June 30, 2016

Word: Trade agreements

Bernie Sanders - In the last 15 years, nearly 60,000 factories in this country have closed, and more than 4.8 million well-paid manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Much of this is related to disastrous trade agreements that encourage corporations to move to low-wage countries.

News Notes

YouGov Poll Favorability | Clinton -15 Trump -33 Sanders +21

The US Conference of Mayors have joined Clinton and Sanders in backing DC statehood, an idea that got its start on these pages 46 years ago.  

Lucky Trump isn't running in Sweden

Boing Boing

AP- "In seven of 15 countries outside of the U.S. polled by Pew Research Center, Trump's ratings are in the single digits. Large majorities in 11 of the countries have little or no confidence in the prospective Republican presidential nominee ability to manage international affairs. That includes 92 percent of Swedes, 89 percent of Germans and 82 percent of Japanese."

Trump did, however, do a bit better in China, where 40 percent polled have zero confidence in him, but 39 percent have no opinion. The survey polled 20,132 people from 16 countries, including Canada, 10 countries in Europe, four in Asia, and the U.S. When compared to Hillary Clinton, "a median of 59 percent in Europe have confidence in the Democratic contender — compared with just 9 percent for Trump."

June 29, 2016

More Trump cons

NY Times

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial — one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and had been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after paying their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.

News Notes

Income disparity by state and city

If you think Donald Trump would be bad. . . .

Improbable Reseaarch - President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, who was awarded the 2013 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for forbidding his citizens to applaud in public, has now induced many of his citizens to publicly display themselves — naked — as they engage in their daily work. The TUT.by web site reports [the text here is auto-translated into English]:
Undress and work”: Belarusians literally embraced President Council
The phrase “undress and work” has spawned a flashmob on the Internet: Belarusians have started to come to the offices of the nude photos and share on social networks….
It all started during the speech of Alexander Lukashenko at the fifth All-Belarusian People’s Assembly. “Innovation, IT-technologies, privatization – all of this is clear  – the president said . We’ve already mastered. But all our life, simple: it is necessary to undress and work up a sweat. “
This photo shows two of the many obedient, hard-working naked citizens of Belarus:


Great moments in the law


Waler Olson- After air crashes in Latin America in which U.S. residents lost their lives, it was noticed that a number of youthful claimants appeared on the scene whose mothers described them as the unacknowledged out-of-wedlock children of American men reported as lost on the ill-fated plane. These children, living in countries like Mexico and Guatemala, would then file claims in U.S. court against the airline, aircraft maker, and other potentially liable parties for cash settlements over the loss of what was said to be their father. These claims would come as bewildering, even horrifying news to the wives, children, and other family members of the deceased, who had to consider the possibility that the men they thought they knew so well had been living an undisclosed second life. At least one survivor — who probably had better reason that most to doubt the veracity of the claim — decided to fight:
In one case, a 53-year-old San Francisco man who perished on the doomed flight is alleged to have recently fathered two Latin American children who deserved to collect for his decease, a story that ran into trouble when his outraged gay partner of twenty years, Dale Rettinger, 63, stepped forward to challenge it.


Concord Monitor - Less than a week after Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, a group of New Hampshire residents has decided it, too, wants out – of the United States... At their first-ever event on Sunday night, 13 demonstrators gathered with signs displaying phrases like, “Get DC out of NH” and “New Hampshire Independence Now” in front of Manchester’s Norris Cotton Federal Building, a structure that NHexit founder and organizer Dave Ridley said he “would like to see turned into a shopping mall.”

Gothamist - New York City councilman (and Trump campaign apparatchik) Joe Borelli took to Facebook to beat the drums of Staten Island secession.On Facebook, Borelli applauded Great Britain's vote, taking it as an opportunity to revive the dream of an independent Staten Island, "regardless of cost":

Morning Line

Based on the average of recent polls:

Hillary Clinton is 5 points ahead of Trump, five below her best so far.

In electoral votes, Democrats have 256 firm or leaning towards the party, the GOP has 118. Needed to elect: 270

A new way of sentencing

Oregon Public Empowerment News

In Oregon, where are we now spend more on prisons run by the Department of Corrections than on public four-year universities, what is right in front of our noses is that the way we decide how long criminals should spend in prison is not only bankrupting us in the present moment, it is sowing the seeds of economic inequality and social weakness for generations to come, because excessive spending on incarceration deprives us of public goods that promote prosperity. We are trapped in an arms race against crime where bad policies cause more of the ills we are trying to cure and result in the public providing the funding for both sides of the arms race.....

The criminal justice system in Oregon, as in the rest of United States, runs on pretty much the exact same model as it did at the time of statehood, which is the frontier model – the judge ran the trials and selected the sentences. There was no one else to do it.

But the practices appropriate for a time when government was sparse and crimes were few are not those that are appropriate today.

Today, we have a vast criminal justice system, where the Department of Corrections alone – just a part of the system – plans to spend $1.6 billion in the next two years. And yet the critical decisions that drive all that spending are still made, one by one, in isolation and with no consideration of the overall context. Before sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums, those decisions were at least made by judges. Now they are made by district attorneys (prosecutors).

Both these two key offices are filled by local elections. Thus, the two key actors, the people who have the most power to who determine what the state will spend on incarceration for decades to comes, not only have no special skill, training, or background in criminal sentencing, they also have zero accountability for the results of their decisions, except in the sense of being subject to popular hostility for a sentence that is seen as excessively lenient.

Thus, the rules for the game – game rather than system because the major key players (prosecutors) and the minor players (judges) have neither the opportunity or incentive to consider anything but the case before them, leads predictably to our present budgetary disaster.

There is nothing wrong with our judges or prosecutors. This is not about them as human beings or as honest public servants. We should not seek nor expect to find a better class of prosecutors or judges. Nor should we expect that there is any way to exhort them or educate them or persuade them to be more thoughtful, better informed, and to have a broader perspective. The title of a famous business magazine article says it best: “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B.”

No, the solution isn’t to think that there is some better class of people who would not seek to maximize their own career success by racking up the convictions and doing whatever necessary to avoid the fatal “soft on crime” label. The solution is to move sentencing away from judges entirely, after scrapping entirely the ill-fated project of mandatory minimums that have put so much power in the hands of prosecutors who have no accountability for the costs that they impose on the rest of us.

That is, what Oregon needs to do is make the system into a true system by unifying all the pieces of the process that we loosely call the “criminal justice system” into one budget, and putting felony sentencing into the hands of a state sentencing panel, which would be the body responsible for assessing all the felony inmates as a whole and setting sentences so that the goals of imprisonment are pursued in view of all the sentences to be determined, rather than one-by-one by self-interested actors who have no visibility to anything except the case before them.

The unified global state budget would include all the current prison and prison alternatives, from drug treatment and alcoholism programs, community corrections, reentry programs for those emerging from prison.

The existing system of prosecutors and judges would remain, but they would not decide felony sentences. Rather, when an offender is convicted of a felony, the case would be sent to the state sentencing panel, which would be responsible for setting the terms and conditions of the sentence, in light of not just that individual’s crimes but also in light of all the other offenders to be sentenced that year, as well as the day-by-day forecasts for prison beds for the entire length of the contemplated sentences.

By definition, a felony sentence is for at least a year. Each person would begin serving their felony sentence and, within 12 months, the sentencing panel would set the final sentence. The offender could seek a hearing to argue for sentencing reductions or alternative sentencing, and the crime victims could appear and give testimony about the crimes and their effect on the victims. But the sentencing panel would itself be a third actor, and the staff would be charged with presenting a sentencing proposal that is based on both the severity of the crime in the rankings of all the sentences and an effort to specify a sentence that maximizes the chance for successful re-entry to society after the sentence is served.


June 28, 2016

Today's big disappointment

Sam Smith - Julie Mason runs one of my favorite radio programs, so I was shocked today to hear her sound like all those Clinton-fed journalists who have been attacking Bernie Sanders for not giving up and being quiet. In fact, there is no historical reason for a second place candidate to fade before the convention. It's a widely watched TV show and a wonderful time to make your points. Further, you get to fight for the sort of platform you want.

Besides, Bernie wants to move from the election to a movement. There is nothing silly about this. Sanders is the realest Democrat we have had in such a key position since the Great Society. Led by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the party has moved to GOP Lite. But the generational gap in the voting is evidence that this crowd is on its way out and the young want something different and better. They'll have to put up with Hillary Clinton for awhile, but over the long run laying out a better plan for the Democrat's future is an act to be blessed and not cursed.

What a populist rebellion might look like

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2011 -

What a populist rebellion might look like

Some real facts about populism

Populism: What historians and the media don't tell you 

Jim Hightower, The Hightower Lowdown, 2009 - Populism is not a style, nor is it a synonym for "popular outrage." It is a historically grounded political doctrine (and movement) that supports ordinary folks in their ongoing democratic fight against the moneyed elites.

The very essence of populism is its unrelenting focus on breaking the iron grip that big corporations have on our country--including on our economy, government, media, and environment. It is unabashedly a class movement. . .

Fully embracing the egalitarian ideals and rebellious spirit of the American Revolution, populists have always been out to challenge the orthodoxy of the corporate order and to empower workaday Americans so they can control their own economic and political destinies. This approach distinguishes the movement from classic liberalism, which seeks to live in harmony with concentrated corporate power by trying to regulate its excesses.

We're seeing liberalism at work today in Washington's Wall Street bailout. Both parties tell us that AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, and the rest are "too big to fail," so taxpayers simply "must" rescue the management, stockholders, and bondholders of the financial giants in order to save the system. Populists, on the other hand, note that it is this very system that has caused the failure-so structural reform is required. Let's reorganize the clumsy, inept, ungovernable, and corrupt financial system by ousting those who wrecked it, splitting up its component parts (banking, investment, and insurance), and establishing decentralized, manageable-sized financial institutions operating on the locally controlled models of credit unions, co-ops, and community banks. . .

The true portrait of populism is rarely on public display. History teachers usually hustle students right past this unique moment in the evolution of our democracy. You never see a movie or a television presentation about the movement's innovative thinkers, powerful orators, and dramatic events. National museums offer no exhibits of its stunning inventions and accomplishments. And there is no "populist trail of history" winding through the various states in which farmers and workers created the People's Party (also known as the Populist Party), reshaped the national political debate, forced progressive reforms, delivered a million votes (and four states) to the party's 1892 presidential candidate, and elected 10 populist governors, six U.S. senators, and three dozen House members.

This was a serious, thoughtful, determined effort by hundreds of thousands of common folks to do something uncommon: organize themselves so--collectively and cooperatively--they could remake both commerce and government to serve the common good rather than the selfish interests of the barons of industry and finance.

While the big media of that day portrayed the movement as an incoherent bunch of conspiracy-minded bumpkins, the populists were in fact guided by a sophisticated network of big thinkers, organizers, and communicators who had a thorough grasp of exactly how the system worked and why. Most significantly, they were problem solvers--their aim was not protest, but to provide real mechanisms that could decentralize and democratize power in our country. The movement was able to rally a huge following of hard-scrabble farmers and put-upon workers because it did not pussyfoot around. Its leaders dared to go right at the core problem of an overreaching corporate state controlled by robber barons. Populist organizers spoke bluntly about the need to restructure the corporate system that was undermining America's democratic promise. . .

Ultimately, the Populists were undone, not by their boldness, but by leaders who urged them to compromise and to merge their aspirations into the Democratic Party. In the presidential election of 1896, they nominated the Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan, whose "cross of gold" campaign focused on the monetary issue, avoiding the much more appealing structural radicalism of Populism. Outspent five to one, Bryan lost a close race to William McKinley, the Republican who was financed and owned by Wall Street. . .

The party was killed off, but not the Populist spirit. Persevering in separate political forms, the constituent components of populism--including unionists, suffragists, anti-trusters, socialists, cooperativists, and rural organizers--continued the struggle against America's economic and political aristocracy. Indeed, populists defined the content of national politics for the first third of the 20th century, forcing the Democratic Party to adopt populist positions, spawning the Progressive Party, elevating two Roosevelts to the presidency, and enacting major chunks of the agenda first drawn up by the People's Party.


Some quotes

There's a difference between populism and liberalism. Populism means listening to the people and hearing what they have to say. Liberalism says, "The people are idiots; let's find out what the experts think." -- Jay Waljasper, Utne Reader

A mortgaged home, an empty stomach and a ragged back know no party. We will live to write the epitaphs of the old parties: "Died of general debility, old age, and chronic falsehoods." - Mary Lease, People's Party, 1892

The right tries to steal populism

Progressive Populist, 2010 - Many people confuse the demagoguery of politicians such as former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Tea Party movement with populism. They have turned the definition of populism around and it’s time that progressives reclaim the good name of populism.

Since the late 19th century, populists have believed that government should protect working people, small businesses and family farmers and ranchers from predatory corporations. Dick Armey, the former Republican congressional leader, and Freedom Works, the conservative non-profit organization he founded that is funded by business executives, have tried to turn that populist tradition on its head in organizing the Tea Party movement to protect corporations from government regulation.

Populism is part of the venerable American tradition of rebellion, but it dates back to the Farmers Alliance that formed in Lampasas, Texas, in 1877 in an attempt by farmers to overcome the power of commodity brokers and railroads through collective action. When Democratic and Republican elected officials failed to support the Alliance’s economic agenda, the People’s Party was formed in the 1890s in an attempt to create a national political movement to advance that agenda.

The People’s Party, also known as the Populists, sought to bring together white and black farmers and workers in the South and Midwest with the Knights of Labor, an early industrial union in the Northeast, to make government a force for economic justice. The original 1892 platform declared, “We believe that the power of government — in other words, of the people — should be expanded ... as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the teachings of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice and poverty shall eventually cease in the land.”

In addition to their economic reforms, the Populists sought democratic reforms such as a secret ballot, direct election of senators, the vote for women and initiative and referendum to let the public pass laws when their legislators refused to budge. The Populists also sought a graduated income tax, public ownership of railroads, telegraph and telephone systems, an eight-hour workday and replacement of national banks with a savings bank operated by the Post Office for the benefit of working people.

The Populists achieved political successes in the South and West, carrying four states (Colorado, Kansas, Idaho and Nebraska) in the 1892 presidential election. The party, often working in fusion with one of the two “major” parties, elected many state officials and members of Congress in the South and West. A coalition of Populists and Republicans swept statewide offices in North Carolina in 1894. But the Populists lost much of their appeal when the Democrats adopted much of their agenda in 1896.

After the Populists were defeated in 1896, Southern Democrats enacted “Jim Crow” laws to disenfranchise blacks and segregate them to prevent future biracial coalitions from forming. Laws were enacted in many states to stop “fusion” campaigns, where two or more political parties support a common candidate. (Fusion remains legal in eight states: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Vermont.)

Many of the Populist causes were adopted by Progressives in the early 20th century and the New Deal in the 1930s. But ever since World War II, the right-wing corporatists have engaged in a sustained counterattack to drive a wedge between farmers and labor and between white and black voters. We think the Tea Party movement is part of that reactionary counterattack. If they’d like to change our minds, they can get to work whipping their Republican senators on Wall Street reform. 

Populism and the Democratic Party

Sam Smith, 2008 -  There have only been two Democratic presidents over the past three-quarters of a century who have gotten significantly more than 50% of the vote: Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, each of whom received 61% in one election. While neither fit the definition of a populist, many of their programs - from FDR's minimum wage and social security to LBJ's war on poverty and education legislation - were part of a populist agenda.

Since LBJ, the party has increasingly deserted its populist causes and been trapped between defeat and a tantalizing break-even division with the GOP.

Although current party and media mythology treats Bill Clinton and other Vichy Democrats as symbols of Democratic triumph this is far from the case:

- Clinton did no better than Kerry, Gore, Carter, JFK, and Harry Truman. All of them came within two percent of the midpoint despite markedly different styles and programs. It is fair to say that in each case, party loyalty proved more important than the candidate.

- Michael Dukakis, the unfairly assigned butt of party jokes, did three points better than Clinton in the latter's first election and only three points worse in the second. Even more striking, Dukakis beat or equaled Clinton's best percentage in 12 states including Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma, a record dramatically at odds with the spin of the Clintonistas and the Democratic Leadership Council.

- Democratic losses at the state and national level under Clinton were worse than any seen by a party incumbent since Grover Cleveland. Clinton proved a disaster for the Democrats. What happened in Congress this year was a partial recovery from this disaster.

In short, the only thing that has really worked for the Democrats have been campaigns heavily populist in nature.

American populism has a long past. It began when the first Indian shot the first arrow at a colonist attempting to foreclose on his hunting grounds. As early as 1676, the farmers in Virginia were upset enough about high taxes, low prices and the payola given to those close to the governor that they followed Nathaniel Bacon into rebellion.

One hundred and ten years later found farmers of Massachusetts complaining that however men might have been created, they were not staying equal. Under the leadership of Daniel Shays they took on the new establishment in open rebellion to free themselves high taxes and legal costs, rampant foreclosures, exorbitant salaries for public officials and other abuses. The rebels were routed and fled.

The populist thread weaves through the administration of Andrew Jackson, an early American populist who recognized the importance of challenging the style as well as the substance of the establishment value system. It was a time when it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a banker to get into the White House, a problem bankers have seldom had since.

It was the end of the nineteenth century, though, that institutionalized populism, and gave it a name. The issues are familiar: economic concentration, unfair taxation, welfare and democracy. Critics are quick to point out that they also included racism and nativism, which was true in some cases, but it has been traditional for liberal historians to emphasize these aspects while overlooking the rampant class and ethnic prejudices of the more elite politicians they favored.

In the end, the most debilitating, discriminatory and dangerous form of extremism in this country is found in the middle -- with its cell meetings held in the committee rooms of the US Congress, its slogan "Not Now" and its goal of maintaining the timorousness of the people towards their leaders. A true populist revival could change this but the merchants of moderation will do what they can to control and blunt it.

As a party, the populists were not particularly successful, but it wasn't long before the Democrats bought many of their proposals including the graduated income tax, election of the Senate by direct vote, civil service reform, pensions, and the eight hour workday. It's not a bad list of accomplishments for a party that got just 8.5% of the popular vote in the only presidential election in which it ran a candidate on its own.

The growth of an urban left and the influence of transatlantic Marxism overwhelmed rural-oriented populism, which also suffered due to racism and regionalism. European socialism got a much better break under Roosevelt than did the native populist tradition although there were notable exceptions such as the rural electrification program. In the end, however, neither ideological socialism nor pragmatic populism could hold their own against the emerging dominant style of contemporary liberalism, which espoused human rights and civil liberties even as economic welfare was carefully constrained by a prohibition against the redistribution of wealth or power.

The Democrats came to emphasize the worst aspect of socialism, concentration of power in the state, while failing to expend a proportionate amount of energy providing the supposed benefit of the shift: economic and political justice. The growth of the economy, aided by a couple of wars, obscured this development until the sixties, when the forgotten precincts began to be heard from: first blacks, then one mistreated group after another - including young non-college educated whites - until today we find ourselves a country of angry, alienated minorities, bumblinq around in the dark looking for a coalition to wield against those in power.

Here lies the great hope in the rediscovery of populism. More than any other political philosophy it offers potential for those who serve this country to seize a bit of it back from those who control it. It emphasizes the issues that should be emphasized: economic justice, decentralized democracy and an end to the concentration of power.

Populism's hidden army is the non-voter. A study by Jack Doppelt and Ellen Shearer, associate professors at Northwestern University's School of Journalism, found that "Nonvoters as well as now-and-then voters see politicians as almost a separate class, who say what they think voters want to hear in language that's not straightforward and whose sole mission is winning. . ."

Unlike New Deal and Great Society liberals, contemporary liberalism has cut its close ties to populism and instead is content to drive its SUV to the church of Our Mother of Perpetual Good Intentions. The goal is to believe the right thing, unlike populism, whose goal is to do the right thing. Faith vs. works.

Interestingly, populism - despite its bad rap - has far more potential for creating the diverse, happy society of which the liberals dream. The reason for this is that hate and tension are directly related to people's personal social and economic status. Both the old Democratic segregationist and the new GOP fundamentalist understood and exploited this. They made the weak angry at each other, they taught the poor of one ethnicity and class to blame those of another for their troubles. Karl Rove is just the George Wallace of another time.

But you won't break this cycle with feel-good rhetoric and rules. You break it by creating a fairer and more decent society for everyone. You don't do it with political correctness; you do it with economic and social equity.

Yet when Howard Dean made his comment about wanting to get the votes of people who drove pickups with confederate flag stickers, he was immediately excoriated by Kerry and Gephardt. By any traditional Democratic standards, this constituency should be a natural. After all, what more dramatically illustrates the failure of two decades of corporatist economics than how far these white males have been left behind? Yet because some of them still cling to the myths the southern white establishment taught their daddies and their granddaddies, Gephardt and Kerry didn't think they qualified as Democratic vote

What the reaction to Brexit reveals about the controversy

Rolling Stone

 Matt Taibbi - Because the [Brexit] vote was viewed as having been driven by the same racist passions that are fueling the campaign of Donald Trump, a wide swath of commentators suggested that democracy erred, and the vote should perhaps be canceled, for the Britons' own good.

... Were I British, I'd probably have voted to Remain. But it's not hard to understand being pissed off at being subject to unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. Nor is it hard to imagine the post-Brexit backlash confirming every suspicion you might have about the people who run the EU.

Imagine having pundits and professors suggest you should have your voting rights curtailed because you voted Leave. Now imagine these same people are calling voters like you "children," and castigating you for being insufficiently appreciative of, say, the joys of submitting to a European Supreme Court that claims primacy over the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.

The overall message in every case is the same: Let us handle things.

But whatever, let's assume that the Brexit voters, like Trump voters, are wrong, ignorant, dangerous and unjustified.

Even stipulating to that, the reaction to both Brexit and Trump reveals a problem potentially more serious than either Brexit or the Trump campaign. It's become perilously fashionable all over the Western world to reach for non-democratic solutions whenever society drifts in a direction people don't like. Here in America the problem is snowballing on both the right and the left.

Whether it's Andrew Sullivan calling for Republican insiders to rig the nomination process to derail Trump's candidacy, or Democratic Party lifers like Peter Orszag arguing that Republican intransigence in Congress means we should turn more power over to "depoliticized commissions," the instinct to act by diktat surfaces quite a lot these days.

"Too much democracy" used to be an argument we reserved for foreign peoples who tried to do things like vote to demand control over their own oil supplies.

... Democracy appears to have become so denuded and corrupted in America that a generation of people has grown up without any faith in its principles.
What's particularly concerning about the reaction both to Brexit and to the rise of Trump is the way these episodes are framed as requiring exceptions to the usual democratic rule. They're called threats so monstrous that we must abrogate the democratic process to combat them.


News Notes

Garrison Keilllor signs off

June 27, 2016

Word: Brexit


Rabbi Michael Lerner - The vote by a majority in the UK to exit from the European Union (Britain exiting, now called Brexit) is actually a cry of pain by the working people of Britain, and a reflection of the growing pain that will shape the social and political lives of our world in the coming decades till that pain is fully addressed. Unfortunately, the media and the ruling elites refuse to take responsibility for the global mess they’ve been making. Instead they seek to put the blame on a sudden surge of ultra nationalism and hatred of immigrants. But this is a distorted picture that seeks to blame working people’s fears on their own reactionary ideologies, and misses the way the ruling elites of the society, the !% of richest people and their millions of allies in the upper levels of banks and corporations, media, academia, law, government and politics, who have developed a neo-liberal economic strategy that has resulted in massive loss of jobs and a triumph of the values of materialism and selfishness in daily life, are actually now trying to blame everyone else for the global mess they have made.

Martin Winiecki - The news of Brexit triggered shock waves around the globe, with many people wondering how could the Brits make such a foolish choice. But actually there is good reason why many people in Europe hold the EU in low esteem.

The European Union has alienated countless millions of workers and ordinary people all over the continent; for many “EU” has become the very synonym of a hostile “establishment.” While it began as a progressive project for freedom and solidarity among the peoples of Europe, committed to never again repeat the terrible wars of the 20th century and authentically humane initiatives, the EU has developed into an anti-democratic, neo-liberal technocracy with ever decreasing legitimacy and benefit for the people. Preaching noble values of human rights, social democracy and peace, the rulers of the EU have led a scrupulous austerity regime, gradually expanding precarious work conditions for millions. The wide gap between its social rhetoric on the one hand and the implementation of free market policies on the other, gave many people the feeling of being constantly betrayed by an anonymous superstructure, which they cannot participate in or reach out to.
In their blind obedience to the orders from Washington and the corporate world, European leaders have endlessly fooled their people. Whether it is about secretly handing the last remaining democratic powers over to multinationals and abolishing fundamental environmental, consumer and workers rights, as it is prepared to do in the TTIP negotiations, or about ruining their own countries’ trade by installing economic sanctions against Russia, or about participating in the extremely dangerous deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe – there hardly seems to be any demand from the US government, which EU and European leaders would not fulfill, however devastating its consequences for Europe may be.

Capitalist globalization has corroded the social fabric of societies around the world, destroyed solidarity among people and established an anonymous hyper-individualized climate of fierce competition, loneliness and struggle for survival. People are left without any positive prospect for the future, feel constantly cheated on by something or someone that they cannot even precisely name – and immense anger ensues in people’s hearts. People thus readily buy in to the xenophobic propaganda telling who to blame for this situation.

The Brexit vote was in big part the expression of a nationalistic reaction to the alienation of neoliberalism. As they spread fear and tried to make immigrants responsible for the economic failures of the Europe that the EU has shaped, the powerful capitalist class (what in the US they call the 1%) provided the foundation for right-wing nationalists to present themselves as “populists” caring about the well-being of those hurt by economic globalization. These right-wing rabble-rousers divert peoples’ attention from the obvious injustice of the economic system. Thereby they turn the genuinely revolutionary potential of people’s anti-establishment sentiment into the most reactionary direction.

Jeffrey Sachs Project Syndicate  = At its core, Brexit reflects a pervasive phenomenon in the high-income world: rising support for populist parties campaigning for a clampdown on immigration. Roughly half the population in Europe and the United States, generally working-class voters, believes that immigration is out of control, posing a threat to public order and cultural norms....

So what should be done? I would suggest several measures, both to reduce the risks of catastrophic feedback loops in the short term and to maximize the benefits of reform in the long term.

First, stop the refugee surge by ending the Syrian war immediately. This can be accomplished by ending the CIA-Saudi alliance to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, thereby enabling Assad (with Russian and Iranian backing) to defeat the Islamic State and stabilize Syria (with a similar approach in neighboring Iraq). America’s addiction to regime change (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria) is the deep cause of Europe’s refugee crisis. End the addiction, and the recent refugees could return home.

Second, stop NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and Georgia. The new Cold War with Russia is another US-contrived blunder with plenty of European naiveté attached. Closing the door on NATO expansion would make it possible to ease tensions and normalize relations with Russia, stabilize Ukraine, and restore focus on the European economy and the European project.

Third, don’t punish Britain. Instead, police national and EU borders to stop illegal migrants. This is not xenophobia, racism, or fanaticism. It is common sense that countries with the world’s most generous social-welfare provisions (Western Europe) must say no to millions (indeed hundreds of millions) of would-be migrants. The same is true for the US.

Fourth, restore a sense of fairness and opportunity for the disaffected working class and those whose livelihoods have been undermined by financial crises and the outsourcing of jobs. This means following the social-democratic ethos of pursuing ample social spending for health, education, training, apprenticeships, and family support, financed by taxing the rich and closing tax havens, which are gutting public revenues and exacerbating economic injustice. It also means finally giving Greece debt relief, thereby ending the long-running eurozone crisis.

Fifth, focus resources, including additional aid, on economic development, rather than war, in low-income countries. Uncontrolled migration from today’s poor and conflict-ridden regions will become overwhelming, regardless of migration policies, if climate change, extreme poverty, and lack of skills and education undermine the development potential of Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

All of this underscores the need to shift from a strategy of war to one of sustainable development, especially by the US and Europe. Walls and fences won’t stop millions of migrants fleeing violence, extreme poverty, hunger, disease, droughts, floods, and other ills. Only global cooperation can do that.

Word; Neoliberalism

Yes Magazine

Neoliberalism, a term that is only now becoming widespread in progressive circles, refers to a set of policies that advances the interests of transnational corporations over small and local businesses, and over workers and communities. These include trade agreements like the TPP; the privatization of public resources like water, schools, social services, and transportation; and cuts in environmental and safety regulations. Tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations force governments into austerity spending, starving local and national budgets.

Brexit: As we were saying

From our archives

Pew Research Center, 2013 -  The European Union is the new sick man of Europe. The effort over the past half century to create a more united Europe is now the principal casualty of the euro crisis. The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe. Support for European economic integration – the 1957 raison d’etre for creating the European Economic Community, the European Union’s predecessor – is down over last year in five of the eight European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2013. Positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most EU nations, even among the young, the hope for the EU’s future. The favorability of the EU has fallen from a median of 60% in 2012 to 45% in 2013. And only in Germany does at least half the public back giving more power to Brussels to deal with the current economic crisis.

Daily Express, 2007  - Tony Blair wants to hand the European Union radical new powers in his last act as Prime Minister, it emerged today. The Prime Minister has welcomed controversial plans to bring back the troubled EU constitution by the back door - totally bypassing the need for public referendums on sweeping new powers for Brussels.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested ditching the name "constitution" from the title and instead calling it an "amending treaty" - to avoid having to seek the approval of voters. French and Dutch voters rejected the original plan - which would hand Brussels the power to represent individual countries at the UN and change national laws - two years ago. . .
Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "If Tony Blair thinks he can hoodwink the British people by smuggling in the rejected EU constitution under another name, he had better think again. He underestimates the British people. They will see right through any shabby stitch-up. . 

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph, 2001 - Racism and xenophobia would become serious crimes in Britain for the first time, carrying a prison sentence of two years or more, under new proposals put forward by Brussels. Holocaust denial or "trivialisation" of Nazi atrocities would be banned, along with and participation in any group that promotes race hate. The plans, drafted by the European Commission, define racism and xenophobia as aversion to individuals based on "race, colour, descent, religion or belief, national or ethnic origin". Ordinary crimes would carry heavier penalties if they are motivated in any way by racism or xenophobia, or if the culprit is carrying out "professional activity", such as a police officer . . . But the list also a covers a wide range of activities that sometimes fall into the sphere of protected political speech, such as "public insults" of minority groups, "public condoning of war crimes", and "public dissemination of tracts, pictures, or other material containing expressions of racism of xenophobia" - including material posted on far-Right internet websites . . . The law could potentially cover many stand-up comedians, and even Anne Robinson, who, during an appearance on BBC television this year, described the Welsh as "irritating". MORE

America's two most unpopular presidential candidates

NBC News/Wall Street Journal
The most disliked of all is Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is viewed unfavorably by a full 60 percent of the electorate, while only 29 percent offer a positive rating of the GOP standard-bearer (-31 rating). Hillary Clinton is not far behind, with 33 percent of voters giving her a favorable rating compared to 55 percent who give her a negative rating (-22). For the Republican Party, it’s 28 percent positive/ 48 percent negative (-20). The Democratic Party is slightly less unpopular at 37 percent positive and 43 percent negative (-6).”

Clasical music sales plummet

Slipped Disc

Fewer classical records were sold than at any time since records were kept.

For the first time, no release sold as many as 100 copies in the entire USA – that’s CD sales and downloads combined.

Of the enfeebled remainder, the top three consisted of two albums of monkish chant and one of Yo Yo Ma.

Big money buying local elections

Common Dreams

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law published a landmark report documenting how secret donations have corroded democracy at the state level, where it is "arguably most damaging."

"Mining companies secretly targeting a legislator who opposed permits. Food companies battling a ballot measure to add labeling requirements. Payday lenders supporting an attorney general who promised to shield them from regulation," writes Brennan Center president Michael Waldman, listing the ways that outside money has corrupted local politics.

According to the report, secret spending on the local level rose from 24 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2014. This is largely due to a new phenomenon the authors have dubbed "Gray Money," which is when "organizations, which are legally required to disclose their donors, route money through multiple layers of PACs to obscure its origin."

6.5 million die of air pollution annually

NY Times

A report by the International Energy Agency says air pollution has become a major public health crisis leading to around 6.5 million deaths each year, with “many of its root causes and cures” found in the energy industry.

Supreme Court stomps on Texas abortion law

NY Times

The Supreme Court  struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.

The decision concerned two parts of a Texas law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.


 Rowan Wayan Simon's photo.

Rowan Wayan Simon  - These aren't Syrians, Libyans or Africans; they are Europeans trying to get to North Africa during the last world war. So, next time you think of closing the borders you might want to check with your grandparents.

News notes

The ignored women philosophers of the early modern era

Genocide scholars pull out of Israel conference following Palestinian appeals

Suicides increasing

Center for Disease Control

Suicide is increasing against the backdrop of generally declining mortality, and is currently one of the 10 leading causes of death overall and within each age group 10–64. While the rate increased almost steadily over the period, the average annual percent increase was greater for the second half of this period (2006–2014) than for the first half (1999–2006). Increases in suicide rates occurred for both males and females in all but the oldest age group (75 and over). Percent increases in rates were greatest for females aged 10–14 and for males, those aged 45–64. The male-female disparity in suicide rates (as measured by rate ratios) narrowed slightly over the period. Poisoning was the most common suicide method for females in 2014, and firearms were the most frequent for males, but both sexes showed increases since 1999 in the percentage of suicides attributable to suffocation.

June 26, 2016

News Notes

How old people screwed the young in Brexit

How does a jazz musician make it in NYC?

Poll puts support for Scottish independence at 59% 

Federal court trashes 4th Amendment protection for your computer

Electronic Frontier Foundation

In a dangerously flawed decision, a federal district court in Virginia ruled that a criminal defendant has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in his personal computer, located inside his home. According to the court, the federal government does not need a warrant to hack into an individual's computer.

This decision is the latest in, and perhaps the culmination of, a series of troubling decisions in prosecutions stemming from the FBI’s investigation of Playpen—a Tor hidden services site hosting child pornography. The FBI seized the server hosting the site in 2014, but continued to operate the site and serve malware to thousands of visitors that logged into the site. The malware located certain identifying information (e.g., MAC address, operating system, the computer’s “Host name”; etc) on the attacked computer and sent that information back to the FBI.  There are hundreds of prosecutions, pending across the country, stemming from this investigation.

The implications for the decision, if upheld, are staggering: law enforcement would be free to remotely search and seize information from your computer, without a warrant, without probable cause, or without any suspicion at all. To say the least, the decision is bad news for privacy. But it's also incorrect as a matter of law, and we expect there is little chance it would hold up on appeal. (It also was not the central component of the judge's decision, which also diminishes the likelihood that it will become reliable precedent.)

But the decision underscores a broader trend in these cases: courts across the country, faced with unfamiliar technology and unsympathetic defendants, are issuing decisions that threaten everyone's rights. As hundreds of these cases work their way through the federal court system, we'll be keeping a careful eye on these decisions, developing resources to help educate the defense bar, and doing all we can to ensure that the Fourth Amendment's protections for our electronic devices aren't eroded further. We'll be writing more about these cases in the upcoming days, too, so be sure to check back in for an in-depth look at the of the legal issues in these cases, and the problems with the way the FBI handled its investigation. 

Police and FBi intimidating activists in Cleveland


Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been knocking on the doors of activists and community organizers in Cleveland, Ohio, asking about their plans for the Republican National Convention in July.

As the city gears up to welcome an estimated 50,000 visitors, and an unknown number of protesters, some of the preparations and restrictions put in place by officials have angered civil rights activists. But the latest string of unannounced home visits by local and federal police marks a significant escalation in officials’ efforts to stifle protest, they say.

“The purpose of these door knocks is simple: to intimidate the target and others in efforts to discourage people from engaging in lawful First Amendment activities,” Jocelyn Rosnick, a coordinator with the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, wrote in a statement denouncing the home visits.

More than a dozen people in the Cleveland area have reported being visited this week by local police, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Secret Service.

Word: Hoiw the media helps Trump

Dan Rather - “The media wants the ratings. Trump delivers the ratings. In a way, they’re business partners....

I think there has been some media complicity in the rise of Trump. It’s not the only factor, but it has been a factor of providing him so much airtime, and in some cases being complicit in arranging that airtime.

The role of the journalist is to be an adversary, so I think the defense is, make an editorial judgment, make sure you offer the same to the other side. I‘m not sure you want to have him live three times a day for an hour and a half at a time.”

Democratic platform committee goes full GOP lite

Common Dreams

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, members of the DNC's platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership, fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, single payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

Transportation officials in 16 states want to tax cars by the mile driven

Portland Press Herald

[16 states] are proposing pilots to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel – rather than taxing their gas, as state and federal officials do today. Polls show mileage-based taxes are 'unwaveringly unpopular,' but transportation officials say gas tax alone can't adequately fund highway upkeep. The I-95 Corridor Coalition, which represents transportation officials from 16 states and the District of Columbia, applied for a federal grant last month to test the idea.... The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993, and many states have not indexed their own gas taxes to inflation, so those key funding sources have fallen far behind the nation’s needs.

Iceland also has a rebellion


History professor Gudni Johannesson won Iceland's presidential election after riding a wave of anti-establishment sentiment, final results showed

The political newcomer, who won with 39.1 percent of votes, was trailed by businesswoman Halla Tomasdottir, also without party affiliation, who took 29.4 percent, according to results announced on public television channel RUV.

Johannesson only decided to run for the presidency after the so-called Panama Papers leak in April which detailed offshore accounts and implicated several senior Icelandic politicians, including the prime minister who was forced to resign.

Throughout the campaign, Johannesson emphasised his non-partisan vision of the presidency, and vowed to restore faith in the political system after years of public anger toward politicians over scandals and financial woes.

The victory was especially sweet for the history professor and political commentator, who has never held public office and has no party affiliation, as he celebrated his 48th birthday Sunday.

David Oddsson, a former conservative prime minister who had been Johannesson's closest rival throughout most of the campaign, garnered just 13 percent of votes.

Morning Line

Based on an average of recent polls, Hillary Clinton is 8 points ahead of Trump, two below her best so far. It should be noted that the last few polls have Clinton ranging from a tie to a 12 point lead, an unusual range in poll results.

The cost of believing neoliberal elites


Glenn Greenwald - The decision by UK voters to leave the EU is such a glaring repudiation of the wisdom and relevance of elite political and media institutions that – for once – their failures have become a prominent part of the storyline. |

The Los Angeles Times‘ Vincent Bevins, in an outstanding and concise analysis, wrote that “both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years”; in particular, “since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.” The British journalist Tom Ewing, in a comprehensive Brexit explanation, said the same dynamic driving the UK vote prevails in Europe and North America as well: “the arrogance of neoliberal elites in constructing a politics designed to sideline and work around democracy while leaving democracy formally intact.”

In an interview with The New Statesman, the political philosopher Michael Sandel also said that the dynamics driving the pro-Brexit sentiment were now dominant throughout the west generally: “a large constituency of working-class voters feel that not only has the economy left them behind, but so has the culture, that the sources of their dignity, the dignity of labour, have been eroded and mocked by developments with globalisation, the rise of finance, the attention that is lavished by parties across the political spectrum on economic and financial elites, the technocratic emphasis of the established political parties.” After the market-venerating radicalism of Reagan and Thatcher, he said, “the centre left” – Blair and Clinton and various European parties – “managed to regain political office but failed to reimagine the mission and purpose of social democracy, which ­became empty and obsolete.”

Though there were some exceptions, establishment political and media elites in the UK were vehemently united against Brexit, but their decreed wisdom was ignored, even scorned. That has happened time and again. As their fundamental failures become more evident to all, these elites have lost credibility, lost influence, and lost the ability to dictate outcomes.

Just last year in the UK, Labour members chose someone to lead Tony Blair’s party – the authentically left-wing Jeremy Corbyn – who could not have been more intensely despised and patronized by almost every leading light of the British media and political class. In the U.S., the joyful rejection by Trump voters of the collective wisdom of the conservative establishment evidenced the same contempt for elite consensus. The enthusiastic and sustained rallying, especially by young voters, against beloved-by-the-establishment Hillary Clinton in favor of a 74-year-old socialist taken seriously by almost no DC elites reflected the same dynamic. Elite denunciations of the right-wing parties of Europe fall on deaf ears. Elites can’t stop, or even affect, any of these movements because they are, at bottom, revolts against their wisdom, authority and virtue.

In sum, the west’s establishment credibility is dying, and their influence is precipitously eroding – all deservedly so. The frenetic pace of online media makes even the most recent events feel distant, like ancient history. That, in turn, makes it easy to lose sight of how many catastrophic and devastating failures western elites have produced in a remarkably short period of time.

The disappearing west

Progress Report

A football field worth of natural area in the West is disappearing every two and a half minutes. And every year, the Western United States loses an Los Angeles-sized amount of natural area to development. That’s according to a new study out from the Center for American Progress and Conservation Science Partners. The project, called the Disappearing West, is the first comprehensive analysis of human impacts on lands in the American West.

The project finds that roads, energy infrastructure, agriculture, urban sprawl and other development covered 165,00 square miles of land in 2011.

California lost the most natural area to development, with Colorado close behind, losing 785 and 525 square miles respectively. The analysis found that urban sprawl was responsible for the largest amount of natural area loss in the West—2,343 square miles—followed by energy development, which resulted in the loss of 1,530 square miles. This amount of land loss means a lot of habitat fragmentation. As an example, a bear walking a random path in the American West could not go farther than three and a half miles on average before encountering significant human development.

June 25, 2016

NYPD Inspector General says broken windows policing doesn't work

Boing Boing

For years, the NYPD and other police departments have justified the highly racialized practice of stop-and-frisk and zero-tolerance approaches to turnstyle hopping, etc, by citing the "broken windows" theory of policing -- the idea that if the police stop petty crime, major crime will follow.

The NYPD's Office of the Inspector General has just released a statistical analysis of "broken windows" policing and concluded that there's no evidence to support the idea -- meaning that around 100,000-500,000 New Yorkers (overwhelmingly brown people) were stopped and frisked by cops every year, for more than a decade, for no evidence-based reason. 

Sanders as Veep canidate would help Clinton

Huffington Post

Thirty-nine percent of voters nationwide said they would be more likely to vote for the Democratic ticket if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were on it, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

The poll tested six potential Democratic and six potential Republican vice presidential picks, and Sanders was the only name to stand out from the pack. Among undecided voters, a whopping 50 percent said they would be more likely to support the Democrats if it’s a Clinton-Sanders ticket. That could be a substantial number of voters — the HuffPollster model indicates that 9.8 percent of voters are undecided.

Home ownership at 48 year low

Washington Examiner

Home ownership is at a 48-year low, driven in part by a shocking pattern of foreclosure that put 9.4 million out of their homes during the recent recession, according to a Harvard survey. Figures from the St. Louis Fed showed a homeownership rate of 63.5 percent. The last time it was lower was in 1967.

The Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies report put a focus on foreclosures.

"A critical but often overlooked factor is the role of foreclosures in depleting the ranks of homeowners. Indeed, CoreLogic estimates that more than 9.4 million homes (the majority owner-occupied) were forfeited through foreclosures, short sales, and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure from the start of the housing crash in 2007 through 2015," said the report.