Monday, June 27, 2016


Those who think a little disruption can be a good thing — or a lot of it, for that matter — now have an opportunity to test their hypothesis.  The most notable outcome of the Brexit vote so far is the disruption of British politics.  Both the Conservatives and Labour are split, and the British are not especially enthusiastic about either party.

In response, ECB President Mario Draghi is suggesting that the time has come to move away from the austerity policies that have crippled Europe since the financial crisis and emphasize growth.  Draghi knows that what underlies working class discontent across Europe is not immigration.

European workers have suffered with wages that buy less every year, along with the erosion of the social programs that make limited incomes acceptable.  In the UK, unemployment is low, but wages have been stagnant or slipping.  In southern Europe, any work at all is very hard to find.  The problem has been austerity.

It is in the interests of banks, private equity and sovereign wealth funds, and other global capitalists to continue austerity, cutting government services to free up money that will be used to pay back risky loans.  It is in the interests of everybody else to renegotiate that debt and restore public services, shifting wealth from those who have accumulated entirely too much to those they robbed.

That will not be done by the current crop of disruptors — Farange, Johnson, LePen, Orban, Tr*mp, et al. — but sadly will not be done by the ruling Establishment either.  Mario Draghi offers some hope, and with backing from Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney, Janet Yellen, and others whose financial power does not depend on private capital, it is conceivable that something positive yet may be done.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Thursday's vote on whether or not the UK stays in the EU has a lot of people nervous, even though the vast majority of Americans couldn't tell you what it is much less what impact it may have.  The British, at least, know what it is.  I'm not about to explain it here.

I do think it's interesting, however, how the two sides in the Brexit debate parallel the sides November's US election.  On one side are establishment neoliberals, continuing to invest irrational faith in the "rational markets" fallacy; embracing globalization with enthusiasm that entirely ignores its negative impact on people who actually have to labor for their living; and paying lip service to the social disruption arising from income inequality while imposing austerity measures to exacerbate it.

On the "other side" are proxies for pretty much the same economic elite, but offering a different approach to keeping working people subjugated.  They are the political leaders who pander to xenophobic and racist nationalism to achieve the power to accumulate excessive wealth.  They understand that people with inadequate education (a large majority) will feel comfortable if they can have scapegoats (the "other") for their powerlessness and financial distress.

Is one side better than the other?  Possibly, but neither is a good choice.  It's "heads they win, tails we lose."  All we can do is forget the lose-lose economics and apply our personal value systems to where they each stand on whatever social issues we count most important.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Gun Control

I got a call from some gun control organization a couple of days ago, and decided my contributions would be better spent elsewhere.  The truth is, I think it's too late for gun control in the USofA.

After allowing some Senate Democrats to grandstand for a while, Republicans decided to permit a vote on a couple of "gun control" amendments to an unrelated bill: one that would stop individuals on the terrorism "watch list" from purchasing weapons, and one that would plug the gun show/internet sales loophole for background checks.  That second one will fail, of course.  The first, which makes a mockery of any idea of due process and probably is unconstitutional, will be replaced with a much watered down version acceptable to the NRA.

Some are calling for reinstitution of the assault weapons ban, but even if that happened (it won't), that leaves us with at least five million rapid-firing semi-automatic rifles already out there.  Buying them back at market value (as Australia did when it banned such weapons) would cost well upwards of $4 billion — and since rifles usually don't have to be registered, we wouldn't even know where to find them.

Are there more realistic ways to stop mass shootings?  If you think of any, let me know.

Monday, June 13, 2016


In his response to the horrendous attack on Pulse, the Orlando gay bar, Donald Tr*mp somehow contrived to ignore the fact that the victims were gay Latinos, pouncing instead on the assailant's religion.  This makes sense.  Among his Islamophobes, one would scarcely be surprised to find a sizable portion who are homophobic as well.  One does not wish to upset one's base.

Some commentators seem surprised that Tr*mp did not try to "walk back" his racist accusation against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, despite criticism from within the Republican Party.  I suspect those commentators failed to think it through.  Curiel is virtually certain to find against Tr*mp in the lawsuit being tried, given that the eponymous "University" was, indeed, a con game.  When the judgement is delivered, Tr*mp will be able to say, "I told you so!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Whither the Berners?

Now that everybody agrees that Hillary is the Democratic nominee, and Bernie has fired most of his staff, some are wondering what will become of Bernie's supporters — especially the young ones, previously not especially interested in matters political.  Well, it depends, I suppose.

To what extent did their support for Bernie lead those young people to educate themselves on policy matters?  I haven't seen any data, but I suspect that most of the Berners were paying attention to his message and not merely along for the exciting ride.  Hopefully, many went beyond Bernie's campaign materials for their education.  Campaign materials are necessarily simplistic, and the emergence of a new and better progressivism in the USofA requires more than slogans.  Encouraging is that some are speaking of becoming politically involved at the local level, where Democrats (as well as Republicans) are inclined to be hacks beholden only to local special interests.

There is enough sophistication among them so that some will support Jill Stein of the Green Party, but only if they live in a dependably Democratic state.  This year, though, it may be harder to determine "dependability."  I voted for Jill Stein in 2012 and Ralph Nader in 2008, but I have certain qualms about New York this year — and some other states as well — given the general craziness of 2016.

All of us on the left would be a lot happier with Hillary if we could be assured that we won't be seeing yet another "New Democrat" administration like Bill's.  In his enthusiastic pandering to alleged "centrists" who would have been dependable Republicans fifteen years earlier, Bill Clinton did more to set back progressive politics than even Ronald Reagan.  A lot of us are afraid that Hillary will give us more of the same, and would love a strong commitment to true progressivism on her part.

Filing for divorce would be a good start.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Future of US Foreign Policy

In brief, prospects for ongoing US foreign policy are not encouraging.  The Donald's ineptitude is such that he is certain to defer to "the best generals" in matters of war and peace, and Hillary's stance in the 2008 primaries and as Secretary of State suggest that she will continue her ongoing attempts to prove she has enough "balls" to be "one of the boys."  Bernie Sanders will probably have significant impact on the Democratic platform, but the relationship between a party's platform and what happens when that party wins an election has little if any bearing on what its candidate does when elected to office.

The "War on Terror"
Tr*mp vacillates between isolationism and carpet bombing (along with use of torture and killing the families of terrorists), but his commitment to building the size and strength of the military makes one wonder if "boots on the ground" might be inevitable — the military-industrial complex would like that, since it could restore sales to 2010 levels.  Clinton has been largely silent on her suggestion of a "no-fly zone" in Syria lately, but her history on interventionism is troubling, including her vote for the war in Iraq and endorsement of intervention in Libya.  Neither has any fresh ideas for dealing with the Islamist State as an international threat, even if Obama's efforts to cut into the territory it occupies continue to make progress.

The Middle East
It seems clear that Clinton will maintain US support for the Arab autocracies, despite copious human rights abuses within their territories and Saudi war crimes in Yemen.  She also will be more friendly to Netanyahu's increasingly bellicose and repressive path for Israel than Obama has been, and the Palestinians will be out of luck, no matter what Bernie gets into the Democratic platform.  Tr*mp's support from Sheldon Adelson suggests that he will be even deeper in Netanyahu's pocket than Clinton; and his rejection of the Iran deal and insistence that the Saudi's "pay their own way" would be a recipe for a nuclear armed Middle East.  With regard to Assad, Tr*mp might be too conciliatory, Clinton too bellicose.

I don't know if anybody has considered problems that might arise from installing missile "defense" systems (against Iran? Yeah, right!) in Eastern European countries moving ever closer to fascism, but that probably can wait for 2020.  Neither US candidate has anything to offer Europe in dealing with its refugee crisis, and neither will use US influence over the IMF in an attempt to soften Europe's devastating austerity regime, albeit neo-liberal (aka neo-conservative) US bankers have a lot more influence than US political leaders.  Clinton certainly understands Europe's problems better than Tr*mp, but she's no less neo-liberal in her thinking than her husband was — and nobody knows what impact Tr*mp's affection for Putin might bring

Asia and the Pacific
The US Chamber of Commerce seems confident that Clinton will change her mind about support for the TPP as soon as she's president, and they're probably right.  Tr*mp seems to think he could negotiate a "better deal," but his confidence in his negotiating skills is just as inflated as his hair.  The Chinese, I suspect, couldn't care less which of them is elected because China's economic and military power is unlikely to be affected.  Tr*mp's fantasies of Japan and South Korea having their own nuclear arms would almost certainly remain fantasies, because not all Republicans are total idiots.

If Tr*mp can identify more than three African countries on an outline map, I'd be very surprised.  Clinton, at least, is aware of the mess that is African politics and economics, but is unlikely to move beyond Obama's very limited engagement there.  With either of them, Africa will remain on the back burner until something explodes.

Latin America
Haven't you had enough pessimism for one post?  It's certainly been enough for me, so I'll pass over Latin America — where the US has had virtually no policy at all since "our" dictators were overthrown — and save it for another day.  In the meanwhile, though, keep an eye on Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatamala, et al.  Tr*mp's "wall" won't keep the chaos south of the border.