Notebook, 21 October 2015: What Really Built America and Why Only a Socialist Gets My Vote

It’s one of the most puerile notions I’ve ever heard that free enterprise is “the genius of America” (Barack Obama) or that it built “the greatest Middle Class in the history of the world” (Hillary Clinton). Yes, individuals and groups went out there and started businesses, the vast majority of which failed in under 3 years or were swept aside as others taking advantage of the economies of scale put them under, but that’s neither unique to Americans nor what built the middle class, because things never happen in a vacuum. Apparently, Clinton, Obama and everyone else who swallows that canard needs to return to elementary school.
Continue reading “Notebook, 21 October 2015: What Really Built America and Why Only a Socialist Gets My Vote”

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Notebook, 14 September 2015: Left, right and center

A rare political post today, due to the media’s failure to notice the 800 pound gorilla sitting right next to them in the room. Tories in the UK think they can ride to victory over Labour’s choice of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the party and in a rare bipartisan consensus, centrist Labour agrees wholeheartedly. Yet Corbyn won in a landslide, taking 59.5% of the Labour vote. In the United States, centrist Hillary Clinton is beginning to slip, with at least one poll putting Bernie Sanders in the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, well outside the margin of error, please note. That particular poll may be an outlier, yet it confirms a long term trend in which Sanders has steadily eroded Clinton’s lead in the last weeks. Also in the US, Donald Trump creates quite the storm by leading, and leading, and continuing to lead the (admittedly weak) field of GOP hopefuls.

What Trump, Sanders and Corbyn, along with Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Pablo Iglesias in Spain, all have in common is that they’re outside political party mainstream establishments, which voters rightly conclude are captured by wealthy interests and voters are in rebellion.

So how does this play out? Well, let’s look at the alternatives. The right proposes that political systems change from one-person-one-vote to something more akin to one-dollar-one-vote. The left’s proposals are fuzzy, though even the mainstream “left” in the US agrees that a constitutional amendment is called for, but one thing is clear: they’re against an autocratic right wing agenda.

So where’s the political “center” in all this? Nowhere, of course. Where they always are. It’s time we recognize that the center has no ideology or agenda other than not rocking the boat, maintaining the status quo and offering excuses to do nothing. The center breaks right or left or both, depending on whose radical rhetoric they appropriate, but have nothing to offer themselves. In legislative and policy terms, this amounts to accepting the status quo as the “center” offers only its rejection of the policy preferences at the poles. I’m not saying this is never a viable position, but it is always a weakness, and one that the left (but not the right) has failed to exploit. Somehow, “we’re not as rabid as the right wing” fails to inspire.

So the body politic is polarizing and I am totally fine with this. While there’s ample evidence that rank and file working-class Americans are far from radicalized, political polarization brings the real debate to the surface, and that’s both a discussion we badly need to have as well as one I feel pretty confident the left can win.

Notebook, 26 June 2013: American Exceptionalism?

“Russia can neither be grasped by the mind, nor measured by any common yardstick. Russia’s status is special: no attitude to her other than one of blind faith is admissible.”

“He who is not with us, absolutely and without reserve of any kind, is against us, and should be treated as an enemy alien.”

The first is something I’ve quoted before; the poet Feodor Tyuchev singing his devotion to Mother Russia — the Third Rome. The latter was proclaimed by our own “progressive” hero, Teddy Roosevelt.

So much for freedom of conscience.

Notebook, 19 June 2013: The Terror Con

Americans are hysterical. This was evident in the reaction to Chris Hayes’ thoughtful question whether we should be calling American service-people “heroes” in knee-jerk fashion. We neither think straight on many issues nor are we prone to thinking slow and relying on what we know. This hysteria is just now beginning to be questioned. In The Terror Con, Robert Scheer points out that that the official National Security apparat isn’t populated with dedicated public servants, those “extraordinary professionals” President Obama demands we praise and admire, but career revolving-door bureaucrats intent on keeping the national security gravy-train running full bore. More to the point is the Council on Foreign Relations article pointing out that the chances of any American dying or being injured from an act of terror on US soil is infinitesimally small. Continue reading “Notebook, 19 June 2013: The Terror Con”

Notebook, 8 June 2013: FISA judicial review? Seriously?

UPDATE: It would appear my characterization is shared by some on both political fringes:

And while I’ve mentioned weaknesses within the FISA court process, there is, of course, more than a whiff of the usual dynamic of self-reinforcing, institutional fulfillment at work here as well: Retired Federal Judge: Your Faith In Secret Surveillance Court Is Dramatically Misplaced.

Updated 2X: Notebook, 8 June 2013: I Have Nothing To Hide Either, But . . .

A guy sits at a bank of computer screens at the NSA. On one screen is a list of the target’s contacts. Who placed the call, which calls got returned, the date the calls were made, the time and duration of each call. He doesn’t know who his target is? Of course he does. He has the phone number, which he cleverly enough matched up to a name he found in a phone book. (Lets just assume for the sake of argument that the NSA’s phone books are both a lot more comprehensive and more up to date than something you or I might buy on Amazon.) Both the target’s and the party (or parties – this could be a conference call) on the other end of the line(s) appear on another screen.

Which brings up a good point.

Just because the only FISA court order we know about is supposedly restrictive (just phone call meta data) doesn’t mean that the NSA doesn’t already have all the data they need to fill in the blanks, including content. After all, there’s always the much rumored, but never confirmed ECHELON Program. As far as I know, nobody has yet asked what the phone call meta data is being matched up with.

So this NSA analyst gets a request to keep tabs on the target, and being sufficiently “sound” to pass the clearance hurdles necessary to actually sit at this desk, he’s not only more prone than just about everybody else to follow orders that he knows are wrong, but he’s far more likely to embrace a world view in which the threat is routinely exaggerated. So he got his orders, and now he’s found what he’s looking for. His target has repeatedly made contact with an “anti-American” element.

This needs to be reported!
Continue reading “Updated 2X: Notebook, 8 June 2013: I Have Nothing To Hide Either, But . . .”

Notebook, 29 April 2013: Washington Recap

I could have titled this, “A Fortnight of Dysfunction” except “dysfunction” isn’t exactly right. Anyways, let’s take a look at exactly what Washington has been up to lately:

On 15 April, the bombing st the Boston Marathon put everything on hold, but by the 17th, Congress got the ball rolling again. First up was the Manchin Twoomey bill mandating background checks on gun sales nationwide, especially on almost all gun show and internet sales. As the wingnut fringe went into overdrive, a lot of the usual lies resurfaced. This time around, there were claims that the bill would create a national gun registry, or that it was one step away from doing so.
Continue reading “Notebook, 29 April 2013: Washington Recap”