

I am not entirely sure why these peoples' socialism is being written out of history. It seems to be partly a factional dispute among African-American activists. I think also that the American white fear of socialism bears some part of the blame. Black and white: Americans don't want to acknowledge how much the United States owes to socialism and how much the loss of socialist factions in the USA has cost us.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Losing the Trade War

Suppose, for a moment, that Trump gets what he wants: the USA leaves the World Trade Organization and NATO. What would be the effect on the US domestic economy? What seems likely to me is that living in that America would become very much like living in the old Soviet Union; we will work very hard for poor wages and be asked to patriotically bless the most awful products of American industry, while the rest of the world forges ahead.

Meantime, environmental degradation will continue. The seas will continue to rise.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Trolls and Sociopaths

Trolls and Sociopaths
The Internet, Political Science, and Democracy
In all the old writing about anarchism, I have not seen any discussion of the actual failures of attempted anarchism I have observed. In all the political science literature on democracy I have seen, I have not seen anything about sociopathy. (There is a great deal of political science I have not read and likely there is something, perhaps in recent literature. But I have read enough to know that this is not a major area in the discipline.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I Gloat

Because, you see, I predicted her.

Over a month ago, Jim Wright asked “Describe to me that candidate. Folks, give me a list of the attributes a Democratic candidate MUST have in 2020 for you to show up and vote.”

I thought about that for a while, and then I wrote “Turning Out the Left” in which my answer was, broadly, a socialist with integrity and courage.

And here is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who I didn't even know about when I wrote that post.

I called it. I gloat.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Was Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign Sabotaged By Sexism In Her Own Party?

A lot of the complaints about Hillary Clinton's campaign were about how lackluster it was. Yet Clinton is a sharp and effective politician, and knows perfectly well how to run a campaign. She had and has extensive and loyal support. So perhaps her own staff just didn't think she was up to the job and didn't let her do her best. Perhaps she was referred to the wrong staff by people who wanted her to fail. Perhaps…I don't know. More certain knowledge will probably have to await historical study.

But whatever the case, I think it likely sexism within the Democratic Party played a part in her loss.

(We now pause to observe a bird banging its head against a cage.)


It appears that Mr. Justin Kennedy, son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a Deutsche Bank employee who loaned money to Donald Trump.

I wonder if Trump (or perhaps Michael Cohen) has something on Mr. Justin Kennedy?

Guns, guns, guns

The easy availability of powerful, rapid-firing modern firearms enables widespread stochastic terrorism.

A Few Later Thoughts on Bitcoin and Social Media

It may be that large-scale public social media can only be deployed ethically if operated as non-profit socialist organizations, otherwise they degenerate into profitable toxic troll farms. Both of the ancestors of modern large-scale public social media (mailing lists and Usenet) were cooperatives. The pre-Facebook blogosphere was semi-cooperative.

Are Bitcoin and similar digital currencies subject to 51% attacks by state actors?

Bitcoin et al are neoliberal by design. Would it be possible to create a digital currency or similar system that would be Keynesian by design?

A telling observation

"What ever happened to civility?" "You labeled it 'political correctness' and decided it was something bad." – David Houston

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: The Politics of Bitcoin

David Golumbia. The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. (Available at Powell’s and other fine bookstores near you.)
This small book – perhaps 35,000 words, almost a pamphlet – places the Bitcoin bubble in political and economic context. The author, Professor David Golumbia of Virginia Commonwealth University, is a former software engineer and financier turned academic.
The Politics of Bitcoin is largely an overview of the marketing of Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies which, Golumbia finds, is full of right-wing conspiracism and financial flummery. Theories about the evils of central banking, sometimes anti-semitic, and the evils of government regulation are rife. He also points out that as money, so far Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies so far are failures.
The book provides an introduction to Bitcoin and blockchain for people unfamiliar with those, and the mainstream economic understand of money, for people unfamiliar with that.
Money, by the usual economic definition, is “a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account.” Golumbia points out that Bitcoin is at most useful as a medium of exchange. Even so, Bitcoin is only used in a few markets, mostly those for illegal goods and services. Bitcoin is extremely volatile, and because of this is not useful as a store of value and a unit of account; as with any volatile currency one has to spend it quickly, lest its value be destroyed by the shifting market. So far, the main success of Bitcoin is as medium for speculation. It has all the problems of an unregulated currency, as well as a few unique to its technology. It is a sign of the failure of the economic theory behind Bitcoin that it can inflate and deflate rapidly. If the naïve economic ideas underlying the design of Bitcoin were valid, it would be a rock-steady store of value.
He also points out that the technology, by design, has a strong, perhaps insuperable, bias towards neoliberal economic models, making regulation of an economy through banking and fiscal policy difficult; an economy based on Bitcoin would be similar to a late 19th century economy, enormously subject to fraud and boom and bust cycles – in other words the abandoned economics in which all but the very wealthy suffer.
It is a useful book, gathering all these arguments in one place. The extensive bibliography in particular is valuable. If Professor Golumbia continues working on this subject, I would be interested in seeing interviews with some of the original cryptocurrency theorists, who are still, as far as I know, alive, as well some coverage of the left-wing anarchist hopes for cryptocurrency. So far as I know those have been exploded, but I think studying their failure would be worthwhile.
So, a worthwhile book. Four stars.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Taney Court II: consequences of the failure of the rule of law

As far as I can see the rule of law at the Federal level is over for at least a decade to come. We are now governed by the whims of the wealthy and powerful. It will be important to remember this: Federal law is now a matter of whim.

The full extent of this failure will be felt in all aspects of our lives. Civil rights, women's rights, labor rights, yes, but also such fundamentals as enforcement of contracts against wealthy institutions. We had a foretaste of that in the failure to respond effectively to massive fraud in the real estate market. It will spread to other markets. Steady employment will probably become a thing of the past.

I don't see how our current economy will be able to survive in such a legal regime; our very lives will be in danger.

Taney Court II: the End of the Rule of Law

Journalist David Neiwert juxtaposes the language of horrific Korematsu v. United States case with the language of the decision in Trump v. Hawaii.

Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders—as inevitably it must—determined that they should have the power to do just this.
The  forcible  relocation  of  U.  S.  citizens  to  concentration  camps,  solely  and  explicitly  on  the  basis  of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential  authority.    But  it  is  wholly  inapt  to  liken  that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying  certain  foreign  nationals the  privilege  of  admission …
What Chief Justice Roberts wrote about Korematsu is flat false: it also was not explicitly about race. In fact, by saying that laws that are de facto racist while not prima facie racist on the face are acceptable, he is replicating the racist logic of Korematsu as well as the long history of laws written in euphemisms, echoing the logic of Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal” only of course it never was equal), and that of Dred Scott v. Sandford, which found that since people had been enslaved they were not people in the sense of the Constitution. This use of euphemisms show plainly that the authors very well know that what they decided was against an honest construction of the law.

If judges consistently construe law to be consistent with the whims of the powerful, rather than the spirit and letter of the law, there is no law, only the whims of the powerful. Until the composition of the Court changes, there is no rule of law in the United States.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Taney Court II

Well, they did it. Despite anti-Islamic rhetoric from the Trump administration, in the case of Trump v. Hawaii, the Roberts Court held that the Administration's travel ban is not discriminatory and therefore continues in effect. Three weeks before, the same Court and same justices held that statements critical of religion by a state board invalidated a decision in the discrimination case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Not at all coincidentally, all three of the Court's women dissented.

There is no law any more, only the whim of the Court's conservatives.

There will be more analysis forthcoming but, in addition to the specific awfulness of this decision, it is deferential to dictatorial power on the part of the Executive, which, at a time of enormous abuse of such power, is idiotic.

In the coming decades we will probably see the Court rule in favor of various racist, sexist, and classist policies. We will see attempts to re-implement the system of racial segregation at the state level. I do not believe the fight is lost. People will fight, and fight hard. In many states they will win. But we will likely enter a period of internal terrorism; a second Civil War.

Thank you Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kennedy, and Thomas. Thank you Democratic Senators who didn't fight the nominations of Alito and Gorsuch when it mattered.

Goodbye to the United States for at least a generation.

Monday, June 25, 2018


Let’s stop guessing what will persuade voters to turn out; instead let’s test our ideas. To find out what the people want, go to the people. – twitter

The Democratic Party has for a long time existed as a coalition between liberal and conservative wings. That coalition is under great stress, yet it is the only thing that might stand against the fascists. (See this old post for analysis.) – twitter

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

May 7: The Final Step into Fascism

It was May 7th that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregarde Sessions III announced the policy of separating the children of refugees from their families.

Since that day we have had a drumbeat of authoritarian decisions from the Trump Administration. He has alienated long-time allies and given concessions to Kim Jong-Un, one of the most brutal dictators. Again they promulgate the fascist policy of culling the unfit by withdrawing medical care. Now they talk of establishing concentration camps for the children taken from their parents.

And you who thought that a Trump Administration would not be so bad: you have cursed yourselves. You who are participating: you have cursed yourselves. Do not think now that you will now escape judgement.

Perhaps he had always known, somewhere in the deepest recesses of his mind, that he would indeed eventually take that last step into Satanism, but if so, he had very successfully suppressed it. – James Blish, The Day After Judgement

Tweets to an anti-semitic African-American

No-way Jews own the banks. No-way Jews own Hollywood. Jeez, this is public information, it's easy to check. Jews have done OK in the USA, but the superrich are still largely WASP.
Time was, Jews were lynched in the South.
Every Jew in the USA is the child or grandchild of refugees. Every single one of them.
Jews hoped, for a long time, they could be accepted in the civilized countries of Western Europe, the most civilized of which was … Germany. When the Jews of Europe direly needed refugee, the United States turned them away. Jews can pass, Jews can act like they fit in, but when the chips were down and the jackboots march, Jews will die.
After the Holocaust how can you even write this?

The Rothchilds are one superrich family – there are dozens of those. They don't run the world banking system.
You don't say because Beyonce is rich and successful that black women run the music biz.
Most of the people who talk about the Rothchilds running the world – they're white. In fact they're white supremacists. Some are outright Nazis. Please, do yourself a favor and don't give credence to your enemies.
He blocked me.

We are evolving in reverse.

Democrats, Centrists, and the Resistance: In Which I Offend Everyone

From a series of tweets directed to Clintonbots:
I think Bernie is getting a bum rap, and Hillary Clinton got a pass on some pretty awful things. And, regardless of all this we've got to come together and fight the fascists. This means that, on the one side, the left has to swallow its objections to the center, and on the other side, the Democratic leadership has to stop trying to push the left out. It's a lot easier to get people to turn out for you when you haven't pushed them away. 
The Democratic leadership is still acting as though a meaningful compromise with the Republicans is possible, and that is a chimera. And here is Sanders out there saying it. Good. I don't see how he could win the Presidency, but he's good in the Senate and I hope he stays there and keeps fighting the good fight. Meantime, lets do as much as we can to turn out the vote this year. 
I am thinking that Kamala Harris may be the best choice for the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2020.
There was no response.

Democratic Party centrists are turning into fascist sympathizers.

I think there's a good chance the Resistance will loose the next two elections. The Democratic leadership, as far as I can tell, does not recognize an existential threat. It is still trying to shoot the party of its left wing at a time when Democrats need all the support they can get. The left wing is discouraged after 20 years of attacks from from the Democratic leadership. They're not going to turn into fascists, but they are going to be unenthusiastic supporters of the Democratic Party, and isn't that how we got into this mess?

How do resurgent feminists, energized African-Americans, and young anti-fascists fit into this picture? Probably we get more women in Congress, possibly the next President will be a woman – but a lot of the women in Congress are centrists, and are maintaining the split in the resistance. African-Americans, hard to say. They're an energized group, partly because state terrorism is deployed against them, but will the Democratic Party offer them enough to win their support? And what will they do with that energy if they do not get significant support? Young anti-fascists are the people who have grown up in schools subject to the stochastic terrorism of the right wing. The Parkland survivors are their voice. Again, a lot of energy there, but what is their political program beyond firearms regulation? And what will they do if they do not get anything significant from the Democratic leadership?

Turning Out the Left

(Remarks on Jim Wright's Hunting the Unicorn to Extinction.)

Duty motives you, and me, and many of the people who comment at Stonekettle. Unfortunately, as your Twitter responses showed, we are not a majority. If we want people to show up, I think it is our job to make the case, in terms that persuade people for whom duty is not a sufficient motivation.

The Democratic leadership is an obstacle.  Some Democratic candidates might as well be Republicans. Most of them are rich and insulated by their wealth from the hardness of most people's lives. (As David Dayen reminded us recently, every single bank deregulation bill of the past 30-40 years was bipartisan.) The Senate Democratic leader voted to confirm a torturer for Director of the CIA. And so on, and on.

If the goal is to build a Democratic coalition that defeats the fascists of the Republican Party, it will take strong leadership and careful planning to  both satisfy the liberals and keep the more conservative factions in the Party. At this time, I see no interest in building such a coalition in the  Democratic Party leadership.  With the Democratic leadership opposed and no major leftist leader within the party, I do not see how the left is to be brought to enthusiastically support the Democratic Party in the next four years.

Trump Didn't Start a Nuclear War

In other words, he did something not completely insane.

Am I supposed to be grateful?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Law is the Loser, part n: DOJ Opposition to the Affordable Care Act

Andy Slavitt, on Twitter, writes about an exceptionally egregious example of the contempt for the law on the part of the Trump administration.
The DOJ, responsible for upholding the rule of law, is not defending the people in a frivolous lawsuit to say that without the mandate, the rest of the ACA can’t be enforced. –
This is, for many reasons, disgusting, and three Department of Justice lawyers have already quit over it. But I want to draw attention to the contempt for the law on the part of the highest law enforcement official in the USA shows. This is what happens when you put a  racist southern prosecutor in charge of the Department of Justice. Lawyer Nicholas Bagley comments:
I’m frightened for what this says about the rule of law. […] The Trump administration has just announced that it doesn’t care that a law was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. All that matters if that it hates the law and has a (laughable) argument for casting it aside. That’s not a rule of law I recognize. That’s a rule by whim. And it scares me.
The rule of law will be decades recovering from the damage the Roberts Court and the Trump administration has done to it.

Black Socialists and Bernie Sanders

“The whole world is under obligation to the Negro, and that the white heel is still upon the black neck is simply proof that the world is not yet civilized.” – Eugene V. Debs

It occurs to me that the claims the Bernie Sanders cares only about class issues and not at all about racism and sexism erases generations of African-American socialism, a long and proud intellectual history to which Sanders himself, though Martin Luther King, Jr., is heir.

Here's a few names and faces, from the Democratic Socialists of America.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Surely there must be an exception."

No. There isn't.

"The Shirley Exception is a bit of mental sleight of hand that allows people to support a policy they profess to disagree with. It's called the Shirley Exception because … well, I mean, *surely* there must be exceptions, right?" – Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) on Twitter.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Turning Out the Left – In Answer to Jim Wright

Something was in Debs, seemingly, that did not come out unless you saw him. I'm told that even those speeches of his which seem to any reader indifferent stuff, took on vitality from his presence. A hard-bitten socialist told me once, “Gene Debs is the only one who can get away with the sentimental flummery that's been tied onto Socialism in this country. Pretty nearly always it gives me a swift pain to go around to meetings and have people call me ‘comrade.’ That's a lot of bunk. But the funny part of it is that when Debs says ‘comrade’ it is all right. He means it. That old man with the burning eyes actually believes that there can be such a thing as the brotherhood of man. And that's not the funniest part of it. As long as he's around I believe it myself.”
 Heywood Broun, quoting an unnamed socialist
in It Seems To Me, 1925‑1935 (1935), p. 38

Turnout. Elections in the United States hinge on turnout. With one of the lowest turnout rates of  wealthy countries, elections in the United States hinge on turnout.
On Twitter, Jim Wright (@Stonekettle) asks, “Describe to me that candidate. Folks, give me a list of the attributes a Democratic candidate MUST have in 2020 for you to show up and vote.”
He is complaining that liberals don’t show up and vote and that this is part of why Republicans dominate the government. I don’t think this is quite accurate; liberals do show up. But they are concentrated in cities and therefore under-represented in Congress, Senate, and Electoral College. Having cows or shopping malls in a district, it seems, raises the districts’ political power. But there are liberals everywhere, and if they turned out in the suburbs and the rural districts, it would tip the balance of elections.
So, Jim Wright is asking the leftist Tweeters who object to the Democratic as well as Republican candidates – what it would take to get them to show up? The answers I have seen so far are unenlightening. Most leftists vote Democratic, though without much enthusiasm. The ones who do not vote have specific issues important to them. This is not so surprising. In marketing we know that people often do not know what they want until it is offered to them. The saying, perhaps from Steve Jobs, is “No-one asked for the iPad.”
It is not different in voting. I remember young men and women who were inspired by Bernie Sanders. Who knew? Sanders’ socialist rhetoric and socialist policies turned out to be what young people wanted, and they registered and voted. It was not enough, especially since Sanders did not win the nomination.
So here is my answer to “What would it take to get these people to show up and vote?”
Representation. The first thing, surely, is representation. The candidate has to be one of us. “When Debs says ‘comrade’ it is all right. He means it.” Identification with a Presidential candidate is important; in Converse’s sociological work he found that the largest plurality of voters voted on identification. There has been a great deal of fake representation on both sides of the aisle: pictures of W. Bush showing how folksy he was by cutting brush on the ranch he sold as soon as he left office, Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain.” And all the while we have elected officials using their offices – mostly quite legally – to enrich themselves or protect their own wealth. Trump is surely the ultimate example. Trump’s supporters hear themselves in his anger. The Trump vote is the ultimate spite vote. But we have the Clintons as another example: as much as social class exists in the USA, they have joined the upper class; their daughter has even married a wealthy banker. By comparison, we have Senator Sanders, who is one of the least wealthy Senators.
Integrity. The second thing is integrity. 33 House and 17 Senate Democrats voted with Republicans to weaken the already weak Dodd-Frank banking law. Those 33 included many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose constituents were hit especially hard by mortgage fraud and abusive mortgage billing and collection practices during the 2008 crash. Those Democratic votes in the House didn’t matter to the outcome – the House Republicans had the votes to pass the law – but those Democratic votes were a slap in the faces of constituents who have lost their homes.
Courage. The Senate votes did matter. Which brings us to the third thing: courage. A leader inspires no-one if they don’t stand up. “Courage,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Cowardly leaders, cowardly representatives; these will betray their promises as soon as they are threatened.
Honesty. Politics is notorious for attracting dishonest people, even sociopaths. Donald Trump is the obvious example. But even more garden variety politicians routinely deceive their constituents. A certain amount of, at least, dissembling seems necessary public office. But political betrayal has become routine and we need to be shut of it.
The characteristics of a President acceptable to the left are representation, integrity, courage, and honesty. The policies such a President might pursue:
1.     Life.
a.     Health care for all, at a price all can afford.
b.     An end to stochastic terrorism in schools.
c.     Comprehensive police reform. Public oversight of police conduct in every jurisdiction. No more police shooting down innocents.
d.     Immigration reform. No more undocumented underclass. No more disappearing children. No more turning away desperate refugees.
e.     Environmental policies that will preserve the world for our children.
2.     Economic Fairness
a.     An economic policy made for all.
b.     Honest work for honest pay.
c.     Remove the barriers to the formation of labor unions.
d.     Provide economic support in a dignified manner; no more harassing people who apply for it.
e.     Rely on Keynesian economics; neo-liberal economics has failed.
f.      Regulate the income distribution.
g.     Regulate finance. The bankers had their chance; they stole everything that wasn’t nailed down as well as houses, which were nailed down.
3.     Civil rights
a.     First and foremost, women’s rights.
b.     But also, black lives matter.
c.     And so do Muslim and Mexican and Jewish lives.
d.     And LGBT+ lives.
4.     Make peace a goal of foreign policy. Abandon Kissingerism. Abandon brutal interventions  in foreign countries.
5.     Protect the environment and ecology of the United States and the earth.

Sounds remarkably like Senator Sanders’ Presidential platform, doesn’t it? Perhaps he was popular because he had popular ideas.
If these policies are to be adopted, how might this be done, and what effects would that adoption have?
This platform would, I believe, win over all but the most extreme leftists, but it would do so at the cost of the votes of more conservative Democrats. Because the US system only allows for two major parties, US political parties are necessarily “big tents” – broad coalitions. If the goal is to build a Democratic coalition that defeats the fascists of the Republican Party, it will take strong leadership and careful planning to build a coalition that keeps the more conservative factions in the Party.
At this time, I see no interest in building such a coalition in the current Democratic Party leadership. Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, voted with the Republicans in support of their bill weakening Dodd-Frank. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York voted to approve the torturer Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been actively opposing leftist candidates in Democratic primaries. And just today House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that any effort to impeach Trump must be bipartisan.
With the Democratic leadership opposed and no major leftist leader within the party, I do not see how the left is to be brought to enthusiastically support the Democratic Party. From the viewpoint of the left, all the Democratic Presidential hopefuls are compromised in some way, some quite seriously. The endless influence of money and the national security state in US politics makes it near to impossible to rise to a position of leadership in US politics without major impropriety. People who want to be President after all want to wield the power of the office and so make the compromises. I find some hope in feminist activism, the strength and energy of the Resistance, and candidates like Jess Phoenix and Cynthia Nixon, but hope is not a plan.
In any event, I intend to vote for the Democratic candidate, even if it is someone I hate. I do not want the fascists in power for another minute.
Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. – Eugene V. Debs, “Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act.” Debs was jailed by his political opposition.

Monday, May 21, 2018

In Which Josh Marshall Discovers the New York City Bourgeoisie

There’s something about New York, New York City, that is, that is at the root of the Trump phenomenon. […] New York City is a liberal city, probably the most progressive big city in the country, as far as it goes. Yet its power structure, its money class includes a whole community of people with extreme wealth who live in a culture in which predation and acquisition is the norm. – Josh Marshall, Predators of New York

Firearms and Terrorism in the USA

– 1 –

“I don’t even want to send my kid to school anymore. I’m not joking.” – tweet, @DrPsyBuffy
“It's been happening everywhere, I always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too.” – Paige Curry, Santa Fe High School student.
So here we have it. America’s parents and schoolchildren are a population as scared as any in a country where terrorism is routine.
School shootings are stochastic terrorism, enabled by the easy availability of semi-automatic weapons in the USA and the failure of socialization of men. The events themselves are semi-random. What is not random at all is the easy availability of firearms and the propaganda that exacerbates all manner of fear in order to sell weapons. First, of course, firearms manufacturers want to sell more firearms; they have contributed millions to the NRA and “The NRA does the bulk of lobbying for the industry.” Second, there was the 1977 radical-right takeover of the NRA. The new NRA leadership was and is racist and misogynist. They are fine with firearms as long as white men have them; everyone else, they would rather … not.
But this campaign to distribute firearms as widely as possible and the firearms industry’s endless advertising validating use of lethal force, has empowered an unexpected group, unexpected because the NRA leadership and weapon sellers did not realize it even existed in significant numbers: racist and misogynist terrorists.
Our children and their teachers have been and are being terrorized. But there might be worse to come.

– 2 –
In the afterword of Alt America, entitled “Fascism and Our Future,” David Neiwert, a journalistic expert on the modern US radical right, addresses the question of whether Trump/Republican movement is fascist. His discussion is worthwhile, and I recommend the whole book, but I want to draw your attention to the following:
[…] fascists have, in the past, always relied upon an independent, movement-driven paramilitary force capable of intimidating their opponents with various types of thuggery. […] Members of various white-supremacist organizations and bona fide paramilitary organizations such as the Oath Keepers and the Three Percent movement are avid Trump backers. Trump has never made known any desire to form an alliance with or to make use of such groups. (p.  364.)
One cannot, however, assume this will last, or that other members of this administration or state or local officials have no such desire; indeed, it is likely that many do. Should that time come, as in past fascist movements, the racist and misogynist terrorists who are now terrorizing our schools will provide ready and well-armed participants. It will not be a well-regulated militia; as with historical fascist paramilitaries, it will be more of an armed rabble, but a terrifyingly well-armed rabble with excellent modern communications technology.
It would take time to organize such a thing, and there would be substantial opposition, especially from girls and women, who are after all targets of a misogynist group, so I think – I hope – there is not an immediate threat. (On the other hand, many white women might be persuaded that a paramilitary force will protect them, so perhaps the opposition will be less than I expect.) Still, if we do not begin to defuse this, by restricting the civilian availability of battlefield weapons and perhaps addressing the social issues that fuel the terrorism, it will be a continuing threat.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lines Crossed

Yesterday, at the behest of its religious extremists, the USA moved its embassy to Israel to Jerusalem. The Palestinians of Gaza protested, 58 were shot by Israeli troops, and reportedly nearly 2,800 were wounded.
Also, Gina Haspel, who tortured for the CIA back in the aughts, has acquired enough Democratic votes, including that of the Senate Democratic leader, to win approval as CIA director.
Two lines, I think, have been crossed. First, a major foreign policy shift has been undertaken to satisfy an authoritarian religious minority. Second, the Bush/Cheney torture policy has been validated by a bipartisan consensus in the Senate.
F’ity F F F.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pragmatic Pacifism

(This is edited out of some comments on the US Civil War I wrote in Ta-nehisi's Coates blog back in 2012. All comments in that discussion have been taken down, so I am very glad I saved copies!)

I don't have any ideology in this area beyond objecting to the deaths of nearly 100 million and wanting to avoid a catastrophic global war, which seems to me scarcely an ideology at all.

If humans keep on believing that wars are a way to resolve conflicts, which many do, and the wars keep increasing in intensity and scope, as they have, and the weapons and strategies in capability, as they have, then there will be nothing left of human civilization. Opposing that is not idealism but pragmatism.

Regardless of what could have happened in the 19th and 20th century, it is important to continue efforts to make war less and less likely.

The Conquering Republic

A republic can be a democracy internally and a conquering power externally. Rome, from which we get the word "republic," was a conquering power and this was the intention of the theoreticians who invented classical republicanism. Republics can and do come into conflict.

We need a new ideal of governance. It is not enough to insist that a polity be democratic internally; it must exist in a world order of polities which respect each other. I do not see how this is achievable without most of those polities being themselves democratic internally; a ruler who tyrannizes their own people will not hesitate to go conquering.

Emaciation and Beauty

(This is a starting point, rather than a finished piece. Still worth thinking about.)

Audrey Hepburn nearly died of starvation when she was 16. She was living in the Netherlands in 1944 when Nazi Germany blockaded the country, and her weight dropped to 88 pounds. She had lifelong medical problems as a result of malnutrition from ages 9 to 16.

And yet she became an iconic beauty. After the 1930s, a period of epic poverty, we had a generation of knife-slender models. The trend, from what I remember, actually started in the 1920s, with the stylish uncurvy flapper, but it was after the lean depression and war years that the extremely slender woman became a model of femininity. And to this day we have women starving themselves to copy that look.

There is a lot of history here I do not know. It may be that part of the reason that emaciation became popular was because it was made popular; there were a lot of men who were threatened by the emergence of independent women and who wanted to make women weaker and ashamed of themselves. Or maybe not. But this is true: part of the model of beauty for a generation was an emaciated woman who was a survivor of wartime starvation.

Monday, April 30, 2018

And now the news

While the press tries to destroy a black female comedian for saying what we all know is true about the Trump administration's press secretary, the administration is deciding the fate of the illegal prison in Guantanamo Bay (they want to keep to keep it open, and send more people there) and Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, says "The Iran nuclear deal is no longer sustainable for Iran in its present form, without regard to a US exit."

Just another day, making America great again.

Sunday, April 29, 2018


On the sudden feminist sympathies Trump supporters have found:
F'ing fascists and their sympathizers. Does Margaret Haberman really think it's going to do her or the USA any good, to suck up to these people?
Suddenly, now that they are powerless, the Democrats are the party of the working class.

And Jeff Yang, citing Alisa Harris on homeschooling:
This is damning. 36% of kids pulled out of school for homeschooling were removed by families who have been accused of abuse. And 47% of all cases of child torture involve kids who were removed from school for homeschooling.
Meantime, on support of Trump from supposedly-moderate press outlets:
I think the publishers, as well, are in the tank for Trump. They are so afraid of the Democrats that they will support Trump, even if destroys the USA.

I don't know what is is about even the most moderate socialism that so terrifies a faction of the rich, but they are terrified.
Maybe I should start calling Twitter Screamer. There seems no way to scream loud enough any more.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Something Must Be Done

  1. Something must be done.
  2. This is something.
  3. Therefore we must do it.
  4. “Mission accomplished.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hitler Wasn’t Hitler

Or rather, Hitler was not as we imagined him. He was not, single-handedly, the creator of Nazism. He was not in himself a military or political genius. He was a crank with all manner of food and medical obsessions and he made foolish strategic decisions, which may have lost Nazi Germany its war of conquest.
The popular image of Hitler is false, and part of why we have this false image is that we very much don’t want to admit that Hitler wasn’t all that special. Some of this is a hangover from wartime propaganda; it was simpler to paint Hitler as a monster than say that Nazism was a complex evil. After the war, it was easier to teach people of Hitler the evil genius than to acknowledge and engage the fascism that had existed in every other Western power.
Hitler was, perhaps, the voice of the German id, and this made him persuasive. The Nazi Party was the first major user of mass electronic communications to drive a people mad and the ground had been prepared for that madness by the German conservatives who were very much afraid of losing their wealth and titles. The people who fought the war and ran Nazi Germany were the people around him.
If Hitler wasn’t Hitler – if he was, perhaps, the “screaming little defective” that H. G. Wells called him – then perhaps Trump is more like Hitler than we want to admit. The focus of a mass movement, rather than its brilliant creator, orator, and leader. And, especially, we don’t want to look at the history of the movement he has come to lead. As David Neiwert observed in his excellent book Alt-America, the movement that supports Trump came from somewhere, and the news of it was scarcely reported.
The conservative anti-Trumpers don’t want to admit that; if they admitted that they would have to face their complicity. The Democratic leadership doesn’t want to admit that; if they admitted that they would have to admit that they failed to see and respond to the danger. The major media don’t want to admit that; they would have to admit they played a part in Trump’s rise to the Presidency. Besides, their owners are enjoying their tax cut. Some of the left doesn’t want to admit that; they are afraid of the horror and afraid they might have to act.
So here we are. The gates of hell are creaking open. What will we do?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Bit On Acting CIA Director Michael Pompeo's Extremist Christian Ideology

This was a bit I added to the Wikipedia entry on Pompeo, current CIA director. Unsurprisingly, it has been removed. A video of Pompeo speaking on his own behalf is, according to some Wikipedia editor, not a sufficiently reliable source on Pompeo's views.

Wikipedia: misinforming the masses since the beginning of the millenium.

Pompeo is a Christian religious conservative whose beliefs inform his politics. He spoke at length of how religion informs his political ideals on video at the Summit Church God and Country Rally 2015. In that speech he approvingly quoted the Robert Russell/Joseph Wright prayer which contained "We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle." In his own words, he said "We are engaged in a struggle against radical Islam, the kind of struggle that this country has not faced since its great wars."

There is a great deal more in that speech, but to flesh this out, I would have to listen to the speech in its entirety, take notes, and research them, which would be a considerable investment in time.

We are rightly afraid of John Bolton as National Security Advisor. Perhaps we ought also be afraid of Michael R. Pompeo as DCIA.