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War of the Roses in the US

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This interesting piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the New Yorker, which that our political leaders are devolving into a kind of titled aristocracy and royalty in the context, say, of the War of the Roses, during which great struggles were undertaken within the public on which party to support. And those leading the parties might be purely a fiction of position: the person designated to be “x”, but of course succession is never, as we’ve seen, certain. It’s going to make a fantastic miniseries by some future Shakespeare interpreting (and thus shaping) the preceding history of the culture. They have power, but otherwise they are placed by position and cultural role and family connections (just as with royalty and titled artistocrats) and so on. Looking at it from that perspective US political history since (say) 1932 has been extremely interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2016 at 1:08 pm

“Democrats Can’t Unite Unless Wasserman Schultz Goes”

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Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write at Moyers & Company:

To paraphrase the words of that Scottish master Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice, men — and women — go often astray, or “gang aft agley,” as they say in the Highlands. No one knows this better than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Twice now, the flight of her presidential aspirations has been forced to circle the airport as other contenders put up an unexpected fight: In 2008, Barack Obama emerged to grab the Democratic nomination away and this year, although all signs point to her finally grabbing the brass ring, unexpected and powerful progressive resistance came from the mighty wind of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Certainly, Hillary Clinton is angered by all of this, but the one seemingly more aggrieved — if public comments and private actions are any indication — is Democratic National Committee chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Hillary surrogate who takes umbrage like ordinary folks pop their vitamins in the morning.

As we recently wrote, “… She embodies the tactics that have eroded the ability of Democrats to once again be the party of the working class. As Democratic National Committee chair she has opened the floodgates for Big Money, brought lobbyists into the inner circle and oiled all the moving parts of the revolving door that twirls between government service and cushy jobs in the world of corporate influence.”

And that ain’t all. As a member of Congress, particularly egregious has been her support of the payday loan business, defying new regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would rein in an industry that soaks desperate borrowers. As President Obama said, “While payday loans might seem like easy money, folks often end up trapped in a cycle of debt.”

In fact, according to an article by Bethany McLean in the May issue of The Atlantic, “After studying millions of payday loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 67 percent went to borrowers with seven or more transactions a year, and the majority of borrowers paid more in fees than the amount of their initial loan.”

A recent editorial in the Orlando Sentinel notes that 7 percent of Florida’s population “must resort to this predatory form of small-dollar credit – nearly the highest rate in the nation…” What’s more, “Based on a 14-day loan term, the typical payday loan… had an annual percentage rate of 278 percent. Many lenders advertise rates of more than 300 percent.” Let us repeat that slowly… 300 percent!

So why has Wasserman Schultz been so opposed to the CFPB’s proposed rules? She has said,“Payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital, [people] that are the working poor.” But maybe it has something more to do with the $2.5 million or so the payday loan industry has donated to Florida politicians from both parties since 2009. That’s according to a new report by the liberal group Allied Progress. More than $50,000 of that cash has gone to Rep. Wasserman Schultz.

But we digress. It’s the skullduggery going on within the Democratic Party establishment that’s our current concern and as we wrote in March, Rep. Wasserman Schultz “has played games with the party’s voter database, been accused of restricting the number of Democratic candidate debates and scheduling them at odd days and times to favor Hillary Clinton, andrecently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that superdelegates — strongly establishment and pro-Clinton — are necessary at the party’s convention so deserving incumbent officials and party leaders don’t have to run for delegate slots ‘against grassroots activists.’ Let that sink in, but hold your nose against the aroma of entitlement.”

Now Wasserman Schultz has waded into the controversy over what happened or didn’t happen last weekend when Sanders supporters loudly and vehemently objected to the rules at the Nevada State Democratic Convention. In truth, some behaved badly at the event and others made trollish, violent and obscene threats to Democratic state chair Roberta Lange via phone, email and social media. There’s no excuse for such aggressive, creepy conduct, and Sanders was quick and direct in apologizing for the behavior of the rowdies and bullies.

But there is a double standard at play here. Why, pray tell, shouldn’t the peaceful majority of Sanders people be angry at the slow-motion, largely invisible rigging of the political process by Wasserman Schultz and the Clinton machine — all for the benefit of Secretary Clinton?

Wasserman Schultz claims the party rules over which she has presided (and manipulated) are “eminently fair.” She told CNN on Wednesday morning, “It is critical that we as candidates, we as Democratic Party leaders, everyone involved needs to make sure that we can take all the steps that we need to, to ensure that the process is not only run smoothly but that the response from the supporters of both candidates is appropriate and civil.”

In response to the DNC chair’s remarks, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver talked to CNN, too, and said Wasserman Schultz had been “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning… Debbie Wasserman Schultz has really been a divider and not really provided the kind of leadership that the Democratic Party needs.”

The Nation’s Joan Walsh, a Clinton supporter critical of the Sanders campaign, concurs: “Once again, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz escalated a conflict that she should have worked to defuse,” she writes. “… Wasserman Schultz is not helping her friend Hillary Clinton with her attacks on Sanders. Just the appearance of fairness can go a long way in assuaging worries about fairness. Wasserman Schultz’s defiant rebuke to the Sanders camp has made it worse.”

So, too, has her abolition of the restraints that had been placed on corporate lobbyists and big money — now they can write checks bankrolling what doubtless will be swank and profligate parties during this summer’s Democratic National Convention. At The Intercept, Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report that a number of the members of the Philadelphia host committee “are actively working to undermine progressive policies achieved by President Barack Obama, including health care reform and net neutrality. Some… are hardly even Democratic Party stalwarts, given that many have donated and raised thousands of dollars for Republican presidential and congressional candidates this cycle.”. . .

Continue reading.

To help Debbie Wasserman Schulz exit, make a contribution to the campaign of Tim Canova, her opponent in the Democratic primary.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2016 at 8:38 am

Sanders supporters misled re: superdelegates

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Seth Abramson reports at Huffington Post:

For a full year — from early 2015 to early 2016 — Sanders supporters were told that superdelegates pick whoever they believe is the strongest general-election candidate.

They were told this, first and foremost, by the 359 superdelegates who endorsed Hillary Clinton before even a single American had voted. These superdelegates were making a clear statement about how their endorsement had been earned: not by popular votes or delegate counts, but by their own determination that Clinton had the best chance of all of her competitors — most of whom hadn’t announced their candidacies yet, by the way — of winning in November of 2016.

Thereafter, specific superdelegates came out to double down on this premise that superdelegates don’t choose a candidate based on votes or delegates but on electoral viability. For instance, earlier this spring Howard Dean took a lot of flak from progressives when he said that his assessment of a candidate’s likelihood to bring the Democrats victory in the general election would trump any other consideration.

That stinks, said Sanders supporters.

And they went on to make clear, through their candidate and otherwise, that they plan to overturn the superdelegate system as soon as they can — indeed in 2016, if possible.

They also said that, until superdelegates are eliminated, they’ll play by their rules.

What those rules state is this: if a front-runner emerges who’s unable to secure the Democratic nomination using pledged delegates alone — and note, it only takes 59 percent of the pledged delegates available to do so — superdelegates will choose a nominee based on their assessment of each candidate’s electoral viability.

Fine, said Sanders supporters.

And it was fine — for a while.

What happened next was that the Clinton campaign fell apart.

After winning more than 60 percent of the pledged delegates through March 1st, Clinton is now likely to lose the majority of pledged delegates awarded between March 2nd and June 14th — a two and a half month period that makes up roughly the final two-thirds of the Democratic nominating process.

But it isn’t just this — as striking a fact as it is — that has caused real concern about whether Clinton can win in the fall. It’s also that Clinton’s unfavorables have risen to historic levels; that Clinton performs consistently worse than Sanders against Donald Trump in both general election and battleground-state polling; that there are states (for instance, Georgia, Arizona, and Ohio) that polling shows Sanders would win and Clinton would lose in the general election, along with many others (among them New Hampshire and Pennsylvania) where Clinton is in a dead heat with Trump and Sanders wins handily; that Clinton loses independent voters to Trump while Sanders wins them overwhelmingly; that Clinton can’t draw crowds with even a fraction of the numbers or energy that Sanders’ crowds routinely have; that Clinton isn’t considered nearly as honest or trustworthy as Sanders, according to every poll of voters; and that a movement candidate will be needed to defeat Donald Trump, whereas, instead of a movement candidate, what Clinton is giving the Democrats is Al Gore 2.0.

The problem, in sum, is that Clinton is looking like a clear November loser, and Sanders a probable November winner.

That Sanders is likely to win the two-thirds of the Democratic primary that comes after Super Tuesday is just one piece of this larger picture.

The point is, both Sanders and his supporters believe they have successfully made the case that his electoral viability in November exceeds Clinton’s — and if you look at the hard data relevant to that question alone, it’s hard to argue that Sanders and his supporters don’t have the better argument to make on this score.

What happened next is that the DNC, with the collusion of the corporate media, changed all the rules.

Ignore what we said in 2015 and as late as February of this year, the media and the DNC told Sanders and his supporters. When we said superlative electoral viability was the gold standard for securing a superdelegate’s vote at the Democratic National Convention in late July — assuming no one has clinched with pledged delegates alone — what we meant was that if Clinton is leading in votes and delegates on June 7th, all of her opponents must shut down their campaigns immediately and endorse the Secretary forthwith. Why? Because that’s what Hillary did in 2008, and you have to do whatever Hillary did in 2008.

There is (these scions condescendingly assured Sanders’ millions of supporters) no June-to-mid-July process in which a candidate makes his or her pitch to superdelegates either face-to-face or telephonically, as we told you there was; there is, in fact, no ongoing discussion about electoral viability at all, come to think of it. Didn’t we tell you all along that whoever was leading in votes and delegates on June 7th would be immediately declared the winner of the Democratic nomination, and that superdelegates simply rubber-stamp the election results, whatever they may be?


No, that’s not what you said.

And that’s not what you said in 1984 when you created superdelegates, either.

In 1984, . . .

Continue reading.

Debbie Wasserman Schulz, head of the DNC, is a terrible person, but she has a good opponent in her primary, Tim Canova. I urge you to contribute to his campaign and rid the Democratic Party of DWS.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2016 at 8:01 am

Does Israel offers a view of a possible US future?

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Ronen Bergman writes in the NY Times:

IN most countries, the political class supervises the defense establishment and restrains its leaders from violating human rights or pursuing dangerous, aggressive policies. In Israel, the opposite is happening. Here, politicians blatantly trample the state’s values and laws and seek belligerent solutions, while the chiefs of the Israel Defense Forces and the heads of the intelligence agencies try to calm and restrain them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer last week of the post of defense minister to Avigdor Lieberman, a pugnacious ultranationalist politician, is the latest act in the war between Mr. Netanyahu and the military and intelligence leaders, a conflict that has no end in sight but could further erode the rule of law and human rights, or lead to a dangerous, superfluous military campaign.

The prime minister sees the defense establishment as a competitor to his authority and an opponent of his goals. Putting Mr. Lieberman, an impulsive and reckless extremist, in charge of the military is a clear signal that the generals’ and the intelligence chiefs’ opposition will no longer be tolerated. Mr. Lieberman is known for ruthlessly quashing people who hold opposing views.

This latest round of this conflict began on March 24: Elor Azariah, a sergeant in the I.D.F., shot and killed a Palestinian assailant who was lying wounded on the ground after stabbing one of Sergeant Azariah’s comrades. The I.D.F. top brass condemned the killing. A spokesman for Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff, said, “This isn’t the I.D.F., these are not the I.D.F.’s values.”

But right-wing politicians backed Sergeant Azariah. “I.D.F. soldiers, our children, stand before murderous attacks by terrorists who come to kill them,” the prime minister said. “They have to make decisions in real time.” Mr. Lieberman, then still the leader of a small far-right opposition party, turned up in military court to support the soldier. Mr. Netanyahu also called the soldier’s father to offer support.

An I.D.F. general told me that the top brass saw the telephone call as a gross defiance of the military’s authority. The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, chose one of the most sensitive dates on the Israeli calendar, Holocaust Memorial Eve, to react: He suggested that Israel today in some ways resembles Germany in the 1930s.

Mr. Netanyahu countered that General Golan’s words do Israel an injustice and “cheapen the Holocaust.” His defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, a former chief of staff and a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s party, backed the army. He told a gathering of top officers to speak freely, even if it went against political leaders. . .

Continue reading.

The shooting of the wounded prisoner offering no threat—and by a medic, no less—is clearly and unambiguously a war crime. War crimes now are praised and defended even when they are clearly war crimes. In the US we see Donald Trump call more more torture, and worse torture, and killing the families of (suspected?) terrorists, and being applauded for it.

And of course the approach being taken will motivate more strongly those viewed as “the enemy,” though of course other descriptions might be conceived. (Cf. the essay in Stir blogged earlier.)

We live in dangerous times.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2016 at 12:37 pm

Sanders endorses Tim Canova, DNC Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz’s primary opponent

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And a very good thing. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in the pocket of payday lenders and has worked to undermine the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau because, basically, Debbie Wasserman Schulz wants to protect the lenders, not the consumers. Debbie is also a Hillary Clinton support, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except that she has used her power as Chairwoman of the DNC in a flagrant, heavy-handed, and biased way. She also opened membership in the DNC to lobbyists. She is a very bad person, and I highly recommend you donate to Tim Canova’s campaign. And I have put my money where my mouth is and have donated repeatedly to his campaign.

David Weigel has a report in the Washington Post:

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday announced his support for Tim Canova, the former Capitol Hill staffer challenging Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, in the primary for her House seat.

“Clearly, I favor her opponent,” Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview scheduled to run on Sunday’s “State of the Union” broadcast. “His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz’s. Let me also say this, in all due respect to the current chairperson: If [I am] elected president, she would not be re-appointed chairwoman of the DNC.”

Canova, a onetime adviser to Sanders who now teaches law and finance at a southeast Florida college, has endorsed the senator’s presidential bid and used it as a model for his own run. Like Sanders, he’s asked that no super PAC be formed to help him; like Sanders, he’s been endorsed by National Nurses United, the politically active union that can throw ads and get-out-the-vote muscle behind campaigns. And like Sanders, he has elevated his own campaign by stacking small dollar donations, more than $1 million of them since his race began.

“Please spread the word that the political revolution that Bernie Sanders has called for is spreading everywhere, including in Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s backyard here in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District,” Canova said in January on the SandersForPresident Reddit forum.

Wasserman Schultz has defended her position with her usual brisk fundraising, and with support from Democratic allies. (Vice President Biden is fundraising for her in early June.) She’s also embraced the incumbent’s usual strategy for handling a challenger — avoiding any engagement with him whatsoever. At the last Sanders-Clinton debate in Brooklyn, Blake Zeff of Cafe asked Wasserman Schultz if she’d debate Canova. “I’m here to talk about the presidential election,” she said, turning away. . .

Continue reading. Video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 May 2016 at 8:10 pm

A sobering column on internet trolls

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Well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2016 at 4:37 pm

“I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump”

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Jonna Ivin writes in Stir:

I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

I met the man who said those words while working as a bartender in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. It was a one-street town in Benton County. It had a beauty parlor, a gas station, and a bar where locals came on Friday nights to shoot the shit over cheap drinks and country music. I arrived in Arkansas by way of another little town in Louisiana, where all but a few local businesses had boarded up when Walmart moved in. In Arkansas, I was struggling to survive. I served drinks in the middle of the afternoon to people described as America’s “white underclass” — in other words, people just like me.

Across the highway from the bar was the trailer park where I lived. I bought my trailer for $1000, and it looked just like you would imagine a trailer that cost $1000 would look. There was a big hole in the ceiling, and parts of the floor were starting to crumble under my feet. It leaned to one side, and the faint odor of death hung around the bathroom. No doubt a squirrel or a rat had died in the walls. I told myself that once the flesh was gone, dissolved into the nothingness, the smell would go away, but it never did. Maybe that’s what vermin ghosts smell like.

I loved that trailer. Sitting in a ratty brown La-Z-Boy, I would look around my tin can and imagine all the ways I could paint the walls in shades of possibility. I loved it for the simple reason that it was the first and only home I have ever owned.

My trailer was parked in the middle of Walmart country, which is also home to J.B. Hunt Transportation, Glad Manufacturing, and Tyson Chicken. There is a whole lot of money in that pocket of Arkansas, but the grand wealth casts an oppressive shadow over a region entrenched in poverty. Executive mansions line the lakefronts and golf courses. On the other side of Country Club Road, trailer parks are tucked back in the woods. The haves and have-nots rarely share the same view, with one exception: politics. Benton County has been among the most historically conservative counties in Arkansas. The last Democratic president Benton County voted for was Harry S. Truman, in 1948.

There is an unavoidable question about places like Benton County, a question many liberals have tried to answer for years now: Why do poor whites vote along the same party lines as their wealthy neighbors across the road? Isn’t that against their best interests?

Ask a Republican, and they’ll probably say conservatives are united by shared positions on moral issues: family values, religious freedom, the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, and, of course, guns.

Ask a Democrat the same question, and they might mention white privilege, but they’re more likely to describe conservatives as racist, sexist, homophobic gun nuts who believe Christianity should be the national religion.

But what if those easy answers are two sides of the same political coin, a coin that keeps getting hurled back and forth between the two parties without ever shedding light on the real, more complicated truth?

I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.

What if he’s right?

• • •

People want to be heard. They want to believe their voices matter. A January 2016 survey by the Rand Corporation reported that Republican primary voters are 86.5 percent more likely to favor Donald Trump if they “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement, “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does.”

What is it about a flamboyant millionaire that appeals to poor white conservatives? Why do they believe a Trump presidency would amplify their voices? The answer may lie in America’s historical relationship between the wealthiest class and the army of poor whites who have loyally supported them.

From the time of slavery (yes, slavery) to the rise of Donald Trump, wealthy elites have relied on the allegiance of the white underclass to retain their affluence and political power. To understand this dynamic, to see through the eyes of poor and working class whites as they chant, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” let’s look back at a few unsavory slices of America’s capitalist pie.

Until the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, wealthy plantation owners relied on indentured servants for cheap labor. These white servants were mostly poor Europeans who traded their freedom for passage to the American colonies. They were given room and board, and, after four to seven years of grueling servitude, freedom.

About 40 percent lived long enough to see the end of their contract. Colonial law provided “freedom dues,” which usually included 100 acres of land, a small sum of money, and a new suit of clothes. Yet some freed servants didn’t know what was due them, and they were swindled out of their land grants. With no resources and nowhere to go, many walked to regions where land could still be homesteaded, and settled in remote areas such as the Appalachian Mountains.

As the British labor market improved in the 1680s, the idea of indentured servitude lost its appeal to many would-be immigrants. Increasing demand for indentured servants, many of whom were skilled laborers, soon bumped up against a dwindling supply, and the cost of white indentured servants rose sharply. Plantation owners kept skilled white servants, of course, often making them plantation managers and supervisors of slaves. This introduced the first racial divide between skilled and unskilled workers.

Still, African slaves were cheaper, and the supply was plentiful. Seeing an opportunity to realize a higher return on investment, elite colonial landowners began to favor African slaves over white indentured servants, and shifted their business models accordingly. They trained slaves to take over the skilled jobs of white servants.

An investment in African slaves also ensured a cost-effective, long-term workforce. Female slaves were often raped by their white owners or forced to breed with male slaves, and children born into slavery remained slaves for life. In contrast, white female servants who became pregnant were often punished with extended contracts, because a pregnancy meant months of lost work time. From a business perspective, a white baby was a liability, but African children were permanent assets.

As the number of African slaves grew, landowners realized they had a problem on their hands. Slave owners saw white servants living, working, socializing, and even having babies with African slaves. Sometimes they tried to escape together. What’s more, freed white servants who received land as part of their freedom dues had begun to complain about its poor quality. This created a potentially explosive situation for landowners, as oppressed workers quickly outnumbered the upper classes. What was to prevent freed whites, indentured servants, and African slaves from joining forces against the tyranny of their masters?

As Edmund S. Morgan says in his book American Slavery, American Freedom, “The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt.”

Many slave owners in both the North and South were also political leaders. Soon, they began to pass laws that stipulated different treatment of white indentured servants, newly freed white men, and African slaves. No white indentured servant could be beaten while naked, but an African slave could. Any free white man could whip a Black slave, and most important, poor whites could “police” Black slaves. These new laws gave poor whites another elevation in status over their Black peers. It was a slow but effective process, and with the passing of a few generations, any bond that indentured servants shared with African slaves was permanently severed.

As slavery expanded in the South and indentured servitude declined, the wealthy elite offered poor whites the earliest version of the American Dream: if they worked hard enough, they could achieve prosperity, success, and upward social mobility — if not for themselves, then perhaps for future generations.

But few realized that dream. In “The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A Divide and Conquer Strategy,” the Rev. Dr. Thandeka notes: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2016 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Politics


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