Friday, May 17, 2019

Political Courage, the House, W. Bush, and the Mueller Report

This article includes a 1963 picture of Bernard Sanders being arrested at a protest of racial segregation in Chicago by the brutal Chicago police force, still notorious for racism. In 1963 that force was Mayor Richard J. Daley’s iron hand. Five years later, that force was to brutally assault demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In 1963, protesting racism in Chicago took physical courage. Sanders would more likely have been treated as a race traitor than a privileged white man, possibly a Jewish race traitor.
From that day to this, Sanders has taken uncompromising political stands. After being arrested by Mayor Daley’s brutal force, I suspect that any purely political threat seemed small in comparison. He was not alone. Many activists of his generation faced brutal consequences and political ignominy for opposing racism, sexism, ableism – and they won.
Over 50 years later, the House Democrats face the question of how to respond to Donald Trump and the Mueller Report. In 1980, following the election of Reagan in an outburst of reactionary politics, the Democratic leadership decided to move to the right in the hope of attracting some of the reactionaries. The strategy worked, for a while. But the reactionaries, seeing success, continued to move to the right, impeaching President Clinton, one of the leading conservative Democrats. On the advice of William Barr, now Attorney General of the United States, President G. H. W. Bush (the first) pardoned the traitors of Iran-Contra, and the House Democrats did little in response. When W. Bush (the second) came to the Presidency, he pursued an ill-advised war in Iraq, using numerous illegal tactics and, again, the Democrats failed to act, ceding more and more to the Republicans, including, disastrously, the Supreme Court majority.
All through that time, there were explanations that this was strategy, that the Democrats would eventually fight.
Which brings us to the present day, when special counsel Robert Mueller III wrote a damning prosecutorial report on President Trump and his administration. Even what remains of the report, after redactions by Barr, is damning. Administration officials openly defy Congressional subpoenas and orders under the law. And the House Democrats, newly empowered by the 2018 election have done … what, exactly? So far, make public statements.
It is hard to see this as anything but cowardice. If the House leadership had 1/10 of the courage shown by the 1960s activists, they would be acting.
I have come to believe that one reason Sanders has such devoted supporters is courage. Equally, it seems to me one reason the Democratic Party has so little respect among the public is its seeming lack of courage. I am left wondering how much of the slow erosion of democracy in the USA is down to cowardice.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Meanwhile, in the Marketplace

Amazon’s Warehouses Are Crappy Places to Work (My sister blog, with the occasional story of life in the marketplace.)

Also, a pro-tax tweet:
The USA has been on austerity budget since the 1990s. It hasn't made us richer, or even helped us get by.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Bernie and the Racists

It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South.
From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: “Sister Soljah,” “superpredators,” and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors.
I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most?
Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I’m writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it.
I don’t believe we can address racism without addressing disparities of wealth. Do we grant people of color full civil rights and still keep them dirt poor?
Which brings us back to Sanders. Sanders critique of class divisions is profoundly anti-racist – addressing class will, necessarily, raise up African-Americans. The objection from some African-Americans is that that is not enough, that one must first have basic rights. But Sanders stands for those as well: the young man who marched against housing discrimination in Mayor Daley’s Chicago (a very brave thing indeed), the only light-skinned man who stood with the Congressional Black Caucus when the Democratic leadership turned conservative in the 1990s, the first 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate to say “black lives matter” supports civil rights for African-Americans.
I think Sanders is so hated because, just by being who he is, he shames them. Sure, there’s other reasons. There’s people who say he cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency. I don’t agree, but I can understand that. But in the end, Sanders has stood against poverty and racism for his entire career and stands in reproach to people who have not. That is why there are so many attempts to make him out to be a racist, because if he is one, there is no need to listen to him, and his conservative opponents need not be ashamed. I regard such attacks as as valid as the attacks on Hillary Clinton as a cruel entitled masculine woman: these attacks relieve the attackers of the need to consider Clinton as a strong, competent leader, and reassure them that they need not be ashamed for their own weakness.
So let us treat Sanders with respect and listen to him. I doubt he could be elected to the Presidency and he is an old man who may lack the stamina to cope with the stresses of the office, but we should at least treat him decently. He’s been fighting the good fight for most of his life and he deserves respect for that.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Representation and Ideology

Many people decide what political ideas to believe on the basis of candidates they think represents them, but how do they know if a candidate represents them without first understanding that candidate's ideas?

It ought to be the other way around: first decide if a candidate's ideas are good for you, then decide if the candidate represents you.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders: Right About Everything and Unelectable

Sanders was right about everything before every other Presidential candidate, and he can’t win
  In 1962, the college-age Bernie Sanders was arrested by the Chicago police, protesting racism. He continued his activism throughout the 1960s. He was also an antiwar activist.
• In 1981, he was demonstrating with Vermont NOW pro-choicers.
  In 1987, when he was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders was explaining the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation to schoolchildren.
  Throughout the 1990s, Bernie Sanders, as a member of the US House of Representatives, was a reliable ally of the Congressional Black Caucus, sometimes the only light-skinned. Representative who stood with them.
  In 1995 he defended gay and lesbian service members on the House floor.
Yet Bernie could not be a national political leader for many years; there was no faction in either major party he could lead. There has been no Democratic left since the loss of the Presidency to Reagan in 1980. Since that time, elections have been increasingly dominated by wealthy donors and candidates who cater to them. The abandonment of anti-fascist media law and regulation under Reagan, the general commercialization of news, and the emergence of the major right-wing propaganda network Fox News made it impossible to be a major leftist leader within either major party. It took the crash of 2008 and the failed response to it to create the conditions that put Sanders in a position to lead a major Democratic faction.
But Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and many women are convinced he cost her the election. On top of which he is a light-skinned secular Jewish man and is therefore held to a far higher standard than a white Anglo-Saxon protestant. I remember with loathing how Sanders was painted as racist and sexist despite his long history as anything but, while Hillary Clinton, with a history of racist language and support for racist policies in the 1990s and a wobbly position on abortion, was given a pass, apparently because she was a good Methodist woman.
It remains true that the largest plurality of voters vote on representation. This is not a simple matter of voting for someone like themselves. A majority of white women, for instance, find Donald Trump representative of them. (I can only wonder why he doesn’t remind them of every harasser and rapist.) This is an impediment to the choice of good leaders. Instead, we get people who can persuade the public that they represent the public – affinity scams on the broadest scale. William Clinton “felt their pain” until he was in office, then delivered more pain.
And sometimes, usually desperate times, a great leader slips through the haze of self-regard. We get a Washington, a Lincoln, an FDR. But there are no guarantees. Sanders’ time, I think, has passed. He would, I think, have made a great Senate majority leader, if the Democratic Party had not been so conservative in his time. If elected to the Presidency, Sanders would turn 80 in office and I doubt he could survive the stresses of the office. But there seems no-one of comparable stature among the Democratic hopefuls, though I think well of Elizabeth Warren. Would that we could learn to embrace our best in their times!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Feeding the Monster: On Ilhan Omar, Antisemitism, and Islamophobia

Ilhan Omar, as a Muslim, has no reason to love the state of Israel. I don't expect her to do so, but I wish she would not to feed the antisemitic monster, either. It is almost as hungry for Muslim blood as it is for Jewish.

The only reason she's being censured in the media is because of her skin color and religion. Republican antisemites, all the way up to Donald Trump himself, have been talking antisemitism for years. No wave of outrage there. But when a black American Muslim says it, they start clutching their pearls.

But she did say it. Back in 2012, she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She has since become more subtle, but the echoes are still in her language and she keeps repeating the offense. In 2018, leaders of Minneapolis’ Jewish community spoke with her, and came away unsatisfied.

I am underwhelmed by the response of many non-Jewish liberals and leftists of various stripes. White people don’t get to forgive racism on behalf of blacks. White people don’t get to forgive antisemitism on behalf of Jews. From Alex Zeldin, in the Jewish magazine Forward, we have an extended discussion of the problems of her language. Jews are right to be angry and scared:

I like the remarks of Rabbi Ruti Regan, no lover of the Israeli right wing herself:
Things that apparently need saying in this repetitive stale hell of a news cycle: 1) Neither the American Jewish community nor Israel is secretly hypnotizing America. 2) Congresswoman Omar is not a terrorist and the American Muslim community is not a terrorist group. –
The end result of all of this is to both offend Jews and to reinforce the position of the most aggressive supporters of Israel.

As a side comment, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's response ( was impressive, neither supporting the language nor adding fuel to the fire. AOC will be Presidential material, if there is still a Presidency when she is old enough.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Selected Recent Tweets 2019-02-24

[on Clobuchar’s student loan debt plan] At least, go back to allowing student loan debt to be dissolved in bankruptcy, and go back to allowing a dignified bankruptcy, none of this "reform" garbage. That's not enough, but it would for sure be better than what we have now.
But you know, she can't. I think she's a bought and paid for creature of the big money - that's what this shows

If we wanted to aid the people of Venezuela, we could lift the sanctions on the country. But, no, gotta get that oil. It's cooking the world, but gotta get that oil. –

[On preferring Warren to Sanders for reasons of representation] The black union people in Milwaukee, they loved [Bernie]. He was speaking their language.

In what world is rectifying economic inequities not a part of eliminating racism?

Fk. USA declares war on Venezuela, more-or-less. –

[In response to Paul Krugman, on health plans] One thing you are missing is how very much most people hate the [health] insurance companies. No medieval landlord was crueler. –

We have taken small steps, while the destroyers of the Earth have taken strides.

[On climate change] When packs of wolf packs are arriving it's OK to cry wolf. –

[on the idea that one needs a racially uniform population to successfully implement universal health care]
"All of our history is a coming together
  You want pure you're gonna have caves again.
Anyway who needs a freak like the grand dragon,
  So full of s..t his breath makes acid rain." [Bruce Cockburn lyric, slightly misheard] –

[On Sanders remarks on “humanitarian aid” in Venezuela] Or maybe he's a politician, doing what he needs to do. People forget that Sen Sanders is a pol. An unusually decent one, but he still has constituents to answer to. –

[On the sophisticated plagiarism that has emerged in Amazon ebooks] Hack writing and scam publishing for the 21st century, and Amazon doesn't care. Amazon makes money from it, hand over fist. –

Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, nationalized the Venezuelan oil industry and the US can't tolerate that. –

It's not so much that they want Venezuela's oil, though they do, but they hate having Venezuela's oil taken away from them. –

[What do white rural voters want?] Someone to represent them. They don't see themselves in the sophisticates, often children of the rich, they are usually offered. They're one rung up on the social ladder and they're determined to keep someone below them.

A lot of white suburbanites want the same thing.

Let me suggest that a lot of what goes wrong [in US foreign policy] is that we are using the military to resolve our internal conflicts, much like a man who has problems at home picking bar fights. It doesn't resolve problems at home, and it makes new problems outside. –

Cornyn, while people who sounded like you were building camps and ovens, socialists were dying to stop them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Reading the Tea Leaves: the Democratic Presidential Nominee

I think we are likely to get a “socially liberal, economically conservative” woman of color. (And no, not necessarily Kamala Harris.)

I have a sick feeling. I am not sure that any economic conservative can win the necessary votes. The Democrats who vote will vote for her, but it will be hard for her to get the black working class and the youth vote to work for her enthusiastically, or to turn out for her.

Assuming she does win, we will then face more years where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Better that than the party of rape and treason, to be sure, but hard years. And who knows how any “economic conservative” will deal with the fossil fuel industry?

Sanders is in. Sigh.

He made the announcement this morning, on Vermont Public Radio.

On the one hand, I like him and his politics. On the other hand, he will have trouble winning both the nomination and the general election. There's a lot of women and blacks who hate him. His hippie and socialist past will be dragged out by his Republican opponent. And I fear that just running will kill him. The Presidency ages people, just running ages people, and Sanders is already an old man.

And where will the born-again progressives of the Democratic Party get their ideas from, if they cannot steal them from Sanders?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Bernie Sanders on sexism among his supporters

(More old business. I get tired of Sanders being blasted as sexist. I don't think he is, and he definitely doesn't condone it among his supporters.)

"It's disgusting. [...] Anybody who is supporting me and who is doing sexist things, we don't want them. I don't want them. That is not what this campaign is about." – Sen. Bernard Sanders

On the Sanders Medicare for All Proposal and the Problem of Health Care in the USA

(Old business; I'm cleaning out my backlog of "To be writtens.")

"Medicare for All," as advocated by the social democrats and democratic socialists, means universal coverage without out-of-pocket expenses. The Sanders proposal can be read at What would be covered and how the system would be funded is spelled out.

"A method to stop price gouging by insurers and providers with market power." But this is why the insurance companies were brought on board; without guarantees that their profits would be maintained, even increased, they would have made the plan impossible to pass; it barely passed as it was.

As of 2017, the CDC found that 28.9 million Americans had no health plan. Full report:

The ACA has huge coverage gaps (one of the largest is due to the Roberts Court.) Once people have enough income for the system to require insurance, the expenses fall mostly on working poor and lower middle-income people. This could, of course, be changed, but it would require either price regulation or higher taxes, both of which are going to be difficult.

The health insurance companies used to have full-time employees devoted to finding reasons to deny care to cancer patients, and other high-cost insureds. I see no reason beyond expediency to give those businesses anything – they've made their pile. Capitalism-worship is the only reason they still exist.

Considering pragmatic politics, I don't see good solutions to any of this. We need to fight to keep what we have, however poor it is. I don't want to lose the ACA trying to get something better. And the fight divides the opposition to the fascists.

Reflections on the Green New Deal

It's good, it's not perfect, and it's not enough.

It's a resolution. I support its passage. You can read it here. The bill as it stands mandates nothing and collects no revenue. Instead, it sets out an ambitious list of goals. The basic proposal is to switch the USA off of fossil energy and onto "renewables" (not completely defined – is nuclear power renewable?) and to hire a lot of people to do the job. There is also something of a laundry list of moderate left goals: indigenous rights, "equal pay for equal work," and so on. It's not a bad list. Some of the goals probably conflict with others, global policy must be addressed, and I hate the callout to family farms. (See Sarah Taber's critique.)

But it should have been passed 25 years ago.

By now we should have run the numbers and be implementing the programs. That we have not run the numbers worries me. A lot. We are near to the breaking point, and we haven't even tried to figure out a plan will work. Will wind and solar power be enough? How many climate refugees will there be? We don't know any of this. We don't even have estimates.

If it were up to me, I would put some of my old colleagues at the national labs on the job. Time has run out.

We need a real plan, not just ambitious goals.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wealth and Race: Reflections on Two State of the Union Responses

I have watched the official Democratic response (10 minutes) from Stacey Abrams and the unofficial and resented response (30 minutes) from Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Abrams gave a short response, heavy on solidarity and consensus. It was impressive, the moreso since this is a woman who probably lost the governorship of Georgia due to Republican electoral shenanigans, and there are voters who just eat this stuff up, but I doubt that any meaningful compromise with the extremists who control the Republican Party is possible. Yet this is apparently the official position of the Democratic Party, as it has been for decades as much of the country was lost to Democrats.

After Abrams, Sanders gave a well-organized long response on social media, giving credit to Abrams. His response contrasted a democratic socialist position with that of President Trump and the Republicans. He started with a scathing critique of wealth inequality, moved on to the trade deficit and off-shoring of jobs, infrastructure, privatization, and health care. He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in support of this. And he went on. It was a very good speech – I have seldom seen Sanders given credit as an orator, but he is a very good one, and there was substance as well as style in his response.

I wish the Democratic leadership would take more of this up, but Sanders criticizes the very wealthy who fund many of the party's campaigns. It is striking how, even before Sanders gave his speech, there was talk about his trying to upstage Abrams, how even just giving a response on social media, which he has now done for three years, was somehow an attack on women and people of color. I don't see it. He spoke after Abrams, on platforms with much less reachthan national television, and gave her credit. He's a sitting Senator, he represents the views of a substantial faction of the Democratic Party, and I can't see any reason why he shouldn't give a response. No-one criticized Kamala Harris for giving a pre-response before Trump's speech – why does Sanders get slammed for it?

I think it is because critics of the disparities of wealth are always attacked, and this is an easy way to do it. Sanders is called racist and sexist. Elizabeth Warren is called racist. The people who do this haven't yet figured out how to call the Puerto Rican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez either racist or sexist, but there is already talk of running a Democratic candidate against her in the next primaries. Abrams, who probably privately is as much a critic of wealth as anyone, gave a speech which didn't touch on wealth at all, instead calling for consensus when she knows better than any of these that consensus would be unjust.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Angry: Perjury Charges Are Not Enough

We have here a BuzzFeed News report that Trump pressed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Russian property deal, suborning perjury. From BuzzFeed, the source of gossip, memes, and sexy photos. Multiple Congressional Democrats are (finally!) talking about starting impeachment proceedings. Not for mass child theft at the border, not for withholding emergency aid that could have saved thousands of lives in Puerto Rico, not for probable treason. For lying to Congress.

We have Oregon Senator Merkley referring Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen to the FBI for perjuring herself. Not for stealing thousands of children. For lying to Congress.

I am glad these criminals (alleged criminals, all right) have been caught out and are probably going down. Maybe, eventually, there will be some sort of truth and reconciliation commission that will deal with the crimes against humanity. Maybe there will be actual charges against the so-many Homeland Security officials who participated. Maybe there will someday be a trial for treason for Trump and all the people who probably sold out to Vladimir Putin's Russia. But not today, not yet. For now the only penalties are bad names among obscure bloggers and Twitter commentators.

And maybe all the criminals will die in their beds, untroubled by any significant punishment beyond bad names.

Fk Trump. Fk the Republicans. Fk the child thieves. Fk the rapists. Fk the millions who support these crimes.

“Fuck every cause that ended in murder and a child screaming.” – Iain Banks

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Information Warfare: the Media and Trump and Russia

And all of a sudden the Trump-Russia connections are all over the news. But these are not news; the basics have been known for two years, and all that has been done is filling in the details. Which is important, but why is it suddenly worth headlines, when it was not before the election, or early in Trump's term, when it might have made a difference?

Near as I can figure, the answer is that the owners of the big media corporations have noticed that Trump is a threat. Too late, suckers!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Climate Change: Reconsidering Nuclear Power

We may be able to use nuclear power if we become competent socialists.
I have been reading James Mahaffey’s Atomic Accidents, an account of failures of nuclear technology. This is merging in my mind with responses to climate change, which are now desperately needed.
For a long time, my position on nuclear power has been that it would be an excellent technology if we could find saints and angels to run the system. Lacking a supply of those, we had probably best solve our energy problems in another way. This book, if anything, confirms me in that position. But time is running out to avert planetary disaster from climate change and nuclear power does not contribute to global climate change. Perhaps it is time to rethink nuclear power.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Reflections on Conservative Attacks on AOC

I find the attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez troublesome, and not just because I largely support her politics.

AOC's family was and is living the American dream. The father had a moderately successful career as an architect and the family moved to the 'burbs. The father died young, while AOC was in college during the crash of 2008, and AOC and her mother were poor for a while. She graduated from Boston University with honors. Now AOC has been elected to the House of Representatives and is earning a decent civil service salary, like all Representatives.

This is exactly what conservatives keep telling us poor non-white people should do. They did it, and AOC is, for the moment, successful. She has maintained her connections with her community and the values of her family. If anything, they should celebrate her!

Apparently some conservatives don't really believe one should work hard and make good. Secretly, when they say that poor people should work hard and hold to their families and values, they really expect poor people to fail.

Not a surprise, no, but sad.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Laughter of Trump

"Now at last there was a sound: a sound of laughter. It was the laughter of Something incapable of joy, laughing only because It was compelled by Its nature to terrify." – Fictional demon king from James Blish's, Black Easter / The Devil's Day
It seems we only ever hear Trump laughing when someone else is hurting.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Candidates: Racism, Sexism, and Economic Inequality

(To be replaced, soon, I hope, by a longer post provisionally titled "Information Class Warfare."

Bernie Sanders comes out for addressing economic inequality. He is attacked as racist and sexist. Elizabeth Warren comes out for addressing economic inequality. She is attacked as racist.

Why, there might just be a pattern here.