News for progressives

Here is the Progressive Agenda

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-01-14 15:46

Clintonite corporatists still control the Democratic National Committee despite their long string of failure at the polls. But the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters—72%—are self-identified progressives.

44% of House primary candidates in 2018 self-IDed as progressive. If you’re after the Democratic nomination for president you have to be—or pretend to be—progressive. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to be “a progressive who gets things done.”

All the top likely contenders for 2020 claim to be progressive—but they would prefer that voters ignore their voting records and unsavory donors. “Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have spent the past two years racing to the leftmost edge of respectable opinion,” reports New York magazine. “In recent weeks, they have also all reached out to Wall Street executives, in hopes of securing some funding for their prospective presidential campaign.” It does no good for your heart to be in the right place if your ass is owned by bankers.

“You don’t just get to say that you’re progressive,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told progressive donors recently.

Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, called the 2020 election a chance to “leverage our power.” She says it’s critical “that we have some very clear guidelines about what it means to be progressive.”

Here are those guidelines.

You can’t be a progressive unless you favor a big hike in the minimum wage. Elizabeth Warren, the first pretty-much-declared candidate for 2020, wants $15 an hour. But she told a 2013 Senate hearing that it would be $22 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity. The official inflation rate makes that $24 today. And according to the real inflation rate (the official number as it was calculated before the Labor Department downgraded the calculation in 1980 and 1990) at ShadowStats.com, $22 in 2013 comes to at least $35 today.

If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968 using the same methodology used to track inflation at the time, it would be closer to $80 per hour.

What should be the progressive demand for the minimum wage? Nothing less than $25 per hour.

(For the record, I see no reason why the minimum wage should be lower than the maximum wage. But we’re talking about progressivism here, not socialism or communism.)

Thanks to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign “free college became a litmus test for liberals,” notes The Atlantic. But a 2017 bill cosponsored by Sanders and Warren defines “college for all” rather narrowly. It only addresses public colleges and universities. It would “make college tuition free for families earning $125,000 a year or less and allow current student loan borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.”

A quarter of American college students attend private schools. Considering that the average cost is $35,000 a year and some run as high as $60,000, even families earning more than $125,000 need help too.

The progressive stance on college should be three-pronged. First, the obscene $1.5 trillion student loan business should be abolished. Student loans should be replaced by grants but if loans exist at all they should be a zero-profit government program. Second, all outstanding loans should be forgiven or have their interest rates dropped to a zero-profit basis. Third, the government should rein in out-of-control public and private college tuition and fees—which have gone up eight times faster than wages—by tying them to the official federal cost of living index.

Progressives agree that Obamacare didn’t go far enough. With 70% of voters in favor, even centrist Democrats like Kamala Harris have climbed aboard Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” bandwagon. Warren, Gillibrand and Booker now say they want single-payer public healthcare. Being progressive, however, means demanding more than what mainstream politicians deem practical—it’s about pushing hard for more ways to improve people’s lives.

In 2020 progressives should be calling for nothing less than universal healthcare. If it’s good enough for the rest of the developed world and many developing countries like Botswana and Bhutan, why not us?

I cosigned a letter to Sanders calling on the Vermont senator to use his platform as the country’s most prominent and popular progressive to talk more about foreign policy and to openly oppose militarism. Now it’s time to get specific.

Progressives should demand that U.S. troops come home from any country that did not attack the United States—i.e., all of them. They should put an end to the disgusting drone wars. The bloated nearly-$1 trillion Pentagon budget should be shredded; let’s see what they can do with $100 billion (which would still be far more than Russia’s defense spending).

From banks that charge usurious credit card interest rates to employers who fire full-time employees and hire them back as “independent contractors,” there are plenty of other targets for progressives to go after.

Progressives: you are no longer the ugly stepdaughter of the Democratic Party. You own the joint.
Now’s the time to demand what’s yours, what you want and what’s right.

Categories: News for progressives

A Green Future is One Without War

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-01-14 15:45

Donald Trump and his base — the leftover scraps of Jim Crow, the broken shards of racist hatred that once were the American mainstream and made the country seem “great” to those who weren’t its victims — have, it appears, a crucial role to play in our future.

President Trump is the increasingly naked truth. He’s what we have wound up with: a raw, uncensored scapegoating and fear-mongering that’s too much for most of the American public. And thus the political center, the military-industrial-media consensus that has ruled the country for the past four and a half decades, pushing progressive values to the margins of American politics, is unraveling. Centrist compromise, which birthed the Trump presidency, can’t mask the truth anymore.

It’s time to evolve.

If we don’t, we’re stuck in the mire of racism, exploitation, empire and war. We’re stuck in the dead past, which has given us the current state of Planet Earth: a planet at war with itself in multiple ways. We’re stuck in a dead past and a dying future.

This is the context, I believe, in which we should evaluate the Green New Deal, which may well be the most brightly shining political ideal to emerge on the national horizon in my Boomer lifetime. Here’s how one of the Deal’s arch enemies, Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, described it recently in the Washington Examiner:

“Make no mistake about it: This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States. If we don’t stop the Green New Deal, our economy may not survive. This isn’t a battle we can afford to lose.”

So it must be good! If nothing else, it’s a piece of potential legislation with real traction that transcends Democratic centrism and timidity — its instinct to cave to well-funded right-wing criticism and avoid upsetting the military-industrial applecart — that became de rigueur party behavior since the defeat of George McGovern in 1972.

But the GND needs to go further than it does. Since it’s already being pilloried as the most radical piece of legislation in modern history, it might as well open itself up to become just that: the cornerstone of a truly sustainable national and global future. The Deal should take on militarism and war as well as climate change and poverty; they are all linked. Our near-trillion-dollar military budget, and the endless and needless wars it funds — not to mention the ongoing development of our nuclear arsenal — can’t be quietly, politely ignored as we envision a sane tomorrow.

Right now, the draft legislation for the Green New Deal calls for ten years of intense national focus on such objectives as: establishing 100 percent of national power generation from renewable sources; decarbonizing U.S. industry, agriculture and transportation; the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases; the building of an energy-efficient national grid; and, along with this, the recognition “that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone,”

This is no small plan! It’s a rallying cry and vision that virtually transcends political thinking as we know it, reflecting a near-complete dismissal of status quo politics and its obeisance to Big Money. It refuses to comprise with the forces of either Trump or the Koch brothers. It challenges America to be a democracy.

Let it also challenge the military-industrial complex. The organization Code Pink has taken the lead in calling for it to do so, suggesting, for instance, that the list of goals on the draft legislation should include this one: “a major transition away from the environmental destruction of war and war-preparations, including the closure of most of the U.S. military bases abroad and within the United States and the thorough cleanup of the land and water in those locations.”

Code Pink also suggests, regarding funding for the project, that “much of the 60 percent of discretionary spending now going into the environmentally destructive project of militarism can be moved to environmental protection.”

The point, as I see it, is to create a holistic vision for the future. We can’t just shrug that war is politically untouchable. Doing so — avoiding all serious discussion of militarism, both its costs and its consequences — leaves the global noose dangling.

The military-industrial PR machine spews noise about glory, honor and national defense, but mostly what keeps the system running in perpetuity is a complete lack of discussion about alternatives to violent self-defense. The need for a strong military presence — my God, the need for a new generation of nuclear weapons — is taken for granted by the mainstream media and much of the public, and must be challenged at the national level. The time to do so is now.

A number of years ago I wrote: “From the radioactive fallout spread by depleted uranium munitions to the destruction of the ‘compression-fragile’ desert floor, we are pursuing a geopolitical strategy with single-minded, and ultimately suicidal, indifference to the consequences of our actions. And nothing can stop us except our own awakened consciences.”

The Green New Deal resonates with awareness and awakened conscience, with transcendent vision and, hallelujah, youthful determination. It represents a yanking of the future away from the moneyed interests that think they own it. Let the future it begins to build be one of peace: with the planet and with ourselves.

Categories: News for progressives

The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-01-14 15:44

The fact is, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East since 9/11—-especially the illegal, immoral war on Iraq based on lies—has, as regional leaders predicted it would, generally “destabilized” the area, and nearby regions.

The ruination of the Baathist Iraqi state has by this point produced a Sadrist-led regime that must maintain a degree of friendship with the U.S. that ushered in its ascent to power but is closer to Iran and will, defying the U.S., maintain that relationship based in part on religious commonality. This is an awkward situation, in that a regime produced by U.S. imperialist aggression chooses to ally itself with a regime that the U.S. (by bipartisan consensus) wants to topple.

U.S. military aggression in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya has flooded Europe with refugees, provoking multiple political crises and producing gains for the anti-immigrant right. Europeans properly blame the refugee problem on the U.S. and its arrogant imperialist explosions.

Each invasion has produced spinoffs. Al-Zarqawi, driven from Afghanistan, relocated in Iraq, forming a new Al-Qaeda franchise (that became ISIL). The occupation of Iraq led directly to ISIL’s spread into Syria (and the U.S. military’s pursuit). One thing leads to another. The destruction of Libya spread chaos into Niger and Mali and gains for local al-Qaeda and ISIL forces.

Meanwhile U.S. pressure on Middle East allies to embrace (at least show-window) “democracy”—really a neocon afterthought to lend some bogus moral content to the effort to control the region, to justify the war-based-on-lies—led to
electoral victories by Hamas in Palestine (2006), Hizbollah in Lebanon (2018), and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (2012). These were followed by U.S. efforts to topple the (annoyingly victorious) parties in those democratic exercises (and of course further instability).

U.S. (rhetorical) allegiance to democratic principles may have encouraged the mass rebellions of the “Arab Spring” (2011), during which the Obama administration gave erstwhile allies (like Ali Saleh in Yemen and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt) their marching orders, and (with NATO) destroyed the Libyan state facilitating the grotesque murder of (recent friend) Moammar Gadhafy. And U.S. support for Saudi Arabia—possibly the world’s very worst violator of human rights, although the U.S. corporate press treats it with kid gloves—allowed for the crushing of the Bahraini Shiite mass protests by Saudi-led Sunni forces, and the ongoing Saudi destruction of Yemen.

The U.S. has done absolutely no good in the so-called “Greater Middle East” since its imbecilic leadership in 2001 proclaimed a vague “War on Terror” aimed mainly at Islamist forces seen as terrorists—but open-ended enough to include North Korea (in the stupidly conceptualized “Axis of Evil”), Filipino Maoists, or units of the Iranian military. (By the way, note that the author of that stupid term, Bush speechwriter—now a respected CNN “political news analyst”—-David Frum, is a Canadian interfering in the U.S. political process. But nobody cares. Imagine if he were Russian.)

Repeat: absolutely no good. No more good than the Nazis did when they launched their comparable immoral, unjustifiable imperialist invasions. (We should never thank the purveyors of mass murder for their “service” as is the norm, indeed required etiquette on corporate cable news.) All the war on terror and its spin-offs has produced is human misery.

The “War on Terror” label was dropped under Obama, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest pronouncements in Cairo indicate that the U.S. retains its drive to remake the Middle East

destroy “radical Islamism” in the Middle East. He even warned the Lebanese people about voting for Hizbollah, which has many members in parliament and holds posts in the Lebanese cabinet, lest they raise the U.S.’s wrath. Quite likely his crude efforts to meddle in foreign elections will backfire.

And of course in Pompeo’s list of terrorists to destroy is the Iranian leadership, and the Islamic Republic as currently structured. This puts the U.S. in conflict with Europe and the world in general, which wants to have normal relations with Iran and mutually beneficial trade.

Turkey, a close U.S. ally and NATO member—indeed the NATO member with the second largest army within the alliance—is one of these countries wanting normal relations with Iran. The two countries have differences, including in Syria, but are working (with Russia) to reduce those differences through the “Astana Process.” And now Turkey’s differences with its old ally Washington are strained as never before.

The problem is the Kurds and prospect of an independent Kurdish nation. This was the Turkish concern (that is, the concern of the Turkish ruling class) all along. The current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, supported the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 (while the Turkish parliament failed to support it)—but only if it allowed for the deployment of Turkish forces in northern Iraq to suppress any prospect of Kurdish independence (that might encourage Turkish Kurds in their drive to acquire independence). He feared that the toppling of Saddam Hussein would, if not coupled with the suppression of any Kurdish independence hopes, threaten Turkey.

The U.S. State Department, to say nothing of the political class in general, was clueless about the distinction between Kurds and Arabs, as it was of the distinction between Shiites and Sunnis, or Turks and Iranians. Now the inevitable has happened. The U.S. in an effort to “destroy” ISIL (Obama’s language) made common cause with the only people in Syria willing to join with its (discredited, hated, exposed, imperialist) self: the Kurdish Peshmergas. It has used them to whittle down the ISIL forces, whose existence is a painful embarrassment to the U.S. since its actions obviously produced it in the first place. But it has wanted to use them ultimately to bring down the Assad government and replace it with a pro-U.S., Israel-friendly puppet regime.

Trump (for whatever reasons, while probably involve no moral reflection) seems to have given up on the latter ambition. He sounds content to accept an independent Syria enjoying cordial ties to Russia, Iran, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, China, etc. (The U.S. always depicts states targeted for regime change as “isolated” from what they call “the international community” which somehow routinely excludes major countries not subject to U.S. hegemony.)

Still, there’s that problem of the 2000 Special Forces there in Syria, operating alongside Kurds that Turkey sees as “terrorists.” And since Trump wants to withdraw them, Erdogan wants to move in to eradicate what he sees as a national security threat. Which is to say: the U.S. imperialist orgy in the Greater Middle East has finally reached the crisis-point in which its imperialist interests conflict with those of a close ally, and there way be war between its NATO pal and its Syrian Kurdish clients.

This is very, very embarrassing. And since the president is an unstable, unpredictable fool—alternately stubborn and malleable—his national security advisor John Bolton (the very worst man imaginable in the current situation—a lying, amoral, opportunistic, crazed thug) has to go off to Israel to promise Netayahu that Trump, having announced a Syrian withdrawal, won’t in fact withdraw troops unless Turkey and Israel agree on the specifics.

Meanwhile the Kurds themselves, with long experience of U.S. betrayal, have reached out to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, which is willing to negotiate with the peshmerga for an autonomous Rojava region. It is possible that the horrific Syrian tragedy will end with the re-consolidation of the secular state, including that plan for autonomy, with security assurances to Turkey and support from Russia and Iran, leaving the U.S. aside (as an unhelpful, indeed toxic, partner).

It’s also possible that the Turkish leader, who has had an on-again, off-again friendship with the mad president and who pointedly snubbed Bolton during his visit the other day, will break with Washington, realign with Russia (from whom he has already agreed to purchase billions in armaments, to the consternation of NATO leaders) and make it finally clear to the world that the criminal U.S. invasion of Iraq produces some very heavy karma.

In attempting to reconfigure and dominate the Middle East, the neocon-led George W. Bush administration triggered a process that now leads—perhaps inevitably—to division within the U.S.’s own camp. The obvious, embarrassing division between idiot Bolton’s iterations in Cairo and Tel Aviv, and his boss’s idle blabbering about pulling out of Syria, results from the illogic of the whole U.S. enterprise in the first place.

You cannot simply announce that you—as the world’s “exceptional” nation—are entitled to impose your (myth of) “democracy” (= smiling submission to capitalist-imperialist domination) on all other nations, in which effort your nurtured allies since the 1940s are supposed to collude.

But no, dumb-ass! You cannot reconcile the differences between Turkey and the Kurds, or any of the other fundamental conflicts in the Middle East, on the basis of your warped consciousness of “national interests” and contemptuous ignorance of history. You cannot prevent the vicious assault of the Bush-Cheney regime on the Middle East—-continued by the cowardly continuance of Bush-Cheney policy by Barack Obama and his bloodthirsty secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, throughout the region culminating in the absolute wreckage of North Africa’s most advanced, affluent state—from leading the chickens home to roost.

You cannot prevent your unforgivable, savage interventions in the Middle East from shattering your own long-cherished alliances with client states whose interests actually now oppose your own. Welcome to imperial decline, you dumb-ass Bolton, you moronic sociopath Donald Trump. Chickens are jumping up and down in the chicken-coop, agitated, reorienting. The sky is falling, this time, really.

Good!

Categories: News for progressives

LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-01-14 15:36

The chair of UTLA at our high school today wrote:

We are making history as this strike looms. Every school district in the country is watching what we are doing, and we are getting support from all over the country. We are not just fighting for us but for the future students of all school districts. That is why we must not fail–we must keep our lines strong.

Why Is LAUSD Provoking a Strike?

While some who haven’t followed what has been going on for the past 21 months may tend to fall for LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner’s deceptions, there is no doubt that this strike is being provoked by LAUSD. The only question is “Why?” I’ve wondered for a while why they’re doing this, and it seems like it comes down to one of (or a combination of) several possibilities:

Possibility #1: LAUSD is Disorganized

It is possible that they’re simply too disorganized to be capable of making UTLA a real contract offer. To be fair to LAUSD, they have had an unstable superintendent situation, some of which wasn’t their fault.

We started negotiations for this contract back in April of 2017 when Michelle King was the superintendent. She went on medical leave due to cancer late that summer, and Vivian Ekchian became acting superintendent. King stepped down in January. The Los Angeles Times said “Because senior officials have praised her performance, Ekchian is likely to be a candidate for the permanent job.”

However, the billionaire-funded charter lobby poured money into some of the school board elections, and we ended up with  pro-charter majority, who then appointed Beutner, who took office in May. Ref Rodriguez, once the leader of the charter school-backed majority that took over the board, resigned and pled guilty to a felony. It’s been a chaotic situation Then again, by now they’ve had plenty of time to get organized.

Possibility #2: LAUSD Leadership is Incompetent

Beutner has no education experience. Some people who work at Beaudry have told me there’s a lot of conflict between the existing staff and the people Beutner brought in, and much of the existing staff doesn’t think Beutner knows what he’s doing. I’ve also been told that many at Beaudry think this strike is being provoked, and hope that we stick to our guns and win.

Possibility #3: Beutner Believes He Can Deliver UTLA a Crushing Blow so He Can Move Forward with Plans to Break Up, Privatize & Charterize LAUSD

Perhaps Beutner believes that with the power of the charter lobby behind him and the PR hatchet job the charters have done on public schools, teacher unions, and public school teachers, we’re ripe to be taken down.

We’re the only thing standing between him and his goal of dividing LAUSD into charter schools which choose the students they want and get rid of the ones they don’t, and rump traditional schools with large class sizes and scant resources. Then when the charters score better on tests than the traditional schools, that will be evidence for the naïve and uninformed that charters are better. Some might say “but that’s what is already happening!” Yes, it is, and Beutner wants to extend it.

Possibility #4: LAUSD Is Willing to Make a Real Offer, but They First Want to See If We’ll Fight

Perhaps they’re prepared to make us a decent offer but they want to see if we can pull off a strike with solid picket lines before they make concessions. Perhaps they question the commitment of the UTLA rank & file, or the ability of the current UTLA leadership to do the ground-level work of organizing a solid strike. Perhaps LAUSD thinks we’ll fold. Good luck with that.

Possibility #5: LAUSD Thinks Teachers Only Care about Money, Not Our Students

Beutner has negotiated this way, in that the only thing of significance he’s offered UTLA is a 6% “raise” over two years (really just a Cost of Living Adjustment) in 21 months of negotiations. He seems mulishly committed to pretending that most of the other contract issues don’t exist.

Possibility #6: Beutner Wants Us to Strike Because He Wants to Rise Politically

One of my colleagues raises a sixth possibility—Beutner’s frustrated political career. He writes:

Beutner tried unsuccessfully to become mayor of Los Angeles he lost because he was an unknown. If he makes us strike, his name and face gets in the media. He doesn’t need the money, and the longer the strike goes, the better for him. When it ends he can then go to his privatizer friends and say “Look what I did–I took on the mighty UTLA and almost won! Give me money, I’ll go into politics and make sure we win next time.”

Is Austin Beutner What UTLA Says He Is?

When Beutner first came into office in May I was a little put off by UTLA’s negative attitude towards him. I even wrote a column in a Los Angeles newspaper respectfully offering him my friendly advice on how to do his new job. He emailed me thanking for my suggestions, though I doubt he read it. But I must admit that in his eight months in office he’s shown himself to be every bit the privatizer/charterizer/unionbuster that UTLA always said he was. I’d still like for us to be wrong, but it doesn’t seem likely.

 

Categories: News for progressives

Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?

Counterpunch - Mon, 2019-01-14 15:34

As the United Kingdom marches, shuffles, even stumbles towards the exit door of the European Union a small Northern Ireland party commands an increasing share of media attention. The name Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has become associated with a new lexicon of the exiting process; hard border, backstop, supply and demand.

But what is the DUP?

As Ireland’s long struggle to be independent from its neighbour makes its own history there has been an accompanying counter move to maintain a connection, now called the union, with the political structure that today the world knows as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Like the tip of an iceberg drifting towards warmer, southern climes, unionism occasionally exhibits signs of meltdown. Although, at periods throughout is history it encounters colder currents which help consolidate it in a solid state.

Towards the end of the 19th century the struggle for Irish independence took on a parliamentary character. This movement rose under the banner of Irish Home Rule. For some it was seen as a dangerous threat to the integrity of Britain and its empire. The island of Ireland was to have its own parliament, still with the British crown at its head. Home Rule was perceived by some as a clever mechanism to maintain that imperial integrity, thereby maintaining the integrity of British capital.

Others saw Home Rule as a stepping stone to an independent Irish republic. The republics of the USA and France had gained a special place in the psyche of many Irish men and women. From this witches cauldron of confusion, conflict and God forbid, consensus, was distilled the perfect antidote, Unionism.

At the heart of this concoction was sectarianism. For centuries Ireland had been blighted by sectarianism. It’s a word much used at every level, twixt street and state legislature. Yet there is no universally accepted definition. Why should there be? Definitions have a tendency to be definitive. Stark clarity can be scary.

One thing which is clear is that sectarianism refers to attitudes and behavior that are antagonistic and which involves religious and national identities. That is, particularly between the catholic population, generally associated with Irish nationalism and the protectants who are generally associated with Brutishness. In the 21st century Ireland is becoming home for new ethnic minority communities, so sectarianism faces new threats and challenges. Not a welcoming environment for new comers.

There had been three Home Rule bills put before the British parliament at Westminster. Parliamentary procedure and strife among the political parties of the British Establishment saw the demise of two of them and the eminent threat of the World War 1 saw the end of the third.

In 1921 the partition of Ireland into a largely catholic southern state and the largely protestant north came into effect. Unionism became formally integrated into the British state and entered its golden era. The ground for this had already been prepared.

Lord Randolph Churchill, a leading Conservative and father of Winston Churchill, in a successful attempt to thwart Home Rule decided to “play the orange card.” This meant inciting militant Protestants and unionists members of the Orange Order, to rebel against the British authorities to prevent Irish Home Rule becoming a reality.

In this way the unionists golden era became more of an age of orange oligarchy. For the best part of 50 years an Ulster Unionist party ruled over six northeastern Irish counties, sometimes known as Ulster, from its parliamentary seat on Stormont hill on the outskirts of Belfast.

Trust between the Ulster Unionist and British Conservatives was always on shaky ground. After all, Churchill writing to another British conservative declared, “these foul Ulster Tories have always ruined our party,”

The shaky ground did in fact give way in 1971 with the formation of the new Democratic Unionist Party. Treated as something of a joke at the time this rebrand of unionism was more strident in its British identity, more evangelical in its Protestantism, more vocal it its opposition in anything connected to Rome.

It was also a damned sight more effective in energizing its electoral base. Its antipathy toward Rome went beyond the Catholic Church, even extending to the 1957 European Treaty of Rome, bed plate of the European Union.

For the DUP the ground is still shaking. The UK might have a one way ticket out of the EU. But the last time the DUP sat in government at Stormont, which, incidentally was two years ago this month, it had to do so as partners with the Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein. The strained entente cordiale turned rancid and the Northern Ireland Assembly ceased to assemble.

These two forms of nationalism (British and Irish) don’t really get along together. Sinn Fein is a nationalist, all-Ireland party which has come out in support of gay rights, a woman’s right to control her own fertility, including legal access to pregnancy termination. And it wants to remain in the EU. The DUP opposes the right to abortion and wants to leave the EU.

Since it came to a “supply and demand” agreement– something few of us had ever heard of before – with fellow conservatives’ at Westminster the DUP has become a crutch propping up a weak Tory government. For this Northern Ireland’s Stormont administration gets 1 billion British pounds sterling (almost 1.3 billion US$)

That came out of the petty cash box. The real problem lies with the international border between the two Irelands. At present it’s an open border, with more or less hassle free crossing points, as exists between all EU states.

A so called “hard border” between the two Irelands would mean customs posts, searches and additional bureaucracy. Nobody seems to want that. It could also mean bombs. Customs posts have been a traditional target for those Irish republican who are intent on armed struggle. So a soft border has been proposed, less bureaucratic, less bomb enticing.

To avoid such nastiness “backstop” has attained top media attention. So what is the backstop? It seems to be even more indefinable than sectarianism.

But it is likely to be a legal agreement. Except that there is no agreement. As some in Ireland say, “may the saints preserve us”, so the backstop would preserve peace on the troubled island and the less- than- marvelous economies of both jurisdictions.

The exit door is an ever diminishing time span away but it is not yet clearly in focus. The DUP, described by enlightened commentators as socially conservative and economically liberal – remember the billion quid pay off –is having none of the proposed backstop and border variants.

Perhaps the enlightened are being over generous in their commentary. The DUP stalwarts are more intent on holding onto whatever resources, material and spiritual, their grip on political office affords them.

Categories: News for progressives

2019 PEF Student Essay Contest is Open

Progressive economics forum - Mon, 2019-01-14 06:37

The 2019 PEF Student Essay Contest is now open!

Calling all Canadian students anywhere in the world and all post-secondary students in Canada who are working on papers taking a critical approach to the functioning, efficiency, social, and environmental consequences of unconstrained markets. The winning essays will receive a cash prize of $1,000 for the graduate student category and $500 for the undergraduate student category.

You can download a poster in English or Français. Please help us spread the word and post one in your department.

Essay submissions should be made to PEFEssayContest2019@gmail.com and must be accompanied by a signed scanned file of the completed PEF Essay Contest Submission Form or fiche d’inscription pour le concours de textes du PEF. The deadline for submitting an essay for the contest is April 29, 2019.

——

2019 PEF ESSAY CONTEST RULES

ELIGIBILE ENTRANTS

  • Open to all Canadian students, studying in Canada and abroad, as well as international students presently studying in Canada. All entrants receive a complimentary 1-year membership in the Progressive Economics Forum.
  • The definition of “student” encompasses full time as well as part time students.
  • Students eligible for the 2019 competition must have been/be enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution at some point during the period of May 2018 – May 2019.

LEVELS OF COMPETITION

There are two levels of competition:

  • One for undergraduate students;
  • One for graduate students*.

*Note: Those who have previously completed an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree, and are returning to do a second undergraduate degree will only be considered for the graduate student competition. The same holds for students who spend part of the academic year in a graduate program.

CONTENT OF THE ESSAY

Entries may be on any subject related to political economy, economic theory or an economic policy issue, which best reflects a critical approach to the functioning, efficiency, social and environmental consequences of unconstrained markets.

ELIGIBLE SUBMISSIONS

Eligible entries will be:

  • sent by email at the latest on April 29, 2019, to: PEFEssayContest2019@gmail.com
  • the only submission by the author(s) (i.e., one submission per person);
  • between 20-40 pages in length, and typed in 12-point font, double spaced;
  • referenced to academic standards (including any data);
  • written in either English or French;
  • original, single-authored essays that do not infringe upon the rights of any third parties;
  • accepted on re-submission once;
  • accompanied by a signed scanned file of the completed PEF Essay Contest Submission Form.

Entrants consent to having the Progressive Economics Forum publish essays from winners and those receiving honourable mention. Each applicant will submit a valid email and postal address for correspondence.

ADJUDICATION

  • A panel of judges selected and approved by the Progressive Economics Forum will judge entries.
  • Entries will be judged according to the following criteria: substance and originality, writing style, composition, and organization.
  • The Progressive Economics Forum reserves the right not to award a prize or any prizes where submissions do not meet contest standards or criteria.

WINNING SUBMISSIONS

  • The winning essays will be announced at the Annual General Meeting of the PEF at the Canadian Economics Association Conference in Banff, AB.
  • A cash prize of $1,000 will be awarded the winner of the graduate competition; and $500 will be awarded to the winner of the undergraduate competition.
  • The winning essays will be published on the PEF website.
  • Judges’ decisions are final.

*******

Concours de textes étudiants – édition 2019

Qui peut participer?

  • Ouvert à tous les étudiants canadiens, qui étudient au Canada ou à l’étranger, ainsi qu’aux étudiants étrangers étudiant au Canada. Tous les participants deviennent gratuitement membres du Progressive Economics Forum pour un an.
  • Le terme « étudiant » couvre les étudiants à temps plein et les étudiants à temps partiel.
  • Pour être éligible à l’édition 2019 du concours, un étudiant doit avoir été ou être inscrit dans une institution post-secondaire à un moment donné pendant la période allant de mai 2018 à mai 2019.

Niveaux de compétition

Il y a deux niveaux de compétition:

  • Un pour les étudiants prégradués;
  • Un pour les étudiants gradués*.

*NB: Ceux qui ont déjà complété un programme prégradué ou un programme gradué et qui retournent faire un deuxième programme prégradué ne peuvent participer au concours qu’au niveau gradué. C’est la même chose pour tout étudiant ayant passé une partie de l’année dans un programme gradué.

Contenu du texte

Les textes peuvent porter sur tout sujet relié à l’économie politique, la théorie économique ou une problématique en lien avec des politiques économiques, qui reflète une approche critique sur le fonctionnement, l’efficience, et les conséquences sociales et environnementales des marchés libéralisés.

Pour être accepté, un texte doit:

  • être envoyé par courriel, au plus tard le 29 avril 2019, à l’adresse suivante: PEFEssayContest2019@gmail.com;
  • être le seul texte envoyé par le(s) auteur(s) (un texte par personne);
  • avoir entre 20 et 40 pages, tapé dans une police de taille 12 points, à interligne double;
  • avoir des références écrites selon les standards académiques (incluant les données);
  • être écrit en anglais ou en français;
  • être un texte original, avec un seul auteur, qui n’enfreint pas les droits d’auteurs d’une tierce-partie;
  • n’avoir été soumis au maximum qu’une fois auparavant (donc un texte peut être soumis un maximum de deux fois);
  •  être accompagné par une fiche d’inscription pour le concours de textes du PEF complétée, signée et numérisée.

Les participants acceptent que le Progressive Economics Forum publie les textes des gagnants et de tout autre participant recevant une mention d’honneur. Tout participant devra soumettre une adresse courriel qui fonctionne, ainsi qu’une adresse postale pour fins de correspondance.

Jugement

  • Un panel de juges choisis et approuvés par le Progressive Economics Forum va juger les textes soumis.
  • Les textes seront évalués selon les critères suivants : substance, originalité, style, ainsi que l’organisation et la cohérence de l’ensemble.
  • Le Progressive Economics Forum se réserve le droit de ne pas décerner un prix, ou quelque prix que ce soit, si aucun texte ne remplit les critères ou n’atteint les standards.

Textes gagnants

  • Les gagnants seront annoncés à l’Assemblée générale annuelle du PEF.
  • Un prix de $1,000 sera attribué au gagnant du concours pour les étudiants gradués et $500 sera attribué au gagnant du concours pour les étudiants prégradués.
  • Les textes gagnants seront publiés sur le site internet du PEF.
  • Les décisions des juges sont sans appel.
Categories: News for progressives

The <I>Moon of Alabama</I> Week In Review - Open Thread 2019-03

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama: January 7 - Fake News Reports Blamed Cuba, Russia And China Of 'Sonic Attack' On U.S. Diplomats - The Culprits Were Crickets January 8 - Turkey Rejects New U.S. Syria Plan - Humiliates...
Categories: News for progressives

The Trump-Russia Scam - How Obama Enabled The FBI To Spy On Trump

Despite the loss of major narratives, the war of the deep state against U.S. President Trump continues unabated. The main of tool in this war are allegations of relations between Trump and anything Russia. The war runs along several parallel...
Categories: News for progressives

War Essay- The consequences of nuclear war on US society

by Phillyguy for The Saker Blog Summary The US emerged from WWII as the world’s leading economic and military power. Since that time US hegemony has been predicated on: 1)
Categories: News for progressives

Why Israel’s Airstrikes in Syria Are a Sign of Weakness, Not Strength

By Ollie Richardson for The Saker Blog Why does Russia behave the way it does in relation to Israeli airstrikes in Syria? I will proceed from what seems to be
Categories: News for progressives

Moveable Feast Cafe 2019/01/13 … Open Thread

2019/01/13 07:30:02Welcome 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

An update on Canada’s National Housing Strategy

Progressive economics forum - Sun, 2019-01-13 03:20
Steve Pomeroy, arguably Canada’s top affordable housing policy expert, has written a status update on Canada’s National Housing Strategy (NHS). His overview includes some great background material on Canadian housing policy generally. Points raised in his analysis include the following: -The Trudeau government’s much-anticipated NHS was unveiled in November 2017. -In most provinces and territories, federal funding accounts for less than 10% of homelessness funding. Provincial, territorial and municipal orders of government fund most of the rest. Yet, just 5% of new funding under the NHS has been earmarked towards the Trudeau government’s goal of reducing chronic homelessness by half. -Our federal government is good at funding/financing affordable housing; provincial/territorial governments, by contrast, are good at housing program design and implementation. Each should stick to what it’s good at (ergo: the federal government should let provincial and territorial governments lead when it comes to program design/implementation). Sadly, history suggests that federal officials will be reluctant to treat provincial/territorial governments as equal partners during the implementation of the NHS. -Canada’s federal government does a very poor job of enumerating new social (i.e., non-profit) housing builds. -Steve thinks it’s a mistake for the federal government to require provincial/territorial cost-matching for the Canada Housing Benefit (which is an important component of the NHS); though he’s not suggesting provincial and territorial governments get a ‘free ride’ on it either. -Non-profit housing providers across Canada have been having trouble accessing funding currently available under the NHS. Steve’s full analysis can be found here: http://www.focus-consult.com/wp-content/uploads/What-will-2019-hold-for-Canada%E2%80%99s-affordable-housing-sector-Revised-.pdf An overview of the NHS itself can be found here: http://calgaryhomeless.com/info/research-blog/ten-things-know-canadas-newly-unveiled-national-housing-strategy/
Categories: News for progressives

<I>NYT</I> Laments U.S. Disengagement Even As There Is None

On its frontpage the New York Times delivers an utterly deranged 'News Analysis' of the possible end of the illegal occupation of east Syria by the United States military: As U.S. Exits Syria, Mideast Faces a Post-American Era When Turkey,...
Categories: News for progressives

Gilets Jaunes SITREP

Do not expect the French medias, all owned by the French 1%, to be objective when speaking about the Yellow Vests. We shall then look at the Sputnik News France
Categories: News for progressives

Defining poverty in Canada as a social disease is first step to healing it

Rabble News - Sat, 2019-01-12 00:50
January 11, 2019Defining poverty in Canada as a social disease first step to healing itMembers of the new federal Advisory Committee on Canada's Poverty Reduction Strategy all have personal experience of poverty, and they are working to build resilient communities across the country.
Categories: News for progressives

Socialism For Realists

Progressive economics forum - Fri, 2019-01-11 20:09

I recommend reading Sam Gindin’s paper “Socialism for Realists” to be found in the current issue of the relatively new socialist journal, Catalyst. Sam spent most of his working life as a union economist and assistant to the President of the CAW, and writes often with Leo Panitch, most notably as co-authors of The Making of Global Capitalism.

 

I will not attempt a summary here, except to say that Sam tries to sketch a plausible framework for what a socialist economy might actually look like. By “socialist” he means that the economy would be mainly based on public ownership of the means of production (with a role for small enterprises and for different forms of public ownership), plus meaningful worker control at the workplace. His main focus is on how to strike the needed balance between state economic planning, and decentralization of decision-making to workers and their enterprises.

He stresses that any conceivable socialism will not exist in a post scarcity world and that serious collective decisions will have to be made on what to produce, how to divide output between public and private consumption, and how to divide productivity gains between rising consumption and shorter working time. A strong state will clearly be needed, albeit that the state can become much more democratic and some important decisions can be left to local authorities.

Markets will play a role within a feasible socialism, though as an element in overall planning. A labour market and wage differentials will continue to exist in a context of much greater income equality, some form of guaranteed income or employment, and a high social wage in the form of collective goods and services.

Perhaps the most original part of the paper is a reflection on how sector councils and linkages between them might build a bridge between worker controlled enterprises and central planning.

Hopefully, the paper will be widely read and debated. It challenges even democratic socialists to be much more ambitious, and will resonate with those who agree with Sam that being anti-capitalist is not enough, and that we need some kind of model of a possible future in mind to inspire a strong political movement for radical change.

One quibble — as acknowledged by the author, there is no discussion of how a planned economy would fit into global capitalism, or for that matter, of the feasibility of global socialism. I suspect the framework is only relevant if an economy has a high degree of internal coherence and self-sufficiency, as in the immediate post War period, which will in and of itself be very difficult to achieve.

 

Categories: News for progressives

Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-01-11 16:03

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

I’ve been hearing about neoliberalism for a long time now and never could make much sense of it. It turns out the story we tell about neoliberalism is as contradictory as neoliberalism itself. Two currents within the critique of neoliberalism offer different analyses of the current economy and suggest different strategies for dealing with the gross exploitation, wealth inequality, climate destruction and dictatorial governance of the modern corporate order.

These opposing currents are not just different schools of thought represented by divergent thinkers. Rather they appear as contradictions within the critiques of neoliberalism leveled by some of the most influential writers on the subject. These different interpretations are often the result of focus. Look at neoliberal doctrine and intellectuals and the free market comes to the fore. Look at the history and practice of the largest corporations and the most powerful political actors and corporate power takes center stage.

The most influential strain of thought places “free market fundamentalism” (FMF) at the center of a critical analysis of neoliberalism. The term was coined by Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank itself –Joseph Stigliz. FMF is usually how neoliberalism is understood by progressives and conservatives alike. In this view, an unregulated free market is the culprit and the oft cited formula — de-regulation, austerity, privatization, tax cuts — is the means used to undermine the public commons.

David Harvey’s, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, is perhaps the single most influential book and the author begins with the free market. Harvey sets it up like this:

And it is with this doctrine…that I am here primarily concerned. Neoliberalism is…a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human wellbeing can be best advanced by liberating individual entreprenaurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade. The role of the state is to create…an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. [1]

Not a mention of the massive modern corporation just those 19th century individuals and institutions that are the stock characters of FMF. But to be fair, Harvey moves on to the “paradox:” neoliberalism is a political project that needs state power.

This creates the paradox of intense state interventions and government by elites and ‘experts’ in a world where the state is supposed not to be interventionist. [2]

The idea that the “free market” is an accurate description of reality or a good basis for strategy has worn thin. What started as the less influential reading of the neoliberal critique is gaining ground. The market economy and the state changed over time into something quite different — something we might call Corporate Power. And that is a far cry from a fundamentalist return of the liberal free market of the 19th Century.

Instead, we confront a new form of capitalist order: the merger between the biggest corporations and the state. The corporate power dominates nations by hollowing out and commandeering the institutions that were supposed to represent people. Economic decisions are made behind closed doors at the Treasury Department or Federal Reserve where bankers rule and regular citizens dare not go. The same power operates on the global stage through international institutions and regulatory bodies that do not even pretend to be democratic such as WTO, IMF, and World Bank. Corporate power tends toward fascism by destroying democracy and imposing austerity — the very conditions that give fascism mass appeal.

The national and global institutions that have been so essential to the creation of the neoliberal order provide rich evidence that we can no longer tell where governments end and corporations begin.

The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein, remains very influential and touches on both critiques. But the closer the author got to the military-industrial complex and war —the core functions of the state — the clearer the corporate power argument became.

[T]he stories about corruption and revolving doors leave a false impression. They imply that there is still a clear line between the state and the complex, when in fact that line disappears long ago. The innovation the Bush years lies not in how quickly politicians move from one world to the other but in how many feel entitled to occupy worlds simultaneously ….They embody the ultimate fulfillment of the corporatist mission: a total merger of political and corporate elites in the name of security, with the state playing the role of chair of the business guild—as well as the largest source of business opportunities…[3] 

Exactly. But, FMF and “a total merger of political and corporate elites” are completely at odds with one another. Another widely read author puts it this way:

“There is a profound irony here: In that neoliberalism was supposed the get the state out of the way but it requires intense state involvement in order to function.” — George Monbiot

If the contending ideas of FMF and corporate power were strictly academic it would not matter so much but we will not develop a successful strategy to counter corporate power without knowing what the actual material conditions are. While FMF obscures the current state of our economy, corporate power helps us to see through the seemingly ironic fact that the so-called free market relies upon regular government interventions and support.

We’re dealing with irony or paradox only in as much as we’re dealing with modern mythology. Myths endure because their stories resolve contradictions that logic, reason and facts cannot.

Let’s Stop Repeating the Bosses’ Propaganda.  

The emphasis on FMF has unwittingly contributed to the deeply rooted mythic aura of free markets. Adam Smith, the first philosopher of markets, had to resort to an unexplainable “Invisible Hand” to argue that capitalism was good for everyone. This faith lives on in the neoliberal portrayal of global markets as omnipotent, unknowable forces that work in mysterious ways. If that sounds like the god of capital — it is.

But we need to come to terms with the fact that the free markets’ mythical and mystical nature is precisely why it has such a grip on the popular imagination — and on our own. If we believe free markets actually exist then even our critiques are offerings to its god-like power. When we say “free market” it works like an incantation summoning a complete worldview into being. 

For example, critiques of the free market too often internalize the neoliberal claim that it’s the natural form of human exchange and production. According to this view, the market exists independently somewhere “out there” in human nature or society. Lack of regulation allows market freedom to run to its logical or natural conclusion even if it’s prone to excess and crisis. So the role of the regulatory state, in this argument, is to control the natural freedom and drive of the market actors.

But corporate power imposes its ideology by force and often violence. It exploits people in accordance with law. It plunders resources and poisons water without consequence. This is not freedom. It is dominance and supremacy which puts us on a path to environmental destruction, oligarchy — maybe even fascism. If your “freedom” is my exploitation then you are my master, I your slave, but neither of us are free. Corporate power is the opposite of freedom.

Market ideology has always hidden authority, power and responsibility behind a screen of individual freedom and anonymous actions. If the free market is the outcome of millions of interactions between free individuals, and no one is really in charge, well, what is wrong with that? Plenty, starting with the fact that this utopian ideal in no way describes the dominant form of capitalism in our time — if ever.

And if we believe there is a free market then how do we deal with the widely held belief in the morality of the market? Millions still believe the economy to be moral because it works like a true and transparent regulator of merit. The good rise, the weak fall. The Protestant Work Ethic remains the most powerful spiritual belief shoring up capitalism. If we accept the market as the actual basis of our economy then how can we oppose the idea that hard work is in fact justly rewarded? 

No wonder millions of American workers don’t embrace or cannot understand the neoliberal critique: who can really oppose nature — or society, or freedom, or morality? But unlike the “free market,” which everyday people often associate with small entrepreneurs and mom and pop shopkeepers, millions of people can oppose corporate power.

By shifting to the idea of corporate power we can make claims in keeping with day-to-day experience of the working class: work is not about freedom but instead compulsion and coercion; the economy is not based on merit but rigged to favor the powerful. The common understanding that the economy is rigged has outpaced the viewpoints offered and believed by many progressives. The people are leading, let’s catch up.

There is no market in pure or natural form. Instead market forces and political power interact to create the economy, in other words we have a political-economy. Corporations were born political actors. And the corporate power, not the free market, is the only form of capitalism worth overthrowing.   

Does History Matter?

The irony or paradox at the heart of the FMF critique is really a failure to give history its due.

When societies reach this kind of end stage, the language they use to describe their own economic and political and social and cultural reality bears no relation to that reality…. The language of free market laissez-faire capitalism is what they feed business students and the wider public but it is an ideology that bears absolutely no resemblance to that reality…..In a free market society all those companies like Goldman-Sachs would have gone into bankruptcy but we do not live in so-called free market….Chris Hedges 

So where did the free market go? The modern corporation itself overcame the many inefficiencies of 19th century free market capitalism; it replaced “cutthroat competition” with the coordination, cooperation and economies of scale to destroy smaller firms or consolidate them into monopolies. Over time competition evolved into monopoly power. Individual entrepreneurs were dwarfed by concentrated wealth’s immense power. The free market was replaced with a public/private mix where both public policy and market signals regulated and promoted economic activity. [4]  

This long historical shift away from free markets and toward corporate power has left such a clear trail of evidence it’s a wonder it’s not self evident. How else can we interpret the corporatization of war and the militaryand the billions in direct and indirect subsidies to corporations? Government shelters banks, guaranteeing loans and mortgages while bailing out stupid investors. [5] Wealth is redistributed to the top though massive tax breaksand cuts to social programs. Legally enforced starvation wages push workers to public assistance ultimately subsidizing their bosses. Tax codes encourage the rich to shelter trillions in tax havens while the unrepresented masses make up the difference. Federal programs like “quantitative easing” pumps free money into the financial system. The risk and losses from environmental destruction are for us to reckon with while the rule of law has been suspended for corporate criminals of all kinds. Major economic decisions have largely migrated from national governments to even more dictatorial global bodies. The IMF, WTO and World Bank do the bidding of the largest corporations that are the foundation of the US imperial alliance.

But this history holds opportunity as well. This is what it’s come to:

Private forms of corporate ownership are “simply a legal fiction.”* The economic requirements of the modern corporation no longer justify its completely private control, for “when we see property as the creature of the state, the private sphere no longer looks so private.”**….In this regard, property reassumed the form it took at the dawn of the capitalist era when “the concept of property apart from government was meaningless.”*** [6]

By merging with the state the largest corporations have turned themselves into a new form of social and public property. It’s up to us to take what is ours.

Everything lives and everything dies. The most important lesson from the history of capitalism is this: It has sown the seeds of its own destruction. 

The critique of neoliberalism as FMF unconsciously promotes what it intends to criticize precisely because it imagines the current system as essentially the same system that existed in the 19th Century. This critique smuggles in the lack of historical thinking that is so essential to maintaining dominant culture in the US.  

FMF is a form of American exceptionalism. If the current economy is essentially the same as more than a century ago, then it is truly exceptional and outside of history — just like America itself. Isn’t it? Does capitalism have a history or doesn’t it? In general, the lack of historical consciousness lies at the heart of American exceptionalism. It hobbles our capacity to think and act. This denial of history is the masters’ mythology, not ours. Corporate power is not eternal but historical. It too shall pass — but only if we make it so.

Notes.

[1] Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, p. 2.

[2] Harvey, p.69 Over time Harvey has tended to highlight the political not doctrinal aspects. See  Neoliberalism as a Political Project

[3] Naomi Klein, Shock Doctrine, p. 398-399.

[4] I borrow the idea of a public/private mix from the work of the under-appreciated New Left historian Martin Sklar see: United States as a Developing Country.  For more on Sklar look here or Jim Livingston’s essay here.

[5] Nomi Prins All The Presidents Bankers, see p. 372-375 for an account of the so-called Mexican bailout and the role of former Goldman-Sachs executive Robert Rubin in saving the bankers.

[6] Richard Moser, Autoworkers at Lordstown: Workplace Democracy and American Citizenship” in The World the 60s Made, p. 307 *Bell, The Coming of Post-industrial Society, p. 294. **Jennifer Nedelsky, Private Property and the Limits of American Constitutionalism, p. 263. ***Arthur Porter, Job Property Rights, p. l.

 

Categories: News for progressives

Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times

Counterpunch - Fri, 2019-01-11 15:59

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

My fellow U.S.-Americans, we stand at a moment of no small peril.

Contrary to much of what one hears from liberals, Donald Trump’s “insane” border-wall gambit may be something of a winning play for him.

Yes, the whole stunt is built on a fetid pile of falsehoods. The level of bullshit emanating from Trump’s mouth and Twitter feed on this matter is remarkable even by his standards.

There is NO reasonable argument for constructing a 1000-mile steel (or concrete) wall along the U.S. border with Mexico – a boundary already possessing 654 miles of existing barrier. There is NO “national security” crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border. There is NOTHING remotely like an influx of terrorists across the border. The U.S. did NOT detain “nearly 4000 suspected terrorists” at the southern border in 2018.There is NO increase in attempted illegal entry, which is at a 20-year low. Building such a wall will do NOTHING to make the United States safer from terrorist attacks, dangerous drugs, and gang violence.

The federal government is NOT currently “building the wall.” “A lot of the wall is [NOT] already built.” Existing southern border barriers have NOT in fact caused “declining illegal entry.”

The two migrant children who died in federal custody near the border were NOT “already very sick” when U.S. officials became responsible for them.

Migrants from Mexico and Central America are NOT more likely to commit crimes than naturalized U.S. citizens. The truth is the opposite. “Illegal aliens” from Mexico and Central America are NOT especially prone to rape and murder U.S.-Americans. There is NO epidemic of violent crime on the part of “illegal” immigrants.

The federal workers being furloughed and told to work without pay are NOT able to easily “make adjustments” to make ends meets during the federal government shutdown Trump has forced based on his concocted border crisis. Most federal workers do NOT support Trump’s shut-down.

The four living former U.S. presidents (Carter, Clinton, Bush, and Obama) have NOT expressed support in any way for Trump’s “big and beautiful wall.”

The Democrats have NOT been trying to bring in a Caravan of illegal immigrants into the U.S.

Trump’s rhetoric on the border one is epic high-state deception on steroids.

But so what? One of the president’s nicknames ought to be Orange Truth-Crush (OTC). Trump has been lying about these and countless other matters on a scale that is simply off the historical charts from the beginning of his presidency and before. That’s because he is at heart a totalitarian. And totalitarians don’t just lie about a one or a few things on occasion. They lie about almost everything they can pretty much all the time. They do this to advance their own political agenda and – most dangerously of all – to undermine and exhaust the public’s ability to separate fact from fiction and truth from deception.

Think Big Brother in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: he informs the masses over and over that 2+2=5, that Love is Hate, and the War is Peace. Because he says so.

Hedges: “The Permanent Lie”

OTC is an outwardly clumsy, yet deceptively skilled master of what Chris Hedges has called “the permanent lie.” As Hedges explained two Decembers ago:

“The permanent lie is different from the falsehoods and half-truths uttered by politicians such as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The common political lie these politicians employed was not designed to cancel out reality…Clinton did not continue to pretend that NAFTA was beneficial to the working class when reality proved otherwise. Bush did not pretend that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction once none were found…The permanent lie is not circumscribed by reality. It is perpetuated even in the face of overwhelming evidence that discredits it…The iron refusal by those who engage in the permanent lie to acknowledge reality, no matter how transparent reality becomes, creates a collective psychosis.”

Hedges quoted the German philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, an émigré from Nazi Germany. “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth,” Arendt wrote in her classic volume The Origins of Totalitarianism, “is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.”

A Method to His Mendacious Madness

There’s a method to Trump’s mendacious Mexican wall madness. What does Herr Donald hope to achieve with his deranged deceit and dishonesty on this issue of his own making? Three things.

First, he needs to keep his white-nationalist base and its right-wing media organs on board by not appearing to back down from his Nativist campaign promise to “build the wall.” With his approval rating ranging from the low 40s to the high 30s, with the House of Representatives having recently shifted to Democratic Party control, and with Robert Mueller poised to unload blockbuster, impeachment-worthy revelations on Trump’s corruption and, perhaps, (Russia) “collusion,” the FOX News, Breitbart, and talk-radio right has Trump over the barrel. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and other proto-fascistic media-politicos cracked their whips when it looked like the president was trying to cut a deal with the Democrats at the expense of the wall. Trump responded by turning on a dime. He went Mussolini on the Dems to shore up his base.

There’s no turning back, thanks to the outsized power creeping fascist white-nationalists hold in a wildly polarized American political system that grossly inflates the power of right-wing extremists and rural, red-state voters.

Second, Trump hopes to divert “mainstream” (corporate) media operatives and viewers away from the latest Mueller revelations, including recent reports that the president’s former campaign manager shared internal Trump polling data with a Russian intelligence operative. Who can properly focus on Trump collusion and corruption when the soul-numbing shut-down story and the Donald vs. Chuck and Nancy Reality Show is sucking up all the telescreen energy and sadistically freaking out millions who depend directly and indirectly on federal government salaries, programs, and operations?

Third, Trump is looking to drop a fascist-style presidential hammer by declaring a National Emergency over the fake border “crisis” and ordering the U.S. military to construct the border. He’s made a deceptive show of appealing rationally to the public with his nationally televised address (never mind that his fib-soaked was straight out of Joseph Goebbels) and of holding a serious meeting with Democratic Party wall opponents in Congress (never mind that he quickly stormed out of the summit and quickly called it “a waste of time”). Now he will claim that Democratic “stubbornness” and “intransigence” have left him with “no choice” but to make the dreaded “emergency” declaration to deal with the concocted border drama.

Goiten: “A Parallel Legal Regime”

A National Emergency declaration will permit Trump to take credit for “re-opening the government” and thereby returning paychecks to federal workers (so what if he created the shut-down on false pretexts in the first place?) It will also grant him a series of chilling executive branch powers that make a shameless mockery of U.S. constitutional “checks and balances.” Elizabeth Goitien of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice explains some harsh and widely unknown “deep state” policy realities in a recent Atlantic essay titled “What the President Could Do if He Declares a State of Emergency”:

“It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions…Those who see Trump as a threat to democracy comfort themselves with the belief that these limits will hold him in check…But will they? …a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a ‘national emergency’—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.”

“This edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down.” (emphasis added)

Goitien thinks Trump could even deploy U.S. troops to impose martial law against citizens who resist his power grab. An American president has the power to do that under the 1807 Insurrection Act. And Trump is just the kind of demented president to look for an opportunity to try that power out.

What about the courts? House Democrats addressing the potential for an Emergency Declaration seems to believe that the bogus nature of Trump’s “crisis” will lead to any such declaration being shot down by the federal judiciary, with Trump badly humiliated and politically wounded along the way.

Goitien argues that things aren’t quite that simple. Should he opt to employ them, Trump has a vast array of repressive powers granted him by Congress, that supposed great check on executive branch overreach.

Goitien lays out a sadly believable scenario in which Trump seizes dictatorial control and is supported in doing so by the Supreme Court with the recent right-wing appointee Brett Kavanaugh writing the majority opinion in a 5-4 decision.

“The one thing Trump has done in a sort of systematic fashion is refashion the courts,” the left historian and journalist Terry Thomas wrote me yesterday.

“We are living in dangerous times,” Thomas says.

Feffer: A “Reichstag Moment”?

With Trump responding harshly to protests of emergency declaration, the nation “could go,” writes John Feffer, “from a state of emergency at the border to martial law throughout the country.”

Does any of this remind you of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930s? It should. As Feffer reminds us in Foreign Policy in Focus:

“In the Weimar Republic of the 1920s and 1930s, the German constitution contained the controversial article 48, which granted the president the right to rule by decree in the case of a national emergency. German leaders invoked this right several times between 1930 and 1933…But the most momentous decree came in the wake of the Reichstag fire, six days before German elections in 1933. Hitler, already appointed chancellor at that point, persuaded German President Paul von Hindenburg to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree. No doubt inspired by Benito Mussolini and his use of emergency powers to establish fascism in Italy in the 1920s, the Nazis then took full advantage the authority granted them by Hindenburg’s decree to remake Germany into a dictatorship…. Trump’s public support remains low and his political influence is on the decline. He’s surrounded almost exclusively now by advisors who favor his most autocratic impulses. It’s not inconceivable that Trump will use his standoff with Congress over the border wall as his Reichstag moment.”

DiMaggio: “The Concern with Fascism in Trump’s America is Warranted”

Is there any support for such a Hitler- and Mussolini-like Reichstag move on Trump’s part in the U.S. populace? Yes, as the left political scientist Anthony DiMaggio recently noted on CounterPunch, there is. Commenting on key polling data from the last three years, DiMaggio reports that a considerable portion of Trump’s base backs fascist-style authoritarianism in the U.S. today:

“…the concern with fascism in Trump’s America is warranted. Twenty-one percent of Trump supporters agreed in 2017 that the use of violence against civilians was acceptable in pursuit of political, social, and religious goals – in line with the longstanding embrace of such acts on the Christian reactionary right and among right-wing militia groups in America. Twenty-eight percent of Trump supporters in 2017, and 30 percent in 2018 agreed that the president should be freed from Constitutional checks and balances imposed by Congress and the courts in order to pursue his political agenda…19 percent of supporters agreed that freedom of the press is not too important or not at all important, contrary to longstanding First Amendment protections for journalists against media censorship. Other measures outside those considered here suggest that Trump supporters’ and Republicans’ authoritarianism is even more severe, with about half of Republicans agreeing that the 2020 election should be postponed in light of Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, that the news media are the ‘enemy of the people’ and that news outlets should be ‘shut down’ if they are perceived to be trafficking in ‘inaccurate’ or fake news” (emphasis added).

No, nothing close to most U.S.-Americans are ready to back a fascist-style declaration of a national emergency and martial wall. Still, the percentages DiMaggio cites translate into millions of people (many of whom are armed). The president and his supine, Trump-whipped party have shown repeatedly that they don’t need anything like majority support to go forward against majority public opinion. The best examples, perhaps, are the giant oligarchic tax-cut they passed in December 2017 and their stubborn refusal to permit any significant gun- control legislation despite an ongoing epidemic of mass shootings.

Giroux: “Neoliberal Fascism”

Would the wealthy Few really care about a fascist-style Trump power grab? Some ruling-class elites would but many would not, given all the tax cuts and de-regulation Trump has showered on them – a perfect illustration of the “neoliberal fascism” that the prolific left scholar Henry Giroux sees developing atop the American system over the last four-plus decades. As Giroux says, this neoliberal fascism “is more than willing to exercise cruel power in the interest of accumulating capital and profits without any consideration of social costs to humanity or the planet itself….Neoliberal fascism, as a form of extreme capitalism, views democracy as the enemy, the market as the exclusive arbiter of freedom, and the ethical imagination as an object of disdain.”

“Neoliberal fascism” is consistent with a vicious government shutdown that puts millions of working Americans at grave economic risk in the name of funding a nativist “blood and soil” wall that trumps civic nationalism with racial nationalism. It is consistent also with the absurdly unnecessary declaration of a national emergency and the possible imposition of martial law.

The Real Problem is the Corporate State

Are the liberal and left concerns with authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and fascism expressed in the reflections I’ve give above excessive? I think not. Nobody really knows for certain, of course. We are in uncharted territory that has developed over many years of a long corporate and financial coup that has been systemically shredding the last remnants of democracy in U.S.-American culture and society. The remarkable authoritarian powers that the American imperial presidency has accrued over the last seven-plus decades have fallen into the lap of a malignant narcissist and creeping fascist without the hint of moral conscience and respect for democracy. But Trump himself is but a noxious symptom of what Sheldon Wolin identified as the “inverted totalitarianism” of “corporate-managed democracy” during the George W. Bush administration. That corporate-totalitarian disease is deeply rooted in the history of American capitalism going back to before the turn of the 20th century, As Hedges reminded us last year:

“The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience.… If we do not stand up, we will enter a new dark age.”

Categories: News for progressives

Pages

Subscribe to Brian Robinson Public Relations aggregator - News for progressives

Contact

Brian Robinson Public Relations
104 Hiawatha Road
Toronto M4L 2X8
(in Cambodia)
+85516445835

Contact 2.0

Skype: bbbrobin
Brian on Facebook
Follow Brian on Twitter

1,000 Apologies, but I had to remove my actual e-mail address from this page. I'm afraid I got pretty tired of the sock puppets offering me free sexual favours. (And NO! I don't know how many of them were Russian, and it won't change my vote, I promise!) So here's one of those crappy contact forms that I really hate. Did I mention I'm sorry?
Contact ME! (or don't)