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 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.

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)

After five decades, change for California

"Rather than a harbinger of a purge, Feinstein is a special case because her politics have become so out of step with her constituents and even Democrats nationally. 'I support Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris, and I don’t support Dianne Feinstein,' said Congressman Ro Khanna, a fellow California Democrat who has been advocating for a Feinstein challenge. 'I think there are very specific reasons that a primary challenge to Diane Feinstein in California is called for.'”

The rest of the story:
Kevin de León, the California Senate president, is taking on the U.S. senator in next year's Democratic primary. The reward is much greater than the risk.: The Win-or-Lose Case for Challenging Dianne Feinstein by Graham Vyse (New Republic).
Many Calif. Dems silent on backing Feinstein by Mike Lillis (The Hill)
Kevin de León announces run against Dianne Feinstein, setting up Democratic clash in Senate race by Casey Tolan (Bay Area News Group)

Bye, Bye Miss American Spy

I'd like to take the opportunity offered by the apparent determination of the Trump treasury department not to elevate the heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman to our currency (I don't suppose it would make any difference to our military-loving president were he to be informed that Tubman provided invaluable intelligence to the United States Army fighting the rebellion -- if John le Carré were to write her story he might call it "Slave, Nurse, Scout, Spy") to renew my appeal on behalf of Helen Keller who -- struck totally deaf and blind by childhood illness at 19 months, before she'd learned to speak -- overcame the adversity of being unable hear or see to become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians, an international champion for the disabled, a feminist, a Socialist, a co-founder of the ACLU, a teacher and lecturer, a journalist, and the first deaf-blind person to earn a BA.

On the twenty dollar specie, though, not the ten. Thanks to Broadway, Alexander Hamilton now has a lobby. It is Andrew Jackson, the populist president and, alas, slave holder and genocidist, who needs to go.

Here's the original post: Helen Keller on the $10 by John Gabree (Impractical Proposals).

It is not that the estimable Harriet Tubman doesn't deserve to be honored for her courageous activism, it's just that being, you know, black, she may not be a favorite of this administration.

Urban progress and reaction

“You desire the end but close your eyes to the means. You want the garden to be beautiful, provided that the smell of manure is kept well away from your fastidious nose.” ― P.D. James, The Children of Men
Nimbyism is a reactionary impulse that ignores the history of urbanism and strikes at the city's reason for being. Nimbys seek to impose a romantic fantasy of an orderly and edenic past on an urban history that in fact is a tangled tale of struggle, ambition, imagination, innovation and criminality. Indeed, it is the chaotic nature of the city
that gives it its magnetic pull, that makes it such fertile ground for creativity.

To bind a city to imaginary specifications is to strangle its spirit, to rob it of its dreams, to steal its soul. Were you to abandon a city, eventually nature would return it to the jungle or desert, the forest or prairie hidden beneath its tar and concrete; but nowhere has an urbanized locale merely devolved to an earlier stage of development. It has to be murdered, deliberately killed by greed, selfishness and myopia.

A flourishing city is an antidote to mediocrity, monotony, intolerance, rigidity, stasis, just as it is the engine of invention, adaptability, resourcefulness, enterprise, growth. We forget that the modern city developed originally as a refuge from the impliability and oppressiveness of feudalism, that within its communal
walls, and fueled by commerce, artists, rebels, scholars, free thinkers and tradesmen of every stripe were free to prosper.

It is from the concentration of talents and energies, born of the city's wealth, that the qualities of life we value most, that we count among the benefits of civilization, are afforded; cut off the city's ability to change and grow, and you condemn it, and ultimately urban culture, to death.

The city springs from hope, from the desire for a different and better future; thus, though it can be done badly or to excess, development is, at its heart, progressive.

Why the Democrats won't win back Congress in 2018 -- #67233

"John , we’ve never been this mad -- and we're asking you to sign your name and condemn Trump for pardoning Joe Arpaio." -- Email solicitation from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Really?

They've never been this mad?

Not at the Long War? Not at the massacre of the middle class? Not at institutionalized racism? Not at the collapsing infrastructure? Not at the privatizing of the public schools? Not at Wall Street predators? Not at the destruction of the labor movement? Not at two minority presidents out of three? Not at the growing ranks of the poor? Not at pharmaceutical price-gouging? Not at mass incarceration?...

Are the Democratic Socialists of America For Real?

In the last year, the biggest American socialist organization has experienced a surge in membership. "As it builds on this momentum, there are several big questions facing DSA. What is its relationship to the Democratic Party? Should central leadership serve as administrators or ideological tone-setters? And how can its membership -- which skews white and male -- come to represent an increasingly diverse country?" In other words, can it can transform enthusiasm into real and effective political power?

Are the Democratic Socialists of America For Real? by Kate Aronoff (The New Republic, 2017-08-07)

What did Donald Trump know, and when did he know it?

General Michael Flynn's traitorous actions are part of a GOP tradition stretching back at least as far as the Nixon-Kissinger "signals" to North Vietnam and Reagan's Iran-Contra-temps, itself organized by the National Security Council.

Reading List:
Michael Flynn, Trump's national security adviser, resigns over Russia lies by Yochi Dreazen (Vox) The fall of Michael Flynn: A timeline 8y Glenn Kessler (Washington Post). Michael Flynn Is Out - Will Trump Be Next? by Mike Ludwig (Truthout)
The Missing Pieces of the Flynn Story (New York Times editorial).
Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence by Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo (New York Times).
Michael Flynn's White House Tenure: It's Funny 'Cause It's Treason by Stephen Colbert (YouTube).

Crowded CA 34

Gov. Jerry Brown has called a special election June 6 and a primary April 4 to replace Xavier Becerra in the 34th Congressional district. The Progressive Caucus member's departure after 24 years in the House creates an unexpected opening in the heavily Democratic district that includes downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Chinatown and Highland Park.

At least a dozen people have expressed interest in running. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez raised $300,000 in December for the race. According to the L.A. Times,ormer LA City Council staffer Sara Hernandez attracted the second largest amount, $200,000; followed by former Obama administration aide Alejandra Campoverdi with $106,000 and Arturo Carmona, most recently the deputy political
director for Latino outreach for the Bernie Sanders campaign and executive director of Presente.org, with $93,000.

Gomez has the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest public employee union in the nation; at the time he was elected to the state assembly, he was political director for the United Nurses Association of California. Other candidates in the race also have backgrounds in organized labor: Wendy Carrillo is a former journalist and local labor activist and Raymond Meza is an organizer for the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which was central in the "Fight for $15" campaign to increase the minimum wage.

Jimmy Gomez is far and away the front runner, but if Arturo Carmona gains the endorsement of the Sanders organization and is able to raise a commensurate amount of dough, at least the campaign will be more interesting to watch.

Every race for Congress counts now, and this is an opportunity to preserve progressive numbers in the federal legislature.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez racks up endorsements from Latino elected officials in fight for Becerra's congressional eat. (L.A. Times)

Arturo for Congress

Poor Mike Pence.

He was promised that he'd be the real president.

How mortifying to be forced to defer to President Bannon.

That's what makes him an expert.

According to the AP, Trump's voter fraud expert, Gregg Phillips, whose unsubstantiated claim that the election was marred by 3 million illegal votes was tweeted by the president, was listed on the rolls in Alabama, Texas and Mississippi, according to voting records and election officials in those states.

Don't mourn. Organize!

An ActBlue fundraising page for former Democratic congressional staffer Jon Ossoff’s special election bid to replace GOP Rep. Tom Price passed $420,000 this morning.

The Democrats need to contest every seat that comes up, even if there is little chance of winning this time, to build support for 2018 and 2020. And not with Blue Dogs.

Fight for every seat on the progressive platform that polls show most Americans overwhelmingly support.

Jon Ossoff for Congress.
Jon Ossoff's ActBlue page.

Who will Trump name Poet Laureate?


a) Donovan, because, you know, Bob Dylan
(and because “In love pool eyes float feathers after the struggle/The hopes burst and shot joy all through the mind/Sorrow more distant than a star/Multi colour run down over your body/Then the liquid passing all into all/Love is hot, truth is molten”)

b) Tim McGraw, because, you know, Poet Lariat
(and because "I don't know why I act the way I do/Like I ain't got a single thing to lose/Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy/I guess that's just the cowboy in me")

c) David Petraeus, because, you know, General Petraeus
(and because what do you need to know about poetry to be Laureate, anyway?)

Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tunes

If you think that Rep. Keith Ellison, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, is going to win the DNC job in a walk, be aware that the party's neoliberals are not going to give up without a fight: e.g., Politico says former "Labor Secretary Tom Perez has raised over $825,000 in his bid to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee."

quote unquote for 2017/01/20




"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

                          -- Mark Twain

"It Can't Happen Here."

Not only can it happen here, it probably will.

The same people who, out of complacency, did not resist as Barack Obama embraced and enlarged the mechanisms of oppression, will not resist, this time out of fear and despondency, as Donald Trump uses them.

No longer can Americans smugly scorn the complicity of "good Germans" in Hitler's rise. We are all good Germans now.


High Noon in Orange County

The inestimably horrid OC congressman and Trump enthusiast Darrell Issa is running an exceedingly dirty campaign against a surprisingly strong Democratic opponent, attorney and retired Marine colonel Doug Applegate. Issa won the 2012 and 2014 primaries by at least 30%. But in June, he out-polled Applegate by only 5.3%, less than the GOP’s 8.4-point advantage in voter registration, despite Applegate's much weaker name recognition and despite outspending the Democrat $740,000 to $50,000 -- nearly 15-1.

Needless to say, Applegate has the attention of the Democratic organization with an attendant increase in donations since June, but he's running against the richest person in Congress, so help out if you can: Doug Applegate for Congress.

The rest of the story:
Darrell Issa Gets Viable Challenger (Rollcall)
Issa may face tough re-election by Martin Wisckol (OC Register)

Extra credit:
(Don't Look Back: Darrell Issa, the congressman about to make life more difficult for President Obama, has had some troubles of his own by Ryan Lizza (The New Yorker)
Not So Grand: Behind Rep. Darrell Issa’s Three Auto Theft Accusations by Tommy Christopher (MEDIAite)

It's still the economy, stupid.

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 also can be accessed in 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).

Whatever


“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).

Trending

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.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed --
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?


I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek --
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean --
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home --
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay --
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again --
The land that never has been yet --
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME --
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose --
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath --
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain --
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

-- Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967
From the essential Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Classics, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.), a volume that belongs in every library.

Langston Hughes (Poetry Foundation).
Langston Hughes Biography (Bio.).
Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes (Poets.Org).

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: ReclaimDemocracy.org).

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).

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

Resource

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:

via GIPHY

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.)

As Columbus Day approaches,

...it's worth giving a thought to following the example of Nicaragua by replacing celebration of European exploitation of the Americas with Indigenous Resistance Day, a national holiday commemorating the battle waged by indigenous peoples against European colonialism.

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 (WhoRulesAmerica.net).
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).

GOP to raise standards for office holders.

The Republicans are worried that having too many candidates in the race for president will confuse voters. The party had planned 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 was needed.

Since there is no way to gauge hypocrisy, two other widely used and accepted methods of gauging 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, there is little doubt that they won't welcome the application of the same standards to their own jobs. If some do object, perhaps that can be considered as the missing hypocrisy test.

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.
 
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