Sunday, December 04, 2016

Italy's Sunday referendum is a big deal

Italy voted on Sunday on a referendum whose content is no longer especially interesting since it lost by a substantial majority No vote. The Prime Minister has resigned and new elections will presumably be held sooner than later.

And one way or another, it's may usher in a new acute phase of the eurozone crisis that has been underway since 2009 with no end in sight.

Claire Phipps and Jon Henley report on the story for the Guardian, Italy referendum: Matteo Renzi to resign after defeat as Austria rejects far right

This is a big deal. "Italy is not voting to leave the eurozone or the EU. But there could still be far-reaching implications. Renzi came into power promising to be a reformer, to drag Italy “out of the swamp” and build a strong centre-left majority, so his loss is a big blow to people who think his defeat is a rejection of his agenda.

It will also be seen, much like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, as a victory of populist forces over an establishment party, although the reality is more complicated. A new caretaker government will probably take over and new elections could be held as soon as next year."
BBC News has this report, Italy referendum: PM Matteo Renzi resigns after clear referendum defeat 12/05/2016.

Progress against the DAPL pipeline being protested at Standing Rock

The Obama Administration has denied the permit to drill under the Missouri River to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project that members of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have been protesting actively for months.

The Young Turks (TYT) has apparently been the only national video news operation seriously covering the story. Here are two reports from them on the state of affairs there.

BREAKING: Obama Denies Final Permit For Dakota Access Pipeline TYT Politics 12/04/2016 reports, among other things, that the President-elect has $2 million in known investments in companies connected with this controversial project:

Cenk Uygur talks about the advocacy role that TYT has played in the protest in Obama Denies Permit to Drill at DAPL! Victory at Standing Rock Within Reach! The Young Turks 12/04/2016:

TYT practices advocacy journalism with a distinct pro-labor twist and other progressive positions. Advocacy journalism needs to be evaluated as critically as ostensibly neutral ones. But advocacy journalism can do both advocacy and journalism well.

A key feature of the progressive criticism of corporate/mainstream media that distinguishes it from the long-since-typical posture of Republicans and partisan Republican media outlets of being critical of the mainstream media, which they often call the "liberal press," is that progressives demand that media outlets provide quality journalism that provides accurate information and a critical perspective. The rightwing criticism just aims at making all media outlooks Republican partisan mouthpieces.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Smorgasbord: Trump, populism and an Argentine poet

This whole Russians-and-fake-news theme is going to work out poorly for the Democrats. Here are some interesting recent developments along that line:

Spencer Ackerman and Julian Borger, US legislation proposes new committee to counteract Russian 'covert influence' Guardian 11/30/2016. This is a link to the proposed legislation they discuss.

Julian Borger and Raya Jalabi, US Syria policy: signs of shift as Trump son meets pro-Russia Damascus figure Guardian 11/23/2016: this isn't necessarily sinister. But it's part of what will become a much bigger picture.

Christian Lowe and Natalia Zinets, Russia says foreign spies plan cyber attack on banking system Yahoo! Tech/Reuters 12/02/2016. Because cyberwar is such an arcane thing and is surrounded by secrecy and complicated by multiple agendas, it's very hard to know what to make of these reports. Because there are things like this: "The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News." (William Arkin, CIA Prepping for Possible Cyber Strike Against Russia NBC News 10/14/2016)

Marcy Wheeler, Seven Democrats Write Obama Asking Him to Declassify More Information on Russian Involvement in The Elections Emptywheel 11/30/2016. I hope the Obama Administration releases more substantial information on this. If he doesn't, it just makes the Democratic position on Russian interference in the election look even more like McCarthyist desperation.

On the continuing and lively discussion of populism, Mike Konczal (Learning From Trump in Retrospect Medium 12/01/2016) makes an important observation on how Trump rhetorically constructed the Elite against which he ran a populist campaign: "Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites."

There are some really good analyses out there evaluating the evolution of rightwing Republicanism into Trumpism and how to prepare for what's coming:

Rick Perlstein, Democracy and Indecency: From Nixon to Trump Washington Spectator 11/29/2016: "For me, 2007 was the watershed, not 2009: that was when I began stating as a matter of fact that millions of Americans now considered a government controlled by Democrats de facto illegitimate. "

Tina Dupuy, So We Elected an Autocrat: What To Do Now Medium ExtraNewsfeed 12/01/2016: "Really want to get under Trump’s liver-spotted thin skin? Call the movement [against him] The Popular Vote, its members The Popular Voters. At the time of this writing Hillary is leading in the popular vote by 2.5 million." Something tells me that "The Popular Voters" won't become one of Ernesto Laclau's "vacant signifiers" that catches on as the self-definition of a left populist movement. But who knows?

John Shattuck, Resisting Trumpism in Europe and the United States The American Prospect 12/02/2016: "The election of Donald Trump shows what happens when democracy misfires."

Hamilton Fish, White Grievance, Little Hyperboles, and the Coming Storm Washington Spectator 11/17/2016:

Yet, as ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis suggests in his masterful reporting from Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Trump voters are not always who we thought they were. MacGillis cites three common denominators—they live in places that are in decline, they lack strong attachments to either party, and they carry a profound contempt for a dysfunctional Washington. It’s a perverse tribute to the political skill of the Republicans, and an indictment of the inattentiveness of their audience, that the GOP could oppose every Obama initiative, bring the federal government to the edge of the precipice more than once, and still reap the support of those who were angry at the do-nothing Congress. For liberals, this runs parallel to their recognition that the greatest political achievement of the right is to have made their victims their most ardent supporters.
Daniel Engber, Does Fighting Racism Make Racists More Racist? Slate 12/01/2016 (My own short answer: white racists would certainly like you to think that!)

Joanthan Chait goes around the block to get back to a safe, comfortable assumption that the Trump Era won't be that different than anything that came before in The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral New York 12/02/2016. And he repeats the it's-all-the-Rooskies-fault Democratic excuse that will come back to bite the Dems, "Clinton would have beaten Trump anyway, if not for the combined efforts of Russian intelligence and the FBI to bring her down."

John Dean takes a look at the Coming Consequences for the Litigious President-elect Trump Justia 11/11/2016:

Unlike any of his predecessors, President-elect Trump has “at least 75” open lawsuits, according to a nationwide study by USA Today. Just before his election on November 8, Trump threatened to sue all the women who claimed to have been sexually molested by him (some 12 women at last count), and several of them threatened to sue him for defamation for calling them all liars. In addition, as his campaign was winding down, several vendors whom he had used during the campaign, claimed they were confronted with his standard business practice of refusing to pay, so several of these people may soon file actions against him, if they are not paid. So, Donald Trump could enter the presidency with as many as one hundred active civil lawsuits, which will have potentially differing and multiple detrimental impacts on his presidency.

Either as a plaintiff or defendant, and Trump is on both sides, in any lawsuit requires time and effort to prepare oneself and one’s attorneys. It takes time and effort to testify at a deposition or during a trial. And it takes time and effort to stay abreast of the lawsuit. Given the fact that Trump may be the least qualified person to ever be elected president, he has much more work to do than most who seek and reach this high office. He does not even have a good newspaper knowledge of the way Washington works, let alone the presidency. It appears he has never read even a single biography of any of the men who preceded him as president, so he has a very steep learning curve. Throughout the campaign there have been reports that he has a very short attention span. Bottom line: His litigation is going to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to meet his responsibilities as president. The smart move would be to settle these cases, but he may not have the money to do so. And he may be financially stretched to pursue them as well.
On a totally different topic, Felipe Pigna highlights a different article each day on his El Historiador website. Today he features José Mármol y su lucha contra Juan Manuel de Rosas. José Mármol (1817-1871) was a poet who opposed the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793-1877), the Governor of Buenos Aires who was the main national leader of Argentina 1829-1832 and 1835-1852. Though Rosas' legacy is much contested, he was the leader who first established a national identity from various provinces of the previous Spanish Vice Regency of Rio de la Plata.

Rosas, "The Exterminator of Anarchy"

Mármol was associated with the cause of the Unitarians - a political designation, not a religious one, they were basically all Catholics. Rosas was part of the Federalist party. Mármol's most famous work is Amalia (1855), which is set in the context of the violent political struggles during the Rosas period. It still stands as a major work in Argentine literature.

I should start doing Argentine History Mondays or something like that on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Trump and foreign policy credibility

Paul R. Pillar takes a sober look at The Post-Truth President and U.S. Credibility The National Interest 11/30/2016:

There are many other sad things that could be said about the consequences for those workings of having a leader with so little regard for truth, which encourages further entrenchment of falsehood in politics and public affairs. In this respect Trump is both a symbol and arch-facilitator of a malevolent trend that led the Oxford English Dictionary to make “post-truth” its word of the year.
I'm always leery when people start talking about the importance of "credibility" in foreign affairs, because it's typically used as a reason to initiate or escalate military interventions for the sake of "American credibility."

But that doesn't mean it has no place in the foreign policy vocabulary. Pillar notes:

At stake is not just the reputation of any one occupant of the White House. The credibility of the U.S. president affects the credibility of the United States. And the perceptions that matter are those held not only by foreign governments but also by foreign publics. A reputation for lying by the person at the top exacerbates what are already widespread and unhelpful tendencies of many people overseas not to believe what the United States says are its reasons for its actions overseas. This is especially a problem in the Muslim world; in this instance with Trump, the deleterious complementarity is between his lying and his Islamophobia.
And he explains, referencing the problematic use of "credibility" for warmongering:

The threat to U.S. credibility involved here is far more real than the supposed threat that often is posited: that if the United States does not immerse itself in this or that conflict that is peripheral to its interests, then other governments will not believe that the United States will stand up for its interests elsewhere. That is not how governments calculate credibility. U.S. credibility depends not on intervening in what is peripheral but instead on U.S. leaders being believed when they say something is vital.
Pillar cites an article by Dan Drezner () in his he says, "Ultimately, Trump’s bluster and impulsiveness will hurt our national interest."

That's a good summary for what will surely be a very big problem the next four years.

Drezner says again, with understatement, "Trump’s lack of concern for facts, and his tendency to parrot whichever adviser spoke with him last, will pose a challenge for diplomats and foreign heads of state."

Drezner mentions this factor, which is one of the reasons I'm cautious about claims of alleged Putin support for Trump:

As for Trump’s newfound friendships with kindred leaders such as Vladimir Putin, one should expect them to be about as long-lasting as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Russia and the United States share some common interests, but not a lot of them. Given the temperaments of Trump and Putin, it would not be hard to envision the relationship spiraling out of control if one of them thinks he’s been wronged. Being hot-headed as a tactic only works if other leaders are not hot-headed in response. The very leaders most like Trump — Putin, Rodrigo Duterte of the PYeah, he Philippines, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan — are the ones most likely to respond to anger with anger, escalating any dispute.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Remembering the Kathryn Steinle murder

Jonathan Simon wrote about the case of Kathryn Steinle, the murdered woman who Trump used as a symbol to stoke fear and hatred of immigrants during his Presidential campaign, in A Summer Classic: Moral Panic over a Pier Shooting Governing Through Crime 07/08/2015. This was not long after the murder, which occurred on July 1, 2105:

It is a reminder of how hard the past is to leave behind (especially when your leading politicians belong to it). By now the whole nation knows the basic facts. Francisco Sanchez, a 45 or 52-year-old Mexican national shot and killed Kathryn Steinle, 32 year old resident of a nearby suburb in a chance encounter along San Francisco’s popular and seemingly safe waterfront Embarcadero Boulevard last week. It had all the makings of what criminologists call a “moral panic” an untoward event, small or large, that becomes a vehicle for vast social and political anxieties over race, class, and national identity. A low status villain---non-White, poor, non-citizen, long criminal record, multiple incarcerations, kills a high status victim--White, middle class, citizen, mother of children, never been in trouble with the law. It occurs where it should not, in a place associated with comfort and recreation. Events like this sometimes stay just local news, but given the right conditions, they can blow up into a policy storm of significant magnitude. Will this one? [my emphasis]
Trump wound up using the case in the "moral panic" mode, it seems.

Real-world looks analysis of these cases often show the public rhetoric surrounding them bear little practical relation to the actual problem of which they are a part:

So what to conclude from the Sanchez case? Trying to protect ourselves from random violence by incarcerating and deporting people on the basis of race and often inflated criminal records is deeply flawed (and far from the slam dunk solution that Senator Feinstein believes). The underlying theory here is that crime is a product of dangerous people. Lock up or deport the dangerous people and problem solved. But criminology now suggests that crime is situational, a product of people with chaotic lives, substance abuse, and chance encounters in environments that provide either accelerants or de-accelerants (think of the gun that Sanchez found). There is no perfect solution, save for the ideal of fixing all our “broken toys” (and even unbroken ones break in the spur of the moment). Instead careful mental health screening of the jail population and attentive post-release efforts to keep people with mental health needs and drug abuse histories on the right medications and off the wrong ones could do far better than incarceration for people like Sanchez (what about his previous imprisonments protected us?). Nor quite clearly is deportation a solution. For two decades now we’ve been aggressively deporting people we label “criminal aliens”, creating significant gang problems in countries like Guatemala and El Salvador (as many of them have recreated the same gang milieus they used to survive in the US) without doing much to reduce crime here. [my emphasis]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is white supremacy a fringe phenomenon or a definition of race relations and attitudes?

Chauncey DeVega takes a shot at framing the race/gender/"identity" vs. class-and-economics conundrum in You say “racist,” I say “white supremacist”: Sorry, Kevin Drum, “white supremacy” is a fact — not a “fad” Salon 11/29/2016:

For conservatives and members of the right, identity politics is a way to demean and reject the struggles of people of color, women, gays and lesbians and other marginalized groups as somehow not being legitimate or “real” politics. By implication, only the concerns of white men over their maintaining power and affluence constitute real or “normal” politics. This logic is one of the most powerful examples of the social and political work done by white male privilege in American society.

For many liberals and progressives, identity politics are seen as a distraction from the real politics of class and the struggle to reduce income and wealth inequality. Here, racism, sexism, homophobia and other types of social and political inequality are just masks and symptoms of a deeper problem — the way that capitalism exploits workers in the service of big business.

These two perspectives ignore how identity politics are actually part of full and equal civil rights. The concerns of African-Americans and other people of color about racism reflect how white supremacy and other types of systemic racial inequality are a threat to their (in many cases, literal) life chances. When women struggle to protect their reproductive rights, it is an acknowledgment of how control over one’s body is a necessary prerequisite for being equal to men in all ways social, political and economic. The demands for marriage equality by gays and lesbians is a claim on justice and how certain rights and privileges are exclusive to those people whose relationships are given legal standing by the state.

On a fundamental level, most political questions are about identity. As such, to mark identity politics as something unique, different or perhaps even aberrant is to both misunderstand and misrepresent the nature of politics itself. This is a failure of language that does an immense amount of political work in American society. [my emphasis]
As fresh as this debate is at the moment, it's not new. It's been around in a recognizably similar form since at least the 19th century in the democratic-capitalist order that was then emerging.

But it's not an either/or choice. It's a constantly evolving approach having to do with strategic framing and with practical implications. We could argue that Hillary Clinton's strategic messaging at the high level struck a reasonable balance. But that the campaign didn't communicate enough of the "identity" message in practice and organization to turn out adequate African-American votes in key areas of swing states. And that the I-understand-the-economic-distress message didn't get communicated clearly and consistently enough in those same swing states like Michigan, thus sacrificing the effect that might have had in both improving turnout among core constituencies and persuadable swing voters, including those from the much-discussed white working class.

There's a sad irony here. Bill Clinton got elected President in 1992 with his "it's the economy, stupid" approach that de-emphasized so-called "identity" politics in favor of a more traditional Democratic economic message. But in the subsequent years including his Presidency, the corporate liberal message identified with Hillary Clinton morphed into an emphasis on liberalism on "identity" issues accompanied by neoliberal privatization/deregulation economics.

Just to be clear on my answer to the question in the title: white supremacy is an integral part of white racism. And the reluctance of white "moderates" to confront it directly is also a chronic problem. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "Letter From A Brimingham Jail" (1963) was a response to a communication to him from white clergy suggesting that he ease up on his civil rights demands:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

... I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. [my emphasis]

Postmortems on the Clinton Era and Hillary 2016 Presidential loss

Kathleen Geier says her goodbyes to the Clinton Era in The Clintons’ Dominance of Democratic Politics Is Over—And They Will Not Be Remembered Fondly In These Times 11/28/2016. Her perspective is one that is familiar in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, pointing to how the neoliberalism in politics and economics that so heavily influenced both Bill and Hillary have left the Democratic Party at the unpleasant moment in which it now finds itself.

I think of the issues raised by the election outcome in three broad categories: the social context, strategic and tactical approaches, and organizational ones.

Geier's fifth point falls into the organizational area, the fallout from from the Obama/Hillary/Debbie Wasserman-Schultz policy of neglecting to build and support the Democratic Party organization in all parts of the country:

Theda Skocpol has cited another factor in Clinton’s loss: the Democrats' lack of organizational infrastructure in non-urban areas. The GOP has a strong organizational base in these regions, including get-out-the-vote efforts run by the Christian right, the NRA, the Koch organizations, and the Republican Party itself. But the Dems have let their own party organizations wither on the vine, and the unions which were once the Democrats’ stronghold in the critical Rust Belt region have declined dramatically. When it comes to getting voters to the polls in rural areas, the Democrats are now at a tremendous structural disadvantage. To be sure, this a party-wide, rather than a Clinton-only, failure. But Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama bear strong responsibility here. Each them served for two terms but showed little interest in building the party.
This observation touches both the strategic messaging of the Hillary Clinton campaign this year and the broader economic conditions:

In [a] stroke of bitter poetic justice, the fruits of Clintons' own long-ago policies came back to haunt them. NAFTA and other Clinton “free” trade deals devastated the Rust Belt and created the ravaged communities and the despair that compelled many working class voters in those areas pull the lever for the despicable Trump.

A post-election report by the pollster Stanley Greenberg confirms that Clinton's decision to shun a progressive economic appeal was a fatal error. Greenberg found that “polls showed fairly resilient support with white working class women, until the Clinton campaign stopped talking about economic change.” When the Greenberg team tested a Democratic message attacking Trump for his character vs. a message “demanding big economic changes” and attacking Trump for “supporting for trickle-down and protecting corporate special interests,” they found that the economic message “performed dramatically better,” particularly among key voter groups like millennials, white unmarried women and white working class women.
I'm not persuaded by the simple assertion that trade deals as such "devatated the Rust Belt," etc. Isolating the effects of trade on employment is complicated because so many factors are interacting. Even left-leaning economists who emphasize the problems of unemployment, underemployment and the growth of inequality like New Keynesian Paul Krugman and post-Keynesian Jamie Galbraith caution about blaming trade in physical goods as the main culprit in de-industrialization.

There are real problems with the so-called trade treaties like TTIP and TPP. But those problems mainly lie in their deregulation provisions, especially the destabilizing effects of removing restrictions of transfers of capital, which is a whole different animal from trade in goods. And even the clearest negative effects of international trade in goods in the United States are part of a larger context of neoliberal policies of privatization, restrictions and reductions on public services, severe neglect of public infrastructure and an economic ideology that drastically de-emphasizes or opposes public policies aimed at supporting employment. This is coupled with an unrealistic policy assumption that education will counteract the effects of declining industrial employment by equipping people for different kinds of jobs, at the same time that access to higher education is becoming more and more expensive and student debt itself has become not only a major burden for individuals but a significant drag on economic growth.

"Trade" treaties like NAFTA, TPP and TTIP have become a symbol of the much broader and very real problems caused by neoliberalism.

An accompanying article in In These Times by Susan Douglas reflects on how gender may have affected the Presidential election outcome, The Woman Who Might Have Been President 11/28/2016:

But can we please remember this: In 2015, Hillary Clinton was listed by Gallup, for a record 20th time, as the woman Americans admired most. So we must come to terms with this sad fact, as Penn State professor Terri Vescio put it, “The more female politicians are seen as striving for power, the less they’re trusted and the more moral outrage gets directed at them.” Not all Trump voters are misogynists, but sexism played a role in his victory, as evidenced, in part, by all the Trump regalia calling Hillary a “bitch.”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fidel Castro obituary bibliography

A friend of mine pointed out a long time ago that obituaries are one of the most informative parts of a newspaper. For lesser known people, they often offer interesting insights into the times in which the deceased lived.

When internationally famous people like Fidel Castro pass away, there are a flood of obituaries, commentaries and historical reflections that appear in the days following. And since news services typically keep draft obituaries in the can for the most famous figures, many of them contain detailed information and more thorough preparation than the typical daily news article.

I usually don't do biliographic posts like this. But I'm making an exception this time. This is far from comprehensive. I'm grouping these by the source country, prefaced by these three video reports.

NewsGrid: The world reacts to the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro Al Jazeera English 11/27/2016 (mostly on Fidel but other resports are interspersed):

Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for a half-century, dies at 90 11/26/2016:

Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader of revolution, dies at 90 - BBC News 11/26/2016:


Página/12 carried this cover image for its 27.11.2016 edition:

Jorge Altamira (Político FIT-PO), El legado revolucionario que queda Tiempo 26.11.2016

Javier Borelli, Entre el amor del pueblo y los vaivenes de la dirigencia Tiempo 26.11.2016

Gustavo Cirelli (Director de Tiempo), Fidel: un faro Tiempo 26.11.2016

Patricio Echegaray (presidente del Partido Communista Argentino), Admiraba la agricultura argentina Tiempo 26.11.2016

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Dos 25. Un solo Fidel Página/12 27.11.2016

Alberto López Girondo y Manuel Alfieri, Fidel: historia y legado Tiempo 26.11.2016

Martin Granovsky, La muerte del padre nuestro Página/12 27.11.2016

Julia Izumi, Encuentro en La Habana Tiempo 27.11.2016

Juan Manuel Karg, Un futuro con entereza, pero plagado de dudas Tiempo 26.11.2016

Nicolás Lantos, Fidel marca la agenda de Estados Unidos Página/12 27.11.2016

Telma Luzzani, En todas partes Tiempo 26.11.2016

Juliana Marino, Un vino con historia Tiempo 26.11.2016

Víctor Hugo Morales, La prueba de los sueños justos Tiempo 26.11.2016

“No se va, se queda en el pueblo” Página/12 27.11.2016

José "Pepe" Mujica, Mujica a Fidel: "A vos te queda Cuba, que seguirá ahí" Página/12 27.11.2016

Pacho O'Donnell (author of a biography of Che Guevara emphasizing his Argentine background), Fidel y el Che Página/12 28.11.2016

Mariano Pedrosa, "Si no sobrevivimos culturalmente, tampoco lo haremos ni económica ni políticamente" Tiempo 26.11.2016

Postales para la historia Tiempo 26.11.2016

Gabriel Puricelli, Pupilo jesuita y socialista inesperado Tiempo 26.11.2016

Ricardo Romero, Una isla de dignidad Tiempo 26.11.2016

Emir Sader, Fidel, sinónimo de Revolución Página/12 27.11.2016

Eduardo Vior, Dos caminos, un destino Tiempo 26.11.2016

Mario Wainfeld, El hombre de dos siglos Página/12 27.11.2016

Alejandro Wall, El deporte, su pasión y su legado revolucionario Tiempo 26.11.2016


Frank Hermann, Tod Castros: Hauch des Kalten Krieges holt Kuba ein Standard 276.11.2016

Kubanischer Revolutionsführer Fidel Castro tot
Profil 26.11.2016

Clemens Schuhmann und Klaus Buttinger, In Kuba wird geweint, in Florida gejubelt Oberösterreichische Nachrichten 28.11.2016


Frei Betto, Meu amigo Fidel, que gostava de cosmologia e de boa conversa O Globo 27.11.2016

Ex-presidente de Cuba, Fidel Castro morre aos 90 anos O Globo 26.11.2016

Fernando Gabeira, A realidade e os românticos de Cuba ‘libre’ O Globo 27.11.2016

Mauricio Vicent, Fidel, o mito revolucionário e o tirano em uma só pessoa O Globo 27.11.2016


Duncan Campbell, Close but no cigar: how America failed to kill Fidel Castro Guardian 11/26/2016


Cuba en duelo se prepara para una semana de honras a Fidel Castro AFP/El Espectador 27.11.2016

Gustavo Páez Escobar, Fidel Castro, en prisión El Espectador 26.11.2016

Gabriel García Márquez, Gabriel García Márquez recuerda a su amigo Fidel Castro El Espectador 26.11.2016

William Ospina, La aventura de la Revolución cubana El Espectador 26.11.2016


Fidel Castro Ruz Granma 27.11.2016

Sergio Alejandro Gómez, Un revolucionario de talla mundial Granma 27.11.2016

Lauren Céspedes Hernández, Un adiós para el Comandante Granma 26.11.2016

Marta Rojas Rodríguez, Martí en Fidel, más que un símbolo Granma 27.11.2016


Zwischen Held und Tyrann Frankfurter Rundschau 26.11.2016

Trauer um Fidel Castro Neues Deutschland 26.11.2016

Benedikt Peters, Was Fidel Castros Tod für Kuba bedeutet Süddeutsche Zeitung 26.11.2016

Die wichtigsten Texte zum Tod von Fidel Castro Spiegel 27.11.2016


Fidel, una “persona sobresaliente de la historia mundial” PL/Notamex La Journada 27.11/2016

Teresa Moreno, Rezan en la Catedral por "eterno descanso" de Fidel Castro El Universal 27.11.2016

Vargas Llosa: régimen cubano no sobrevivirá sin Fidel Melenio 27.11.2016


Diez canciones de la Revolución Cubana Público 26.11.2016

España sopesa enviar al rey Juan Carlos a la despedida de Fidel El País 27.11/2016

En directo: líderes políticos de todo el mundo reaccionan a la muerte del histórico líder cubano Público 26.11.2016

Miguel Gonzálex, Las querellas España-Cuba, un “asunto de familia” El País 26.11/2016

United States

Así reacciona el mundo ante la muerte de Fidel Castro
CNN Español 26.11.2016

Glenn Garvin, Fidel Castro is dead Miami Herald 11/26/2016.

Mike Gonzalez, Fidel Castro (1926–2016) Jacobin 11/27/2016

Patricia Grogg, The Cuban Revolution Has Lost Its Founder and Leader Inter Press Service 11/26/2016

Fred Kaplan, When Castro Met Nixon Slate 03/21/2016

Jonathan Levin and Michael Smith, In Miami’s Little Havana, Castro’s Death Sparks Celebration Bloomberg News 11/26/2016

Jorge Luis Macías, En Los Ángeles, los cubanos dan gracias “por la muerte del dictador” La Opinión 26.11.2016

Greg Mitchell, How Castro Drove JFK’s Anti-Media Bias and Press Censorship Huffington Post 11/26/2016


Especial | Fidel Castro: 1926-2016 Últimas Noticias 27.11.2016

Heilet Morales, Fidel Castro: El último revolucionario Panorama 27.11.2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Max Blumenthal on the "Russian propaganda" scare

Max Blumenthal raises some important cautions about the more-than-dubious scare talk we're hearing about Russian manipulation of American public opinion via propaganda disinformation operations, Washington Post Promotes Shadowy Website That Accuses 200 Publications of Being Russian Propaganda Plants Alternet 11/25/2016. He calls attention to the fact that the Washington Post is giving a lot of credibility to what could well be a fake-news generated organization itself:

Called PropOrNot, the blacklisting organization was described by the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” The Washington Post agreed to preserve the anonymity of the group’s director on the grounds that exposure could result in their being targeted by “Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.” The Post failed to explain what methods PropOrNot relied on to conclude that “stories planted or promoted by the Russian disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times." (Timberg also cited a report co-authored by Aaron Weisburg, founder of the one-man anti-Palestinian “Internet Haganah” operation, who has been accused of interfering in federal investigations, stealing the personal information of anarchists, online harassment, and fabricating information to smear his targets.)

Despite the Washington Post’s charitable description of PropOrNot as a group of independent-minded researchers dedicated to protecting the integrity of American democracy, the shadowy group bears many of the qualities of the red enemies it claims to be battling. In addition to its blacklist of Russian dupes, it lists a collection of outlets funded by the U.S. State Department, NATO and assorted tech and weapons companies as “allies.” PropOrNot’s methodology is so shabby it is able to peg widely read outlets like Naked Capitalism, a leading left-wing financial news blog, as Russian propaganda operations.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Did Russian propaganda operations decide the US Presidential election?

Several of my Facebook friends and Twitter users I follow are linking this short column from the Washington Post, Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story 11/25/2016 by Eric Chenoweth of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. He makes a case that Russian fake-news/disinformation/espionage operations were a decisive factor in the outcome of the Presidential election.

A First World War view of the Czarist Russian war dragon

Since much of the claim is based on assumptions about obscure cyberspace operations for which almost all of us not working for the NSA have to rely on secondary and tertiary expert sources or more distant ones, I'm feeling pretty modest about my own ability to make judgments about the story.

Chenoweth (or the editors) evidently found it necessary to put his own declaration of modesty near the end, "Part of the Russian operation’s success is that we cannot measure the effect." Which raises the obvious question: If we have no idea of the effect that even the more plausible examples of possible Russian disinformation operations had on the election, then just why should we be particularly worried about it? But that qualifier comes two paragraphs after he says, "From the Russian perspective, the success of this operation can hardly be overstated." Maybe he means it cannot be overstated because it can't even be measured. But I'm pretty sure that's not the impression the column is leaving.

There's also the problem that Hillary Clinton won significantly more votes than the presumed Electoral College winner and alleged Russian favorite Donald Trump received. So it would seem to be a more obvious conclusion that whatever disinformation mischief Putin's government was up to, it failed to have the desired effect. At least that's a more obvious conclusion than what Chenoweth literally argues, which is that the fact that we CAN'T TELL whether it had any effect at all means the alleged operations were a SUCCESS.

And you don't have to have an OCD streak to click on some of the links included. The link to the claim, "U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government actively interfered in our elections," is to the Homeland Security press release of October 7. That statement was certainly worded to heavily imply that the Russian government was behind the hacks on the Democratic Party. And that may be a perfectly reasonable assumption. But what the Homeland Security statement also says very explicitly is, "Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, WE ARE NOT NOW IN A POSITION TO ATTRIBUTE THIS ACTIVITY TO THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT." (my emphasis) Since it was created during the Cheney-Bush Administration, Homeland Security has never been known for excessive restraint in raising red flags about foreign threats.

Since Chenoweth is asking us to consider the source, it's worth noting that the Washington Post has also been known as Neocon Central for a while and is noted for its editorial enthusiasm for hawkish foreign policy. Chenoweth's Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe is the successor group to the Committee in Support of Solidarity, formed in 1981 to support the Solidarity opposition movement in Poland and for which Chenoweth was also a spokesperson. Such organizations are frequently funded by the US State Department and/or individuals and lobbies interested in promoting hawkish US foreign policies. But WE ARE NOT NOW IN A POSITION TO ATTRIBUTE THIS ACTIVITY TO THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT OR ARMS LOBBYISTS. So by Chenoweth's logic, we've determined that the State Department and war lobbyists ARE behind it. And the very fact that we have no proof at all that such is the case is a measure of the great success of these hidden funders!

There are lots of reasons to disapprove of Putin's government. Since we Americans are Exceptional, we generally don't feel we need any special reason to criticize other countries' governments where, for example, the winner of a Presidential election might not be allowed to take office! That's why all the other countries in the world want to be just like America. After all, as Hillary told the Veterans of Foreign Wars last August, the US is "the greatest country that has ever been created on the face of the earth for all of history.” Also the most modest.

And I don't share the admiration that rightwing populist parties like Marine Le Pen's National Front in France show for Putin's brand of nationalist authoritarianism and promotion of Islamophobia.

But there are also substantial reasons for having recounts and audits of elections in a number of states that have voting procedures and equipment that do not measure up to "best practices," to use the long-since-stale management consultants' term. The possibility of direct interference by the Russian government doesn't strike me as one that needs to be high on the list.

Democrats don't need to worry, though. The way it's already unfolding, the Trump Family Business Administration will have plenty of dubious foreign intrigue going on for us to complain about.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm married to a foreign national, of the Austrian variety. Who knows what strange foreigner ideas she may be insinuating into my head by subliminal recordings or whatever? Also, Austria was OCCUPIED BY THE RUSSIANS for ten years after the Second World War!!!

Here is a useful discussion from Robert Fitrakis for the real reasons we need some recounts and audits, Did Trump Win Through Vote Flipping and Vote Stripping? The Real News 11/26/2016:

Gerald Sussman wrote about the side of "democracy promotion" efforts not typically highlighted in foreign affairs reporting by US corporate media, The Myths of ‘Democracy Assistance’: U.S. Political Intervention in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe Monthly Review 58:7 (Dec 2006)

U.S. interventionism, except perhaps in the Second World War, has shown little respect for democratic principles, yet its foreign policy rhetoric, a backhanded tribute to the sensibilities of ordinary people, is always cast in that light. Whereas the U.S. has relied extensively on providing aid to dictatorial regimes throughout the world (a policy it has yet to abandon), in a communication-intensive world environment, it is now considered more politically legitimate to accomplish its neoliberal ends through the discursive framing of “democracy assistance.” With respect to historic Anglo-American designs on Russia and eastern Europe, nothing much has changed since British foreign secretary Lord Balfour declared in 1918 (the year of the British-French-U.S. military intervention in Russia): “The only thing which interests me in the Caucasus is the railway line which delivers oil from Baku to Batumi. The natives can cut each other to pieces for all I care.”

Beyond the broad geopolitical strategy of controlling the oil reserves that beckon foreign intervention in the states configuring the region of the Caspian Sea to central Asia and asserting permanent military dominion over the area, there is the allure of new frontiers for transnational capitalist penetration. The need for political legitimacy and domination embodied in the benign expression “democracy assistance” is shared by a range of transnational corporate and state interests and their local compradores, which rely on public relations propagandists and electioneering mercenaries in hopes of establishing footholds in the region. Rick Ridder, a political consultant and former president of the International Association of Political Consultants, said in reference to the consulting gold rush in Mexico in preparation for the 2000 elections in that country: “If there’s one thing Americans can teach Mexicans it is this: Democracy is a booming business.” [my emphasis]
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman wrote about this over a week ago, Did the GOP Strip & Flip the 2016 Selection? 11/18/2016. And they did a more recent one, Why the U.S. State Department would not certify Trump’s election as legitimate 11/20/2016.

And how is our Democratic President approaching this problem for the 2016 election results? As President Bipartisanship, of course! Bryan Logan, Obama administration throws cold water on vote recount effort Business Insider 11/25/2016; David Sanger, U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears New York Times 11/25/2016. From Sanger's report:

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

Supporters of Mrs. Clinton have enthusiastically backed the notion of challenging the results in the three states as a last-ditch effort to reverse Mr. Trump’s clear majority in the Electoral College. They have seized on suggestions by some computer scientists that the states, which were crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory, need to manually review paper ballots to ensure the election was not hacked. [my emphasis]
That's some technically admirable diplomatic hedging. "Compromises" could mean hacking. Or maybe not.

How many sides of his own coalition does Obama shaft in that statement? Those who worry about careless accusations about Russian subversion? Check. Clinton supporters both reluctant and hardcore who want to see recounts? Check. Advocates for greater integrity in the voting machine processes, transparency and accountability? Check.

The incoming Trump Family Business Administration? Uh, no. I'm sure they're happy to have the lame-duck Democratic President side with them on this one.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Populism accused of being always anti-democratic

Since the grim Presidential election results, The American Prospect has been running a number of article in the "resistance" mode from people like Adele Stan (Donald Trump’s Calibrated Race and Sex War 11/23/2016), Harold Meyerson (Can Cities Protect Their Immigrants from Trump? 11/17/2016), Derrick Jackson, White Nationalist Bigotry Is the Official Policy of Trump’s White House 11/23/2016, Bob Kuttner, No Common Ground with Trump 11/22/2016 and Paul Waldman, The Greatest Grift of All 11/21/2016.

But Marc Fleurbaey in Why Populism Challenges Democracy from Within 11/25/2016 presents us with an end-of-ideology kind of look at populism, arguing that it always "presents a threat to constitutional democratic procedures and institutions."This is essentially a conservative position, though the corporate-liberal cause also finds such arguments convenient.

He treats populism mostly as rightwing populism. He does note in two sentences, "to be sure, there are some left-wing forms of populism in both continents that claim to be inclusive of the new immigrants rather than exclusionary. But even populists on the left put forward claims as a challenge to the constitutional fabric of representative democracy."

Fleurbaey's column is described there as an excerpt from Inequality as a Challenge to Democracy from the International Panel on Social Progress, although Fleurbaey is not listed at the as an author.

Section 2.6 of is called "Populism: A challenge from within." Fleurbaey is not listed at the Chapter 14 link as one of the authors, though he is cited.

The Prospect column reads like an ideological declaration, an explanation to the committed of what the Correct Line is at the moment on the topic at hand. It reads that way because it doesn't specify any real-world examples of what it's talking about. Not Trump, not the Brexist campaign, not even any historical examples like the Populist Party which can the concept its name.

So when you're just tossing declarations into the void, you can say things like, "Populist movements pushed xenophobic ideologies that opened the door to fascist regimes," without fear of contradiction. Because who know what's referenced, if anything?

So it may or may not be relevant to rise questions based on the historical examples most generally taken to be "fascism." If the governments of Heinrich Brüning and Franz Von Papen that immediately preceded Hitler's Chancellorship in Germany were regarded by anyone as "populist" regimes, it seems to have escaped the attention of every historical or journalistic account of the period I've even come across. They were stone conservative and made no attempt to construe themselves as defenders of the People against the Elite, which the classic populist construction of politics (William Jennings Bryan and the Populist Party, Juan Perón and the Peronist movement in Argentina from 1945 on).

The Spanish Popular Front government elected in 1936 that soon faced the Civil War that eventually brought Francisco Franco to power hardly seems an example of "populism." Unless we define populism so broadly as to include any multiparty coalition government. Which would also pretty much remove any meaningful distinction to the term.

The Chapter 14/Section 2.6 does reference the anti-austerity protests following the 2008 financial crash, like the indignados in Spain and the Occupy movement, as examples of popular protest movements. But it seemingly views them as non-populist.

And it cites Fidesz party of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and the Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Poland of the4 Kaczyński brothers as populist examples. And those two are generally regarded today as rightwing populist parties. But he cites them only in passing.

Apart from the lack of actual analysis presented in both Fleurbaey's and Chapter 14/Section 2.6, assuming that populism is inherently anti-democracy leaves a large swath of political opinions and attitudes to be exploited by the rightwing without the kind of effective competition that left populism can provide.

Foreign Affairs devoted several articles to populism in its Nov/Dec 2016 issue, including "France’s Next Revolution? A Conversation With Marine Le Pen." Le Pen is leader of the rightwing populist French National Front and is currently expected to be one of the two leading candiates in next spring French Presidential election. She frames her positions here this way: "In many countries, there is this current of being attached to the nation and rejecting untamed globalization, which is seen as a form of totalitarianism. It’s being imposed at all costs, a war against everybody for the benefit of a few."

The "everybody for the benefit of a few" is a typical populist formulation.

The National Front has pulled a significant number of voters from left parties, including the Communist Party, though it clearly emphasizes rightwing political positions. This comment from her presents a formulation that could resonate with both left and right voters:

So I would note that Clinton supports TTIP [the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership]. Trump opposes it. I oppose it as well. I would also note that Clinton is a bringer of war in the world, leaving behind her Iraq, Libya, and Syria. This has had extremely destabilizing consequences for my country in terms of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the enormous waves of migration now overwhelming the European Union. Trump wants the United States to return to its natural state. Clinton pushes for the extraterritorial application of American law, which is an unacceptable weapon for people who wish to remain independent. All of this tells me that between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it’s Donald Trump’s policies that are more favorable to France’s interests right now.
She also makes a number of criticisms of the EU that could be the same. She's explicitly in favor of French exit from the EU, "What I want is a concerted exit from the European Union." That is mostly a conservative position, with anyone on the left generally favored remaining in the EU but drastically reforming it. But that's not universally true. And as the euro continues to be a major drag on economic activity, that position will seem to more and more people like the only practical solution. The Five Star Movement is more a left populist party with substantial public support, and they are for Italy leaving the EU.

But Le Pen's scoffing at the notion that the EU has helped preserve peace in Europe gives more of a rightwing nationalist signal to her voters:

Because it’s not the European Union that has kept the peace; it’s the peace that has made the European Union possible. This argument has been rehashed repeatedly, and it makes no sense. Regardless, the peace hasn’t been perfect in the European Union, with Kosovo and Ukraine at its doorstep. It’s not so simple.

In fact, the European Union has progressively transformed itself into a sort of European Soviet Union that decides everything, that imposes its views, that shuts down the democratic process.
But here she shows the xenophobic core of the National Front's historical and current appeal. And it shows the kind of mixture of signals in which some could appeal to left or center-left voters, others give a rightwing-nationalist twist, and some plain misinformation.

In reality, the euro is a currency created by Germany, for Germany. It’s a suit that fits only Germany. Gradually, [Chancellor Angela] Merkel sensed that she was the leader of the European Union.
A blurring of the true and false. The euro has primarily benefited Germany. But only proportionately, compared to other eurozone members. Le Pen could read that in Joe Stiglitz' new book, which she cites specifically in this interview, The Europe: How A Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe (2016). But she's very right about Merkel's dominant leadership role in the EU, very much enabled by the existence of the euro currency as it's

But here she makes the pivot the xenophobia and narrow nationalism:

She imposed her views. She imposed them in economic matters, but she also imposed them by agreeing to welcome one million migrants to Germany, knowing very well that Germany would sort them out [i.e., distribute them to other countries]. It would keep the best and let the rest go to other countries in the European Union.
This is a bait-and-switch routine, sucker populism. She makes popular and valid points, like fear of globalization and references what known as the democratic deficit in the EU. But then she interprets it all in terms of old-fashioned anti-German nationalism, and focuses her criticism on the hot-points of anti-immigrant hatred. She continues directly:

There are no longer any internal borders between our countries, which is absolutely unacceptable. The model imposed by Merkel surely works for Germans, but it is killing Germany’s neighbors. I am the anti-Merkel.
She also uses a Trumpian equation of terrorism with Muslims and indulges in sweeping Islamophobia:

How can France protect itself from terrorist attacks like the one in Nice in July?

So far, it has done absolutely nothing. It has to stop the arrival of migrants, whom we know terrorists infiltrate. It has to put an end to birthright citizenship, the automatic acquisition of French nationality with no other criteria that created French like [Amedy] Coulibaly and [Chérif and Saïd] Kouachi [the terrorists behind the Paris attacks of January 2015], who had long histories of delinquency and were hostile toward France. This isn’t the case for everyone; I’m not generalizing. But it’s a good way to have a surveillance mechanism. We need to revoke citizenship from dual nationals who have any kind of link to terrorist organizations.

We especially need to combat the development of Islamic fundamentalism on our territory. For electoral reasons, French politicians rolled out the red carpet for Islamic fundamentalism, which has developed in mosques and so-called cultural centers financed not only by France but also by countries that support Islamic fundamentalism. We also have to regain the mastery of our borders, because I can’t see how we can combat terrorism while having open borders. [my emphasis in italics]
Terrorism=Muslims=foreigners="the few" in this sentence quoted above, "It’s being imposed at all costs, a war against everybody for the benefit of a few." Identifying the It as globalization, which she then identifies with the more personified and familiar figure of the Evil Foreigners.

And this is the same kind of language we hear from the American versions of the Authoritarian International. The gubment is doing absolutely nothing. Birthright citizenship! The politicians rolled out the red carpet for Islamic fundamentalism. The so-called cultural centers. The foreigners are criminals so we need surveillance on them all. We've lost the mastery of our borders.

She complains about "open borders," the most publicly popular feature of EU membership. She even gets in a dig at the bad values of "tAnglo-Saxons" and their multicultural ideas.

Marine Le Pen's interview provides a great example of the distinction between rightwing and leftwing populism, a distinction that Marc Fleurbaey int he pieces linked above doesn't acknowledge. I quoted this essay by John Judis a few days ago,All The Rage New Republic 09/19/2016:

The central feature of all these [historical] populist campaigns has been the attempt to champion “the people” against an elite or establishment. ...

But there is another element of populism that is less understood, one that divides the tradition into two distinct political strains. In the left-wing strain, epitomized by Long, Perot, Occupy Wall Street, and Sanders, populists champion the people against the elites. In the right-wing strain, it’s also the people versus the elites — but the elites are attacked for coddling and subsidizing a third “out group,” such as African Americans (Wallace) or immigrants who have entered the country illegally (Buchanan, the Tea Party, and Trump). [my emphasis]

Obama's Legacy: The political loss in November and Obama's lame-duck leadership

Cenk Uygur gives a progressive-Democratic perspective on Obama's immediate political legacy and more specifically his policy preferences that he's showing in the lame-duck period of his last weeks in office, Why I'm Mad at Obama 11/25/2016:

I can't compete with Cenk's dramatic presentation style, in print or otherwise. But I'm on board with what he says here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Jerry Brown's Official Thanksgiving Proclamation

This is the main text of Gov. Jerry Brown's Thanksgiving Proclamation for 2016:

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a celebration of the harvest that brought together the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation and the Native Americans who helped them adapt to their new environment. Over the years Thanksgiving became an American tradition and one of the first holidays we celebrated as a free and independent nation. In 1789, George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving observance in the newly formed United States of America, writing that "it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor."

Thanksgiving has continued to be one of our most cherished observances, a day to join with family and friends and feast on traditional delicacies from roasted turkey to pumpkin pie, and commemorate the joining of the Old World and the New that brought about that First Thanksgiving long ago.

It is most fitting that we set aside a special day for gratitude. As Americans, we have every reason to give thanks for the wonderful bounty of our land, the strength of our fellow citizens and our system of government that protects our basic freedoms.
He has used the same Thanksgiving Proclamation language each year since 2011.

But it's not that Jerry has a Pollyanish view of the history of the Native Americans and the late-coming immigrants from Europe. From his Proclamation of Native American Day of 09/23/2016:

California has been home to human beings for more than 12,000 years, with the presence of European-Americans representing only a tiny fraction of this time. The first Europeans to arrive in California encountered hundreds of thousands of people organized into hundreds of distinct tribal groups. They flourished in the bountiful hills and valleys of what someday would be called California.

The contact between these first Californians and successive waves of newcomers over the three succeeding centuries was marked by the utter devastation of the native peoples, their families and entire way of life. The colonial regimes of Spain and Mexico through disease and enforced servitude cut the indigenous population by more than half. Then the Gold Rush came, and with it, a wave of new diseases and wanton violence which reduced the Native population again, this time by more than 80 percent. The newborn State of California actually paid for the killing of Native peoples and tolerated or encouraged policies of warfare, slavery and relocation that left no tribe intact. In his 1851 address to the Legislature, our first Governor, Peter Burnett, famously stated, “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected.”

In spite of Burnett’s prediction, California today is home to the largest population of Native Americans in the fifty states, including both the rebounding numbers of our native tribes and others drawn to the Golden State by its myriad opportunities. The success of tribal businesses and the presence today of tribal members in all walks of life stand as testament to the resilience and indomitable spirit of native peoples. If Governor Burnett could not envision a future California that included Native Americans, it is just as impossible for us today to envision one without them.
He signed legislation in 2014 establishing "Native American Day" as a state holiday in California. This year's Proclamation was the same as in 2014 and 2015. In previous years starting with his first year as Governor (for the second time in his career) in 2011, he also proclaimed the Columbus Day holiday as "Native American Day." He's used the same Proclamation language each year except 2011:

WHEREAS, Native Americans were the first human inhabitants of the land that is now the State of California, and have lived here continuously for at least 12,000 years;

WHEREAS, Native American traditions of stewardship and conservation have shaped and preserved the landscapes of our state and continent;

WHEREAS, the songs, dances, arts, and crafts of Native Americans are among the world’s great cultural treasures;

WHEREAS, Native American traditions were influential in the formation of American democracy;

WHEREAS, Native Americans have preserved their distinct cultural traditions in the face of overwhelming odds and persistent injustice;

WHEREAS, in spite of this tragic history, Native Americans have been generous citizens of the United States, serving our country in peace and war;

WHEREAS, California today has more Native Americans living within its borders than any other state;

NOW THEREFORE I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim September 22, 2011, as “Native American Day.”

Privatization and the emerging Trump Administration

"Privatization on every front looks to be the order of the day in the Trump administration." - Josh Marshall, Must Reads on the Coming Privatization of Everything TPM 11/23/2016

Privatization is a key part of the neoliberal gospel, as Wendy Brown describes it from a critical perspective in Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (2015):

Neoliberalism is most commonly understood as enacting an ensemble of economic policies in accord with its root principle of affirming free markets. These include deregulation of industries and capital flows; radical reduction in welfare state provisions and protections for the vulnerable; privatized and outsourced public goods, ranging from education, parks, postal services, roads, and social welfare to prisons and militaries; replacement of progressive with regressive tax and tariff schemes; the end of wealth redistribution as an economic or social-political policy; the conversion of every human need or desire into a profitable enterprise, from college admissions preparation to human organ transplants, from baby adoptions to pollution rights, from avoiding lines to securing legroom on an airplane; and, most recently, the financialization of everything and the increasing dominance of finance capital over productive capital in the dynamics of the economy and everyday life. [my emphasis]
The must-reads to which the title of Josh's article refers include these three TPM articles, undated but apparently recent (accessed 11/23/2016):

A wonky piece from 28 years is by Paul Starr, The Meaning of Privatization Yale Law and Policy Review 6:1988

Colin Crouch in The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism (2011) gives this background on why privatization looks so interesting to the One Percent:

... contracts to provide services, demand for which is completely guaranteed for several years by government, give firms a highly attractive sellers' market. At a time when markets in general are becoming increasingly competitive on a global basis, public contracts have major attractions for firms. This also explains the strong pressure being exerted by representatives of private business on governments and international organizations to encourage privatization of public services. This has been so successful that the European Union (EU) and the World Bank, among other international institutions, now try to insist that governments must open their public services to private profitmaking providers.

British governments responded enthusiastically to this by establishing public-private partnerships (PPPs), known in the UK as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). An important motive of a government for doing this has been to fund building projects that it regards as important, such as new schools and hospitals, without distorting its budget by raising taxes or increasing government borrowing. The private sector finances the project, and therefore owns the facilities. In theory, the firm also takes over the risks involved in handling the capital, though in the UK following the financial crisis of 2008-9 government had to underwrite the financial risks of its PFI contracts, so anxious was it that, otherwise, firms would lose interest in PFI deals. ('Please, accept us as your customers!') [my emphasis]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

French Politics leading up to the 2017 Presidential race and rightwing populism

France is now in the process of their Presidential election, the final round of which will come in the spring of 2016.

The conservative, Gaullist party is now called the Republican Party. Last Sunday, former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy came in third in the Republican primary. There will be a runoff on November 27 with François Fillon, who got the largest plurality on Sunday, and Alain Juppé. Juppé is thought to be more moderate than Fillon, who once served as Sarkozy's Prime Minister and who seems to be a real piece of work (Sarkozy defeated in primary for French right's presidential candidate Guaradian 11/20/2016):

Fillon has called for a rapprochement with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Syria. After the US election, he welcomed a new alliance between Putin and Trump. Asked early in the campaign whether France should cooperate with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to fight Islamic State, he said France should unite with all possible forces, “democratic or not”. He told the website Atlantico in October: “De Gaulle, Churchill, Roosevelt allied with Stalin to defeat nazism.”

Fillon said the French people “wanted authority” and his was a “powerful project” to reform France.
Now, I'm not on board with the New Cold War talk. But viewing the Islamic State as analogous to Hitler is the kind of comparison that encourages the worst kind of threat inflation. Hitler was the head of the militarily most powerful state in the world at that time. He could not be appeased ("appeasement" before 1938 just referring to concessions in a negotiation), he could not be contained and he was bent of military aggression. The Islamic State is a Sunni terrorist group heavily funded by Saudi Arabia and hardly qualifies as a "state" at all, even though that's what it calls itself.

I can't say I'm thrilled at the strong possibility that a new French President eager to find New Hitlers to fight might be taking office next year.

The main contender against the Republican candidate is expected to be Marine Le Pen, head of the French Deplorable Party, more formally known as the National Front.

The current Socialist President François Hollande is currently held to be a sure loser, who likely won't make in into the final round of next year's Presidential vote. Leaving the final choice for French President as one between the Republicans committed to Angela Merkel's stone-conservative Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning economics and Le Pen and her Deplorables.

Hollande is one in a growing set of Socialist leaders who managed to blur the distinctions of his party's positions to the point that they are scarcely discernible any more compared to the conservatives. Pro-EU reformers who wanted to see a change in eurozone economic policy to one that made macroeconmic sense were heartened in 2102 when Hollande was elected on a platform of opposing the Fiscal Compact, and disastrously bad proposal of Merkel's that would effectively ban any economic policy that actually did make any macroeconmic sense from being used by the eurozone. It's formal name is the European Stability and Growth Pact. But Fiscal Suicide Pact would be a much more descriptive name. (See my Irish referendum today (Thursday) on eurozone fiscal suicide pact 05/31/206 for more on that misbegotten agreement.)

Hollande had promised to force Merkel to renegotiate the Fiscal Suicide Pact if elected. But once in office, he capitulated completely on the agreement, which he endorsed and Parliament ratified. In accord with neoliberal/Merkel/Brüning economic policies including the Fiscal Suicide Pact, he supported Merkel and the Troika in their brutal economic retaliation against Greece in 2015 for the offense of electing a government of which Frau Merkel did not approve. And Hollande has spent much of 2016 pushing for reducing the protections of current labor laws, provoking huge protests by, well, members of the Socialists' labor base.

Gosh, I wonder if that has something to do with his poor standing in the polls?

The Inside Story episode reports on the politics in France; although it's dated 11/20/2106, it was clearly recorded before Sunday's election results were called, Who can stand up to the National Front? Al Jazeera English 11/20/2016:

This is part of the problem Jürgen Habermas addresses in his interview, , Für eine demokratische Polarisierung Blätter 11:2016/For A Democratic Polarisation: How To Pull The Ground From Under Right-Wing Populism Social Europe 11/17/2016:

The economic globalisation that Washington introduced in the 1970s with its neoliberal agenda has brought in its wake, measured globally against China and the other emergent BRIC countries, a relative decline of the West. Our societies must work through domestically the awareness of this global decline together with the technology-induced, explosive growth in the complexity of everyday living. Nationalistic reactions are gaining ground in those social milieus that have either never or inadequately benefited from the prosperity gains of the big economies because the ever-promised “trickle-down effect” failed to materialise over the decades. ...

Since Clinton, Blair and Schröder social democrats have swung over to the prevailing neoliberal line in economic policies because that was or seemed to be promising in the political sense: in the “battle for the middle ground” these political parties thought they could win majorities only by adopting the neoliberal course of action. This meant taking on board toleration of long-standing and growing social inequalities. Meantime, this price – the economic and socio-cultural “hanging out to dry” of ever-greater parts of the populace – has clearly risen so high that the reaction to it has gone over to the right. And where else? If there is no credible and pro-active perspective, then protest simply retreats into expressivist, irrational forms. ...

In my estimate, domestic politicians mishandled right-wing populism from the start. The mistake of the established parties lies in acknowledging the battlefront that right-wing populism is defining: “We” up against the system. Here it matters hardly a jot whether this mistake takes the form of an assimilation to or a confrontation with “right-wing”. Take either the strident would-be French president Nicolas Sarkozy who is outbidding Marine Le Pen with his demands, or the example of the sober-minded German justice minister Heiko Maas who forcefully takes on Alexander Gauland in debate – they both make the opponent stronger. Both take him/her seriously and raise his/her profile. A year on we here in Germany all know the studiously ironic grin of Frauke Petry (AfD leader) and the demeanour of the rest of the leadership of her ghastly gang. It’s only by ignoring their interventions that one can cut the ground from under the feet of the right-wing populists.
I would dissent from Habermas' description there about the problem in dealing with the populist right for the left-center parties has been "acknowledging the battlefront that right-wing populism is defining: 'We' up against the system."

The basic political construction of populism is the People vs. the Elite. How the narrative is formed around which the popular coalition is formed against the Elite matters a lot. Occupy Wall Street was identified with the oligarchic One Percent. Which really does exist. And really does act in collective ways to push governmental policies that further enrich themselves at the expense of the well-being of the broader public, the Ninety-Nine Percent in the Occupy construction. John Judis points out a very important distinction between the right and left varieties (All The Rage New Republic 09/19/2016):

The central feature of all these [historical] populist campaigns has been the attempt to champion “the people” against an elite or establishment. But how the people and the elite are defined has changed with the campaigns. The People’s Party represented “the plain people” against the “plutocracy,” Huey Long the “poor man” against the “money power,” Wallace “the man in the street” against “big government,” Trump the “silent majority” against the “special interests,” and Sanders “we the people” against the “billionaire class.”

But there is another element of populism that is less understood, one that divides the tradition into two distinct political strains. In the left-wing strain, epitomized by Long, Perot, Occupy Wall Street, and Sanders, populists champion the people against the elites. In the right-wing strain, it’s also the people versus the elites — but the elites are attacked for coddling and subsidizing a third “out group,” such as African Americans (Wallace) or immigrants who have entered the country illegally (Buchanan, the Tea Party, and Trump). [my emphasis]
The latter variety can be usefully characterized as "sucker populism." (See: Jim Hightower, Don't Be a Sucker—Donald Trump Does Not Have a Populist Bone in His Body Alternet 09/21/2016.)

But maybe Habermas is just using a overly-broad characterization there. Because the more specific point he's making there is that centrist parties are making a serious mistake in trying to outdo the rightwing populists in pandering to fear and hatred of those third party out-groups that Judis references. We certainly see that mistake in France, which Habermas cites. (See: Philippe Marlière, French politicians are now marching to Marine Le Pen’s immigration tune Guardian 11/19/2016)

Habermas is right about the direction the solution has to take. In Europe, the pro-EU but anti-austerity voters need parties with a clear pro-EU but anti-austerity position. The social-democratic parties for years and years now have been offering only a vaguely different variation on the conservative assumption of TINA: There Is No Alternative to Hoover/Brüning economics:

... the political scene is predominantly grey on grey, where, for example, the left-wing pro-globalisation agenda of giving a political shape to a global society growing together economically and digitally can no longer be distinguished from the neoliberal agenda of political abdication to the blackmailing power of the banks and of the unregulated markets.

One would therefore have to make contrasting political programmes recognisable again, including the contrast between the – in a political and cultural sense – “liberal” open-mindedness of the left, and the nativist fug of right-wing critiques of an unfettered economic globalization. In a word: political polarisation should be re-crystallised between the established parties on substantive conflicts. Parties that grant right-wing populists attention rather than contempt should not expect civil society to disdain right-wing phrases and violence. Therefore, I regard as the greater danger a very different polarisation towards which the hard-core opposition within the CDU is moving when it casts a leery eye on the post-Merkel period. In Alexander Gauland it recognises anew the pivotal figure of the Dregger wing of the old Hesse CDU, or flesh of its own flesh, and toys with the idea of winning back lost voters by way of a coalition with the AfD. [my emphasis]