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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 40 min 7 sec ago
The Los Angeles Times, which has published my editorial cartoons about Los Angeles and California since 2009, has fired me. The reason: the LAPD supplied them with “evidence” they say proves I lied when I wrote in May that the LAPD falsely charged me with jaywalking and treated me roughly and rudely in 2001. Listen to the audiotaped “evidence” — mostly unintelligible garbage — and read my detailed reply to this disgusting example of journalistic cowardice in the face of a violent and corrupt police department willing to lie to protect itself here, at ANewDomain.net.
Added at 8:08 EDT: Here’s a collection of videos that proves that handcuffing alleged jaywalkers isn’t unusual in LA, and may in fact by standard procedure.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Despite regulations that make weaponized drones illegal for private citizens, videos are popping up on YouTube showing that individuals can fire guns strapped to private drones by remote control. Lovely, isn’t it?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
The nuclear deal with Iran is a good thing. President Obama deserves credit for initiating the dialogue and for negotiations that led to terms to which both sides can agree. As Winston Churchill said but too few Americans believe:
“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
So why are there still so many high-profile opponents to this agreement, which provides for an inspections regime to enforce Iran’s promise not to develop a nuclear weapons program in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic?
According to the vast majority of writers and broadcasters working for corporate media, the opposition is ideological.
Saudi Arabia, they say, is afraid that Shiite Iran will violate the agreement in order to become the second nuclear state in the Middle East, after Israel, and might threaten to use it against them or one of their Sunni allies. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel, by this way of thinking, are also worried that Iran might increase its support of terrorist organizations as its economy improves.
Since President Obama has promised to veto any attempt by the Republican-led Congress to derail the agreement, and it would be difficult for the GOP to muster the two thirds majority necessary to override the president’s veto, resistance is pretty much pro forma.
According to the Republicans, they’re not afraid of peace or jonesing for war against Iran – they just don’t think there’s any way to prevent the Iranians from cheating the inspectors, and in an echo of the classic complaint that a restaurant has terrible food and such small portions, the inspections don’t go far enough into the future.
The media has been playing his usual role as government transcriber, taking GOP officials at their word.
Even Obama has paid lipservice to these concerns, expressing his own complaints about Iran’s “threats” against Israel in his speech announcing the deal.
In fact, the much-ballyhooed statement by former Iranian President Ahmadinejad about wanting to “wipe Israel off the map” has been debunked. He never said that.)
The truth is, opposition to Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has a lot more to do with business than ideology.
Iran has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world. After all the sanctions are lifted, energy analysts believe that there will be a significant price drop for a barrel of crude worldwide. “The thinks Iran can get back to producing 4 million barrels of oil per day — the level it was at in 2008 — by the end of this decade. Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh wants Iran to resume its spot as the world’s No. 2 oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia (a spot currently occupied by Russia). But that’s far from assured, and there could easily be hiccups on the way,” reports Vox.
Oil prices have already been declining. This is been terrible news for Saudi Arabia, the world number-one oil producer, currently responsible for about 10 million barrels per day of production. “A potential return of Iranian oil to the market could not have come at a worse time,” Barclays commodities analyst Michael Cohen says. “An increase in Iranian exports beyond 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day would be difficult for the market to absorb.” Goldman Sachs agrees. So do commodities markets, which pushed oil futures lower when news of the Iran deal broke.
The only terrorism that the Saudi royal family cares about is a 9/11-style attack on their numbered Swiss bank accounts, which they fear might be the effect of all that new Iranian oil coming online. (Anyway, Saudi Arabia is probably in a better position than just about any other country to put a dent in terrorism if it ever felt like it, since it funds radical Wahhabi-inspired madrasahs and insurgent groups throughout Asia and Africa.)
Here in the United States, opposition to allowing Iran to enjoy full trading relations and diplomatic links with the global community is centered around right-wing Republicans in the House and Senate. As with the Saudis, the real reason that they’re against this deal is that it represents a clear and present danger to big oil.
87% of donations by oil and gas companies and 95% of those from the coal industry to members of Congress go to Republicans. The Republican Party is owned lock, stock and barrel by energy conglomerates, which stand to see their profits shrink as oil prices drop in response to the increasing global production anticipated by the revival of Iran’s oil sector.
So the next time you watch talking heads go on and on about the fear that the crazy mullahs of Tehran want to fire an ICBM into Tel Aviv, remember that this rhetoric has a lot less to do with worrying about terrorism or the safety of Israel, and everything to do with oil company profits.
American conservatives are staring down the barrel of a future that looks increasingly bleak for them due to two major demographic shifts: the country is becoming more ethnically diverse, and younger voters – Generation Xers, Millennials, and presumably whoever comes next – are left cold or even repelled by the Republican Party’s Christian evangelical base and “social issues,” i.e. its obsession over who everyone has sex with. Anticipating their imminent irrelevance, some on the right say it’s time to reboot conservatism by bringing it more in line with the increasingly tolerant tone of most Americans on social issues, and by addressing their economic concerns.
One rightist getting attention these days is Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank. He’s out pimping a new book, “The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America,” which “shares his insights as to how conservatives can reach skeptical voters, smash stereotypes about conservatives and recast the political playing field,” according to The Washington Post.
It’s an interesting read. So are Brooks’ interviews to promote it. But the reason it’s interesting probably wouldn’t please him; what makes the current “conservative reform movement” worth knowing about is that it reaches the very heights of the human capacity for self-delusion.
At its core, conservatism is an ideology dedicated to the status quo. As such, it reflexively resists suggestions that the system is less than perfect, that things could be better, that the leadership caste isn’t deserving, or that there is inherent unfairness or injustice in the current state of affairs. The main thing about conservatism is, it doesn’t have a heart. To conservatives, and I know many of them, fail succeed ought to blame themselves – too lazy, too dumb – rather than structural impediments like racism or endemic poverty.
Parenthetically, the one point even my smartest conservative friends and acquaintances can’t refute is inheritance – how can capitalism be fair if Donald Trump starts his life worth millions, and you were an abandoned crack baby?
Conservatives trying to make their message more palatable to the country furious about the depredations of the top 1%, who have stolen 99% of national income in recent years, are faced with a set of options, none of which are likely to get them where they want to be, beloved by the electorate.
They can continue to defend big business and its prerogatives, and spin that policy with their traditional “a rising tide lifts all boats” meme. The problem there is, no one believes in trickle-down anymore.
Alternatively, they can embrace a new set of priorities and policies, which put ordinary American workers first. No more NAFTAs, no outsourcing, higher wages, protect the ability to unionize. But then, you’re not really conservative anymore. Even worse, you’ve abandoned your base of support, big business, in order to court a new constituency that will never trust you as much as liberals and progressives.
Boiled down to its essentials, the argument of would-be conservative reformers like Brooks is that it sure would be swell if capitalism could be made fairer. But the thing about capitalism is that unfairness isn’t an unfortunate side effect of this particular economic system. It’s a core feature.
Capitalism without unfairness and built-in inequality isn’t capitalism; it’s socialism. You don’t have to be Karl Marx to have been able to personally observe the tendency of power and money to aggregate into fewer and fewer hands over time, what we call monopolization, and to leverage those advantages in order to gather an even greater share.
Brooks tries to obscure this in an interview with the Dianne Rehm show on NPR. “About 2% of the American public considers income inequality, per se, to be the biggest economic problem that we have in America,” Brooks said. “Everybody believes, including President Obama because we have discussed this, believes that opportunity inequality is a real crisis. So what I would recommend to Democratic office holders and aspirants to higher offices that they pivot from their emphasis on income inequality, which is about a 2% issue, to an opportunity inequality, which is about 100% issue and then we can have a realistic competition of ideas between right and left on how to increase opportunity and mobility in America.”
On this point, I think most people can agree with Brooks: the core of the problem is a lack of class mobility. At this point in US history, it’s harder for someone born poor to get ahead and break into the middle class or upper class than it is in Europe, a continent that many of our grandparents and great-great-grandparents fled due to lack of opportunity.
So how do conservative reformers propose to give the chance to get ahead to everyone?
Brooks: “And the answer is not just the redistribution of income, although that has to happen, such that we can have goods and services for the poor. The answer is for — to find better policies so people can earn their success through education reform, through serious cultural conversations about the predicates of success.”
I give Brooks credit: he admits that “redistribution of income…has to happen.” That is for damn sure.
Education reform? No, that’s never going to do it. Nor will right-wingers agree to the federalization of education that would be necessary to ensure that a kid in Compton went to a school as good as one in Bel Air.
Cultural conversations? Don’t make me laugh.
Redistribution of income. And wealth. That’s the ticket to solving income inequality. When the time comes, however, I’m going to trust my local Communists – who have been pushing for and thinking about it forever – a hell of a lot more than the reform conservatives who think Ronald Reagan, who trashed the social safety net, was some kind of hero.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 18th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
This is not what democracy looks like.
In January, Greek voters stunned Western political analysts by electing Alexis Tsipras of the self-proclaimed socialist Syriza party as prime minister in what was, by all accounts, a cri de coeur, as close to a primal scream as one can deliver via a voting booth: Enough! Enough austerity! Enough budget cuts! Enough hopelessness!
Syriza ran on a clear platform: No more kowtowing to Germany and the European Union. No more savaging of the social safety net.
Even if that meant leaving the Eurozone and reverting to the drachma, even if that meant currency devaluation and even more misery in the short run, Greeks said, they were willing to endure those sufferings to avoid more of the same: 25 percent unemployment, the sight of graduate students and once-elegant women scavenging food from wastebins.
Just over a week ago, Tsipras asked Greeks for a “No” vote on a referendum he called: No on austerity. No to debt slavery, euro-style. No. More. They gave him that vote, decisively.
But now here we are, watching Tsipras engaged in one of the most extreme sellouts of the modern political era.
Neil Irwin of The New York Times’ The Upshot writes:
In exchange for a cash lifeline, the country has agreed to much greater concessions than those that were under discussion a few weeks ago. Among them: higher taxes, cuts to government pensions and a sell-off of $55 billion worth of state assets in order to recapitalize banks and make debt payments. That last strategy is a little like a family selling off its furniture to make its mortgage payment; you can do it, but it does not exactly amount to a long-term solution.”
Details of the new loan terms still have to be negotiated, but the basics are clear: Things will get worse for Greeks — much worse than they are now. And that’s really, really bad — comparable to the grisly state of the U.S. at the peak of the Great Depression — all as the result of Tsipras’ sellout.
Reports USA Today:
One proposal floated in Brussels would require Greece to place $56 billion of state assets in an off-shore trust for liquidation, a huge sum that equals the value of every single thing the government owns … “
“I thought it couldn’t get worse, but the last week seems like it was designed specifically to humiliate my country. We are not without blame, but it seems as if nobody wants to reach an agreement with us. They want to embarrass us and punish us. When will it end?” asked Maria Scafidi, 29, a Greek tour guide.
This is what the seeds of revolution look like.
“By Wednesday, the country must promise to broaden its tax base to increase collections and reform its pension program, including raising the retirement age,” reports The Politico.
What is the point, from the standpoint of Greek voters, of electoral democracy, if elected “representatives” are elected with clear messages, reinforced by clear mandates delivered via referenda, who then ignore those popular directives when they feel squeezed by the so-called “great powers” in distant, fancy conference rooms?
If a national desire as clear-cut as that delivered by the Greek public — No. More. Austerity! — can be shrugged off just like that, it becomes clear that there is only one route left to effect real change: violence, revolution, violent revolution (which are one and the same).
No one knows what comes next.
But I know what’s unlikely: Greeks bending over and taking it. Google the phrase “Greece revolution” and you get more dates than you know what to choose from. The German-led European push for even worse austerity, the further gutting of pensions and seizing the nation’s public assets, including its municipal parks, would push even a nation of stoner losers to riot.
This being Greece, already past the breaking point, the safe bet is that nothing is safe.
“I’m relieved that Greece remains in the eurozone, but I still find the terms of the agreement offensive and full of the arrogance the rich and successful often have towards their poorer relations,” Pierre Haski of the French website Rue89 said after the deal was announced.
This is worse than arrogance. It’s hubris.
Not for the first time, the Germans have gone too far.
Not for the first time, their victims will pay first.
The Pentagon has announced that the military will now be open to transgendered soldiers and sailors. At first glance, it seems like a healthy development to allow everyone who wants to join the killing forces for the Empire to be able to do so. On the other hand, if you were a trans person, why would you fight to defend a society that has so little regard for you back at home?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Of all the problems faced by political candidates in the modern age, a failure to communicate ought not be one.
Candidates have a vast and sophisticated arsenal of tools available to help them massage their messages to maximize appeal. These include armies of advertising and marketing professionals who deploy scientifically conducted focus groups and data analysis. These pros conduct polls which — despite the maxim “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day” — are incredibly sophisticated and almost always accurate.
Political PR costs big money, more than most individuals possess. But on the national level that’s not a problem, thanks to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.
So why is it that so many seasoned politicians, including those with the biggest campaign warchests and personal fortunes, have so much trouble connecting with American voters?
Whatever happened to the good ones?Where Did All the Good Speechwriters Go?
Let’s take a look at three 2016 presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They’re all doing OK but could be substantially better if only they had smarter messaging.
By all accounts, Secretary Clinton is likeable one on one. She’s funny, sharp and self-deprecating. But get her on a podium or in a TV interview and she comes across as entitled, self-absorbed and evasive. The more she talks, the less people like her. And her poll numbers drop accordingly.
This same problem sunk her 2008 campaign.
Republican strategists plan to drive a truck through this gaping vulnerability. The New York Times describes a focus group’s reaction to a TV attack ad by the right-wing superPAC American Crossroads. It opens with the former First Lady “looking well-coiffed and aristocratic, toasting champagne with her tuxedoed husband.”
“The ad then cut to Mrs. Clinton describing being “dead broke” when she and her husband left the White House, before a narrator intones that Mrs. Clinton makes more money in a single speech, about $300,000, than an average family earns in five years.”
“She’s out of touch,” a female laundry attendant tells the focus group organizers. Says another participant:”Her reality is just so different than mine.”The Hillary-Is-Too-Rich Attack
The too-rich attack is a standard political strategy. The same sort of attack was also used against FDR and JFK. But it didn’t work against them, even though they were wealthier than the Clintons.
That’s because Roosevelt and Kennedy didn’t run away from the obvious truth that yes, they did live in a different reality than most Americans. They owned it.
Roosevelt and Kennedy also aggressively promoted policies — the New Deal and anti-poverty programs — that conveyed to the public they cared about average folks. On the other hand, the too-rich-to-get-me attack was nearly effective against President George H.W. Bush in 1992 because his policies were aloof and uncaring. In the midst of a grinding, seemingly endless recession that caused a spike in long-term unemployment, Bush proposed exactly nothing to help its victims.
Just wait for the markets to improve, he urged. That’s a lot easier to do when you’re rich like Bush.
Hillary hasn’t responded effectively, or really much at all, to the GOP’s framing of her as a coldhearted, clueless bitch.What Hillary Ought To Say
What she ought to say is something like this:
Look, that was a dumb thing to say. I’m a politician; my job is to talk all day. The more you talk, the more chances you have to say something stupid, and that ‘dead broke’ thing is an example. Obviously, Bill and I are rich — spectacularly rich. We like to think that the money we earn from those speeches isn’t all for us; we give most of it to our foundation, which is working around the clock to help the poor here in the United States and around the world. But also, obviously, we live extremely well. Sometimes, Bill looks around at our fabulous house, with a private staff and beautiful furniture, and says he still can’t believe that he gets to live like that, considering he grew up so poor, in a trailer in Arkansas. Like the Talking Heads song, ‘This is not my beautiful house!’ So yes, we’re rich. And frankly, we don’t think it’s fair that we get to live like that while so many Americans, who work so hard, are suffering so terribly. We’re willing to give up some of what we’ve got, to contribute our fair share, to reduce that growing disparity between rich and poor, that threatens to tear America and its economy apart at the seams. We know that a lot of other well-off Americans are willing to pay their fair share, to help lift us all up. That’s what my campaign is about.
Hillary’s other big albatross is the widespread perception among the Democratic Party’s progressive base that she is not one of them.
Why? Her vote with Bush to invade Iraq in 2003, her and her husband’s endorsement of numerous “free trade” agreements beginning with NAFTA in 1994, her seat on the board of Walmart, her vote for the Patriot Act, and statements siding with the NSA rather than Edward Snowden and other privacy-rights advocates. All have lefties falling into the arms of self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, to the point that his shoestring campaign now presents a viable threat to her once inevitable nomination.
Clinton can’t deny that, from the Hillarycare debacle in 1993 to her leading role in the destruction of Libya to her silence on the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, she has played the role of a relentless, militarist, corporate stooge.
But that doesn’t mean she couldn’t make the case for herself more effectively. With a couple hundred words, she could put her Iraq War vote behind her, and make the case for herself as someone a progressive could trust.
Something like, say:
Let me make this clear: I am a liberal. Throughout my life in politics, beginning with my work on behalf of disadvantaged children, I have always had the plight of the dispossessed and the desire to fight for a fair and just America at the forefront of my mind. But I haven’t always been in the right position to fulfill those dreams, which we all share as Democrats. As First Lady, it was my duty to support my husband, the president. I’m glad that I did, and I wouldn’t change that, but you need to know: President Bill Clinton’s policies during the ’90s weren’t all my policies. Indeed, Bill himself has changed his mind about some of the things he did back then. As Secretary of State, again, it was my duty to carry out the foreign policy developed by President Obama and his team. I take full responsibility for and am proud of my service with the president, but no one should assume that my ideas are carbon copies of his. There is one major decision I would take back if I had it to do over again, and that is my vote to authorize war against Iraq. I believed President Bush when he said that Saddam Hussein had WMDs because, at the time, it was unprecedented for a president to willfully misrepresent intelligence reports to — I hate to say this, but it’s true — con members of Congress and the American people into war. Like all of us, I am more skeptical now, and I would expect, and indeed want, Congress to demand proof justifying military action if I were to ask for the deployment of troops. Unfortunately, nothing can bring back the thousands of brave American soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, who died in that terrible war, based on lies. All we can do now is mourn them, and remember the lessons we’ve learned. Believe me when I say: I’ve learned those lessons, and I will never make the same mistake twice.The Donald Trump Is A Racist Attack
Donald Trump obviously has the money to hire excellent political advisers. Yet unless he’s ignoring excellent counsel, which is of course more than possible, it looks like he’s torpedoing his relationship with the national media by failing to communicate effectively about his views about illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America to the U.S.
I say the media, rather than Republican primary voters, because his poll numbers have risen since he said that many Mexicans crossing the border illegally are criminals and rapists.
Why is this a problem, then?
As Howard Dean learned in the 2004 Democratic primary campaign, voter support isn’t enough. If you fail to cultivate good ties with the press, they will destroy when they get the chance, as they did by categorizing a routine mic malfunction as the that-man’s-a-crazy-nut “Dean Scream.”
Part of Trump’s problem is optics: he’s got an abrasive accent to go with an unsteady demeanor. He publically associates with unsavory characters like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. That racist nativist and his politics and policies veer past mainstream American conservatism well into the territory of fascism and Nazism. Arpaio has abused, humiliated and murdered prison inmates in dangerous concentration camps in the desert. He ought to be facing the death penalty; instead he speaks on the same stage as Trump.What Trump Ought To Say
Trump could reframe his remarks about illegal immigration in a way that minimized the destruction to his public image without compromising their core content. He could be just as straightforward but without demonizing innocent Mexicans, and also showcase a sense of humor. For example:
It goes without saying that most of the men, women and children who endure horrific conditions, some even dying of thirst in the desert, to cross the border from Mexico to the United States, are desperate for a better life for themselves and their families. They’re escaping poverty and drug cartels. All they want is to come here, follow the rules and work hard, just as million of undocumented immigrants have done in the past. And they’ve made America a richer, better place. Unfortunately, a substantial minority of these immigrants from Mexico present a threat to public safety. The Mexican government is emptying its prisons and pushing dangerous felons, including robbers and rapists, out of their country into ours. Well, let me say this to the government of Mexico: America is not your trash can. Under a Trump Administration, there will always be a place for people to come from Mexico, and other countries, in search of freedom and prosperity. I will increase quotas to make legal immigration easier, so we can check the backgrounds of applicants and make sure the people we welcome in are those who will contribute rather than make things worse. But we have to control our border. It’s insane to let people enter the U.S. willy-nilly. Which is why I will build a 100% impenetrable border wall, staffed by highly trained guards, from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. I have experience as a builder — it’ll be done right, it’ll be done fast, and it’ll have awesome brass trim…a classic! Because I like to put my name on things: the Trump Wall! The days of criminals and rapists coming and going as they please will come to an end.The Too-Much-Information Bernie Sanders Attack
It’s tempting to look at Bernie Sanders and say hey, anyone who has come as far as quickly as he has doesn’t need communications advice. But I’ve been watching Sanders’ public appearances and I’ve noticed that he suffers from an oratorical deficit that could hurt his chances in the long run. In the argot of journalism, he buries the lede.
Whether he’s answering an interviewer one on one or delivering a speech at a rally, Bernie launches into a series of factoids that support his views on the topic.
In the center of a response, as part of its meat, they’re fine.
But he’s missing a succinct soundbyte that summarizes everything at the beginning, as well as the similarly pithy encapsulation of his thoughts that is supposed to come at the end.Soundbytes Sanders Should Swear By
First, tell me what’s wrong (soundbyte).
Second, tell me why I should care.
Third, give me the facts and figures that prove that you’re right, that it’s really happening. (Bernie’s got this one down pat.)
Fourth, elaborate about why it matters.
Fifth, explain what you’d do to fix it.
Finally, sixth: the wrap-up promising the fix (soundbyte).
It should go like this:
America is becoming a Third World country. Unless you’re born to rich parents, the odds that you’ll earn a decent living at a good job, and be able to afford to buy a house and enjoy a comfortable retirement, are slim to none. That sucks. That’s not the American Dream. And it’s got serious consequences. More drug abuse and higher crime rates will make life worse for everybody, unless we do something. Talented young people with the brilliant ideas that drive the economy to the next level will be broke, unable to afford an education. Their genius will be wasted, squandered because they’re underemployed, or so alienated they don’t bother to try to go to college or land a good job, much less capitalize a start-up. Other countries will outcompete us in the global markets. I’m not talking about something that might happen. It’s happening now! Approximately 99 percent of new wealth goes to the top 1 percent. But we don’t have to succumb to hopelessness and rampant income inequality. I have a plan: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for everyone else. A $20 minimum wage, which will help everybody. A new war on poverty, and on predatory employers who cause us to earn less than we deserve. No more “outsourcing” of American jobs allowed. No more fake “independent contractors” who work full-time. Benefits guaranteed to all workers over 10 hours a week. Paid overtime over 35 hours a week for everybody. Cost-of-living increases indexed to inflation — the real inflation rate — for all workers and Social Security recipients. High-quality job training for the long-term unemployed. A new GI Bill, not just for veterans, for everybody. No more unpaid internships. Free college tuition. We’re going to take America back, for Americans. And I can promise you that it will not cost a dime, because the money will come out of cuts in perpetual warfare and by taxes on corporations that have gotten away with murder. To the contrary, we’ll come out way, way better off economically. And we’ll finally be more effectively engaged in the pursuit of happiness.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Americans used to talk about tokenism. That’s what they called it when ruling elites elevate a member of an unprivileged or oppressed group in order to legitimize themselves without substantially changing the basic order of things.
During the tumult of the 1960s and 1970s, blacks who joined white-dominated organizations were called Uncle Toms and Oreos. Leftists who worked for large corporations were deemed sellouts.
But this racial, class and general minority self-consciousness is no longer part of politics in this country. It’s a trend I blame at least in part on the triumph of the identity politics that now dominates liberalism and progressivism. (I omit leftism because, by international and historical standards, there is no organizational socialist or communist “left” in the United States worth even mentioning.)
Freed of the constraints of the criticism and social opprobrium of 50 years ago, tokenism has become not just tolerated, but celebrated, and not merely by what hippies used to call The Establishment — ie., the ruling elites, the media, the educational system and other institutions that support the existing power structure. Now, even within what passes for the “left” — the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, progressives, academics and other intellectuals — people have no problem with it.
Among liberals, tokenism is no longer viewed not as something disgusting, no longer viewed roundly as a violation of personal integrity that undermines the struggle for emancipation by validating corrupt, oppressive rulers.
Instead, it’s prima facie evidence that that the struggle is advancing!
Exhibits A and B? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
As is typically the case with political tokens, the president and leading contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president are not truly representative of the “minorities” whose advancement they purport to embody.
Unlike the vast majority of American blacks, who are descended from slaves, Obama is the biracial son of a white mother (pictured at right) and an Kenyan father.
Hillary Clinton is obviously a “real” woman, true.
But she is one whose major leg up is the fact that she married a president.
This hardly reflects any kind of a new and improved status for American women.
Rather she comes to us via the very old tradition of wives inheriting their politician husband’s status, like the widow of Hubert Humphrey, who inherited his senate seat, or Benazir Bhutto of the universally acknowledged patriarchy, Pakistan.
Despite their weird (in Obama’s case) and all-too-average (Hillary’s) career narratives, liberals and conservatives alike point to the president and former secretary of state as evidence that, respectively, we are either living in a “post-racial” society or soon will be, and that ladies “have come a long way, baby,” in the words of the old Virginia Slims cigarette ad.
To the political right, Obama and Clinton’s personal successes “prove” that discrimination against African-Americans and women, if they ever occurred (if they ever admitted it at the time, I missed it), are gone or at least quickly vanished, and thus require no further action (not that, in their minds, they ever did).
Never mind the statistics about black poverty.
Never mind the great likelihood that black men will go to prison at some point, sentencing disparities, slums, or the endless accounts of cops shooting black men who were unarmed, by the thousands.
And never mind the ongoing salary differentials between male and female workers, or hey, ever noticed how male the room looks (see crowd image, at right) when the camera pans across members of Congress during a State of the Union Address?
For liberals, by which I mainly mean members of the sports franchise that goes by the name the Democratic Party, the First Black President and the strong possibility of a First Woman President are evidence that liberalism is working.
Sure, the signature legislative achievement of First Black President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, is a corporatist initiative whose final form differs little from and has its origins in a healthcare scheme developed by the Heritage Foundation, a far-right think tank that conceived it to suck the wind out of support for single-payer “socialized medicine.”
Yes, the possible First Woman President Clinton’s politics are, from trade to foreign affairs to taxes to privacy rights, firmly aligned with today’s Republican Party.
You do realize that Hillary Rodham Clinton would have been far too conservative to be viable even as a Republican candidate in the 1960s or 1970s?
But tokenism doesn’t value policies, ideas or ideology.
Tokenism is about individual personality.
Tokenism says: Look how great America is! Progress may come slowly, but comes it does. We have a black president! And now, maybe a woman too! Could a gay or lesbian, or a Jew, or a trans person be far behind?
Tokenism replaces ideology.
Ask a black American about Obama. Go ahead. Odds are he views him favorably.
This is despite nearly seven years in office, during which, by all accounts (said accounts sourced from black civil rights leaders), the president has studiously avoided pressing for policy measures that would benefit black people — aside from a few measured statements following racially-charged controversies. Recall, after the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin (pictured at left), Obama’s comment was: “If I’d had a son he would have looked like him.”
In his politics and policies, the president has been more non-racial than post-racial, and he has been an absentee leader on, say, employment discrimination and racism in the application of the death penalty.
Joe or Jane Average Black probably know all these things, yet they defend Obama against political attacks, even including those from his left, because they view him as a symbol of, perhaps not Hope or Change for black America, but perhaps as useful personal symbols for themselves.
If that “sort-of-black guy” became president, then maybe I, or my son or my granddaughter, might actually land a decent job!
You will see the same phenomenon at work among those Democratic women, mostly over 50 years of age or so, who are excited at the prospect of a President Hillary.
These women largely identify as liberal or progressive.They are mostly against wars of choice, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly for a progressive tax code, mostly protectionist and mostly skeptical of free trade deals that outsource American jobs, mostly in agreement with Edward Snowden that the NSA shouldn’t be listening to our phone calls. For them ideology is subordinate to symbolism.
Many of them are aware that Hillary isn’t one of them politically. They’re willing to overlook that.
They’re even to willing to vote for someone whose policies, and recent documented history of policies — they disagree with, for one reason: she’s a woman. They’ve waited 226 years for the First Woman President. Hillary might not be the perfect First Woman President — but she’s viable.
And if she wins the presidency, she then is able to serve as the Right Answer to little girls when they ask their moms: “Has there ever been a woman president?” Oh, yes, sweetie. There has.
The pro-Obama blacks (and non-blacks) and the pro-Hillary women (and men) mostly identify politically far to the left of those candidates. And what they are missing is the fundamental truth of tokenism.
Obama didn’t achieve the presidency despite the fact that he identifies as black.
Obama achieved the presidency because he is a conservative.
Similarly, Hillary Clinton has not gotten as close to the presidency as she has despite being a woman; she’s where she is because she is a right-winger.
Tokenism is what the system sells you and me. And to the ruling classes, ideas and ideology are everything.
The right-wing extremist Barry Goldwater (pictured above right) said of gays that he didn’t care if they were straight, he cared if they shot straight. As long as they killed on behalf of the American imperialist state, propping up militarism, Goldwater was cool with fags.
Now in 2015, the Establishment is open to individual blacks, women, gays and other members of traditionally oppressed segments society who are willing to do its bidding. If Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are willing to sign off on drone assassinations and NSA spying and bailouts of Wall Street brokerage houses while millions of ordinary people lost their homes, why not let them?
The system goes on.
That is all that matters.
Indeed, the system is stronger because of these tokens, these sellouts.
The regime of Bush and Cheney wound up hated and reviled, but does anyone doubt that their long run on the high end of the opinion polls was extended by the Administration’s Uncle Toms, General Colin Powell (pictured left) and Secretary of State Condi Rice (pictured below right)?
Let’s look at it another way.
What are the chances, in the American system today, of a leftist achieving high political office, or a high-profile position in the media? Of even a white, tall, handsome, Ivy League-educated, able-bodied, Protestant leftist doing so?
Some reading this will scoff. A leftist? In America?
Well, why not?
All the other nations with political systems, economies and cultures similar to ours — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Australia, the countries of Europe — have high-profile progressives, socialists and communists in public life.
It’s not like there’s no interest in socialism or communism here in the U.S. — polls consistently show that about half of American voters would like to get rid of capitalism and replace it with socialism and communism. This is remarkable considering that these ideologies are rarely discussed here, except as objects of scorn and terror.
So it’s not that people wouldn’t vote for a leftist or buy her books or tune him on TV or read her column in The New York Times.
The fact is, the Establishment won’t allow a leftist — whether said leftist is white or black, male or female.
The worst thing about tokenism is that it distracts us from the fact that we are not allowed to have a free-ranging political debate that considers a wide variety of possible solutions to problems.
Instead of this horrifying truth (we don’t live in a democracy), tokenism tells us that everything is peachy keen. We’re making progress! Look! You too, or maybe not you but someone who sort of looks like you, might be able to score a good gig within the system.
Tokenism thus appeals to that basest and rawest motivations, tribalist self-interest.
Taken to its logical conclusion, it is perfectly fine that white cops pull over black men without cause and shoot them in the back for no reason. Why? Because Barack Obama is president. Why? Because there might be more black Senators. Why? Because there are more black millionaires.
Extrapolating from this way of thinking, it doesn’t matter that women can’t walk city streets without fear of being raped, or that when they’re raped city police departments can’t be bothered to process their rape kits to try to catch their rapists.
Because Hillary Clinton might become president. Because Sheryl Sandberg (left) made friends with Mark Zuckerberg and so scored a great job at Facebook, which gave her an in to pitch and promote her book.
Because the gap between men’s pay and women’s pay has shrunk a little (never mind that it’s because men’s wages have gone down, not that women’s have increased).
It is true that, as an able-bodied heterosexual Ivy-educated white male (albeit raised Catholic, with a foreign-born mother), I am open to attacks by those who say I am speaking from a position of privilege. My response to this point is this:
Yes, I enjoy a privileged position in American society. But I wish I didn’t. I wish and want, and am doing my best to help create, a country in which everyone is equal. I want to be deprivileged.
I want privilege itself to vanish.
I believe that what matters is not the color of your skin, or the shape of your genitals, but what’s in your brain and in your metaphorical heart. Until we achieve emanicipation, the oppressed would be far better off under the leadership of benevolent leftist WASPs than under the jackboots of evil right-wing trans lesbian disabled people.
Tokens like Obama and Clinton are unworthy of admiration.
To the contrary, they are repugnant and disgusting.
Consider what would happen if women and blacks and other oppressed sectors of American society refused to have anything to do with a system that gave us corporate welfare, the NSA’s police state, endless wars against nations few Americans can point to on a map like Yemen and Libya, the widening income gap, job outsourcing, police shootings and so on.
Apartheid America would collapse for lack of support and legitimacy.
We could get to work on a just, equal society.
Regardless of your identity politics classification, participating in this system endorses the oppression of billions of people around the world, and propagates it.
Even if it had been allowed, no Jew would have served in the SS, even if his idea was to work “within the system” “for reform.” Those who worked as the trusties — called “capos” in the death camps — were widely condemned and, after liberation, murdered.
It is time to restore the clear distinctions of class identity and consciousness before it is completely and totally eroded by the scourge of vacuous tokenism.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker walked back a remark in which he implied that children must be protected from homosexuals because they prey on children by saying that what he really meant was that children should be protected against the mere discussion of gays, whose existence they would presumably find disturbing.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Donald Trump is under fire and losing business for racist remarks about Mexican people. But do the presidential candidate’s words and insults matter more than lives? U.S. President Barack Obama is responsible for the murders of innocent people every day, and no one seems to care about that. Strange but true.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
A 2005 deposition shows Bill Cosby admitted 10 years ago to using Quaaludes to drug young women in order to have sex with them. But his lawyers suppressed this document. Now that the Bill Cosby Quaadlude revelation is out, think about all the women whose stories weren’t believed while Bill Cosby continued to deny their claims. What’s wrong with the system?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
The votes are in. Greece has handed a resounding rebuke to austerity measures imposed by the world banking community and the European Union (EU) in Sunday’s much-anticipated referendum.
The six-month old socialist government of Alexis Tsipras was careful to emphasize that this vote, which he campaigned for against the express wishes of the leaders of other European nations, does not mean an end to negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, or the European Union. But the vote certainly strengthens the Prime Minister’s hand in those talks.
But most of all, however, the prospective Grexit is about the morality of debt, and the perception of who holds the power in the debtor-debtee relationship.
Germany, which dominates the European Central Bank (their version of the Fed), has relentlessly insisted that Greece and the other struggling southern European states slash their social safety nets to fiscal solvency, or at least euro compatibility. This, as Krugman and others predicted, proved counterproductive. With Greek unemployment over 25% and underemployment many times higher than that, spending has all but ceased, replaced by a barter economy in many places. The less government aid there is, the less people spend, the less businesses earn, the more people they lay off. It’s an austerity death spiral.
Germany’s Angela Merkel has couched this as a simple matter of reckless Greeks having gone on a spending spree that they must now pay for, and many of her fellow Germans agree with her. Greece, you see, is not a “virtuous” economy. Not like Germany.
Which may or may not be true.
What is true is that Merkel, like many Protestants of her ilk, fails to recognize that people who are owed money are not automatically dominant over those who owe it. Default hurts the deadbeat — but it also hurts the schmuck holding the now-worthless IOU. It is important, therefore, for lenders not to push borrowers too far…which is exactly what has happened in Greece.
Regardless of where you stand on this (pardon me) Greek tragedy (or farce), there is a detail that galls many Greeks, yet which has remained largely unreported by the American business press.
“Greece owes various European bodies a combined 240 billion euros across two bailouts extended by the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank,” The Christian Science Monitor reported three months ago.
But Germany destroyed massive amounts of infrastructure during World War II — and looted the nation’s Treasury. The Greek government estimates that Germany owes it 279 billion euros for the damage.
Greece doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. But the morals, and the optics … yeah, those play well in a country where history isn’t an abstraction — it’s the main tourist attraction.
Unlike the Western financial media, Greeks remember the 1953 London Agreement, under which West Germany was forgiven massive amounts of debts it owed to foreign nations — including Greece — in order to allow it get its economy going again without a crippling debt burden.
Germany benefited from international largesse, but now that it enjoys a dominant role in the world again, it’s playing the hardass. The Greek vote showcases the limitations of hardassery.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Oppression has positive side effects. Sometimes. Among the advantages of being discriminated against vis-a-vis marriage rights: The law gave many gays and lesbians the perfect excuse for not getting married. Now, thanks to Anthony Kennedy and the other four Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage last week, that’s no more. Was it good while it lasted, though?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Michaelangelo said: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
I thought of this famous quote on Friday when I heard that the United States Supreme Court had overturned laws against same-sex marriage in every state.
The court’s majority didn’t legislate from the bench — they confirmed an intrinsic constitutional right. The justices revealed something that was hardwired into the document back in 1789.
It just took a while.
This is what Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, argued: Everyone has a “fundamental right” to marriage. This line of reasoning has been criticized by conservatives as well as by some liberal legal analysts who would have preferred to rely on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution: If straight people can get married, why not gays?
But that would have been very 2015 — very small, lowbrow, petty, the kind of thing that Bill or Hillary Clinton would come up with.Justice Kennedy aimed high, harkening back to the Age of Reason 250 years ago.
That is when philosophers and politicians agreed that there were certain inalienable, inherent rights.
The list of those rights has expanded steadily over the years, especially in other countries, some of which even go so far as to include the right to a job or the income equivalent of one, not to mention housing and healthcare.
Here in the United States, however, the tendency has been to yield to the conservative side, which has steadily pushed for a society in which one’s responsibilities to the state are constantly increasing in scope. At the same time, one’s rights – to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and to enjoy private communications, for example – erode to virtually nothing.
That, almost more than any joy you get in watching men who fall in love with men and women who fall in love with women marry one another, is the real cause for celebration.
Said presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:
Conservative Republicans are accusing the court of legislating from the bench … the Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity.”
Well, actually it can: Despite people like Huckabee, the United States is still a secular nation.
Added Bobby Jindal,
Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.”
Again, it can and it did. But I think Huckabee and Jindal are wrong — not only on the legal side of the argument, but on the religious one, too.There is literally nothing in Christianity that prohibits same-sex marriage.
Yes, I know. There are those sections in Leviticus and other passages in the Old Testament that Christian conservatives like to say prohibit gay sex. But in cases where the Old Testament conflicts with the New Testament, the New Testament prevails the same way that a newer law prevails over an older one in Civil Code.
And the New Testament is clear: Everyone is redeemed by Jesus’ self-sacrifice.
In other words, in a Christian sense, we are all forgiven.
There is, and there never was, any good reason to prohibit same-sex marriage. When the idea first came up, in the 1980s and 1990s in the United States, I remember asking myself two questions.
First: Why would gay people even want to get married? And then: What would be the harm?
No one has ever been able to articulate to my satisfaction, or evidently to the satisfaction of the majority of the American voting public, exactly what problems would be created by guys marrying guys and girls marrying girls.
The best that the right wing has ever been able to come up with is some empty pabulum about the “sanctity of marriage.” Please.
How on Earth does someone else’s marriage, or lack thereof, affect yours?
The answer to that question is: It can’t. It doesn’t. Most people realize that. That’s why this debate has moved so quickly.
It is also worth noting that conservatives only have themselves to blame for this week’s historic court ruling.Stonewalling “civil unions” is what led to the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision …
And remember “civil unions?”
Civil unions were the legal compromise homosexuals wanted in lieu of gay marriage – not full-fledged same-sex marriage, but an arrangement that protected the legal rights of a gay or lesbian to, for example, visit their partner in the hospital or inherit their property after they died.
They were tired of having to legally adopt their lovers as adults and calling them “nephews” or some other far-fetched relation just to get these basic rights.
But right-wingers stonewalled civil unions, which led to the first lawsuits filed by gays requesting the right to be married, lawsuits that many gay activists worried at the time were overreaching.
Because Republicans, and many Democrats, including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, wouldn’t budge on civil unions, a more radicalized legal process was initiated.
And that is what just culminated with this week’s Supreme Court decision.
As James Antle wrote in The American Conservative in 2013:
Social conservatives avoided compromises, like decoupling some incidents of marriage from the institution itself and extending them to individuals regardless of relationship status. While this wouldn’t have satisfied those whose main goal was ‘marriage equality’ in culture and law, it might have met the need for tangible benefits like hospital visitation without the ‘separate but equal’ approach of civil unions or domestic partnerships—which social conservatives opposed in any event.”
There is a strong case to be made that Roe v. Wade’s legalization of abortion rights, and even the belief in many privacy rights (which back Roe v. Wade, for example), are not inherent in the Constitution, at least not as interpreted by so-called originalists.
Certainly, the Supreme Court has often violated the Constitution with its decisions, for example in the case of Bush v. Gore in 2000, which supplanted Florida’s right as a state to conduct its own electoral recount.
But gay marriage is not novel.
Gays have always enjoyed the constitutional right to get married. We’re just finally seeing it.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Hobbled by Bridgegate, in which New Jersey officials shut down the George Washington Bridge in order to get even with the clueless mayor of Fort Lee for forgetting to endorse him for Governor, Gov. Chris Christie is nevertheless running for president.
At least he knows where he can score some easy money.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Congratulations, gay Americans! You can get married now!
If you and your partner have a significant difference between your income, you’ll save a little bit of money on your taxes. You’ll be able to visit each other in the hospital easily if one of you happens to be dying. Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is very, very exciting, a long time in coming and absolutely the right decision. It’s something that every patriotic American ought to be happy about.
By the way, you guys are totally boring now.
Today’s 5 to 4 decision marks the end of gay people as dangerous or interesting. Now LGBTQA people are just as dull and un-noteworthy as any random straight married Midwestern middle-class television-watching, ranch-home-living-in schlub.
But really, that’s great. Congratulations!
No more late nights at the bathhouse scoring anonymous sex, though. From now on, a late night in an IKEA piece of furniture will have to be just as good.
Hey, and remember that time you and your same-sex partner went out to the bar and picked up a cutie for the two of you to share in a threesome?
Yeah, me neither. Because now you’re married!
And once married, you guys won’t have sex with each other, much less with anyone else.
Back in the 1970s, you guys practically ran the counterculture. You were so cool. Now, counterculture will essentially be just a marketing term you use to describe shopping for, you know, a brand new kitchen counter. How exciting!
Well, look, there’s nothing wrong with being boring. So what if you won’t be a trendsetter anymore. And who cares, really, if the media pays zero attention to you these days. Thanks to the Supreme Court gay marriage decision, you now get to be just like the rest of us: bland, typical and uninteresting. And, like the rest of us married people, you’ll be having very little sex – or at least not good sex.
But hey, this is what you wanted, right! To be accepted!
So now you can join the army and kill brown people and lie awake at night wondering why you chose the life you chose.