Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chalk One Up for the Green Party: Stein and Cobb Box the Democratic Illuminati while Rolling in the Dough

A golden truth of politics is that if you can split your opponent's base you will usually win.

It didn't work for Hillary, whose campaign was pegged -- maybe not for public consumption, since Robby Mook insisted in the final days leading up to November 8 that surging Latino support would offset any drop off in African Americans -- on an enormous but fictitious gender gap (I bought it) that predicted droves of Republican-leaning suburban soccer-&-megachurch moms, offended by Trump's misogyny, casting a Democratic ballot.

But mediocre Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein seems to have found the sweet spot and is cleaving the Democratic Party in twain with her drive for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania based on the possibility of a computer hack in these three swing states. Yesterday the Clinton campaign reluctantly agreed to join Stein in her recount quest, as David Sanger reports in "Hillary Clinton’s Team to Join Wisconsin Recount Pushed by Jill Stein":
WASHINGTON — Nearly three weeks after Election Day, Hillary Clinton’s campaign said on Saturday that it would participate in a recount process in Wisconsin incited by a third-party candidate and would join any potential recounts in two other closely contested states, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
The Clinton campaign held out little hope of success in any of the three states, and said it had seen no “actionable evidence” of vote hacking that might taint the results or otherwise provide new grounds for challenging Donald J. Trump’s victory. But it suggested it was going along with the recount effort to assure supporters that it was doing everything possible to verify that hacking by Russia or other irregularities had not affected the results.
In a post on Medium, Marc Elias, the Clinton team’s general counsel, said the campaign would take part in the Wisconsin recount being set off by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, and would also participate if Ms. Stein made good on her plans to seek recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Clinton lost those three states by a total of little more than 100,000 votes, sealing her Electoral College defeat by Mr. Trump.
The Clinton campaign had assailed Mr. Trump during the election for refusing to say he would abide by the results if he lost. On Saturday, Mr. Trump responded to the campaign’s decision to join the recount with a statement calling the effort “ridiculous” and “a scam by the Green Party.”
He suggested that most of the money raised would not be spent on the recount. “The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing,” Mr. Trump said.
In Wisconsin, Mr. Trump leads by 22,177 votes. In Michigan, he has a lead of 10,704 votes, and in Pennsylvania, his advantage is 70,638 votes.
Mr. Elias suggested in his essay that the Clinton campaign was joining the recount effort with little expectation that it would change the result. But many of the campaign’s supporters, picking up on its frequent complaints of Russian interference in the election, have enthusiastically backed Ms. Stein’s efforts, putting pressure on the Clinton team to show that it is exploring all options.
What we have here is the Democrats reaping what they have sowed. For months they hid behind allegations of Russian hacking masterminded by the evil Putin to explain away the proof of corrupt behavior by DNC officials and Clinton campaign honchos contained in the WikiLeaks revelations. So when a New York Magazine article published last week reported that a group of experts had approached the Clinton campaign "with persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked," and it was the Green Party not the Democrats who sprang into action, well, how does that play to the base?

Memories are still present (probably due to a widespread familiarity with Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911) of Gore's passivity in the face of the Supreme Court intervention to end the recount in Florida; that, combined with the Oz-like baleful Russian bogeyman hacker that Democratic leaders and Obama administration officials have conjured up in the present day to obscure the party's venality and intellectual bankruptcy, effectively put Hillary in a box. Thanks to Stein and her campaign manager, the former Green Party presidential candidate, David Cobb, Hillary had to join the recount.

Sanger continues:
The Clinton campaign will not contribute financially to the effort, which has been funded by small contributions. But it will pay to have its own lawyers present at the recount, campaign officials said.
The Obama administration issued a statement to The New York Times on Friday in response to questions about intelligence findings related to Russian interference in the election. In the statement, it said it had concluded that the election was free of interference.
The administration issued a second statement on Saturday saying that “the federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day.”
Mrs. Clinton conceded the race to Mr. Trump early on Nov. 9, when it became clear that he would have a large margin of victory in the Electoral College. But as her lead in the popular vote has grown — it now exceeds two million votes — her base has increasingly pressured her to challenge the results.
That has been fueled in part by how aggressively the Clinton campaign spread the word of Russian involvement in the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and from the personal account of John D. Podesta, the campaign’s chairman. The campaign also charged that the Russians were behind fake news about Mrs. Clinton’s health, among other stories — a claim supported to some extent by recent studies.
Some critics saw those accusations as an effort to shift the discussion from mistakes the Clinton campaign had made in taking on Mr. Trump.
Mr. Elias’s post offered a revealing look at how much time and energy the campaign had spent in the past two weeks looking for evidence of Russian hacking or other irregularities, and how it had tried to keep those efforts secret.
“Since the day after the election, we have had lawyers and data scientists and analysts combing over the results to spot anomalies that would suggest a hacked result,” Mr. Elias wrote.
“Most of those discussions have remained private, while at least one has unfortunately been the subject of leaks,” he wrote, a reference to conversations between Mr. Podesta and a group of experts that included J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist with deep experience in the vulnerabilities of voting systems.
Mr. Halderman recently put his own post on Medium, describing his suspicions and the case for recounts. But even he doubted that the election result would change.
But what of the Greens? Is Trump correct? Is this a money-making scam? Yes, I think it is. David Cobb has done this before -- in 2004, along with the Libertarian presidential candidate, with a recount in Ohio. I have met David Cobb. He is shitbird, a peddler of snake oil. But that didn't prevent me from voting for Stein this go-round, nor did it stop me from contributing $50 to the recount effort. Why is it permissible for only the major parties, the two branches of the duopoly, to fleece the public and lard their pantries? Why can't the minor parties join the barbecue now and then? And it appears that the recount fund drive has been wildly successful. Stein has already raised over $6 million, well on the way to achieving her goal of $7 million, which would double the amount she raised during the campaign.

Jeffrey St. Clair inveighs against Stein in his weekly must-read "Roaming Charges" column:
What in the world is Jill Stein up to? She is trying to raise more $2 million for recounts in WI, Michigan & Penn, recounts that presumably aren’t about getting a bigger vote total for the Green Party, but trying to find “lost” votes for HRC. If HRC isn’t willing to stand up for her own voters (assuming there are lost votes) why the hell should the Greens? What’s the goal? To be able to say: “I didn’t cost Hillary the election, I tried to win it for her?”
This smells of Stein’s campaign manager David Cobb to me, who in 2004 really wanted the Greens to run a stealth campaign so as not to be tarnished by reelection of Bush. (Indeed, the Wisconsin recount has nothing to do with the Green Party itself. The executive committee voted 5-3 to reject Stein and Cobb’s request that they sponsor the recounts.) Shortly after the 2004, elections Cobb spear-headed an audit of the returns from Ohio, the state that sank John Kerry. Many of the Greens are simply disaffect liberals, who really want to be teleported back to the Democratic Party of the 70s and 80s.
Nearly 100 million eligible voters didn’t vote. Stein would be better served spending some of the $2 million turning them Green, organizing their own party, providing legal support for Standing Rock protesters, investing it in the Powerball lottery or almost anything other than auditing the vote for Hillary. But if, as with Sanders, Stein uses that $2 million (or even $200,000 or $20,000 or $2000 or $200) to help the candidate she rightly assailed as a threat to peace, the environment and working people during the campaign, then Stein will have defrauded the very people who supported her.
The end result, even if successful in revealing some hijinks in the voting machines, as in Ohio 2004, will be to make more “legitimate” the very electoral process that kept the Green Party off the ballot in many states and locked it out of the debates. I don’t see that as any kind of win for independent parties. It will only serve to improve and restore confidence in the two-party system that crushes every aspiration of the Green Party’s own members.
If Stein/Cobb recount initiative is really about preserving integrity of the democratic process, why only investigate states HRC narrowly lost and not the ones–NH, MN–she narrowly won?
But St. Clair, usually so perceptive, misses how much the Dems loathe this recount effort. The recount forces Dems to actively collaborate in the kind of conspiracy-theory thinking that they found so disreputable in Trump. Also, party leaders despise it when their base bolts off the reservation. And this is certainly a case of that.

St. Clair bemoans any renewed legitimacy the duopoly might enjoy thanks to the recount, but he misses the damage to an already discredited Democratic Party if the recount reveals zero evidence of a hack (something which FiveThirtyEight sees as a foregone conclusion). Then all the hyperventilating about a hostile power hijacking U.S. democracy will be exposed for what it is -- a flimsy cover story meant to protect out-of-touch elites from the voters.

I have to say that the Washington Post's David Weigel, "Why are people giving Jill Stein millions of dollars for an election recount?" is closer to the mark when he laments that,
For Democrats, Stein's role in the campaign resurrects some of the worst aspects of the campaign. It directs liberal anger toward a hopeless goal. It feeds into a Russian story line promoted on RT — that American democracy is awfully flimsy, considering that the country claims to lead the world. And it helps a third party that can split Democratic votes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline

The Indigenous Nations struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is shaping up to be an Occupy-Wall-Street-type of narrative-altering event.

Jeremy Scahill speaking yesterday on Democracy Now! gathered some of the threads together:
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean—well, first of all, let’s remember that we’re speaking a week when there’s the big American holiday, Thanksgiving, and I always think of the slaughter of the indigenous people in this country around this time of year and people like Leonard Peltier, the political prisoner who—unfortunately, it seems like yet another president is going to leave office without pardoning Leonard Peltier. But to watch what we’re seeing come out of the protesters on this—the protectors on this indigenous land, facing down against environmental-destroying companies, you know, really brings home the kind of utter hypocrisy of the narrative about the United States of America. But also, if you look at the way that these indigenous people and their supporters are being treated versus the Bundy ranchers, you know, who didn’t occupy their native land—they went and they took over federal land with weapons and ended up getting acquitted, including of the charges that they were very clearly guilty of, which is all these weapons possession charges—and it makes you wonder, if this is the state of affairs under President Obama, who actually has visited Native reservations and Native territories, what’s going to happen under Trump?
And this firm, TigerSwan, was founded by a Delta Force operative named James Reese and has done voluminous amounts of covert and overt work for the U.S. military in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. And, you know, you realize that you have this convergence of all that has been so wrong in the post-9/11 world, with these big environment-destroying companies, the stripping even further of indigenous rights, private security forces, the brutality against protesters, the paramilitarization of law enforcement. And now our incoming president—I still feel strange saying that—Donald Trump also has business connections to the pipeline project? Is he going to divest? Is he going to—I mean, like, this is going to go from the level of Obama just being, you know, really bad on these policies to Trump actively trying to make it worse for the environment.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in a recent interview, the head of the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, said he’s 100 percent confident that Trump will support the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline. Kelcy Warren has donated more than $100,000 to Trump’s campaign, while Trump himself gas between $500,000 and a million dollars invested in Energy Transfer Partners, according to his own disclosures.
Sunday night water cannons and tear gas were unleashed on the Standing Rock water protectors.

The Trump election proved that old, rural cracker America is still alive and kicking, and that white working-class resentment is refulgent. The DAPL fight will test the mojo of this renascent Confederate States of America. The Standing Rock Sioux must win -- to affirm the rights of native people, to embolden future environmental direct action, to strike a blow at devouring corporations and their militarized police forces.

Even The New York Times has come down on the side of the water protectors, posting an excellent video, "One Man's Fear for Standing Rock," and publishing an editorial, "Keeping the Drillers From Sacred Grounds," in the Sunday edition.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mainstream Media and Lame Duck Obama Pivot to "The Enemy Within": Is "Great Firewall" Coming to U.S.?

The "Mighty Wurlitzer," playing non-stop since last week a "fake news" tune, has for the time being replaced its preferred Russophobia for the "enemy within." Obama took a turn at the electric piano while in Lima. The quote is from Gardiner Harris' "As Obama Tour Ends, He Says U.S. Influence Must Not," which appears in today's national print edition of The New York Times (but which I can't locate online):
Mr. Obama ranked the problems resulting from alleged Russian hacking far below those generated by fake news being circulated on social media.
"The concern I had has less to do with any particular misinformation or propaganda that's put out by any particular party, but a greater concern about the general misinformation from all kinds of sources, domestic, foreign, on social media, that make it difficult to figure out what's true and what's not," Mr. Obama said. [That's chutzpah!]
If elections are "full of fake news and false information and distractions, [like 'moderate rebels' or the photo of little Omran Daqneesh or the announcement by AP that Hillary had sewn up the nomination on the eve of the California primary] then the issue not going to be what is happening on the outside, " he added. "The issue is going to be what are we doing to ourselves from the inside."
The remarks followed similar comments at a news conference in Berlin on Thursday in which Mr. Obama was sharply critical of the role of Facebook and other social media companies play in spreading false news -- a remarkable change in tone for a man who has spent his presidency praising the the transformational and beneficial effects of social media.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, published a detailed post early Saturday describing ways the company was considering dealing with the problem of fake news.
One can make out the contours of what is coming our way. Zuckerberg is being hammered. At first he rejected the Deep State argument articulated by Obama, that the lunatic fringe had upended its selection of a successor, but then he buckled and spat out a censorship laundry list.

The fix the Deep State is looking for is something along the lines of the USA Freedom Act, the 2015 reboot of expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. The bulk collection of telephone metadata by the government was nominally ended only to be offloaded to the phone companies. The responsibility of policing "fake news" will be delegated to the big social media outlets -- Facebook, Google, Twitter -- with some sort of unofficial covenant or protocol being approved by the government. The USG will then have its own version of the Chinese Great Firewall.

In other words, net neutrality, if not already over, is coming to an end. It will be interesting to see how the liberal elite will then justify the majesty of America since for more than a decade -- look at Thomas Friedman's column -- it has been indistinguishable from a kind of comic-book libertarian techno-utopianism.

It all so absurd, yet it shows how truly out of touch the Democratic elite are. There is no evidence that any change will be forthcoming from the Democratic Party. Stalwart non-profits with historic links to the party have received a windfall in donations after the election. In a sign that the discredited party elite responsible for the Clinton debacle plan on ceding not one inch of ground to the Bernistas, Obama has announced that he will remain politically active once he exits the White House. (See "Obama May Jump Into Fray as Democrats Counter Trump," by Michael Shear and Thomas Kaplan. Never have I received so many Organizing for Action emails as I did after November 8.)

According to the same story above from Gardiner Harris:
In his news conference on Sunday, Mr. Obama suggested, for the first time, that he would continue to be active politically when his presidency ended.
The idea is to maintain Obama as a Fort Apache for disintegrating neoliberal orthodoxy. It is pitiful. And hopefully election results from Italy (December) and France (March) will banish the idea before Barry gets back from vacation with Michelle.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

End of the Line

Friday was my last day at work. I finally liberated myself from an unsustainable, miserable situation. It took months to do. 

In a similar situation, as recently as a decade ago, I simply would have walked out. But I have learned to avoid such jarring actions; that, and the loss of accrued sick and vacation pay.

The women I work with took me out to breakfast on my last day; the restaurant, a feted vegetarian place in a tony neighborhood near Lake Washington. The neighborhood, Madison Park, home to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, carries some unpleasant memories for me. The last woman I dated did her stalking there, and my last significant girlfriend, probably for the same predatory reasons, had us spend some of our last social outings together at the beach there.

When we pulled up to the restaurant I realized that I had been there before, probably 12 years ago, with a girlfriend prior to the one mentioned above. I think we went there because she had a gift certificate.

"How appropriate," I thought. "All these negative female connotations for a goodbye repast with my female employer and female coworkers."

My employer is a talented woman still in her 30s who won election as the head of the august central labor council in the largest, wealthiest county of the state. She came to power by shrewdly riding the coattails of socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant. 

I was hired by the outgoing office manager before the young woman was sworn in. The office manager wanted to retire as soon as possible and she needed a replacement, someone who knew bookkeeping and labor unions.

The alarms bells went off for me right away when I realized that the young woman was influenced by, among others, the head of SEIU 775, whose mantra, "Win Power for Working People," sounds great, but it really masks a nihilistic thirst for status and power; a "Sí, se puede" Kool-Aid -- nothing is ever good enough; there are no boundaries; achievement is all there is -- which is almost certain doom for support staff. 

After nine months of this, which saw the young woman hire her girlfriends to join me on staff, I figured I needed to start looking for another job. At first I considered working at Harborview, the big public hospital. Then another union job opened up. I interviewed for it and was hired. I immediately submitted my resignation effective in two weeks.

That was Friday.

It struck me -- as we sat around the table chatting (not too uncomfortably), drinking our pumpkin smoothees and kombucha grapefruit tonics, waiting for our breakfast to arrive -- that all I have is a lot of animosity. I felt the need to bark scatological comments, or bitter truth statements about the Hobbesian world in which we live, or bleak ideas about our existential trap. I didn't say anything. Instead I listened to them as they talked about children, husbands, houseboats, the latest J.K. Rowling movie, friends, parties, car accidents, therapists, dope smoking and all the rest. 

All I could think to add were my perceptions of the Thursday Night Football game between the Saints and Panthers when linebacker Luke Kuechly had a meltdown following a hit to the head. What was noteworthy was not the hit he took nor his meltdown but how obviously tweaked-out he was prior to that, gesticulating wildly, running from sideline to sideline the entire game. Kuechly is a throwback to earlier days when professional football players in the NFL and AFL gobbled speed pre-game. My thought was that his breakdown had as much to do with his speed binge as his concussion.

I didn't saying anything, but I asked myself, "Isn't my isolated life of watching the NFL on TV, of Luke Kuechly's meltdown or Earl Thomas' incredible hit on Rob Gronkowski Sunday night, as meaningful as parties and therapists?"

We hugged goodbye. I went back to the office and worked the rest of the day. I cleaned out and wiped down my desk. 

I felt lousy walking home. After all, I was connected to her. I had worked with her father on a competitive mayoral race 16 years ago. She is beautiful, unique, authentic. Did I need a drink? It crossed my mind. It was Friday night. But, as an alcoholic, I have learned a trick that works for me. Whenever I feel the need to get drunk, I think of Captain America's face as rendered by Jack Kirby, and I am immediately cured.

In the end, I had to stick by some hard-won knowledge: Don't sacrifice your life for a woman.

I got home and put on repeat "Method Acting/Cortez the Killer" by the Dave Rawlings Machine. Those Hippies playing folk/hillbilly music sure have soul:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Trump is in a Box

Digesting more election postmortems over the weekend, it is apparent that Trump won in the Rust Belt thanks to Democratic voters who felt both betrayed by Obama's weakness and disgusted by Hillary's mendacity. Democratic elite who suddenly find themselves in free fall are promoting the narrative that it was racist, sexist neo-fascism that led to Trump's triumph, not regular rank'n'file union members who had once voted for Obama. They are doing this to avoid any accountability to the working class, hoping to live again to fight another day by keeping us penned in on the identity-politics-Wall-Street reservation.

Trump owes his razor-thin victory to Reagan Democrats. Now he has to find a way to get some bounty delivered to them by means of a hostile Republican congress. No easy feat. Something has to give.

Editorials over the weekend were rife with hosannas to free trade and perpetual war (in the form of Russophobia, Assadophobia and NATO maintenance), as if the occupants of the deep state seriously entertain the possibility of a Trump about-face once he enters the White House.

I suppose it's possible. But I doubt Trump wants to be a one-term wonder like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. So he will work on passing some sort of public works infrastructure plan (for the Reagan Dems) and a tax cut (for Wall Street). That's the easy part. The hard part for Trump is going to be battling the deep state on perpetual war and globalized free trade.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Whose Scalp Next? Italy's Neoliberal Matinee Idol, Matteo Renzi

The Italian constitutional referendum is in a little more than three weeks, December 6. Italy's PM, Matteo Renzi, has vowed to resign if it fails to pass. He has since hedged on that. Renzi wants to centralize power to make it easier to implement labor market reforms and other neoliberal delicacies. His impending defeat will be another body blow to the rapidly disintegrating mainstream political order: This is Crispian Balmer's "Trump's triumph puts Italy's Renzi in difficult position," published yesterday by Reuters:
Donald Trump's unexpected victory in the U.S. presidential election is likely to make it even harder for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to win a crucial referendum on constitutional reform set for December.
Renzi was one of the few world leaders to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton and Trump's triumph has not only put the Italian premier in a difficult diplomatic position, it has also underlined the rise of anti-elite sentiment around the world.
"This factor is weighing against Renzi because at the moment for many Italians he represents the establishment," said Roberto D'Alimonte, politics professor at Luiss University in Rome. 
Renzi has said he will resign if he loses next month's ballot and was already facing fierce headwinds, with all opposition parties pitted against him and almost every opinion poll over the past two months showing the 'No' camp ahead.
However, a large number of Italians remain undecided, helping to fuel government confidence that the 'Yes' vote will eventually win and stave off a renewed bout of political uncertainty that is feared by the financial markets.
"The Trump win does show that populism continues in 2016 and suggests a 'no' vote in the Italian referendum could be stronger than we assumed," David Zahn, the head of European fixed income at U.S. fund manager Franklin Templeton, told Reuters.
The spread between Italian and German 10-year benchmark bonds was up 7.8 basis points at 1200 GMT at 154.05, the highest level since June when the closely watched gap jumped in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union. 
The constitutional reform proposes drastically curbing the role of the upper house Senate, a move that Renzi says will simplify decision-making and ensure stable government. Opponents say it will make the legislative process more complicated and reduce checks and balances.
Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement currently heads the opinion polls and its founder, Beppe Grillo, hailed Trump's victory, seeing it as a vindication of his own maverick stance.
"It is those who dare, the obstinate, the barbarians who will take the world forward. We are the barbarians! The real idiots, populists and demagogues are the journalists and the establishment intellectuals," Grillo wrote on his blog.
Jumping on the U.S. election bandwagon with an eye to the forthcoming referendum, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party put out Tweets saying "In America, they voted NO".
The group's parliamentary leader Renato Brunetta called on Renzi to resign immediately and not even wait until Dec. 4, saying his pro-Clinton stance had weakened Italy's standing.
"From this day forward Matteo Renzi is politically finished, he is a dead man walking," Brunetta said in a statement. "No other European country sided with one of the two contenders like Italy did. Now Renzi must reap the consequences and take responsibility for his bad choices."
Renzi himself offered Trump his congratulations and said Italy's relations with the United States, its NATO ally, were "solid". 
The new U.S. president is due to visit Italy next May when the country hosts the 2017 summit of Group of Seven leaders.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Big Question About Trump

To what extent is Trump willing to joust with the national security apparatus of the permanent U.S. warfare state? This I think is the big question about a Trump presidency. Those on the Left and the Alt Right who imagine a real reboot to be forthcoming are being naive. All one had to do is listen to the "USA! USA!" chants emanating from the election night Trump campaign party to know that what we are dealing with here is more like an unbridled Reaganesque militarism than a wily realpolitik embrace of the Russian Federation.

James Luchte in "Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy?" frames the question well:
On the one hand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel seek regime change in Syria in order to build a gas pipelines to Europe.  On the other hand, the US disrupts Russian supply chains – via the Ukrainian crisis and the European sanctions regime – to destabilize Russia and Russian-European relations.  Crimea is significant, in this light, as it is a primary distribution hub for Europe, a status threatened by the coup d’etat.  The reunification of Crimea with Russia took place directly against the background of the Syrian conflict as a response to the overall US strategies of containment and market displacement.  Further pressure has been placed on Russia through oil price deflation from shale gas and oil smuggling by ISIS.
US strategy in Syria has tragically metastasized into a policy of “nation destroying”, of proxy, mercenary warfare, destabilization, partition and ethnic cleansing (the “refugee crisis”).  Syria has made a horrific sacrifice for the US national security obsession with Russia.
For Trump to ask, “What do we care?” clearly exposes why the national security establishment has condemned his candidacy in such vitriolic terms.  In its view, to allow Putin to win in Syria would be not only to accept Assad, but also to give Russia a permanent presence in the region. To exclude and push Russia back has always been the US objective and Trump’s Russophilia is a direct challenge to the National Security establishment and its plan to throw Putin out of Europe.
Trump has however won the election and he is on a direct collision course with the National Security establishment.  Of course, Trump is an unlikely revolutionary.  He has never said he would defy the National Security Act of 1947 (no president has), which means that he will accept its shadowy apparatus and its bureaucratic methodologies. Indeed, he supports increased NSA surveillance, expanded military spending, CIA activism, FBI phone hacking, etcetera. He is simply suggesting a different target for business-as-usual, by reminding us of our last propaganda cycle, the “War on Terror”.
Yet, Trump has thus far failed to articulate the “big picture” of a Russian rapprochement in the context of the necessity of a US glasnost – of a deconstruction of the National Security state.  During a campaign characterised by serial violations of longstanding taboos (Sanders’ opposition to the CIA, his support of the Sandinistas and Cuba) and Wikileaks’ disclosure of sensitive and damaging government and campaign documents, Trump squandered his opportunity to lay out a credible vision for either radical reform or revolution.  Indeed, he has been happy to simultaneously endorse the NSA surveillance state and Wikileaks – and without irony.
Trump’s has thus far failed to articulate a coherent vision of a cooperative, multi-polar world – in other words, to invite ordinary citizens to demand a radical change in the concept of national security and of the place of the US in the world.  If he does not challenge the NSC, Trump’s insurgency will expose itself as a distraction to the urgent task of finding a pathway out of the labyrinth of empire.  In its naivety, Trump’s “revolution” would then serve to further merely consolidate the unquestioned impunity of the National Security state.
If Trump is serious, he will set forth a coherent critique of US national security and the constitutional disaster that is the National Security Act.  If Trump is serious, he will defy the National Security Act.
I think we'll find out early on in the first 100 days of Trump how sincere he is in regards to Syria. Cooperation with Russia on Raqqa will tell us what we need to know.

One Silver Lining to Trump Victory: TPP Now Truly DOA in Lame Duck

According to the Kiwi National Business Review"There is 'very close to zero' chance that President Obama will get the TPP ratified before he leaves office, Prime Minister John Key admitted today."

It makes sense. Unles you're one of the Republicans who lost his seat or is retiring, you're not going to throw down against the incoming messiah whose coattails saved the Senate. And if you're a Democrat, you're not going to publicly embrace policies that cost you Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

No, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is done. Hallelujah. Copyright NBR. Cannot be reproduced without permission.
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Trump Grabbed White Women

The Clinton campaign in the end pinned its hope for a win on a gender gap. Hillary sculpted her ads around Trump's vulgarity and predatory sexual appetites. The gap appeared real enough. I embraced it and thought it would be enough to see the Clintons back into the White House. Early exit polls even backed it up.

But as Jeffrey St. Clair points out in his excellent "The Cataclysm: Notes on Election Day and the Politics of Hubris":
Hillary, who based much of her campaign strategy on decisively winning the women’s vote, lost among white women by a 10-point margin: 53-43. Think, for a moment, about that 53 percent number for Trump. It’s safe to say that Hillary ran the worst campaign since Al Gore. In fact, it was worse than Gore’s in almost every respect.
In a way, Hillary's strategy of winning Republican-leaning women was the only path available to her after the primary. She couldn't really don the mantle of Bernie, even though she tried it on now and then, because no one would believe her. She had to try to grab the soccer moms/megachurch moms by the pussy. It didn't work.

It's Not All Hillary's Fault

UPDATE: Good presidential election postmortem from Jacobin:
This election, in the words of New York Times analyst Nate Cohn, was decided by people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Not all of them can be bigots.
Clinton won only 65 percent of Latino voters, compared to Obama’s 71 percent four years ago. She performed this poorly against a candidate who ran on a program of building a wall along America’s southern border, a candidate who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists.
Clinton won 34 percent of white women without college degrees. And she won just 54 percent of women overall, compared to Obama’s 55 percent in 2012. Clinton, of course, was running against a candidate who has gloated on film about grabbing women “by the pussy.”
This was Clinton’s election to lose. And she lost. A lot of the blame will fall on Clinton the candidate, but she only embodied the consensus of this generation of Democratic Party leaders. Under President Obama, Democrats have lost almost a thousand state-legislature seats, a dozen gubernatorial races, sixty-nine House seats and thirteen in the Senate. Last night didn’t come out of nowhere.
The problem with Clinton wasn’t her peculiarity but her typicality. It was characteristic of this Democratic Party that the power players in Washington decided on the nominee — with overwhelming endorsements — many months before a single ballot was cast.
True, Hillary is uniquely horrible, a bloated, moldering neoliberal/neoconservative corpse that should have been cremated long ago. But what about Barry?

I speak here of Barack Obama, the first black president, the hope and change peace candidate of 2008. Isn't he to blame as well?

The only direct evidence I experienced that there was a presidential campaign came in the form of television commercials and robodials left on my answering machine.

I thought the commercials for both campaigns were pretty good.

The robodials were plentiful and featured both Barack and Michelle. They were meaningless to me. No different from getting a recorded message from Robert Redford or Gloria Steinem.

Obama was dispatched to North Carolina and Michigan to make sure his coalition members voted. He failed.

Obama failed because his presidency has largely been a failure. He ran as a peace candidate, and he maintained the perpetual U.S. warfare state. Economic growth remained neoliberal and unequal in its distribution. His signature achievement is the Affordable Care Act, and it doesn't look like it is going to survive.

Catatonic Depression in Liberalland

The hush of shock has descended on my liberal neighborhood. The funereal quiet is equivalent to when the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl in the final seconds to the despised machine-like New England Patriots. On the streets that night after the game you could hear a pin drop. It was the same last night.

The Democrats have some soul-searching to do, but how can they do it? They tomahawked Bernie Sanders who likely would have won in the Rust Belt that was Clinton's undoing. In a different age there would be a pogrom at the Democratic National Committee. But we know from experience that, zombie-like, present leadership will stumble on (and that includes Richard Trumka at the American Federation of Labor).

The postmortem by Naked Capitalism's Yves Smith is terrific:
The election outcome was based not just on Clinton being a terrible candidate on the merits, but on the abjectly poor conduct of the Clinton campaign.
Let us not forget that Clinton had every advantage: Presidential campaign experience, the full backing of her party, a much bigger ground apparatus, oddles of experts and surrogates, the Mighty Wurlitzer of the media behind her, an opponent widely deemed to be world-class terrible – utterly unqualified, undisciplined, offensive, with a mother lode of scandals – and what historically was deemed the most important asset of all, a large lead in fundraising.
Yet Clinton was a lousy campaigner and strategist. By all accounts, she was a micromanager who regularly overrode her staff’s advice. All the big-ticket Madison Avenue spin-meistering could not get the dogs to eat enough dog food. 
You don’t win voters by telling them they are stupid and beneath contempt. That is tantamount to saying you have no intention of representing them. 
You don’t win voters by failing to offer a positive vision and selling only fear. 
You don’t win voters by trying to get them to believe you’ll suddenly behave differently and take positions contrary to the ones you’ve held for decades to extract cash from the the richest and most powerful. 
You don’t win voters with a record of failing upward. 
You don’t win voters by saying your opponent is a sleaze, even when undeniably true, when you are at least as sleazy yourself.
And readers in Lambert’s live blog last night read Clinton’s defeat the same way:
John:The Red Wave is rolling across this country because
the Democrats wont listen to their base. 
Waldenpond:Trump’s election is completely due to the incompetence and arrogance of the D elite. 
ScottIt’s really amazing to see how little of the blame is going to Clinton herself. It was her decision to set-up a private email server. It was her decision to serve as Secretary of State while accepting millions from foreign governments. It was her decision to get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars while unofficially running for President. It was her decision to call millions of Americans deplorable. 
UahsenaaThe liberal histrionics and gnashing of teeth (especially on twitter) are actually just making me mad now. So, you sat out the fight from 2008 to the present and suddenly NOW the world is coming to an end. Where were you when Occupy was scuttled by your precious Democratic administration? Where were you when Secretary Clinton was negotiating away the last vestiges of labor rights in this country? Where have you been while state after state has passed right to work laws? Where were you when the current administration ramped up deportations? Where were you when the DoJ pumped weapons into Mexico just to see what would happen? Where were you when a sixteen year old American kid was blown to pink mist in Yemen? And the list goes on… 
I should make this into a card that I hand to every single person tomorrow who blubbers about the coming apocalypse. The world was already on fire. Now the veil has been lifted. I’d hope to see these fresh discontents on the picket lines, but something tells me that’s unlikely.
Smith thinks Trump is headed for the kind of one-term calamity Jimmy Carter experienced in the White House. She thinks the GOP will only be willing to work with Trump on the massive tax cuts he proposed. Smith is waiting to see if Trump will really go after Clinton; in particular, the Clinton Foundation:
There is one more Trump campaign promise that will serve as an important early test of his seriousness as well as his survival skills: investigating Clinton. Even if Obama pardons her, as our Jerri-Lynn Scofield has predicted, it will be critical for Trump to carry out a probe of the Clinton Foundation’s business while Clinton was Secretary of State. 
If Trump is to cut the cancer of the neocons out of the policy establishment, he has to have them on the run. It is a reasonable surmise that Clinton’s enthusiasm for war was due at least in part to heavy Saudi support of the Foundation. Showing that American’s escalation in the Middle East, which Obama tried with mixed success to temper, was due in part, and perhaps almost entirely, to the personal corruption of the Secretary of State, would keep the hawks at bay, particularly if other prominent insiders and pundits were implicated in Clinton Foundation influence-peddaling. 
It will be hard for Trump to do much to alter the course of the military-surveilance complex unless he can hamstring the warmongers. Just as Warren has argued relative to bank regulations, “personnel is policy.” If Trump is a fast learner, he’ll see that that is just as true on the foreign policy front.
This assumes that Trump aspires to be a transformational leader, which I don't think is or ever was his intention. He is a pitchman who wanted the White House, and, because the duopoly is crumbling, he won it. He's smart enough to keep people distracted. The question is for how long.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Old, Cracker America Renascent

Ohio has just been called for Trump. Florida and North Carolina look to be headed Trump's way, Hillary's only hope appears to be holding onto Michigan.

So much for my prediction of a Clinton romp. Trump's boast of another Brexit appears to be coming to pass.

What an enormous plate of crow for Democrats. What will they do? Curl into a fetal position and curse Putin?

The big takeaway of the evening is the turnout in lily-white rural America for Trump. White non-college crackers are going for Trump big time. Add Hillary's underperformance with college-educated whites -- her gender-gap advantage must have been oversold -- to softer turnout among Blacks, and you have Trump's trifecta.

Colorado was just called for Hillary. She has to win Nevada and Michigan.

Bad News for Clinton Early

Reports of low African-American turnout in Ohio's Cuyahoga County. Robust turnout in Virginia's rural counties. Michigan improbably in play. New Hampshire a toss up. North Carolina undecided. "Real jitters setting in at Clinton's headquarters."

Of course things could break in the next 90 minutes decisively for Hillary, and it could be over. On the other hand, the black swan could be spreading his wings. Trump triumphant. How does that sound?

If Clinton loses Virginia and Michigan, I think Trump wins.

Hillary on Her Way to a Big 300+ Electoral Vote Win

There is a fluid that we all share. We live in it together all at once. It is time. That's our placenta. The key is to recognize this with whatever umbilical cord -- newspapers, comic books, film, music, baseball, television -- you have.  I have discerned a big break for Hillary from Sunday on, following the FBI announcement that nothing actionable was discovered in the Weiner/Abedin email hoard.

Nate Silver's latest post, "Election Update: Clinton Gains, And The Polls Magically Converge," backs this up: "As a lot of you noticed, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida flipped from red to blue over the course of Monday."

Silver discounts this as non-significant, one-day movement in the polls. But my sense is that it is real. I think Hillary will clear 300 electoral votes, as FiveThirtyEight's latest map shows. So 2016 is going to end up being more like Obama-Romney 2012 than a Bush v. Gore constitutional crisis.

Which as an election-day reality is all for the best. A Trump shellacking at the polls will prove that white male supremacy as an electoral divide-and-conquer strategy is done.

The systemic problems don't disappear tomorrow though. We're still headed for some sort of collapse or seismic slip. The Western theater will just pack up and move east across the Atlantic.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hamburger Hippies

When I plod along Sunday afternoons lying on my back on the mattress on the floor watching the National Football League I have noticed the new Chili's commercials (though I didn't see any yesterday).

The ad campaign is called "The Hamburger Hippies." It celebrates the founding of the restaurant chain by bohemians from the Age of Aquarius. The counterculture is invoked with classic rock'n'roll songs -- Foghat's "Slow Ride" (1975), Faces' "Ooh La La" (1973) and ZZ Top's "Tush" (1975). I thought I heard Free's "All Right Now" (1970) too, but I can't verify that.

The ad campaign is effective because it reminds the viewer of a time when our culture seemed roomy and affordable enough that we could drink, get stoned and laid; then wake up the next day, yawn, and not feel paranoid about the rent going up or being late for work or feeling the need to check email or Facebook. In other words, society provided enough time and space -- freedom! -- for the working class to do what it likes, which is fornicate and alter the everyday mundane pensiveness of sober-minded consciousness.

We know though from the irregular -- the last one was in July -- "Hippies vs. Punks" posts that 1975 is in fact the end of the line for the Hippies. In 1976 there is an efflorescence of California lite rock with Hippie hues -- Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller Band, Eagles, Peter Frampton -- that signals an accommodation with the workaday world. No longer are the Hippies rocking out with cries of "Kick Out the Jams, Motherfucker!" Rather, it is a shift on the assembly line before stopping off for a meal at a Hippie-run eatery (probably what Chili's was at its founding; what Geppetto's was in my hometown) before returning home to smoke a joint and watch Baretta on ABC.

The Hippies made the transition back to The Man, exchanging their aspirations for another world, whether psychedelic or political, for a steady job, cheap rent, and free time filled with recreational drugs and looser sexual mores.

Sounds pretty good, but something mostly alien in our present digital age. We still long for such a society though. When Foghat's "Slow Ride" or Free's "All Right Now" fill the air we remember what it was like.

The GOP came to power in the late 1960s thanks to two Californians, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. They perfected the politics of white working-class resentment. The scapegoats were Blacks and Hippies, the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles and the Freedom of Speech Movement at U.C. Berkeley.

Now with marijuana set for a legalization breakthrough and Black Lives Matter here to stay as a cultural force, the foundation of reactionary politics is cracked. Hippies and Blacks are saintly once again. Trump is the last gasp of White Flight, like the Iraqi Baath Party hiding out in Nineveh bankrolled by Saudi royals waiting to pop up reborn as the Islamic State.

Hillary will win, but the war will rage on.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Richard Sherman is Right

Last week the story about the large National Football League ratings drop hit the front page of The New York Times. I am interested in how "lowbrow" entertainment and media mirror the dominant culture. The NFL ratings drop is part of a general hollowing out of mainstream U.S. institutions. Newspapers are dying. Voters have lost faith in the major parties.

If you had to point out the main culprit, it is the concentration of wealth and corporate power. To get a flavor of this watch the Amazon Original Series "All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals," an in-the-training-facility documentary about the Cardinals' 2015 season. It is depressing. It is like watching a bunch of workers and managers struggle through a completely mirthless, high pressure Fortune 500 job. Even the light, festive moments, like the long-range football-toss-into-a-garbage-container competition, reek of staged corporate mandatory fun.

Richard Sherman nailed it, "Seahawk Richard Sherman rips Roger Goodell, officiating, says NFL ‘isn’t fun anymore’ — and more," when he was asked yesterday to explain the NFL ratings drop:
“Because the league isn’t fun anymore. Every other league, you see the players have a good time. It’s a game. This isn’t politics. This isn’t justice. This is entertainment. And they’re no longer allowing the players to entertain. They’re no longer allowing the players to show any kind of personality, any kind of uniqueness, any individuality. Because they want to control the product. They want to control the messaging, etc., etc. … They say we’re trying to influence kids, and that’s their biggest thing. That’s their biggest ploy is you don’t want to be a bad influence to kids. You don’t want to be a bad role model. And I can agree with that. But in the same breath, you can’t say Budweiser is the official sponsor of the NFL, and we’re trying to influence kids. So there’s a ton of hypocrisy, but it doesn’t matter because we don’t control it.”
Corporate concentration of wealth is destroying everything -- the planet, politics, even entertainment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Public Opposes Bombing Syria

From this morning's Situation Report, by Paul McCleary and Adam Rawnsley:
And here’s something to chew on. In a new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, researchers explored Americans’ views on ISIS and Syria. And they found that around 60 percent of those polled — 67 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of independents — would like to see the United States work alongside Russia in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, according to FP’s Emily Tamkin.
Obama was prevented from bombing Damascus at the end of summer 2013 because of massive public outcry, which translated into pointed criticism from many members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican. It is good to see that not much has changed in the way of public opinion.