Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Protest Voting is White Privilege

It’s White Privilege to vote for Jill, because you can’t have Bernie. Why? Because, Trump’s win wouldn’t affect you so immediately, as it would a poor, black woman, who couldn’t afford a now illegal, safe abortion, and in desperation would go to a butcher and die in an alley.

You say: Hillary’s just as bad? 

That was the argument Nader used to attract Democratic malcontents away from Gore in 2000. Despite Nader’s ‘Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference,’ if Gore had been elected, we would NOT have had the Iraq War, our reaction to 911 would NOT have led to torture and the surveillance state. We might not have had the 2008 collapse. And we would NOW have a plan in place to mitigate or reverse global warming.

Whether Nader threw the election to Bush, Bush’s victory over Gore, who received more votes, changed the political dynamic in the US until at least 2006: strengthening the Republicans, so the Left, probably still a majority, was shoved aside. Bush’s ascendancy also strengthened the Republicans’ right wing, hence the emergence of the obstructionist Tea Party, after Obama Democrats asserted their majority in 2008-2010. The Tea Party wing of the GOP has played a major role in Obama’s inability to push through most of his progressive agenda.

Compare the 2016 Party Platforms of the Democrats and of the Republicans. You will see radical differences. Neither are ideal, but the Democratic platform was written in part by Bernie’s appointees; the Republican platform was written by Tony Perkins, the head of the right-wing, anti-gay Christian group, The Family Research Council.

The overriding philosophies of the two party platforms couldn’t be more different: government as a tool to respond to people’s needs, versus government should do as little as possible in the economy, and as much as possible to reverse social change: the “free market” will solve almost all economic problems, except security: internal as well as Defense, although both can be privatized much further, like more for-profit prisons. But government, according to Trump’s platform, can, maybe even must, intrude into your bedroom.

Democratic Platform

Republican Platform[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf

Gender and white privilege: voting for Jill will not protect my LGBTQ adult children, certainly not if Jill’s vote tips the balance as Nader’s may have done for Bush.

Voting for Jill won’t protect the African American man or woman who is guilty only of walking or driving while black. Because half a vote (in effect) for Trump, makes it that more likely that all their protections will be destroyed, and no reform will be possible. Trump’s appointment of Breitbart’s head to chief honcho of his campaign will only exacerbate his extremism. The man’s a racist, supported by racists. 

And we’re not talking just about 4 years. A Trump Supreme Court would cement an extreme right-wing, pro-corporate, pro-authoritarian, anti-abortion majority of Justices that would last for the next generation. It might even enable a Trumpian dicatorship, if only for 8 or so years.

Hillary is definitely not a racist, although she’s a white lady, who may not always have a clue about the lives of African-Americans, or other people marginalized or oppressed. But she wants to understand, like her famous ‘listening tour’ of upstate NY, in her run for the Senate and then her attempts to help.

It is White Privilege that allows you to think that your ‘conscience’ can’t permit you to vote for someone “flawed” like Hillary. You’re closing your eyes to what her defeat would mean to the Hispanic and Muslim communities and to all undocumented. Trump has promised mass deportations, a wall and an absolute ban. 

Hillary may not be perfect: she is hawkish, but she’s not a racist, a would-be dictator,or a proto-Fascist, (Trump argues that the United States should have seized Iraq’s oil assets after the 2003 invasion and deployed American troops, presumably indefinitely, to protect them: NY Times 8/18 Mussolini acted like that, and Hitler, too.). Do you want someone with an itchy trigger finger controlling the nuclear trigger? 

Hillary is on the left to wishy-washy center, but not the right, and she has proven to be responsive to leftwing pressure (hence her changing positions). She was supposedly more leftish than Bill, when they first entered the national stage.

If you look at Hillary’s record, instead of believing right-wing propaganda, you will see that she has tried to help a lot of people, people of all different kinds, and she’s adopted a large part of Bernie’s agenda.

However, a vote in this election is not really about Hillary or Trump—or Bernie, as he said himself—it’s about what people need, and it is about what people can lose, big-time.

A vote for Jill might just tip the balance, so all could lose, just as with Brexit. The Brits have learned: votes like that can’t be undone.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Emigrating to LaLa Land

A friend (a fellow Bernier) sent me the link to a short film, as one of the reasons she could never vote for Hillary. Hearing veiled remarks about ‘corruption’ and ‘can’t trust her’ and just ‘follow the money,’ I realized: this is what Hillary first called ‘a right-wing conspiracy” back in the ’90’s. All the rumors of the terrible things done by the Clintons, or by Hillary specifically, have a funny way of never being confirmed or proven. And the conspiracy-mongers always have an explanation, how ‘she’ or ‘they’ wriggled out of it.

And it does come out of the right-wing. It’s the kinds of things right-wing radio ranters and the Enquirer have been shouting for years.

A current example, Clinton Cash was produced by Breitbart Films. The organization also publishes Daily Caller and is a well-known right-wing propaganda mill.

So, viewing Clinton Cash must be done with a healthy dose of skepticism. The film itself is rich in images of cash, of supposedly corrupt people being greeted by or hosted by or hosting Bill and Hillary and of a drawn, unattractive Hillary announcing decisions as Secretary of State---none of her announcements are actually shown, but the commentator helpfully tells you what nefarious deals they facilitated. So, there are a lot of inferences drawn, a lot of circumstantial "evidence" is mustered, but the inferences in all these cases are only insinuations.

Since Brightbart doctored videos that destroyed ACORN and then attempted to do the same thing to Planned Parenthood--posing as innocent reporters, they twisted the videos through deceptive editing, to show that PP was selling fetal tissue for profit, when it has never been proven that PP ever did: they sell tissue at cost, to cover handling expenses, since they want to make it available for scientific research. Why believe anything declared by Brietbart?

You have to realize, this is the same propaganda that animates Fox News, and the screamers in Cleveland calling for Clinton to be jailed or executed. It has about as much credibility as the failed effort to destroy Planned Parenthood.

And, almost all the stories about Hillary and Bill, extensively investigated over and over and found baseless, have been circulating on the Tea Party network for years. Now these same propaganda “news” groups are seeking new converts: among Bernie or Busters: to persuade as many Berniers as possible that they should NEVER vote for the demon, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s been pretty up front about that, himself.

Just to know where all this comes from should tell you how insidious and spurious it is. I think Hillary has made some mistakes, because she listened to longtime experts in State, for example, to support the Honduran coup, and to overthrow Libya's Qaddafi, without a realistic scenario for what should come after--both incidents NOT covered in this film. But to portray her and Bill as on the take, solely motivated by accumulating money on the backs of poor Haitians or Congolese is just completely BS. Yes, they sought funds to carry out their programs abroad, programs they believed would do good. They thought the people in charge knew what they were doing, or that the only way to get things done was to work with questionable people. That’s an especially old story in foreign development circles, where corruption is endemic and expected. Any politician trying to get things done will probably have to make questionable connections.

Bernie's wife, Jane, is also supposedly tarred by questionable decisions vis a vis an education fund. No one is pure.

As for Trump: his whole career has been built on legally (that's why so many lawsuits) bilking contractors, workers, students, and ordinary people in virtually all his "business" dealings. That's how he's made his money.

If you don't vote for the Democrats (including Hillary) you are making it easier for Trump to be elected, and he could win. He’d probably have the mob with him—and his own mob. He's admired Putin and Saddam because that's the kind of dictatorial regime he wants to lead himself: he's also on board to discriminate against: immigrants, Latinos, blacks and the LGBTQ community (despite his careful repeating of the initials in his speech). He would abolish the health care act, privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while cutting taxes on the wealthiest, thereby creating huge deficits that would require slashing government services to any except the very wealthy. And, he'd build up our military (now accounting for 40% of all defense spending in the entire world), so he'd probably need new taxes: maybe an "America Tax", a sales tax or a value-added tax that would hit the poor especially hard (they are his favorite victims in business, after all).

I'll vote Democrat to protect my children, all of whom are identified as in the LGBTQ spectrum. I’ll vote to protect a Supreme Court that could become either even more conservative than it was with Scalia, or could be progressive if Hillary gets to appoint his replacement and the other Justices getting too old to serve. That court will serve long after I’m dead. I’m 77.

I’ll also vote to insure that we have someone leading our country who is sane, not unstable and unpredictable.

That Hillary has also signed on for a good part of Bernie's agenda is a bonus we could work for. It would be impossible for us to even think about the Bernie agenda (except maybe through violent revolution) if Trump were elected.

The idea that, even if Trump got elected he couldn’t do anything, is unwarranted. He offered Kasich the Vice Presidency, in which he, the VP, would be in charge of Domestic and Foreign Affairs, i.e. the one getting things done for Donald. It’s very likely Pence signed on for the same deal. And there are all sorts of radical ‘conservative’ Republicans who would do the kinds of things outlined in their platform. Pence would dismantle as much of the Federal Government as he could, except for Defense, Homeland Security and DOJ. If he and Trump were elected, they’d probably take Congress, too. And, of course, the Supreme Court, since he, or Trump, would have the pleasure of appointing the most conservative, pro-monopoly-corporate, “Christian,” anti-LGBTQ lackeys they could find.

Tell me: what would voting for Jill Stein do, if Trump were elected?

Would her 3%—5% make a difference in the election? You can already see it in the polls: Jill takes votes from Democrats. Trump and Hillary were neck and neck, when Stein and Johnson were included in the latest polls, while a pairing of Hillary only against Trump shows Hillary slightly ahead.

Voting for Jill Stein, if Trump were elected, would signal to him that the left is divided and weak, so he can destroy us as predatory “leaders” are apt to do: by turning us against each other.

Maybe, he/they have already done that, with the help of Brietbart, Fox News, Limbaugh, and all the other right-wing propagandists.

I hope not, but if so: Welcome to their LaLa land!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Alone Can Fix It

Yes, Trump said that!

I don’t know if it was an ad-lib, or part of his written text, but he said it, and it’s memorialized in the video record, in his convention speech. Apparently it was after he said: the powerful “beat up on people that cannot defend themselves;” and the system was “rigged against our citizens.”

Hubris? What is he running for? Emperor, perhaps? King Arthur? Maybe, King Arthur.

He’s not running for what most Americans have recognized as President.

Truman, in an interview in the Oval Office, before Ike was inaugurated, remarked: “Poor Ike!” He explained that being President was not like being a General. “He’ll order this, he’ll order that—and nothing will happen!” (quotation approximate).

Presidents cannot control Congress, unless they have an overwhelming majority, and even then, not for long, as LBJ demonstrated. Presidents can’t even control the sprawling bureaucracy of the Executive branch, although they try; they can’t control the Supreme Court, even one they appoint, and they certainly can’t control the States. So, how is the Donald going to do what he says he’s going to do? Establish law and order within days of his inauguration?

The states control police powers.

Detain and expel 11.5 million “illegal aliens?” The legal problems facing such a program are nearly insurmountable, unless he’s determined to completely circumvent all Constitutional protections for non-citizens.

And then, would certain citizens, someone outspoken, like me, be denied Constitutional rights as well, because we are, well, you know…?

If he has a friendly Congress, he might be able to start building a wall, but it would be a massive undertaking; would cost more than any other government building program ever has, and probably would founder in disputes about where to get the money, even if a lot of it ended up in the hands of Trump & Co. The first $100 billion President.

But he’s also going to completely revamp the military and cut taxes. How? Maybe by doing what Hitler did in part: seize all property and wealth belonging to aliens for the State, i.e. the Federal Government. That would be quite a haul.

If he cuts taxes, according to his statements and the Republican platform, he’ll cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations. Tax cuts for ordinary people would have to be minimal, and probably would have to be replaced by higher sales taxes, excise taxes and value added taxes, all of which would increase ordinary people’s tax burden, but not that of the wealthy, or corporations. Taxes would be less visible, however.

If, that is, he could get any taxes through Congress beyond the tax cuts popular with business, so an enormous deficit could be the result. And then a recession, at least.

He says he’s for peace, but he excoriated Obama for not acting on his Syrian “red line,” which could very well have ended up involving the US in the horrific Syrian civil war even more directly, and possibly in direct confrontation with Russia.

Can we predict a peaceful Trump Presidency, given his thin-skinned vulnerability to criticism? Can you really imagine him negotiating a deal with Assad, or Putin? And what about his inflammatory statements on the Iran nuclear treaty? We could well end up in a greater war in the Middle East: against IS, Iran, Assad, you name it. Maybe all of them combined!

His claims or promises do remind me of Hitler, and of Roman Emperors, although his symbolism is more like King Arthur, the original British nationalist, if you consider the lighting that made him golden, instead of orange, that figure approaching through the mist, suddenly revealed, and certainly his children’s stories of Trump generosity, concern for all his workers, his secret charitable aid to them. It’s all a mythology, being spun by story-tellers—with an agenda.

Consider the heroic story of his rescue of the city skating rink outside his office window. His children’s story is that it was interminably under construction, over budget and never finished. So, he took it over, finished the construction in record time and under budget. Dad’s free enterprise triumphs, demonstrates the superiority of capitalism over the state.

A participant in that story told me that the public rink was doing fine, had full enrollment in all sorts of programs and was heavily used. But it was old, so Trump somehow took it over (she didn’t tell me how that happened) and closed it. After two weeks trying to work with him, my informant told him he was an asshole, to his face, and then quit. The refurbished rink may be swankier, she said, but now it costs too much for ordinary people to afford, so, it’s not heavily used.

This shows what class politics can do, and what side Trump is on, as well. King Arthur may have been a popular hero, but consider: slaves, serfs and despotic aristocracy were normal, the peasantry, or yeomanry, had a hard life, the former with high rents—just better than the other guys, those slaves and serfs.

Is that what Trump means, when he says he’ll fight for us? King Arthur and his knights fought for the privileged damsels, and lords, not the peasantry, or the serfs and slaves.

Where would you fit in Trump’s Royal Court? Or outside it?

African Americans, Hispanics, Asians: none of them would likely find a place, except as loyal servants—or serfs and slaves.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hillary, Bernie, Trump and the Realities of Protest Voting

Bernie Sanders has generated a genuine movement, but it may have peaked too late to win the Democratic nomination. So, what are Berniers to do? For a Bernier like me, voting for Hillary is a difficult lift. Part of the consciousness raised by Sanders is the systemic corruption implicit in the Democratic Party’s dependence, since Bill Clinton, on raising millions of dollars from wealthy donors and corporations. Hillary is certainly part of that system.

On the other hand: Trump is now the presumptive nominee of the GOP. He appeals to the baser instincts of the disenchanted, the angry, the racist, those who feel left behind by either party establishment. Trump’s a fraud, but clever enough to brush aside all scrutiny through his mastery of media.

Think of Trump as if he were the petty dictator of a Third World state, financed by his exploitation of victims like the ones who went to his university, or got fleeced in his casinos.

The least bad that could happen, if Trump were elected, would be: repealing Obamacare, privatizing Medicare and Social Security and eliminating income support programs. Further, he’d appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices in his first four years. Abortions could be outlawed and women could be prosecuted for them. Guns would be protected in white neighborhoods, questionable in ‘other’ neighborhoods. Unions and labor would see their rights weakened, enforcement eliminated.

Republicans argue it’s Government overreach to regulate anything.
,br> The economic consequences of a Trump takeover would be, per orthodox Republicanism: cutting taxes “across the board,” especially for corporations. However, Trump likes to do the deals himself; he doesn’t want to pay taxes, he wants Uncle Sam to pay him: for building the wall, for example. He could become the first $100 billion leader of a nation, from all the money he’d make, just on the wall. But he wouldn’t stop there.

Beyond the corruption, deficit hawks would use the rising deficits (from tax cuts) to justify cutting all Government programs other than defense and law and order. A depression could ensue, although you wouldn’t know it, if it benefits corporations owning the media. So, who loses most, who gains most from a Trump Presidency?

Losers: all non-whites, all immigrants, most women. They don’t lose just because they will have fewer jobs and no job security, or will be sent “home,”or because they, again, can be legally discriminated against (along with LGBTQ). They will also lose because so many of the services that make life possible for the less fortunate, would be cut. Further, minorities and the poor would bear the brunt of climate change disaster, a near certainty in a Trump Presidency, for reasons given below.

With a Republican/Trump Supreme Court, there would be no reprieve from this regime, because the court would make it easy for the GOP to permanently gerrymander Congressional and state majorities, to restrict voting and to maintain a permanent GOP Senate supported by corporations and billionaires, and GOP Presidents funded by them.

Think of it: a Republican Supreme Court for the next 30 years! I won’t be around that long. A GOP monopoly for longer.

The winners: Big corporations and their leaders and the wealthy more generally; he would lower their taxes and regulatory oversight, not just his own. Corporations would rule. Psychological winners: white males would be winners, the way Po’ Whites were in the segregated South. Kept poor, they were reconciled to their poverty by knowing that black people under them were even poorer and under their control. White supremacist support for Trump is symptomatic of the direction the nation would go with Trump as President.

If Trump is elected, put your money in the Defense industry and you’ll probably do well, because his fragile ego will cause wars or armed disagreements all over the world. Better to make the guns, than to have to go out and shoot them; leave that part to the losers.

Fossil fuel corporations would be winners: Trump advocates expanding production of all of them, while reducing or eliminating regulations: a dream for the Koch Brothers.

What is the worst that could happen if Hillary were elected? She might be pulled into wars, too. She does seem to have a weakness for the Military. But she knows that one of her worst decisions was to vote for the Iraq war. Neither Libya, nor Iraq have been anything but disasters. So, she’d likely be more wary of military involvement.

Hillary would keep and try to expand Obamacare and all the other programs like Medicare and Social Security, and income support programs. She might consider a “public option,” i.e. open enrollment for Medicare for all, a backdoor to Single Payer and also the debt-free college program she advocated, to deal with student debt.

Trump would probably encourage more for-profit colleges like Trump University.

Hillary’s tax policies would start with Obama’s; she has made many commitments to reducing inequality, so, she would attempt to lower taxes on the poor and raise them on the rich. It may not be her highest priority, the way it is with Bernie Sanders, but she would push in that direction.

Trump would do the opposite. Lowering taxes on the wealthy and raising them on the poor is the Republican prescription for reducing inequality (by increasing opportunities from all the “good jobs” the wealthy will not create and the shit-jobs they might). Trump has even said: “wages are too high.” He and the GOP would increase inequality; more wealth would be siphoned to the top of the income pyramid.

As for the big banks, Hillary wouldn’t summarily break them up, like Bernie, but she would insist on strict regulation, and breakups would be possible.

On the other hand, Trump wants to repeal Dodd-Frank regulation of banks. He’d just want to insure that bankers were his friends, so he could call up Jamie Dimon, or other bank CEO’s, and get what he wants. He certainly wouldn’t want them punished for fraud; he’s done similar, so you could expect more fraudulent behavior from Wall Street, not less, in a Trump Presidency.

Climate change/global warming: Trump usually denies there is such a thing. After all, large Republican funders, fossil fuel owners and handlers, would be bankrupted if forced to keep their assets in the ground. So, with Trump as President, expect no meaningful attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has now said unequivocally that he is for expanding coal, oil and gas production, and advocates reducing regulations to make that possible. He’s also pledged to reject the Paris agreement on controlling global emissions. Therefore, expect full-blown climate disaster.

It’s the worst time for this to happen, and it’s something that could never be undone.

Clinton would press to alleviate climate change, as would Sanders, the latter perhaps more single-mindedly. Clinton would have to be persuaded: to stop fracking, for example; to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, to stop leasing public lands for oil/gas/coal extraction. But she would know that a significant part of her constituency would support her for doing this. She has also supported the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s followers want more drilling, more fracking, more digging, more fossil fuel jobs. Why worry about grandchildren?

Bernie Sanders is right on all these issues: taxes, banks, inequality, climate change, etc. And he acknowledges the danger of Trump and the violent passions being unleashed—on both sides. But it looks from here as if Bernie’s unexpected successes have turned his head, just a little, even though it’s virtually impossible, given party rules, for him to win a pledged delegate majority.

Bernie didn’t say he’d hurt Clinton to weaken her if she were the nominee, but he does imply she deserves to be hurt, that she’s corrupt and that her allies have skewed the primaries in her favor (probably true). He’s also, reportedly, trying to win over super-delegates with the argument that he’s better positioned for the General Election and less vulnerable to Trump attacks. He may be, but, no one knows what would happen if Bernie were the nominee. He’d certainly be labeled “crazy Bernie,” by Trump and attacked as a radical Commie. He can’t become the nominee unless existing party rules are abandoned, but how could he run as Democratic nominee, if Hillary has garnered more votes and delegates? As fantastic as his latest victories have been, even landslides in California and New Jersey would not earn him the necessary delegates to win at the convention.

Reforms are clearly necessary in Democratic Party rules, and Bernie supporters will demand revisions, but negotiations are in order, not diktats. I hope we don’t have 1968 redux. The nominee and the party were weakened enough in 1968 that Tricky Dick Nixon was elected, just four years after Democrats had one of their greatest victories. If progressive Democrats tear down Clinton and the party on which she runs, a Trump triumph becomes more likely, especially if progressives vote third party in the election, or write-in Sanders, in effect, a half-vote each, for Trump.

Nevertheless, the Bernie or Bust movement is a real one. A lot of Berniers are repelled by “establishment politics.” To them, Sanders represents the real thing; he addresses the real issues and confronts the inherent corruption of a party (the Democrats). Most of its office-holders still claim they can accept money from big banks, fossil fuel corporations and other representatives of what Bernie has labeled “ the Billionaire class,” without being corrupted by them.

Hillary points out that she never changed a vote or has given a favor in return for money she received from Wall Street interests. Outright bribery is rare. It’s more subtle corruption that’s a major problem. Having friends like JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, is not bribery, but it does change the way you view the world. Familiarity between Wall Street leaders, Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries probably explains why, despite widespread evidence of fraud, Wall Street executives have not been prosecuted for it: their banks have been fined billions, instead. Therefore their questionable activities continue.

Having been politically awakened, many Berniers feel there is no going back. How can you support a party (Democrats), or a candidate (Hillary), when you know that both are major contributors to systemic corruption?

And yet, to reiterate: if Trump is elected there will not be just systemic corruption, but government by and for billionaires, abortions banned, services for the many slashed, taxes extracted from the not-wealthy, while the wealthy’s taxes are cut. Minorities would be discriminated against even more, immigrants would be driven out, torture would be revived, and civil liberties would be under threat. The environment would be under sustained attack, and Trump would likely have ongoing conflicts (some armed) with many nations around the world.

Protest votes can have real consequences. While Hillary haters won’t feel those consequences as soon, or as deeply, as non-whites, immigrants and the poor, everyone would ultimately regret their short-sightedness if Trump is elected.

The would-be protest voter should consider her/his complicity if a Trump regime is made possible by their electoral protest, principled as it may well be.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Open Letter to Bernie

Letter to Bernie Sanders

I have been an enthusiast of yours long before you ventured forth from Vermont into a national campaign.

But thinking through some specific answers to how you propose to do things, would help, perhaps along the lines of the brilliant ad MoveOn did with you. Make your ideas more concrete, if you can, but give some idea how you/we will achieve them.

Trump would say: “I’ll get the best people,” but for you, that’s not enough. Most voters, not the poor fools swayed by Trump, want to believe you’ll know how to practice the art of being President.

I know there is a danger of being like Adlai Stevenson: policy wonkery and fine language turns voters off. In fact, that’s part of the problem with your opponent (policy wonkery): she acts as if knowing the process is all.

But making ideas concrete would be the opposite. I’ll get back to that below.

Please don’t get into angry arguments like the one you had with Hillary in the debate April 14, in Brooklyn. You have to be above that. You lead a movement. The only way you can really win, is to lead that movement, inspire it, and change the electoral landscape in this country. Sniping at Hillary, sarcastic comments, “Oh, they must be really scared of you!” does not go over well even with your supporters. You’ve got to be above that: your strongest point is your passion for the ideas you represent and your authenticity.

Frankly, I get a little tired of the repetition, and maybe a little more human scale than “universal healthcare” would help, without having to pull an Adlai/Hillary. Illustrate what it would mean, how it would be paid for, and why paying taxes instead of insurance, etc. would save everyone a lot of money. Don’t cite Denmark.

Don’t just repeat the fact that the bankers almost brought down the economy through fraud: give stories of people adversely affected. Others will be unless…end with breaking up the banks, using Dodd-Frank, Presidential determination and popular support. And prosecution of the perps: most people would love that.

Give people some meat for your policies, not just raw passion.

Get some sleep!

Good wishes: I’m going out to GOTV in my corner of NY tomorrow. And Monday and Tuesday.


Douglas C Smyth, Ph.D (Social Sciences) Retired. Town of Marbletown, NY

Sunday, January 31, 2016

They’re Trying to Steal Elections, Again

Ted Cruz, in the last Republican “debate,” explained how he was for “legal status” for illegal immigrants, but not amnesty, not citizenship.

That’s when he tipped the GOP’s real game on immigration. He had sponsored an amendment to the immigration bill that he knew was probably a poison pill, but in the debate he simply explained what the amendment would do: grant legal status, but ban citizenship to all illegal immigrants, regardless of reason or duration in the country—legal status after jumping through a series of hoops.

So, all the illegal immigrants throughout Texas should know: Ted Cruz is going to find a way to keep you from ever voting in the United States. This is stealing elections for the next generation. Republicans are a forward-thinking lot.

We all know so many other forms the Republicans have concocted to insure that they win elections, even if they get fewer votes.

First of all, they have all the voting restrictions being piled on, to insure against voter fraud, when it hardly ever existed, anywhere, except in cemeteries in Chicago in the 1960 election. I take it back: corrupt town and city governments bought votes: Heritage Foundation cites 300 cases. Voter ID laws wouldn’t remedy most of those abuses. But they would make it more difficult to vote, if you’re ‘one of those people.’

Voter ID laws proposed are legion, in 19 states they actually passed. Generally, they require that the voter have one of four official ID’s. The most common is a driver’s license, but a lot of poor people don’t drive, especially a lot of poor black people. Some states require a State issued ID. Again, the problem is that some can afford to make the trip to get one, easily, but others can’t afford it, period.

Other kinds of voter restrictions are for reducing early voting, especially early voting on weekends. Black churches had organized their parishioners to turn out on a Sunday, to vote. Can’t have that.

Like the simple 138 word amendment Cruz offered to the Immigration bill that failed in the last Democratic Senate, almost all these election restrictions have a common motive: restrict voters of color—there’s too damn many of them—so that decent white folks can continue to run things their way: the right way of course.

Some Republicans are so dead set at halting the influx of foreigners (with the exception of those with high skills), that they almost have to steal elections, legally, of course.

Gerrymandering congressional and state legislative districts when the GOP gained new majorities in states and Congress in 2010 and again in 2014, has been the most effective means of stealing elections since ol’ Jim Crow. Black and Latino votes are piled as closely together in districts as possible, through strange map configurations, while white majorities are assured in a majority of districts, again through the magical convolutions of Republican map writers.

Abacadabra! The US House of Representatives, and a majority of the nation’s state legislatures are now, apparently, solidly controlled by Republicans, although Democrats received more votes.

Another way to steal elections: a negative campaign gives advantage to the Republican by discouraging voters from turning out: Democratic voters, overwhelmingly.

Illegal theft of elections is also a distinct possibility, especially with the increasing use of computer/scanner technology and internet transmission. Stealing an election from a computer terminal would be a whole lot easier than dumping opposition ballots in the river, and substituting your own. It might even be difficult to know whether it’s happened, or not.

In the last elections there was little electronic fraud uncovered, or, at least, confirmed, but computerized alterations of the vote counts could be subtle algorithms that just alter enough, of a sample of votes, to change the outcome substantially enough that no recount makes sense.

This kind of election fraud might not even be partisan: it might be corporate. It is worrying, that, as voting becomes more dependent on technology, public elections become increasingly dependent on the private corporations that make the machines and their software. “Back doors” to the software that codes and calculates the vote have been found by hackers. But corporations processing the vote through their machinery may have a particular interest they can influence through manipulating the vote—against the candidate calling for their regulation, for example.

Billionaires and corporations are also stealing votes, by spending millions, possibly billions, to disinform, to persuade voters of their viewpoint and their preferred candidates, often through manipulation of data, falsification of facts and invective.

Even if a billionaire engages in none of the above, but still spends many millions of his own money, he is, in effect, trying to steal the election by buying it: because of his inordinate wealth. Buying something that is illegal to buy—unless you spend millions or billions, perhaps. Buying an election used to be called corrupt practices. Except, maybe no longer, in this new world confected by Justices Roberts and Scalia.

Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it isn’t stealing, only that we’ve legalized it.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Helots and Immigrants: Response to Cruz

Ted Cruz let slip his plans for illegal immigrants in the 1/28/15 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, 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!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Flint was poisoned by a Republican Governor’s “caretaker.”

Marx would have said, it’s all determined by economic relations between classes, the wealthy, the middle class and the vast poor, who do all the work.

Krugman said, it’s not partisan, it’s ideological. (NYT 01/25/16)

It all depends on where you stand.

A billionaire at Davos said he was “mystified” as to why people are so angry. He doesn’t see anything wrong. After all, he’s doing fine!

Face it, Republicans like Governor Snyder, like Speaker Ryan, like Trump and Cruz are all bound by an ideological construct that denies government can ever do anything positive for its citizens; it can only get out of the way. Then, if business can profit from it, it will work.

Why is this a class issue? Flint is mostly poor and non-white, therefore ‘those people’ can’t afford good services; nonpayments prove it. If government is going to act at all (provide water services), it should provide terrible service, because you can’t waste money on something worthless like poor people’s water! Now, water for Grosse Point, that’s another issue: their citizens work hard (look at their average income), and they’ll be willing to pay for better service.

Republican “conservatives” (the label is misleading), are ever wary of spending public money, because they’re positively averse to raising taxes (even a tiny move, towards rates where they were in the booming Eisenhower years: 91% top rate, vs 39+% now.).

Why tax averse? Because the wealthy (who fund them) already think they pay too much: in fact, as a portion of their overall income they pay much less than everyone else.

So, all kinds of infrastructure, a public good, are not replaced, maintained, or upgraded. That’s why even China has better rail systems than we do. That’s why our bridges collapse, or are condemned, why children are taught in shabby, overcrowded schools.

Some even putatively liberal politicians appear to prefer private and “charter” schools to public ones, because you know what kinds of children are left in the public ones. And the charters and private schools are largely non-union. The charter movement has subtracted from the resources that public schools need to serve those who need it most: the poor.

Who loses when a public road becomes a private toll road? Easy, the people who can’t afford the extra money it will cost them: the poor.

As Elizabeth Warren has pointed out for several years, the system is rigged against the vast majority of people, so that large corporations, especially financial institutions, can siphon off the value created by everyone’s hard work: well over 90% of all new wealth created since the Great Recession in 2008 turns up in the accounts of the top 1%, and even more, the top 0.1% of income earners. No wonder, most peoples’ incomes are stagnant or declining in buying power.

No wonder people are angry.

How does this work?

Wages are kept low through monetary and fiscal policy: trillions to resuscitate the banks, while money for programs to help ordinary people are cut in the name of fiscal austerity.

Taxes: while Obama raised the marginal income tax slightly for top income earners (from 33% to 39+% for those with incomes over $ 411,000), Republican local and state governments have slashed taxes on the wealthy, and cut expenditures for everyone else. They propose to do the same at the Federal level in the name of austerity, even though budget deficits have been very low, and borrowing costs have been lower still.

So, government programs are not available to boost employment, and a large army of the long-term unemployed remains (Marx described this as a reserve army of the poor). The effect of this reserve army is to keep wages low. “Free” trade treaties maintain downward pressure on wages, as well, and encourage corporations to profit from expanding world markets, since American consumption lags with low incomes.

Anti-union policies add to the downward spiral of wages: workers lose their bargaining power to raise them and their political power to represent themselves.

With wages low, corporations can raise profits, and stockholders can “earn” higher dividends, while executives are paid ridiculously high salaries and bonuses. Ergo, inequality becomes more and more extreme.

It’s in this context that Bernie Sanders proposes free college, single payer health care, break-up of the big banks and financial institutions and higher taxes for the wealthy to pay for these programs.

Critics have pointed out, however, that these institutions: finance, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, doctors, large corporations, generally, will martial their huge resources to oppose any threat to their earning power. Obamacare was constructed to work with these institutional heavy-weights, which is why drug prices, insurance premiums and doctors’ salaries have risen as Obamacare is implemented.

This is also why Bernie’s proposals have no possibility of realization, unless there is a thorough-going political revolution (which he advocates). What would be needed, at minimum, would be large congressional majorities (a mandate) in favor of his programs, and a replication of these majorities in the states.

The GOP and the Supreme Court have conspired to make this kind of political revolution close to impossible: voting restrictions and partisan gerrymanders after 2010, have made it highly unlikely that any popular movement could overthrow the Republican majority in the House, or in the states.

Ironically, Clinton and now Obama, through their trade deals, have made it more likely that corporations will have virtual veto power against any radical change that will adversely impact their profits, or their CEO’s salaries.

But, there is enormous hunger out here (in the world, right now in the US) for the kind of Revolution Bernie talks about.

If it happens, we’ll be spared the bloody mess of a violent revolution. If radical reform doesn’t happen, an explosion will. Not now, but soon. Or, an alternative: a fascist totalitarianism to hold down the lid; it would make Stalin and Hitler look like pikers.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

CIA Propaganda?

Propaganda in the form of a TV series: it really sounds/looks as if it comes from the CIA.

Madam Secretary is a made for streaming on Netscape.

The new Secretary, “the Company’s” emergency candidate after the last one exploded near Africa, is a youngish, good-looking blonde, who doesn’t care about her appearance, until it becomes necessary. She cares about “making a difference.” It appears she’s ex-CIA, and still well-connected to it: the diplomatic corps, not at all, apparently.

Action involves a heart-rending kidnapping of two teens in Syria. Her solution, after a failed “extraction” attempt: shady international mafia/CIA connections, $1.5 million, and the two boys are kissing the ground as they arrive back in the good old USA.

You see. Just let the CIA do it. You don’t even need the Pentagon. CIA and its myriad foreign allies and illicit connections can fix everything, and for so little money.

I mean: $1.5 million to get those two American boys out of Syria: you can bet the previous “extraction” attempt cost more.

A few minutes mistake of mine cost our military $10,000, my angry Sergeant told me (in 1963).

So, the CIA solves our problems by cutting corners. But it hasn’t solved our problems in the past. The CIA’s first great triumph was overthrowing the “Socialist” (not Communist) Mossadegh in Iran, and installing the Shah and a pro-western government, that opened up Iran to US exploitation—of its oil. So, why did those ungrateful Iranians rebel and establish the Islamic Republic?

Extreme religion breeds in such instances; it finds fertile ground. The Iranian revolution was part religious, a large part nationalist, as in expel the exploitative foreigners who don’t even know how cultured and sophisticated we are, even as we are good Muslims.

But here’s the point: it was CIA meddling that destabilized Iran enough to make the Islamic revolution happen.

Not that Pentagon meddling in Iraq was even as successful. We’d be a lot better off with Saddam, and the semi-stability he maintained, than the chaos that Iraq is now. So would the Iraqis, except, possibly, the Shia in the south.

CIA disasters are legion: Bay of Pigs, Castro assassination plots, Allende-Pinochet, the Guatemalan coup against Social Democrat Jacopo Arbenz that began civil war lasting a generation. The intel during the Iraq war, perhaps “the best in the world,’ was “tailored.” CIA assessments of Soviet strength was consistently boosted, so Defense expenditures could rise.

Perhaps every major nation has to have intelligence services. Point of disclosure: I was a lowly analyst of radio traffic in places like Sinop, Turkey and Bad Aibling, then West Germany. I found the work rewarding: I was helping to monitor what the Soviets were doing, and possibly all of our work was mandated by international treaties. It was understood they did the same.

To solve problems through these same undercover institutions—and their illicit connections—injects real moral problems into American foreign policy.

Which is what we’re doing with our drone wars, almost none of which are officially acknowledged in the country in which the bombing happens, except for our limping survivor, Afghanistan.

The CIA only conducts about a third of the attacks; they are much less mouthy about them, compared to the Pentagon. The latter will give medals to drone “pilots” in their bunkers, in the Rockies, probably in a poor attempt to bolster morale.

Drone pilots, it seems, can’t stand the work: seeing real people in real time destroyed, graphically, before their eyes, onscreen, by the drones they control 3,000 miles away—and then having to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, because the Air Force can’t train them as fast as they’re leaving. A canker at the heart of the Empire.

Which brings me back to Madam Secretary, and a lot of other “product” available at places like Netflix and Amazon. There is a noticeable (to me) attempt to persuade us that we have to be hard-boiled. We have to use any means, even torture, but only when necessary: we’re the good guys. Morality is… troublesome.

What do we stand for? It’s not at all clear, except, we’re Americans, so we must be good. I don’t think the words ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘liberty,’ were even spoken during the episode I saw of Madam Secretary.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Buffoon, Many Ignoramuses and The Evil One

Perhaps Ted Cruz isn’t really the devil, but that’s what he made me think of when I saw him on the debate last night. What a slimy, evasive, nasty human being!

Yes, this is about that “debate.”

I don’t need to give you three guesses to figure out who’s the buffoon. I almost wrote baboon, but the great apes are much his superior. Donald Trump. It’s the first time I’ve seen him in action. He knows nothing; says nothing except insults and outrages, but will always do everything better than anybody else, obviously, because he can always call on “the best people.” He knows them. What’s most amazing about him is his absolute conviction that he’s a genius, everyone else is retarded and he can just say whatever he wants to say—usually driven by the polls.

He was given $40 million by his father. He turned it into $2 to 5 billions. If he had invested it in index funds, he would have made maybe $6 billions; in other words, he’s no genius, even at making money!

What to say about the rest of the debate crowd: Carly Fiorina is the female version of Ted Cruz, but with no knowledge of government, little of politics and a failed career as a CEO.

Marco Rubio is slick, well-spoken, attractive, but he had major problems with finances (his own), doesn’t quite know what to do about immigration, as a first generation Cuban-American, but seems to be enthusiastic about surveillance over everyone. Big Brother, here we come!

Jeb Bush: sounds like a policy wonk, is about as awkward, but made a few substantive points: bashing Muslims would be a boon for ISIL’s recruiting. His new, improved scenario for Syria/Iraq is to get Arab boots on the ground. He didn’t acknowledge that Obama’s already working on that, but Sunni Arabs are hard to come by to fight ISIL, since both the Assad regime and the Abadi regime (a slightly softened Maliki regime) have brutally discriminated against the Sunnis needed to fight against ISIL in the Sunni majority areas outside of Kurdistan. Thank you, George W for the wonderful regime change.

No one in this crowd seems to think Obama’s done anything, except bend over and offer his skinny ass. Oh, and Hillary seems never to have left the administration from the way Jeb and all the others hyphenate Obama-Hillary.

But their collective foreign policy is as scary as their domestic surveillance aspirations. Bomb them: All! Women and children? Yes.

That’s really what they mean when they say over and over that the bane of America is “political correctness.” As in abiding by international law, not targeting civilians abroad, or minorities at home. Bad. Bomb the hell out of them. And at home: target the “likely perps,” meaning blacks and Hispanics (illegals, all), and now, Middle Easterners. And surveil, surveil, surveil!

I know Rand Paul is a closet racist: to him, civil rights law is government overreach. But he did make some sense against surveillance and on foreign policy: don’t intervene: Arabs have to do it themselves, maybe with a little help. His policy position was so far out of the GOP right-wing mainstream, that his physical position, way over on the right-hand end understated how much of an outlier he is.

The opposite of outlier is Kasich: he and Bush played grown-ups.

And then there was Chris Christie, Bridge Blocker, looking like he wished he’d done it his burly self. He would shoot down Russian planes! That’s how tough he is!

Gee, we all want WWIII, the first two were so much fun!

Oh, and what was that going on in Paris? People just obsessed with the climate: don’t worry about it; they’ll go away and we’ll get back to “our oil” and now, “our internet” and bomb ISIL—and anyone near it—to smithereens. That’s how we’ll be SAFE.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

War with DAESH/ISIS?

Are these the times when even the NYT promotes war? Yesterday, 12/7/15, in ‘Obama Says of Terrorist Threat: 'We Will Overcome It,’ the NYT reported on Obama’s oval office speech.

You’d think the “paper of record” would cover significant points put forward in the President’s address, but you’d be wrong. There was much about what Obama had done and was doing about Daesh*, aka Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL militarily, but no mention of his major, multilateral initiative with Russia, Iran, China, France and Saudi Arabia (number 4 of his points), in which tentative agreements have already been reached on a process to establish a cease-fire between ‘moderate’ opposition forces and the Syrian Government, with the further tentative agreement that the initial result would be an interim government. Without an agreement, no progress against Daesh is possible. Why? Arab Sunnis rebelling against both Iraqi and Syrian Shiite/Alawite dominated governments are not going to fight against Daesh, which is also Sunni Arab, though extremist thugs, until the conflict between the rest of the (Sunni) opposition is at least tentatively resolved.

Russia’s initial solution—backing Assad—won’t bring Sunnis to its side; it can drive them into the arms of Daesh.

American Republicans call for war with Daesh, inching towards US troops on the ground, but that’s precisely what Daesh wants. It would empower it to portray itself as Islam attacked by Infidels, which would make its current successful worldwide recruiting look pale by comparison.

Yes, it would lose on the battlefield, but we’ve been down that road too many times: The US lost no battles in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, but it effectively lost all three wars. Attacking Daesh directly would have the same result, but it could be global; the West, even Russia and China, could be under constant attack of the kind demonstrated in San Bernardino. We might call it Terror by Example, or Inspirational Terror, instead of a Terror Network.

Further, to demonize and alienate Muslims, as Trump and his ditto-heads advocate, would be counter-productive: it would prime Muslims all over the world, including those in the US (relatively well integrated and prosperous up until now) to be even more receptive to Daesh than its small thuggish fringe has been already.

*Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, but it sounds like the Arabic words for one who crushes something underfoot, or one who sows discord, hence it is intensely disliked by Daesh adherents. IS is not appropriate, since it is not a true state, only a conquest gang or a global mafia.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Gardening II: Zucchinis and Tomatoes

We’ve gone through the assault of the zucchinis. We’ve adapted a recipe called disappearing zucchini, in which you grate a large zucchini, or several medium ones, into a colander, then salt liberally and let it drain for a few hours. Press dry, or as near as possible, rinse, if too salty, then sauté with anything that makes sense, like a reduction of tomatoes, if those are also abundant at the time, or earlier, just onions, garlic and mushrooms flavored with thyme and oregano. I’ve also blackened drained zucchini cut into strips. We've picked real monsters, while trying to catch them before they grow so large; they hide.

Tomatoes have now descended upon us en masse, but unlike zucchinis, there are multitudes of uses for tomatoes. I just cooked some haddock, a rather bland fish, in a sauce of tomatoes, reduced, with onions and garlic and whatever fresh herbs are available: in this case thyme, oregano and coriander. And tomatoes in the salad, of course.

Some tomato plants look about done, others are just coming ripe, and a large ‘volunteer’ that I noticed early enough not to pull it out, is now overflowing with tomatoes, many ripe, and vying for space with one of the zucchini hills. I had thrown rotten tomatoes last year down where the volunteer grew.

The salad was an expression of my pride in getting a stand of new lettuce to grow. I watered it after dinner so that it will regenerate faster. Again, I’ve grown it in blocks, not spindly lines.

Elizabeth just made a tomato sauce from a large crop of them, but there are more sauces to come.

Crowding does work well for lettuce, but I’ve discovered that more conventional spacing makes sense for corn. I planted my corn much more closely than recommended, (abundant saved seeds made that possible) and it appears that I planted more and more thickly with each succeeding row. My last weekly planting was so cramped that I pulled out most plants, but too late; the corn plants were on their way to reverting to their pre-corn ancestor, pencil-thin stalks and miniature ears, if any at all.

My preparation for my garden, was first begun two autumns before, when we moved here. The garden enclosure held weeds as high as small trees, and a pernicious, nettle-like vine in the center that was so tough and entangled, I had to use a chainsaw to remove it. Then pulled out as many roots as I could (many still remain to pop up, even through a foot of mulch).

I covered the cleared garden with cardboard, then grass clippings and all the leaves from a large number of trees. Last fall, I gathered all the leaves from the trees again, and covered the garden with them, except where there had been a mustard patch with a multitude of seeds. I harvested an early crop of mustard greens there, but later had to pull out eight-foot tall plants going to seed. I kept just a few seed-bearers and some re-seeded plants.

The leaf cover still prevails in much of the garden; I planted individual plants by barely pushing the leaves aside to make their holes. I also dug grooves in the leaves to plant rows of seeds, even for the corn. I still have to water some things, and I watered the late lettuce and peas nightly to get them established. To increase growth, I have watered them every few days in this July-August- drought.

The drought has been severe enough that my bees couldn’t get enough nectar—or pollen—to feed their brood, and make honey. Both food sources are too dry, ergo I’ve been feeding the hive. I did so last year, and was unable to take out any honey. The hive survived the winter, only to be demolished by a bear, who had realized (before I did) that the electric fence wasn’t working.

So, the current hive is a new one created from a package of bees, one of the latest available in the Spring. But even my professional beekeeper friends with 200 hives have had to feed many of their established hives as well.

This drought is peculiar: a little rain, recently as much as 1.5 inches, and yet shallow rooted plants like grass have burned brown. There are some shady places in our yard that seem to be moist even without the rain. The drought’s effects, I think, are intensified by the dry air and hot sun.

What’s most peculiar about this drought is how local it seems to be. In the region according to the radio, we’re actually slightly above the rainfall average; our friends in Troy, about an hour north, report frequent rain; we haven’t seen it. And while we have an abundance of flowers, visited by my bees, they’re still eating my offered bee tea at an impressive rate. My local bee guru, who refers to his bees as “the girls,” says that bees don’t get hooked on easy sugar water; they’ll prefer real nectar when they can get it. I do see them at our flowers, at least through mid-morning. I’m not sure I hear them, or see them later in the day. But they’re still taking the bee tea, at more than a quart and a half a day.

Pesto next.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Gardener: beginning a series

I long ago stopped following planting “directions, and started planting the way I thought it would work. For example, seed packets advise that you plant the tiny lettuce seeds one or two inches apart and 10” to a foot from the next row. I plant lettuce—I collect my own seeds—in clumps, thickly clustered, so that the lettuce crowds each other, stays tender and molts long after single plants. I extend my lettuce crop into July, without watering and I have an abundance of lettuce.

I have a book from the 70’s that I consult about “companion planting.” Peas dislike onions, for example; basil and tomatoes like each other. Or, at least, they supplement each other, enrich each other.

I planted one crop of potatoes in November, under a layer of fallen leaves. It was something people did up in a little Gunk’s hamlet not far from here, in the 19th century, people who lived close to the land. The potatoes are doing well, and may have benefited from the plenitude of rain in the early part of summer.

We’re now in a moderate drought that has impacted my bees most of all. I can water vegetables a little bit, and start fall peas and lettuce, because we have a well whose water is not potable. Apparently, bees can’t extract nectar from all the abundance of flowers in my yard and in two large fields with bee balm flanking me,because it’s too dry—baked, really. I’ve fed one hive about two and a half gallons of bee tea (highly sugared water with some herbal infusions). I may feed them more. Right now, the feeding bottles just hold water. I’m hoping they can tolerate municipal water.

I’m also watering by drip hose, a big, 300 year old Oak; I give it a couple of hours an evening, and it seems to be doing better. Something attacked its spring foliage, probably gypsy moth, and it has an incurable fungal coating (according to an arborist) on one hip, but watering seems to be helping flesh out its thin upper foliage.

I have a philosophy of gardening, not a dogma, but I do shy away from chemicals, from fertilizers to pesticides. Since it’s my garden, I want it free of poisons, if possible, but I do water it with the “bad” water we have in our well.

Our “bad” water is the result of an industrial cleaning plant on a nearby hill; ending more than a decade ago, it dumped its toxic waste on the ground, without safeguards. Anyway, the “plume” of trace toxics reached ground water up to a few houses beyond ours on our sparsely populated exurban road. So, Superfund/EPA cleaned up the toxics and built a municipal water plant and water lines to all of us (our predecessor here), but were able to keep existing wells, for other uses. Our plumbing was all connected, courtesy of Superfund, to the municipal water system.

I should test my well water, to see how bad it is, but I’d rather have the municipal water: there’s no cutoff if the power goes off, whereas with a well, you’re out of luck: the electric pump won’t pump. Our water comes from the same source as New York City, but is treated locally. It tastes good, although I worry about the small amount of chlorine if I want to make wine or beer.

More later.