Sunday, January 7, 2018

The New Populism

 Trump’s ironic and unintentional gift to American democracy may be that—by crashing through the traditional party battle lines, and saying what the major parties weren’t free to say—he has created a space in our politics in which the seeds of genuine reform, planted by actual reformers, have taken root and are beginning to grow. Victories by independent, anti-corporate Democrats in the November 2017 off-year elections demonstrated that the Democratic Party has the potential to again put forward a vision that inspires voters. But that slim hope depends on the creation of a progressive electoral infrastructure separate and independent from the party establishment, and thus relatively free of the influence that corporate donors wield over both parties. The 2018 elections will provide an early, formidable test of that new infrastructure’s power to upend the status quo.  

That's from an article Theo Anderson just had published in In These Times that's probably the most insightful thing I've read about our current juncture -- about how Trump won, why Hillary lost and about what the prospects are for taking control of the country from the oligarchy and its two hopelessly corrupted political parties.

Anderson points to how leftist candidates are winning by running as Democrats but well to the left of the Democratic Party establishment, but with the support of Leftist organizations that are popping up, or that have been around awhile and are experiencing rapid growth, such as the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Peoples Party, the Bernie Sanders affiliated Our Revolution, Justice Democrats and Peoples Action.

By putting forth concrete, progressive stands on policies, candidates have been achieving stunning victories in red districts where the Democratic Party didn't put up a candidate. A Democratic Socialist Latina just won a red district in Virginia. The new batch of progressive candidates usually receive little or no support from the party, but get help with things like canvassing from the independent organizations, which arre outside the party and not beholden to its rich donors.

Like the Tea Party, the new leftist populists groups have even begun to take on Democratic incumbents, backing for example a woman challenging CA Democrat senator Diane Feinstein. The Tea Party was backed by wealthy Republicans and the leftist groups don't owe anybody anything, Anderson says, and their numbers far outweigh those of the Tea Party.

In the quote I started the post with, Anderson credits Trump with "crashing through the traditional party battle lines, and saying what the major parties weren’t free to say—he has created a space in our politics in which the seeds of genuine reform, planted by actual reformers, have taken root and are beginning to grow." 

That's true as far as it goes, but the space in which the seeds of reform are growing has been opened up just as much by the absence of Democrats in power.

If Hilary Clinton had been elected any movement toward independence by the voters would already be fading into the sunset as has happened time and again. There's even a phrase for it: "The Democratic Party - where progressive movements go to die." Because that's what has happened to the Women's Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor Movement, the Environmental Movement and the Gay Rights Movement. Black Lives Matter is going down the same hole, as leaders like Deray McKesson are given high paying establishment positions.

One of the ways Democrats co-opt movement is by bringing their leaders into the inner circles of power, with meeting invitations, dinner and party invitations, tennis and spending weekends on the yacht in the Potomac invitations., and of course nice jobs To retain that access the great movement leaders have to compromise, and that sucks energy and from the hearts of the rank and file. The organization becomes little more than an appendage of the Democratic Party, and that means it serves Wall Street and anything it wants done must have Wall street's approval.

Had Hillary been elected the long slow march to the right of the Democratic Party and of the political center in America we've been enduring for 50 years would be continuing as usual. Millions of activists, thinking the Democrats were looking out for their interests, would be asleep again and caught up in the daily partisan back and forth that's presented for public consumption before the politicians go the gym or to dinner with their friends in the other party.

Had Hillary been elected, economic inequality would be growing just as it did through the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. Police brutality would be proceeding unchecked and every one of the seven brutal foreign wars our government is waging would have been expanded, as Hillary promised to do. The difference now is that the people are finding ways they can run their country themselves.


In New Mexico these new and independent political groups aren't making themselves heard yet, although many young people who were drawn into political activism by the Bernie Sanders revolution were credited with playing a major role in the landslide election last month of a mildly progressive Democrat as the mayor of Albuquerque, the state's largest population center.

For the near term we'll continue to elect these twits of Democrats who never mention the word "union" and who run around getting their picture taken with a Republican every chance they get, and who make sure they use the word "bipartisan" in every news release. Republicans don't do that. They fight for the interests of the people they represent and don't promise to compromise half of it away before they even sit down at the table. That's what conservative Democrats do.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Misc US 24 And Class Consciousness In America

I just came back to Albuquerque from New Buffalo, MI, and for two entire days I only saw the sun for one brief period in Kansas and another in New Mexico. It rained and snowed off and on but not very hard. It was the gloomy skies for 1,500 miles that was oppressive.

Even so it was a nice drive. There's no vacationer traffic during winter, just some trucks and commuters and not that many because of the holiday, and a guy in Illinois pulled me out of a ditch and restored my faith in humanity for awhile.

I got pulled over in Kansas for driving too slow. The cop said "they'd gotten some complaints" about me. In Kansas, rural highways are designed for 75 and 80 miles per hour and everybody goes that fast day and night. They can handle those speeds even while tailgating you and the social norm seems to be the expectation that everyone else will drive as fast as you.

If you go under 70 you're viewed with suspicion, apparently. The cop didn't press the issue with me so I didn't offer any explanations, but if someone is tailgating me I slow down and try to get them to pass, and if they still tailgate me I keep slowing down until they do pass.

There are a lot of people out there in the Great Plains who will not pass you no matter how slow you go. Perhaps it's women, and I don't blame them, but with those types I'll sometimes pull off the road to make them pass and then I'm behind them. Maybe one of them got feeling uneasy and called the cops.

That guy who pulled me out of the ditch had pulled up behind me just as I was calling the auto club and seeing his headlights back there I thought he was a cop, but he was just a guy of about 40 who could have been on his way home from work in a factory or machine shop. I'd spent the last five or ten minutes spinning my wheels with my back wheels off the pavement and on a slushy gravel shoulder that sloped downward toward a steep embankment. I could get it going forward but never quite made it back up onto the pavement. When I got to a point where the dropoff began pulling me toward the ditch far below I gave up and called AAA, but before they answered he was standing beside the truck and looking in at me.

I have a Chevy S-10 mini pickup. He had a full sized pickup and a tie down strap that looked like it'd be stout enough if we didn't have to pull on it too hard, and I crawled under my pickup in the snow and fastened it to a tie rod and he pulled me out pretty quick and easy and my faith in humanity got a nice little boost

Misc from last summer somewhere out in Kansas.

Kansas - Above the door in large masonry letters: Public School

Monon, IN was an old railroad junction


In the Midwest it's hard to get really lost because the roads are all laid down on a grid of mile square sections. That layout goes back to when it was claimed as the Northwest Territories in 1787 by a young US government which then had it surveyed.

Once I was coming up I-55 in Illinois with 150 miles to go to Chicago when I realized I'd be hitting it during evening rush hour, so I headed east on back roads and passed well under Chicago, for much of it on good, paved farm-to-market roads. Every ten or twenty miles you come to a state or US highway which also all go only in an east-west or north-south direction.

I've been getting a little tired of driving through Chicago, St Louis and Kansas City anyway, and that experience led to looking for good ways to bypass all of them. US 24 eventually merges with US 36, which bypasses St Louis and Kansas City and takes you as far as Nebraska, although before I get that far west I usually start angling toward the southwest.

Those back roads and highways stretch for hundreds of miles through some of the most beautiful farmland this country has. It's the old Midwest breadbasket. Fields of corn, wheat and soybeans, sorghum and oats with every few miles another manicured farm and every few of those another well preserved small town, each with its row of tall concrete storage silos along the railroad tracks, with a grain mill and a Wal Mart and a small downtown section of meticulously preserved brick commercial buildings and a few blocks of well kept old houses on large, well shaded green lots.

This land is beautiful but also  familiar. I grew up driving around in it. The layout of fields, roads, ditches, the signage, even the amount of cleared land on either side of the road, are unique to each part of the country, are when they're familiar it's just easier and less troublesome to navigate yourself through it and not have to think about it too hard. And so the more familiar your surroundings are the more relaxed you are. The psychic turbulence is diminished. Your unconscious mind, your soul, if you will, is at home and so is more at peace in your home territory. The old stomping grounds.

As US 24 (the red line) passes through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, it's not far off a line between New Buffalo and Albuquerque.


Posted on social media with the caption: Know whose land you're on.

 Also posted on social media

As was this which provides some valuable insight into the lack of class consciousness among the American working class. To understand how class consciousness works in America you've got to be able to wrap your head around findings like these and understand why they are what they are.

Class consciousness, by the way, means being aware, or being conscious of, being a member of a specific economic class and being aware that the class you're a member of has its own economic interests -- in opposition to the interests of other classes.

In the US, the ruling class has class consciousness. It acts, as a class and each individual acts independently, to further the shared interests of the class.

When and if class consciousness begins to exist among the US working class -- which includes everyone who works for a paycheck -- as it did during the socialist led US Labor Movement, revolutionary social change will follow.

Revolutionary social change isn't the same as a revolution or civil war breaking out. For there to be armed insurrection you'd need a very high level of class consciousness but also a critical mass of the working class would have to become radicalized beforehand. By radicalized I mean become mentally and emotionally free of the effects of the cultural and commercial propaganda they've been inundated with since birth and be able to have an even handed view of the United States, to see it as just another country, no better and no worse. An unvarnished view. A view not colored by nationalism i.e. what we call patriotism.

In my view a radical doesn't necessarily have to be an anti capitalist but a radical must probably be anti imperialist. That is, one can be radical and still hold on to beliefs such as that the Capitalist system results in the most fair and equitable distribution of resources. They can hold on to those beliefs at leatst until they understand the connections between Capitalism and imperialism.

Imperialism is the foreign policy, based on war and conquest, of a Capitalist nation and people like Marx and others argue that imperialism is necessary to the functioning of Capitalism. It won't work without opening up those new markets and ensuring access to cheap natural and human resources. It's hard to escape the logic that it's wrong to kill people or have them be killed in your name in order to further your interests, and once you've assumed a clear eyed view of American foreign policy it's hard to deny that our government does a lot of foreign meddling, conducts a lot of wars and kills a lot of people.

Note added 1/2/18: Farabundo Marti was an El Salvdorian revolutionary hero who was executed by troops from his own government in 1932. The FMLM was named after him -- Farabundo Marti Liberation Movement -- the rebels who fought the US backed oligarchy to a standstill and in return for signing a cease fire became an official  political party and won the next election.



Sunday, December 24, 2017

These Tumutuous Times - Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Last night I saw for the first time the 2009 documentary The Most Dangerous Man In America, a made for the American pubic broadcasting system version of the amazing story of Pentagon civilian employee Daniel Ellsberg's release of the top secret history of the Vietnam War that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers and how it kicked off the series of events that culminated in the phenomena called Watergate and the ultimate resignation of US president Richard Nixon, events that rocked the nation just as much if not more than the election of Donald Trump and subsequent events are rocking it now.

Filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith are at times a bit overly dramatic and appeal to sentiments that have been stripped away in the age post cynicism when it seems like we're tumbling naked down a rapids, gasping for breath and hoping to make it to a wider, quieter place in the river of life before we go under for good. But it's an accurate recounting, at least as far as it goes, of those tumultuous and at times almost unbelievable times when the country was going through rapid social change and the streets were often filled with rioters or protestors and when social boundaries were being pushed back in every direction.

Although the film doesn't provide much of that context, it certainly spurred memories of of those times for me. For someone who didn't live through that era that context will have to be provided by other means. Movies about those times are generally lacking in that regard. They've generally either ignored or been been dismissive of the Counterculture and the New Left and the revolution they caused in American popular culture that touched almost every aspect of American life. 

In igniting those memories the film was a reminder that change always comes and that positive change is inevitable under the kind of conditions that existed then and exist now when the ruling class is moving in one direction and the working class in another. In the 1970s it sometimes felt like the America you grew up in was being ripped from its moorings. That disgusted many people but thrilled others. Whatever your take on it you weren't always sure where we were headed as a nation. You either hoped, or expected, that it would be someplace better, which is where human nature always, in the end, leads us.

Unfortunately I don't see a way to see this movie for free although there surely must be ways. I see where it can be viewed for as little as $5.00 and it seems likely that it will be re-run again on television.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Creating The Left

In Chile where decades of oligarchy and US interference had demolished the Left they created a new Left and have won a significant share of seats.

This all began with those huge student protests over free education the past few years. The students went on to form a political party and then formed a broad coalition with other small parties with a range of political orientations.

By agreeing on a few broad principles they were able to cooperative politically and by denying both major parties a majority they may have decisive political power beyond their actual numbers.

Once Americans found this kind of strategy made their votes count, maybe even count more, small US parties like the Democratic Socialists of America, the Green Party, Libertarians, etc., would attract many many more members from among the majority of US voters who aren't associated with either major party (independents) and the roughly half of Americans who don't even vote now and even from both parties. The major parties would immediately react, of course, by changing their platforms to reflect the interests of actual Americans instead of the interests of rich stockholder donors a they do now. The US would soon become a much different, much more equal, more just, much better country.

The article linked to is translation from Spanish I think you can get the gist of it.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Generation Z - Step Aside Millennials

Life expectancy is on the decline in the US where the stock markets set new records every week and there's more money in the country than ever before. In infant mortality the US is 29th in the world.

If you look at that infant mortality list it's easy to see why the US is so bad. The countries high on the list all have universal health care.

The reason the US has such an inferior and expensive health system care system compared  the advanced nations of the world is because of the lack of Socialist ideas among the US working class, according to NYU-Bingamton professor emeritus James Petras.

Another way of saying it is that the American working class has never demanded anything more than what they're getting.

Will it ever change?

Socialism has already become poplar among the so-called Millennial generation, and Social Democratic candidates have been wining elections in both liberal and conservative districts all around the country. Millennials know about universal health care and will continue to push for it.

But the generation after the Millennials, being called Generation Z by some, born generally in the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s and mostly in high school now, seems to be somewhat more conservative. They outnumber the Millennials (who outnumber Baby Boomers) and are already 24 percent of the population.

I haven't come across anything that explains why Generation Z is more conservative except for survey data showing them to be more insecure than earlier generations. Generation Z has never lived in peace. War is normal. When they were born the so called war on terror was already in full swing. The 2008 recession and 9/11 are among their earliest and most formative memories.

They remind me somewhat of the kids who grew up in the 1950s. The West was coming out of World War II and their parents told stories about the Depression and rationing but a new world was being created for them by a new technology, television, aka the Boob Tube that became so central to Americans' lives and so influential that it started raising alarms.

It's said the 1950s were a conservative time, but then suddenly all those kids heard about Vietnam and started smoking pot and became the Counterculture of the 1960s that changed America in significant ways, so I'm not ready to count Generation Z out just yet. But be aware. If America is ever to become an equal society they'll have to be convinced that it's possible and as of now they don't think it is.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

In The Beginning

My brother Bob left a great comment on the previous post. If you read that and an article in Slate by Dahlia Lithwick this post will make more sense.

The way these unprecedented times are talked about, the end times are sometimes announced or at least discussed as a possibility. But what really would happen if the basic structure we've known all our lives ceased to hold sway and we became some drastically altered country; Bannon libertarianism or Trumpal authoritarian or we all became serfs or something we haven't seen before?

What would that be like? What would we do?

Dahlia Lithwick is saying it's too late for Mueller to save us. According to her, "It seems as though truth and law are forever losing ground in the footrace against open looting and overt totalitarianism." Because so much crazy shit has become normalized, no one will pay attention to any kind of legal result from the Mueller investigation, she says, and "normal Democrats and Republicans, civil servants, the courts, who we had hoped would stop the Trump train wreck, may not be able to, because they rely on everyone accepting the law, but when the law becomes a moot point they aren't up to it.

Lithwick makes a frighteningly believable case for it except for one detail. It hasn't been the so called normal Democrats and Republicans and civil servants running things all this time but the ruling class, and people who don't carry out their wishes get removed. They won't let Trump mess up America, a golden goose with a lot of flesh left on it.

Or if they do want it messed up, and the rest of the jobs shipped somewhere else, either way, it's them calling the shots and not the government.

They have the power. The government doesn't, and not only that, government can't stop the ruling class. But we can do that. We're the only ones who can do it.

Tax Bills

Imagine if Democrats, when they had the majority, had rammed through progressive legislation and raised taxes on the rich instead of cutting their taxes and cutting social spending for the poor.

Imagine if Democrats instead of spending the last year railing about a non existent Russiagate conspiracy had spent it making fiery speeches about wealth and income inequality and getting people mobilized and in the streets to fight against things like GOP tax cuts.

Instead we have Democrats like the ones we have in New Mexico who work the word "bipartisan" into every news release they put out and are constantly signaling they're going to give up half of what their constituents want before they even sit down at the table.

Imagine if Democrats cut themselves off from Wall Street funding and raised money from small donations like Bernie Sanders easily proved you can do and was doing when he was out-raising the warmongering corporate whore who nobody liked and who went on to lose the election to a used car salesman.

It's easy for Democrats to speak out now about tax giveaways. It costs them nothing and changes nothing and their big money corporate donors know it and will keep giving them the money they give them to keep the working class suppressed.

Democrats won't be on our side until we make them. As long as we keep giving them our votes, our support and our money they'll keep screwing us and tending to their Wall Street owners. It's about power and who has it. The wealthy and the Republicans know how to use theirs to get what they want and we don't.

Getting In The Christmas Spirit

Monday, November 27, 2017

Trump Dividend

Say what you will about Trump, it looks like the war on Syria is ending. To be sure, the US and some of its allies will probably have secret agents running around leading gorilla raids by jihadis they fund, and the military could stage something to make Trump stay in the war like they did with Obama by surreptitiously bombing a Syrian air base. With the Democrats and the whole establishment salivating for war and cold war there will be pressure on him to reverse course, but barring that, it's over.

That's one of two big positives I was expecting out of Trump that were things you'd never see Hillary do. The other was that he'd get a lot more people to be active and radicalized. With a Democrat in office activism ceases. We regress and lose some of our living standard.

The US essentially lost in Syria, says Patrick Lawrence in Salon, and he also thinks the US is being superseded as the top power in the Middle East by Russia in league with Iran and now even Turkey which is considering leaving NATO.

Troll Alert: I have a troll or two and when I write something like this about the Democrats I sometimes hear from them even though they know I don't publish their comments any more. I guess they want me to know what they think. But the way comment work here, when someone leaves a comment I get an email notice and I can see who the comment is from before I even open the email and if it's from a troll or an anonymous commenter I just delete it without opening it. Their comment is still in some Google dungeon somewhere but I never go there unless I hit the wrong button and I just delete all the unpublished comments at once.

Monday, November 13, 2017

2017 Killed By Police Passes 1,000

"Roach stepped out of his home with his shotgun at about 10:50 p.m and walked toward officers, who ordered him to drop it. After he refused, six officers fired at Roach."

Jerry Roach
Jerry Roach of Lakeland, FL, was the 1,000th person killed by police this year, on November 2. In the 11 days since then the total has reached 1,040.

US cops kill more people in a month than British police kill in 25 years. US cops kill 70 times more people than cops in other "first world" countries do.

It's a bit simplistic to say police are looking for excuses to kill people. Police training teaches cops to shoot first, ask questions later. What probably more significant is that we are just a violent people. We have a culture that prioritizes money, where having a lot of it means the law no longer applies to you. All kinds of things are more important to Americans than caring for each other.

We own most of the world's guns and have a military ten times bigger than Russia's and we send it all over the world killing poor people so rich and powerful people can get richer and feel more powerful. Congress just voted to increase the $700 billion military budget by $80 billion per year. It's going to get worse, not better.