Silence on the Progressive Front

In the past it would have been risky for an American politician to propose an international progressive front, but today it seems like a logical response to big money aggression.  It is a measure of the seriousness of our present circumstances that someone like Bernie would propose it, yet an eerie silence reigns on both the Left and the Right. September 15, 2018:  I missed this article published on September 13 by Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister and cofounder of DiEM25, whose New Deal for Europe will be put to European voters in the May 2019 European Parliament elections.  

This is a War in the Making

See this link for the latest statements warning Trump against striking Syria.  First is Democracy Now’s report of a statement from Bernie Sanders:

On Wednesday, Sanders tweeted, “President Trump has no legal authority for broadening the war in Syria. It is Congress, not the president, who determines whether our country goes to war, and Congress must not abdicate that responsibility.”

Democracy Now also reports that Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya directly addressed his U.S. counterpart, Nikki Haley at the United Nations Security Council.

Vasily Nebenzya: “You are very good at threatening. And the threats you are proffering, that you are now stating vis-à-vis Syria, should make us seriously worried—all of us—because we could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events. I would once again ask you, once again beseech you, to refrain from the plans that you’re currently developing for Syria.”

And finally there is this warning reported by Press TV.  Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that the threat of using force against a UN member state is a gross violation of the UN charter.

“We call upon… members of the international community to seriously consider the possible consequences of such accusations, threats and especially action (against Syria),” she added.

This escalation must be stopped in any way possible.  When will you people stop being confused about Donald Trump?  Will you at least consider that he may be the Clinton’s Plan-B, and controlled by the same people?

 

Neoconservatives Against the World

We knew that this election was a contest between two deep state factions, but the most interesting thing in my opinion is the fact that both Trump and Clinton represent neoconservative influences.

It was Bill Clinton who allowed the left-wing neocons to take control of the Democratic Party.[1] (Page 36, Location 465) He did so because he needed their support for his first presidential campaign. This would explain the DNC’s treatment of Bernie Sanders in 2016. Bernie’s Democratic Socialism is more threatening to left-wing neocons than the right will ever be. However the neocon influence on the left tends to stay under the radar. It usually takes the form of neoconservative candidates posing as progressives, including John Kerry, Howard Dean, and John Edwards. Those ‘in the know’ hoped that the imperialist-democratic ideal was on its way out with the election of Barack Obama. Little did they know…

It goes without saying that the right-wing religious leaders who supported Donald Trump are also neocons, although everyone seems to chalk up their bizarre statements to religious extremism. The Christian Right has been considered a natural ally of the neocons since the time of Irving Kristol. The neocons shared the Christian Right’s aversion to the cultural revolutions of the 60s and 70s. They rejected the Democratic Party when President Carter proved to be too open-minded and respectful of people’s different lifestyles, and they were disappointed again at Reagan’s moderate stance on family and cultural issues. From that time the Christian Right has supported the most radical groups and it has violently opposed the Democrats, particularly the Clinton administration, which it considered too timid in foreign affairs.

This alliance has been courted by both the Christians and the neocons. Ralph Reed, head of the Christian Coalition from 1989 to 1997, had neocon sympathies, putting him somewhere between a sometimes anti-Semitic protestant fundamentalist and the pro-Israeli group in Washington. On the neocon side, PNAC sought to create links with key Christian groups such as William Bennett’s Empower America, and neocons like Kristol or Eliott Abrams showed their support by sharing extreme Christian positions on abortion and Aids. This alliance was boosted after September 11 when Christian Right think tanks, lobbies, and affiliated preachers adopted the neoconservative vision of Islam, Islamic terrorism and the ‘War on Terrorism’.

Many Americans are not aware of how often the Christian Right has swayed presidential decisions. George Bush was threatened with their sanctions when he condemned Israel’s assassination attempt on Hamas leader Rantissi in June of 2003. As a result of their threats Bush’s reaction to the successful assassinations of Sheikh Yassin and Rantissi in 2004 took on an entirely different character: he sided with Sharon. (When Empire Meets Nationalism, Page 35, Location 447)

Thus, starting from a deep-rooted anti-communism, the neoconservatives have gradually developed their analyses, which go far beyond the strict mould of their supporters to irrigate the whole political scene. During all their historical trajectory, there has always been a desire for American supremacy and a wariness of the rest of the world which can only lead them towards a re-legitimization of the Empire as a key to world order. (When Empire Meets Nationalism, Page 38, Location 489)

Given this discouraging state of affairs, it’s important to identify a pointed and coherent resistance. The position of Pope Francis in this struggle is probably best illustrated by the identity of his Catholic critics. As described in Todd Scribner’s book, A Partisan Church: American Catholicism and the rise of Neoconservative Catholics,[2] Francis’s critics are Catholic neocons. This is probably the faction represented by Paul Ryan when he stated that Francis should not be involved in politics. Bernie Sanders on the other hand, has been sympathetic to Francis’s approach.

Orthodox criticism of the Catholic Church represents political rivalry of another sort. The Orthodox Church is not a disinterested religious voice. It vies with Alexander Dugin for influence over Vladimir Putin.

Dugin’s neo-eurasianism represents a line of thought similar to neoconservative thought. His influence on both Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon reveals the true dilemma of our time.

 

[1] Didier Chaudet, Florent Parmentier, Benoit Pélopidas, When Empire Meets Nationalism: Power Politics in the US and Russia. Ashgate Publishing Limited, Surrey, England and Burlington VT, 2009. (All page numbers and locations correspond to the Kindle edition.)

[2] As reviewed by Patrick Garry, Neoconservative Catholicism in America. First Things, December 2, 2015

Donald or Hillary: a Calm Discussion

The election conversation gets narrower and narrower the closer we get to November 8. I’ve already told you what I plan to do. I’ve also urged my readers to vote for Hillary, even though when she was first nominated I said I wouldn’t talk about my plans. This began out of loyalty to Bernie but I stuck with it because I don’t see another way. However judging from the polls many people don’t agree with me.

We now know the WikiLeaks emails came from a faction associated with the U.S. intelligence community. As I’ve already said, I have a problem with the timing of this so-called coup. I’m also afraid that once the word coup is associated with our electoral process it will open the door for more of the same in future elections. Something similar has already happened. In the short time since George W. Bush openly stole the presidency, the electoral process has become a sham. I’ll hold both parties responsible for any future incidences of the dueling-coups approach to elections.

The details we’ve been given in the emails have been a diversion from what we should be talking about—our interests. Donald Trump has plenty of nefarious associations, so electing him will hardly be a vote for virtue. We should be strategizing over which candidate best serves our real interests.

Peace is one of our interests. The driving force behind the world’s conflicts today is foreign policy–and not just U.S. foreign policy. The leaders of the world are locked in an infernal struggle for supremacy, and whatever you may have heard our interests are not their interests. We were outraged by Hillary’s actions abroad and her seeming lack of concern for the consequences, but she didn’t do those things on her own account. She was only serving the status quo, which will continue on its merry way regardless of who wins this election. (The status quo was one of the things this conversation was supposed to address.)

Donald talks a good game about making peace with Russia, but what will he do when confronted with the machine? I’ll leave it to his supporters to figure this one out. One of the things they like about him is his feistiness. What do they think he’ll do when it’s explained to him that Russia stands in the way of ‘our’ victory? (I put ‘our’ in quotation marks because regardless of who wins it will be a victory for the wealthy interests behind the scenes—not for us.) Trump’s supporters might be divided on the question of what he will do, but his vice president has already said he’ll be another Dick Cheney. And Mike Pence is definitely part of the machine right down to his allegiance to Israel. Trump was strongly encouraged to choose Pence as his running mate by the way. And Russia aside, many other places in the world are ripe for intervention.

We don’t even know how Bernie Sanders would have dealt with these pressures, but we do know that if he had been elected he would have listened to us. That’s the choice he made when he turned his back on the billionaires. But Bernie intends to be influential in a Clinton Presidency–an important difference between the two candidates.   Some might discount his influence in future military decisions, but the point here is that a Trump presidency will serve the machine too, and without the influence of Bernie and his progressive allies in Congress. For these reasons the candidates cannot be clearly differentiated by their foreign policy.

Domestic policy is also in our interests. Clinton has positive economic policies and they are not all due to Sanders’ influence. For example she’s been talking since January about increasing the estate tax–an important step towards correcting economic inequality. Trump’s economic policies on the other hand will increase the advantages of the wealthy.

Social policies are in our interests as well. Trump has gone all socially conservative in this campaign. Some of his followers might expect him to relax this stance if he’s elected but that doesn’t seem likely because his running mate’s social policies are downright terrifying. For example as Governor of Indiana Pence signed an abortion bill that required parents of an aborted fetus to give it a funeral. However the law was blocked by a federal judge.

According to an article on politifact.com Clinton’s campaign website lists 32 topic headings, some as specific as Alzheimer’s disease and animal welfare. Trump’s web pages offer broad statements without details. In addition, Trump is known to shift his views even from interview to interview.

While Clinton changes her views, for example on the TPP, trump sometimes reverses positions within minutes. Still it’s possible to see a difference between them.

Trump has been consistent on three big economic policy items, according to Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution: raising barriers to immigration; imposing potentially large tariffs on goods from Mexico and China; and enacting large tax cuts. Clinton is more cautious. Clinton proposes a fairly small increase in taxes that would be borne almost entirely by the wealthy. Her plan would increase revenues over 10 years by $1.1 trillion. Trump’s plan, across-the-board tax cuts (but favoring the wealthy) would lower revenues over 10 years by $9.6 trillion. Moody’s Analytics predicts that Trump’s proposals would make the U.S. economy less global and would substantially increase the federal debt, benefit the wealthy disproportionately, and push unemployment up.

In energy policy Clinton would wean the U.S. from fossil fuels by setting targets for renewable energy, while Trump would ‘revitalize’ the domestic oil and gas sector.

They agree however on increased spending on infrastructure, with Clinton offering more specifics for the budget.

Trump opposes the TPP. Clinton has moved away from her former support of it mostly as a result of her campaign against Sanders.

Clinton would increase the minimum wage nationally to $12, and in some locations, $15. Trump would leave this to the states. She would offer tax incentives for companies to bring back jobs to the U.S. She also favors increased policing of trading partners. Trump would use aggressive trade enforcement and possible tariffs. She would enhance worker training options. He has no public stance on this. She would boost federal investment by $275 billion over five years and create a $25 billion infrastructure fund. Trump hasn’t offered any details on his infrastructure expansion. She will propose a goal of renewable electricity ‘to power every home in America within 10 years. He’ll revive the fossil-fuel sector, including decreasing regulations. She would increase funding for scientific research at agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He has no public stance on this. She would create a 15 percent tax credit for companies that share profits with workers on top of wages and pay increases. He has offered few details outside of a tax plan and a comment criticizing CEO pay. She supports keeping the Dodd-Frank law and in some cases would tighten rules for Wall Street, such as taxing high frequency trading. Trump would dismantle Dodd-Frank. She would ease regulatory burdens on community banks and support innovative financing methods. He has criticized government regulation but has offered no specific proposals. She Advocates equal pay, paid family leave, earned sick days, and expanded child care. He has no public stance on these things. ((Louis Jacobson, Compare the Candidates: Clinton versus Trump on the Economy. Politifact.com, July 22, 2016.))

We still haven’t found a solution for this momentum toward war. I’ll talk about that in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This New York Times Article Didn’t Help Clinton

The New York Times recently published an article supporting Hillary and blaming Bernie for the fact that people don’t seem more excited about her presidency. I think they’ve got it wrong. Hillary and Bernie are in this together, more than anyone realizes.

I say this because I’ve learned that the people telling us to write in Bernie’s name are the same ones who were promoting Jill Stein in the primary. Only now they’re claiming it won’t make any difference to Hillary if people write in Bernie’s name in seven states. As usual they’re being disingenuous because at the same time they’re telling voters in the other states to vote for Stein. They just don’t quit!

Curiously the Stein supporters were the first to turn on Bernie after the convention, and they did so in a way that I think casts doubt on their former support for him.  One of the YouTubers even went so far as to tell her viewers not to join Bernie’s revolution. If all she wanted was to get her candidate elected you’d think Bernie’s exit would make her happy, but for some reason she’s still obsessed with him.

Many of us former Bernie supporters are voting for Hillary. On the other hand the Stein supporters (who claimed to be Bernie supporters in the primary) are some of Clinton’s loudest critics today. In my opinion this is not an act of loyalty to Bernie. It’s an act of defiance.

Although the New York Times thought it would be helpful to the Clinton campaign to blame Bernie, I hope Hillary understands what an asset he is for her campaign and for the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders and the Supreme Court

It’s my theory that Merrick Garland will be confirmed to the Supreme Court. I think this is inevitable for the reason that everyone involved in this process has an interest in maintaining the Court’s conservative majority.  Then if the next president has to replace a liberal justice he or she will be able to be magnanimous and appoint another liberal since it won’t affect the conservative majority. But if the Court loses another conservative, a conservative will be appointed to replace him.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who says he will ask President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Merrick Garland if he’s elected to the presidency. He’s the only candidate who has said he’ll nominate a justice who will overturn Citizens United.  He’s the only candidate who will be willing and able to change the majority on the Supreme Court.

Keeping Politics in Perspective

The news networks were recently called out for their blatant favoritism of a presidential candidate, Donald Trump. It’s been interesting to watch their response since this calling out. After disappearing for a day or two, the candidate is back in the news with a vengeance, although now the writers take a more critical approach. And I think I see a new element with the potential to be just as damaging as the unequal coverage—the disparagement of this candidate’s supporters on the basis of class. This is particularly dangerous because it’s effects are subliminal.

It is legitimate to criticize one’s political opponents on a political or moral basis, but in my opinion it’s not legitimate to criticize them for class differences, i.e. for wearing a blouse ‘right off the rack at Walmart’, or living in a mobile home. I’m afraid I didn’t notice this problem when we were first told that these voters are poorly educated, but it’s become impossible to ignore.

When I first [intlink id=”2062″ type=”post”]endorsed[/intlink] my candidate, Senator Sanders, I explained that I never intended to use this blog for political strategy. In my view his presidency was an opportunity to reorient our politics and our policies to address the reality of the future, a future which includes a growing population and diminishing resources.  The class issue, which many people have said is probably made up anyway, makes this peaceful existence unlikely.

Of course fighting these divisions is not our responsibility alone—our opponents have chosen hostility, fear, and selfishness as the way forward. What’s really damning in my view is that they chose these things over the brighter way that was available to them. This is a legitimate criticism. The class criticism on the other hand might have subliminal effects because it hides behind the legitimate one.

As I write, I realize that this article has been influenced by this media trick too.  it’s sounds like I’ve forgotten that Senator Sanders is the champion of social justice and that it’s not our policies that need explaining.  That’s what these tactics are meant to do.

We Really Are All In This Together

There are several directions we could take when talking about the threat presented by Donald Trump. We could talk about the weak spot Trump has revealed in the democratic process. The weak spot would be the existence of a block of voters willing to follow such a man. Maybe in the process we’ll decide that Plato was right when he said the general population can’t be trusted to chart its own course. Or maybe these people are the result of Plato’s theories. But first we’d have to agree that Trump’s candidacy is a problem worthy of this mental effort. Believe it or not I think we’re getting there.

Or we could talk about how this voting block is aided and abetted by a pandering media that assumes all anger is equal. According to them, anger is a common denominator that makes violent people completely interchangeable with people who promote justice.

We could do like the liberal pundits and argue that the Republican platform is the Trump phenomenon in embryo. Unfortunately, I think it was bad timing to do so after Mitt Romney rebuked Donald Trump.  Regardless of where Trump came from and at whose behest, he’s now the Republican Party’s responsibility and Romney was obligated to do something. This isn’t a partisan issue, and it’s certainly not a rights issue. Trump chose this course over the objections of his own party. We know how this ends—we’ve seen it before—and no one has a right to take us there.

Pope Francis was also fulfilling his responsibility when he said that a person who only wants to build walls, rather than bridges, is not Christian. Because the Catholic Church is an entity with a memory, it was his duty to address this. We know how important it is to distinguish a Christian from a pretender because almost a century ago members of the Nazi Party were not above claiming Christian allegiance when it suited them. Many of the other ideas of that era are still with us today, along with the pride of our political leaders. The question now is whether we’ll be able to overcome our pride and take advantage of Francis’s wisdom in these matters.

Bernie Sanders is another example of someone who is willing to say what needs to be said. I’ve lived in Arizona for more than thirty years and I’ve never heard anyone take Arpaio to task the way Sanders did recently.((Reuters, Bernie Sanders, In Arizona, Takes on Sheriff Joe Arpaio. New York Times, March 18, 2016. Available: www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/03/18/bernie-sanders-in-arizona-takes-on-sheriff-joe-arpaio/?_r=0))

So it seems the common denominator that really matters here is not anger at all—it’s spine. Mitt Romney, Pope Francis, and Bernie Sanders recognized the same problem and they have all had the courage to address it.

On second thought, Donald Trump may have done the conversation a favor by reminding us that we’re all in this together.

See also: Pope Francis and his predecessors by Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, March 18, 2016. Available: http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/pope-francis-his-predecessors 

Can Bernie Sanders Revive the U.S. Economy? and Other Questions

I think it’s time to talk about the relationship between the election and the conversation.  Elections are really more of an anti-conversation, but this one has become part of our conversation.  It’s necessary, but thankfully it’s a temporary part.  However, balancing the long view of the conversation with the immediate concerns of an election requires conscious effort.  The South Carolina Town Hall taught me something about how this might be done.

Bernie Sanders was given a loaded question.  He was asked if he held any principle that he wouldn’t be willing to violate in order to win the election.  His answer demonstrated that the question was based on a misunderstanding of the candidate.  Sanders said that the only thing that really scares him is the thought of disappointing the people who support him.

My response to Senator Sanders would be to say that the voters have a responsibility as well.  If they can’t recognize the importance of such an answer, our fate will be decided, especially considering the amount of misleading information out there.

I would say to the voters that if you chose not to caucus in Nevada or if you have decided not to vote in your own primary, maybe out of discouragement over the super-delegate situation, you’re making a mistake. There’s no room for cynicism in any election, least of all this one.  Sanders is the only winning candidate but it’s in the interests of those he’s fighting to make you think otherwise.  That’s why the odds are against him and against us.  But fighting against impossible odds for a good cause is never foolish. It’s heroic. Always has been, always will be.

Watch this video on Bloomberg Business. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-02-24/can-bernie-sanders-revive-the-u-s-economy

The Valiant David Brock

When David Brock criticizes Bernie for being too hard on Hillary it almost sounds like he wants to give her a handicap. He might be right—if not for Donald Trump Hillary Clinton would be out of the running by now—however Brock’s criticism of Sanders is nonsense and I think everyone knows it. About his claim that criticism will weaken Hillary in the general election, maybe we should just do away with the primary elections and carry her around on a pillow.