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Rob Urie takes a good run at explaining some of the problems with the United States polity.  The infusion/revolving door of money and politics means that society is being run for the benefit of tiny minority of people.  They have two ‘choices’ in the electoral sense, but it does nothing to halt this malformation of democracy and democratic values.

 

Even with the realization of late that money determines political outcomes, the distribution of income and wealth is considered economics while the use that these are put to in the political arena is considered politics. The unvirtuous circle of capitalism, where concentrated income and wealth are used to affect political outcomes so as to increase concentrated income and wealth, ties economics to politics through the incompatibility of capitalism with democracy.

Modern electoral politics replaces this relationship of economics to politics with color-coded branding— red or blue, where ‘our guy’ is what is good and true about America. The other party exists to pin ‘our guy’ into a corner that prevents him / her from acting on this goodness. Barack Obama was prevented from enacting his ‘true’ progressive agenda by Republican obstructionists. Donald Trump is being persecuted by deep-state, snowflake, socialists.

Left unaddressed and largely unconsidered has been the persistence of class relations. The rich continue to get richer, the rest of us, not so much. For all of the claims of political dysfunction, when it comes to bailouts and tax cuts, wars and weaponry and policing and surveillance, these opposition parties can be counted on to come together to overcome their differences. Likewise, when it comes to the public interest, partisan differences are put forward to explain why nothing is possible.

The unitary direction of this government response in favor of the rich may seem accidental, a byproduct of ‘our system’ of governance. In fact, the defining political ideology of the last half-century has been neoliberalism, defined here as imperialist, state-corporatism, controlled by oligarchs. And contrary to assertions that neoliberalism is a figment of the imagination of the left, its basic tenets were codified in the late 1980s under the term ‘Washington Consensus.’

What the Washington Consensus lays out is the support role that government plays for capitalism. Its tenets are short and highly readable. They provide a blueprint that ties Democratic to Republican political programs since the 1980s. They also tie neoliberalism to the Marxist / Leninist conception of the capitalist state as existing to promote the interests of connected capitalists. Left out, no doubt by accident (not), was / is a theory of class struggle.

When Donald Trump passed tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the rich and corporations, this was the Washington Consensus. When Barack Obama put ‘market mechanisms’ into Obamacare and promoted the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), this was the Washington Consensus. When Bill Clinton tried to privatize Social Security, this was the Washington Consensus. The alleged ‘opposition parties’ have been working together from a single blueprint for governance for four decades.

The intended beneficiary of this unified effort is ‘capitalism,’ conceived as multinational corporations operating with state support to promote a narrowly conceived national interest. An ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) clause was included in NAFTA when Bill Clinton promoted and signed it. An even more intrusive ISDS clause was included in the TPP when Barack Obama promoted it. The intent of these ISDS clauses is to give the prerogative of governance (sovereign power) to corporations.

It is no secret in Washington and outside of it that multinational corporations pay few, if any, taxes. The logic of this is two sided. On the one side, the neoliberal / Washington Consensus premise is that corporations can put the money to better use than government. The other is that the role of government is to support capitalism, not to constrain it. Barack Obama’s consequence-free bailouts of Wall Street, often at the expense of ordinary citizens, possessed an internal logic when considered through this frame.”

Listening to the news on the way to work this morning the last story was about the smog problem in New Delhi. The amount of particulate matter in the air was something like ten times the recommended levels for good health.

Part of the problem stems from residents who burn small fires to keep warm when temperatures drop. Combined with crop burning, vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions from coal-fired plants, dust from building sites and smoke from the burning of waste, air quality is frequently unhealthy for residents. The AQI tends to spike when there is a lack of wind to clear out the particulate matter.

“India’s smog problem is due, in part, to the cooler temperatures recently, the lack of big weather systems to move air pollutants around and an ongoing drought across much of the country,” said weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Belles. ”

It looks pretty bad there:

They have been dealing with their smog problem for quite a while. Devising on the ground solutions to the particulate matter difficulties:

But this current bout with pollution has been the attributed primarily to the actions of farmers in the surrounding regions:

Poor farmers lack the modern tools to clear their fields after harvest. The traditional solution is to burn the stubble to the ground. Hence the annual spike in pollution in the city of New Delhi.

These sorts of problems are calling out for a communal based solution. The people in the city need to help the people in the poorer rural areas acquire the proper technology (tractors) to help them efficiently clear the fields. With the fields not being burnt, the air quality in New Delhi would improve, or at least not be exacerbated by the annual crop stubble clearing.

Wouldn’t be nice if we could get away from the capitalistic neoliberal model and focus on working on the problems that we face together?  The world is just too small to continue to ‘f-you, I’ve got mine mentality’.

This of course is anecdotal, but perhaps an concerning insight into the culture that exists for school children for my neighbours to the South. As a school teacher one of touchstones I strive to establish is the idea that the classroom that we are in is a place of safety and comfort. Good things and the good feelings that go along with them happen in class along with, hopefully, some learning.

I find it difficult to relate to the experience described below, as Canada does not have a gun culture like the US, and if this is typical, I hope we never will.

  Paul Street pulls few punches as he describes the US Democrats using Sheldon Wolin’s terminology as ‘the inauthentic opposition’.   It must be hard for the Democrats to be in opposition to the republicans when you represent the same set of business interests…

 

“Wolin called it. A nominal Democrat was elected president along with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. What followed under Barack Obama (as under his Democratic presidential predecessor Bill Clinton) was the standard “elite” neoliberal manipulation of campaign populism and identity politics in service to the reigning big-money bankrollers and their global empire. Wall Street’s control of Washington and the related imperial agenda of the Pentagon System were advanced more effectively by the nation’s first Black president than they could have been by stiff and wealthy white Republicans like John McCain or Mitt Romney. The reigning U.S. system of corporate and imperial “inverted totalitarianism” (Wolin) was given a deadly, fake-democratic re-branding.  The underlying “drift rightwards” sharpened, fed by a widespread and easily Republican-exploited sense of popular abandonment and betrayal, as the hypocritical and inauthentic dollar Democrats depressed and demobilized their own purported popular base.

Hillary Clinton did nothing to correct that problem in 2016.  Quite the opposite. With a colossal campaign finance war-chest fed not just by the usual Wall Street and Silicon Valley suspects but also by many traditionally Republican big money donors who were repelled by Trump’s faux “populism,” the transparently corporate establishmentarian candidate Clinton could barely deign to pretend to be a progressive.  She ran almost completely on the argument that Trump was too terrible and unqualified to be president. Making candidate character and qualities her sole selling point was a critical and historic mistake given the angry and anti-establishment mood of the electorate and her own epic unpopularity. So was calling Trump’s flyover county supporters a “basket of” racist and sexist “deplorables” in a sneering comment (one that accurately reflected her aristocratic “progressive”-neoliberal world view) to rich Manhattan campaign donors.

The Democrats would have won the 2016 election and overcome some of their authenticity problem by running Bernie Sanders, “the one guy that didn’t run to Wall Street for money” (Hersh). In something of a tantalizing anomaly for professor Stanley’s rule, Sanders “raise[d] huge sums” but did so from working- and middle-class small-donors (see the remarkable work of Thomas Ferguson and his colleagues on this) and didn’t “represent the interests of…large donors” or “pretend that the bests interests of the multinational corporations” were “also the common interest.” Quite the opposite.

Sanders would have authentically tapped authentic popular anger from the center-left, advancing a policy agenda and anti-plutocratic sentiments consistent with longstanding majority-progressive public opinion in the U.S.

It would have been a winning formula in an anti-establishment election. But so what? The Democratic nomination process was rigged against Sanders for some very good ruling-class reasons. As William Kaufman told Barbara Ehrenreich on Facebook two years ago, “The Democrats aren’t feckless, inept, or stupid, unable to ‘learn’ what it takes to win. They are corrupt. They do not want to win with an authentically progressive program because it would threaten the economic interests of their main corporate donor base… The Democrats know exactly what they’re doing.  They have a business model: sub-serving the interests of the corporate elite.”

The reigning corporate Democrats would rather lose to the right, even to a proto-fascistic white nationalist and eco-exterminist right, than lose to the left, even to a mildly progressive social democratic and environmentalist left within their own party.

How else explain their insistence on promoting the ridiculous, right-wing arch-corporatist, imperialist, and dementia-plagued right-wing gaffe machine Joke Biden in the long march to the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries? Again and again, the Democrats’ main cable news networks CNN and MSDNC falsely and insidiously describe Sanders’ highly popular, majority-backed Single Payer health insurance policy plank as an authoritarian big government assault on people’s existing coverage instead of a great democratic human rights demand. The “liberal” media perversely portrays the fiscally viable and existentially necessary Green New Deal as a far-out and dreamy radical scheme from another galaxy. When they’re not just completely ignoring him and his large rallies (probably the main way they undermine Sanders), the corporate media even stoops to painting out Sanders as another version of Trump: old, authoritarian, stubborn, male, and boorish.

But this is timeworn standard operating procedure in the Democratic Party and its allied media, leading agents in what the prolific leading left scholar Henry Giroux calls “neoliberal fascism.” It’s a richly bipartisan disease. In Giroux’s book American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights, 2018), one sees none of Stanley’s hesitation or reluctance when it comes to forthrightly acknowledging and exposing the central roles of the Democrats and the capitalist order in the creation of the neofascist menace that haunts the United States today.”

Voting is just a small part of the answer.  Active, conscious political engagement is the only solution to this political problem.  We in Canada share a similar trajectory.

The CBC’s reporting on Hong Kong:

“The anti-government protests present one of the biggest challenges facing Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. And with the ruling Communist Party preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct 1, the crisis in Hong Kong has come at a sensitive time.

Beijing has struck an increasingly strident tone over the protests, accusing foreign countries including the United States of fomenting unrest.

Scenes of Chinese paramilitary troops training at a stadium in the city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, gave a clear warning that mainland intervention by force is possible.”

These protests are not going to end well.

China is a world power and has the political and economic clout to do whatever the hell it pleases in Hong Kong.

I foresee an abrupt media black out coinciding with the military going into Hong Kong and reestablishing the correct type of order for the area.  It will be bloody and ruthless, but necessary from the government of China’s point of view.  Real democracy is a threat to the status quo and is intolerable state of being for the elite classes.

The protesters must be prepared for this eventuality and decide whether they are willing to pay the price in blood for their freedom.  There is no other way to purchase liberty.

“Yes, it makes for a more violent society. It makes gun crime, including the mass shootings, vastly more prevalent that it is in the UK and other European countries. But that is a choice that Americans have made. They may tweak their laws a little at the edges in response to the latest atrocity. They may require a medical certificate here, or a licence there, or curbs on the open sale of the most murderous automatic weapons. But they will not legislate, still less amend their Constitution, to deny people the right to bear arms.

To blame the US gun lobby for this, in the shape of the National Rifle Association, is to see things the wrong way around. The NRA is a force and has money because gun-ownership enjoys public support, and no amount of mass shootings or appeals from shocked Europeans is going to change this. Americans have accepted a trade-off, between permissive gun laws and the high incidence of death by shooting. It is a trade-off that regards El Paso and Dayton, and Columbine, Stoneham Douglas and the rest, as a high, but largely tolerable, price for what is seen as the ultimate in personal freedom. This view will persist well after Donald Trump has left the White House, and probably for a long time after that.”

The price is bit to high for me.  I’m quite okay with not have the degree of freedom that American’s possess in exchange for the reasonable expectation that I will not be gunned down as I teach class, or while I’m watching or movie, or really doing anything in public.

 

The fact that the US is still entangled in Afghanistan has all but left the news media in the United States.  I certainly hope that powers involved here can keep their agenda focus and actually produce some results.  The status quo quagmire needs to end.

From the Asia Times

“The Afghan state minister for peace affairs, Abdul Salam Rahimi, announced on Saturday that the Afghan government was preparing for direct talks with the Taliban. “The government will be represented by a 15-member delegation. We are working will all sides and hope that in the next two weeks the first meeting will take place in a European country,” Rahimi said.

Oslo has been mentioned as the venue for the crucial meeting. The Taliban have not yet budged from their longstanding demand that a deal must be forged with the US first. Possibly, a deal will be announced after the ninth round of US-Taliban talks in Doha in the coming week.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani inspects a guard of honor during the first day of the Loya Jirga in Kabul on April 29. Photo: Rahmat Gul / AFP

Indeed, we are witnessing an utterly fascinating spectacle of diplomatic pirouette being played out between and among five main protagonists – Trump, who is demanding an expeditious US withdrawal from Afghanistan, assuming Imran Khan will deliver on his promises; Khan, in turn, going through the motions of persuading the Taliban to be reasonable while expecting generous US reciprocal moves to accommodate Pakistani interests; Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, seeing the writing on the wall that US withdrawal is unstoppable, while still hoping to secure a second term in office; Khalilzad pushing the reluctant Afghan government to fall in line with a Taliban deal, while also negotiating with the Taliban for an orderly US withdrawal, albeit with a weak hand; and the Taliban on a roll, sensing victory.

There are caveats galore. But the compass has been set.

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