quote unquote: Molly Ivins






I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag. -- Molly Ivins

It's good to be the king...


Less so to have one.

The Founders intended the legislature to be preeminent, with the President largely an administrator (and the Supreme Court a referee), but over time Congress has ceded far too many of its responsibilities and far too much of its power to the executive, until we have reached the point where what we have is a sort of serial monarch, one chosen -- because of Citizens United and other electoral corruptions -- by the nobles, like a Polish King. And although we still have a more or less (mostly less) functioning legislature, our king has vastly more power than any constitutional monarch among his contemporaries.

How we make our way back to truly representative democracy is the most central political question of our times.

Our enemy ... Canada?

It is ironic, given our long and sordid history of meddling in the domestic affairs of other nations, that regime change in the U.S. is now a reasonable foreign policy goal for our former allies.

Party poopers

“Nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties.” -- Alexander Hamilton, 1787
While at present political parties are practical mechanisms for the expression of political intentions, for average citizens allegiance to party -- partisanship -- is self-defeating.

It was the existence of independent concentrations of power and influence, especially labor unions, national associations (such as the NAACP) and, on the local level, social clubs, that gave ordinary people muscle in the long struggle for economic and social justice.

Restoring such organizations must be part of any long-term reform of our democracy.
“If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.” -- Thomas Jefferson, 1789

Advice


"Leap Before You Look"

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

-- W. H. Auden

quote unquote: J. M. Keynes




“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work together for the benefit of all.” ― John Maynard Keynes

What's wrong with this picture?


2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than for military service members. You are safer in our various and sundry war zones than you are in school.

Our long-running political theater of the absurd


Closing soon?

When Scott Pruitt is fired he will be replaced by his deputy, Andrew Wheeler (not incidently a coal lobbyist and former aid to Jim Inhofe, the Senate’s most prominent denier of climate change), who will calmly, efficiently, and unostentaciously proceed along the same course as Pruitt, polluting air and water, trashcanning regulations, shutting down enforcement, highjacking public lands, and generally undermining 70 years of hard-won progress on the environment.

The system will have worked, however: the corrupt and "extremist" Pruitt will be banished (but, not to worry, he will in all certainty spin through the revolving door to a high-paying precinct from which he will pester his former employees for special treatment for the same industries he currently -- nominally -- regulates).

The same dynamic will follow Donald Trump's departure. We will be told ad nauseum that our "exceptional," "democratic" system of checks
Dan Wasserman twitter@wassermantoons
and balances
has rescued us from a narcissitic, unlettered, wannabe dictator and replaced him with the moderate, unassuming, grown-up Mr. Pence. Ignored in this account will be Mike Pence's history as a right-wing fanatic and fundamentalist religious lunatic whose real job will be to put lipstick on the pig of the Right's determination to turn back the clock, if not all the way to the 11th century, at least to 1876.

If the system worked, it hardly needs to be said, we wouldn't have a Pence or a Trump in the first place. Nor for that matter, would we be burdened with elected officials like blue dog Democrats Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly who helped to deploy Andrew Wheeler for his assault of the environment.

Extra credit:
✓ If scandals oust Pruitt, Andrew Wheeler is an ex-coal industry lobbyist pledged to end the ‘pure hell’ of Obama regulations: Scott Pruitt's new EPA deputy could surpass boss in scrapping protections by Oliver Milman (The Guardian)
✓ The US election and the systematic failure of modern politics by Benjamin Farrand (Critical Legal Thinking)

How other countries keep money out of politics



What does he think, drone pilots grow on trees?


Barack Obama made a point of criticizing electronic devices in a commencement speech to more than 1,000 graduates and thousands of their family and friends gathered on the football field at Hampton University, a historically black college in
southeastern Virginia.

"Obama said today’s college graduates are coming of age at a time of great difficulty for the United States. They face a tough economy for jobs, two wars and a 24/7 media environment not always dedicated to the truth, he said.

"Added to the mix are the distractions offered by popular electronic devices that entertain millions of Americans.

“'With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,' Obama said."

The rest of the story:
Obama criticizes iPods & iPads; Xboxes & PlayStations -- Reuters news story.

When you hear the word "reform"...


...reach for your gun.

The most pointed irony of the DCCC/DNC interventions in California, specifically, is that here the party leadership is being hoist on its
Drew Shebeman—Tribune Media
own petard. They colluded in a "reform" effort led by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to lock insurgents and independents out of general elections by limiting the final contestants to the top two vote getters in open primaries, assuming they would be the establishment picks from each party. Now the party bosses are forced to intervene to protect their pre-washed, pre-shrunk, pre-approved, corporate-friendly choices from an army of progressive challengers and angry Democratic voters.
"The approach is laced with peril for a party divided over matters of ideology and political strategy, and increasingly dominated by activists who tend to resent what they see as meddling from Washington. A Democratic effort to undercut a liberal insurgent in a Houston-area congressional primary in March stirred an outcry on the left and may have inadvertently helped drive support to that candidate, Laura Moser, who qualified for the runoff election next month."
The same thing is happening across CA where the party establishment's chronic distrust of voters is leading them to make the same mistakes that have cost them countless seats in local, state and congressional races (not to mention Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton) since the 1990s.

The rest of the story:
Fearing Chaos, National Democrats Plunge Into Midterm Primary Fights by Alexander Burns (New York Times).
Democrats consider attacking their own California candidates to win back Congress by Emily Cadei (Sacramento Bee).

Reading list:
Unintended consequences of California’s open primary by Martin Wiskol (Orange County Register).
California GOP should embrace open primary system: Orange County Register editorial 2017/10/22.
The political parties would like voters to kill California's top-two primary system in 2018 by John Myers (Los Angeles Times).
✓ The defining characteristic of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for too many years has been its well-honed ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: Texas Progressive Laura Moser Is Beating Democratic Insiders by John Nichols (The Nation).
✓ While this article is mostly true, it would be fairer to say that, after 30 years of Democratic missteps, the chickens came home to roost during Obama's stay in office: The Democratic Party Got Crushed During The Obama Presidency. Here's Why by Mara Kiasson (NPR).
✓ Instead of campaigning on issues that reform-minded voters care about, the DCCC is going after a GOP “culture of corruption.” Once again, elect us because we're not them. It worked then. But not since. Will it work now?: Democrats Look To Their Successful 2006 Messaging In Bid To Retake The House by Amanda Terkel (Huffington Post).

Extra credit:
✓ Maybe they can hire the lawyers who won the Citizens United case: DNC Lawyers Argue ‘Primary Rigging’ Is Protected by 1st Amendment (Liberty Headlines).

On Hanging Together


Some have said I'm a pessimist.

Not true.

I'm an optimist.

Things always turn out worse than I predict.

This is a post from 2015, titled "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 of the road. Despite the valiant resistance of individuals all over the planet, there are still too few willing to lend a hand. Difficult as it will be, we have to find the way to collective action.

"We must all hang together," Franklin said, "or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
2015 seems like a long time ago.

Potted history, episode #947


We exited WWII with the most powerful military in the world and didn't demobilize, making a quick and seamless transition to neocolonialism and Korea. Surely, the existence of the Soviet Union was a boon, but the Reds were more of an excuse than a threat; in accounts of the Cold War it is clear that the Kremlin was usually playing catch-up when it came to escalation. A world map of the 1950s shows the Soviets surrounded by American bases and surrogates, not the other way around (Russian screwing with Cuba was an example of playing catch-up, however feebly). Long before the fall of The Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union, we were engaged in military adventurism around the globe, the sorriest example being Vietnam. Luckily for the military-industrial complex, 9/11 and The War of Terror arrived in time to keep the global network of military outposts and franchises thriving.

Bookkeeping


Spend like there is a tomorrow.

Liberals and progressives should be wary of making an issue of deficits, despite the imbalance resulting from the GOP's hypocritical tax cuts. The federal debt, per se, is not a problem. If the government used deficit spending to invest in the nation's future prosperity, as it must and should, there would be no occasion for complaint. What needs to be attacked is our retrogressive tax system, corporate welfare, and military waste and adventurism. Deficit funding -- on efficient and economically competitive infrastructure; health care; lifetime education (not just pre-K to college and technical school, but skill-maintenance and retraining to avoid obsolescence); housing; and guaranteed basic income -- would be a bargain in the long run.

Must read: If MLK were alive today, his words would threaten most of those who now sing his praises


A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

"The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs.
His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

"In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives."

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy by Cornel West (Guardian).

The Party of Hope and Change -- or the new Whigs?


If you look at today's Democratic Party and wonder, how did we get here?, consider words Bill Clinton uttered on April 7, 1993: "'I hope you're all aware we're all Eisenhower Republicans,' he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. 'We're all Eisenhower Republicans here, and we are fighting the Reagan Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn't that great?'" (from The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House by Bob Woodward).

Though he spoke those words in frustration, what he said was true. The party of FDR and LBJ had become -- and in many ways remains -- the party of Ike: on some issues, on support for Labor and protection of Social Security, for example, on economic policy and national security, the Democratic Party today stands to the right of 1950s Republicans.

It is because the party leadership has been doing Wall Street's bidding for so long, now going on four decades, that Democrats have lost much of their following among the middle and working classes; nor will the voters return unless in the next two election cycles the party changes direction as radically as it did in the 1990s.

At the grassroots level, Democratic voters, and people who would vote Democrat if the party were true to its roots, are organizing: fighting pipelines and fracking; pushing for a living wage or a guaranteed income; demanding gun control; defending the Dreamers; shoving back against free trade; marching in defense of the environment; calling for Medicare for All. Even the general public sides with the left on a number of key issues that reflect on the size and purpose of government: hefty majorities support higher taxes on the wealthy and the corporations and think the government should be actively reducing the growing gap between the rich and the rest; want legislation to significantly increase in the minimum wage; and look to Washington to create jobs by making urgently needed repairs to our neglected infrastructure.

What nearly all Americans crave most, though, is leadership.

Part of Donald Trump's appeal as a candidate -- his only appeal, really -- was in his promise to do something, even if that something was just to break up the furniture. Doing something was more appealing than poking along the road to ruin, as the Democrats seemed to intend on doing.

The elections of 2018 and 2020 together will mark a turning point in our history. Another round of defeats for the Democrats, and the party will fade into irrelevancy. There is still a chance that the Democrat Party will again take the lead in the struggle for social and economic justice. If it does, the party will be invincible. If it doesn't, a new Liberal party will arise from its ashes as surely as tomorrow will dawn.

Must read: The Left ascendant


"With his primary election victory last week, Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski -- a Blue Dog and cultural conservative -- won the first major 2018 battle between the Democratic Party's establishment and progressive wings. But don't be confused about what it means. The war is already over, and the establishment lost.

"Even though only two states have actually voted so far this primary election season -- Texas, a red-state redoubt, and Illinois, a blue-state stronghold -- the battle for supremacy this primary season is all but complete. In state after state, the left is proving to be the animating force in Democratic primaries, producing a surge of candidates who are forcefully driving the party toward a more liberal orientation on nearly every issue.

"These candidates are running on an agenda that moves the party beyond its recent comfort zone and toward single-payer health care, stricter gun control, a $15 minimum wage, more expansive LGBT rights and greater protections for immigrants. In the surest sign of the reoriented issue landscape, they're joined by some of the most prominent prospects in the 2020 Democratic presidential field -- Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris among them -- who are embracing the same agenda."

The rest of the story:
Forget about Conor Lamb and Dan Lipinski. The progressive wing has already beaten the establishment in 2018: How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries by Charlie Mahtesuian (Politico).

Issues matter


quote unquote: Bill Hicks


...All drugs should be legal.

War is wrong.

The rich get richer.

The poor get poorer.

Thank you.

I'll be here all week. -- Bill Hicks

Lucy Aharish: Humanity Made Irrelevant

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein

quote unquote: John Quincy Adams


On the the search for "monsters to destroy."

"And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others,
even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....

"[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice."

John Quincy Adams in 1821,
presciently warning against the Long War.

Saturday Catchup 2018-03-03


After a long absence, Saturday Catchup is back!

Social democracy is all the rage in the U.S. (and neoliberalism under assault) since Sen. Bernie Sanders' late run for president. In this video, radical journalist, author and film-maker Paul Mason; Dr. Faiza Shaheen, economist, writer, activist and director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies; writer Anthony Barnett, co-founder of openDemocracy; economist Dr. Johnna Montgomerie; and Laurie Macfarlane, senior economist at the New Economics Foundation discuss whether radical social democracy offers a way out of the crisis of neoliberalism, and what this means for economic policy over the next decade. The debate is part of a new series of essays by Paul Mason exploring what radical social democracy means during the next decade:
Extra credit:
The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but neoliberal properly names the reigning ideology of our era -- one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human: Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world by Stephen Metcalf (Guardian).
The mission of radical social democracy must be to rekindle hope in a simple idea -- that life in your community will get better: Neoliberalism has destroyed social mobility. Together we must rebuild it by Paul Mason.
I’m not a neoliberal. Maybe you aren’t either. by Laurie Macfarlane (Medium).

Eljeer Hawkins is a community, labor and antiwar organizer, and for 23 years has been a member of Socialist Alternative, the US affiliate of the Committee for a Workers' International, a global Trotskyist
organization fighting economic exploitation and oppression based on race, gender, sexual orientation and national identity. Hawkins writes regularly on race, the criminal legal system, Black Lives Matter and the historic Black freedom movement, and lectures widely, including at Harvard, Hunter College, Oberlin and University of Toronto. In this interview, Hawkins discusses how he came to believe in the socialist cause and how a socialist society can be realized in the US: Inspiring a Socialist Alternative: An Interview With Eljeer Hawkins with Bryant William Sculos (Truthout).

A palate cleanser from the New York Times: Reporter Carla Correa travels to the lair of "The Bachelor" so you won't have to. "There are two ways to watch 'The Bachelor.' The first is, in 'Bachelor' parlance, to be swept away on the 'journey' and suspend any disbelief that suitors are 'here for the right reasons.' For most viewers, though, the only way to sit through a two-hour episode is to accept the polyamorous spectacle as one big social experiment. 24 Hours in Bachelor Nation by Carla Correa (New York Times)

Aestheticist Adolph Hitler doesn't care for gentrification:




"The right to be heard is crucially important. But I want to think more generally about how we have learned to look at women who exercise power, or try to; I want to explore the cultural underpinnings of misogyny in politics or the workplace, and its forms (what kind of misogyny, aimed at what or whom, using what words or images, and with what effects); and I want to think harder about how and why the conventional definitions of ‘power’ (or for that matter of ‘knowledge’, ‘expertise’ and ‘authority’) that we carry round in our heads have tended to exclude women." -- Mary Beard, Women in Power.
 
For the text of this talk, go to Women in Power by Mary Beard (London Review of Books).

The resemblance of zoos to prisons aside: At the Stock Island Detention Center, a jail in Florida, prisoners care for a zoo of their own. Curator Jeanne Selander  runs the prison zoo with the inmates, who benefit not only from the responsibility, but also from experiencing reciprocal love and care --often for the first time. Operations like this one shouldn't be news, they should be standard.

Sign up for a weekly email from 60 Second Docs, for videos that are uplifting without recourse to freak accidents or weird animal friendships.

A song-story from country singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet

Finally, in a spirit of resistance not nostalgia, here is the last installment of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, never broadcast at the time. The brothers, Tommy and Dick Smothers, waged a war against network censorship for a couple of years in the late 1960s, a fight they lost when they were fired for inviting comedian David Steinberg back on the show, despite complaints from some viewers over a previous booking. Nancy Wilson and Dan Rowan were also guests.

quote unquote: William James





Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. -- William James

A dozen here, a dozen there, pretty soon it adds up to mass murder.


The Second Amendment is not a paragraph in a suicide pact.

"The current FBI definition of mass murder, commonly accepted by the media as a proxy for “mass gun violence”, is three or more people murdered in one event. We believe this does not capture the whole
picture. Many people may survive a shooting based on luck alone. Some may be left with life long disabilities and trauma, but the mainstream definition of mass gun violence does not account for this. Here at the Mass Shooting Tracker, we count the number of people shot rather than the number people killed because, 'shooting' means 'people shot'. For instance, in 2012 Travis Steed and others shot 18 people total. Miraculously, he only killed one. Under the incorrect definition used by the media and the FBI, that event would not be considered a mass shooting! Arguing that 18 people shot during one event is not a mass shooting is absurd. Our definition is this: a mass shooting is an incident where four or more people are shot in a single shooting spree. This may include the gunman himself, or police shootings of civilians around the gunman."

Using this definition, there have been 41 mass shootings in the United States since January 1, 2018.

And restore the assault-weapon ban.

The wisdom of the internets

Stalking Horse?


I don't have an opinion yet on the campaign for governor between Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, but the entry into the race of Amanda Renteria, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer, is suspicious at the go. Who enters a major race 30 days before the filing deadline with no campaign infrastructure, no staff, no website, no endorsements, and no cash? It's not a stretch to think that Renteria will be on the ballot to suppress support of Newsom's chief rival Villaraigosa among Latinos. Is this another attempt by the party poobahs to rig a primary outcome? Shouldn't the voters get to hear from the candidates before the fix is in?

College dropouts


Think about the image below, the next time someone starts talking about the constitutional sanctity of the Electoral College. Because, you know, the Founders.

Getting rid of the Electoral College is another one of the many things that's "too hard" or "too complicated" in present-day America. But surely a nation that succeeded in ridding itself of slavery,
achieved universal suffrage and killed off Jim Crow (at least for a while) can send this anti-democratic relic of an eighteenth century political compromise to the political dumpster.

Of course, even after the Electoral College is gone, there will be a lot of work left to do if we are to live up to our ideal of one person, one vote: gerrymandering will need to be tackled; other barriers to voting, such as onerous identification requirements, will have to be eliminated; nor will suffrage ever be universal until felons and ex-felons are guaranteed the right to vote. Much more difficult, admittedly perhaps "too hard" and "too complicated," will be democratizing the Senate (possibly by abolishing the upper chamber and replacing the Congress with a unicameral legislative body -- there is no reason, beyond historical accident, why the residents of a state with, say, 360,000 citizens should have the same representation as a state with, say, 36,000,000 -- and the runaway imperial presidency must be reduced to its original role as executor of the legislature's intentions -- the Founders, royalists though most of them were, never intended to create a serial king.

But first things first. If the constitutional requirement can't be met to amend it out of existence, there are other ways to upend it, such as the National Popular Vote interstate compact already adopted by 11 states and the District of Columbia and close to passage in 11 more, a solution as jerry-rigged as the problem it is attempting to fix but a least a step in the right direction until we're able to solve our political issues like grown-ups.

Extra credit:
 Former secretary of labor Robert Reich warns that hundreds of thousands are being disenfranchised: Jim Crow Is Making a Furious Comeback by Robert Reich (AlterNet).
 After the 2010 election, state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions: New Voting Restrictions in America by The Brennan Center for Justice.
 6.1 million citizens will be barred from voting on election day: Why Prisoners and Ex-Felons Should Retain the Right to Vote by Gregg D. Caruso PhD (Psychology Today).
 The United States Senate is a failed institution: It’s a malapportioned, anti-democratic embarrassment. by Ian Millhiser (Think Progress).
 Congress is too dysfunctional to act as a check on executive power: Abolish the Senate. It's the only way to rein in modern presidents. by John Bicknell (Washington Post).
 The President's threats against North Korea expose the many dangers of the White House's post-9/11 powers. Here's what Congress must do: Don’t Just Impeach Trump. End the Imperial Presidency by Jeet Heer (New Republic).

With apologies to dictionary.com


INTERSECTIONALITY

[in-ter-sek-shuh-nal-i-tee] noun

1.
the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively): Her paper uses a queer intersectionality approach.
2.
the oppression and discrimination resulting from the overlap of an individual’s various social identities: The intersectionality of oppression experienced by black women.
3.
the antidote to identity politics: The intersectionality or “parallel problems” of economic disparity, gender inequality and institutional racism was the idea underpinning the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Synonyms: solidarity, comradeship.
Antonyms: capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, empire.
See, also: class consciousness, class struggle.

Extra credit:
"There will be no economic or political justice for the poor, people of color, women or workers within the framework of global, corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which uses identity politics, multiculturalism and racial justice to masquerade as politics, will never halt the rising social inequality, unchecked militarism, evisceration of civil liberties and omnipotence of the organs of security and surveillance. Corporate capitalism cannot be reformed, despite its continually rebranding itself. The longer the self-identified left and liberal class seek to work within a system that the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls 'inverted totalitarianism,' the more the noose will be tightened around our necks. If we do not rise up to bring government and financial systems under public control—which includes nationalizing banks, the fossil fuel industry and the arms industry—we will continue to be victims." The Bankruptcy of the American Left by Chris Hedges (Truthdig)

A cross-racial and class conscious movement is the only foundation for effective freedom: Against National Security Citizenship by Aziz Rana (Boston Review)

"In the worlds of politics and nonprofits intersectionality has become a sneaky substitute for the traditional left notion of solidarity developed in the process of ongoing collective struggle against the class enemy. Intersectionality doesn't deny the existence of class struggle, it just rhetorically demotes it to something co-equal with the fights against ableism and ageism and speciesism, against white supremacy, against gender oppression, and a long elastic list of others. What’s sneaky about the substitution of intersectionality for solidarity is that intersectionality allows the unexamined smuggling in of multiple notions which directly undermine the development and the operation of solidarity. Intersectionality means everybody is obligated to put their own special interest, their own oppression first – although they don’t always say that because the contradiction would be too obvious." Intersectionality is a Hole. Afro-Pessimism is a Shovel. We Need to Stop Digging (part 1) by Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report)

"In the context of the real left, the community of those aiming to overthrow capital, patriarchy, white supremacy and empire—not two or three out of four but all four, the term intersectionality has become a kind of brood parasite. It mimics just enough of left feminist rhetoric and branding to deceive the unwary and ensnare many bright, serious and sincere leftists into defending and promoting its fundamentally hostile project." Looking Down That Deep Hole: Parasitic Intersectionality and Toxic Afro-Pessimism (part 2) by Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report)

quote unquote: Jean-Paul Sartre





You don't fight fascism because you're going to win. You fight fascism because it is fascist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Is Bernie Sanders an empty suit?


Many in the Hillary Clinton camp continue to allow their bitterness over the loss to Donald Trump to misdirect their anger at Bernie Sanders. Especially nonsensical is the charge that the Vermonter, despite having been elected and reelected numerous times as mayor, Member of the House and U.S. Senator, is a "failed politician."

Serving in Congress is largely a matter of compromise and influence. To measure Sanders' record you would need to include such factors as his ability to work with the opposition to get things done (to take an example going back to his ealiest days in office, coordinating with the business community to revitalize the lakefront as the socialist mayor of Burlington); his effectiveness in the House; the committee leadership positions he has been trusted with by the Senate Democratic caucus and the fact that the DSCC (led by Sen. Chuck Schumer at the time) protected his reelection to the Senate from challenge by a nominal Democratic opponent; and his founding and chairing of the congressional Progressive Caucus. Most significant -- and most galling to the party establishment -- is that he has helped to move the Democratic Party away from neoliberalism and toward more traditional liberal/progressive policies and proposals.

Inconvenient facts:
Nobody in congress has gotten more amendments passed than Bernie Sanders. Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, breaks it down.

California Democrats to Dianne Feinstein: "Good work on Trump. Now come home."


Okay. I'm one who applauded: "Dianne Feinstein is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore."

But the thundering hosannas for her releasing of the Fusion GPS testimony have begun to drown out reality.

Sen. Feinstein's action was admirable. If she had not done it, she would have been complicit in the blatant lying of Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham. But she is far from being the Second Coming of FDR.

She has been the strongest Democratic proponent in the Senate of the security state, she has dependably supported the Long War, and she has carried water for corporate and financial interests throughout her career, as when she voted for the bill that repealed Glass-Steagall’s banking reforms (California's other U.S. Senator, Barbara Boxer, voted nay). After decades in office, she is out of step. left behind by her increasingly liberal constituency; even with the advantages of incumbency in a blue state, she is only getting about 40% in support of her reelection campaign.

You have to ask yourself why at 84 she is running at all. My guess is that the party poobahs, realizing that if she retires the seat will almost certainly fall into the hands of a progressive, have decided that she remains their best hope to hold the seat for the donors; she will almost certainly be one of the two standing candidates after the primary (out-of-staters may not know that in California the general election is a run-off between the top two primary vote-getters, even if they are from the same party or no party at all), and Democratic leaders are betting she will get enough Democratic and all Republican votes to win (the other candidate will be a Democrat to her left -- there is no other kind; the GOP is not a factor at the state level in California); then, after a year or two, she will step down and the new governor, presumably Gavin Newsom, a Democrat in any case, will appoint a reliable supporter of business-as-usual.

Sen. Feinstein deserves all credit for unilaterally releasing the transcript of Glenn Simpson's testimony before her committee, and I hope she continues to hold Grassley's and Graham's feet to the fire.

When you think about it, though, this would be a perfect moment to retire. The primary will be bitter and divisive, and since experience suggests there is every likelihood that the poobahs have it wrong anyway, possibly pointless:

Instead, for the good of the nation, she could go out as Fighting Dianne Feinstein, spending her final days of service battling the criminalized GOP (as she is doing in taking a lead in rejecting Trump's off-shore drilling scam and supporting the Dreamers). What an honorable way to go.

Extra credit:
> The Republicans Fake Investigation by Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch (New York Times)
> Sen. Dianne Feinstein Releases Full Testimony From Co-Founder of Firm Behind Russia Dossier by Molly Olmstead (Slate)
The full text of Glenn Simpson's interview before the Senate Judiciary Committee on 2017/08/22 (PDF)
> Dianne Feinstein survived childhood abuse, assassination attempts, and a brutal fight with the CIA. Now it’s time to take on Trump: The Lioness in Winter by Gail Sheehy (Mother Jones)
> In a rare meeting, the Democratic senator finds little common ground with hometown activists: Dianne Feinstein Town Hall Shows Why She’s a Conservative by San Francisco Standards by Matt Tinoco (Mother Jones)
> California's feverish political moment creates opportunity for a Feinstein challenge — or a few by Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason (Los Angeles Times)
> Kevin de León, president of the California Senate, is challenging the longtime senator next year, creating a dilemma for the party's 2020 hopefuls: The Democrats’ Dianne Feinstein Problem by David Dayen (New Republic)<br />
> Alison Hartson announced she's running for U.S. Senate: New liberal challenger to Sen. Dianne Feinstein launches bid on 'The Young Turks' by Sarah D. Wire (Los Angeles Times)

Some choice


Who was right, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley?

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

"Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

"Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

"Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

"As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny 'failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.' In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

"In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us." -- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (Penguin).

Our civil polity is in free fall

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. ... Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. -- Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852
(AP/January 4, 2021) President-elect Oprah Winfrey, with Vice President-elect Ellen DeGeneres, appeared in the White House press room Monday afternoon to announce the first appointments to the new cabinet. The soon-to-be Commander in Chief had special praise for Secretary of State nominee Rachel Raye, who was in attendance, saying she "is the right person to cook up a new foreign policy" for the nation.

Other designees on hand included Treasury Secretary Suze Orman, Attorney General Judge Judy Sheindlin, Labor Secretary Phil "Dr. Phil" McGraw, Commerce Secretary Stacy London, HUD Secretary Mehmet “Dr. Oz” Oz, and Surgeon General Jenny McCarthy.

In an attempt heal some hurt feelings from a hard-fought campaign, Dwayne "The Rock " Johnson will take over at Defense. In a surprise move, Bob Greene, who had been expected to be Surgeon General, has been named special advisor to the President; he will share an office with the already appointed Gayle King, and is expected to work closely with Chief of Staff Steve Harvey. Meryl Streep, an early backer of the president-elect's run for office, will be the new U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St James. Mark Cuban will be sent to Finland.

In a separate briefing, Press Secretary Kanye West announced that the Secret Service had to call in all available agents because of the crush of citizens seeking selfies and autographs.

[Note to The Hill: Just took an informal poll of Democrats on prospect of Oprah presidential run. Couldn't find a single one that could be described as "thrilled." Prospect of President Winfrey thrills Dems by Amie Parnes (The Hill)]

Resolution




I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair
I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair
I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair
And send him on his way

Walk him out
Dry him out
Push him out
Fly him out
And send him on his way!

Written by R. Rodgers, O. Hammerstein II

quote unquote: James Baldwin


I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. -- James Baldwin

Happy Holidays

If it's not nailed down, privatize it.



The FCC voted in a 3-2 party-line vote to end net neutrality, despite overwhelming bipartisan and public support for it.

Net neutrality is now officially on life support. Here’s what happens next. by Aja Romano (VOX)

Trump has his "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" moment:


"USA Today published a brutal editorial Tuesday after President Donald Trump smeared Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) by saying she 'would do anything' for campaign contributions. 'A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes,'” USA Today’s Editorial Board wrote, adding Trump was clearly suggesting Gillibrand would trade sexual favors for campaign donations. The board added that Trump is a 'uniquely awful' person with 'sickening behavior.' His tweet was a new low for a president redefining rock bottom, they wrote. -- USA Today Calls Trump Unfit To Clean Obama's Toilets In Scathing Editorial (Yahoo News).

Will Trump's lows ever hit rock bottom? by The Editorial Board (USA Today)

????

The Democratic leadership constantly promotes the benefit of parsing evils. How come that lesser-evil thing doesn't doesn't favor Al Franken when measured against Donald Trump, Roy Moore and the other actual criminals peppered throughout the governing class?

Fair's fair


According to Axios, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer “said he was the victim of a fake news hit on Tuesday, and has turned over to Capitol Police a document that purports to detail lurid sexual harassment accusations by a former staffer.” The former staffer said she “did not author the document, that none of the charges ring true, and that her signature was forged.”

But he has been accused.

Under current Democratic Party operating procedures that means he must resign immediately.

D.J. Trump: Not Living Up to His Full Potential


If Donald Trump knew anything about history, he'd realize that he could go so much bigger than merely reversing Barack Obama's executive orders. Think how pleased his supporters and enablers would be if he revoked the Emancipation Proclamation, say, or gave Alaska back to the Russians.

The Head of Government


“Trump Loves Showing Off The White House Bathrooms” -- Newsweek headline

The Long History of the Conservative Fixation With Bathrooms by Nancy LeTourneau (Washington Monthly)

Unfinished business

"American exceptionalism" and "American greatness" are propaganda slogans deployed to discourage thinking. We have our good qualities and our bad. We need to concentrate on making the United States a better country, however great it is or isn't already.

We are a loose cannon in world politics. We waste resources on military adventures. Too many of our people have no place to sleep and not enough to eat. That we don't have universally affordable health care is tragic. Our education system was, should be, and no longer is the best in the world. Our infrastructure 50 years ago was second to none and hasn't been maintained since.

We have a lot of work to do.

quote unquote: James Madison


“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, a well-armed and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.” -- James Madison, first draft of the Second Amendment, before it was mangled in committee.

On Us


The problems we face as a nation are much bigger than, as most Democrats see it, "this horrible Republican President and Congress."

Distorted spending decisions, selective application of free market economic policies and militarized foreign policy pursued by both parties over the last 30+ years are what fueled the anger that permitted "this horrible Republican President" to ascend, but it is the permanent conservative majority in Congress, made up of both Republicans and Democrats, that has sent this country into its long, slow decline.

The one positive of the Donald Trump presidency is that it has ripped the happy face off the deadly fiction of American exceptionalism.

Electing in 2020 another personable and integrous but unimpassioned abettor of the best and the brightest, such as Barack Obama, won't be nearly up to the job of bringing about the fundamental changes needed (we mustn't allow ourselves to forget that the number of poor and the number of wars increased under the last president). It will require a radicalized congress and an aggressively pro-change executive to fix what ails us, to get us back on the difficult path toward economic and social justice. We must either accomplish a radical course correction or resign ourselves to further decline.

“Well, Doctor," Ben Franklin was asked outside Independence Hall on the final day of deliberations, "what have we got -- a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic," he replied, "if you can keep it.”

It's on us to keep it.

Extra credit:
>>Thirty years ago, the old deal that held US society together started to unwind, with social cohesion sacrificed to greed. Was it an inevitable process – or was it engineered by self-interested elites?: Decline and fall: how American society unravelled by George Packer (The Guardian)
>>Domestic and global trends suggest that in 2025, now just 8 years from now, the American century could all be over except for the shouting: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire by Alfred W. McCoy (Tom Dispatch)
>>Austerity is riskier than stimulus. The Big Question on the Economy: Is This Really Full Employment? by J.W. Mason (Roosevelt Institute)
>>What went wrong and what comes next?: Capitalism in Crisis by Mark Blyth (Foreign Affairs) >>Putting community needs at the center of society rather than those of the individual: An Economic Alternative to Exploitative Free Market Capitalism by Thomas Hedges (Truthdig)

Better late than never

Wouldn't this seem like a swell time for the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, and often described as an international bill of rights for women? Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

The neologist

There is no adjectival form of the word integrity. One is needed.

I propose integrous (as opposed to integritous or integrious, neither of which is as euphonious).

You may not find need of it often, but on the rare occasions you stumble upon someone behaving integrously, by all means use it.

Intregrous behavior should be extolled wherever it crops up.

Dialogue

"Bernie Sanders supporters are divisive." "Berniecrats aren't Democrats." "Bernieacs would rather destroy the Democratic party than compromise." "Berniebros hate Hillary Clinton so much they can't think straight." "Bernieistas are still fighting the last election."

"My job, our job is to go forward, is do everything we can to defeat this right-wing agenda of the Republican Party and the Trump administration, not to look backwards." -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

"Oh, shut up."

Weekend reading:

Red Century: A series of essays published by the New York Times exploring the history and legacy of Communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution.

The Long War

A new 'Costs of War' report published by Brown University's Watson Institute shows the actual costs incurred by the U.S. as part of its global 'war on terror' that widely contradicts the cost of war figures put together by the Pentagon in its report.


Some of the Costs of War Project’s main findings include:

370,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers.

It is likely that many times more than 370,000 people have died indirectly in these wars, due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation.

200,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.

Over 6,800 US soldiers have died in the wars.

We do not know the full extent of how many US service members returning from these wars became injured or ill while deployed.

Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that at least 6,900 have been killed.

10.1 million million Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani people are living as war refugees and internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions.*

The US has made an estimated 76 drone strikes in Yemen, making the US arguably at war in that country.

The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.

The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades with some costs, such as the financial costs of US veterans’ care, not peaking until mid-century.

US government funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has totaled over $170 billion. Most of those funds have gone towards arming security forces in both countries. Much of the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society has been lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.

The cost for the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan wars totals about $4.8 trillion. This does not include future interest costs on borrowing for the wars, which will add an estimated $8 trillion through 2054.

The ripple effects on the US economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rank extremely low in global studies of political freedom.

Women in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded from political power and experience high rates of unemployment and war widowhood.

Compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq. Some of those alternatives are still available to the US.



* Source: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) (2015).

It was a good night,...

...but let's not lose sight of the road ahead. To come out on top in 2018, the Democrats must still agree on a raison d'être more compelling than "Stronger Together" and "A Better Deal," suffer expensive, divisive primaries that may or may not settle their differences or produce electable candidates, be outspent by $ millions, and for many House and local legislative races overcome a decade of GOP gerrymandering. Voters can be unhappy with Trump and still not see the Democrats as the antidote.

A rose by any other name...

I was accused today of being a Berniac, plainly a creature of uncertain pedigree and ill repute. It left me wondering:

Is one who supports reducing the work week to 30 hours and expanding paid leave; providing guaranteed jobs at a living wage to all;
providing a decent standard of living to everyone; establishing a national child care system; reestablishing the right of all workers to join unions; providing affordable universal health care and free universal public education; and restoring the infrastructure while keeping it in public hands; and opposes the national security state, militarism, empire and endless war, is such a person a Berniac or a lifelong Democrat who wants to see the Democratic Party return to basic principles?

Extra credit:
A wage floor is an effective way to fight poverty -- and it would reduce government spending and intrusion: The Conservative Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income Creating by Noah Gordon (The Atlantic)
Giving everyone a job is the best way to democratize the economy and give workers leverage in the workplace: Why We Need a Federal Job Guarantee by Mark Paul, William Darity Jr and Darrick Hamilton (The Jacobin)
Working moms can have it all -- in France: Trapped by European-style Socialism -- And I Love It! by Claire Lundberg (Slate)
In 1971, a national day-care bill almost became law. Therein lies a story: Why America Never Had Universal Child Care by Nancy L. Cohen (New Republic)
The weakness of labor hurts all employees in every sector: The Decline of Unions Is Your Problem Too by Eric Liu (TIME)
A growing number of Americans support Medicare for All: A Canadian Doctor Explains How Her Country's Single-Payer Health Care System Works by Michel Martin and Denise Guerra (All Things Considered/NPR)
The US earns a D+. It is, in a word, a mess. It's Time to Fix America's Infrastructure. Here's Where to Start by Jordan Golson (Wired)
Infrastructure is such a dull word. But it’s really an issue that touches almost everything.”: System Overload by James Surowiecki (The New Yorker)
A lack of transparency and oversight has led to abuses time and again, in every era: Why Does Anyone Trust the National-Security State? by Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic)
The military's evolving role in U.S. foreign policy decision-making: The Politics of American Militarism by Joshua Foust (The Atlantic)
Untangling truth and fiction in an age of perpetual war: American Imperium by Andrew J. Bacevich (Harper's Magazine)
Imagining the World in 2025: Empire of Madness by Tom Engelhardt (Truthdig)
 
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