Sunday, February 28, 2016

Trump Is the Greatest Gift to the Democrats

Finally—finally!—those truant chickens are coming home to roost. After years of lies, betrayals, and outright criminality in election stealing, the Republican party is waking up to a revolt of its rank-and-file, who sense with their gut that they’ve been taken for patsies. As the good blue collar jobs have been shipped abroad for the greater glory and profit of ex-patriotic American corporations, the white working class, the Reagan Democrats who stayed red, realize they’ve been manipulated with anti-gay, misogynistic, and evangelical prejudices, while their economic situation has continually deteriorated, and the banks and CEOs who got bailouts, tax breaks, and slaps on the wrist for their destructive behavior, are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Donald Trump, with all his callow bluster, insults to Republican icons, and disregard of the traditional money sources on the right, is capturing the hearts and beer bellies of the good yeomanry of the heartland. The Republicans, even unto Charles Koch, are in a tizzy, according to the NY Times today (Feb. 28). They can see the disaster approaching: Trump is nominated; the party is rent in two in the next election. Other Republican candidates are forced to choose between his buffo popularity and the bad odor of party’s orthodoxy. The Democrats keep the White House, take back the Senate and possibly the House, install a rational and public-spirited Supreme Court Justice, investigate election theft, jail Karl Rove, and the Republicans go the way of the Whigs. The smart money (even the Kochs!) goes over to the Democrats—and possibly another party gains true national status.

Is the country saved? Not necessarily. The purveyors of the Dark State are still in the saddle: the defense contractors, big banks and corporations, the Israel lobby (AIPAC & Sheldon Adelson, who simply and crassly buy support for Likud’s oppressive and racist policies). They’ll see that the Republicans can no longer deliver, and they’ll switch to the Democrats, who’ve been courting them for some time. But they will no longer have the same degree of sway they once had, and there’s a prayer of siphoning off some of their power.

I don’t know what will happen next, but we may be at a pivotal point in our political history. We thought Obama’s election would be it, but we were wrong. That was just the shift away from overt criminality in the White House, but the powers that put Bush there and hugely profited from him were still in control.

But they’ve overreached themselves now, and Trump is the symptom of that. So let’s all enjoy the circus, while he’s still in the ring. I don’t believe he can possibly win. Thirty-six percent of Republican primary voters, who may make up 30% of the electorate, is only 12%. It may be difficult for him to break 25% of the vote in the general election. When faced by a candidate such as Hillary or Bernie, his only response will be more contemptuous bluster, which will not work in a national debate. It works in the Republican debates because it’s all theater anyway—virtually none of the issues they bring up or proposals they make have much basis in reality. When he explodes with insults against Bernie or Hillary, he will reveal himself as the no-nothing bully that he is. He’s incapable of mounting actual arguments.

We still need to expose the Deep State, and the best way to do that is to fight for Bernie. Hillary, unfortunately, is just one more compliant Democrat, hopefully not as complicit as her husband with these forces that are hollowing out the US middle class. Why, if the dollar no longer remains the exchange currency world wide of oil, the only products that countries would need dollars for are armaments. Virtually everything else we consume is made in China, Bangladesh or elsewhere in Asia. And just watch the collapse if the dollar standard for oil disappears.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The "I-can-work-with-the-opposition-to-get-things-done" myth

It seems this is one of the points that Hillary Clinton mentions that supposedly defines her as "practical" and "realistic."

But as Justice Louis Brandeis said, "An ounce of history is worth a pound of logic." Recent history has shown that Republicans have been determined to opposed the Democratic President in everything he does, not matter how conciliatory he tries to be. They simply haven't wanted to allow Obama to succeed at anything. (It's now known that at a secret right-wing pow-wow right after Obama was inaugurated, Congressional Republicans took an oath urged on them by then South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint—who had won his seat under very questionable circumstances—to oppose everything Obama did, regardless of its intrinsic value. Jane Mayer describes it in her new book Dark Money.)

Then when Obama finally caught on and started to used his executive powers to accomplish what he could (he was, after all, elected by a substantial majority), they accused him of operating an imperial presidency. Now that's chutzpah (remember: like the kid who kills both his parents then wants sympathy for being an orphan).

What no Democratic President has tried in recent times is full-throated, muscular opposition to the intransigent Republicans, calling them out on it, showing how they're hurting the country, and then going over their heads by vigorously appealing to the voters. I'll bet this motivates new minions of them to come out of the woodwork of their cynicism, to participate politically—to vote and organize—in numbers possibly sufficient to bury the Republicans once and for all, to expose them as  saboteurs of economic health, as childish authoritarians, as abject hirelings of the plutocracy, opposed to the general welfare, heedless of the common good or the future, not worthy of being a major political party any more. After all, they sold their soul long ago and have been running on the fumes of "less government," "low taxes" clichés, mantras from the phrasebook of the extreme market fundamentalist libertarians, like the Koch Brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, (arch-polluting free-marketeer) John M. Olin and others, who have paid billions to develop think-tanks and to corrupt universities to legitimize this tripe.

Every Democratic President from Carter to Obama has cowered before these GOP bullies and has tried to negotiate with them, to reason with them, to make concessions in exchange for limited support, while the Republicans have almost always abused this deference to block the President's initiatives. Facing pressure against any hint of compromise from Tea Party extremists, they've abandoned the traditional practices of political horse-trading, and would rather bring government operations to a halt—at least that way they preserve their bona fides to rabid no-nothings. In return, Democrats in Congress often worked with President Bush.

Bernie is the first Presidential candidate who indicates that he would fight them outright, rather than trying to win them over. Where has Hillary been for the last eight years, she who coined the phrase "vast right-wing conspiracy" when Bill was its target? What can she possibly mean by "practical" and "realistic"? The opposition is neither. They can only win in general elections by vote suppression and electronic vote stealing. But the passivity of the Democratic party and the general avoidance of these issues by the mainstream media have left too many voters frustrated, cynical and resigned to a political system that has ceased to respond to them.

This is why we need Bernie. If he's elected and maintains his current stance, though, he'll have to have a tough palace guard to stay alive.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Economy of Empathy: Why Racism Seems to Be Increasing with Inequalty

Michelle Alexander's eye-opening book, The New Jim Crow (2013) and now Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.'s Democracy Is Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul reveal how deeply the nefarious tentacles of racism penetrate in American life today. Alexander's book shows, among other things, how draconian drug laws and their selective enforcement have created an incarcerated population that's analogous to an enslaved one (much as Nicolai Berdayaev [1874–1948] showed in Slavery and Freedom [1939] how Stalin's gulags recreated serfdom). Glaude's book shows how certain outward gains, such as overcoming overt racism in popular culture and electing black office holders, have led to complacency about the overall conditions of life for black Americans, leading to the "revelations" about racist attitudes and practices in law enforcement and the much greater devastation to black wealth and financial security from the Great Crash that was experienced by whites. The election of a black President only compounded that complacency in many circles.

But stepping back a bit, if one looks at not only the resistance of racism to diminish four decades after the Civil Rights Movement made its greatest gains, but also the increase in misery and poverty experienced by black people over the past 10 to 20 years, one must wonder about how this problem has been influenced by other changes happening to our economy and society.

I am always interrogating the ramifications of financialization, that people talked about in the first few years of this new century. The talk has mostly receded now, but I think that's more because the condition has been accepted as the new reality. It's shaped our attitudes and assumptions, so its immediate costs have been absorbed and transmuted into other problems that may seem unrelated.

But there is an economy to people's empathy, one which is subject to shifts in personal fortune, to the effort necessary to survive. The much-lauded generosity of spirit of most Americans, our willingness to help a needy neighbor or a "good cause," may not be as robust as it once was. Charities have more difficulty raising funds; each of us receives many more appeals for contributions than we used to, as government has become more parsimonious in its distribution of benefits. Right-wingers are even more resentful of "freeloaders" than they used to be, so it seems.

So as the economy and culture have become more financialized, that is, as financial values crowd out humanistic values in so many areas of our lives, people who are less successful financially appear to have less cultural weight. This is because, on one hand, the values have shifted, and on the other,  because more people are more desperate in their fight for survival themselves, so have less mental and spiritual energy left over for empathy or drive to correct inequality. So communities or tribes have become more closed, more insular, more self-protective, and more partitioned off from the perspectives of other groups. All of these factors disadvantage the already disadvantaged, preeminently African-Americans, but including many other groups.

In simple terms, this is how the greediness and meanness of those at the top spread throughtout society. It is one of the poisoned fruits of hypertrophied inequality. It also implies that attempts to reverse this trend with macro-economic, legislative, and legal/judicial remedies can ultimately benefit the disadvantaged by shifting or enlarging people’s spirits. We mustn’t let up on the day-to-day struggle, of course; just NOT discount someone like Bernie Sanders whose main emphasis is in redressing gross economic crimes. I hope the Black Lives Matter movement is listening.