News for progressives

Moveable Feast Cafe 2018/09/30 … Open Thread

2018/09/30 22:30:01Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
Categories: News for progressives

Scott Humor’s new book Hell and Israel: Après Lavrov le Déluge

The opinions of reviewers who read the book varies from ‘Wow, that’s an extremely energizing book!” to “Thank you very much for this. A brilliant satirical work. Hope it gets
Categories: News for progressives

Kavanaugh Hearing Cold Open

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-10-01 01:20

Categories: News for progressives

Back to Monkeys: British Naked Dating Show, by Ruslan Ostashko (contains nudity)

    Translated and captioned by Leo. Make sure to press CC for English captions. This video contains nudity, and has been copyright blocked in four countries/territories: United Kingdom, Guernsey,
Categories: News for progressives

Obedience in Christianity: a reply to an important question

Question: As an Orthodox Christian in America we are taught to almost worship our Bishops, and they can do no wrong. We are to strictly obey them unless they ask
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The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-50

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama: September 24 - Russia Beefs Up Syria's Air Defenses - Tells "Hotheads" To Cool Down The new electronic warfare equipment arrived and the first S-300 launchers were unloaded. A Russian ship is underway...
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On the topic of the Russia-Israel-Syria affair

On the topic of the Russia-Israel-Syria affair, which has culminated in the downing of a Russian Il-20 on September 17th just off the coast of Latakia… by Ollie Richardson for
Categories: News for progressives

Note To Iran - Debunking Netanyahu Requires Some Care

On Thursday September 27 the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo held a speech in front of the UN General Assembly. As usual he brought some props to continue his 30 years of false claims about a 'nuclear Iran'. Netanyahoo's claim in...
Categories: News for progressives

Lavrov’s remarks at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 28, 2018 Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, The speeches delivered during the general
Categories: News for progressives

How to ruin a summer vacation: Analyzing 30 minutes of Rachel Maddow

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog I had a summer vacation this year, and I got so incredibly bored I started to dabble in masochism. By that I mean
Categories: News for progressives

Eastern Mediterranean Naval SITREP

by LeDahu for The Saker Blog The last couple weeks in the Eastern Mediterranean could remind a casual observer of some sort of a military parade, with members of the
Categories: News for progressives

Trump Administration Acknowledges Climate Change - Predicts Large Rise In Global Temperatures

The Trump administration admits that climate change will increase the global temperature more than anticipated: Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a...
Categories: News for progressives

There is no challenge to Canada's bloated war economy

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-09-28 22:25
September 28, 2018'Bombs not homes' defines Trudeau's feminist foreign policyTo distract from the glaring failure to prioritize child care over warfare and housing over drones and new bombers, the Liberals continue to dance about the global stage as self-proclaimed feminists.
Categories: News for progressives

D-J Composites lockout is a refresher on reality of picket lines

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-09-28 21:12

Union work stoppages have become quite rare in Canada. In the current decade, strikes and lockouts have accounted for less than one-30th of one per cent of all working time -- down more than 90 per cent from the strike-prone 1970s. The year 2016 set a new postwar low: just 631,870 days lost, breaking the previous record set in 1960 (even though today's work force is more than three times bigger). And more of those disputes these days are lockouts -- when employers stop production until the workers concede -- rather than strikes, when unions take the lead.

Given that context, perhaps it's not surprising many Canadians have forgotten (or never learned) how these things actually work. Someone who chanced upon a rare picket line might think it's just a demonstration: protesters gathering to express an opinion. They have the right to demonstrate, but probably should do it politely.

However, picket lines are not demonstrations. Pickets are a form of economic warfare. It's a process, accepted and protected by the courts and the Charter of Rights, whereby two sides impose costs on each other to compel agreement. The costs to the employer are lost production and profits; the costs to the workers are lost wages. The side that imposes a greater cost of disagreement on the other, while withstanding the costs they incur themselves, is likely to prevail. While not to be taken lightly, occasional work stoppages are a healthy part of normal industrial relations.

A refresher course in the reality of picket lines is now being provided by a small but nasty dispute in Gander, N.L. Thirty-two workers at D-J Composites, an aerospace components manufacturer, were locked out in December, 2016, for rejecting employer demands regarding wages and other contract provisions. The factory was originally built by CHC Helicopter in 1999, supported by provincial subsidies, and was sold in 2012 to new owners headquartered in Kansas (a "right-to-work" state where employers don't have to bother with unions). The Newfoundland labour board has twice found D-J guilty of bad-faith bargaining, but the company is sticking with its demands and the lockout continues. Worse yet, D-J has hired replacement workers to keep some production going. Full disclosure: the locked-out workers belong to Unifor, the union I used to work for.

After 640 days, the employer is clearly hoping the union will just go away. That might work in Kansas, but it won't happen here. New interest was generated this month, when Unifor released a one-minute video identifying some of the replacements ("scabs," in union parlance) who drive through the picket line every day. Much hand-wringing occurred over this supposed "bully" tactic -- although no less an authority than the Supreme Court has confirmed that a picket line is not a private event and people crossing them have no right to anonymity.

Through 640 emotional days, the picket line has remained peaceful: the only injury was a union member hit by a vehicle charging through the line during a snowstorm. But genuine economic violence is being done every day to 32 workers separated from their livelihoods by an aggressive employer. The employer's position is all the stronger when it can hire others to keep working for less -- but no replacement worker should ever think they can participate in that process without facing scrutiny or challenge.

Ironically, Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball has a promising solution to this mess sitting right on his desk, in the form of recommendations from an Industrial Inquiry Commission convened by the provincial government in 2010 following a long dispute at Vale's nickel operations in Voisey's Bay. Headed by labour lawyer John Roil, and advised by Prof. Gregor Murray, labour-relations specialist at the University of Montreal, the commission recognized the traditional balance of power between employers and workers has been disrupted by the power and flexibility exercised by global corporations. They recommended modernizing labour law to ensure foreign firms understand and respect Canadian practices. They also proposed a fallback mechanism to arbitrate settlements in intractable disputes, so long as certain conditions are met, including failure to bargain in good faith.

Those sensible recommendations were never implemented, but they were tailor-made to prevent long work stoppages such as this one. Prohibiting replacement workers -- especially during management-led lockouts -- would also promote faster settlements; British Columbia and Quebec already do this. In the end, provincial intervention of some kind is essential to end this conflict.

The D-J Composites lockout, while small, is a telling reminder that employers hold the upper hand in most modern industrial disputes -- and Canadian labour law has failed to address this imbalance. Economists and politicians alike bemoan persistently weak wage growth and stagnant household incomes. But this nasty little quarrel reveals exactly why this is happening. Governments across the country, starting with Mr. Ball's, should watch and learn.

Jim Stanford is Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics at McMaster University. This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.

Photo: Library and Archives Canada, e000756740/Wikimedia Commons

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NewfoundlandLabour DisputeslockoutsJim StanfordSeptember 28, 2018Evidence shows: Unions and collective bargaining reduce povertyDifferences in collective bargaining coverage explain about one-third of the differences in relative poverty across most of the industrialized world.Unions, equality and democracyUnions are an important force for a more democratic society. That is why it is disturbing that Canadian conservatives have recently embraced the extreme anti-union agenda of the American right.Despite constant propaganda, the number of workers who wish they had a union is growingDespite the herculean efforts of the North American right, it would seem increasing numbers of workers are doing the math.
Categories: News for progressives

Keeyask Generation Project is another dam problem

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-09-28 18:12
Brent Patterson

The Keeyask Project is a hydro-electric dam project that has been under construction since July 2014 on the Nelson River within Treaty 5 territory in northern Manitoba, about 725 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Manitoba Hydro is the majority shareholder in the project with the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation, and Fox Lake Cree Nation holding a 25 per cent share in the mega-project.

The Flin Flon Reminder recently reported that "work slated for the project throughout the rest of 2018 includes completion of river diversion and spillway work, powerhouse unit construction and the pouring of more than 100,000 cubic metres of concrete."

The generating station could be operational as early as the fall of 2020.

And even though the four First Nations are partners in the project, major concerns are being raised about the impacts of the dam.

Like the Site C dam in Treaty 8 territory in northern British Columbia or the Muskrat Falls dam that will impact Innu and Inuit territories in Labrador, the Keeyask dam will cost billions of public dollars -- and billions more than originally estimated -- that could otherwise be better invested for the public good.

Keeyask was originally to cost $6.5 billion. The building cost is now estimated to be $8.7 billion, and it could eventually cost $10.5 billion.

Like other dams, it will also flood territory. In this instance, Keeyask will flood about 45 square kilometres of boreal taiga lands.

There are also concerns that once the dam is complete, it will impact Split Lake, a water body 60 kilometres downstream from the project that is already affected by other mega-projects -- the Churchill River Diversion and the Lake Winnipeg Regulation.

APTN has reported, "[Douglas] Kitchekeesik fears once the Keeyask dam is complete it will back water up into Split Lake and further erode the shorelines and impact the fisheries."

The impact of that erosion has already meant that the remains of ancestors (some from 1,900 years ago) have been washing out from the banks of the lake.

And even with a 25 per cent share in the project, the APTN report quotes band councillor Robert Spence stating, "The majority partner, the owner, doesn't even include you on any of the major decision-making that takes place."

Furthermore, APTN quotes Spence as noting that, "Heavy traffic to and from the Keeyask worksite had made [Route 280] impassable for community members, including patients who regularly needed to get to the hospital in Thompson for dialysis treatment and other medical needs."

Last month, CBC reported, "Workers at a northern Manitoba Hydro construction site known to some as 'Keeyask-atraz' described a prison-like environment plagued by fear, intimidation, drug and alcohol abuse and discrimination, says a 2017 report that was recently made public."

That article adds, "Indigenous employees reported hearing racial slurs and derogatory comments, and complained that they were not given work they were qualified to do."

This follows a recent report from the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission that includes allegations of racism and the sexual abuse of Indigenous women by hydro workers in northern Manitoba dating back to the 1960s.

Then there is the matter of the transmission line.

The 1,384 kilometre Bipole III transmission line is being built from the Keeyask generating station to the Riel Converter Station in the rural municipality of Springfield, which is adjacent to the eastern boundary of Winnipeg.

In January 2015, the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation set up a blockade to stop Manitoba Hydro from clear-cutting a 65-metre-wide path for 250 kilometres through their traditional hunting and gathering territory for the transmission line.

The ancestral lands they sought to protect contain burial grounds and spiritual sites.

The transmission line also infringes on the ancestral lands of Opaskwayak Cree Nation and the Metis people.

Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand has stated, "Keeyask and its related transmission line will affect Metis rights. The Metis have not been taken seriously. We are being told we are a small and inconsequential minority in the Keeyask project area."

While massive hydro-electric dams are often presented as sources of renewable "green" energy, there is a truth -- that includes ecological destruction, violations of Indigenous rights, sexual assault, racism, and billions of dollars of misspent public funds -- beyond that spin that needs to be seen.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Twitter photo by @manitobahydro

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Categories: News for progressives

Ten Items Corroborate Dr. Blasey Ford’s Allegation Kavanaugh Tried to Rape Her

Counterpunch - Fri, 2018-09-28 16:10

Photo Source Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0

Along with the usual smears, name calling, and flat dismissals put forward by rape culture warriors, defenders of Brett Kavanaugh, and Kavanaugh at times himself, have repeatedly argued that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford contradicted herself in the number of people she placed at the party, that those people have said it never happened, and that she has provided no evidence to support her story. The first argument is terribly weak and barely worthy addressing. Remembering the exact number of people there is not a central part of the story, and she’s named several of them that will become relevant in what follows.

The second argument (they’ve all denied it under penalty of perjury) was horribly handled by Democratic Senators yesterday, and could be the topic of another post. For starters, Mark Judge didn’t deny it under penalty of perjury as his lawyer, not he himself, submitted a cursory statement to the Senate Judiciary committee. (Update: Judge and lawyer sent a new letter, signed by Judge and released by Chuck Grassely, before midnight last night. As below, still no reason whatsoever he shouldn’t be scrutinized under Senate questioning or court room cross-examination.) There are problems with each of the other supposed denials too, but that isn’t the subject here. So, without further ado, let’s go in reverse order of strength to the 10 items that corroborate Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegation that Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her. The claim that “there is no corroboration” is consistently bandied about on news programs, by senators, and on social media by people who, apparently do not know what the term corroborate means (hint: ‘to confirm or give support to’ is a lot wider category than “eye witness testimony”).

10. Kavanaugh (and His Closest Defenders) Own Admissions

With some of the wilder allegations of rape or sexual assault leaked, it seems, by Senate Republicans, Kavanaugh said things like, “I was not in Newport, haven’t been on a boat in Newport. Not with Mark Judge on a boat, nor all those three things combined. This is just completely made up, or at least not me. I don’t know what they’re referring to.” Fair enough. Corroboration would mean things like showing he was on a boat at the relevant time in Newport with Mark Judge. This isn’t the case with Blasey Ford’s allegation. Kavanaugh admits that he at least knew her and socialized with her in passing, further acknowledging that he doesn’t deny that these things happened to her, it just wasn’t him. As such, close associates of his tried a failed doppelgänger theory on for size. Admitting he knew Blasey Ford and acknowledging her credibility in so far as she claims to have been sexually assaulted are minimally corroborative.

9. Kavanaugh’s Own Speeches

Kavanaugh went on Fox News and tried to suggest that maybe he had a beer here and there, but that generally he was a virgin who focused on sports, going to church every Sunday, and service projects. We’ll get to some responses to that shortly, but his own speeches about hard-partying ways at both Yale and Georgetown Prep cut against that portrayal and corroborate Dr. Blasey Ford’s suggestion that he was the kind of person who could get wildly drunk and aggressive. “What happens on the bus stays on the bus” and “what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown prep.”

8. People Blasey Ford Told Over the Last 1/2 Dozen Years

These include her therapist who took notes and four people who submitted affidavits that she had told them about being assaulted, being assaulted by a top lawyer or federal judge, or specifically naming Kavanaugh since 2012. This corroboration helps to establish that her story was not made up last minute to derail Kavanaugh, as a vocal minority of Kavanaugh supporters claim and as Kavanaugh himself more vaguely hinted in the hearings yesterday.

7. Yale Roomates and Friends of Kavanaugh

A key question has become, not as GOP flacks would have it whether he drinks or drinks excessively at all, but whether Kavanaugh may have sometimes or even regularly become drunk to the point of blacking out, passing out, or not remembering his actions while drunk. Many people from his Yale circles have corroborated the claim that he could be a terrible, angry drunk. His roommate told ABC News that “he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. I did not observe the specific incident [the second accusation] in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.” These stories provide critical evidence undermining Kavanaugh’s self-presentation as almost a choir boy and support Blasey Ford’s story that he was badly drunk and violent with her.

6. Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Entries

As much as Kavanaugh tried in his testimony, he could not get past how terrible the yearbook entries make him look.  Some of his explanations, as for the Fffffffourth of  July entry, make reasonable sense on face. Several others don’t pass a basic smell test. Even he had to admit they are “a disaster,” the kind of disaster that provides corroboration to Blasey Ford’s account of his heavy drinking and rotten treatment of women.

5. Polygraph

There are reasons polygraph tests are looked at with some skepticism by courts in the U.S. and other reasons why they (1) have become more and more accepted in some court situations, when administered properly, in recent decades and (2) why US intelligence agencies often use them with their own employees. Some people are the kind of smooth liars that can fool them, and some people are so anxious that they trigger negative results without actually lying. No evidence has come forward that Dr. Blasey Ford is some kind of known liar. So the fact that, despite her admitted deep anxiety problems particularly around this matter, she took one and passed one, counts as some corroboration of her story.

Taken together, the previous six items provide a fair, but likely not necessarily entirely persuasive amount of corroboration for Blasey Ford’s story.  Sure, Kavanaugh was likely a hard partying drunk who treated women as sexual objects in high school and had at least some interaction with Blasey Ford. And, yes, Blasey Ford’s story was not simply created sometime in August with the help of Democratic operatives, meaning she could meaningfully pass a polygraph test. These help fill out a picture, but on their own or together aren’t, by themselves, dispositive.

The following four items, however, are each quite powerful on their own, and especially when combined with each other and with the items above.

4. Mark Judge’s Writings 

Mark Judge is in hiding. Clearly for good reason. The last thing Kavanaugh and his allies want is for Judge to be cross-examined in public. Democratic Senators landed a few jabs on this, but did nothing to camp out here the way they should. Judge and Kavanaugh were clearly best friends and, try as they might to characterize his writings as fictional accounts, Judge has never ever presented them that way. He has presented them as accounts of his life with a few names changed here and there. The entire scene he describes, including one “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” corroborates the account of this crew of Georgetown Prep boys as violent, black-out-drunk misogynists. An article in The Intercept nails this in vivid detail, followed by a second piece detailing just how bad the relationship with Judge is for Kavanaugh in terms of corroborating Blasey Ford’s story.

3. Mark Judge’s Ex-Girlfriend Elizabeth Rasor’s Account

Rasor’s story, as told initially to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow is a devastating piece of corroboration that what Judge and possibly also Kavanaugh were involved in was criminal sexual assault: “Rasor recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual. She said that Judge did not name others involved in the incident, and she has no knowledge that Kavanaugh participated. But Rasor was disturbed by the story and noted that it undercut Judge’s protestations about the sexual innocence of Georgetown Prep.”

2. Two Other Credible Allegations From Other Women

For decades we have learned that when one woman comes forward with a credible story of having been assaulted by a powerful man, it is not long before other women step forward. These stories, particularly where they dovetail in details, small or large, provide a strong level of corroboration to each other. Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick have told powerful stories of having been assaulted by Kavanaugh themselves. In all three cases, heavy drinking was involved. The initial details of Swetnick’s account, in particular, came out right about the same time as the New Yorker piece on Deborah Ramirez that include Rasor’s account of Judge and other boys taking turns having sex with women unable to consent because they were drunk. Swetnick likewise claims the she and other young women or teenaged girls were subject to Judge, Kavanaugh, and/or others taking turns having sex with them when they were too drunk or drugged to consent. This is an incredibly potent set of items corroborating Dr. Blasey Ford’s initial allegation.

1. Kavanaugh’s Own Calendars

I am completely baffled why, outside of Philip Bump’s excellent articles on this yesterday here and here and here (and Bump is not always someone I agree with or find persuasive), everyone isn’t camping out on the Calendar. How in the world could someone who thinks he’s qualified for the Supreme Court willingly give up the most damning corroborating evidence of all, somehow thinking it proves his innocence? It’s a bit gobsmacking, to be honest. The July 1 entry, in particular, that Bump has focused on, puts Kavanaugh with Judge, P.J. (whom Ford has named as at the party), Squi (whom Blasey Ford says now she was going out with around that time), and a few other boys. They were drinking (as Kavanaugh admitted “skis” meant with Cory Booker in the hearings). It fits, as Bump noted, the timeline of six to eight weeks before Blasey Ford could have run into Judge at a grocery store later that summer. Beyond the fact of all the rest of the corroborating evidence suggesting that Dr. Blasey Ford is telling the truth (where Kavanaugh’s honesty is questionable at best), how can any decision maker in their right mind want to put someone so terrible at evaluating evidence into a lifetime role on the nation’s most powerful court?

Categories: News for progressives

Roaming Charges: There’s a Tear in My Beer

Counterpunch - Fri, 2018-09-28 16:01

+ Let’s not get too carried away with high-minded talk about the sanctity of the Supremes. It’s nearly impossible for the sniveling brute Brett Kavanaugh to leave too much of a stain on the same Court that has decided Dred Scott, Plessy, the pro-eugenics ruling in Buck v. Bell, Korematsu and Citizens United. More likely Kavanaugh will blend right in with its sordid history. Real social change is driven by political movements not a few enlightened jurists.

+ We should thank Kavanaugh for dropping the mask during his mad rant on Thursday. This is what they are all like behind closed doors: Gorsuch, Comey, Holder, Yoo. Imagine the kind of shit Brett & his crew were saying while they edited the torture memos over a keg? And BK wasn’t the worst. Those goons were down the hall in Cheney’s shop of horrors.

+ Is it any surprise that Brett Kavanaugh, a man who was a sexual predator in high school and college, would “mature” into a lawyer who helped draft legal justifications for the torture of other humans?

+ Senator Grassley likes his persecutions to run on time…

+ Every question Dr. Ford answered that the Republicans didn’t have the guts to ask for themselves revealed them for the cowardly goons they are….

+ Lindsey Graham is a writhing toad of sexual confusion and animus.

+ In response to the testimony of a woman who was shoved from behind into a bedroom and sexually assaulted, Lindsey Graham says that he “feels ambushed.”

+ What happens when none of the questioners are competent to question the witness. Most of the senators and the prosecutor don’t even understand what Dr. Ford is saying…

+ GOP prosecutor interrogating Dr. Ford about every aspect of her finances and badgering her over “who paid for the polygraph” (her lawyers), but we still don’t know who paid off Brett Kavanaugh’s debts….

+  Here’s how the GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee voted on the 2013 Violence Against Women Act…

Mr. Grassley: NAY
Mr. Hatch: NAY
Mr. Graham: NAY
Mr. Cornyn: NAY
Mr. Lee: NAY
Mr. Cruz: NAY

+ Grassley: “Stop the clock, will you?” It won’t help stem the bleeding, Chuck.

+ Santorum on CNN: “Watching her, she seemed authentic…and that’s a big problem for Brett Kavanaugh.” When you’ve lost Latin for Asshole & all you’ve got left is Don Jr., you’re in a mess of trouble…

+ Thankfully, Kavanaugh didn’t bring the girls basketball team with him, still someone should probably file a restraining order against the judge before practices start for the new season…

+ No one would ever accuse me of being a fan of the Clintons, but how many times did Brett Kavanaugh and the Starr team come up with new evidence at the last minute that wasn’t even related to the crimes they were investigating?

+ Clarence “High-Tech Lynching” Thomas seems to have been the model for Kavanaugh’s belligerent, self-pitying angry man routine. Call it manufactured indignity.

+ Kavanaugh: “This is a smear, plain and simple.”

Brett had better hope he didn’t leave a smear…

+ Kavanaugh’s strategy: rage, tears and beers.

+ Brett Kavanaugh’s snarling voice is the squeal of white male privilege caught in a leg-hold trap…

+ Feinstein is pathetic. She can’t defend Ford, herself or her staff. Kavanaugh ran right over her and she just took it.

+ Would you document on your calendar a small gathering where you tried to rape someone?

+ Kavanaugh’s violent demeanor is that of a man who has enjoyed impunity for everything he has ever done in his life up to this point…

+ Kavanaugh: “Everybody praises my temperament, damnit!”

+ Liliana Segura: “It feels like we’re all at a wedding in hell and the best man’s toast has gone off the rails.”

+ Who will ask how many beers Brett had for lunch?

+ Brett: FFFFF referred to Squi’s stuttering way of saying “fuck”.

Every high school boy: FFFFF means “Find ’em, fetch ’em, feel ’em, fuck ’em, forget ’em.”

+ Charles Lane: “Since it’s come up — I grew up across the street in Chevy Chase from the guy known as ‘Squi’ and saw him every day in my childhood. He did not stutter, so nothing to mock in that dept. but he did have that funny way of saying the F-word, as BK said. FWIW.”

+ We interrupt these proceedings for a 15 minute beer break.

+ On the night Brett Kavanaugh told the Federalist Society he was “falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.”, “Roger Clemens was pitching, George Brett was playing third, no outfield that night….” Thanks for clearing that up, Judge. Did you keep the scorecard? Because it looks like Brett played first base that night…

+ Democratic senators are performing as ineptly as they did during the Anita Hill hearing.

+ Each Democrat should have focused on a separate line of questioning. Instead, they all asked the same three questions and got the same evasions and prevarications. The clumsy GOP surrogate elicited more useful information from both Ford and the Judge than all of the Democrats–until she was suddenly evicted to make way for Lindsey Graham’s volcanic tantrum…

+ Not one question for the great advocate of women clerks about the disgusting behavior of his mentor Kosinski, who I’m sure also studied hard in high school and college.

+ The best service the Republicans performed for their country during the hearing was to rub Joe Biden’s bullshit in the face of the Democrats.

+ Remember that Kavanaugh’s hero Antonin Scalia once dissented in a death penalty case (Herrera v. Collins) by arguing that innocence was NOT a legitimate grounds for granting an appeal. Sorry, Brett.

+ I don’t think Kavanaugh would hesitate for a minute to, as did his G-Prep alum Gorsuch in his first act on the high court, consign a man to the death chamber even though serious doubts had been raised about his guilt and the fairness of his prosecute. In other words, the man’s empathy is almost entirely self-directed.

+ What happened to the sex crimes prosecutor? Was that how she interviews all of her suspects? Why did the GOP suspend the questioning of the sex crimes prosecutor once she pointed out the July 1st notation on Kavanaugh’s calendar about a party that included Judge, PJ and Squi where “skis” (brewskis) were consumed?

+ This is the day of the snarling white men!

+ Q. How much beer is too much beer?

Brett: “Whatever the chart says.”

+ The sleazy yearbook reference to “Renata” was a sign of respect,  Kavanaugh claims, just like the UN ambassadors laughing at Trump….

+ Kavanaugh clerked for Judge Kosinski and swears he never saw any signs that the judge was serially harassing women. Why isn’t it reasonable that we might assume he has led the same secret life…

+ I don’t know if Kavanaugh participated in a gang-rape of Julie Swetnick, but there was certainly a political gang-rape by the Republicans in the afternoon session.

+ Rightwing sleaze-machine Erik Erikson proclaimed that after his own review of Kavanaugh’s resumé he counted possibly be a serial sex offender: “Garbage people do not accomplish what Kavanaugh has accomplished in the way he has accomplished it. Instead, garbage people tend to wind up writing for left-of-center online news outlets in DC.”

+ Of course, Kavanaugh clerked for certified “garbage person” Judge Alex Kosinski, the harasser of at least 12 women in the sanctity of his judicial chambers.


+ Does Kavanaugh’s vitriolic demeanor make it more or less likely that he is capable of committing an act of violence?

+ I sure hope The Cory Booker Show isn’t renewed for next season.

+ As Ralph Nader said, the Democrats should hold their own public hearing, question all the accusers and witnesses. They won’t. Because to be a Democrat is by definition to not do whatever it is that really needs to be done.

+ One would be tempted to say Orrin Hatch is senile. But he sounded just the same 27 years ago.

+ New liberal hero George W. Bush has been calling “moderate” Republican senators and a few of his old Democratic pals, like Joe Manchin, urging them to give his former staffer Kavanaugh a break: “Look, Flake, can you overlook the sexual predator stuff, so we can have our torture?”

+ Jeff Flake is the dead armadillo in the middle of the road. He is full of anguish, rending his conscience in public, before capitulating.

+ The Soul of Flake: I’m voting for Kavanaugh because I didn’t hear enough evidence to vote against him, this just after voting to suppress a subpoena that would have allowed him to hear more evidence against him. Then he calls for a weeklong FBI investigation, after voting to move the nominee out of the committee. On the Hill, this is called Flaking Out.

+ Dear Liberals, the FBI investigation will be overseen by director Christopher Wray, who was two years behind Brett-boy at both Yale and Yale Law. After graduation, they entered the same rightwing political orbit and both took jobs in the Bush Administration. How do you think it’s going to turn out?

+ I think the FBI investigation helps Brett-boy. The conclusion will be ambiguous and thus will seem to clear him, overshadowing the multiple reasons he should never be allowed near the Supreme Court. The question is: who resisted it so firmly? Brett, Grassley, Mitch, or Trump?

+ After all of Judge Kavanaugh’s self-pitying histrionics, he didn’t punch a single hole in the credibility of Dr. Ford.

+ Kavanaugh pursued Clinton for years over lying about consensual sex. Yet Brett-boy lied compulsively under oath while trying to defend himself against a credible allegation that he tried to rape a minor–to the wild applause of Bubba’s most puritanical scolds, like Graham & Hatch.

+ Even if Ford had filed charges against Kavanaugh in 1982, the odds are pretty good that he would have gotten off. Less than a third of young men who are prosecuted for rape are convicted. Unless, of course, you’re black, in which case you’re shot before ever gets to trial.

+ Ellen Barkin: “I have seen men cry like kavanaugh, the one who cried at my feet after smashing my face thru a glass coffee table, the one sobbing and screaming until i understood it was my fault for making him angry enough to attack me. Deny, attack, become the victim…cry if you are able.”

+ The Democrats could have shut down the committee vote by refusing to attend the hearing today and denying a quorum, which by committee rules requires the presence of at least seven members, including two of the opposing party. Instead, speeches…It’s hard not to agree with the odious Graham that the Democrats exploited Dr. Ford for their own craven political purposes, which did not include actually stopping the elevation of a wounded Brett Kavanaugh to the high bench.

+ I couldn’t think of a better way to undermine the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh than what MSDNC is doing by putting Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor in the Central Park 5 case, on as “an expert “in the Kavanaugh case. As far as I know, Fairstein never recanted or apologized for her frame up of those innocent kids.

+ Here’s Linda Fairstein, MSDNC “expert” on the allegations against Kavanaugh, still defending a couple of months ago her false and malicious prosecution of the Central Park Five.

+ It seems impossible, but FoxNews has actually gotten more misogynistic since Ailes and O’Reilly got the boot…

+ Maybe they should just let Martina waterboard the truth out of Brett. We know he believes in the efficacy of torture as an interrogation technique…

+ According to the Urban Dictionary, during the act of a “Devil’s Triangle” the two men must never engage in eye contact. Did Brett cop a glance at Mark? Maybe Lindsey Graham will inquire?

+ Brett Kavanaugh: “This is something out of a Twilight Zone episode.”

+ Stuart Newman: “I don’t remember any gang rapes in a Twilight Zone episode.”

+ Kavanaugh friend: “Brett never hung out with public school girls from Gaithersburg.”

+ So many shoes have dropped in the Kavanaugh affair that Nike’s thinking of building a new media campaign around him.

+ Actor Ken Olin: “Since Trump was elected he’s sent us more alleged rapists than Mexico.”

+ It looks like Kavanaugh learned something from his pursuit of Bill Clinton as part of Ken Starr’s legal posse: How to artfully dance around questions about sex…

+ Brenda from Missouri calls C-SPAN: “I’m a 76-year-old woman who was sexually molested in 2nd grade. This brings back so much pain. Thought I was over it but it’s not. You will never forget it. You get confused & you don’t understand it but you never forget what happened to you.”

+ Elizabeth Ferrari: “Sometimes memory goes sideways, too. This morning I didn’t remember the event but standing in a police station, surrounded by hostile cops who refused to take a report because they’d decided my aggressor was the good guy. And a woman cop very quietly walking up to me in the middle of that critical crowd and taking pictures.”

+ Brett the 30-Year-Old Virgin?

+ Elliot Sperber: “When Kavanaugh says he didn’t have sex until many years after college maybe he meant consensual sex.”

+ How frequently do the children of prosecutors, like Brett Kavanaugh, turn out to be privileged little deviants who feel they can get away with almost any act of depravity?

+ I guess we now know why Kavanaugh appealed to Trump from that list of other Federalist Society clones….

+ The Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans say they have spoken to two men who think they, not Kavanaugh, had the 1982 encounter that formed the basis for her sexual abuse claim. Are they Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.?

+ 48% of evangelicals say they’d support Kavanaugh even if the allegations made by Dr. Ford were proved to be true.

+ Brett may have won the hearts of the Southern Baptists, but he just lost the Jesuits

+ Let’s recall that the FBI investigation of Anita Hill’s charges did NOTHING to prevent Clarence Thomas from being elevated to the Supreme Court. But the Democrats couldn’t let this issue go, to their own doom.

+ If confirmed, Kavanaugh might become the first Supreme Court justice to be disbarred.

+ Trump claimed 4 or 5 women were paid off to make false accusations against. He didn’t mention that he paid off two women to gag them about real accusations against him.

+ According to the American Psychological Association:

“Sexual assault is likely the most under-reported crime in the United States. About two-thirds of female sexual assault victims do not report to the police, and many victims do not tell anyone. Sexual assault is a terrifying and humiliating experience. Women choose not to report for a variety of reasons — fear for their safety, being in shock, fear of not being believed, feeling embarrassed or ashamed, or expecting to be blamed.”

+ Barbara Ehrenreich: “I experienced assaults like those reported by Ford and Ramirez decades ago and, except for crying on a friend’s shoulder, did not tell anyone at the time. But if any of my assailants were nominated for a position of power, I would come forward immediately. And loudly.”

+ Trump’s wheezing more and more often these days. Which Dr. Feelgood will do his physical this year?

+ The laughter that erupted during Trump’s speech was the greatest moment at the UN since Hugo Chavez called George W. Bush “the Devil”:

+ Trump at #UNGA “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Does anyone know if the Library of Congress has a copy of the “Doctrine of Patriotism?”

+ Trump: “China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain.”

+ Did Trump really refer to the Kurdish reporter as “Mr. Kurd?”

The Sound and the Fury was more straightforward than Trump’s press conference.

+ Trump appears to be on Diet Crack.

+ In response to Trump’s allegation that George Washington may have have “had a bad past,” the first president released his calendar…

+ Steven Rendall sums up Trump’s hallucinogenic press conference at the UN: “What a disaster. Besides the torrent of lies, he also ordered one woman reporter to sit down, interrupted every female reporter, spoke of how the sexual assault charges against *him* affected his views of the Kavanaugh charges, indicated that he seems to think all three Kavanaugh accusers will be heard from tomorrow, called a reporter who asked about the Kurds, “Mr. Kurd, and much more. He could fuck up a junkyard.”

+ Evo Morales to Trump at the UN Security Council meeting, which Trump was chairing: “In no way is the US interested in spreading democracy. Nor does the US care about Justice.” Morales pointed to Trump’s policy of “keeping children in cages” and the “illegal” move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” Trump meekly replied.

+ Darling Nikki, Will you please be quiet, please?

+ Did Melania sign off the new US sanctions against Cilia Flores, the first lady of Venezuela?

+ From Michael Lewis’s book on the Trump transition, The Fifth Risk

+ John Bolton at the UN on Iran: “There will be hell to pay!…We are watching, and we will come after you.”

+ Bolton pledged that US troops are not leaving Syria as long as “Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.”

+ Bolton was always more likely to shave his mustache than change his position on Syria and Iran…

+ I never had any illusions about the true nature of Trump’s foreign policy and no one else should have after he tapped Bolton for National Security Advisor. Now it begins to unfold.

+  If you want a measure for how serious the risk of war with Iran really is, consider that Obama fired Mad Dog Mattis for being too much of a hardliner on Iran. In the Trump administration, Mattis is now one of the few voices of caution and restrain.

+ Rep. Jim Jordan: “When Republicans act like Republicans, we win. When we act like Democrats we lose.” How do we tell the difference?

+ I don’t know what kind of toxic waste Sheldon Adelson thrives on, but DC must be saturated with it now…

+ First bust the Taxi drivers unions, then watch the wages of the Uber drivers plummet

+ With gate receipts for his new film ‘F 11/9’ sagging, Michael Moore goes the full-Hitler, claiming that Trump might stage a Reichstag fire-like event in order to grab more power….How much more power does Trump need? If you can get away with putting kids in concentration camps, you can get away with almost anything.

+ Migrant Children in Federal Detention

Sept. 2018: 12,800
May 2017: 2,400

+ Fahrenheit Michael Moore:

F-9/11: $28 mm (in first weekend)
F-11/9: $3.2 (in first weekend)

Is the weak box office for F-11/9 cause for more suspicion about the coming “blue wave” in November? Or just another sign that Moore is well beyond his “buy-by” date?

+ The Southern Ocean is warming twice as fast as the Pacific and the Atlantic. Why? Floating censors have pinpointed two causes, both human-generated: ozone depletion and greenhouse gas emissions.

+ At a speech to corporate bigwigs in Oslo, Barack Obama tweaked Trump for his “lack of commitment” on climate change. Nonsense. Trump is fully committed, much as Obama was, to the acceleration of climate change, he’s just more honest about it than Obama…(See our new book The Big Heat)

+ In a 500-page environmental impact statement, Trump’s National Highway Safety Association made a startling admission. The agency predicted 7-degree rise in global temperatures by the year 2100

+ On a really hot day it’s just 92 in the shade anymore, more and more often it’s 92 during real dark night of the soul at the three o’clock in the morning…

+ The US will be hit harder than almost any other country by climate change, and the hardest hit areas in the US are likely to be the national parks.

+ Every 40 HOURS Antarctica is losing a BILLION tons of ice.

+ All the more reason, I guess, for the EPA to eliminate the office of the agency’s science advisor.

+ Does Rick Perry know which Department he is Secretary of yet?

+ British Union leader Tosh McDonald: “I set my alarm clock an hour earlier than I needed just so I could hate Thatcher for an hour longer. Since she died I don’t do that any more. But I still wake up an hour earlier. I can’t help it!”

+ Willie and the peace pipe

+ Bono wrote a letter to Captain Beefheart asking if he would be interested in writing/recording together. The Captain sent a terse, handwritten reply: “Dear Bongo, No.”

+ 15 years ago today, Edward Said died. I still feel the loss. He left a void that hasn’t and perhaps can’t be filled. As I do every year on this day, I went back this morning and re-read Alexander Cockburn’s beautiful tribute to his friend and cried once again.

I’m Gonna Keep Drinking Until I’m Petrified

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week (on vinyl)…

A Man and the Blues by Buddy Guy

Love and Wealth: the Lost Recordings by the Louvin Brothers

Piano and a Microphone by Prince

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Hiking With Nietzsche by John Kaag

Shakespeare and the Resistance by Clare Asquith

Monk! Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution by Youssef Daoudi

Her Wings Are Clipped

Simone de Beauvoir: “The girl today can certainly go out alone, stroll in the Tuileries; but I have already said how hostile the street is: eyes everywhere, hands waiting: if she wanders absentmindedly, her thoughts elsewhere, if she lights a cigarette in a cafe, if she goes to the cinema alone, an unpleasant incident can quickly occur; she must inspire respect by the way she dresses and behaves: this concern rivets her to the ground and self. ‘Her wings are clipped.'”

Categories: News for progressives

Democratic Socialism and Political Power

Counterpunch - Fri, 2018-09-28 15:59

Photo Source davitydave | CC BY 2.0

Occasionally a phrase supports a wide range of political posturing while bearing little determinable relationship to actionable politics. ‘Income inequality’ is one of these phrases. Few using it are communists, a politics that recognizes concentrated economic power as both cause and effect in the skewed distribution of income and wealth. And the entire point of capitalism is the concentration of these that functions as (circular) proof of the social utility created by capitalists. As corollary to American democracy, the phrase ignores centuries of evidence that political power is determined by economic power.

Of current relevance is its place in the programs of Democratic Socialism, a rebranding of New Deal type social welfare programs that proponents (I am one) apparently intend to fit into existing American political economy. As one of ‘a multiplicity of tactics,’ the lives of the poorer 90% of the country could be vastly improved by Medicare for all, Federal government funded college educations and a job guarantee that pays a living wage and benefits. However, the improbability that Western capitalists, particularly American capitalists, will loosen their grip to facilitate functional versions of these programs was better understood in the late nineteenth century than it is today.

Missing from the inequality meme is any plausible explanation of the social mechanisms that have placed most wealth in a remarkably small number of pockets over the last four decades. The coincidence of this rising concentration with the ascendance of financial capitalism would seem to provide a clue. By rendering the product of labor fungible, finance facilitates its concentration. By itself, money produces nothing. It is a claim on real wealth. (Robots, a/k/a capital, are made by labor). Outside of the existence of labor’s product, money is worthless. The business of finance is the redistribution of social wealth, and with it, power.

Graph: The stock market is a proxy for the power that connected capitalists have over economic production. The greater the leverage over this production, the greater the concentration of power. Since 2007 global central banks have flooded finance with cheap leverage through low interest rates. With GDP as a (crude) measure of economic production, the ratio of stock prices to it is a measure of this leverage. The result: a continuation of the process of concentrating income and wealth in ever fewer hands. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.

In the absence of a critical politics, the atheoretical nature of ‘income inequality’ makes it emotive, an appeal to generalized feelings about social equity. The far-too-easy answer back is: so what? Oligarchy was the founding form of the American republic. The long march toward universal suffrage is so implausible a basis of social equity that the poorer half of eligible voters rarely do so. To point to what any with eyes can see, Wall Street has transmogrified a large portion of the accumulated product of labor into the possession of connected insiders in a single generation. The people who produce nothing but claims on wealth now own nearly everything.

Complicating this picture is the radical unsustainability of the capitalist project. It is hardly incidental that economic metrics like GDP (Gross Domestic Product) count the goods produced without deducting the harms that are indissociable from them. Looming environmental crises substantially diminish prospects for continued human existence. Should the worst come to pass, the whole of four centuries of capitalist production would be worth less than the total of all the goods and services ever produced by it. The flip side of the concentration of income and wealth is that the harms from capitalist production have been distributed equally.

Graph: Ronald Reagan led the revival of financial capitalism in the U.S. beginning in the early 1980s. Since then, the share of economic production that has gone into the pockets of the very rich has risen steadily in near exact proportion to what has been taken from the pockets of everyone else. Finance—the pirate capitalism of investment banking and engineered inflation in the value of assets owned by the very rich, were known a century and a half ago to be the predictable outcomes of financial capitalism. The quasi-money of stocks illustrates the growing claims of the rich on most economic production. Source L.A. Times,

Calls for progressive taxation leave the social mechanics of upward redistribution through finance substantially unaddressed. This is how (social) Democrats can argue against income inequality while rallying all available social resources to save the system that produces it. Within capitalist mythology, initial economic distribution is legitimate because it reflects the economic value that was created. Finance creates and redistributesclaimson it. If subsequent redistribution is the goal, why not accomplish it more straightforwardly by ending upward redistribution in the first place? This would eliminate the right-wing claim of economic ‘taking’ through taxation.

The question of how to get from here to there politically, revolution versus reform, gets to the ultimate viability of American political economy. In terms of the public weal, the last forty or so years have been a slow grind toward oblivion for most people in the West. Granting earnestness of intent— whether deserved or not, capitalism since the Ronald Reagan – Margaret Thatcher revival has produced an abundance of consumer goods along with environmental catastrophe, unhinged, seemingly unstoppable militarism and widespread political disaffection. Suggestions that these are incidental to capitalism are countered by their facts in / as history.

Democratic Socialism and its soft-Left variants are reform movements whose proponents appear intent on working within the existing concentrations of political and economic power. Self-described socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Ortiz said as much when she recently promisedto help get democrats elected. However, the point here isn’t electoral machinations— Ocasio-Cortez is young and deserves some breathing room. The problem is that these existing political and economic relationships are singularly responsible for the current political moment. Treating them as incidental to it is a fundamental misreading of history.

The income and wealth concentrations that are products of this epoch are put forward as inexplicable, the workings of mysterious forces that are beyond human understanding. In fact, the major historical outlines of the last forty years have precedencein the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe and the U.S. Financial capitalism was understood at the time— a century and a half ago, to be a later stage of industrial capitalism. The liberals of that era, even called ‘democrats,’ proposed social welfare programs as capitalists took everything that wasn’t nailed down and put it in their own pockets.

In the liberal social-logical frame of that period, none of what followed— recurrent economic recessions and depressions followed by violent revolutions and two ‘world’ wars, was necessary. Had governing forces only followed their (liberal, Democratic Socialist) social welfare prescriptions, political reconciliation would have prevailed, and violence been precluded. Left unmentioned is that the need for social welfare tied directly to the capitalist practice of using finance to put labor’s product in its own pockets. Their subsequent refusal to fund social welfare programs follows the logic of capitalism precisely.

Finance isn’t that mysterious. Banks are granted the sovereign’s right to create money through making loans. The premise was / is that bankers will finance socially useful enterprises. The conundrum for bankers is how to best put the money they create into their own pockets. The base strategy is to make loans to related entities that are never intended to be repaid. This leaves the institutions that made the loans on the hook while the proceeds are long gone by the time the loans default. This was done in the S&L debacle of the early 1990s using commercial real estate loans and in the housing boom and bust using residential mortgages.

In the present, an analog to the parsing of economic goods from harms finds corporate executives borrowing money to be repaid by the corporations they control in order to buy company stock that boosts the value of the stock options they have granted themselves. Company indebtedness is then used as leverage to squeeze labor— to cut pay and benefits. It is also used to legitimate the relocation of factories to low-wage countries and to argue that environmental regulations are reducing profits. To repeat, this was all well understood as capitalist looting a century and a half ago.

The term ‘Democratic Socialism’ proceeds from a dubious distinction between political and economic democracy. The myth it appeals to is that American democracy reflects the popular will in ways that more straightforwardly hierarchical political systems don’t. The paradox of capitalist democracy has always been the assertion of flat (equal) political representation in the presence of hierarchical economic distribution. Being white, propertied and male were the initial conditions for American suffrage. As late as 2016, functional suffrage was a proxy for economic class. Real democracy begins with economic democracy.

Part of the political conundrum Democratic Socialism is intended to resolve is that national Democrats have no ‘political’ program. This would seem bizarre were the roles of the political parties political in the sense usually put forward. An alternative explanation, the socialist critique, is that (social) Democrats exist to make class warfare launched from above politically palatable. Example 1: George H.W. Bush was unable to pass NAFTA. Doing so required the liberal bona fides of Bill Clinton. Example 2: Barack Obama had democratic support for his ‘Grand Bargain’ to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. It was Republicans who balked because they wanted more.

The self-serving explanation for this moderating role is pragmatism. National Democrats position themselves as court pleaders, as the people’s representatives in the halls of power. The base frame is that it’s unlikely that much will be granted, that there are many interests at stake and that odds are stacked against the public interest. This from a party that has supported every military intervention of the last two centuries, that has prostrated itself before Wall Street while promising that no bailout is too great and which postures as guardian of the public interest while throwing grandmothers and children to the wolves (‘ending welfare as we know it’).

The liberal contention that Republicans are worse is true in the sense that they more straightforwardly represent the interests of rapacious capitalists. However, left to Republicans alone, this system would have run off the rails and remained there centuries ago. Bill Clinton was elected to repair and restore the carnage wreaked by twelve years of Reagan-Bush. Barack Obama was elected to repair and restore the carnage wreaked by eight years of George W. Bush. The Democrats do have a political program. It is to restore and repair American capitalism for the next round of carnage and looting.

Pragmatic and plain language schools of thought have long histories in the U.S. Technocracy— one of the foremost tendencies applied to American liberalism, is related to these as a non-ideological, evidence-based, mode of governance. However, as the evidence-based academic discipline of cultural anthropology has suggested since the time of Margaret Mead, there are no universal premises that stand outside of culture. Over the last forty years this evidentiary paradox has derailed the American Left in approximate proportion to the political power wielded by capital. A prime example has been serial disempowerment through accedence to the (social) Democrat’s repair and restore model.

Apparently unbeknownst to its practitioners, pragmatism is paradoxical in that there is no pragmatic way to define its realm. Even if your interests and those of the Koch Brothers are sometimes unified, they aren’t always. What is most certainly true is that the Koch Brothers’ ability to craft outcomes for their own benefit is greater than yours (and mine). In this case, is it pragmatic to take this asymmetry into account? Alternatively, would the Koch Brothers scuttle the deal if their asymmetrical power were left out of the pragmatic calculus? Accedence to asymmetrical power is the starting position of the ‘repair and restore’ model.

This appears to be the starting position of the Democratic Socialists. A problem: if the existing distribution of political and economic power is un-pragmatic in the sense of having produced the problems in need of resolution, then few, if any, calculations that proceed from it are likely to be pragmatic. For instance, Medicare For All wasn’t deemed politically pragmatic by the (social) Democrats in 2016 even though universal, state-sponsored healthcare would have been pragmatic for a majority of citizens. This was a clear-cut case of managing the polity for the benefit of existing power.

In other words, the problem— the asymmetric distribution of power, was hidden behind the political problem of what is and isn’t politically pragmatic. Within the terms of democratic representation, the polity clearly outnumbered those whose commercial interests were tied to maintaining the status quo. What was meant by political pragmatism was that the balance of economic power was against the public interest. Under theories of representative democracy, why would this be relevant? Why is it in any way intuitive that commercial interests are able to override the public interest? Yet this is what was meant by ‘pragmatism.’

The folly of this conflation could be seen when young Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was unable to answer the question of where the money needed to implement a program of increased social spending might come from. The graph of relative income shares since 1980 provided above and a photograph of a guillotine are good starting points for this ‘conversation.’ But were the Democrats tactically wrong with their deference to commercial interests in 2016? Otherwise, where is the political program that might challenge that deference? They don’t have one because their role is to repair and restore, not to enact a political program.

More ‘pragmatically,’ the U.S. already has the most expensive healthcare system in the developed world with close to the worst health outcomes. How do ‘we’ pay for Medicare For All? ‘We’ already do— it is known as the most expensive healthcare system in the developed world with close to the worst health outcomes, only it isn’t for all. And the outcomes are terrible because it is capitalist, not because it isn’t capitalist enough. The point here isn’t to answer these questions for the young Democratic Socialists. The point is that these programs don’t exist because those holding existing power doesn’t want them to exist.

How much pushback would there be if these powers, let’s call them a ruling class, did want them to exist? Let’s see, gratuitous and ruinous wars that cost trillions? Check. Bailouts for the looting class that cost trillions? Check. The largest military in the history of the world with nary a defensive war to be fought that costs trillions? Check. Prisons to incarcerate the largest number and proportion of citizens in the history of the world that cost trillions? Check. Developed infrastructure and incentives for the rich to avoid paying taxes? Check. Important aside: taxes do not fund government expenditures. Computer keystrokes do.

Within the existing distribution of power, the most likely fate of the Democratic Socialists can be found in the myriad soft-Left movements that preceded the recent ascendance of right-wing nationalism. The same major thinkers who engineered the Democrat’s ‘pied piper’ strategyin 2016 are busy engineering economic austerity to assure that the Democratic Socialists die quick, painful, political deaths. Through the ‘multiplicity of tactics,’ I support the Democratic Socialists where there aren’t Green Party candidates to vote for. But with history as a guide, the way to get political power is to seize it, not to beg for handouts.

Categories: News for progressives

The Blue Wave is Awash With Hypocrisy

Counterpunch - Fri, 2018-09-28 15:59

Photo Source kelly bell photography | CC BY 2.0

Americans across the country will be bracing for the coming Blue Wave; a self-induced disaster that will outpace even the climate change induced storms sweeping the country. The Blue Wave is inevitable as the inaction on climate change that will come with it. Democrats feel entitled to fill more seats with hot air now that the Not-So-Great Pumpkin is an international embarrassment. Donald Trump’s speech to the U.N. was similarly full of hot air, despite the encouraging words against globalization. Trump wants less foreign aid, diplomacy and immigration. But he also wants more war and handouts for the global elites. Add this all up and it’s a pitiful resistance to the devastation to working people that globalization has caused across the globe.

Down with the globalists! Trump says he was being funny on purpose. But Trump is never funny, and he never does anything on purpose. But he is right. Down with the globalists! The words may be hallow but they are correct.

Yes these globalists, at least the garden U.S. variety, do not come from places all that far away. They are inbred, much like Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, at prep schools on the East Coast. These globalists have spouted liberal doctrine, and even observed that hey, people are pretty poor these days! These globalists have overseen wars that have left entire countries in ruins, largely ignored the coming environmental apocalypse, empowered global corporations to run amok, and let the average person lose every means to survive.

These globalists hate Donald Trump and everything he touches. And they can point to everything they hate by referencing a high school yearbook. In the case of Brett Kavanaugh, it’s a literal, slimy high school yearbook.

The high school yearbook is the perfect metaphor for how Democrats deal with Donald Trump though. Literally everything they hate about him could probably be proven by something written in Don’s high school yearbook. They hate his arrogance, his stupidity, his bullying behavior. It’s a beef between the popular kids. And it’s a nasty petty one at that. As for the rest of us? They just bump into us into the hallway and never look back. No word yet on deregulation, environmental destruction, imperial blunder, handouts for the rich and welfare cutting. Why would the Democrats care? None of these things bust their egos, only our livelihoods.

The resistance to Brett Kavanaugh has been a mighty strange one indeed. Perhaps we should be grateful the Democrats finally grew a backbone, but they are more known for their backstabbing. Rather than resist Kavanaugh’s blatantly corporate anti-environment agenda, Democrats hit him where it hurts them: ‘his character’. The profiles on Kavanaugh are just as pettifogging as the ones on Trump. Frat boy. Jock. Entitled. Rowdy. Pig. Drunk. If all this holds up his nomination, so be it.

But if Kavanaugh is blocked, Trump has five more pro-corporate judges lined up. The real issue here is that we have no democracy left. The rich have hijacked the system and the only conflict now is their bickering with each other. The real conflict—the class conflict—is a one sided bloodbath that’s too dark to print.

And forgive me, but didn’t these people all go to Yale together? Now The New York Times writes about elite prep schools as if it was a bad thing. But who else reads The New York Times besides prep school alumni? I am not sure if I care who was the captain of which football team back when all these people were less famous. I am more concerned about who the captain of the oil industry is. Or how about the captain of Amazon? Goldman Sachs? None of these learned people know a thing about standing up to them. None of them know a thing about responsible governing. None of them care a lick about working people. All they care about is who gets chosen for the Prom in November.

If there is a character who deserves to be assassinated, it’s Brett Kavanaugh. But it takes Fox freaking News to point out the obvious hypocrisy going on for the Democrats. As we wade through days of a rape scandal about Brett, Democrats line up to defend domestic abuser Keith Ellison. Ellison disappointingly coasted to a primary victory in the supposed progressive state of Minnesota. A Star Tribune poll revealed that only 21% of Minnesotans are sure the abuse happened. It’s unclear what else Karen Monahan needs to do to be believed. She has released medical records and text messages.

Bernie Sanders flew to Minnesota to campaign for Ellison, brushing off the accusations before one could finish the word ‘revolution’. Ellison himself evoked the witch hunt, as he said he wasn’t sure who would ‘cook up’ allegations next. The main Minneapolis paper Star Tribune callously labeled Monahan’s accusations as another GOP smear on the black predator. These people really don’t listen to women. It was Democrat Hillary Clinton who coined the term ‘black super predator’.

Kamala Harris, another so-called progressive, told reporters that we should let the investigation ‘run its course.’ The investigation is, of course, internal. In other words, Democratic National Committee. And Ellison is Duputy Chair for the DNC. We’ll see how that goes. Like Kavanaugh, Ellison nabbed himself a female lawyer. Everyone believes a woman who doesn’t believe a woman.

Now that the #MeToo wave has passed, the Democrats will no longer be surfing it. ’We Believe Survivors’ has been replaced with ‘We Believe Democrats Who Are Up For Reelection.’

What were the lessons to be gained from the Kavanaugh hearings? That every boy who joins a frat will grow up to be an entitled prick? Perhaps a fine lesson. But what about the 87% of the time that Kavanugh votes with big corporations? When the dust settles, someone will have this job. And they will be handing over all our rights to the corporate class. As we sprint towards what Noam Chomsky ominously calls the precipice, let us remember who our real enemies are. It’s the 1% and everything they stand for.

Humans are among the illest fit species for survival. Evidence of this can be found in our mass consumption suicide, but it can also be found in our inability to sense a tsunami coming. Other wildlife can sense when a highly dangerous wave is coming. Recall the 2005 Sri Lanka tsunami when elephants screamed and ran for higher ground (hopefully you can tell I’m not talking about Republican elephants because these very intelligent creatures went for higher ground). While we normally aren’t so attuned to such monstrous waves, we have a good warning about a potential Blue Wave come November. Yet how are we preparing for it? With our arms spread and our tongues out, like we are waiting for a snowflake to drop. Snowflakes are worth catching, for they are all unique. However, the forecast for this Blue Wave just reads more of the same.

Categories: News for progressives


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