Category Archives: socio-political-economic

Journal Entries On Election Results

Sunday, November 20, 2016

These times: She bought her boyfriend’s son the Christmas presents he wanted for his father: a Trump mug and Hillary toilet paper! Oh, yeah, she voted for Trump. She shrugged. Didn’t know anything about him, except he was for change; she voted for change. She refused to vote for Hillary, even though she wanted a woman President, because “she’s a liar.” It’s likely she voted for Obama eight years ago, for change, if she voted.

She’s a friend’s client. A youngish woman, divorced from a control freak, who persuaded her to have an abortion. She’s a Special Ed teacher who’s been laid off, been able to find only teacher’s aide jobs the last few years. Socially, she’s very liberal. But she’s glad she lives near a mall.

She doesn’t live in a rust belt state, but the rural region she calls home has been depressed for years. She’s one of many: more white women voted for Trump than voted for Hillary. Her local district elected an establishment Republican to Congress from an open seat, not the bright, young progressive (white) woman running against him.

It’s where I live, too.

When I canvassed for Bernie, I encountered Trump pockets even in my liberal town. You could tell they were the Trump kind of people by the proliferation of ATV’s, pickups and huge outdoor gas barbecues.

My local carpenter friend told me he couldn’t talk politics at his gun club; they were all for Trump; he’s afraid Trump will impoverish his clientele (people like me: retired, on fixed incomes) and therefore his own work. He probably voted for Gary Johnson, but he claimed he’d have voted for Bernie, if he’d been the Democratic nominee.

Bernie would not have been elected, since he couldn’t reach minorities: they didn’t understand him; he didn’t get them. His purely economic argument didn’t register with them.

Trump had no program, at least none he campaigned on. He promised,  though, to make their lives better “biglea.”

And now, he proposes to name a racist as his Attorney General, another as his chief strategist in the White House. And his VP is an extreme anti-abortionist, who tried to force his state to require formal cremation or burial for all miscarried or aborted fetuses. His National Security advisor is focused on “radical Islamic Extremists,” and apparently wants to declare war on Islam.

There may have been millions of women and men just like my friend’s client (above), who voted for Trump, because Donald waved his notoriously short fingers and claimed: “I’ll bring your jobs back.” “Only I can fix this.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Next, it looks like he’ll appoint General “Mad Dog” Mattis for Defense. From his bio he sounds like an aggressive cowboy. Look forward to more wars, probably all over the globe.

About his Chief Strategist, Jeff Bannon: as Howard Dean remarked: he’s anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-Moslem, anti-Semitic and anti-woman. In other words, he’s a Nazi. And yes, Bannon looks forward to making the US as refuge for the European “race,” hopes to mobilize a movement of conservatives and populists. He says it will be exciting, “just like the 1930’s.”

There have been ‘incidents,’ where Trumpists bully people in parks or on streets, like three or more young white guys surrounding an African American and telling him or her to “Go home, where you came from!”

His “alt-right” does look like Nazis, although they call themselves White Nationalists.

I think we’re in deep shit!

The mainstream media seems to act as if there’s nothing really unusual here.

At least the competitors for DNC chair agree: there is something unusual here. We’ve got to stop this crazy man.

And his ‘movement.’

At the moment, we’re supporting protests at Standing Rock, where protesters have been beaten, shot with plastic bullets, tear-gassed, deafened by sound cannons, bludgeoned by water cannons in below freezing temperatures, arrested and put in jail anywhere in the state, after being strip-searched and deprived of all their belongings, including their clothes. Bail is set at $1600 at least.

Protesters (most not from the tribes, now) have to be dedicated, to commit to months, possibly years, in legal  hot water in order to make this point: that water is life; oil is not, the planet doesn’t need more oil pipelines, and First Nation lands should be respected. Instead, the pipeline company surreptitiously bulldozed sacred sites, after a court ordered them to stop construction.

Trump won the election with almost three million fewer votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, because the swing states, especially, didn’t recover from the Great Recession and Democrats were seen as uninterested in their problems. States, counties, districts that had gone for Obama for two elections, now went for Trump. Voter suppression most likely made the difference, especially in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Dakota Pipeline Outrage

This isn’t just corporate greed; there is something more, in the way the protesters have been (are being) treated, over the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The company’s worst abuse is akin to Islamic State destroying the historic ruins of Palmyra. For IS, it was western pagan influence that was being destroyed. In Dakota it was the irreplaceable heritage and artifacts of an already oppressed and nearly powerless people, beginning to stand up and proclaim their power.

On Friday, the tribal legal team, after extensive research, laid forth the precise locations of sacred burial sites on the pipeline’s right of way and submitted them to Federal Court in order to demand that pipeline construction be stopped, to protect them. A decision on this motion was to be made by the presiding judge this week.

Over the weekend, the company, with access to these legal documents, sent out bulldozer teams, miles from where they had been operating, to the same sacred sites listed, and bulldozed them out of existence!

This is only the latest attempt to destroy native peoples “standing in the way” of white settler progress, or in this case, a company’s profits. But the thoroughness of this outrage, along with the cooperation of company guards and police who used dogs and tear gas to disperse protesters, bespeaks something even darker than corporate greed.

Our nation was founded on genocide and slavery. This latest act by the bulldozer teams, is another injustice added to a long history of white people attempting to destroy native people standing in their way. In this case it was historic sites and artifacts, not only sacred, but also proof of the native peoples’ claims.

The brazenness of the attack speaks volumes about the tenor of American politics. Dialogue in the US has been jettisoned for confrontation. And lies. And violence, violence against black people, against cops, against the LGBTQ community, against women and against Native Americans.

I would not be surprised if the bulldozer drivers, their foremen, and their manager, were  all Trump supporters, possibly white supremacists. Even if they weren’t, this brazen act was made more likely, almost acceptable, through Trump’s rhetoric, the model he embodies in his raucous political campaign events and in his incitement to violence.

The outrages at the Dakota Access Pipeline could become the model, in turn, to angry white people all over this nation, if Donald Trump were elected. A nice future to look forward to.

While the protesters are insisting on prayerful non-violence; the police and company keep on trying to incite violent responses. Violent resistance would make it that much easier to jail all the protesters and resume full construction mode.

The tribal resistance to the pipeline is not just concerned with their burial grounds and the sanctity of their sites, but with likely water pollution from spills of dirty fracked oil. There have been too many spills around the country to allow a pipeline to go under the Missouri River and over an aquifer central to the Sioux’s water supply. If their water is polluted, tribal people might have to move out of the reservation, as well as its sacred lands, a subtle kind of genocide against ‘the natives’ once again.

It’s Not Who You Vote For It’s Who Wins That Matters

“But I love Bernie! He’s the first politician I’ve ever…”

I did not cry, when Bernie endorsed Hillary. I had worked for him, donated money, time, letters to the Editor, but when he endorsed Hillary, I agreed with him. To me, he wasn’t giving up; he wasn’t selling out; he was acting strategically. He saw that he could not win the nomination, although he had come tantalizingly close, and had mobilized a significant segment of the potential Democratic Party’s constituency.

Yes, obstacles were put there by the DNC and state Democratic parties; there was a conscious attempt by some in the DNC to diminish Bernie’s appeal in any way they could. But it’s probable Bernie still would not have won even without these sub rosa efforts. He couldn’t mobilize Black, Asian and Latino voters, or even Whites with less than a college education: the latter are Trump’s special constituency. He knew that. He’d tried, with BlackLivesMatter, and with other outreach efforts.

So, Bernie wasn’t selling out; he was acting strategically: when he stopped campaigning, did not endorse, but negotiated with Hillary. They both compromised; that’s the nature of politics that works. After he’d gotten what he could get—for all of us—he endorsed her.

Bernie has also stated over and over again, that Trump must be stopped, and he’ll do everything in his power to prevent his election. Why?

It’s not because he’s sold out; it’s because he’s gotten considerable concessions from Hillary, and they hold a lot of views in common to begin with, like their view of Supreme Court nominations. What he’s modeling is what you do in strategic voting.

The difference between strategic voting and ideological voting is in what each accomplishes. More narrowly, issues voting means you vote only for particular policies. The extreme example is the anti-abortion voter, who will only vote for a candidate who is explicitly anti-abortion, the more obdurate the better. If feelings are intense enough, issue voting may actually result in legislation and policy, but usually it’s never enough for the true believer—on whatever issue—and it only has impact on that issue.

Broader than issue voting is ideological voting. This is voting for a candidate who best exemplifies the voter’s ideological preferences, even if the candidate has no chance of winning office, and therefore no chance of putting that ideology into legislation and actual practice.

Ideological voting best describes the Bernie voter who gravitates to the Green Party’s Jill Stein, or the libertarian Republican supporter of Rand Paul, who supports Gary Johnson.

In a winner-take-all electoral system, which is what the US has had since its founding, and what our neighbor, Canada, to the North has as well, both issue and ideological voting can have paradoxical effects. In a winner-take-all political system, a plurality (not a majority), wins the election. In Canada’s case, for two separate elections, voters on the left split their votes between the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, and Parti Quebecois. While the left was in a clear majority, it lost, heavily, to Steven Harper, Conservative, who was funded by the oil industry in Alberta. So, all Canada’s support for combatting climate change was thrown out the window; government encouraged Tar Sands oil production, while social programs were radically defunded: the electoral structure permitted a minority to elect a large majority in Parliament. After two terms, the Conservatives were thrown out by a more unified left, behind the moderately leftward Liberal party. They had discovered how horrible it was to have a radical right-wing government.

The same thing can happen here. If the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is close (still a real possibility), ideological votes for Stein and Johnson could be the deciding factor: not in one of the latter winning, (there’s no chance of that) but in the triumph of the Democrat or Republican candidate who loses the fewest votes to the third party candidate to his or her left or right.

In other words, if Jill Stein were able to attract a larger slice of former Bernie voters than Gary Johnson gained from disaffected Republican voters, it would become increasingly difficult for Democrats to win.

I suspect that Johnson also attracts issue-voting millennials, with his legalize marijuana position; many of these were former Bernie voters. His polling at twice the level of Stein, may in part be because of this, so he takes votes away from both Trump and Hillary.

The paradoxical effect of Bernie Sanders mobilizing young, left-wing voters, increasing the size of the left-leaning constituency (from left of center to far left) could permit Trump to win, if too many of these newly mobilized voters end up voting for Stein or Johnson: a minority, voting for Trump, could prevail over a left of center majority that is split into two or three parts.

Now, think of the consequences: instead of Bernie in the Senate being joined by a President and Congress that supports much of his agenda, and is likely to be responsive to pressure brought to bear by groups like Our Revolution and BlackLivesMatter, instead, Trump would be President.

Would Trump and the triumphant Republicans give credence to any left-wing group? Of course not. Bernie endorsed Hillary for a reason: her election would be the best chance to carry out much of his (and our) agenda in the next four years. With a Republican White House and Congress, we would get a Supreme Court that overthrew Roe v Wade and permitted even more voter suppression; the US would be ramping up of coal mining and oil drilling, not mitigating global warming; there would be an increase in racist policies at all levels, and rejection of virtually every policy that Bernie and his supporters advocated: instead of a public option for healthcare, you’d have a return to the monopoly-controlled market and rejection of even the minimal reform represented by Obamacare.

Strategic voting for a Bernie supporter, instead, would be: to vote for Democrats, however flawed they may be, because this would accomplish two things: it would prevent what could amount to a Fascist takeover, much like the minority Nazis taking over the German government in the face of a divided left and center, and it would increase pressure for the kinds of changes we (Berniers) all want.

Besides: if you love Bernie, strategic voting is clearly what he advocates, even despite the corruption of the Democratic Party by the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Further Bernie activists can do what Kelleigh McKenzie, co-founder of Ulster4Bernie, is attempting in Ulster County: to gain election to the NY State Democratic Committee, so she can help bend the party in a progressive direction. She appears to say: if you don’t like the Democratic Party, work on changing it.

That’s strategic thinking.

War of All Against All?

It’s hard to believe Micah Johnson alone made so much mayhem, and up-ended a growing awareness that black lives haven’t mattered, but that they should. Now, some white people blame Black Lives Matter for Johnson’s rampage!
It’s almost as if some white racist group, maybe one of the ones endorsing Trump, paid and trained Micah in the fine art of killing white people, in order to start their much anticipated Race War.
It feels as if humanity’s response to trouble is violence. When violence becomes endemic in a society, dictatorship often follows: to quell it.
Thus, if we have well-armed crazies, or groups, attacking the police, and the police attacking civilians, it is likely that many will feel that the only answer is a ‘strongman’ aka a dictator.
Trump has not offered himself as Dictator, as Julius Caesar explicitly did, but he has presented himself as “strong,” “tough,” and independent, his own man, unconcerned with “political correctness,” appealing to white men angry about their loss of dominance, as well as their loss of economic security, and priority.
I suspect that Trump’s appeal to, let’s call them the white, psychologically disenfranchised, less educated men, is not so much in the substance of what he says—mostly zippy one-liners—but in the way he says it. His pronouncements are meant to enrage and mobilize, not to lay down a political platform. What he’s for may be fairly obvious, and is sometimes even revealed (like his comment that wages are too high), but as far as his followers are concerned, that’s not the point at all.
The violence on both sides of the divide legitimizes violence by the State. So, Trump’s projection of “strength,” much of it simply bravado, makes it that much more plausible to many, that what the US—and the world—needs is a Strongman: Trump as popularly elected dictator.
Many will see the shootings by and of police as justification for “a strong hand,” to bring society back to order—with white men on top, of course.
To create peace and positive relations between races, or between law enforcement and minorities is much more difficult. As Obama remarked, the tensions may not even be resolved in his children’s lifetimes, certainly not in mine (I’m 77).
But, through the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the LGBTQ movement, American society has evolved beyond the patriarchal white supremacy of the Jim Crow era. Obviously, it has a long way to go. BlackLivesMatter posits a simple idea: black lives matter as much as white lives, not less.
So, how to respond to Trumpophiles?
Show that Trump, by both his pronouncements and his business actions, can’t be trusted: he’s changed positions, sometimes even mid-speech. Even more revealing, he’s ripped off the little guy, time and time again; that’s how he built his fortune, like the stereotypical crooked used car salesman multiplied many times over.
Then, look at what he favors (lower wages, punishing woman for abortions, tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling government services, like Veterans care, Obamacare, small business loans. Want protection from loan-sharks like pay-day lenders? That’ll go away under Trump. Want protection from banks? Trump wants them as his friends; he wants to dismantle any regulations that “hamper” their operations, maybe even sub-prime mortgages redux, or pay-day loans. With his five bankruptcies in Atlantic City casinos, Trump made money; his creditors, including many small business-people, lost big-time: they were paid back pennies on the dollar.
That’s legal larceny; he transferred their work, and money into his pockets and kept it, because he hired sharp lawyers.
The real reason Trumpophiles support him is: because he implicitly and explicitly gives them the freedom to express their rage against the myriad “others” who seem to have challenged their supremacy and had significant successes.
That rage has a lot to do with our soaring rates of inequality, which create vast social gaps between people in, supposedly, middle class America.
Rage is also fear, which, may be the reason for the police shootings and the Dallas sniper.
Police are taught to shoot at body mass, the biggest target, which is why so many black people are killed. So many are shot, however, because white policeman have been taught from childhood to fear black men, so when they encounter one, the meeting is tense and the cop shoots because he expects the worst and acts on it: as he did with Philando Castile; shooting him because Castile was reaching for something, telling the cop he had a permitted gun, but was reaching for his wallet—the cop had asked for his license and registration. Because Philando was black, the cop shot him (four times), not knowing which he was doing: reaching for his wallet, or his gun. If he had been white, the cop would have waited a fatal instant longer and would not have shot him.
Micah Johnson wanted to kill white men, because he was afraid and angry that white cops were killing his people, so black people never felt safe. I know I’d be enraged; I wouldn’t go out to shoot cops, but desperate people do desperate things. How would you feel if you had to fear for your life every time you drove to work? How would you feel if everyone with your color skin, also drove in fear?
In the long run, the solution for the violence, desperation and anger is a radically more equitable distribution of wealth, to lessen the gaps, or tears in our social fabric.
In the short run, just recognizing that people are hurting and fearful on both sides, and sharing that fear and the hurt would get us started on the right track: closing, or narrowing social gaps and tears.
It will be a long road, but the alternative is a new kind of Fascism and/or race war.

A History Lesson: the recent Middle East

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The first misstep the US took in the Middle East was to get involved in it, at all.

Oil and competition with Britain for it in Iran, and our continual maneuvering against the USSR on its periphery, led our CIA to overthrow a nationalist government led by Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1953, because he advocated nationalization of foreign oil operations (British and US). The US backed the Shah, who gave them oil fields for their efforts on his behalf. However, luxury at the top didn’t improve the lot of those on Iran’s lower rungs; it got worse, but the Shah’s American and British supporters didn’t notice: they were making money.

The Islamic Revolution was the inevitable result of the Shah’s repression, his overreaching and his attempts to keep the lid clamped down tight: Iran exploded.

The Shah was the first to go probably because his reemergence was a foreign creation to begin with.

After that, the Middle East became a lot less stable. It was held together by strongmen: Nasser’s successors in Egypt, the Assad’s, the Saudi monarchy and Saddam.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution?

Arabs and Persians (Iranians) rarely get along, and neither do Sunnis and Shiites; they fought a bloody war between Iran and Iraq, in which the US allied with Saddam!

We drove out Saddam Hussain, who had been CIA’s man until he got too ambitious and tried to take over Kuwait, and then the unforgivable: plotting to assassinate George HW Bush. By overthrowing Saddam and his whole Baathist organization we turned Iraqi society upside down by empowering the majority Shiites. They promptly began discriminating and abusing their former rulers, the Sunnis, probably what they had learned from them. The Sunnis, therefore, were fertile ground for Daesh (also known as ISIS).  American bad judgement gave Daesh its professional military—Saddam’s army dissolved by American forces: soldiers and officers were eagerly recruited by Daesh. Fitting, when they captured so many of the successor Iraqi “Army’s” US-supplied weapons.

I doubt Obama thinks the Libyan strategy (a coalition under his leadership) was a success. Qaddafi was summarily executed by his militia captors and the whole nation-state fell apart. Now, Libya has no functioning state. There are two regional governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government, while the vast majority of the country is controlled by militias of all stripes, often fighting each other. Qaddafi’s collapse, despite vast caches of arms, also armed Islamic militants as far away as Nigeria. And 150 miles of Libyan coast (on the Mediterranean) is controlled by a Daesh offshoot. We’re bombing them, so far with little success.

When Reagan sent aid and training to the “Freedom Fighters” in Afghanistan, they were the mujahedin, but some of them, the non-Afghans, morphed into al Qaeda and many of the Afghan mujahedin formed the Taliban.

So, our military interventions in the Middle East since 1953, created: an enemy Iran, a Shiite Iraq informally allied with it, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and then, Daesh in Iraq and Syria, as a result of Shiite arrogance and American stupidity, chaos in Libya and a Daesh foothold, still chaos in Afghanistan and a ferocious rebellion in nuclear armed Pakistan.

We still count on our “friends,” including the Saudi monarchy, the monarchies of the Gulf plus Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, but some of our “friends” are much more concerned with stopping Shiite (Iranian) gains, than with stopping Daesh. They’re bombing rebels and civilians in Yemen and have locked down Bahrain. Iran, of course, is aiding the rebels in both places.

And Turkey, our longest, closest military ally, is bombing our most effective fighting force against Daesh, Kurdish allies in Iraq and Syria.

Quite a mess, isn’t it.

We should get out of the Middle East and leave it to its own chaos. Islamic radicalism, was fomented by our interventions—and our support of the Saudis, the core of Wahabist radicalism.
We should create a cordon sanitaire and announce a non-interventionist position. Then, the US and Europe would be less likely targets, and non-radicals among both Shiites and Sunnis would realize they were going to have to handle the radicals themselves, or be exterminated. We’d sell them weapons, but what gives both the US and Europe long-term leverage: we don’t need their oil, especially since we should be converting to non-fossil fuel energy sources as rapidly as possible.

In Europe, not only is Germany leading the way with solar and wind, Norway is reconfiguring its hydropower system, so it can become the battery for all the solar and wind energy collected above current daytime use.

Refugees generated from Mideast chaos should be seen for what they can be: dynamic replacements for aging populations in both Europe and North America. If we are no longer intervening in their region, we should have much less to fear from them.

Even when we were dependent on Mideast oil, we simply could have purchased it (it’s fungible), instead of thinking we had to control it. That’s especially true now. If American oil companies are scared of losing their investments, that’s their business, not ours.

As for Israel, from my perspective, they’re making the same mistake the Iraqi government is making: alienating their Muslim population, and squeezing it, instead of attempting to peacefully separate, or peacefully integrate (two states, or one unified state with citizens of different faiths). One or the other must happen, but the US cannot and should not attempt, anymore, to interfere.

On the other hand, it should not support Israel if it oppresses its non-citizen subjects, and that includes military aid. To do so, continues to make us anti-Muslim, in the eyes of most of the Middle East, and therefore involved and a target, perhaps the primary target, of the dispossessed.

Chaos creates more and more of the latter.

Helots (Metis) and Immigrants: Response to Cruz

Ted Cruz let slip his plans for illegal immigrants in the 1/28/16 debate:, according to his short amendment (138 words, I think he said) anyone who entered the nation illegally, no matter the reason, could get “legal status,” after passing through many tests, but could never earn citizenship.

A life-long handicap simply because they came through US borders without the proper papers and procedures? Even if they were fleeing inhuman conditions wherever they came from.

What does this mean?

In Sparta and ancient Athens, “foreigners” were a large part of the population, and an important part of the economy: they were helots  or metis, not slaves, but not really free, because they had no rights. They were easily exploited and abused.

What Ted Cruz was proposing was the creation of just such a class. So, unlike the Donald, he won’t ship all 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants “back to” anywhere. He’ll just create an easily exploitable class of never-citizens, doomed to work for others in demeaning, low-paying positions.

If one followed Cruz’s logic, these helots would also lose a lot of other rights, not all at once, but piecemeal: after all, if they can never vote, even their protests won’t mean much. If a President Cruz didn’t move to eliminate the minimum wage, rather than raise it, he’d certainly propose a significantly lower minimum for the helots. Maybe, he’d even try to make them ineligible for membership in unions or political groups.

Further, helots would populate the lower rungs of society, probably commit a disproportionate share of crime, and would “take away” good jobs, by their own vulnerability to exploitation. They would lower the bar. The new helots would be a legally defined underclass, convenient for keeping other working Americans from successfully demanding higher wages, or better working conditions.

The new helots would also be a large, restive class, vulnerable to groups like Daesh aiming to take advantage of their discontent. Cruz could be creating a rejectionist “fifth column,” inside the fearful, authoritarian, billionaire-dominated United States.

The Republican re-made nation would no longer be a haven for the displaced, oppressed and desperate.

Ironically, while Republicans, excepting Jeb, excoriate paths to citizenship or amnesty, more illegal entrants are going home than are entering the country.

The angry, punitive approach to immigration appears to be the general Republican position, despite the presence of at least three primary Presidential candidates, who are first generation Americans: Trump, Cruz and Rubio.

Their theme seems to be: I’m here, dammit, so close the door!

After sitting on this for a day, I realized I’d left something out.

The obvious, almost primary, reason for general Republican animus towards immigrants: they’re afraid (with good reason) that more immigrant citizens means more Democrats, especially in places they control right now, like Texas. So Cruz’s “legal status” becomes a way to seem reasonable and humane, but is also about political control for the next generation.

Or maintaining white dominance.