Category Archives: Politics

Lessons from the TPP: no political polarization for interests of the 1%!

Summary:  As Congress debates the TPP and USA Freedom Act, it’s become fashionable to complain about political polarization and gridlock. Yet we see in these debates how both parties often cooperate to advance the interests of the 1% and the Deep State. Congress and our Presidents take a thousand steps, seemingly unrelated, adding up to the construction of a great work — a New America.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Project New America

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities {that} essentially makes the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act a non-binding international standard. It requires no change to U.S. law.” The final vote was 61-38 vote (short of the required 2/3 majority); all 38 no votes were Republicans. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) explains their opposition:

“I do oppose the CRPD because I think it does impinge upon our sovereignty … Unelected bureaucratic bodies would implement the treaty and pass so-called recommendations that would be forced upon the United Nations and the U.S. … This would especially affect those parents who home-school their children. … The unelected foreign bureaucrats, not parents, would decide what is in the best interests of the disabled child, even in the home. … I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society.”

Imhofe’s objections apply equally well to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). But unlike rights for the disabled, the Senator Imhofe and his Republican colleagues in the Senate overcame their principles when necessary to further the interests of the 1% and approve fast-tracking the TPP. (In a telling sideshow, 10 Democrats were not satisfied with this gift to US megacorps, and demanded a pony too — assurance of GOP support for renewal of the megacorp-friendly Export-Import Bank).

Here we see the true nature of US politics today.  The Republicans and Democrats disagree about social issues; this is the  core of our so-called “political polarization”. But the 1% don’t care about most social issues. It’s more important that both parties support the policies that the 1% cares about (to different degrees depending on the issue).

This bifurcation of issues is the elephant in the room that political scientists too often ignore.

This partnership of the 1% and both parties has run America for many years. Dramatic, even fierce, public debate is followed by agreement to do the will of the 1%. Hillary and other Democrats supported Bush’s wars. The GOP supports Obama’s negotiations for the TPP.  The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 with a bipartisan majority. The Senate passed the Patriot Act extensions with a bipartisan majority.

Occasionally one party or other postures in opposition to key legislation (for public display), so long as it passes. That’s true bipartisanship, of the kind I expect to gain approval for the USA Freedom Act.

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The TPP shows the workings of our New America, if we care enough to look

Summary:  In this post an insider tells us the sad details about the Trans Pacific Partnership that provide insights into the workings of the New America being raised on the ruins of the Republic-that-once-was. Not just the treaty but the process that creates it. In this afternoon’s post, part 2, Alexis de Tocquiville helps us more clearly see what’s happening to America, with the perspective provided by experience and distance in time.  {Part 1 of 2 today.}

Bush & Obama: First Buddies:

Bush & Obama: First Buddies

 

Contents

  1. Partners at the creation
  2. The Trans-Pacific Partnership
  3. For More Information
  4. The fall of the old regime
  5. Conclusions
  6. For More Information

 

(1)  Partners at the creation of New America

“The problem is choice.”
— Neo in The Matrix Reloaded (2003).

One of the great themes of these posts has been the historic transformations of America under Bush Jr. and Obama. They brilliantly used both the groundwork laid during the previous generation and the unique opportunities created by 9/11 and the 2008 crash to alter the direction of our national evolution in ways profound although not yet clear. Their four terms, so consistent in most aspects of domestic and foreign policy (excluding social policies of little interest to our rulers) have raised the skeleton of a New America on the ruins of the old.

Revolutions and reformations done with popular support occur in the daylight. Those done without it occur in the shadows, cloaked in euphemisms amidst assurances that nothing important has changed. One way to show the real nature of these events is contrasting today’s news with a yardstick from the past. This post does so by looking at Obama’s work to gain approval for the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) with passages from the greatest work by Alexis de Tocqueville: The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution. He gives us a mirror in which we can more clearly see ourselves.

Stop the TPP fast track

(2)  The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Slowly news leaks out about the Orwellian-named Trans-pacific Partnership, othorganized by the Bush Administration and negotiated by Team Obama. The American people are not partners in this deal. It’s kept unusually secret to prevent opposition from mobilizing before the final rush after the deal is finalized — and the beneficiaries have greased the way for approval. Here we see, again, Obama’s contempt for Congress and the American people.

The latest evidence comes from Michael Wessel, a cleared liaison to two statutory advisory committees for the TPP. He was a commissioner on the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission. He published “I’ve Read Obama’s Secret Trade Deal. Elizabeth Warren Is Right to Be Concerned” at Politico.

The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design — anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what’s hidden in this trade deal — and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

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Obama screwed the Left in 2008. They’re eager for Hillary to do it in 2016.

Summary: Today we have an excerpt from a brilliant essay by Paul Street He explains how the Left has dug itself into a hole (the GOP clown car primaries show the similar problem on the Right), betting on hope rather than organization and work. And will repeat this mistake in 2016. {1st of 2 posts.}

The Political Machine

 

Today’s recommended reading: “Dancing to His Masters’ Tunes: The Liberal Apologies for Obama’s Ugly Reign” by Paul Street (his bio) at CounterPunch. This excerpt gives the bones of his reasoning, but omits his powerful horrific evidence. It deserves to be read in full.

——————— Excerpt  ———————

“Fact and Scrutiny”

So this is how Barack Obama is moving into the final 20 months of his dismal neoliberal presidency, which he once (proudly) described as ideologically akin to the Eisenhower White House. He is nauseating much of his own Wall Street-captive party’s electoral base by trying to push through the absurdly regressive, secretive, eco-cidal, and global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership treaty – a massive investor rights measure that promises to reduce wages, deepen inequality, undermine popular sovereignty, and assault already endangered livable ecology in the name of (what else?) “free trade” and “growth.” …

“Every Four Years”

There are a number of understandable and respectable responses (horror and disgust come to mind) to these latest corporatist White House policies, but surprise is not one of them. This is precisely the capitalist Obama that a good cadre of Left activists and writers tried (none more voluminously than this writer) to warn liberals and progressives about from the beginning of the Obama phenomenon and then presidency.

Like the Bill Clinton presidency but with considerable less success to a far less favorable economic and global context and to Obama’s comparative political ineptitude, the Obama administration has been (as predicted) a monument to faux-progressive corporate and Wall Street rule and to the wisdom of left historian Lawrence Shoup’s judgement in early 2008:

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Who believes that the Federal government seeks to take over Texas?

Summary:  The Jade Helm military exercise has sparked an urban legend. Polls showing who believes fringe theories act as x-rays illuminating the American polity. Some of the results are expected if alarming. Some are unexpected and hence even more valuable.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Jade Helm

Contents

  1. A funny question.
  2. Answer by ideology.
  3. The Evangelicals speak.
  4. The Tea Party speaks.
  5. Answers by age.
  6. Answers by gender.
  7. Answers by preferred candidate.
  8. Conclusions.
  9. For More Information.

(1)  A funny question

The multi-state military exercise known as Jade Helm has aroused an unusually strong reaction among elements of the public. For details see the Wikipedia entry, the Snopes page, and the Washington Post story. These went ballistic when Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas State Guard to monitor it “to ensure that Texans’ safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed during the eight-week training period …”

In response Public Policy Polling® creatively asked an interesting question in a survey done last week. The results are amazing, and become more so when examined more closely.

Public Policy Polling, May 2014

(2) Answer by ideology

A breakdown of the answers by ideology gives a more interesting perspective. This weird theory has believers on both extremes, another example of commonality of thinking among the far Left and Right. The political spectrum is a circle, not a line.

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The debate about Hersh’s revelations reveals more than his article

Summary: The Hersh affair continues to pay rich dividends of insights about our past and present. Today we look at the best analysis to date of Hersh’s revelations, and what it tells us about America’s politics.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Running In Circles

 

Contents

  1. The first good analysis of Hersh.
  2. Our tribalism.
  3. How do we get out of this box?
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  The first good analysis of Hersh’s article

The first two days after publication of Hersh’s “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” brought forth considerable supporting evidence — some new, some reminders of stories from 2011 and 2012. There has been little useful analysis so far, until Elspeth Reeve published “The Loneliness of Sy Hersh” at The New Republic. She opens with the reaction to the story from the Left and Right…

CNN’s Peter Bergen debunks Hersh’s “Allegations of massive cover-up.” Vox’s Max Fisher scoffs at “a story that accuses hundreds of people across three governments of staging a massive international hoax that has gone on for years.” Daily Telegraph Pakistan correspondent Rob Crilly calls it a “conspiracy theory” that will fool “the soft minded.”

… You might expect conservatives to run with the dark comedy of the Obama White House scrambling to make up lies to take advantage of the death of America’s No. 1 foe in an election year — only to watch those lies spiral out of control and create more foreign policy problems.

You might expect conservatives to use this story, but they haven’t. Some light mockery from the Right, but so far they’ve given little attention to the story. As for the Left, they’ve deployed the generic government fanboy’s defense — describing government lies as a “conspiracy”. And large groups of people cannot keep a secret! Excerpt that history shows that they can. Here are a few examples.

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Democracy dies in Europe and America. Are we better off without it?

Summary: This post attempts to give some perspective on the growing “democratic deficit” in Europe and America. What causes it? Does it help or hurt us? These questions have no obvious answers. Hopefully this will help you see this trend, and help spark whatever action you believe appropriate. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Contents

  1. The Democratic Deficit: is it a feature or bug?
  2. Europe leads; America follows.
  3. How the 1% see us: as dogs, or sheep
  4. For More Information

(1)  The Democratic Deficit: a feature, not a bug

The rise of Hitler in Germany, center of European culture and science, terrified Europe’s elites. Their response depended on the cause as they saw it, which was the madness of the masses (the role of Germany’s elites conveniently forgotten) plus Europe’s division into competing nations. The solution was slow unification into a new polity having the form of democracy but with power concentrated in non-representative institutions.

The plan has worked in the halting messy way typical of political evolution.  The sovereign debt crisis tested the EU’s legitimacy and institutions. Both weathered the storm.  Public support has begun to recover, and remains adequate (even in Greece, where 34% had a favorable view of the EU in May 2014).

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Politics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers

Summary:  The posts this week mark a conclusion to years of analysis on the FM website, as I struggle to understand what’s happening to America. The last piece of the puzzle came with my absurdly slow realization that Fox News is the model news provider for our New America. This is the fourth and last in a series briefly describing where we are, and what I personally am attempting to do about it. These posts rarely speak in the first person, but this is the exception.

American Power

 

Contents

  1. A look at America’s classes
  2. The mass market for information
  3. Another path
  4. For More Information

 

(1)  A look at America’s classes

Many American do not know the strength of the class system in America during the Gilded Age, before its disruption by WWII and the creation afterwards of a large middle class. For an entertaining introduction, I recommend watching Stella Dallas, with Barbara Stanwyck in the title role (1937). It describes the powerful role of class in our past, and perhaps in our future.

Time has disproved most of Marx’s economics, but it has validated much of his sociology. George Orwell gives us an updated model of a class structure that fits our America. There is the bourgeois, the top few percent who own most of America (the 1% own over a third; the top 3% over half). There is the inner party, the highly-paid senior leadership of our political and corporate institutions. There is the outer party of managers and professionals. There are the proles, America’s workers and its underclass.

The bourgeois and inner party are the insiders. They have a common interest with their peers in preserving the political and social systems that have given them so much, so most are conservative in the literal meaning of the term. They desire tinkering with the details, shifting America to the Left or Right — but not radical change. They have leisure time, autonomy, and agency (the ability to influence events), which gives them a perspective on the world radically different than that of the lower classes.

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