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Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

Why Hillary Clinton’s Book Is Actually Worth Reading

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James Fallows has a very interesting column on Hillary Clinton and her book. It begins:

Most books by politicians are bad. They’re bad because they are cautious, or pious, or boring, or some even-worse combination of all three.

They’re cautious because over the years politicians learn they have more to lose than gain by taking “interesting” or edgy stands. (Something I learned when working as a campaign and White House speechwriter: In “normal” writing, your goal is to make your meaning as clear as possible, ideally in a memorable way. For a politician, the goal is to make the meaning just clear enough that most people will still agree with you. Clearer than that, and you’re in trouble.)

They’re pious because in one way or another the “revealing” stories about the authors are really campaign ads—for future elections by politicians with a big race still ahead of them, or for history’s esteem by senior figures looking back. Thus  politicians’ biographies fall into the general categories of humble-brag (most of them) or braggy-brag (Trump’s).

And they’re boring because they’re necessarily often about policy. That’s hard enough to make interesting in the hands of very skillful writers, from Rachel Carson and Jane Jacobs to John Hersey and Michael Lewis. If politicians turning out books on “Our Schools: A New Blueprint!” were comparably skilled as writers, they’d be making their livings without having to bother with PACs and polls.

Of course there are exceptions. Some autobiographical books manage to be interesting because they’re written early enough not to be swathed in campaign caution (Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father), or come from a quirky-enough sensibility to avoid normal constraints (Jimmy Carter’s Why Not the Best?), or are from performers talented enough to work subversively within the constraints (Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate, which is the kind of book Will Rogers might have written if he had made it into the Senate). And of course some all-out manifestos with an edge can shape the evolution of politics. Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative didn’t get him into the White House, but it competed with the works of Ayn Rand on many conservatives’ bookshelves and lastingly shaped a movement.

I don’t know whether Hillary Clinton’s previous books were good or bad. I didn’t read them, because I assumed they were normal politician-books. But What Happened is not a standard work in this oeuvre. It’s interesting; it’s worth reading; and it sets out questions that the press, in particular, has not done enough to face.

* * *

On the overall interesting-ness of the book, I refer you to Megan Garber’s extensive analysis of the different personas Hillary Clinton has presented through her now very-long public career, and the much less-guarded one that comes through in What Happened. By the previously mentioned depressing standards of most political books, this one isn’t cautious (because the author  convincingly claims she’s not running for anything any more), it’s not (very) pious (because she favors an acid-humor tone), and most of it is not boring (because most of it is not directly about policy).

As an example of why it’s interesting, consider the opening scene, about how Clinton dealt with the inauguration ceremony in which she might have expected to be sworn in herself, but instead sat there watching Donald Trump take the oath. She’d wondered whether she had to show up at all, and talked with former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, each of whom had called her right after the news of her loss sank in: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2017 at 10:09 am

The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republican Party

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine:

Political scientist Lee Drutman argues in a Vox essay that American politics is descending into what he calls “doom-loop partisanship.” Drutman notes that Americans have been “retreating into our separate tribal epistemologies, each with their own increasingly incompatible set of facts and first premises,” each heavily racialized, in which “[t]here’s no possibility for rational debate or middle-ground compromise. Just two sorted teams, with no overlap, no cross-cutting identities, and with everyone’s personal sense of status constantly on the line.”

Drutman attributes this to winner-take-all elections, the expanding power of the presidency, and the growing influence of money in politics. I think, despite all the very real design flaws in American politics, the problems he describe stem mainly from the pathologies of the Republican Party.

It is certainly true that the psychological relationship between the parties has a certain symmetry. Both fear each other will cheat to win and use their power to stack the voting deck. “If Republicans win in close elections, Democrats say it’s only because they cheated by making it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote; if Democrats win in close elections, Republicans say it’s only because they voted illegally.” But while it is nottrue that Democrats have allowed illegal voting in nontrivial levels, it isextremely true that Republicans have deliberately made voting inconvenient for Democratic-leaning constituencies. The psychology is parallel, but the underlying facts are not.

Likewise, there is a superficial similarity to the terror with which partisans now greet governments controlled by the opposing party. Obama’s presidency made Republicans terrified of rampant socialism and vengeful minority rule. (Rush Limbaugh in 2009 instructed his audience, “In Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering ‘Yeah, right on, right on, right on.’ Of course everybody said the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he’s white.”) Trump’s presidency has inspired a similar terror among liberals terrified that Trump would take their insurance and deport immigrants.

Liberal fears have had a much closer relationship to reality. The reason is that the Democratic Party is racially and economically heterogeneous. Even if he had wanted to take vengeance upon white America for its sins, Obama had far too many white supporters to make such a course of action remotely practical. (A majority of Obama’s voters were white, in fact.) On economic issues, the Democratic Party relies on support and input from business and labor alike. Whatever terrors of rampant Jacobinism may have gripped the economic elite, there are limits to the fiscal and regulatory pain Democrats can impose on a constituency that has a seat at the table (many seats, actually).

There is little such balance to be found in the Republican Party. Republicans concerned about their party’s future may blanch at Trump’s pardoning of the sadistic racist Joe Arpaio or his gleeful unleashing of law enforcement. In the short term, however, they have bottomed out on their minority support and proven able to win national power regardless, by using racial wedge issues to pry away blue-collar whites. Advocates for labor or the poor have no voice whatsoever in the Republican elite. It took a massive national mobilization to narrowly dissuade the party from snatching health insurance away from millions of people too poor or sick to afford it.

Then of course there are the competing tribal epistemologies. There is nothing on the left with the reach and scope of the conservative media universe defined by talk radio, Fox News, and other outlets that have functioned as state media. Certainly pockets of epistemological closure exist, especially in the way social media has allowed curated media streams that exclusively cater to one’s prejudices. But the fact is that the Democratic Party is fundamentally accountable to the mainstream news media. And that media play try to follow rules of objectivity that the right-wing alternative media does not bother with.

The most striking revelation in Devil’s Bargain, Josh Green’s account of the rise of Steve Bannon, is that Bannon understood both the importance and the permeability of the mainstream news media to his ideas and messaging. Bannon knew that the right kind of research could influence the New York Times’ coverage of Hillary Clinton, and thereby deeply shape the views of Democratic voters.

Whether or not the Times was correct to use this research, and whether or not it treated Clinton fairly overall, is not the point. What matters is that Democratic politicians need to please a news media that is open to contrary facts and willing — and arguably eager — to hold them accountable. The mainstream media have have its liberal biases, but it also misses the other way — see the Times’ disastrously wrong report, a week before the election, that the FBI saw no links between the Trump campaign and Russia and no intention by Russia to help Trump. One cannot imagine Fox News publishing an equivalently wrong story against the Republican Party’s interests — its errors all run in the same direction. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2017 at 1:33 pm

Democrats consider becoming an antimonopoly party? I thought Democrats were an antimonopoly party.

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The kind of Democrat that I respect takes a strong position against monopolies and concentration of economic power via trusts, cartels, oligopolies, and outright monopolies. Democrats believe in the power of competition. Republicans, by and large, believe whatever large corporations tell them to believe.

David Weigle writes in the Washington Post:

A messy, public brawl over a Google critic’s ouster from a Washington think tank has exposed a fissure in Democratic Party politics. On one side there’s a young and growing faction advocating new antimonopoly laws, and on the other a rival faction struggling to defend itself.

At issue is a decades-long relationship between Democrats and tech companies, with Democratic presidents signing off on deregulation and candidates embracing money and innovations from companies like Google and Facebook. Now, locked out of power and convinced that same coziness with large corporations cost them the presidency, Democrats are talking themselves into breaking with tech giants and becoming an antimonopoly party.

The argument had a breakthrough last week when it was reported that Barry Lynn, a monopoly critic and longtime scholar at the Google-funded New America Foundation, was leaving and taking his 10-person initiative with him.

Lynn, who has been critical of Google, had praised European regulators for hitting the company with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine. The foundation, which has received more than $21 million from Google, removed Lynn’s comments from its website.

“A lot of people see this as a tipping point,” Lynn said of his departure in an interview. “This is something that’s upset people on both sides of the aisle.”

Soon after, Lynn’s project, Citizens Against Monopoly, launched with a website that asked people to protest “Google’s unethical behavior” and pledged that “Google’s attempt to shut us down will fail.” New America’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, pushed back, warning that Lynn was starting a family feud at a moment when Democrats could not afford it.

“Barry’s new organization and campaign against Google is the opening salvo of one group of Democrats versus another group of Democrats in the run-up to the 2020 election,” Slaughter wrote on Medium. “I personally think the country faces far greater challenges of racism, violence, a broken political system, and geographic and partisan divisions so great that we are losing any common sense of what we stand and strive for as a country.”

The Democrats’ anti-monopolists have been winning the argument inside the party. During the Obama years, they’d been routed, as Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, strongly supported the president, and the Federal Trade Commission abandoned an antitrust case against the company. Over the years, Schmidt gave $842,900 to Democrats, and less than half as much to Republicans.

“Google was Obama’s Halliburton,” said Luther Lowe, the vice president of public policy at Yelp.

A shift began when Democrats began to look for their next president. In October 2015, fending off a primary challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed for the business site Quartz in which she promised to “take a page from Teddy Roosevelt” and “stop corporate concentration in any industry where it’s unfairly limiting competition.”

In June 2016, Lynn organized a conference where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued the next president, which most assumed would be Clinton, could reverse the Obama administration’s lax antitrust policy. Democrats needed to consider the long-term implications for consumers, for jobs and for wages, she suggested.

“How do we get more competition? And how do we do it without new legislation that would require cooperation from a Congress awash in campaign contributions and influence peddling?” Warren asked. “We can start with a president and an executive branch willing to once again enforce our laws in the way Congress originally intended them to be enforced.”

Antitrust issues garnered almost no attention during the 2016 presidential campaign. In April, Hart Research Associates conducted polling, circulated among Democrats and think tanks, that found an enormous opening for antimonopoly politics. The polling, which surveyed 1,120 voters overall and 341 from the decisive Rust Belt states, found just a slim majority saying Democrats favored “average Americans” over “large corporations and banks.”

Those corporations and banks were toxic. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 September 2017 at 2:02 pm

Good post on the personal aspect of the political divide

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2017 at 8:02 pm

How Colleges Are Strangling Liberalism

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Interesting essay by Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, author of The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (Harper), from which this essay is adapted.

Donald Trump is president of the United States. This momentous event has turned our campuses upside down. The day after his victory some professors held teach-ins, some students asked to be excused from class, and now many have gotten engaged and have been joining marches and attending raucous town-hall meetings. This warms the heart of an impassioned if centrist liberal like myself.

But something more needs to happen, and soon. All of us liberals involved in higher education need to take a long look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we contributed to putting the country in this situation. We need to accept our share of responsibility. Anyone involved in Republican politics will tell you that our campus follies, magnified by Fox News, mobilize their base like few things do. But our responsibility extends beyond feeding the right-wing media by tolerating attempts to control speech, limit debate, stigmatize and bully conservatives, as well as encouraging a culture of complaint that strikes people outside our privileged circles as comically trivial. We have distorted the liberal message to such a degree that it has become unrecognizable.

After Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, American liberals faced the challenge of developing a fresh and truly political vision of the country’s shared destiny, adapted to the new realities of American society and chastened by the failures of old approaches. And this they failed to do. Instead they threw themselves into the movement politics of identity, losing a sense of what we share as citizens and what binds us as a nation. An image for Roosevelt liberalism and the unions that supported it was that of two hands shaking. A recurring image of identity liberalism is that of a prism refracting a single beam of light into its constituent colors, producing a rainbow. This says it all.

The politics of identity is nothing new, certainly on the American right. And it is not dead, as the recent events in Charlottesville remind us. The white nationalist march that set off the conflict, and then led to one protester’s death, was not only directed against minorities. It was also directed at the university and everything it stands for. In May 1933 Nazi students marched at night into the courtyard of the University of Berlin and proceeded to burn “decadent” books in the library. White nationalist organizers were “quoting” this precedent when they flooded Thomas Jefferson’s campus looking for blood. This was fascist identitarianism, something liberals and progressives have always battled in the name of human equality and universal justice.

What was astonishing during the Reagan years, though, was the development of an explicit left-wing identity politics that became the de facto creed of two generations of liberal politicians, professors, school teachers, journalists, movement activists, and officials of the Democratic Party. This has been disastrous for liberalism’s prospects in our country, especially in the face of an increasingly radicalized right.

There is a good reason that liberals focus extra attention on minorities, since they are the most likely to be disenfranchised. But the only way in a democracy to meaningfully assist them — and not just make empty gestures of recognition and “celebration” — is to win elections and exercise power in the long run, at every level of government. And the only way to accomplish that is to have a message that appeals to as many people as possible and pulls them together. Identity liberalism does just the opposite, and reinforces the alt-right’s picture of politics as a war of competing identity groups.

Identity politics on the left was at first about large classes of people — African-Americans, women, gays — seeking to redress major historical wrongs by mobilizing and then working through our political institutions to secure their rights. But by the 1980s it had given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition that is now cultivated in our colleges and universities. The main result has been to turn young people back onto themselves, rather than turning them outward toward the wider world they share with others. It has left them unprepared to think about the common good in non-identity terms and what must be done practically to secure it — especially the hard and unglamorous task of persuading people very different from themselves to join a common effort. Every advance of liberal identity consciousness has marked a retreat of effective liberal political consciousness.

Campus politics bears a good deal of the blame. Up until the 1960s, those active in liberal and progressive politics were drawn largely from the working class or farm communities, and were formed in local political clubs or on shop floors. Today’s activists and leaders are formed almost exclusively at colleges and universities, as are members of the mainly liberal professions of law, journalism, and education. Liberal political education, such as it is, now takes place on campuses that, especially at the elite level, are largely detached socially and geographically from the rest of the country. This is not likely to change. Which means that liberalism’s prospects will depend in no small measure on what happens in our institutions of higher education.

Flash back to 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan. Republican activists are setting out on the road to spread the new individualist gospel of small government and pouring their energies into winning out-of-the-way county, state, and congressional elections — a bottom-up strategy. Also on the road, though taking a different exit off the interstate, you see former New Left activists in rusting, multicolored VW buses. Having failed to overturn capitalism and the military-industrial complex, they are heading for college towns all over America, where they hope to practice a very different sort of politics aimed at transforming the outlook of the educated classes — a top-down strategy. Both groups succeeded.

The retreat of the post-1960s left was strategic. Already in 1962 the authors of the Port Huron Statement wrote, “we believe that the universities are an overlooked seat of influence.” Universities were no longer isolated preserves of learning. They had become central to American economic life, serving as conduits and accrediting institutions for post-industrial occupations, and to political life, through research and the formation of party elites.

The SDS authors made the case that a New Left should first try to form itself within the university, where they were free to argue among themselves and work out a more ambitious political strategy, recruiting followers along the way. The ultimate point, though, was to enter the wider world, looking “outwards to the less exotic but more lasting struggles for justice.”

But as hopes for a radical transformation of American life faded, ambitions shrank. Many who returned to campus invested their energies in making their sleepy college towns into socially progressive and environmentally self-sustaining communities. These campus towns still do stand out from the rest of America and are very pleasant places to live, though they have lost much of their utopian allure. Most have become meccas of a new consumerist culture for the highly educated, surrounded by techie office parks and increasingly expensive homes. They are places where you can visit a bookshop, see a foreign movie, pick up vitamins and candles, have a decent meal followed by an espresso, and perhaps attend a workshop to ease your conscience. A thoroughly bourgeois setting without a trace of the demos, apart from the homeless men and women who flock there and whose job is to keep it real for the residents. . .

Continue reading.

See also “A Conversation with Mark Lilla on His Critique of Identity Politics,” by David Remnick in the New Yorker.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2017 at 12:04 pm

GOP fears damage done by Trump

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Excellent analysis by Niall Stanage in The Hill. Worth reading. Thoughtful, not lengthy.

And in the meantime, Democrats will not be standing still. There’s already a stampede to run for office, which probably identifies the next wave of Democratic politicians—that is, those who want most to hold office and are willing to work toward it.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2017 at 12:58 pm

What if the DNC Russian “hack” was really a leak after all? A new report raises questions media and Democrats would rather ignore

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Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist, writing mostly on geopolitics and media. She is based in Budapest, but has also lived in the U.S., Germany and Russia. She writes in Salon:

Last week the respected left-liberal magazine The Nation published an explosive article that details in great depth the findings of a new report — authored in large part by former U.S. intelligence officers — which claims to present forensic evidence that the Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians in July 2016. Instead, the report alleges, the DNC suffered an insider leak, conducted in the Eastern time zone of the United States by someone with physical access to a DNC computer.

This report also claims there is no apparent evidence that the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 — supposedly based in Romania — hacked the DNC on behalf of the Russian government. There is also no evidence, the report’s authors say, that Guccifer handed documents over to WikiLeaks. Instead, the report says that the evidence and timeline of events suggests that Guccifer may have been conjured up in an attempt to deflect from the embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that was released just before the Democratic National Convention. The investigators found that some of the “Guccifer” files had been deliberately altered by copying and pasting the text into a “Russianified” word-processing document with Russian-language settings.

If all this is true, these findings would constitute a massive embarrassment for not only the DNC itself but the media, which has breathlessly pushed the Russian hacking narrative for an entire year, almost without question but with little solid evidence to back it up.

You could easily be forgiven for not having heard about this latest development — because, perhaps to avoid potential embarrassment, the media has completely ignored it. Instead, to this point only a few right-wing sites have seen fit to publish follow-ups.

The original piece, authored by former Salon columnist Patrick Lawrence (also known as Patrick L. Smith) appeared in The Nation on Aug. 9. The findings it details are supported by a group of strongly credentialed and well-respected forensic investigators and former NSA and CIA officials. The group call themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, and originally came together in 2003 to protest the use of faulty intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush.

As of Aug. 12, the only well-known publications that have followed up on The Nation’s reporting are Breitbart News, the Washington Examiner and New York magazine(which described Lawrence’s article as “too incoherent to even debunk,” and therefore provided no substantial rebuttal). Bloomberg addressed the report in an op-ed by one of its regular columnists.

The silence from mainstream outlets on this is interesting, if for no other reason than the information appears in a highly-regarded liberal magazine with a reputation for vigorous and thorough reporting — not some right-wing fringe conspiracy outlet carrying water for Donald Trump.

Maybe the logic goes that if mainstream journalists leave this untouched, that alone will be enough to discredit it. True believers in the Russian hack narrative can point to Breitbart’s coverage to dismiss this new information without consideration. That is not good enough. Lawrence’s article, and the report behind it, deserves some proper attention.

Let’s back up for a second. Where did this report come from?

As explained by Lawrence, VIPS has been examining available information about the DNC hack and/or leak, but the group lacked access to all the data they needed because intelligence agencies refused to provide it.

One of the VIPS researchers on the DNC case, William Binney — formerly the NSA’s technical director for world geopolitical and military analysis — suggested in an interview with Lawrence that intelligence agencies have been hiding the lack of evidence for Russian hacking behind the claim that they must maintain secrecy to protect NSA programs.

At the same time, other anonymous forensic investigators have been working independently on the DNC case. They recently began sharing their findings via an obscure website called Disobedient Media. One of those anonymous investigators is known as the Forensicator. A man named Skip Folden, an IT executive at IBM for 33 years and a consultant for the FBI, Pentagon and Justice Department, acted as a liaison between VIPS and the Forensicator. Folden and other investigators have examined the evidence, attested to its professionalism, and sent a detailed technical report to the offices of special counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. VIPS believes this new evidence fills a “critical gap” in the DNC case. In a memorandum sent to President Trump, VIPS questions why the FBI, CIA and NSA neglected to perform any forensic analysis of the Guccifer documents, which were central to the narrative of Russian hacking.

VIPS states two things with what they describe as a high degree of certainty: There was no Russian hack on July 5, and the metadata from Guccifer’s June 15 document release was “synthetically tainted” with “Russian fingerprints.”

How did the group come to the conclusion that it was a leak, not a hack?

Investigators found that 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded locally on July 5, 2016. The information was downloaded with a memory key or some other portable storage device. The download operation took 87 seconds — meaning the speed of transfer was 22.7 megabytes per second — “a speed that far exceeds an internet capability for a remote hack,” as Lawrence puts it. What’s more, they say, a transoceanic transfer would have been even slower (Guccifer claimed to be working from Romania). . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2017 at 2:06 pm

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