Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Democrats Contra Sanders

If you want a sample of the attack that the Democratic Party will use against Bernie Sanders the closer we get to 2020 read Thomas Edsall's "Bernie Sanders Scares a Lot of People, and Quite a Few of Them Are Democrats."

Edsall interviewed professional Democrats -- pollsters, consultants, political scientists and economists -- allowing them to speak on background (why is that necessary?), and his findings reveal a party completely out of touch with reality.

The principal attack will be that Sanders can't win a general election because he is a "socialist." "Socialism" will scare off the mythical suburban moderate whose allegiance a presidential candidate must secure in order to win the White House.

Then Edsall tills the soil of Sanders' free-wheelin' '60s/early-'70s lifestyle, a lifestyle from a bygone era which will somehow disqualify Sanders with an electorate accustomed to presidential tales of balling Playboy bunnies and porn stars.

Then, in the last one-third of the article, Edsall explores Sanders' strengths, and a little reality is allowed to shine in:
Two large surveys — one by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the other by the Voter Study Group — showed that in 2016 12 percent of Sanders’ primary voters cast ballots for Trump in November. If Sanders could return a substantial share of that 12 percent, which translates roughly to 1.58 million voters, to the Democratic fold, it would significantly enhance the party’s prospects up and down the ticket.
On Monday, the Sanders campaign released internal campaign polling by Tulchin Research that shows that at the moment Sanders is running ahead of Trump in the three key industrial states that gave Trump his 2016 Electoral College victory.
When voters were asked, “If the election were held today, who would you vote for, Bernie Sanders, the Democrat, or Donald Trump, the Republican,” Sanders led 52-41 in Michigan, 52-42 in Wisconsin and 51-43 in Pennsylvania.
A double-digit lead in two out of the three states that Trump won by a narrow margin in 2016, handing him the White House -- that's the only argument you need about Bernie's chances in a genral election.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Extinction Rebellion Continues

There is a decent write-up by Robert Stevens of the ongoing Extinction Rebellion (XR) in London (see "Police arrest over 1,000 climate change protesters in London"):
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in London over the last seven days of climate change protests organised by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group.
Protesters continued to peacefully occupy public spaces in the capital, including Parliament Square, Piccadilly Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch, despite mounting and provocative police arrests.
[snip]
On Sunday, those gathered at Marble Arch were addressed by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose protests outside Sweden’s parliament last year sparked the current wave of global strikes and demonstrations by school youth and students.
Thunberg, who will meet politicians, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over the next week, said to a standing ovation, “Despite all the beautiful words and promises. … For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis …”
She added, “We are now facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis and ecological crisis which have never been treated as crises before, they have been ignored for decades.”
The New York Times has generally ignored XR, though it did publish one story by Ceylan Yeginsu, one of the newspaper's better reporters, last week. Yeginsu made note of the demands of the Extinction Rebellion:
The group has three core demands of the British government: to “tell the truth” by declaring a climate and ecological emergency; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’ assembly to lead on climate issues.
[snip]
Whether intentional or not, their cause received a lift on Wednesday from Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, who warned the financial sector that it faced an existential threat from climate change and urged international banks to take immediate steps to prepare.
“As financial policymakers and prudential supervisors we cannot ignore the obvious physical risks before our eyes,” Mr. Carney wrote in a joint article with Francois Villeroy, the governor of the Banque De France, that was published in The Guardian newspaper.
Citing the threats to insurance companies and banks from the recent spate of storms, floods, fires and other natural disasters, he said, “Climate Change is a global problem, which requires global solutions, in which the whole financial sector has a central role to play.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

Good News: Ukrainians Reject U.S. Puppet Poroshenko

One can infer from the lack of coverage in "the newspaper of record" that yesterday's outcome of the presidential election in Ukraine (see "Ukraine Election: Volodymyr Zelensky, TV Comedian, Trounces President" by Andrew Higgins and Iuliia Mendel) is unwelcome in Washington, D.C.

Why? Lev Golinkin explains in The Nation (see "Ukraine’s Upcoming Election Pits a Deeply Unpopular President Against a TV Comedian"):
Thus far, Western media have focused on the “Isn’t this quirky?” aspect of an untested comedian about to become the leader of Ukraine. But there’s nothing quirky about it.
For millions of Ukrainian citizens mired in economic corruption, this election is anything but funny. Millions of rational people would rather take their chances with an untested comedian than the US-backed Poroshenko. That staggering decision behooves us to pay attention.
For the past five years, Ukraine played a central role in US foreign policy. Washington vigorously supported the 2013–14 Maidan uprising that ousted Viktor Yanukovych and brought Poroshenko to power. A bipartisan Who’s Who of Washington powerbrokers, including Senator John McCainand Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, hustled into Kiev to cheer on the uprising.
Five years later, the majority of Ukrainians are overwhelmingly rejecting that choice.
Indeed, it’s hard to consider this election as anything other than a referendum on not only Poroshenko’s presidency, but the entire US-backed Maidan project.
Higgins and Mendel report the extent of Poroshenko's overwhelming rejection:
KIEV, Ukraine — The comedian Volodymyr Zelensky won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election, according to official results with nearly all of the votes counted, making a comic actor with no experience in government or the military the commander in chief of a country that has been at war with Russian proxies for over five years.
With more than 95 percent of ballots cast on Sunday counted, Mr. Zelensky had won 73.17 percent of the vote, compared with just 24.5 percent for Petro O. Poroshenko, Ukraine’s incumbent president. Mr. Zelensky triumphed in every region, except for the area around the city of Lviv, a center of Ukrainian culture and nationalism in the west of the country.
Ukraine’s central election commission said that final official results might not be ready until April 30 because of the upcoming Orthodox Easter holidays.
Mr. Zelensky’s victory will give Ukraine its first Jewish leader and deliver a stinging rebuke to a political and business establishment represented by Mr. Poroshenko, a billionaire candy tycoon who campaigned on the nationalist slogan “Army, language, faith.”
Besides the issue of the systemic corruption of the oligarchy the presidential election was also a referendum on language. Zelensky speaks Russian not Ukrainian. A reader of The Times would be completely unaware of this because the few stories and opinion pieces devoted to the election made no mention of it.

A good story published by Politico at the end of March explains:
The usage of Ukrainian has boomed since the revolution, with a new law dictating that all schooling after the fifth grade onward must be in Ukrainian. Russian, meanwhile, has been demonized by some on the right as the “language of the enemy.”
Last year, overzealous city councilors from Ukraine’s western city of Lviv went as far as to ban Russian-language culture and media altogether — a move that occasioned a sharp rebuke from the country’s Western diplomatic community. “The Lviv [region] ban as formulated is narrow-minded, discriminatory and just plain dumb,” the Canadian ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, tweeted at the time.
The ban was an outlier, but it struck the wrong tone in the country’s east and south, where Russian is still the predominant language. (The anti-government protests that preceded the war in the Donbas were set off by news that Ukraine’s parliament was considering repealing the status of Russian as a regional language).
A recent media law mandating Russian-language outlets to translate their content into Ukrainian has also ruffled feathers — and driven some sites out of business.
The coup in Kiev five years ago kicked off a great deal of turbulence in international affairs. Maybe the rejection of Poroshenko, Washington's man, is a favorable omen for our politics ahead.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Mueller Report: When Things Fall Apart

The problem presented by the release of the redacted Mueller report for the massive disinformation campaign which is Russiagate, a.k.a., "Putin Stole my Election!" -- well, there are several problems -- is that Mueller clearly places the burden on Congress to act: No proof of criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government (see Glenn Greenwald's "Robert Mueller Did Not Merely Reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He Obliterated Them.," as well as his debate with David Cay Johnston). Obstruction of justice charges, if they are to be pursued, should be taken up by a co-equal branch of government.

But the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will not begin impeachment proceedings because then there would have to be hearings, testimony given, witnesses cross-examined. All the fluff and gossip contained in the Steele dossier would go up in smoke.

So what are the Democrats to do? Their precious status as victims of Putin's evil machinations is fast disappearing.

The New York Times is busy re-conjuring the genie from his bottle. Yesterday's unsigned editorial -- "The Mueller Report and the Danger Facing American Democracy: A perceived victory for Russian interference poses a serious risk for the United States." -- restates that case against Russia:
The report of the special counsel Robert Mueller leaves considerable space for partisan warfare over the role of President Trump and his political campaign in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. But one conclusion is categorical: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
What are we really talking about here? The Times itself acknowledges that "there is no way to gauge with any certainty how much impact the Russian activities actually had on voters."

We appear to be talking about a modest effort by the reputedly Kremlin controlled Internet Research Agency (IRA) to influence voters. We are supposed to believe that digital ads "purchased in rubles using 470 fake accounts and pages" could have had any impact at all in an election campaign where $6.5 billion was spent.

(My reply to cries of "Putin is dividing us!" is "That's the whole point of the two-party system," which usually generates a stunned silence.)

We are also talking about the DNC hack and Podesta hack, both of which, absent proof, are ascribed to Russian military intelligence. That's just baldly accepted; to question it, to request the evidence for the assertion, is to invite ridicule.

The reality is that all nations fiddle about with influence campaigns on the internet. For instance, close U.S. ally Saudi Arabia was caught red-handed running a botnet in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance; Israel has waged cyber-warfare against the BDS movement; and let's not forget the fake Russian botnet created by Jonathon Morgan, a Russiagate conspiracy theorist and author of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia's use of social media during the 2016 election.

The Times editorial seems to acknowledge this by saying that it is the influence campaigns of "hostile" nations that are a threat to U.S. democracy:
A perceived victory for Russian interference poses a serious danger to the United States. Already, several American agencies are working, in partnership with the tech industry, to prevent election interference going forward. But the Kremlin is not the only hostile government mucking around in America’s cyberspace — China and North Korea are two others honing their cyber-arsenals, and they, too, could be tempted to manipulate partisan strife for their ends.
I'm surprised Iran wasn't mentioned, or Venezuela.

And that is what we're really talking about here: The establishment of a censorship regime for the new media environment.

In 2016 things got out of hand because voters no longer get their information from a trusted daily newspaper or the nightly television news. They get their information from the internet. The internet is too wild and woolly an environment to keep a nation of hundreds of millions pacified. Thus, the internet must be regulated.

And that's been happening under the cover of the Russian bogeyman. The tech companies are being brought to heel, to hunt and fetch for the master.

The problem is that the elite political consensus being protected is indefensible. People are miserable. The planet is undergoing a massive die-off. And all the rich want to do is get richer.

In the end, this counterintelligence campaign, this Russiagate, which is really a massive domestic pacification program like COINTELPRO, is going to have to resort to violence, and that's when things fall apart.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Democratic Panic

From "‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats Are Agonizing Over His Momentum" by Jonathan Martin:
WASHINGTON — When Leah Daughtry, a former Democratic Party official, addressed a closed-door gathering of about 100 wealthy liberal donors in San Francisco last month, all it took was a review of the 2020 primary rules to throw a scare in them.
Democrats are likely to go into their convention next summer without having settled on a presidential nominee, said Ms. Daughtry, who ran her party’s conventions in 2008 and 2016, the last two times the nomination was contested. And Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is well positioned to be one of the last candidates standing, she noted.
“I think I freaked them out,” Ms. Daughtry recalled with a chuckle, an assessment that was confirmed by three other attendees. They are hardly alone.
From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts to the cloakrooms of Washington, mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders, in a political scenario all too reminiscent of how Mr. Trump himself seized the Republican nomination in 2016.
It’s truly remarkable. Elite Democratic donors and apparatchiks are shitting in their pants over the possibility of Bernie’s nomination.

It appears they are taking a brokered convention for granted because of the massive frontloading of the primary season. Then, after the first ballot, the superdelegates can vote. So it looks to be a mess in the making.

But not nearly as much of a mess if Bernie wins the primary in a rout. Then I think it’s a pretty safe bet some of these billionaire Dem donors will back a third-party run by Bloomberg or someone else.

Whatever the cost they will block a socialist from winning the presidency.

Trump Vetoes Yemen War Powers Resolution; Sledgehammers his Base

Take a look at the reader comments accompanying the Breitbart story on Trump's veto of the War Powers Resolution ending U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war. They are almost 100% opposed to the veto.

Much is made about Trump's canniness in keeping his base tightly bound to him. And it's true. Trump has been good at shoveling red meat to his supporters. But working class white reactionaries do not approve of the Saudi royal family; they loathe them.

Attacking little Ilhan Omar comes off as all the more unseemly and perverse when Trump time and again is pictured in flagrante licking Saudi boots.

Trump's veto takes a sledgehammer to his conservative base. As Mark Landler and Peter Baker remind us in "Trump Vetoes Measure to Force End to U.S. Involvement in Yemen War," the Yemen War Powers resolution was co-sponsored by arch-Trump Republicans:
“This is deeply disappointing,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, who was one of the original sponsors of the measure in the House and had sought a meeting with Mr. Trump to try to persuade him to sign it.
“The president had the opportunity to sign a historic War Powers Resolution and stand with a bipartisan coalition, including his allies Rand Paul, Mark Meadows and Matt Gaetz, to stop endless wars,” Mr. Khanna said. “He failed to uphold the principles of the Constitution that give Congress power over matters of war and peace.”
Mr. Khanna was referring to the Republican senator from Kentucky, Mr. Paul, and two Republican representatives, from North Carolina and Florida, Mr. Meadows and Mr. Gaetz, who are closely aligned with Mr. Trump, but split with fellow Republicans to vote with Democrats in favor of the resolution. Members of the group had asked to meet with Mr. Trump to make their case against a veto, but the White House brushed them off.
Trump is gambling that Yemen disappears as a campaign issue a year from now. His veto guarantees that it won't, particularly if the Sanders runaway train continues to gain speed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The American Independent Party is Still Around After Half a Century

There was this interesting blurb from yesterday's Water Cooler by Lambert Strether:
CA: “California Voters Keep Accidentally Joining George Wallace’s Zombie Political Party” [New York Magazine]. “An April 2016 Los Angeles Times report showing that a vast number of indies who should have been registering as ‘No Party Preference’ voters were instead signing up for the [American Independent Party, a hold-over from the Wallace campaign in 1968]…. it certainly did not help the Sanders campaign, which was counting on indie votes…. If there’s a 20-candidate presidential field and Sanders or somebody else is counting on indies to get them across the line in California, they’d better start getting the word on about the AIP pretty soon.”
Who would have imagined that the American Independent Party exists more than 50 years after the 1968 presidential election. It seems to be limited to California; headquartered in Vacaville.

Last night, thinking about the 2020 presidential campaign, I wondered, If Wallace had somehow managed to get elected in 1968, could he have won a second term in 1972?

Because in many ways Trump's presidency is as if George Wallace had been elected, the main difference being that, as Michael Moore does a good job reminding us in his film Fahrenheit 11/9, Trump won in 2016 by running to Hillary's left on a host of issues, particularly war and peace. George Wallace, with General Curtis LeMay on his ticket in '68, ran as an unrepentant war-pig.

But all of Trump's left-progressive packaging has been ripped off after two-plus years in the White House.

As I drifted off to sleep I thought the only chance that Trump has is if the Democratic Party comes to the rescue. This is not out of the realm of possibility. If Sanders win's the primary, Democratic Party leaders might see their best hope of survival the sabotage of his candidacy.