Monday, May 29, 2017

Anything But A Democrat


"There is now a sizable list of election results involving Republican candidates who survived seemingly unsurvivable scandals to win higher office."

"The lesson in almost all of these instances seems to be that enormous numbers of voters would rather elect an openly corrupt or mentally deranged Republican than vote for a Democrat."

Rolling Stone magazine's Matt Taibbi makes this point in a new article with the understated title The Democrats Need A New Message.





Friday, May 26, 2017

How Many Votes Does The Working Class Have?






The thinking on the Left is that the Democratic Party establishment has forgone the notion that the party represents the working class (people who live off paychecks and not investment income or rent) and has made a conscious effort to redefine its base in a way that doesn't include the working class or at least not most of it; namely that the party sees its base as being a multi racial milleau of upper middle class socially liberal professionals (including people who have "made it" and those who hope and expect to "make it") and people who identify with some type of identity politics such as many feminists, Blacks and gays do.

That scenario matches the reality that the Democratic Party has become more business friendly and seeks out and receives more campaign money from "Wall Street" - i.e. big banks, hedge fund managers, corporate CEOs, law firms and the like. I often say today's Democrats are Republicans who are in favor of gay marriage and abortion and ours in New Mexico are prime examples. The never talk about, or put forth legislation to promote, economic equality, better working class pay and benefits, or to remove the formidable barriers to union organizing that have been erected over the years. On economic matters they vote with Republicans and they vote to cut social spending and to hike military spending.

Many radicals and many of the thousands of people flocking to Socialist organizations have sworn off the Democratic Party and will not vote for a Democrat, and there are those whom you might call Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren Democrats, i.e., the party's left wing, who only vote Democratic because they fear Republicans more and would vote for a viable alternative if there was one.

All this raises questions like how many actual votes are in the working class., and would a class based Democratic Party attract many working class Republicans? What if it campaigned on economic issues and let people make up their own minds about abortion, gay marriage, women's rights and civil rights?







Look at the top right pie chart that shows that almost everyone makes $60k or less. These graphics say families that take in $50 to $60,000 per year and less, are, by a wide margin the majority in America.

But what about civil rights, women's rights, gay rights? Those peoples lives matter certainly. They vote, and if you removed them from the graphs above the $50K and under families would probably no longer be a majority by itself.

That's the kind of calculation that has led the Democrats, their consultants and polling firms to where they are, beholden to big business and with living standards for the majority in decline, and unable to win elections like the one last night in Montana and the one Donald Trump won in November.














Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Good News, Love On A Picket Line, Trolls

It's good to be back home in New Mexico after spending time up in Michigan helping Mom out and celebrating her 91st birthday with brothers and sisters, their kids and kids' kids and some close family friends. Below is a picture of Mom, Agnes May (Stull) Conway, with brothers Bob, Bill and Frank behind her and flanked by sisters Jackie Poff and Sandra Mortenson. The pretty brunette next to me is artist Kathy Goldstein of Jackson, MI, a good fiend of the family who I got to come down and surprise Mom.




Hometown New Buffalo is on the lake in the state's southwest corner and was once a big port town. It was named by its founder, Buffalo, New York merchant marine captain Wessell Whittaker, who turned developer in not long after he shipwrecked in 1834 on what is now New Buffalo's beach. The main street, which Whittaker named for himself, ends at Lake Michigan, next to the mouth of a beautiful, lush estuary that winds through the wooded sand dunes where I romped and tromped and sometimes hunted and fished as I went through that process where everything becomes less and less certain that we know of as growing up. 

Properties on and near the lake sell for more than a million dollars. Those are the "Chicago people." The working class of New Buffalo, including some in my family, do the Chicago peoples' carpentry, remodeling, painting and wallpapering, mow their yards, do their plumbing, electrical work and lay their carpeting. While I was home I spent a few days helping Bill paint a house a few miles up the lake in Bridgman.

The picture below is of a little creek that runs through Mom's seven acres, which is across the New York Central passenger tracks from the lake. You might be able to pick out the gravel embankment of the C&O freight switching yard. I grew up to the rumbling of switch engines and the banging of rail cars as they were shunted off to different tracks, but the yard isn't used any more. Michigan has been de-industrialized by Capitalism and its Democrat and Republican handmaids.






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The above picture shows where the estuary I mentioned empties into Lake Michigan at a nice little US Army Corps of Engineers built taxpayer funded harbor. One river bend away from there is the beginning of a lush duneland ecosystem supported by a marsh populated with deer, ducks, geese, herons, foxes, cougars and all kinds of birds and critters.


Photo by Kevin Dooley - flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/




Love On A Picket Line

One of the long conversations I had with Mom during my visit led to her telling the tale of how she and Dad met. I'd never heard before and am very glad to have now. It goes like this: One morning in 1944 she was on her way to work in the office at the big Oliver Farm Equipment company in South Bend, IN, and there was a picket line in front of the plant. Mom did the "foreign billing." Lots of farm equipment was being sold to Cuba.

There was a man  in a suit and tie there who represented the International -- union headquarters in Washington -- and who also operated a steam powered crane in the plant's foundry, my dad, Maurice Conway. She asked him what she should do and he said she should go down to the union hall and have a doughnut and coffee.

What he meant was, 'Don't cross the picket line.' This is something you don't do in union country. My Mom knew about such things. Her family had fled the potato famine that followed the Revolution of 1848 along with millions of other Germans who helped build the American Labor Movement and who spread prairie populism through US farm country, built Grange halls, formed grain and milk cooperatives and burned their crops and dumped their milk on the ground in fights with the big distributors. She went down to the union hall and he came down later, sat across from her, they started chatting, one thing led to another.

The union my Dad was a member of, Mom said, the United Farm Equipment and Metal Workers Of America, would soon be disbanded by the government because it's leaders were Communists, and after that the workers were represented by the United Autoworkers Union.

I searched for more details about that and they weren't readily available, but I did come across a web site that talked about the Farm Equipment union becoming the subject "raids" by the United Auto Workers and the UAW forcing the Farm Equipment union out of some workplaces.

Both stories are in keeping with the history of the major industrial union leaders' collaboration with the US and state governments in their McCarthyite witch hunts for Communists and their suppression of Socialism in the Labor Movement. Most of the big unions at the time conducted well publicized purges of their Communist members. Recall also that the then president of the actor's union, the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan, was giving the names of friends and colleagues who he suspected of being Communists to the FBI, leading to them being blackballed and usually ending of their careers.



And Not Even A Trot Line Was Thrown Out

A retired male nurse trolls my blog and leaves comments that I delete without even reading because they never vary in tone or content. He concocts arguments against me by saying I said this or that when I never said this or that and is seemingly obsessed with getting his version of what I said into print. At one point he tried commenting anonymously using a John Wayne-like alter ego he slips into now and then.

He wanted Hillary Clinton to be president and like many people simply can't wrap his head around the fact that her and her brand of conservative, corporate friendly Democrat, who completely control the party apparatus,  have been nothing but one big disaster for the American working class, even worse for working people in other countries.

People really do need to get a grip. For all the horror and panic about Donald Trump you hear he's accomplished nothing and his prospects for getting anything accomplished diminish every day and with each gaffe, overreach, tweet and ignorant misstep his bumbling administration takes the opposition to him grows, enabled by massive working class resistance to everything Trump tries to do that affects working peoples' bottom line.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, there would be no resistance. Government would be working smoothly and relentlessly on behalf of corporations and the wealthy and no one would even notice because the media would be going about business as usual, willfully oblivious as Clinton and her $250,000 per paid speech Wall Street benefactors further eviscerated American living standards and murdered countless innocent brown skinned people abroad with complete impunity.

No one makes an argument against that. There isn't one. The argument people use is that they can't believe anyone would ever want Donald Trump to be president and not Hillary and they stew in childish anger until they find an object for it that they can lash out at.








Sunday, May 14, 2017

Propaganda As We Like It

Quartz, another new online media outlet that's making a go of it, in the first installment of a series on propaganda, offers a pretty good explanation of how we arrived at this Trump-Brexit-Alternative-Facts world we now live in. (Gideon Lichfield's article starts just below the introduction to the series and it's not that long of an article.)

Lichfield draws on sources like Aldous Huxley's classic Brave New World and the work of the contemporary cognitive linguist George Lakoff to explain why these weird things are happening, and why conservatism is consistently beating liberalism on the electoral battlefield. A lot of it, according to Lakoff, has to do with what liberals and conservatives tend to study in college:

"If you’re a conservative going into politics, there’s a good chance you’ll study cognitive science, that is, how people really think and how to market things by advertising. So they know people think using frames and metaphors and narratives and images and emotions and so on…
Now, if instead you are a progressive…you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on… What you’ll learn in those courses is what is called Enlightenment reason, from 1650, from Descartes. And here’s what that reasoning says:… [I]f we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year."


You've no doubt noticed that many writers have been taking a stab at answering the question of "What happened?" Of how we arrived at this Trump-Brexit-Alternative-Facts world we now live in. The series introduction gives what I think is a pretty good short answer:


The standard answer is that many things had gone wrong. The global financial crisis. Jobs lost to globalization and automation. Widening inequality. Terrorist attacks. Refugees. And complacent, technocratic elites who spoke self-assuredly of growth and progress while failing to notice how many people saw little of either.

"Technocratic elites" includes mainstream Democrats, especially the type we have in New Mexico who never talk about the economic reality of the working class and never offer any legislation that would improve it, ever. Don't take my word for it. Go to their social media feeds and their senate and house web sites where you'll find nothing but mindless pablum that delights the hearts of the wealthy. On the state level my representatives don't even put out anything. Nothing. They have no web sites, they send out no newsletters, nothing. Unless you're a political insider or you made a concerted effort to find out, you'd never even know who they were.

Think about that, think about what your elected representative puts out, as you read Litchfield's article about propaganda. And keep in mind that in the end, its on us. If anyone can figure out how to reach the masses, it's us.





Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Forever Wars

The Taliban again control a large part of Afghanistan 16 years after the US government's invasion and the Trump Administration will soon begin sending more troops there, according to the Wall Street Journal which published this map as part of an article updating the war.








The web site National Priorities has a running tally that puts that particular war's cost to you and me at $771 billion and counting, but free lance journalist Ken Klipperstein says it's $1 trillion. The Taliban have become very rich in the poppy/opium trade and now in an expanding array of enterprises. Mining is their number two income source, the Journal says.

The US has ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. For awhile it looked like Donald Trump might wind down some of this insane imperialism but he's turned over conduct of the wars to the generals including the mad dog he named defense secretary, the US Marine general who's actually called Mad Dog Mathis.

Tom Bacevich has a good article at Tom Dispatch that lists 24 questions the media should be asking but isn't and number one is why doesn't our military, on which we spend multiples of billions more than any other country, ever win anything any more?

Bacevich asks some really excellent questions. Number seven:

7. The war formerly known as the “Global War on Terrorism”: What precisely is Washington’s present strategy for defeating violent jihadism?  What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success? If no such strategy exists, why is that the case?  How is it that the absence of strategy -- not to mention an agreed upon definition of “success” -- doesn’t even qualify for discussion here?








Friday, May 5, 2017

Protect Yourself From White Collar Crime







The New Inquiry has put together a delightful tool that tracks where white collar crime occurs and eventually will be able to predict where it occurs and by whom -- just like the computerized geographic modeling law enforcement uses for blue collar crime. An accompanying white paper tells how they do it.

At first take it's hard to imagine its usefulness and you might even think they're being tongue in cheek, but it's very serious, and it's usefulness lies primarily in that it gets you to think outside the constraints of your conditioning.

When we think of "crime" we usually think about the crimes the working class is arrested for and convicted of -- blue collar crime. We don't even include white collar crime in our considerations and that's deleterious in a number of ways. One, white collar crime is more costly to society and not just monetarily. For some of its caustic effects check out an insightful article by Glen Greenwald about what he calls elite immunity.

Our dual way of perceiving criminality -- where working class/blue collar crime is one thing and white collar/ruling class is something else-- also serves as a means of social control. When there are two sets of rules, when one class can move the goal posts around arbitrarily so that they're always the winners, we're on some level perpetually trying to gain but never obtaining upper class sanction. And think of the effects it's had on society to have vastly different penalties and consequences for, and law enforcement's prioritizing of, the two commonly used forms of cocaine -- powder, the choice of the ruling class, and crack, used mostly by the working class.

That New Media I'm Always Promoting Sometimes

The New Inquiry is one of a number of refreshing new publications that are filling the void created by the collapse of traditional information gatekeepers -- newspapers, journals, magazines, etc. -- by taking advantage of low cost web publishing and the lack of publishing opportunities for people who have something to say but can't get published, because of the collapse of traditional media, and who, in many cases never would have been published because their views, unlike everything that appears in the mainstream media, haven't received official pre-approval. Several of them are mentioned in a The Guardian article including another I've referred to, the Socialist online magazine Jacobin.