Browsing the blog archives for March, 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s Remarkable Record of Accomplishments

Obama Administration

Actual conversation I just had with a Clinton supporter about Clinton’s accomplishments; names changed to protect the guilty.

ME:  I don’t doubt she works her butt off. But what has she actually accomplished? Except a few ineffectual tweaks here and there?

JANE DOE: From US News & World Report of all places


 ME: //Although her major initiative, the Clinton health care plan failed, it certainly set the groundwork for the health care law we have today, the Affordable Care Act.// Stopped reading there. Absolute crap. Her initiative didn’t lay the groundwork for anything except many years of not being able to even talk about health care reform. So no, her accomplishments don’t “speak for themselves.” Talk about resume padding.

JANE DOE: You should have continues reading

ME: Don’t waste my time with resume padding. Give me one real accomplishment. Something really impressive.

JANE DOE: I know it is hard to read. But you should try

ME:  I read very well. I am a writer. You’re the one who wants to persuade me. So give me one real accomplishment. Just one. How hard is that?

ME:  (Waiting while Jane Doe picks through the padding to find something that will stand up to scrutiny.)


Answer (1 of 12): As a young woman: * Hillary Rodham became engaged in politics from an…

JANE DOE:  And after you go through that you may google it for yourself as I have actual work to do

ME: I have actual work to do, too. And I asked you for just one accomplishment. You give me more resume padding. Obviously, you don’t know what she’s accomplished, either.

JANE DOE: it is not padding dear it is what she has accomplished/not accomplished/attempted to accomplish. Not my fault you simply cannot understand or accept.

ME: I’m seeing a lot of things that she took part in, such as playing “a leading role in investigating the health issues that 9/11 first responders were facing.” (I did read it, you see.) But that is not an “accomplishment.” That was an “effort” that went on long after she left the Senate, and which we’re still having to fight. Show me an “accomplishment.” Something she did that actually was, you know, “accomplished.”

ME: She did take part in getting some helpful legislation passed, but it’s all relatively picayune stuff for a senator.

SOMEBODY ELSE: one accomplishment, something impressive: she survived, she thrived, it takes a great deal of strength, character, fortitude, gratitude, love, (for a start) to thrive when you are both one of the most admired women in the world and the most hated in this country.

ME: I survived, too, but I’d make a crappy POTUS.
This is classic “cult of personality” stuff, folks. I acknowledge that Sanders as a Senator wouldn’t look that good if put to the same test, but Sanders supporters on the whole don’t harbor illusions that he could have “accomplished” much as a liberal independent in today’s Washington.  He did have some good and actual accomplishments as Mayor of Burlington, and I think his record of getting progressive amendments added to bills makes his legislative record look damn good compared to Clinton’s.

But I think that if you’re going to march around proclaiming that so-and-so has fought hard for her constituents and gotten stuff done, you ought have half a clue of what she actually did.
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The Clinton-Sanders Divide and Moral Foundation Theory

Obama Administration, Sanders and Clinton

I am fond of Moral Foundation Theory. It isn’t a perfect explanation for everything that people think, but it explains a lot.

Moral Foundation Theory was developed by social psychologists to explain how people arrive at moral judgments. In brief, few if any of us simply think what we’re told to think by religion or by our cultures. Well, we do in a way, but it’s more complicated than we might think. Instead, our moral judgments arise from deeply subconscious intuitive orientations, and the social psychologists believe we are born pre-wired with these orientations.

Life experiences and cultural conditioning determine how our orientations develop. But someone who is pre-wired to be a prude, for example, is unlikely to completely escape being a prude no matter how he is raised. Judgments happen when we get emotional cues from the subconscious, and then we seize upon a narrative or some explanation for why we think the way we do.

When applied to politics, the Moral Foundations people list six orientations:

  • Care/harm
  • Fairness/cheating
  • Liberty/oppression
  • Loyalty/betrayal
  • Authority/subversion
  • Sanctity/degradation

A longer explanation:

1. Care/Harm – Being kind, gentle and nurturing and protecting people from harm.

2. Fairness/Cheating – Treating people with equality and justly, in proportion to their actions.

3. Liberty/Oppression – Giving people freedom and protecting them from tyranny.

4. Loyalty/Betrayal – Being patriotic, self-sacrificing and loyal to one’s group, family and nation.

5. Authority/Subversion – Respecting leadership, tradition and legitimate authority.

6. Sanctity/Degradation – Living in an elevated, noble way and avoiding disgusting things, foods and actions.

As the chart suggests, if your wiring causes you to value care and fairness over authority and sanctity, you are a liberal. Vice versa, you are a conservative.

Conservatives and centrists tend to value loyalty much more than liberals, and I’ve noticed that loyalty comes up a lot in arguments Clinton supporters make for their candidate. It’s very important to them to be loyal to the Democratic Party, and they are upset that Sanders is “not a real Democrat” but an independent who caucuses with Democrats. I hear this over and over again. Per Moral Foundations Theory, this pegs them as centrists if not conservatives.

They even argue that closed primaries are a better indicator of who should be nominated, because we shouldn’t be allowing independents to choose the Dem nominee.  The notion that we should nominate the candidate with the least appeal to independents rather flies in the face of common sense, to me, but I hear that one all the time.

Note also that Loyalty/betrayal rather quickly segues into Authority/subversion. We’re wading pretty deeply into conservative orientation at this point.

To Sanders supporters, this is a stupid argument. Who gives a hoo-haw whether Sanders is a “real Democrat”? The Democratic Party is a big part of the problem, anyway. Again, this is a common orientation for a liberal, who doesn’t place a high value on group loyalty for its own sake.

Sanders supporters are quick to accuse the Clinton camp of cheating. Given the messiness of many of the primaries and caucuses, this would be expected of liberals, who place a very high value on fairness and not cheating. They sometimes do go overboard, IMO, such as in the current flap over election, um, irregularities in Arizona. Everything I’ve read about it traces the problem to some incompetent Republican appointees; I haven’t seen anything that connects the problem to the Clinton campaign.

But then there were the PUMAs, die-hard Clinton supporters from 2008, who also charged the Obama campaign of stealing votes from Clinton. They were a fascinating crew. This article is from 2015:

The PUMAs—which, depending on the temperament of the person asked, stood for People United Means Action or, more likely, Party Unity My Ass—were a group of disillusioned, mostly Democratic voters who protested the nomination of then-Senator Barack Obama as the Democratic Party nominee in 2008. In their view, party leadership machinations (remember the “super delegates?”) robbed Clinton of the nomination.

In the weeks between Obama surpassing the delegate threshold and his formal nomination at the convention, these PUMAs appeared dozens of times on cable news to defend Clinton and to promise mischief at the nominating convention and in the general election. Their anger epitomized a wider unrest that has been mostly forgotten as Obama went on to win two general elections: In the days before the convention, only 47 percent of Clinton supporters said they were certain to vote for Obama.

I get a kick out of posting this whenever some Clintonista lectures Sanders supporters on how they are stupid if they won’t vote for Clinton in November. See above about more than half of Clinton supporters thinking about not voting for Obama. Somehow, he won anyway.

The PUMAs believe they were being cheated, but Obama supporters saw Clinton as the chief cheater. Remember the flap over the Michigan and Florida delegates? If not, see this article from 2008 that explains it pretty well. Very simply, Clinton attempted to skirt rules to claim delegates from Florida and Michigan who were not rightfully hers. Here are more articles touching on this controversy from the Maha Archives from 2008 that are fun to read in retrospect:

“Win, Lose, Draw,” January 16, 2008

“Over the Line,” January 25, 2008

“Just Say No,” May 22, 2008

“He Said No,” May 22, 2008

“Votes on the Votes,” May 31, 2008

“The Last Dog,” June 1, 2008

While the PUMAs believed they were being cheated, they were blind to the outrageous cheating that Clinton herself attempted in order to claim the nomination in 2008. In their own minds, apparently, whatever Hillary Clinton was justified … because why? She was the leader? Kind of a mash-up of Fairness/cheating and Loyalty/betrayal. I’d like to think most Obama supporters would not have been so blind if he had attempted such a thing.  Of course, he did not, so we will never know.

Anyway, I offer the hypothesis that the biggest cause of the divide is that Clinton supporters tend to be centrists and Sanders supporters, for the most part, are genuine lefties. So we’re all operating out of entirely different moral foundations. I see a lot of stupidity in both camps; some of the denser Sanders supporters tend to dredge up old, discredited right-wing smears of Clinton, for example, which of course is both stupid and counterproductive.

But it’s fascinating to me that Clinton supporters refuse to acknowledge issues from her actual policy speeches and record that ought to give any liberal pause. The AIPAC speech comes to mind, for example. And they won’t look at it; they won’t acknowledge there might be a problem. Perhaps that would be disloyal.

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The Fundraiser Lives

Obama Administration

I found a place to live, and moving day is nigh. But I am still a bit short of paying for the move. So reluctantly I’m cranking up the Quickie Fundraiser once again for a brief time to get it over the top.

Here’s a PayPal link.

And for those who hate Paypal, here’s a GoFundMe link.

Go Fund Me!

Thank you all for your help and support over the years. You help keep me sane.

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The Many Roads That Led to Trump

Obama Administration

Here are some articles to read together — “How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump” by Nicholas Confessore; “How The Democratic Elite Betrayed Their Party And Paved The Way For Donald Trump” by Zach Carter; and “The truth about Donald Trump’s angry white men: Inside the media narrative that the media doesn’t understand” by Heather Digby Parton. And don’t miss “The Media, Nick Kristof Included, Still Doesn’t Understand Its Role in Creating Donald Trump” by Charles Pierce.

In brief, Confessore says that the working-class whites that Republicans counted on as their base finally realized that GOP elites were doing nothing for them. Carter writes that Democratic Party elites have nothing to offer them, either. Digby points out the Great Ironic Myth beloved of both parties and the media that salt-of-the-earth working-class whites are the only constituency that matters. And Pierce wrote that news media have been afraid of the truth for a long, long time.

Hence, Donald Trump.

It may seem hard to reconcile Carter’s and Parton’s opinions, since they appear to be saying the opposite — Parton is saying that the Dems have catered to white “Reagan Republicans” way too much, while Carter says the Dems threw the working class under the bus. But I think both perspectives are valid, within their own contexts. The bottom line is that the elites of both parties and of the news media covering national politics have no clue whatsoever what the lives of real working-class people are like. And this is true even as both parties (and the news media) pay lip service to how much they respect real working-class people.

But in truth this beloved constituency is treated in somewhat the same way 19th century Europeans treated their colonial subjects in Africa and Asia. They are increasingly seen as uncivilized and indolent, and possibly dangerous. They’re also a resource that often is easily exploited, as needed.


Many trace the rupture to the country’s economic crisis eight years ago: While Americans grew more skeptical of the banking industry in the aftermath, some Republicans played down the frustrations of their own voters.

While wages declined and workers grew anxious about retirement, Republicans offered an economic program still centered on tax cuts for the affluent and the curtailing of popular entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. And where working-class voters saw immigrants filling their schools and competing against them for jobs, Republican leaders saw an emerging pool of voters to court.

“They have to come to terms with what they created,” said Laura Ingraham, a conservative activist and talk-radio host. “They’ll talk about everything except the fact that their policies are unpopular.” …

… Most of these voters had long since given up on an increasingly liberal and cosmopolitan Democratic Party. In Mr. Trump, they found a tribune: a blue-collar billionaire who stood in the lobby of a Manhattan skyscraper bearing his name and pledged to expand Social Security, refuse the money of big donors, sock it to Chinese central bankers and relieve Americans of unfair competition from foreign workers.

If it weren’t for the fact that Trump seems to have no clue whatsoever how the federal government works, or to care about anyone but himself, one might argue a President Trump might not actually be that bad compared to other Republicans. Of course, we still don’t want to think about his foreign policy.

See also The White Man Burden.

On to Zach Carter:

But this only explains why the rabble are abandoning their well-heeled overlords in the GOP. It does not explain why they have embraced a xenophobic authoritarian instead of, say, the Democratic Party.

The most comforting rationale for Democratic true believers is that these voters are racist and ignorant and hostile to Democratic policies on social issues. That’s part of the explanation. But the full truth is a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow. Thomas Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of People? documents a half-century of work by the Democratic elite to belittle working people and exile their concerns to the fringes of the party’s platform. If the prevailing ideology of the Republican establishment is that of a sneering aristocracy, Democratic elites are all too often the purveyors of a smirking meritocracy that offers working people very little.

Of course, we could point to the Affordable Care Act as something that has helped tons of working-class people, and yet those same working-class people want to see it destroyed.

Carter reviews Thomas Frank’s argument that the Dems pulled away from the working class in the 1970s.

Organized labor’s status was about to plummet within the Democratic Party. Gary Hart started winning Senate campaigns by denouncing Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Jimmy Carter lent his ear to deregulation advocates and appointed a Federal Reserve chairman bent on breaking union power. Frank quotes former Carter adviser Alfred Kahn:

“I’d love the Teamsters to be worse off. I’d love the automobile workers to be worse off. You may say that’s inhumane; I’m putting it rather baldly, but I want to eliminate a situation in which certain protected workers in industries insulated from competition can increase their wages much more rapidly than the average without regard to their merit or to what a free market would do.”

As fond as I am personally of President Carter, his economic policies were Reaganism Lite.

The idea that collective bargaining is incompatible with a free market would have been madness to FDR or Lyndon Johnson or Elizabeth Warren. But there’s also a not-so-subtle moral judgment about union workers embedded in Kahn’s econo-speak. The rednecks don’t deserve high wages because it takes money away from the good people. You know, the ones who went to college. This brand of elitism would come to dominate the worldview of Democratic Party leaders and the agenda of President Bill Clinton.

For most Democrats today, the Clinton years remain the good old days. The country prospered, incomes rose, and good-guy Bill survived all the insane political attacks from the Republican bad guys. Frank’s chapters on Clinton will make these Democrats feel terrible. Because for anyone who takes economic inequality seriously, the chief villain of the Clinton years wasn’t Ken Starr. It was Bill Clinton.

I’ll let you read the rest of this argument for yourself.

Both Digby and Charles Pierce criticize this Nic Kristof column, titled “My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump.” Sounds like he has a clue. Kristof’s perspectives aren’t bad, as far as they go. He admits media didn’t take Trump seriously and has not provided a context to readers/audience to explain how Trump’s various ravings might actually translate into real-world policy.

But Digby writes:

Evidently, Kristof believes that if you’re talking about racial, ethnic and gender diversity you aren’t talking about the jobless or the part of America that is struggling. Basically, he’s saying the media’s ignoring white men. Again. …

… Every single election cycle since 1968 the press has been obsessed with this mythical Real American who is always angry, always frustrated, always railing against the so-called elites because they allegedly only care about the racial minorities or the women or somebody other than them. Then we end up with a mass soul search in which we all come to understand that the key to the election is to address these people’s grievances.

Yes and no. The “angry white man” has become a stock character in American political theater. He gets a lot of attention in every election cycle, but at the same time no one seems to take him seriously. He is treated as a kind of anthropological specimen. He is reported on but not engaged with. His more flamboyant Joe-the-Plumber behaviors get on the teevee. But there’s no attempt to look deeply at the rage, what is fueling it, who is exploiting it.

(Aside: This is a delicate point, apparently, but I reject the notion implied in a lot of leftie political commentary that economic inequality is a white’s only issue. Yes, racial minorities and women bear additional burdens in our economy, but ultimately economic inequality is hurting all of  us.

I reject the idea that because racial minorities and women get the worst of it, as a result of systemic bias built into the system, that economic inequality can be ignored while we work on the systemic bias. That makes no sense to me. By the same token, of course, addressing economic inequality by itself doesn’t mean those systemic biases will go away.  Both issues need to be addressed together, seems to me.)

Finally, we get to Charles Pierce, who writes of Kristof’s column:

This is all my bollocks on a number of levels. First, there are people covering the plight of the disappearing middle class all over the place—in local papers, in academic studies, on the electric teevee machine, and even in Kristof’s own newspaper. There is a Democratic candidate for president whose entire damn campaign is based on the premise that the American middle class is going the way of the Anasazi. It’s a little late for the elite political media that boomed “free trade” and the miracles of the “globalized economy” in a “flat” world to suddenly look up and discover that a 55-year old steelworker in Indiana likely will not be getting a job writing code for the Next New Thing. It’s a little late for the elite political media to discover that de-unionization has not been altogether a boon in those few sectors of the industrial economy that haven’t been cored out or sent to Vietnam.

But, in any case, as far as Kristof’s main point goes, that’s not the story that that “we in the media” missed. For four decades now, ever since Ronald Reagan fed it the monkeybrains in the 1980, hitching his party to the snake-oil of supply-side economics and to the sad remnants of white supremacy, often as expressed through an extremist splinter of American Protestantism, the Republican Party has been afflicted with the prion disease that now has blossomed into utter public madness. That’s the story everyone was too blind, stupid, or afraid to tell. You know who in the media really created He, Trump? Anyone who laughed at Ronald Reagan’s casual relationship with the truth and with empirical reality. Anyone who blew off Iran-Contra. Anyone who draped C-Plus Augustus in a toga after 9/11. Anyone who cast Newt Gingrich as a serious man of ideas. Anyone who cast Paul Ryan as an economic savant, that’s who. Anyone who wrote admiring profiles of how shrewd Lee Atwater and Karl Rove were. Anyone who put Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck on the cover of national magazines based simply on their ratings. Anyone who put Matt Drudge on a public-affairs program. Anyone who watched the conservative movement, the only animating force the Republican party has, drive the party further and deeper into madness, they are the ones who share the blame. He, Trump merely has taken the bark off ideas that were treated as legitimate for far too long by far too many people, most of whom don’t really give a damn about the plight of the vanishing middle class except for its use as fuel for rage-based, self-destructive politics.

Let me repeat what Pierce says here: You know who in the media really created He, Trump? Anyone who laughed at Ronald Reagan’s casual relationship with the truth and with empirical reality. Anyone who blew off Iran-Contra. Anyone who draped C-Plus Augustus in a toga after 9/11. Anyone who cast Newt Gingrich as a serious man of ideas. Anyone who cast Paul Ryan as an economic savant, that’s who. Anyone who wrote admiring profiles of how shrewd Lee Atwater and Karl Rove were. Anyone who put Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck on the cover of national magazines based simply on their ratings. Anyone who put Matt Drudge on a public-affairs program. Anyone who watched the conservative movement, the only animating force the Republican party has, drive the party further and deeper into madness, they are the ones who share the blame.

Kristof’s mea kulpa should go back decades. Coverage of national politics has been junk for decades. Both parties have ignored the real problems of the American people. People march to polls and vote in ignorance.  And here we are.


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Happy Late Easter

Obama Administration

Here’s my new Easter baby grandson, Dylan Richard O’Brien, who really was born yesterday.


Update: I think Dylan looks like his Auntie Erin.

dylan and erin

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Stupid Campaign Tricks

Obama Administration


Of all the arguments that try to support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, and undermine Bernie Sanders’s, this one must be the dumbest — the argument that Bernie support is coming from “privileged” types who won’t suffer if Donald Trump or some other right-wing whackjob is elected.

First, the data coming from the primaries tell us that Clinton voters are on average both older and more affluent than Sanders voters. So much for the “privileged” argument. Here in the greater NYC area, you can go to wealthy white communities like Scarsdale and see “Hillary Clinton for President” on every other Audi bumper.

Second, the argument assumes that only Hillary Clinton can beat Trump or Whatever in November. Personally, I suspect any reasonably presentable vertebrate could beat Trump in November, and Cruz, too. Current “head to head” polls, for whatever they are worth, have Clinton beating Trump by an average of 11.2 points, a factoid that has been splashed robustly all over social media as “proof” that Clinton must be supported.

But the same polls have Sanders beating Trump by 17.5 points.  Likewise, Sanders does better than Clinton against Cruz.

If Republican voters were to wise up and choose Kasich, however, he would beat Clinton handily. That’s what the polls say — Kasich by 6.5 points — and that’s what my guts say, also.  The same polls currently have Sanders beating Kasich by one point; it’s pretty much a tie. And while Kasich is a long shot, given the, um, situation the Republicans are in, nobody could be ruled out. A contested convention could nominate anybody.

The “only Clinton can win” hysteria seems to have arisen from the notion that as soon as everyone finds out Sanders calls himself a “socialist,” voters will stampede to Clinton. But IMO the ones most likely to stampede will be voting Republican, anyway. This argument ignores the fact that Clinton is more disliked than liked (see poll results).

Trump’s “unfavorable” rating is even higher, of course, which is why he would lose to a can of soup. And why I am very weary with arguments that we progressive voters have to settle for a candidate we don’t like and didn’t choose because otherwise we’ll end up for President Trump.

See also Matt Taibbi, “Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton.”

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The Candidates Respond to Brussels

Bad Hair, Obama Administration, Sanders and Clinton, Terrorism

july4whitebackgroundAs a public service, I’ve put together a quickie primer on how the five remaining presidential candidates responded to the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Let’s start with the Republicans.

First off, let us acknowledge that Republicans are weenies. Charles Pierce reminds us that all three Republican candidates wet their pants over the Ebola terror, for example. After the attacks in Brussels, Kasich and Cruz nonsensically called for President Obama to cut the state visit to Cuba off short and fly to Brussels, as if he had any business there and wouldn’t just create more security problems. One suspects there are telephones in Cuba and that the President has communicated with European leaders as needed.

Otherwise, regarding Brussels, Kasich has been the soul of moderation compared to Trump or Kruz. In fact, I found no substantive difference between Kasich and Hillary Clinton on this issue. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

Trump and Cruz, of course, both went into crazy overdrive. Trump continues to believe that Islamic terrorists (like the Ebola virus) are swarming across the U.S. Mexican border, and that the first order of business must be closing that border, along with banning Muslims from entering the country anywhere. He also promises to do lots of waterboarding and has not ruled out using nuclear weapons on ISIS (which Juan Cole tells us we should be calling “Daesh”).

But who knows what Trump would do? Here’s a snip of a recent interview with the Washington Post, courtesy of Mother Jones:

RYAN: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?

TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?


TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

The word deranged does come to mind.

Ted Cruz famously promised to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Like treating innocent people like criminals wouldn’t radicalize them. Like Trump, Cruz thinks the southern border must be closed to prevent Muslim terrorists and their Ebola virus allies from entering the country, because obviously there is no other way for them to get in other than to sneak across the Rio Grande. It’s not like we have other borders or international airports or anything.

He also declared that “for years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear.” It is an article of faith on the Right that President Obama refuses to acknowledge that Daesh and other radical jihadist groups even exist. But, of course, the Right is wrong. (See also.) Wingnuts think that fear itself has power and that hysterical rhetoric and ignorance make one stronger, which is why they don’t know what to do with President Barack “the Ice Man” Obama. And which is why their approach to terrorism would be a disaster for the entire planet.

Here is Cruz’s statement, in full:

“For years, the west has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear. We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods. We will do what we can to help them fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized. We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we can be are at an end. Our country is at stake.”

In short, booga booga booga.

Both Clinton and Kasich emphasized strengthening alliances and working with strategic partners to root out terrorism. Kasich (who, notably, did not mention Islam):

“Along with every American, I am sickened by the pictures of the carnage, by the injuries and by the loss of life,” said Kasich in a statement sent to reporters. “The wave of terror that has been unleashed in Europe and elsewhere around the world are attacks against our very way of life and against the democratic values upon which our political systems have been built. We and our allies must rededicate ourselves to these values of freedom and human rights. We must utterly reject the use of deadly acts of terror. We must also redouble our efforts with our allies to identify, root out and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil. We must strengthen our alliances as our way of life and the international system that has been built on our common values since the end of the Second World War comes under challenge from these and other actors of evil.”


Former Sec. of State Clinton said in a statement, “Terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed. The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded, and all the people of Belgium. These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed. Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”

However, here is where Clinton fell short, and where I would have wanted a more substantive answer. On the Today Show, she was asked explicitly what she might do about the “root causes” of terrorism.

Clinton responded that we need to tighten our security, bringing up a “visa system and passenger record system” she advocated as secretary of state. She also said Europe needs to fall in line behind the US in adopting our surveillance measures:

“When I was secretary, we often had some difficulty with our European friends because they were reluctant to impose the kind of strict standards we were looking for. After Paris, that has changed, and we need to do more to tighten things up.”

She did not address any of the actual root causes of terrorism.

I believe President Obama would have had a better answer.  This blind spot in Clinton is  worrisome, especially considering her record as a “regime change” hawk.
Finally, we come to Bernie Sanders:

We offer our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this barbaric attack and to the people of Brussels who were the target of another cowardly attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. We stand with our European allies to offer any necessary assistance in these difficult times.

Today’s attack is a brutal reminder that the international community must come together to destroy ISIS. This type of barbarism cannot be allowed to continue. (see also)

He went further talking to Jimmy Kimmel (because news media ignore him):
‘”I think people get afraid, and for good reasons. ISIS is a disgusting, barbaric organization. We’ve seen what they’ve done in Paris, what they’ve done in Brussels. People are afraid of an attack in the United States. But I think what we have to understand is we’re not going to undermine the Constitution of the United States of America in order to effectively destroy ISIS. At the end of the day, we cannot allow the Trumps of the world to use these incidents to attack all of the Muslim people in the world. That is unfair. To imply that if somebody is a Muslim they’re a terrorist, that is an outrageous statement.”
Sanders generated a lot of derision when he linked terrorism and climate change awhile back, but lots of experts say it’s a serious contributing factor. Drought in Syria has a lot to do with migration into Europe and elsewhere.
Like Clinton and Kasich, he has emphasized international cooperation regarding security. I believe he has gone further than Clinton or Kasich in declaring that the United States isn’t the world’s police and that other nations, especially those in the Middle East, need to step up. He also has pledged to not use military force except as a last resort.
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Posted Without Comment

Obama Administration

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Dan Baum, “Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs,Harper’s, April 2016

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A Carnival of Pandering: Yesterday at AIPAC

Obama Administration

All of the presidential candidates but Bernie Sanders spoke at a convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) yesterday. Sanders, the only Jew among the candidates, was in the western U.S. and offered to speak remotely, but AIPAC turned him down. So instead he gave his speech in Utah to another audience.

In brief, Clinton and Sanders are worlds apart on Israel. Sanders criticized Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Clinton delivered a speech that could have been written by John Podhoretz. She brought down the house at AIPAC.

I have more to say on this. But let’s first look at the Republicans.

Although the AIPAC crowd remains leery of Donald Trump, he threw them off guard by delivering a prepared speech that promised to back most of AIPAC’s positions — condemning the Iran deal and placing all of the blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Palestinians. He promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also drew big applause by calling President Obama “the worst thing to ever happen to Israel,” although an AIPAC spokesperson today officially distanced the organization from these remarks.

John Kasich spoke of his admiration of Israelis, his determination to scuttle the Iran deal, and his concern for the victimization of Jews. Ted Cruz did not, in fact, show up wearing a yarmulke and tallit, but given his full-court-press pandering  he might as well have. He also evoked Munich, 1938, in regard to the Obama Administration’s Iran deal. Obama = Hitler. Whether AIPAC distanced themselves from that I haven’t heard.

Now, on to Clinton. On the plus, side, she hasn’t (yet) called for the extermination of all Palestinians. And she cannot completely disavow the Iran deal, seeing as how she was partly involved in it. But she promised to call it off if any Iranian so much as sets off firecrackers for New Years.

Here are some headlines about Clinton’s speech:

Juan Cole — Hillary Clinton goes full Neocon at AIPAC, Demonizes Iran, Palestinians. “Clinton has just announced a diction and a set of policies toward the Middle East that differ in no particular from those of far right Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Ben Norton — “‘She sounds like Netanyahu’: Hillary Clinton goes extra hawkish in her biased, die-hard pro-Israel AIPAC speech.”

True to her hawkishness, Clinton openly called for a strong U.S. empire. “We need America to remain a respected global leader, committed to defending and advancing the international order,” she proclaimed.

Clinton even asserted that the U.S. should act unilaterally, even if it must fly in the face of the international community. “I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution,” she said, “including by the U.N. Security Council.”

The rhetoric of the former secretary of state — who, virtually single-handedly, helped push for the disastrous NATO war in Libya — was so hawkish, Clinton was compared to Netanyahu.

“I literally could be listening to Bibi Netanyahu right now at AIPAC,” noted Naomi Dann, media coordinator for the group Jewish Voice for Peace, and it “wouldn’t sound any different than Hillary Clinton.”

Michelle Goldberg — Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC Speech Was a Symphony of Craven, Delusional Pandering

She spent significantly more time railing against the “alarming” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which is gaining traction on college campuses nationwide. Pledging to “take our alliance to the next level,” Clinton said that one of the first things she’d do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House. That was a barely veiled rebuke to Obama, who never treated Benjamin Netanyahu with the deference the prime minister felt entitled to. Before the speech, some had hoped that Clinton might offer a word of solidarity or encouragement to beleaguered progressives in Israel. She gave them nothing.

Naturally, reactions to this speech from Clintonistas in social media range from silence to condemning Bernie Sanders for excessive Zionism.

The most bizarre critique of Clinton’s speech was from Max Fisher at Vox, who acknowledged it was a very hard-line speech, but who assured us we should not be concerned, because she doesn’t really mean it. The rhetoric is just a strategy for working with Israel, he says. She can be counted on to continue Obama’s policies, even though she more than hinted Obama’s policies aren’t good enough .

On to Sanders. Speaking to supporters in Utah, Bernie Sanders voiced support for a two-state solution. He supports Israel’s right to nationhood, but he also criticized Israel for their actions against Palestinians in Gaza.

Consistent with his ongoing critique of economic inequality, Sanders, who is Jewish and spent time at a kibbutz after college, offered a plea for a more humane handling of the Israel–Palestine conflict. “To be successful, we have to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza, they suffer from an unemployment rate of 44 percent—the highest in the world—and a poverty rate nearly equal to that,” Sanders said, according to a prepared text of his remarks.

Israel, he argued, is compounding the suffering with its own aggressive policies. Sanders called on Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to pull back settlements in the West Bank and turn over hundreds of millions of shekels in tax revenue to Palestinians. Peace, he also said, “will mean a sustainable and equitable distribution of precious water resources so that Israel and Palestine can both thrive as neighbors…Right now, Israel controls 80 percent of the water reserves in the West Bank. Inadequate water supply has contributed to the degradation and desertification of Palestinian land. A lasting a peace will have to recognize Palestinians are entitled to control their own lives, and there is nothing human life needs more than water.”

It’s also worth watching what he said on CNN last night. He’d like the U.S. to invest more in economic development in the region than in shipping arms to Israel. He also questioned why we’re hard on Iran but consider Saudi Arabia our good friends. He’s actually thought about this stuff, in other words.

Lots going on in the world, including the President’s historic visit to Cuba and the terrorist attack in Brussels, but I wanted to be sure to comment on the AIPAC speeches before they were old news, which will be any minute now …

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The White Man Burden

Obama Administration

Most of us have grumbled about those working-class white male voters who keep getting snookered into voting against their own economic interests. And it isn’t always just about dog-whistles and gays, guns and God. You can find them supporting “right-to-work” laws that will have the effect of reducing their earnings, for example.

But would more, shall we say, informed votes have mattered much?

Ian Welsh’s Why Poor White Males Are the Core of Trump’s Support is worth reading. “Wages for working class white males peaked in 1968, forty-eight years ago,” he writes. I had thought the peak year was 1972, but whatever. It was some time back then. The point is that since the late 1970s wages for working class white men have relentlessly drifted downward. He continues,

“So, for damn near 48 years, poor whites have done terribly. For forty-eight years, ordinary politicians have promised to do something about it, and nothing has improved….

“It is a FACT that working class whites will not see any improvement worth mentioning under any normal politician, including Clinton. They may see an improvement under Trump, they certainly would under Sanders.

“They are voting for what they see as their interests, and they are not necessarily wrong. Certainly, Trump is more likely to help than Clinton, as the chance of Clinton helping them is zero. Zip. Nada.

“It is insanity to expect poor white males to accept 48 years of decline and not get angry. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to respond to a man who offers them a better life in a way that is different from all the politicians who have failed them in the past.

“Trump does not feel or campaign like an ordinary politician. Poor whites read this as: ‘He might not betray us like all the normal politicians do.’ …

“People become how they are treated. You have to feed the better parts of them if you want those parts to win. If half the ‘good jobs’ available to these people jobs that involve violence, if the remaining non-violent jobs (manufacturing) are disappearing, and if the rest of their jobs are ass, you should not be surprised that they become mean.

“You make them this way, then you demonize them for it.

“Trump does not talk to these people like he despises them. (Neither does Bernie.)

“Clinton does. She’s pandering, she knows it, and it comes through. The disdain drips.

“The quality of life for the average ‘white male’ peaked in 1968. Then, you call them trash, they have almost no good jobs, and you’re surprised they’re angry? You think they aren’t human? You think they are Jesus, and can be treated like crap for longer than most of them have been alive and that there won’t be consequences? You think that because other people are treated even worse, they will sublimate their own mistreatment?”

Speaking of Hillary Clinton, see also As Hillary Clinton Sweeps States, One Group Resists: White Men. There’s a meme going around social media that shows Hillary Clinton laughing under the caption “She can win without white men’s votes.” And she probably can. But she was singing a different tune eight years ago —

While Mrs. Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost white men in all of them, and by double-digit margins in Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, exit polls showed — a sharp turnabout from 2008, when she won double-digit victories among white male voters in all three states.

She also performed poorly on Tuesday with independents, who have never been among her core supporters. But white men were, at least when Mrs. Clinton was running against a black opponent: She explicitly appealed to them in 2008, extolling the Second Amendment, mocking Barack Obama’s comment that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion” and even needling him at one point over his difficulties with “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans.”

She could not sound more different today, aggressively campaigning to toughen gun-control laws and especially courting black and Hispanic voters.

If she had become President eight years ago, would it have made any difference in the lives of working-class white men? Very doubtful.  And this time around, there have been many insinuations from the Clintonistas that since Bernie Sanders is doing better with white men than Hillary Clinton, it must be because he is racist or running a racist campaign, which of course isn’t true. But these days mere association with white working-class men makes one persona non grata on the Left.

Paul Waldman explains why nobody’s really fighting to get the white man vote.

The Times article talks to some white men who don’t like Clinton, and it’s always worthwhile to hear those individual voices in order to understand why certain people vote the way they do. But when you pull back to the electorate as a whole, you realize that there just aren’t enough votes among white men for Republicans to mine. The reason is simple: they’ve already got nearly all they’re going to get. While some people entertain the fantasy that there are huge numbers of “Reagan Democrats” just waiting to cross over, the Reagan Democrats are gone. They all either died (it was 36 years ago that they were identified, remember) or just became Republicans. The GOP already has them, and it isn’t enough.

Finally, the idea that the Democrats can’t “maintain credibility as a broad-based national coalition” unless they get more votes from white men is somewhere between absurd and insane. We have two main parties in this country. One of them reflects America’s diversity, getting its votes from a combination of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and people of other ethnicities. Its nominee got 55 percent of his votes in 2012 from whites — smaller than their proportion of the population as a whole, but still a majority of those who voted for him.

The other party is almost entirely white; its nominee got 90 percent of his votes from whites in 2012. And we’re supposed to believe that if that party gets even more white, then it will be the one that’s “broad-based”?

Obviously, every candidate would like to get strong support from every demographic group. But if there’s one group Hillary Clinton can afford not to worry too much about, it’s white men.

But note that white men were the single biggest influence in the 2014 midterms.

Anyhoo — the Right is falling apart right now because the white working-class base and the GOP party elite are no longer on speaking terms. (See “National Review Dumps the White Working Class.”) The people with positions of power and influence inside the right-wing Machine have absolutely no idea what the lives of working class whites are like. Of course, most of the people in power with the Democratic Party don’t know that, either. As Ian Welsh said, Hillary Clinton, if elected, isn’t going to do anything to help them. They know that. And this time she’s not even pretending otherwise.

You may have seen the video of the Indiana factory workers being told their jobs are being sent to Mexico. The New York Times followed up on this and interviewed some of them.

Within hours of being posted on Facebook, the video went viral. Three days after Carrier’s Feb. 10 announcement, Donald J. Trump seized on the video in a Republican presidential debate and made Carrier’s move to Mexico a centerpiece of his stump speeches attacking free trade.

Jennifer Shanklin-Hawkins is one of those Carrier workers who listened to the announcement on the factory floor. After 14 years on the assembly line, she earns $21.22 an hour, enough to put her oldest son through college while raising two other children with her husband, a truck driver.

And when she saw Mr. Trump talking about Carrier on the news, all she could do was shout “Yessss!” at the TV. “I loved it,” she said. “I was so happy Trump noticed us.”

She was thrilled Trump noticed. Does anyone else notice?

Consider the case of Ms. Shanklin-Hawkins. While she says she won’t be voting for Mr. Trump and considers him a racist, she applauds his message on trade. She says she plans to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who similarly blasts free trade, but from the left. The two populist candidates may be political opposites, but when it comes to the downside of globalization, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump are speaking to her with one voice.

In fact, many Carrier workers here say that it was not so much Mr. Trump’s nativist talk on illegal immigrants or his anti-Muslim statements that has fired them up. Instead, it was hearing a leading presidential candidate acknowledging just how much economic ground they’ve lost — and promising to do something about it.

Mr. Trump has repudiated decades of G.O.P. support for free trade, calling for heavy tariffs on Mexican-made goods from the likes of Carrier. This has helped put him within arm’s reach of the Republican nomination.

Opposition to trade deals has also galvanized supporters of Mr. Sanders, helping him unexpectedly win the Michigan Democratic primary this month. At the same time, it has forced his rival Hillary Clinton to distance herself from trade agreements she once supported, like the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 1994 deal with Mexico that is an important part of President Bill Clinton’s political legacy.

Does anyone actually believe Clinton won’t fall back in love with free trade deals once she’s in the White House?

The elites can give you all kinds of reasons why free trade deals are good for the economy.

“We have to look around the corner and see how this market will change in order to invest and stay in business for another 100 years,” said Robert McDonough, a senior executive at Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies. “You can blink and see your market position erode.”

The rub is that the costs and benefits aren’t distributed equally. Global trade has produced big gains for Americans, like more affordable goods — clothes, computers, even air-conditioners — and led to a more advanced economy.

At the same time, a chronic trade deficit and an overvalued dollar have caused factory jobs to dry up, contributing to a deep divide between the political and economic elite and the rest of the nation. Perhaps a clash was inevitable.

The problem with those “more affordable goods” is that they’re causing an economic death spiral, seems to me. As incomes erode people stretch dollars by buying cheaper goods made overseas, thereby causing the capitalists to cut costs more and send more jobs overseas. And all across America there are once-prosperous communities that are dying if not dead, with boarded-up houses and businesses. And it hasn’t just hit white men, of course, but it’s arguably the case that it hit them harder, if only because they had farther to fall.

But what do we do about our white men? Both parties are, in different ways, working overtime to rig the system and make sure neither of the insurgent candidates can win. That being so, neither party is likely to actually do anything to help them, including trying to explain to them the real reasons their lives suck. If they knew, they’d be so much harder to manipulate and exploit.

So while working-class white men certainly have become a burden as well as a hindrance to progress because of the way they vote, I don’t think writing them off is necessarily a good idea. I’m not sure what to do about them, though.

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