Showing posts with label republican party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label republican party. Show all posts

Sunday, January 16, 2022

January 16: Republican Party, Omicron, Penélope Cruz

The Republican Party Is Succeeding Because We Are Not a True Democracy The Jan. 6 attack would not have happened in a genuine democracy. ........ the roots of the crisis run deep into the undemocratic features of our constitutional system. ......... In a simple system of majority rule, Mr.

Biden’s thumping margin of more than seven million votes

would have been the last word. For that matter, so would Hillary Clinton’s national margin of nearly three million votes in 2016: Mr. Trump would not have had a 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address in which to barricade himself in 2020. ............... today’s Republican Party succeeds only because the Electoral College, the Senate and the Supreme Court all tilt in its favor ........... That system has handed conservatives a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, despite the fact that only one Republican has won the presidential popular vote after 1988. ......... A party doesn’t have to persuade majorities that it has the best vision for the country. It only has to persuade a selective minority that the other side is a mortal threat. ............. Its grasp on power may be too tenuous for the party to govern effectively, but it has offered conservatives a fine perch to weaken economic and environmental regulation, appoint conservative judges and launch attacks on the democratic system itself. ......... In a more democratic system, the Republican Party’s extreme elements would have been sent packing long before they stormed the Capitol because they couldn’t muster enough votes to win a national election. Instead, they have perfected minority rule as a path to political success.

An antidemocratic system has bred an antidemocratic party. The remedy is to democratize our so-called democracy.

................. James Madison boasted that the Constitution achieved “the total exclusion of the people, in their collective capacity.” Its elaborate political mechanics reflect the elite dislike and mistrust of majority rule that Madison voiced when he wrote, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Madison’s condescension has never gone away. Walter Lippmann, perhaps the most prominent intellectual of the short American Century, reckoned that citizens were ignorant, confused and emotional. Democracy brought “an intensification of feeling and a degradation of significance” to whatever it touched. If Madison and Lippmann could have seen the “QAnon Shaman” break into the Capitol, then meander around like a tourist whose phone has lost its signal, they would have muttered, “This is what democracy looks like.” ................ Jan. 6 and the four years before it were a forcible reminder that democracy is a task, not a birthright. ............

Majorities of the people, not the Electoral College, should be able to pick the president and decide who controls the House and Senate. All who make their lives in the United States — including the incarcerated, people convicted of felonies and noncitizens — should be allowed to vote.

................ in a working democracy, there are no permanent majorities or minorities. Forging partnerships in a truly democratic system, inland conservatives would soon find new allies — just not ones determined to break democracy itself. ........... Shortly before World War I, activists successfully pressed state legislatures to ratify an amendment giving up their power to choose U.S. senators. Maybe we can revive mass movements for amendments, starting with one that would make the amendment process itself more democratic. .......... If the public supports a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics, restrict gerrymandering or enshrine a core abortion right, a committed majority should be able to say what our fundamental law is by popular vote, rather than having to go through the current, complicated process of ratifying amendments through state legislatures or dozens of constitutional conventions. ............ Even our terribly flawed legacy is rich in examples of majoritarian emancipation: New Deal programs, the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare. Majorities can change the world for the better, when they have the chance. Giving one another that chance, over and over, is how equals share a country. .............. Majorities should be able to choose parties and leaders to improve their everyday lives, starting with child care, family leave, health care and the dignified work that still evades many even at a time when employers are complaining of difficulty hiring workers and there is upward pressure on wages after decades of stagnation. ............ If we don’t claim that power, the market, a court or a minority government will always be pleased to take it off our hands. .......... If Jan. 6 was a symptom of a crisis of democracy, the best answer we can give is more democracy.

We might not be capable of that, in which case the future is bleak.

But the only way to find out is by trying. .......... Democracy’s vitality is not handed down from on high. It comes from actually ruling and being ruled in turn and learning to live with both. It comes from the constant search for new majorities, new coalitions, new ways to avoid disaster and even make life better.

My Dinner With Sidney Poitier But Poitier wasn’t just a star, he was a legend, a lion, an almost mythical figure in Black culture and the culture at large. He was Black royalty. ......... before one civil rights march in Mississippi in the 1960s, the singer Sammy Davis Jr., “who avoided the Deep South, swallowed his fear and flew to Jackson. He remembered feeling safe around Belafonte and Poitier,” calling them “two Black knights.” .......... As I approached the table, Poitier greeted me with a blinding smile, the kind that beacons and beguiles, the kind that makes you feel that you have known a complete stranger your whole life. He insisted that I sit next to him. ............ From beginning to end that evening, Poitier whispered slick, salty jokes to me with the devilish satisfaction of a schoolboy. He was 87 at the time. .......... I now knew, at close range, what star power was. His enchantment settled on you, like a soft sweater. Cashmere, of course. .......... He had learned that sometimes, when people say something can’t happen, they simply haven’t tried hard enough. Sometimes, can’ts are soft. ..........

When Poitier arrived in New York, he did odd jobs until, as he wrote in his memoir, he said, “What the hell,” and tried his hand at acting.

...... “I had no training in acting. I could barely read! And to top it off, I had a thick singsong Bahamian accent.” ........ Undeterred, Poitier would will himself into becoming one of the greatest actors America has ever known. .......... For people like Poitier, who have lived a life in which, by sheer grit and determination, they turned noes into yeses, noes lack finality. .........

He was the epitome of Black dignity, Black beauty, Black pride and Black power.

He was the epitome of Black dignity, Black beauty, Black pride and Black power. For a year, activists have been screaming and pleading and begging and getting arrested, trying to get the White House to put the full weight of the presidency behind protecting voting rights, only to be met by silence or soft-pedaling. ........... When Biden fully entered the battle, the other warriors were already bloody, bruised and exhausted. ......... Biden has been dillydallying on getting rid of the filibuster to protect voting rights for essentially his whole administration, until this week. ........ Even a cursory reading of American history reveals a long legacy of extremely effective voter suppression and intimidation. ............

McConnell is an accomplice to the crime of voter suppression

......... States like Texas, with new voter suppression laws and new racially gerrymandered maps, begin early voting in February. ......... During Biden’s victory speech he said, “Especially at those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” and he continued, “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.” Well, if voting protections fail, many in the Black community will feel like they have been stabbed in the back.

Here’s When We Expect Omicron to Peak The Omicron variant is spreading widely and infecting large numbers of people, including the vaccinated and those previously infected with the virus. While spikes in cases have been the norm for the past two years, there are clear indications this wave will differ substantially from previous ones. ............ it’s less common for people infected with Omicron to experience severe disease and end up in the hospital ......... Our models project that the United States is likely to document more Covid-19 cases in January than in any previous month of the pandemic, but a smaller fraction of those cases will require hospitalization. ........ Our projections depict a rapid surge of cases nationally that peaks at record high numbers during the first one to three weeks of January. ..........

New York City is projected to peak during the first week of January; other locations peak later.

........... whether the steep rise of Omicron cases is followed by a rapid decline, as has been seen in South Africa. This would make the Omicron wave intense but short-lived ......... While Omicron is causing record numbers of infections, the hope is that vaccinations, booster shots and prior infections by other variants will still protect most people from the worst effects of the virus. Early evidence supports this conclusion. ........ The long-term implications of Omicron remain unknown, but in the near term, everyone should expect an intense month of disruption. Still, the familiar advice remains the best: get vaccinated, get booster shots and prepare for a bumpy January.

We Must Stop Showering the Military With Money the nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars that we are spending this year on a military that has become the epitome of governmental dysfunction, self-dealing and overspending. ............ Right around the time he was bayoneting Build Back Better, Manchin joined 87 other senators — Democrats and Republicans — in rubber-stamping another gargantuan budget for the Pentagon. They allocated $768 billion for the military in 2022, roughly $24 billion more than the White House requested from Congress. ............

The Pentagon has never passed an audit and says it may not be able to until 2028.

.............. In 2020 the U.S. military’s budget accounted for almost 40 percent of the world’s military expenditures. This level of spending has long been excessive, but after a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more Americans than any war we fought, continuing to throw money at the military is an act of willful disregard for the most urgent threats we face. ........... Congress is projected to spend about $8.5 trillion for the military over the next decade — about half a trillion more than is budgeted for all nonmilitary discretionary programs combined (a category that includes federal spending on education, public health, scientific research, infrastructure, national parks and forests, environmental protection, law enforcement, courts, tax collection, foreign aid, homeland security and health care for veterans). .................. When we face so many other major challenges — from climate disasters to political instability and insurrection — shouldn’t we ask whether it remains wise to keep handing the military what is effectively a blank check? ...........

might the Pentagon’s near-bottomless access to funds have encouraged a culture of waste and indulgence that made it easier to blunder into Iraq and contributed to its failures in Afghanistan?

............. why should we keep building aircraft carriers — each of which costs about $1.5 billion a year to operate — when we’ve already got most of the world’s fleet of active aircraft carriers? ............ it could save $125 billion a year by, among other measures, reducing overstaffing through retirements and attrition. ............

The military-industrial complex is every bit as politically powerful as Dwight Eisenhower warned it would be.

............... “Who Won in Afghanistan? Private Contractors.” ......... “It’s going to take members of Congress to really step up,” she said. That seems about as likely as pigs flying — or, more aptly, F-35s.

This Presidency Isn’t Turning Out as Planned The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply. ........... The 2009 stimulus was too small, and while we avoided a second Great Depression, we sank into an achingly slow recovery. .......... Wages are high, new businesses are forming at record rates, and poverty has fallen below its prepandemic levels. ............ Since March 2020, Americans saved at least $2 trillion more than expected. ......... we met the pandemic with tremendous, perhaps excessive, fiscal force. We fought the recession and won. The problems we do have shouldn’t obscure the problems we don’t. ............ Year-on-year inflation is running at 7 percent, its highest rate in decades, and Omicron has shown that the Biden administration wasted months of possible preparation. It is not to blame for the new variant, but it is to blame for the paucity of tests, effective masks and ventilation upgrades. ............. many of the delays and shortages reflect unexpectedly strong demand, not a pandemic-induced breakdown in production .............

How about building the vaccine production capacity needed to vaccinate the world and prevent future strains from emerging?

............ Biden’s task now is clear: to build a government that can create supply, not just demand.

The Economic Case for Goldilocks
Ukraine Is Only One Small Part of Putin’s Plans A call between Mr. Putin and President Biden on Dec. 30, where the leaders traded threats, did little to take the sting out of the situation. Any incident along the Russian-Ukrainian border could bring an inferno......... Mr. Putin’s design is grand: to refashion the post-Cold War settlement, in the process guaranteeing the survival of Russia’s personalized power system. And judging from the West’s awkward, anguished response so far, he might be close to getting what he wants. ......... No longer content with upsetting the West, Mr. Putin is now trying to force it to agree to a new global dispensation, with Russia restored to eminence. ............ the West, by accepting Russia’s geopolitical position, would effectively underwrite its domestic agenda, too .........

confrontation is not the Kremlin’s goal. The escalation is about peace on Russia’s terms.

............. One success is already clear: The West has been forced to reward Russia — through outreach, diplomacy and, above all, attention — for the charitable act of not invading Ukraine. .......... Mr. Putin’s method is tried and tested: He ratchets up the tensions and then demands “binding agreements,” which he does not take seriously. The aim, really, is a Hobbesian world order, built on disruption and readiness for surprise breakthroughs. ........... This order has nothing in common with those fashioned at the Yalta Conference in 1945, say, or the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Their architects followed the rules. The Kremlin is suggesting something very different: the irrelevance of rules. The norms by which the world has been governed for the past three decades would be thrown out, in favor of creative interpretation of the possible. In this free-for-all, Mr. Putin — mercurial master of suspense and the sudden move — can pursue his fusion of geopolitical power and personal rule............. By forcing the world to guess what Russia is up to and pursuing mutually contradictory policy lines simultaneously, the Kremlin keeps the West disoriented. Accustomed to functioning in rational, risk-averse ways, the West doesn’t know how to react to such “organized chaos.” ......... Any bargain that would allow the Kremlin to interpret the global rules of the game would undermine Western principles. Yet rejecting the bargain could incite the Kremlin to wreck the whole shop. The world’s liberal democracies are hardly ready for a clash with a nuclear opponent.

A Library the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of Why does this image keep resurfacing on social media? ......... “For me, I think that photo is as stunning as a sunset. I could spend days and days locked in that library examining each book.” He noted that there’s something comforting about the image, since “it’s a room you could happily get lost in.” ............ Dr. Macksey’s book collection clocked in at 51,000 titles, according to his son, Alan, excluding magazines and other ephemera. ........... Several first editions by 20th-century poets and novelists sat on a shelf in the laundry room. .......... the “satisfying” sense of organized chaos, and the awe inspired by the high ceilings.

The Visions of Penélope Cruz She already felt a mystical connection with the director Pedro Almodóvar. For their seventh collaboration, “Parallel Mothers,” she gave her all, even collapsing after one scene. ........... Their latest, “Parallel Mothers,” is also one of their greatest, starring Cruz as a mother wrestling with a terrible secret. ........... it may also earn the 47-year-old Cruz, an Oscar winner for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” her fourth Academy Award nomination. ......... “Penélope has a blind faith in me,” Almodóvar wrote in a lengthy email. “She is convinced that I am a better director and writer than I really am. This blind faith fills me with the confidence to request anything of her, while the trust that she deposits in me allows her to do things during filming that she might not dare try with other directors because she knows I am watching her as if through a thousand eyes.” ........... Cruz asked for an unusually long rehearsal process of a few months, trying to reach the core of a character who’s in constant conflict with her own feelings. ............. playing this woman brought Cruz further from herself than she ever could have anticipated ......... it wasn’t until she reteamed with Almodóvar for “Volver” in 2006 that she earned her first Oscar nomination and truly showed Hollywood what kind of full-bodied lead performance she was capable of. ......... And every few years, she reunites with Almodóvar, who is always eager to push her to the next level. ........ but I cannot look back and judge them only by their result, or the awards or reviews. Every step counts.” ........ “Nature gives you a few months to prepare, but from the second you see your son or your daughter, it changes everything,” Cruz said. “It even changes your ego. It immediately puts it in a more healthy place.”

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Sinema Is The Democrats' Sudetenland Moment

Sinema and Manchin are making Trump's second term possible. That is the only thing they are doing. Politicians picking voters instead of the other way round is not new to America. But what has been happening this past year in terms of denying voting rights is at a whole another level. You take a stand now, or you say bye bye to democracy in America. A country that can not muster whatever it takes to protect voting rights is no longer a democracy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Two Party System Continues

America is a two party democracy, and it continues. The Republican Party is not dead, although a major act of creative destruction might have happened. The Democratic Party is now a municipal party, but such total defeat is also the best place to be from where to mount a strong comebck.

NATO is too expensive. That is the electoral verdict. The unfinished business of ending the Cold War once and for all perhaps now will be finished. Architecting a normal relationship with Russia might be at hand.

Trump's ascent might be a challenge to the solar entrepreneurs who now have to make sure dirty energy gets priced out completely. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

GOP Is Going To Be Three Parties After November

Don't kid yourself. This guy Trump is not going anywhere. He is going to launch a TV network and milk 20 million people all he can. Call that one party. It is going to be like one of those right wing parties in Europe.

Then there is the Utah guy McMullin. He is very clear he is not running to win. He is running to launch a center right political party.

The Libertarian party is a Republican party. I think it also wants to abolish the Education Department.

The GOP civil war begins after November. They need to lose to Hillary first. Then they can get on with the real competition.

Republicans made a fateful choice back then to tie their prospects to a medium addicted to rage and the conspiracy theories that fuel it. That came back to haunt them with the candidacy of Donald Trump. Now they find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Either they continue on the current path of promoting the rage-making machine, or they take Rampell’s advice and decide to go to war with right-wing media – which might actually become their final Waterloo.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Campaign To Thoroughly Discredit Reagan

There is a campaign underway to thoroughly discredit Ronald Reagan, the Republican gold standard, and, surprisingly, it is not coming from the Democratic side. There are conservatives out to prove Ronald Reagan was exactly like The Donald before he got elected president. Reagan also supposedly hosted a talk show. Trump talks of Mexican rapists, Reagan supposedly holds the copyright on the phrase "welfare queen," an intentional gross exaggeration of the facts. There seem to be quite a few such parallels.

Facts-free racism, as directed against Barack Obama by a recalcitrant Congress, and facts-free sexism, completely unhinged from facts and logic, as directed against Hillary (for the umpteenth time, it is the Department Of Defense, not State, that has been tasked with protecting embassies) is a slippery slope. When you lack political mojo, but you practice it, then, it is a slippery slope. You keep falling. If it were evidence based decision making, data based, subject to logic, deliberation, and such, then you have something to hold on to, and you don't fall. But facts-free is slippery. You fall.

There is a very real possibility Donald Trump is the last of the Mohicans, I mean Republicans.

Lincoln moved above party, even country, a long time ago. He is not thought of as American, let alone Republican. Reagan was all you had. Trump is busy knocking out the facade. Emperor Reagan, it seems, was naked. Supply side economics is voodoo. That was Reagan fishing in the murky waters of the Cold War. It was voodoo from the outset.

I am for small government. There's stuff a government must do, and only the government can and should do, and I want all that to be done with as little money and people as possible. Efficiency is good for business, it is also good for government. But learn from the Chinese to respect bureaucrats.

I am for a total spread of democracy, but you get there by allowing everyone who lives in New York City to vote in the city elections. NYC is under colonial rule right now. Almost half of New Yorkers can't even vote in the city elections.

I am strong on defense, but the best way to get there is through a total spread of democracy and, yes, a world government, one person one vote one voice 24/7 local to global. Every country should pay 1% of its GDP as a membership fee. The world government is what will bring about a total spread of democracy, it's not the other way round. People are born equal, all people, everywhere.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Donald Trump In The Republican Party: Bull In A China Shop

The Donald might claim he has been a lifelong Republican, but he is not exactly a one year old. He does not look the part. You can't just talk it, you also gotta look it.

Donald Trump moving through the Republican primary is a bull moving through a china shop. Republicans like to engage in China bashing. The Donald is more into china bashing. Capital letter C, small letter c. And what a difference it seems to make.

The guy has been doing a thorough job of it. By the time The Donald is done, Fox is no longer going to be the number one news channel in America. You don't pick fights with The Donald. Nobody picks fights with The Donald. Ask Rosie.

Republican Party: Abe To Dope

When all is said and done, The Donald will do just fine. He will still be standing. Heck, he will be flying. He is going to be the most sought after reality TV star in America. But I am not sure the Republican Party is going to survive the travail. Oh, well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Donald Trump: "I Could Shoot Somebody!"

Dick Cheney did not announce it before he did. Are they even members of the same party?

I think of Donald Trump as a political lightweight. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Donald Trump And The South

I can just imagine people across the South going. "You know what, people in New York are not that different from us after all!" What do they know!

I won an election in the South before Bobby Jindal won an election in the South, even though mine was much smaller, but still, it counts. I know a thing or two about the South.

When Trump badmouthed McCain, people were like, this is it, the Trump balloon will burst now. I did not agree. How do you think W beat McCain in South Carolina in 2000?

Donald Trump is a serious dude with a sense of humor. A lot of people mistake his sense of humor and don't take him seriously, me among them. The Trump balloon will burst, but now is not the time. Not enough damage has been done. For one, I don't expect the guy to have done his policy homework. It takes a lifetime of preparation to run for president. The Donald started just a few weeks ago. What does he think America is? A bankrupt company?

Much of The Donald's high flying in the polls is his talking stupid. Not even Bobby Jindal is being able to compete! (Did I hear Bobby say the Confederate Flag is his pride? Bobby, where are we here?)

The Donald Is Plenty Smart
The Trump's Trump Card
Friends Of Hillary: On Both Sides?

Wait until they find out The Donald's hair is fake. One thing they can stand in the South is that your hair is fake and you are running for president.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Republican Hunger Games

In the Republican Hunger Games, is #TheDonald (aka Donald Trump) the guy with the taser gun? If he is, he is winning. T for taser, T for tongue. This guy is a True Republican. He does not need to raise money, and he will NOT raise money. He was born on Ellis Island. It does not get any more American than that. If I were Jeb Bush, I would not get too comfortable with my lead. I would take a second look at my talking points. The Donald has a tendency to surprise in the debates. You never know what might come out of his mouth next. It is not like he is running for President of Mexico. Who cares, right?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bobby Jindal Does Not Offend Me

English: Baton Rouge, LA, September 3, 2008 --...
English: Baton Rouge, LA, September 3, 2008 -- President George W. Bush and Governor Bobby Jindal greeting EOC employees, during disaster recovery efforts for Hurricane Gustav. Jacinta Quesada/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
President George W. Bush (right) is greeted by...
President George W. Bush (right) is greeted by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (left) and his wife, Supriya Jolly Jindal (center), on his arrival to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport Monday, April 21, 2008, where President Bush will attend the 2008 North American Leaders’ Summit. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, at campaign e...
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, at campaign event for presidential candidate John McCain in Kenner, Louisiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bobby and Gay Marriage
Bobby Jindal's Speech
Bobby Saying All The Right Things
Biden, Bobby
Bobby, The Biology Major
Bobby Jindal: Our Economy Is Strong
Bobby's Running Mates

Except on gay marriage. His stance on gay marriage to me is like he wants to snatch away voting rights from blacks. And for that one stand, I have to dismiss everything else he might stand for. And it is a political disagreement.

But I never thought any less of his Indian heritage just because he converted. There are plenty of Christians who are Indian citizens in India. You don't have to be Hindu to be Indian, in India. Why should the rules be any different in America, of all places?

It is a basic democratic ethos that other people might have different opinions. I am a progressive. Bobby is a conservative. And we both are just fine. But I must admit, Bobby has made me take a second look at some pretty hard core conservative positions. As in, really? You feel that way? That is your worldview? Really? I guess the conditioning being, in America, if you are brown like Bobby, you are very likely to be on the other side.

I have also been fascinated that Bobby is smart, and successful. I mean, Louisiana, of all places. The most famous politician out of that state used to be David Duke, I think, a flaming racist. How can Louisiana throw up someone of Bobby's looks? That is progressive progress.

When he says he is proud of his Indian heritage, but he wants Americans to be just Americans, how is that any different from progressives saying everyone in America should be treated as equals regardless of race? Race being the topic it is, sticky, it is not the kind of reactions that will surface, it is more that he even bothered talking about it.

My political perspective is, after getting hit by the truck called Donald Trump, a lot of Republicans might welcome that Bobby has now announced. Trump is the opposite of gravitas. Bobby is all wonky and stuff. That is a counterbalance.

But like I said, on Bobby I am a one issue dude. You are opposed to gay marriage? You are out. That is a civil rights issue. Too bad, because on many other issues, even when I might disagree, I think Bobby has some well thought out, well reasoned arguments that would make for good political ping pong.

Some Indians attacking Bobby sound like blacks who attacks blacks who read, as if reading is too white. What's white?

As for 2016, we have had a brown/black guy, now it is a woman's turn to step in. Hillary will out wonk Bobby, hands down. When I say Bobby is smart, it is a relative term. He is smart in a party of stupid.

An Indian origin person becoming a serious candidate for President Of The United States, that is a lot of pride for Indians in India. They will not care what Bobby says. He might get a lot of social media love from afar.

Bobby Jindal presidential bid sparks Twitter mockery

As for his chances, I don't know, it is tough. Hillary is going to beat whoever. But will Bobby make it to the ring? Right now the bet is on Jeb Bush, right? But I like how Bobby said, it is White House or bust. I like that attitude. Maybe he wants to run, and then go into the private sector. Or go into the US Senate later? Or maybe correct himself on gay marriage and run again later? I mean, he is young. He will still be young in 2024. One term in the US Senate might be a good preparation. I don't think anyone has been both Governor and Senator before running for president.

How is his record in Louisiana? I mean the economic record. How is the state faring?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Democracy In America: 2014 Version

Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy
over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power. ..... Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters. ...... "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence." ...... Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first. ...... this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse. ...... "Ordinary citizens," they write, "might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail."
Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy The MIT professor lays out how the majority of U.S. policies are opposed to what wide swaths of the public want
American power is diminishing, as it has been in fact since its peak in 1945, but it’s still incomparable. And it’s dangerous. Obama’s remarkable global terror campaign and the limited, pathetic reaction to it in the West is one shocking example. And it is a campaign of international terrorism – by far the most extreme in the world. ...... According to received doctrine, we live in capitalist democracies, which are the best possible system, despite some flaws. There’s been an interesting debate over the years about the relation between capitalism and democracy, for example, are they even compatible? I won’t be pursuing this because I’d like to discuss a different system – what we could call the “really existing capitalist democracy”, RECD for short, pronounced “wrecked” by accident. To begin with, how does RECD compare with democracy? ....... In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy. ....... So the major domestic issue in the United States for the public is jobs. Polls show that very clearly. For the very wealthy and the financial institutions, the major issue is the deficit. Well, what about policy? There’s now a sequester in the United States, a sharp cutback in funds. Is that because of jobs or is it because of the deficit? Well, the deficit. ....... Europe, incidentally, is much worse – so outlandish that even The Wall Street Journal has been appalled by the disappearance of democracy in Europe. …[I]t had an article [this year] which concluded that “the French, the Spanish, the Irish, the Dutch, Portuguese, Greeks, Slovenians, Slovakians and Cypriots have to varying degrees voted against the currency bloc’s economic model since the crisis began three years ago. Yet economic policies have changed little in response to one electoral defeat after another. The left has replaced the right; the right has ousted the left. Even the center-right trounced Communists (in Cyprus) – but the economic policies have essentially remained the same: governments will continue to cut spending and raise taxes.” It doesn’t matter what people think and “national governments must follow macro-economic directives set by the European Commission”. Elections are close to meaningless, very much as in Third World countries that are ruled by the international financial institutions. That’s what Europe has chosen to become. ....... Returning to the United States, where the situation is not quite that bad, there’s the same disparity between public opinion and policy on a very wide range of issues. Take for example the issue of minimum wage. The one view is that the minimum wage ought to be indexed to the cost of living and high enough to prevent falling below the poverty line. Eighty percent of the public support that and forty percent of the wealthy. What’s the minimum wage? Going down, way below these levels. It’s the same with laws that facilitate union activity: strongly supported by the public; opposed by the very wealthy – disappearing. The same is true on national healthcare. The U.S., as you may know, has a health system which is an international scandal, it has twice the per capita costs of other OECD countries and relatively poor outcomes. The only privatized, pretty much unregulated system. The public doesn’t like it. They’ve been calling for national healthcare, public options, for years, but the financial institutions think it’s fine, so it stays: stasis. In fact, if the United States had a healthcare system like comparable countries there wouldn’t be any deficit. The famous deficit would be erased ....... For 35 years there have been polls on ‘what do you think taxes ought to be?’ Large majorities have held that the corporations and the wealthy should pay higher taxes. They’ve steadily been going down through this period. ...... On and on, the policy throughout is almost the opposite of public opinion, which is a typical property of RECD. ....... In the past, the United States has sometimes, kind of sardonically, been described as a one-party state: the business party with two factions called Democrats and Republicans. That’s no longer true. It’s still a one-party state, the business party. But it only has one faction. The faction is moderate Republicans, who are now called Democrats. There are virtually no moderate Republicans in what’s called the Republican Party and virtually no liberal Democrats in what’s called the Democratic [sic] Party. It’s basically a party of what would be moderate Republicans and similarly, Richard Nixon would be way at the left of the political spectrum today. Eisenhower would be in outer space. ......... There is still something called the Republican Party, but it long ago abandoned any pretence of being a normal parliamentary party. It’s in lock-step service to the very rich and the corporate sector and has a catechism that everyone has to chant in unison, kind of like the old Communist Party. The distinguished conservative commentator, one of the most respected – Norman Ornstein – describes today’s Republican Party as, in his words, “a radical insurgency – ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, dismissive of its political opposition” – a serious danger to the society, as he points out. ....... Really Existing Capitalist Democracy is very remote from the soaring rhetoric about democracy. ....... men who understand that a fundamental task of government is “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority”. Those are quotes from James Madison, the main framer ..... another important feature of RECD is that the public must be kept in the dark about what is happening to them. The “herd” must remain “bewildered”. The reasons were explained lucidly by the professor of the science of government at Harvard – that’s the official name – another respected liberal figure, Samuel Huntington. As he pointed out, “power remains strong when it remains in the dark. Exposed to sunlight, it begins to evaporate”. Bradley Manning is facing a life in prison for failure to comprehend this scientific principle. Now Edward Snowden as well. And it works pretty well. If you take a look at polls, it reveals how well it works. So for example, recent polls pretty consistently reveal that Republicans are preferred to Democrats on most issues and crucially on the issues in which the public opposes the policies of the Republicans and favors the policies of the Democrats. One striking example of this is that majorities say that they favor the Republicans on tax policy, while the same majorities oppose those policies. This runs across the board. This is even true of the far right, the Tea Party types. This goes along with an astonishing level of contempt for government. Favorable opinions about Congress are literally in the single digits. The rest of the government as well. It’s all declining sharply. ....... Iran just had an election, as you know. And it was rightly criticized on the grounds that even to participate, you had to be vetted by the guardian council of clerics. In the United States, you don’t have to be vetted by clerics, but rather you have to be vetted by concentrations of private capital. .... The role of the PR industry in elections is explicitly to undermine the school-child version of democracy. What you learn in school is that democracies are based on informed voters making rational decisions. All you have to do is take a look at an electoral campaign run by the PR industry and see that the purpose is to create uninformed voters who will make irrational decisions. For the PR industry that’s a very easy transition from their primary function. Their primary function is commercial advertising. Commercial advertising is designed to undermine markets. If you took an economics course you learned that markets are based on informed consumers making rational choices. If you turn on the TV set, you see that ads are designed to create irrational, uninformed consumers making irrational choices. The whole purpose is to undermine markets in the technical sense. ...... after Obama’s election in 2008, a couple of months later the advertising industry had its annual conference. Every year they award a prize for the best marketing campaign of the year. That year they awarded it to Obama. He beat out Apple computer, did an even better job of deluding the public – or his PR agents did. If you want to hear some of it, turn on the television today and listen to the soaring rhetoric at the G-8 Summit in Belfast. It’s standard. ....... If you go back to the 1960s, banks were banks. If you had some money, you put it in the bank to lend it to somebody to buy a house or start a business, or whatever. Now that’s a very marginal aspect of financial institutions today. They’re mostly devoted to intricate, exotic manipulations with markets. And they’re huge. In the United States, financial institutions, big banks mostly, had 40% of corporate profit in 2007. That was on the eve of the financial crisis, for which they were largely responsible. After the crisis, a number of professional economists – Nobel laureate Robert Solow, Harvard’s Benjamin Friedman – wrote articles in which they pointed out that economists haven’t done much study of the impact of the financial institutions on the economy. Which is kind of remarkable, considering its scale. But after the crisis they took a look and they both concluded that probably the impact of the financial institutions on the economy is negative. Actually there are some who are much more outspoken than that. The most respected financial correspondent in the English-speaking world is Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. He writes that the “out-of-control financial sector is eating out the modern market economy from the inside, just as the larva of the spider wasp eats out the host in which it has been laid”. By “the market economy” he means the productive economy. ...... a study of the IMF that found that the largest banks make no profit. ..... There is a widely publicized bailout, but that’s the least of it. There’s a whole series of other devices by which the government insurance policy aids the big banks: cheap credit and many other things. And according to the IMF at least, that’s the totality of their profit. ........ there is massive state intervention in the productive economy and the free-trade agreements are anything but free-trade agreements. ...... The information technology (IT) revolution, which is driving the economy, that was based on decades of work in effectively the state sector – hard, costly, creative work substantially in the state sector, no consumer choice at all, there was entrepreneurial initiative but it was largely limited to getting government grants or bailouts or procurement. Except by some economists, that’s underestimated but a very significant factor in corporate profit. If you can’t sell something, hand it over the government. They’ll buy it. ...... After a long period – decades in fact – of hard, creative work, the primary research and development, the results are handed over to private enterprise for commercialization and profit. That’s Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and so on. ........ In just the past 20 years in the United States, the share of profits of the two hundred largest enterprises has very sharply risen, probably the impact of the Internet, it seems. These tendencies towards oligopoly also undermine the mantra ....... What are the prospects for the future under RECD? There’s an answer. They’re pretty grim. .. One is environmental catastrophe. The other is nuclear war. ........ There are some who seek to act decisively to prevent possible catastrophe. At the other extreme, major efforts are underway to accelerate the danger. Leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster is the richest and most powerful country in world history ......... Leading the efforts to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life, are the so-called “primitive” societies: First Nations in Canada, Aboriginal societies in Australia, tribal societies and others like them. The countries that have large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in the effort to “defend the Earth”. That’s their phrase. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing forward enthusiastically towards destruction. ....... take Ecuador, which has a large indigenous population. It’s seeking aid from the rich countries to allow it to keep its substantial hydrocarbon reserves underground, which is where they ought to be. Now meanwhile, the U.S. and Canada are enthusiastically seeking to burn every drop of fossil fuel, including the most dangerous kind – Canadian tar sands – and to do so as quickly and fully as possible – without a side glance on what the world might look like after this extravagant commitment to self-destruction. ........... there’s still a real problem in American society. The public is still too committed to scientific rationality. One of the many divergences between policy and opinion is that the American public is close to the global norm in concern about the environment and calling for actions to prevent the catastrophe and that’s a pretty high level. ........ these are deep-seated institutional properties of RECD. They’re not easy to uproot. All of this is apart from the institutional necessity to maximize short-term profit while ignoring an externality that’s vastly more serious even than systemic risk. For systemic risk, the market failure – the culprits – can run to the powerful nanny state that they foster with cap in hand and they’ll be bailed out, as we’ve just observed again and will in the future. In the case of destruction of the environment, the conditions for decent existence, there’s no guardian angel around – nobody to run to with cap in hand. For that reason alone, the prospects for decent survival under RECD are quite dim. ........... The governments seek to extend power and domination and to benefit their primary domestic constituencies – in the U.S., primarily the corporate sector. The consequence is that security does not have a high priority. ....... Obama’s now conducting the world’s greatest international terrorist campaign – the drones and special forces campaign. It’s also a terror-generating campaign. The common understanding at the highest level [is] that these actions generate potential terrorists. I’ll quote General Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus’ predecessor. He says that “for every innocent person you kill”, and there are plenty of them, “you create ten new enemies”. ....... Take the marathon bombing in Boston a couple of months ago, that you all read about. You probably didn’t read about the fact that two days after the marathon bombing there was a drone bombing in Yemen. Usually we don’t happen to hear much about drone bombings. They just go on – just straight terror operations which the media aren’t interested in because we don’t care about international terrorism as long as the victims are somebody else. But this one we happened to know about by accident. There was a young man from the village that was attacked who was in the United States and he happened to testify before Congress. He testified about it. He said that for several years, the jihadi elements in Yemen had been trying to turn the village against Americans, get them to hate Americans. But the villagers didn’t accept it because the only thing they knew about the United States was what he told them. And he liked the United States. So he was telling them it was a great place. So the jihadi efforts didn’t work. Then he said one drone attack has turned the entire village into people who hate America and want to destroy it. They killed a man who everybody knew and they could have easily apprehended if they’d wanted. But in our international terror campaigns we don’t worry about that and we don’t worry about security. .......... the invasion of Iraq. U.S. and British intelligence agencies informed their governments that the invasion of Iraq was likely to lead to an increase in terrorism. They didn’t care. In fact, it did. Terrorism increased by a factor of seven the first year after the Iraqi invasion, according to government statistics. ...... Let’s go back to 1950. In 1950, U.S. security was just overwhelming. There’d never been anything like it in human history. There was one potential danger: ICBMs with hydrogen bomb warheads. They didn’t exist, but they were going to exist sooner or later. The Russians knew that they were way behind in military technology. They offered the U.S. a treaty to ban the development of ICBMs with hydrogen bomb warheads. That would have been a terrific contribution to U.S. security. ... Here’s a possibility to save the country from total disaster and there wasn’t even a paper discussing it. No one cared. ........ A couple of years later, in 1952, Stalin made a public offer, which was pretty remarkable, to permit unification of Germany with internationally supervised free elections, in which the Communists would certainly lose, on one condition – that Germany be demilitarized. That’s hardly a minor issue for the Russians. Germany alone had practically destroyed them several times in the century. Germany militarized and part of a hostile Western alliance is a major threat. That was the offer. .......... The offer was public. It also of course would have led to an end to the official reason for NATO. It was dismissed with ridicule. Couldn’t be true. ...... Khrushchev .. realized that Russia was way behind economically and that it could not compete with the United States in military technology and hope to carry out economic development, which he was hoping to do. So he offered a sharp mutual cutback in offensive weapons. The Eisenhower administration kind of dismissed it. The Kennedy administration listened. They considered the possibility and they rejected it. Khrushchev went on to introduce a sharp unilateral reduction of offensive weapons. The Kennedy administration observed that and decided to expand offensive military capacity – not just reject it, but expand it. It was already way ahead. ........ on October 26th, the letter came from Khrushchev to Kennedy offering to end the crisis. How? By withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba in return for withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. Kennedy in fact didn’t even know there were missiles in Turkey. .......... North Korea, Iran, China. .... North Korea has been issuing wild, dangerous threats. That’s attributed to the lunacy of their leaders. It could be argued that it’s the most dangerous, craziest government in the world, and the worst government. It’s probably true. ......... the current crisis began with U.S.-South Korean war games, which included for the first time ever a simulation of a preemptive attack in an all-out war scenario against North Korea. Part of these exercises were simulated nuclear bombings on the borders of North Korea. ......... the North Korean leadership. ..... they can remember that 60 years ago there was a superpower that virtually leveled the entire country and when there was nothing left to bomb, the United States turned to bombing dams. ........ exulted over the glorious sight of massive floods “that scooped clear 27 miles of valley below”, devastated 75% of the controlled water supply for North Korea’s rice production, sent the commissars scurrying to the press and radio centers to blare to the world the most severe, hate-filled harangues to come from the Communist propaganda mill in the three years of warfare. To the communists, the smashing of the dams meant primarily the destruction of their chief sustenance: rice. Westerners can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of this staple food commodity has for Asians: starvation and slow death. ..... Clinton’s strategic command, STRATCOM. It’s about the role of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era. Its central conclusions are: U.S. must retain the right of first strike, even against non-nuclear states; furthermore, nuclear weapons must always be available, at the ready, because they “cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict”. They frighten adversaries. So they’re constantly being used, just as if you’re using a gun, going into a store pointing a gun at the store owner. You don’t fire it, but you’re using the gun. ....... the “gravest threat to world peace” – those are Obama’s words, dutifully repeated in the press: Iran’s nuclear program. .. a Western obsession. The U.S. and its allies say it’s the gravest threat and not the rest of the world, not the non-aligned countries, not the Arab states. The Arab populations don’t like Iran but they don’t regard it as much of a threat. They regard the U.S. as the threat. In Iraq and Egypt, for example, the U.S. is regarded as the major threat they face. ........ There was to be an international conference under the auspices of the non-proliferation treaty, UN auspices, in Helsinki to deal with moves to establish a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. That has overwhelming international support – non-aligned countries; it’s been led by the Arab states, Egypt particularly, for decades. Overwhelming support. If it could be carried forward it would certainly mitigate the threat. It might eliminate it. Everyone was waiting to see whether Iran would agree to attend. .. In early November, Iran agreed to attend. A couple of days later, Obama canceled the conference. No conference. .......... The last potential confrontation is China. ... Magna Carta .. one is the Charter of Liberties which is being dismantled. The other was called the Charter of the Forests. That called for protection of the commons from the depredations of authority. ........ It’s privatization that is destroying the commons.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Anatomy Of Revolutions For Democracy

The Arab worldImage via WikipediaThe roadmap is as follows. You get people out into the streets in the largest numbers possible to shut down the country completely. You keep it shut down until the regime makes way for an interim government. That interim government has a year to hold elections to a constituent assembly. That constituent assembly then elects a new majoritarian government. And the assembly gets two years to write a new constitution. That is the roadmap.

As long the elected constituent assembly is part and parcel of the roadmap, I would not worry about Islamists coming to power after the fall of Arab dictators. But if there is no constituent assembly part of the roadmap, then the outcome is more iffy, and the transitions more treacherous.

Many non westerns probably think the Republican Party in America is pretty much a Christian party and America has had more than 200 years to polish up its democracy. Islam is a social, religious reality across the Arab world. All that is good on earth and in heaven, a lot of Arabs think, is due to the Allah. That reality of Islam is not necessarily a good or bad thing. The important thing is to put democratic processes in place and let the churns happen.

Democracy is good news. Not to worry.

America's role is to stay deeply engaged and to aid the process as much as possible, through the revolutions, and through the transitions, and through Arab country after Arab country turning into modern democracies.

A democracy movement is science. It can be made to work every single time.

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If Gaddafi Is Not President, It Should Be Easier For Him To Leave
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Make Surgical Strikes, Take The Guy Out
Kick Ortega Out
The Fuck With Mugabe
The Chinese Communist Party Can Keep The Power If They Agree To Pluralism, Federalism
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The Saudi King Is No Exception, He Has To Go Too
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Et Tu, China?
When They Open Fire
Iran: Brute Force Does Have An Answer
Iran, Bahrain and Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia
Arab Democracy: What The US Needs To Do: Stay Deeply Engaged
Arab Dictators Are Shaking
Egypt: A Revolution, Not A Reform Movement
How Many People Could Mubarak Kill?
Arab Dictators Will Fall Like A House Of Cards
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