Tag Archives: politics

President Trump, Thank you! Thank you for all the women who have come forward with stories about being harassed and raped

30 Nov

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Yes, citizen Trump has played a major role in the parade of accusations, albeit an indirect and unintended role to be sure.

The president of the United States serves two functions: 1) he governs the nation and, 2) he’s a symbol of the nation. The British separate these functions. The monarch is a symbol of the nation, but has no power to govern. The monarch doesn’t introduce legislation or sign it, doesn’t negotiate and sign treaties, doesn’t issue regulations, and so forth. Those are functions of government, and those functions belong to the prime minister. But the prime minister is not asked to shoulder the burden of being a national symbol.

It is in his role as national symbol that citizen Trump has motivated and energized these women to tell their stories. As a symbol of the nation citizen Trump represents our ideas and ideals, our hopes and aspirations, our values and commitments. These women are telling us that they do not want a sexual predator as the symbol of our nation, and they are saying this in the most powerful way that they can, but outing the powerful men who have preyed on them.

No more!

To be sure, citizen Trump is not the first president with unsavory sexual attitudes and actions. But he has come to office at a time when the press, for whatever reason, has decided that it will no longer look the other way. Moreover, he has come to office, not from a career in politics, but from a show-biz career. Thus it is fitting that men in show business are among the most prominent predators being called to account before the public, if not before the law.

Yes, Ronald Reagan was a movie star. But he came to the presidency after two terms as governor of California. And he knew something that 45 does not, he knew there was a deep and fundamental distinction to be made between his personal interests and activities and his actions as head of state. Citizen Trump treats that distinction with utter contempt and disdain, the way he treats women.

By ignoring the distinction between his person and the nation he governs, citizen Trump dishonors and damages the nation. Powerful men ignore a similar distinction, perhaps even, when you think about it, the same distinction, when they prey on women who serve them. When these women speak out to demand recognition, redress, and above all, dignity and respect, they are by that fact speaking on behalf of the nation. Let them and their actions symbolize these United States of America.

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Sometimes David Brooks Makes Sense: After the Women’s March

24 Jan

In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues. Of course, many marchers came with broad anti-Trump agendas, but they were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear. As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”

These are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities.

Alas and alack:

But this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.

All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.

There it is again, the problems of the nation-state.

Now he gets down to the nitty-gritty:

Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. … It’s significant that as marching and movements have risen, the actual power of the parties has collapsed. Marching is a seductive substitute for action in an antipolitical era, and leaves the field open for a rogue like Trump.

Alas, he’s right: “Identity-based political movements always seem to descend into internal rivalries about who is most oppressed and who should get pride of place.” But I’m not at all sure about Brooks’s prescription:

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Can “the nation” be repaired in that way? Color me skeptical.

Is universal mistrust the moral foundation of this stage of capitalist society?

31 Mar
Over at Crooked Timber Corey Robin has a post, The Bernie Sanders Moment: Brought to you by the generation that has no future. Here’s the first paragraph:
Last week I met with a group of ten interns at a magazine. The magazine runs periodic seminars where interns get to meet with a journalist, writer, intellectual, academic of their choosing. We talked about politics, writing, and so on. But in the course of our conversation, one startling social fact became plain. Although all of these young men and women had some combination of writerly dreams, none of them—not one—had any plan for, even an ambition of, a career. Not just in the economic sense but in the existential sense of a lifelong vocation or pursuit that might find some practical expression or social validation in the form of paid work. Not because they didn’t want a career but because there was no career to be wanted. And not just in journalism but in a great many industries.
The discussion has been going on a bit, as many discussions do at Crooked Timber. I was particularly struck by this observation by George Scialabba (comment 156):
It would be interesting to know, if one could quantify such things, what proportion of all the communications one receives (or better, perhaps, the stimuli one experiences) in an average day are some form of advertising or marketing. I’d guess a large majority. In which case, a hypothesis presents itself: the nature and function of human communication has altered. Through most of history, the default reaction to any communication was “this is what the speaker believes.” One needed only to judge the credibility of the speaker in order to know how to act. In the 21st century, after generations of saturation advertising, much or most of it deceptive or at least manipulative, the default reaction is “this is what the speaker, for some purpose of his/her own, wants me to believe.” Virtually all public communication may safely be presumed to be aiming at some effect, rather than simply at conveying information or conviction. Finding out what the speaker actually believes, much less what’s actually true or false, is the hearer’s responsibility: caveat auditor. Universal mistrust is the moral foundation of this stage, at least, of capitalist society. Hence, honesty is no longer the best policy.

Why is there so little opposition to the hegemony of the super-rich?

21 Mar

What we have here is a failure of political memory and imagination.

In 2014, when Oxfam arrived in Davos, it came bearing the (then) shocking news that just 85 individuals controlled as much wealth as half of the world’s population combined. This January, that number went down to 80 individuals.

Fraser terms out current era the second Gilded Age. The first ran from the end of the Civil War through to the stock market crash of 1929. In that first Gilded Age:

American elites were threatened with more than embarrassing statistics. Rather, a “broad and multifaceted resistance” fought for and won substantially higher wages, better workplace conditions, progressive taxation and, ultimately, the modern welfare state (even as they dreamed of much more).

So far there is little popular resistance in the current Gilded Age. What’s missing?

Fraser offers several explanations for the boldness of the post-Civil War wave of labor resistance, including, interestingly, the intellectual legacy of the abolition movement. The fight against slavery had loosened the tongues of capitalism’s critics, forging a radical critique of the market’s capacity for barbarism. With bonded labor now illegal, the target pivoted to factory “wage slavery.” This comparison sounds strange to contemporary ears, but as Fraser reminds us, for European peasants and artisans, as well as American homesteaders, the idea of selling one’s labor for money was profoundly alien.

This is key to Fraser’s thesis. What ­fueled the resistance to the first Gilded Age, he argues, was the fact that many Americans had a recent memory of a different kind of economic system, whether in America or back in Europe. Many at the forefront of the resistance were actively fighting to protect a way of life, whether it was the family farm that was being lost to predatory creditors or small-scale artisanal businesses being wiped out by industrial capitalism. Having known something different from their grim present, they were capable of imagining — and fighting for — a radically better future.

It is this imaginative capacity that is missing from our second Gilded Age, a theme to which Fraser returns again and again in the latter half of the book. The latest inequality chasm has opened up at a time when there is no popular memory — in the United States, at least — of another kind of economic system. Whereas the activists and agitators of the first Gilded Age straddled two worlds, we find ourselves fully within capitalism’s matrix. So while we can demand slight improvements to our current conditions, we have a great deal of trouble believing in something else entirely.

Obama Needs to Think SERIOUSLY Before Committing Us to an Unwinnable War in Syria

28 Aug
Questions for President Obama — Before He Pulls the Trigger on Syria (via Moyers & Company)

Let us posit that the Syrian government did, in fact, order last week’s chemical attack that killed hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women, children and others who had not taken up arms against the Assad regime. In Washington, the eagerness…

Continue reading

The Pope and the Dalai Lama

13 Mar

Have they ever met, the Pope and the Dalai Lama?

I’m sure that many individual Roman Catholics and many individual Tibetan Buddhists have met. Perhaps some are neighbors and tend flower gardens side-by-side. Perhaps some’ve discussed their religious beliefs in a panel discussion at some august university. And perhaps some have just met in passing at a bus stop. But met they have in the course of their lives.

The Pope and the Dalai Lama are different. They are the heads of their religious groups. They have responsibilities and symbolic significance. They represent Roman Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism to the outside world and, of course, to their followers as well. The Pope and the Dalai Lama are not merely individuals, but they, if you will, are offices too. Offices that individuals occupy, for a time. But the office itself persists.

The Papacy is unoccupied as I write this. There is no Pope, only a conclave of cardinals seeking to elevate one of their number to that office. It is otherwise with the Dalai Lama. That office has an incumbent.

I suppose that the Pope is more visible in the world than the Dalai Lama and considerably more powerful too. Yet I also suppose that while all those cardinals are aware of the Dalai Lama, he isn’t necessarily aware of any of them beyond a few particularly prominent ones. There is a difference between the head and the rest, a dramatic difference. Continue reading

Bleg: Beyond/Beneath the Nation-State

21 Sep

Two days ago I put up a post in which I asserted, by the time-honored method of pulling it out of my arse, that

in the long run, more and more political action which shift to cities and thereby ‘hollow out’ the increasingly sclerotic system of nation states which governs the earth and the global level. In a century the nation states will be husks of what they are now and most of the world’s civic business will be conducted by shifting coalitions of cities and regions.

I’m interested in exploring that notion.

Very.

Anyone have ideas, suggestions for things to check out, etc.? Any relevant science fiction?

* * * * *

In that post I cited, as examples,

  • the Second Vermont Republic, a group of citizens who want Vermont to secede from the USofA,
  • the Transition Town movement, folks who are adamantly apolitical but who, in anticipation of peak oil, are working toward local self-sufficiency in food and energy and all that that implies, and
  • Mayors of Peace, an international organization of cities seeking to end nuclear weapons by 2020.

What else is there like that, where “like that” is interpreted generously? Continue reading

Jill Stein Needs Your Help, Running Green, Running for Peace

26 Jun

URGENT!  PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY!

FROM: David Swanson, Medea Benjamin, Leah Bolger, Bruce Gagnon, Chris Hedges, George Martin and Kevin Zeese

Dear Friends in the Peace Movement,

We can’t afford to let this opportunity slip by. By taking action over the next five days the peace community has a chance to inject a compelling and courageous peace advocate into the 2012 presidential campaign, to have a voice in the national debate over war, militarism, and military spending.

You know what is going to happen if we leave this election up to the two major party candidates. President Obama will defend his troop surges, his excessive Pentagon budgets, his preparations for war with Iran,  his escalation of the drone wars, his crackdowns on whistleblowers, his indefinite detention policy, and his new role as manager of the White House assassination list. Mitt Romney will not question these policies, but will promise to pursue them with even more enthusiasm. In debates and interviews, the American people will have the Big Lie drilled into their consciousness: that our nation must accept escalating military engagement and must visit worldwide violence against all who defy the U.S. government. Continue reading

A Practical or Coalition Strategy for “Truth and Traditions” Party as Paleocon Greens

5 Jun

By Charlie Keil

There is NO split in the Republican Party unless there is a real T for Truth Party that old-fashioned, paleo-conservatives can vote for happily with confidence and in good conserving conscience. By Traditions, plural, we mean the diversity of eco-moralities that once upon a time (pick your pre-industrial era) kept all of us in some kind of balance with “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” If there is no real TnT Party most of those Ron Paul teaparty voters stay trapped inside the Republican Party at election time. You can guess who will win big in 2012, a divided but ‘big tent’ Republican Party. Same party that elected colorful women to governorships in New Mexico and North Carolina. Continue reading

Ron Paul’s waging a cagy race that may have surprising results

3 May

Writing in Salon, Steve Kronacki reports that Repuiblic honchos are getting worried:

…the political world stopped paying attention to Paul about two months ago, and the threat of him bolting the GOP and running as an independent – a scenario long feared by Republicans – passed long ago.

And yet, the RNC’s chief counsel felt the need this week to issue a warning to the Nevada state GOP about the Paul campaign. At issue is this weekend’s Nevada Republican convention, where delegates to the national convention will be chosen. The state’s caucuses in February were a truly messy (that’s the polite word) affair, but Romney was the clear and overwhelming winner.

On Saturday, though, Paul supporters are expected to flood the state convention and could account for the lion’s share of attendees. This is what prompted the RNC’s counsel to warn the state party that its delegation might be denied seating in Tampa if it’s dominated by Paul-ites. Continue reading