TPP Eats, Shoots & Leaves

During the debate leading up to the passage of NAFTA, the stationery of an outfit lobbying for the treaty trumpeted: “North American Free Trade Agreement -- Exports. Better Jobs. Better Wages.”

So close.

The correct punctuation, of course, is: “North American Free Trade Agreement -- Exports Better Jobs, Better Wages.”

Expect similar lapses in grammar and punctuation -- and accuracy -- during the upcoming consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Reading list:
TPP: What is it and why does it matter? (BBC News).
The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership 2016 and can be accessed in English, French and Spanish language versions on the site of New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade.
TPP is a secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. The main problems are two-fold: (1) digital policies that benefit big corporations at the expense of the public and (2) lack of transparency (Electronic Frontier Foundation).
More Job Offshoring, Lower Wages, Unsafe Food Imports: It's Worse than We Thought (Public Citizen).


“I want to be the president for the struggling, the striving and the successful.” -- Hillary Clinton, before the Michigan primary.

“I don’t want to be the president for those who are already successful — they don’t need me. I want to be the president for the struggling and the striving.” -- Hillary Clinton, after the Michigan primary.

Extra credit:

It's not over 'til it's over.

There's more to the primaries than picking the nominee. The delegates to the convention will write, amend and approve the party platform. Speeches will be made to the nation in prime time. The party chair will be chosen and DNC positions filled. Whether the nominee is Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, the more progressives that are elected to the convention, the more likely that the Democratic Party will return to its historic role as the champion of social and economic equality.

"Why do so many Democrats hate Hillary Clinton?"

It's not personal.

Any other establishment neo-liberal who ran, especially this year with
so many citizens fed up with business-as-usual, would be drawing the same kind of fire.

It's intensified in her case by her identification with and participation in her husband's administration's policies -- militarization of foreign policy; NAFTA, the push toward deregulation, particularly of the banks (see, the Great Recession) and telecom companies; the Drug War and mass incarceration; the cruel welfare reforms; embracing austerity and fetishizing balanced budgets.

Additionally, there is her habit of seeing every foreign policy issue as a nail needing hammering by the military, and her close ties to Wall Street and the corporate elite. Finally, she lacks a natural politician's gift for retail politics; she isn't light enough on her feet to pirouette past repeated panders and policy shifts without anyone noticing; belated adoption of progressive positions doesn't play as evolving, it looks like cynicism and politics-as-usual:

Fair or not, many Democratic voters perceive her campaign as a con.

Reading List:
-> The most surreal moment in the Democratic debates came when one of America’s most powerful insiders took umbrage at an accurate characterization of whom she represents. Of Course Hillary Clinton Exemplifies the Establishment by Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic).
-> How Neoliberal is Hillary Clinton? by Le Gauchiste (Daily Kos).
-> Neoliberalism from Reagan to Clinton by Gregory Albo (Monthly Review), a review of Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution by Michael Meeropol (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998).
-> Hillary Clinton isn’t a champion of women’s rights. She’s the embodiment of corporate feminism. Hillary Clinton’s Empowerment by Kevin Young & Diana C. Sierra Becerra (Jacobin)
-> David Harvey not only looks into the political and economic dangers that surround us now, but also examines the prospects for more socially just alternatives. A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey (Oxford University Press).
-> If the Democrats lose in November 2016, they can't say they weren't warned: Stop Hillary! by Doug Henwood (2014: Harper's) and Ready for Hillary? Really? by Pierre Guerlain (2013: Truthout).

Money for Nothing

One bulwark against the rise of oligarchy is the estate tax, a progressive tax on property (cash, real estate, stocks and bonds and other assets) left by dead people to their heirs. Only the wealthiest estates are affected because it’s levied only on the property in an estate that exceeds a specified exemption -- right now, $5.43 million per person (effectively $10.86 million per married couple). The estate tax helps to limit, a little, the large tax breaks that the extremely rich get on their wealth as it grows, income which otherwise can go untaxed.

Besides being an important source of revenue, estate taxes are intended to prevent gross economic inequality which, if left unchecked, can
poison a society. (Conservatives make a big deal about the “death tax,” but it affects very few people -- last year, because of the current high exemption, 99.8% of estates owe no estate tax -- by way of context, the exemption jumped from $650,000 per person in 2001 to $5.43 million per person now; even so, conservatives repeatedly try to get rid of it entirely).

The current exemption is too high, reflecting the influence of money on Congress, but, that aside, estate taxes are also too narrowly defined. If inequality is to be reduced, the tax on the transfer of wealth should be broadened to cover all wealth received in one’s lifetime, and taxed as income. This would reward people who give away their wealth broadly -- a social good -- and act as a brake on it piling up in the hands of the few.

If we as a nation want to counter inequality even more aggressively, we could use wealth transfer revenues to fund a minimal inheritance for every citizen to be paid when they come of age. Providing a more level starting point would result in a society with much greater opportunity.

Reading List:
-> "Let's be clear on this point. The tax burdens those who inherit the wealth, not those who produced it; it is a tax on Paris Hilton, not Conrad Hilton. And it does not conflict with the values of hard work, entrepreneurship and thrift.": It's Fair, and We Need the Revenue by Michael J. Graetz (Wall Street Journal).
-> The Three Fundamental Reasons Why We Need a Robust Estate Tax by Richard Phillips (Citizens for Tax Justice).
-> To Whom Much Is Given: Why We Need to Tax Inheritance by Jeffrey Mikkelson (Truthout).
-> Taxing Privilege More Effectively: Replacing the Estate Tax with an Inheritance Tax by Lily L. Batchelder (Brookings).
-> "Inheritance not only hands people valuable income in return for something we don't really want to further reward -- being born lucky -- but also, in doing so, it entrenches the least attractive feature of our economy: the fact that people who are born to affluent parents are much more likely to themselves be affluent than children born to the less well-heeled.  Lack of economic mobility is generally regarded as a bad thing that we should combat.": Why Do We Allow Inheritance at All? by Megan McCardle (The Atlantic).

Extra Credit:
By not dealing promptly with his Cliven Bundys, Founding Father #1 wound up with the Whiskey Rebellion: How Former President Washington Dealt With The First Real Tax Crisis In America by Kelly Phillips Erb (Forbes).
The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution by Thomas P. Slaughter (Amazon).

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words Dept.:

In early November 2015, according to Public Citizen, after seven years of secret negotiations -- with the public, press and policymakers locked out, the final TPP text was released. In chapter after chapter, the agreement is worse than expected, satisfying the demands of 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests at the expense of the public interest. The text reveals that the pact replicates many of the most controversial terms of past pacts that promote job offshoring and push down U.S. wages. If passed, the TPP will:
-> make it easier for big corporations to ship our jobs overseas, pushing down our wages and increasing income inequality
-> flood our country with unsafe imported food
-> jack up the cost of medicines by giving big pharmaceutical corporations new monopoly rights to keep lower cost generic drugs off the market
-> empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards
-> ban Buy American policies needed to create green jobs
-> roll back Wall Street reforms
-> sneak in SOPA-like threats to Internet freedom and
-> undermine human rights.
Reading List:
The Government of Canada is committed to being transparent, open and consultative with Canadians on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
"TPP raises significant concerns about citizens’ freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities. In sum, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s citizens:" What is TPP? (Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Provisions that allow foreign investors to bypass the federal courts could undermine U.S. legal protections: Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Unconstitutional? by Alan Morrison (The Atlantic).
The “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty: The Trans-Pacific Partnership clause everyone should oppose by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Washington Post).

So it goes

As the senator from Vermont likes to say, let's be perfectly clear about this: "Bernie Sanders swept to a massive victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary on Tuesday in a stunning win over Hillary Clinton that will send shockwaves through her campaign and give the Vermont senator much needed momentum as he heads for tougher states further south" (The Guardian).


All nine eligible residents of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, have voted, and it's looking grim for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Ohio governor John Kasich was the Republican winner, beating Donald Trump by three votes to two, while Senator Bernie Sanders swept with all four of the Democratic votes.

Just curious #67,233

If Bernie Sanders' understanding of economics is so inconsiderable, why have the Democrats made him the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee? Just curious.

Helen Keller on the $10

Part of the reason for redesigning our paper currency is to make it accessible to people with difficulty seeing (also, to make it harder to counterfeit). We are one of only two nations whose bills are the same size no matter what the denomination; most countries also vary the colors to make bills more detectable to people who are sight-impaired but not totally blind.

The next bill due for a redo is the $10, and the Treasury has announced that it intends to replace the current occupant, Alexander Hamilton, with a woman.

That being the case, although the women on the front page of today's New York Times -- Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks -- are all admirable, it seems to me that there is one stand-out candidate: Helen Keller (1880–1968).
Struck totally deaf and blind by a childhood illness when she was 19 months old, before she'd learned to speak, she overcame the adversity of being unable hear or see anything to become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians, an international champion for the disabled, a feminist, a socialist, a teacher and lecturer, a journalist, the first deaf-blind person to earn a BA, and a co-founder of the ACLU.

Parenthetically, it's not too late to erase autocratic, slave-trading, Indian-relocating, populist Andrew Jackson from our currency, instead of Hamilton who, as founder of the nation's financial system (not to mention a far better human being), has a more direct connection to our currency.

The rest of the story:
A Woman on the $10 Bill, and Everyone Has 2 Cents to Put In by Jackie Calmes (New York Times).

Reading list:
What Helen Keller Saw: The making of a writer by Cynthia Ozick (The New Yorker).

Three Days to See by Hellen Keller (1933; The Atlantic Monthly).

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (Amazon).

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Amazon).

Extra credit:
The Water Scene and the Breakfast Scene from The Miracle Worker (Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke; directed by Arthur Penn; written by William Gibson)(YouTube).
Buy The Miracle Worker (Amazon).

Helen Keller Speaks Out (YouTube)

Hamilton - Original Broadway Cast Recording: book, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer Lin Manuel Miranda, who also plays the title role; directed by Thomas Kail; choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler; music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. The show was inspired by Chernow's biography (Amazon).

Just Curious #27,632

So you've tweeted, "Bernie Sanders is a do-nothing failure."

Mayor. Member of the House of Representatives. U.S. Senator.

What have you done lately? Just curious.

The nation’s largest private-sector employer is told to obey the law

A federal administrative law judge has ordered
Wal-Mart to offer 16 former workers their previous jobs and to make them "whole for any loss of earnings and other benefits suffered as a result of the discrimination against them." The company must also hold meetings in more than two dozen stores to inform workers of their rights to organize under U.S. labor law.

The rest of the story:
Wal-Mart strikes lawful, must reinstate workers: NLRB judge by Nathan Layne (Reuters).

Further reading:
How Walmart Keeps an Eye on Its Massive Workforce: The retail giant is always watching by Susan Berfield (Bloomberg Businessweek).

Life as a Wal-Mart worker -- and how its employees are monitored at all times: America’s real-life dystopia: Wal-Mart is straight out of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley by Aaron R. Hanlon (Salon).

“We are not anti-union; we are pro-associate”: A Manager's Toolbox To Remaining Union Free ("CONFIDENTIAL" Wal-Mart document) (source:

The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy by Charles Fishman (Amazon). "[T]he story of Wal-Mart is really the story of the transformation of the American economy over the past 20 years." Fishman is "careful to present the consumer benefits of Wal-Mart's staggering growth and to place Wal-Mart in the larger context of globalization and the rise of mega-corporations. But he also presents the case against Wal-Mart in arresting detail, and his carefully balanced approach only makes the downside of Wal-Mart's market dominance more vivid." -- Publisher's Weekly

The discount giant is closing 269 stores worldwide—and not even bothering to build stores it promised in poor neighborhoods: Can Cities Afford to Trust Walmart? by Kriston Capps (CityLab)

Extra credit:
This video is shown to all "associates" at on-boarding: it's imperative that everyone working for Wal-Mart understands that s/he is "better off" without a union.

The parody t-shirt at the top of this post and other merchandise is available from Reclaim Democracy!: "Reclaim Democracy! is dedicated to restoring democratic authority over corporations, reviving grassroots democracy, and establishing appropriate limits on corporate influence. We work for systemic change, instead of reacting to corporate agendas."

"The Best, uh, Person"

Is it too late to pitch a remake, no, I'm sorry, a re-imagination of Frank Schaffner's great movie The Best Man -- screenplay by Gore Vidal, starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson -- in time for this year's election? In the 1964 film, as IMDb puts it, "[t]he two front runners for their party's Presidential nomination, one principled and the other ruthless, vie for the ex-President's endorsement." Actually, the story's a lot more complicated and interesting than that, including the presence in the race of one Gov. John Merwin, a being so spectral even the actor who played him (William R. Ebersol) (or is it Eberson?) has vanished into the mists of time.

In the new version, the front runner, a seasoned center-right politician (Meryl Streep), is challenged from her left by an idealistic, small-state U.S. Senator (Larry David, because Sam Elliott or Tom Selleck wouldn't be believable). The race has its ups and downs -- shifting poll numbers, primaries won and lost, petty scandals, social-media hits and misses, staff screw-ups, family embarrassments, yada yada, but as we open act three, the major candidates arrive at the convention unexpectedly neck and neck.

The President (Will Smith), busy with drone targets and blueprints for his presidential library and frankly not really very interested, dithers until the day of the vote, then makes a brilliant address to convention delegates that leaves the decision up to them. The surging enthusiasm of the challengers' supporters seems to be tipping the balance his way.
The former front runner, sensing the tide has turned against her, realizing she must concede, is unable to forgive the competitor who has exposed her feet of clay. In the final moment, she throws her delegates to the third candidate in the race, the chimerical governor (Tim Daly) who is last seen for a heart-stopping ten seconds -- the mood: a new day? a perilous future? the loneliness of power? "Happy Days Are Here Again"? "Gonna Fly Now"? a lot is going to depend on the soundtrack here -- on an escalator to the convention floor to accept the nomination.

Reading list:
Eleven populist points about the Bernie blizzard: Berserk Clinton Bigwigs Launch Nixonian Attack Against Surging Sanders by Brent Budowsky (Observer)

Further viewing:
Theater Talk: Playwright Gore Vidal on "The Best Man" (YouTube).

Buy The Best Man by Gore Vidal, directed by Franklin Schaffner, with Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson (Amazon).


From the early hours of the morning until late in the evening, politicians are breaking bread and sipping cocktails with donors. Political Party Time* lets you know who’s fundraising with whom, and where.

*Political Party Time is a project of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government globally and uses technology to make government more accountable to all.

Flushing the PACs is not enough

We need to look no further than the current political dysfunction in the U.S. to see that without equality democracy is not viable.

But the problem with the effort to place a limit on campaign spending by moneyed interests is that it doesn't take us nearly far enough toward restoring equality of access to our political system. The 1% is buying power by stuffing dollars into PACs, yes; but wealth also acquires power in many other ways, direct, through bribes (contributions to individual campaigns, padded honorariums for speeches, make-work consultancies, donations to pet foundations, etc.) and indirect, through influential fronts (funding think tanks, academic studies, laboratory research, academic chairs, and so on), corporate advertising, and control of the mainstream media.

By itself, overturning Citizens United will not check the influence of money on politics.

In the past, political organizing helped the majority to defend its interests, but organizing is a long and difficult process, and in the last 40 years many of the mechanisms that were depended on to generate, accumulate and deploy the power of communities have either atrophied or been systematically destroyed (labor unions, to take one example). Somehow we must restore organizing to its central place in the political landscape if the many are ever again effectively to counter the power of the few.

The foremost reason to support Sen. Sanders for president is that he is the only major candidate in the race who recognizes that political inequality and economic injustice are major obstacles to further progress for this nation. Win or lose, Sen. Sanders' campaign, with its millions of donors and its fired-up activists, could be the beginning of a new era of people power.

Reading list:
Forty-three percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers self-identify as socialist -- to be very clear, the question is not whether they would vote for a socialist or sympathize with socialism; it's whether they consider themselves socialist -- more, actually, than the number who identify themselves as capitalist (38 %). This number proves Bernie Sanders can win Iowa by Aaron Blake (The Washington Post).

Extra credit:


The Bernie Beat Goes On

In 2008, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was moved to share this picture of young Barack Obama with the voting public.
In 1987, while serving as Burlington’s mayor, Bernie Sanders recorded an album of folk classics for the defunct BurlingTown Recordings label. Vermont's Seven Days found it in an archive search for Bernie Beat, its digital guide to Sanders' colorful political career. Sen. Sanders better watch out; if the Clinton campaign decides to go after the folk music vote, you can bet this will be everywhere: Sanders sings The Banks Are Made of Marble, and it ain't pretty.

The leaders of both parties are underestimating Bernie Sanders

Now that the worried Clinton campaign has turned its guns on a surging Bernie Sanders, Clinton's supporters have begun to express concern that the Vermont senator will be especially vulnerable to attacks from the right (so vulnerable, in fact, that the Clinton campaign itself is using them).

What the Republicans will do, of course, is try to slime the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is.

Barack Obama, who gave his enemies nothing to work with beyond the color of his skin, was vilified as an alien, Muslim, Socialist Pawn of Wall Street, and tyrant -- a weak one at that, but they rarely bothered to question his ethics, because no one would believe that he was personally corrupt. In Sanders' case, too, they have little to work with, now that it has become apparent that "socialism" is no longer frightening the horses, although the GOP will probably attempt to have the voters take notice of his age, as one Clinton surrogate is already trying to do, and his ethnicity.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is the best Democratic opponent you could wish for, if your only hope of winning is a smear campaign.

Reading list:
Democrats can't hold the White House forever. Losing in 2016 might make more strategic sense than losing in 2020. Fine, give the GOP four years: The liberal case for either Bernie Sanders, or electing a Republican president by Walker Bragman (Salon).

What kind of experience does Bernie Sanders have? Let's take a look. Bernie Gets It Done: Sanders' Record of Pushing Through Major Reforms Will Surprise You by Zaid Jilani (AlterNet).

Want specifics?: Bernie Sanders Releases Details on Health Plan That Would Raise Taxes but, He Argues, Save on Costs by Yamiche Alcindor and Alan Rappeport (The New York Times).

The Clinton camp is lambasting Bernie Sanders' health care plan, but its critique is blatantly dishonest. Clinton's Health Care Attack Makes No Sense by Pat Garofalo (U.S.News).

Extra credit:
Rant o' the Day: How the Democratic Establishment Manipulates Us by JosephK74 (Daily Kos).

quote unquote: James Madison on war

"No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments James Madison on war and freedomfor bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” – James Madison

(Political Observations (1795-04-20); also in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (1865), Vol. IV, p. 491.)

Political "best practices"

"A combination of the best features of capitalism and socialism has seemed to work well for the United States." -- online comment

That was true through the early 1970s; at least, up until then, we were headed in the right direction. But Richard Nixon was the last president to accept the goals and parameters of the New Deal.

Since then, the country has been in decline, with political power ceded to the corporate sector; infrastructure in decay; social services atrophying, including, appallingly, those provided by public institutions like libraries and schools; income stagnation for poor and working people and an ever smaller middle class; the creation of a prison-industrial matrix and the militarization of law enforcement; a kleptocratic transfer of public wealth into private hands (socialism -- but for the rich); a directionless militarization of foreign policy; the emplacement of a rigid, secret security state.

If there are models for societies that combine the best features of capitalism and socialism they reside in the social democratic areas of Western Europe and Scandinavia, not here.

Further reading:
Wealth and Power: The Bias of the System -- summary by Russ Long (Del Mar College) -- "Problems of U.S. Society result from the distribution of power and the form of the economy."
The Class-Domination Theory of Power by G. William Domhoff, extracted by the author from his book, first published in 1967 and now available in its 7th edition, is presented as a summary of some of the main ideas in that book (
What is the Prison Industrial Complex? by Rachel Herzing. "'Prison Industrial Complex' is a term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to what are, in actuality, economic, social, and political 'problems.'" (Political Research Associates).

Extra credit: Double Standard: Social Policy in Europe and the United States by James W. Russell analyzes how and why social policy and welfare states evolved differently in Western Europe and the United States. Exploring common social problems -- from poverty to family support to ethnic and racial conflict -- the book shows the disparate consequences of these different approaches. Frances Fox Piven calls it "a sober, well-informed, and temperate overview of the divergent development of social welfare programs" in the two regions.

What happens if Hillary Clinton stalls or stumbles?

At this point, with the Republicans in chaos and Bernie Sanders' insurgency her only significant Democratic opposition, Hillary Clinton should be dominating the polls. That she's not must be scaring the bejesus out of the Democratic establishment. But what are they going to do about it? It's not like they have a deep bench. They don't want Elizabeth Warren or Sanders, though either of them would be electoral gold in November. Joe Biden is older than dirt and goofier than a Shmoo. Andrew Cuomo gives cynicism a bad name and has not been seasoned by a previous national run. The idea of drafting Al Gore is fantastical, as is the thought that they'd find Jim Webb or Martin O'Malley fit to run (who's Lincoln Chafee, again?). That the party kingmakers should have seen this coming is beside the point. What are they going to about it now?
Here's the breakdown:
Bush leads Clinton 41-36 in Colorado; 42-36 in Iowa; and 42-39 in Virginia.
Walker leads Clinton 47-38 in Colorado; 45-37 in Iowa; and 43-40 in Virginia.
Rubio leads Clinton 46-38 in Colorado; 44-36 in Iowa; and 43-41 in Virginia.
These are all states Obama won both times and they are essential components of a Democratic victory next year. "Trustworthiness," or lack thereof, seems to be what's doing Clinton in, and there's little about her halting, content-less campaign so far to indicate she can overcome people's distrust and dislike. Instead of trying to protect Clinton in the primaries, the Democrats should designate a substitute now or face having her drag the rest of the party's congressional and state candidates down with her when she whiffs in November 2016.

The rest of the story: Hillary Clinton is trailing the 3 strongest Republican candidates in 3 key swing states by Brett LoGiurato (Business Insider).
Reading list: Why Liberals Have to Be Radicals by Robert Kuttner: The reforms needed to restore the country's shared prosperity are to the left of all the candidates, including Sanders.

Addendum: I am asked what I have against former Senator Jim Webb. I don't have any particular issues with Webb that I don't have with any likely Democratic nominee; but I think the party poohbahs would regard him as a minor candidate, too independent, too unseasoned, too Southern, too identified with the military to please the party base, and probably a little too difficult to brand plausibly as a progressive (despite the fact that he voted with the party most of the time that he was in the Senate), something any Democratic Party nominee will have to pretend to be in 2016.

A night to remember on Playboy After Dark

Accompanied by the Count Basie Septet, Annie Ross sings "Twisted," with her lyrics set to a Wardell Gray tune. Then Ross, Dave Lambert & Jon Hendricks draw the great Joe Williams into a definitive version of the classic "Everyday I Have The Blues."

The best of many great recordings by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: The Hottest New Group in Jazz (Columbia/Legacy 1996; remastered).
Also unbeatable: Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (Verve 1956).

Books: Gaza Unsilenced

During and after Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza, voices within and outside Gaza bore powerful witness to the Israeli attacks -- and to the effects of the crushing siege that continued to strangle Gaza's people long thereafter. Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad are distinguished Palestinian writers and analysts from Gaza. In Gaza Unsilenced, they present reflections, analysis, and images -- their own, and those of other contributors -- that record the pain and resilience of Gaza's Palestinians and the solidarity they have received from the Palestinian diaspora and from others around the world. Contributors include: Ali Abunimah, Ramzi Baroud, Diana Buttu, Jonathan Cook, Belal Dabour, Richard Falk, Chris Hedges, Hatim Kanaaneh, Rashid Khalidi and Eman Mohammed.

Gaza Unsilenced, edited by Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad (Just World Books).

Finding the needle in the GOP haystack.

Republicans are worried that having too many candidates in the race for president will confuse voters. So the party is planning to use the low standing in the polls of some contenders to exclude them from the debates.

But polls, especially at such an early stage in a campaign, are notoriously inaccurate yardsticks. Something more precise is needed.

Since there is no way to gauge hypocrisy, two widely used and accepted methods of assessing suitability are being proposed: all candidates must submit to drug and IQ tests. Only contestants with IQs over 70 and measurable amounts of cannabis in their blood streams will be permitted to compete.

In the event that none of the current aspirants can meet these standards -- not likely in the case of cannabis, the GOP will have time to recruit replacements. Since all the candidates have supported the use of such determinations by employers, they will welcome the application of these standards to their own jobs.

If some do object, perhaps that can be added as the missing hypocrisy test.

Bikeshare should help get people out of their cars.

Bike riding supporters might want to reserve next Tuesday for a visit to Santa Monica's City Hall. The city council will be considering how to proceed with the bikeshare program. As the Santa Monica Daily Press reports, the “bikeshare will allow riders to check out one of the system’s 500 bikes from one of 75 locations in the city and drop it off at another.”

As proposed, the pricing for the system does not seem to be designed to maximize bike use, presumably the intended goal. “For an hour of riding, a tourist or an infrequent user will pay $6....More frequent riders can pay $20 per month for 30 minutes of daily riding time or $25 per month for an hour of daily riding. A basic annual pass — which gives users 30 minutes of usage 365 days of the year — will run $119 and an extended pass, which bumps that ride time to an hour, would cost $149.” This seems like an extension of the metering model used for parking, which runs contrary to the goal of maximizing use.

Why have time limits on use at all? If we really want locals and visitors to use bikes as transportation, it would make more sense to allow people to ride as much as they want. Thus, a user could, for example, ride to work, ride to and from lunch, stop at the library, pick up some groceries, stop for dinner, go the movies, meet for a drink, and go home. System bikes would be required to be returned to stations when not being ridden, thus freeing them up for other users.

“For Santa Monica residents, the basic annual pass will cost only $79 and the extended $99. Santa Monica College students are offered the greatest discount: $47 for six months of 60 minute daily riding.The $6 an hour casual fee simply buys 60 minutes of ride time that never expires. For monthly and annual passes, however, daily minutes do not roll over.”

Why limit the discount to Santa Monica residents? There are many thousands of non-Santa Monica westsiders who will be within walking distance of stations and should be encouraged to take bikes when going to Bergamot Station, Third Street, the beach or the pier. Also, don’t we want to encourage as many of the people who live elsewhere but work in Santa Monica to use bikes? The same discount should apply to employees as to residents.

“One of the things that city officials loved about the operator they selected, CycleHop, is that their technology allows bikes to be returned to locations other than the 75 stations throughout the city. If a bike is returned to a regular bike rack — even if it’s not an official station — within the Santa Monica-area, riders will only pay an additional $2. If a rider hops on that bike, which is not connected to an official Breeze rack, and returns it to a Breeze station, she’ll get a $1 credit for bikeshare usage. If a bike is locked up outside of the Santa Monica-area, the rider will pay a $20 fee. If a bike is returned to a generic bike rack within 100 feet of a hub that is full, the rider won’t be charged $2.”

This is all well and good, but it raises another question. Technology has advanced since the first bikeshare programs were installed in other cities. One change is that there is no longer a justification for a capital-intensive investment in stations. Bikes can be fitted easily with wireless devices that keep track of bikes wherever they are and allow them to be locked and unlocked by a downloadable app that will also keep track of payments. Users would be able to see the location of the nearest available bike. Such a system might make it possible to eliminate passes altogether, replacing them with incremental micro-charges, either capped or greatly reduced by frequent use. Being a laggard should be made to work to Santa Monica’s advantage.

Parenthetically, technology is also available to make the bikes cease to function if they are removed from the city, further lessening the need for expensive stations.

Additionally, it would make sense to explore whether there is a need for a system that would allow employees to pay an extra fee to take bikes home. This might make particular sense for SMC and private school students who live in nearby cities. This would increase the number of bikes available during working (and school) hours and encourage employees (and students) to use bikes on their off days when they return to shop, eat, go to the movies, Pier concerts, the beach, etc. Even if it cost double or triple the standard annual rate (see, next paragraph), it still might be worth it to people who do not want to purchase, maintain and repair a bike of their own.

So, assuming the bike stations are here to stay, here’s a proposal:
$6/day available to anyone for an unlimited number of trips and no limit on time.
$15/month available to anyone for an unlimited number of daily trips and no limit on time. This would encourage tourists staying three days or longer to pay the fee to have use of bikes throughout their stay.
$60/annual pass available to residents and employees for an unlimited number of daily trips and no limit on time. A student discount should be considered for the annual fee.

The rest of the story: Santa Monica bikeshare still on schedule; rates proposed by David Mark Simpson (Santa Monica Daily Press).

From the Won't-Be-Fooled-Again Desk:

It's outrageous that America is the only developed country that doesn't provide paid family leave. If you agree join Hillary's campaign today! -- Daily Kos
Really? That's the criterion we're supposed to use to choose the next president?

How about out-of-control military spending? Is that outrageous? What's she going to do about that?

Banks too big to fail? Pretty outrageous, you'd think. Will Goldman Sachs let her do anything about them?

Economic injustice? Outrageous. She's a big populist now; what's her plan?

Aging, crumbling infrastructure: Outrageous. Will she rebuild it?

Surveillance State abuses: Outrageous. If she has a solution, it's a secret.

Her actions at State that helped to create outrageous messes in Afghanistan, Honduras and Libya. What will she do about them?

The chaos in Syria and Iraq: Outrageous. Does she have a fix?

The PATRIOT Act is still pretty much intact. That's outrageous, too.

More outrageous, even, than that America is the only developed country that doesn't provide paid family leave, outrageous as that is.

From the Government Transparency Desk: The dog that didn’t bark

"Watch the feet not the mouth." -- Gabree Family maxim

Despite paying lip service to open government, the administration of Barack Obama has been among the most secretive in our history.

In addition to prosecuting whistle-blowers in record numbers, the White House has dragged its heels over appointments to watchdog positions.
Seven of the 33 inspector general posts in the Obama administration are being filled by temporary appointees, according to [a Senate] panel. Permanent IGs have been nominated for just three of the vacancies.
Four of the agencies without nominees for permanent inspector generals -- the Department of the Interior, the Veterans Administration, the Export Import Bank and the Central Intelligence Agency -- are among those that need oversight the most.

The rest of the story: Senate Panel Says Obama Administration Lacks Watchdogs by Brian Naylor (NPR)

Quote Unquote

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.”

― Mark Twain

The Duopoly: They're not the same.

But does it matter?

Democratic Party apologists like to remind us that the two sides are not the same. And everyone to the left of Calvin "The business of America is business" Coolidge has a grand time pointing the finger at all the batty stuff Republicans think they have to say to appease their base.

But, meanwhile, the front runner on the other side is expressing perfectly reasonable but equally fanciful things about economic justice, peaceful foreign policy initiatives, and privacy protections.

This dance happens every four years.

But, at the end of the day, neither party has made a realistic effort to prevent the growth of the military-industrial complex and the rise of the security state, nor to arrest 40 years of disintegrating infrastructure and disappearing middle class.

On the contrary, they've walked hand in hand up Mt. Oligarchy.

You're standing on the street. A guy carrying a machete walks up to you and whacks off a hand and a foot. It's brutal and painful. A second guy approaches you with a chloroform-soaked rag and a scalpel. He knocks you out, carefully lowers you to the sidewalk, then slices off your other hand and foot. You don't feel a thing.

They're not the same, not by a long shot.

But, either way, you don't have hands and feet.

Would Norman Thomas or Eugene Debs been more effective...

...if they'd run as Democrats?

Many of us who support him against Hillary Clinton now, warned before he declared that, by running as a Democrat instead of an independent, Bernie Sanders risks legitimizing the candidate from Goldman Sachs. Come September 2016, when most voters will be just starting to pay attention to the campaign, he will be either silenced or in the uncomfortable position of supporting a candidate for president he knows will pursue policies against which he has stood for his entire career. As Chris Hedges argues,
If you want change you can believe in, destroy the system. And changing the system does not mean collaborating with it as Bernie Sanders is doing by playing by the cooked rules of the Democratic Party. Profound social and political transformation is acknowledged in legislatures and courts but never initiated there. Radical change always comes from below. As long as our gaze is turned upward to the powerful, as long as we invest hope in reforming the system of corporate power, we will remain enslaved. There may be good people within the system -- Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are examples -- but that is not the point. It is the system that is rotten. It must be replaced.
The rest of the story: Make the Rich Panic by Chris Hedges (TruthDig).

Bernie's All In

Here's where you can sign up for Sen. Bernie Sanders's campaign emails and, should you wish, to make a financial contribution to his effort:

Robert Borosage of The Campaign for America's Future offers a savvy assessment of the upsides of Sanders' run. "Sanders," he writes, "is in many ways the mirror image of Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate in the race. She has universal name recognition, unlimited
funds, and a campaign operation rife with experienced political pros. He is not widely known, has little money, and has never run a national campaign. But in a populist moment, he is the real deal – a full-throated, unabashed, independent, uncorrupted, straight-talking populist. And that is a big deal."

Borosage suggests supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren should be full bore for Sanders, on the premise that he could be Eugene McCarthy to her Robert Kennedy.

The rest of the story: The Sanders Challenge by Robert Borosage (The Campaign for America's Future).

The story is not THAT citizens are in the streets. The question that needs to be addressed is WHY.

I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. -- Rev. Martin Luther King
The mainstream media is shocked -- shocked! -- by the damage caused by the protestors in Baltimore, but the real story is the grinding poverty and neglect wrought by capital and the powerlessness of citizens living under the thumb of oligarchy.

"Baltimore," Shawn Gude writes, "is like so many other cities with their own Freddie Grays: a place in which private capital has left enormous sections of the city to rot, where a chasm separates the life chances of black and white residents — and where cops brutally patrol a 'disposable' population."

(Photo: The Baltimore Sun)
Observers have long puzzled over the passivity of average Americans suffering impoverishment and disenfranchisement at the hands of a kleptocratic elite.

Is this the beginning of the American Spring?

The rest of the story: Why Baltimore Rebelled by Shawn Gude (Jacobin).
10,000 Strong Peacefully Protest In Downtown Baltimore, Media Only Reports The Violence & Arrest of Dozens by AJ Woodson (Black Westchester).
Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn't Start the Way You Think. Baltimore teachers and parents tell a different story from the one you've been reading in the media. By Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin (Mother Jones)

Reading list: “A corrupt, unresponsive and plutocratic disaster”: How Mitch McConnell and the GOP remade Washington in their image. Now that the GOP's in control, Mitch McConnell is letting some things pass — and taking all the credit. By Elias Isquith (Salon).
Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless by Robert Reich (
American Political Passivity, Anti-Authoritarianism, and Building a Base by Bruce E. Levine (WarIsACrime).
Rise of the New Black Radicals by Chris Hedges (TruthDig).

Izzy Stone on Earth Day

Thanks to Naomi Klein for unearthing this:

I.F. Stone: “Con Games,” speech delivered at Sylvan Theater, Washington, D.C., April 22, 1970

In the ancient world, the Caesars did it with bread and circuses. And tonight, I’m afraid, is the first time that our Caesars have learned to do it with rock and roll, and idealism, and noninflammatory social issues. In some ways, I’m sorry to say, we here tonight are being conned. This has many of the aspects of a beautiful snow job. The country is slipping into a wider war in southeast Asia, and we’re talking about litterbugs. The secretary of defense, on Monday, made a speech to the Associated Press sabotaging the SALT talks, presenting a completely false picture of the world balance of power, ending what little hope we had of progress in those talks, preparing the way for a bigger, more expensive arms race at the expensive of mankind, and we’re talking as if we needed more wastebaskets.

The divisions of white and black in this country are getting to the point where they threaten our future, and we’re talking about pollution. And it’s not that pollution is not an important subject, but if the Nixon administration feels so deeply about it, why don’t they do something substantial about it?

One important thing about this town is that you can never take very seriously what the officials say. They’re the prisoners of a vast bureaucracy. Much of what they say is merely rationalization of their lack of momentum. But in particular, the president said, and I think quite rightfully and quite truthfully, that in the next ten years it’s now or never for the air we breathe and the water we drink. And then, after making that speech, he put in a budget in which 52 cents out of every general revenue dollar goes to the military, and barely four-tenths of one cent goes to air and water pollution. And that’s a real con game. And that’s a real snow job.

We are spending, on new weapons systems alone, more than ten times as much, in this coming fiscal year, in the Nixon budget, than we’re going to spend on air and water. We’re spending a billion dollars more a year on space than all our expenditure on natural resources. The priorities of this government are lunatic—absolutely lunatic. And we’re not going to save the air we breathe and the water we drink without very many fundamental changes in governmental policy and governmental structure.

Before I came down here tonight, I heard a TV announcer say with great satisfaction that he hadn’t heard a word said about Vietnam all day. Well, I’m going to say a word about Vietnam. We’re not going to be able to save our air and our water, and the resources of our country, for our children and our grandchildren, until we end the militarization of our society, until we bring to an end the effort of American imperialism to rule the world and to waste our resources and our honor and our kids on a futile and murderous and insane task.

The problem of pollution is not going to be solved in isolation. The basic and most important pollution problem that we have to deal with is to prevent the pollution of the atmosphere of free discussion by the Nixon-Agnew-Mitchell administration. A society can only progress and deal with its evils if it is prepared to allow the widest measure of free speech, including free speech for radicals who are completely opposed to the basis of that society. Any society allows you to agree with the government. A free society allows you to disagree fundamentally. And it takes a lot of disagreement, and a lot of hollering and a lot of demonstration, to shake any establishment out of its accustomed ways. And the main menace to the solution of these problems is an administration that thinks they will go away if they just put a few radicals in jail.

The problems are enormous. The source of pollution is man. And man’s technology. And the enormous institutions he has built up that make him a prisoner. And somehow we’ve got to shake loose. And the biggest menace—the institution that ties us down most—that wastes our substance—that threatens to waste more of our youth—is that great big, five-sided building across the Potomac—the Pentagon. They are preparing to do to us at home what they tried to do in Vietnam.

Only this week, General Wheeler, the retiring chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, gave an interview to U.S. News and World Report in which he said that criticism of the military was due to a Communist plot. This is an effort of the military to revive McCarthyism, to preserve its enormous power and privileges in our society. And until its power is broken, until the military is reduced sharply in size, we’re not going to be able to solve these problems.

You know, there is no use talking about Earth Day unless we are prepared to make these fundamental changes. Everybody’s talking about Earth Day, and it comes out of the mouths of so many hypocrites it turns your stomach. What kind of an Earth Day can we celebrate in a country that is spending so much of its money to destroy the Earth? How can we talk of reverence for life when we’re spending so much on our enemy, our genius, our money, and our youth on building up new means of destroying life?

What’s the use of talking about the pollution of air and water when we live under a precarious balance of terror which can, in an hour’s time, make the entire Northern Hemisphere of our planet unlivable? There’s no use talking about Earth Day until we begin to think like Earthmen. Not as Americans and Russians, not as blacks and whites, not as Jews and Arabs, but as fellow travelers on a tiny planet in an infinite universe. All that we can muster of kindness, of compassion, of patience, of thoughtfulness, is necessary if this tiny planet of ours is not to go down to destruction. Until we have a leadership willing to make the enormous changes—psychological, military, and bureaucratic—to end the existing world system, a system of hatred, of anarchy, of murder, of war and pollution, there is no use talking about buying more wastebaskets or spending a couple of hundred million dollars on the Missouri River. If we do not challenge these fundamental causes of peril, we will be conned by the establishment while basic decisions are being made over which we have very little control, though they endanger everything on which our future and the world’s depend.

More at The Website of I.F. Stone.

Block the Kochs

When Dylan sang "Your old road is rapidly agin'/Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand/For the times they are a-changin'," he was sending out a warning to the establishment of the day, the old order, the holders of the reins of authority, the guardians of business-as-usual.

And the times changed all right, just not the way he predicted. Now, it is we the people who need to heed the warning. The counter-revolution is nearly over. The oligarchs' final victory is around the next turn the road. Despite the valiant resistance of individuals all over the planet, there are still too few willing to lend hand. Difficult as it will be, we must find the way to collective action.

"We must all hang together," Franklin said, "or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

They're baaaaack!

Having failed to inflict sufficient damage on Santa Monica's planning process last year with its ill-conceived but successful referendum to hogtie the development of the admirable Hines project (you can see the not-unexpectedly mediocre aftermath of that effort here), nimby-oid Residocracy is back with a
26th Street as it might have been
non-binding digital petition designed to short circuit the reasonable, common-sense updating of the city's zoning ordinance, recently advanced by the planning commission after many months of study and debate.

According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, "Residocracy is asking for a 25 percent reduction of all proposed heights and densities under the first and second tier development standards. They want an amendment to another planning document (The Land Use and Circulation Element or LUCE) that eliminates third tier developments. They’d like a second amendment to the LUCE that would eliminate all activity centers, which would allow larger scale development. And finally, they want an ordinance requiring that all development agreements be approved by Santa Monica voters."

This is not how representative democracy works. In fact, representative government was established precisely to prevent the highjacking of the political system by highly motivated minorities. Even the heart of Residocracy's complaint -- that the proposed ordinance and LUCE are complex 500 page documents that took seven years to put together -- points to the inadvisability of deciding complex issues by referendum. The other complaint -- that, despite extensive public input in Santa Monica decision-making, the outcomes seem predetermined by city staff -- has some merit, but the solution is to give elected representatives more sway over city employees (council members need their own staffs, for example, or, shy of that, there should be a full-time independent auditor with his or her own staff).

Residocracy presents itself as the voice of Santa Monica residents. but in actuality it is a single-issue interest group with a very specific and very negative agenda. Using intimidation, sloganeering, over-simplification and scare tactics. it attempts to bully its way to its desired outcomes (go to a public meeting where its members have been turned out in numbers and you'll think you're at a cage fight not a civic event). During the lead up to the Hines ballot initiative, out off curiosity I took a walk around town randomly asking people what they thought of the project. Although it is anecdotal not scientific, what I found is nonetheless instructive: of the people I spoke to who'd heard of Hines. not a one was opposed to it as approved and a number expressed the hope that it would be built.

Maybe this time the city council -- charged with looking out for the general welfare,  after all, not the interests of one group, however clamorous -- will not let itself be bullied. And before you allow yourself to be bullied into endorsing Residocracy's abstinence appeal ("just say no" to all development it dislikes, whether useful, necessary, desirable or popular), consider this: what do you know about land use; tax law and revenue generation; infrastructure and utilities; zoning; federal and state regulations affecting development; the influence of local bylaws, ordinances and regulations on our environmental, economic and housing goals and whether such rules are prescriptive or proscriptive; the effects on traffic, air quality and other elements of urban life of concentrating development near transportation hubs; the mix and condition of the city's housing stock; public benefits that can be achieved from easements and development agreements; the possible differences, relationships and sound mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses; the need for public facilities; and how your concerns dovetail with others who have an equal claim on what happens here? That's what a city council is for.

By all means, participate! Go to community workshops, express yourself at planning commission and city council meetings, call and write your elected and appointed representatives. And when Residocracy turns up again, as they will, with a plebiscite on a complex development matter, don't play along. Just say no.

Follow: Santa Monica Mirror; Santa Monica Daily Press; City of Santa Monica.

Background: How the 2012 Presidential Election Demonstrated Why the Electoral College Must Be Reformed...

...and One Way It Can Be Done

"The United States has reached an unprecedented level of inequality in presidential elections. In 2012, only 10 states drew the major party presidential candidates for post-convention campaign events, and those same 10 states attracted 99.6% of all general election television advertising spending by the campaigns and their allies. The remaining 41 spectator states (counting the District of Columbia) included all 38 states that had been similarly overlooked in 2008. This article details these inequalities and their roots in state statutes allocating electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. It argues that states should end this inequality by enacting the National Popular Vote interstate compact, which would ensure that it is the popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that determines who becomes the president." -- Robert Richie and Andrea Levien of FairVote.

The rest of the story: The Contemporary Presidency - How the 2012 Presidential Election Has Strengthened the Movement for the National Popular Vote Plan by Robert Richie and Andrea Levien (FairVote).


Bill Clinton is angling to seat a surrogate in the Oval Office. George Bush I is jumping out of airplanes. George Bush II is painting pictures of his feet. And Jimmy Carter?

"I have been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be 'subservient' to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views." -- Jimmy Carter, president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

How does our economic system work?

George Carlin is always worth watching:

"... From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. ... But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction - indeed, in some sense was the destruction - of a hierarchical society. ... the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would... already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. ... But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. ... Ignorance is Strength ..." -- George Orwell ("1984")

Frank Little: The Hobo Agitator (PBS)

The summer of 1917: the war of the Copper Kings was winding down, a highly charged time for Butte, which had a socialist mayor and no unions. This extremely well done profile of Frank Little, the hobo agitator, brings that summer to life, when vigilantes roamed freely though the city and dominated the mines. Little was one of the major IWW leaders of the time; he was lynched at Butte on August 1 1917. The doc also provides background on Butte and copper, the emergence of militant unionism, and some of the radicalism of the times. Don't pass this up.

Rail: Fail

One measure of American political dysfunction is the not-so-slow collapse of infrastructure during the last four decades, including passenger rail service, an area where the U.S. is dead last versus all its economic rivals.

"In the 1960, the United States had an extensive network of passenger rail trains. All the major cities in the Midwest and South were linked by regular train service. You could get service on smaller routes, like the one from Boise, Idaho, to Portland, Oregon, three times a day. Then a lot of lines got shut down in the late 1960s and 1970s, as this animation shows."
(Maps from the National Association of Railway Passengers and Malcolm Kenton. Animation by Joss Fong)

Source: Watch American passenger rail shrivel up and die in this animated map by Timothy B. Lee (Vox).

Resource: National Association of Railroad Passengers

The appearance of corruption is as corrosive to public trust as actual corruption.

Or, what is there about a seat on the Santa Monica City Council that makes it worth $173,762.98 to Sue Himmelrich?

Corollary: Is it time for local campaign finance reform?

The rest of the story: More than $1 million spent on council race (Santa Monica Daily Press).

Draft of an Eight-Point Platform for Making a Major Breakthrough on 'Left Unity'

By Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Pat Fry

Introduction: The following eight-point proposal is designed to initiate both a discussion and a process. The points can be further refined, and subtracted from or added to. Given the scope of the challenges ahead of us, there is a certain degree of urgency, but it is also wise to take to time to start off on a sound footing, uniting all who can be united. The main things it wants to bring into being at all levels—local, regional, national or in sectors—are common projects.
Some of these already exist, such as the Left Labor Project in New York City, a good example of what we are advocating here. It brought together organizers from CCDS, CPUSA, DSA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and other independent left trade unionists and activists. Over a few years work, it was able to build a far wider alliance bringing together the city’s labor organizations and allied social movements to bring out tens of thousands on May Day.

We know that many of us are already involved in a wide variety of projects. But is there any compelling reason we have to do this separately, behaving like a wheelbarrow full of frogs trying to win a common goal? A good case in point is Chuy Garcia’s mayoral campaign in Chicago. Wouldn’t this campaign be better served if we worked together in a planned way to draw in and skillfully deploy even more forces? Or take the labor-community alliance projects building solidarity for labor strikes or the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage? We can all make a long list here, but the core idea should be apparent, at least for starters, and we invite your responses and queries.

1. We need something new The left is not likely to find critical mass through mergers of existing groups, although any such events would be positive. But a new formation to which all would be equally cooperative in a larger project -- call it a Left Front or Left Alliance -- would have a greater impact. Groups participating in it could retain whatever degree of autonomy they desire, such as keeping their own newspapers, national committees, local clubs meeting separately, and so on. Every group involved can exercise its own independence and initiative, to the degree it finds necessary. But all would be striving in common to help the overall project succeed. While the US situation is not strictly comparable, the Front de Gauche in France, Die Linke in Germany, PODEMOS in Spain and Syriza in Greece serve as examples.

2. We need a ‘project based’ common front. At the grassroots level, it would be comprised of joint projects—electoral, union organizing, campaigns against the far right, for a living wage or reducing student debt, for opposing war, racism, sexism and police violence, and many others. The existing left groups in a factory, a neighborhood, a city or a campus, would be encouraged to advance the joint projects.

3. We need a ‘critical mass’ at the core that is both young, working class and diverse. While people from all demographics are welcome, the initial core has to be largely drawn from the Millennials, those born after 1980 or so. And the core also has to be a rainbow of nationalities with gender equity, and well-connected to union and working class insurgencies. If the initial core at the beginning is too ‘white’ or too ‘1968ers’, it will not be a pole with the best attractive power for a growing new generation of socialist and radical minded activists.

4. We need a common aspiration for socialism. That’s what makes us a ‘Left Front or Left Alliance’ rather than a broader popular front or people’s coalition. We are strongly supportive of these wider coalitions and building the left is not done in isolation from them. But we also see the wisdom in the concept: the stronger the core, the broader the front. Moreover we do not require a unified definition on what socialism is; only that a larger socialist pole makes for an even wider, deeper and more sustainable common front of struggle.

5. We do not need full agreement on strategy. A few key concepts—the centrality of fighting white supremacy, the intersection of race, class and gender, the alliance and merger of the overall workers movement and the movements of the communities of the oppressed—will do. We can also agree on cross-class alliances focused on critical targets: new wars, the far right and the austerity schemes imposed by finance capital. Additional elements, perspectives, nuances and ‘shades of difference’ can be debated, discussed and adjusted in the context of ongoing struggle.

6. We need a flexible but limited approach to elections. We can affirm that supporting our own or other candidates is a matter of tactics to be debated case-by-case, and not a matter of ‘principle’ that would exclude ever voting for any particular Democrat, Green or Socialist. We see the importance for social movements to have an electoral arm that presses and fights for their agenda within government bodies.

7. We need to be well embedded in grassroots organizations. Especially important are the organizations of the working class and in the communities of the oppressed—unions and worker centers, civil rights and women’s rights, youth and students, peace and justice, churches and communities of faith, cooperatives and other groups tied to the solidarity economy, and other community-based NGOs and nonprofits.

8. We need to be internationalists. But we do not have to require support for any particular countries or bloc of countries and national liberation movements, past or present. But we do oppose the wars of aggression, occupations and other illicit interventions of ‘our own’ ruling class, along with the hegemonism, ‘superpower mentality’ and Great Power chauvinism it promotes. That is the best way we can promote world peace and practice solidarity and assistance to forces beyond our borders.

Posted originally on February 3, 2015.

[Carl Davidson and Pat Fry are national co-chairs of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Bill Fletcher Jr. is a member of several socialist organizations and author of ‘They're Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions.’ Comments can be sent to ]
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