Thursday, July 12, 2018

I Cartoon Too


Click to enlarge. Photo taken with my cell phone. I may replace it with a decent scan later on.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Caring About Childcare

Who seriously thinks centrists support free universal childcare more than Scandinavian-style socialists do?

It seems to be becoming an odd talking point among Sanders-bashers. In my previous post, I wrote about Sally Albright's strange claim that free universal college was racist. She insisted it would only benefit the privileged and implied that childcare was not on Bernie Sanders' radar. Of course, she's wrong.

Recently, Jill Filipovic tweaked Alright's argument in a tweet, albeit not enough to realign it with reality:
Feminists have been calling for universal child care for a very long time. It's the men in charge who have decided free college is more important than free child care. Another reason having women in power and at the table is so crucial.
There's a lot to unpack here. Certainly socialist feminists have been calling for universal childcare. Centrist feminists less so. Centrists generally aren't in favor of free universal anything - not college, childcare, or healthcare. Ditto with "the men in charge." They don't want free stuff either. Go figure. While we unquestionably live in a patriarchy, it is also a capitalist one. In short, the men who favor free college are not the same men who are in charge. Otherwise, we would already have free college.

Conservatives love posing false trade offs whether it it liberty against equality or the economy against the ecology. Even if they are not presented as mutually exclusive, one can only progress at the other's expense. Centrists are not much different. Except when they do it, they totally torpedo their stereotype of leftists.

First and foremost, it cannot escape comment that Bernie Sanders put free universal childcare in his economic platform. Item eleven in his thirteen point plan demands, "Enacting a universal childcare and prekindergarten program." Indeed, Sanders had introduced a Senate bill for it in 2011 called the Foundations for Success Act. That was one of the so-called "ponies" he promised. Is Jill Filipovic suggesting that socialists suddenly don't want ponies anymore? The new memo is confusing.

Second, during the campaign, it was learned that Sanders supporters were more in favor of such feminist initiatives than Clinton supporters were. After digging into American National Elections Studies (ANES) Jacobin had discovered much that contradicted the centrist narrative:
Sanders backers, for instance, were more likely to strongly endorse requiring employers to pay men and women equally for the same work. They were also much more assertive in their support for mandatory paid parental leave:

I thought it was pretty interesting that, among those who favored paid leave "a great deal," Sanders men passed Clinton women by one percentage point - 53% to 52%. (Maybe it was a rounding error.) But overall, Sanders supporters favored it more than Clinton ones by almost ten points - 88% to 79%.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but it makes sense if you think about it. As I keep saying, centrists like to pretend to be feminists as long as it does not cost anything or inconvenience corporations in any way. By contrast, Sanders’ socialist supporters don’t have such strange hang ups. Different loyalties, I suppose.

Finally, Hillary Clinton’s “We are not Denmark” comment in the Democratic Party debates illustrates who really wants what. She was dismissing the Scandinavian-style socialism that Sanders advocates. As leaked audio of those Wall Street fundraising luncheons revealed, she was even more patronizing behind closed doors. Shortly before saying Sanders supporters live in their "parents' basements," she said:
And on the other side, there’s just a deep desire to believe that we can have free college, free healthcare, that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough, and that we just need to, you know, go as far as, you know, Scandinavia, whatever that means, and half the people don’t know what that means, but it’s something that they deeply feel.
Well, few things say “Scandinavian-style socialism” quite like “free universal childcare.” Hence Margaret Thatcher’s disdainful description: the "Nanny State.” You could argue that free universal healthcare is more core or springs to mind before because it is often a matter of life and death. But Thatcher did not call it “the Nurse State.” Perhaps she should have. But the point here is that Thatcher's shorthand sums up the stereotype of such benevolent feminist, child-friendly governments whether you admire them or not. Indeed, providing free universal childcare is damn near definitional for Scandinavian-style socialism.

Yes, I know that Hillary Clinton had a childcare plank in her platform too. As Time magazine noted, her "European-Style" proposal "arrived late in the election cycle" (less than two months before she won the nomination) and the article cautioned "There aren’t details yet exactly how it could work" (which would be considered a fatal flaw if Sanders proposed it). Sounds like another issue where Sanders pushed her to the left. I should add that Clinton's program was just a subsidy to reduce the cost by capping it at 10% of family income. It did not make childcare free, so wealthy families would still get better childcare.

And what does it say about centrist feminists who totally ignore free universal childcare right up until they need a rhetorical truncheon to use against free college?

In short, Jill Filipovic's tweet is a straw man argument that presents a false trade-off and flies in the face of both easily-discovered documentation and longstanding stereotype. That's quite an accomplishment! It's as absurd as saying conservatives are pro-choice and liberals are anti-choice. It's like conservatives saying "Liberals are the REAL racists," which is incidentally exactly what centrists say about progressives. The comparison ain't hyperbole. Warts an all, the left has always been exponentially better than the center on race, sex, and gender. But that's for another post.

The point is a lot of centrists think leftists don't care about free universal childcare. It's phenomenally wrong, but it’s something that they deeply feel.

Still, it is nice to see centrists supporting free universal something even as a pawn in their zero sum game.


EDIT 6/12/18:

Things seem dark now, but I am cautiously optimistic. I can imagine an America, maybe a decade away, that has free universal college, childcare, and healthcare as well.

And no doubt that era's centrists will claim credit and patiently explain how progressive somehow opposed each of these things - perhaps the way conservatives now co-opt Rosa Parks or the way some centrists insist that corporations - and not protests - had won gay rights.

That's okay. We want them to steal our ideas. As Mark Twain wrote, "The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them." After fighting against them, of course.

SECOND EDIT 6/26/18:

Update: Jill Filipovic remains a ridiculous figure. That is all.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

When Ayn Rand Met Sally

Who is John Galt? - I'm sorry, I meant Sally Albright.

For those who don't know, she was a former Republican consultant
 whose main claim to fame is slandering Bernie Sanders (and using bots). She is also one of many Twitter personalities who exemplifies centrist efforts to conflate fighting poverty with white supremacy. "Divide and conquer” is a favorite conservative strategy and this is an obvious effort to split the left. Moreover, the wealthy are getting wary: They really want to knock the topic of economic inequality off the table - to discredit it as irrelevant.

Many centrists are willing to incinerate their credibility to achieve this ignoble goal.

Last year, Zack Beauchamp argued that European social programs enabled racism - so don't spoil the poor with ponies of any sort. Apparently, those "dark Satanic mills" in days of yore were actually enlightened redoubts of tolerance: They kept the proles too busy for bigotry. Who knew?

Beauchamp's argument combined divide and conquer with another conservative favorite – their claim that social programs invariably have negative side effects or even backfire entirely. Conservatives love claiming that welfare causes poverty or that affirmative action causes racism.

And there are plenty of centrist pundits available to legitimize such gibberish. "Progressive" sweatshop apologist Nicholas Kristof agrees with conservatives that our pathetically threadbare safety net can "entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency." With progressives like these who needs conservatives?

But while such centrists often spin the counter factual as counter intuitive (and therefore "fascinating"), Sally Albright presents the obviously false as manifest fact. So, any new social programs that would definitely benefit minorities most of all are strangely painted as racist assaults on those populations. 

Back in January, Albright claimed that free college was racist. "Does 'free college' specifically benefit women and minorities? Does it benefit anyone who isn't already going to college and just doesn't want to pay? Reinforcing the status quo is racist."

Yes, you read that right: Free college is the new Jim Crow. At least when advocated by Bernie Sanders.

Leaving aside the point that shooting down free college seems more like reinforcing the status quo, metastasizing college costs are a massive drag on minority admissions. Total average costs have grown 
1,120% in 30 years. Obviously, populations that white supremacy has historically worked to keep poor(1) are going to find this barrier even more difficult than whites do. As The Boston Globe reported:
[I]nstead of bridging the racial equity gap by opening the prospect of well-paying jobs, getting a degree can actually widen the gulf in wealth between black and white adults. African-American students who started college in 2003-04 typically owed 113 percent of their student loan 12 years later, according to the most recent data from the US Department of Education analyzed by the Center for American Progress. By contrast, white borrowers had paid down their debt and owed only 65 percent of the original amount, and Hispanic borrowers had knocked down their debt to 83 percent of the initial loan. 
Many aren't "already going" because they cannot afford to. And those who do go are sometimes worse off.

Albright insists that tuition is not an issue, but other costs such as housing and childcare are. While covering housing would be welcome, most poor students already try to save money by living with their parents. That is why Barack Obama's 2015 
free community college proposal did not cover housing either.(2) Admittedly, living at home is not always an option for everyone, but free tuition would obviously be a huge boon for the poor who can. Childcare is indeed another barrier that we should tackle, but it has not risen as rapidly as tuition has - although it has risen.(3) Nobody is saying free college will make higher education totally cost-free, but it would clearly help immensely - and help minorities especially.

It's ludicrous to dispute this. We already know that minority enrollment drops when tuition climbs. A 
2015 study found that "Even with financial aid, several years of staggering tuition increases at four-year public colleges and universities have caused shifts in the racial diversity of schools across the country." 
Yet Albright actually thinks "Free college just makes it free for people who are going anyway and don't want to pay." Inexplicably, she believes universal programs are somehow exclusionary and only benefit the privileged.(4) Her tenacious belief is impervious to both data and poignant personal testimonies

Instead, she doubled-down on the claim again and again. She said she doesn't want to 
subsidize "sorority girls at the University of Texas." That's superficially understandable, but it misses the big picture. Making programs universal reinforce them against conservative efforts to de-fund or repeal them. That's in part why Social Security remains a sacred cow while welfare was vulnerable. Remember Margret Thatcher was unable to get rid of the United Kingdom's actual national healthcare system in part because it is universal. It is harder to attack something that benefits everyone - as everyone in politics should already know.

I’m not sure why Sally Albright is still clinging to this idea. As I noted before, e
ven Hillary Clinton has abandoned the folly of this thinking in her campaign postmortem tome What Happened, admitting:
Democrats should reevaluate a lot of our assumptions about which policies are politically viable. These trends make universal programs even more appealing than we previously thought. I mean programs like Social Security and Medicare, which benefit every American, as opposed to Medicaid, food stamps, and other initiatives targeted to the poor. Targeted programs may be more efficient and progressive, and that’s why during the primaries I criticized Bernie’s “free college for all” plan as providing wasteful taxpayer-funded giveaways to rich kids. But it’s precisely because they don’t benefit everyone that targeted programs are so easily stigmatized and demagogued. ... Democrats should redouble our efforts to develop bold, creative ideas that offer broad-based benefits for the whole country.
Leaving aside Hillary Clinton's decisive participation in the assault on one particular program - thereby giving the term "targeted" a double meaning - this is where Ayn Rand meets Sally Albright.

A few years ago, it came to light that Ayn Rand had applied for Medicare benefits, i.e. Social Security, when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. (Can you see where I am going with this?) Libertarian rationalizations were as absurd as anything Albright might write. I eviscerated them in my 2014 book.(5) But then I pointed out that, as fun as this exercise was, it ignored something infinitely more significant:
But more important than Ayn Rand’s obvious hypocrisy is the fact that she needed such programs. Without them, this wealthy, world-famous novelist could not pay her medical bills. Now, for a moment, forget everything this “moral philosopher” said about government programs. Ignore her rhetoric of “theft” and “parasites” and pretend she was a different celebrity, perhaps an apolitical one. Now, ask yourself something: If she could not afford medical treatment, how could most people? Such programs are unquestionably necessary. And if they were good for Ayn Rand, they are good for everybody else too. Beyond hypocrisy, her philosophy simply does not work. The fact that it did not even work for her, in her privileged position, should only show how totally broken it is.
If you are going to shoot down free college because rich kids can take advantage of it, you may as well say we should end Social Security and Medicare as well because Ayn Rand took advantage of those. One Albright defender reliably raised the conservative specter that some kids might waste that free education: "Plus lots of students ended up not finishing colleges, that means money down the drain. Free tuition sounds good but not workable, and unaffordable. It means higher property taxes, that will never pass!" 

Elsewhere in the thread, the dread prospect of people becoming philosophy majors was threatened. This is a serious risk to consider. We don't need any more Ayn Rands.(6)

Levity aside, I'm totally okay with the fact that Ayn Rand had collected benefits - not because I have copious compassion for those who have none for others - but because I am happy those programs existed for everyone. Likewise, I'm fine with rich kids getting free college because it will better ensure that it is there for poor kids who need it more - and will get more out of it. After all, the poor outnumber the rich.

Tolerating a few flush freeloaders seems like a reasonable operating cost - at least to reasonable people.


EDIT 06/25/18:

I've been in some pretty interesting Twitter threads since typing this. Because 
Social Security initially excluded blacks, one person argued against any new universal programs until we could be sure that would not happen again. I felt compelled to point out that it's not 1935 anymore. African Americans get Social Security. Indeed, blacks benefit from the program more than whites. As a NAACP fact sheet explained:
When looking at African Americans’ overall use of Social Security, a 2003 GAO study found that blacks receive a higher rate of return—receiving more in benefits than what is paid in payroll taxes—than whites, due to their heavier reliance on the full range of benefits offered by Social Security. (emphasis original)
Incidentally, the legislation that created Social Security did not exclude African Americans by name. Instead, it excluded agricultural and domestic workers. This meant that white agricultural workers were denied and black factory workers were not. But of course blacks were disproportionately left out. These occupational exclusions were removed in the 1950s. Whether the original exclusions were racist in intent is in dispute, but nobody denies that they worsened the racial wealth gap just the same. However, using Social Security to argue against universal programs is lunacy because the fault was that the program was initially not universal. I have written more about blacks and the New Deal here.

The virulence of the insane "free college is racist/sexist" argument is strange. It is an article of faith - like the conservative claim that raising the minimum wage causes inflation. Student debt is unquestionably a greater burden for women and minorities and therefore they would benefit most from making it free. 

_____________

1) 
Historically, blacks have been white society's economic shock absorbers. Because they are "the last hired and the first fired" they suffer the worst when the economy sours. During the Great Depression, black unemployment was 2 to 3 times higher than white unemployment. And as Bernie Sanders had pointed out, African Americans lost half of their wealth during the financial crisis. And centrist Democrats like Tim Kaine are trying to make things worse by sponsoring a banking deregulation bill that victimizes blacks both directly and indirectly. The indirect aspect is more of the above. The direct aspect is that one of the bill's provisions would rollback "data-gathering requirements intended to prevent lending discrimination."

And well before the crash, studies showed that on average whites inherit seven times more wealth than blacks - that is, if they inherit anything at all. For Baby Boomers, the inheritance disparity is even greater than for previous generations. For every dollar a white Boomer inherits, a black Boomer only gets fourteen cents. Accordingly, the black retirement crisis is even more acute than the white one.

2) Interestingly, when I mentioned this, Albright said she favored Obama's proposal. In retrospect, the dynamic put us on unexpected sides of another, related issue. Prestigious institutions don't really offer better educations: Their true value is networking and getting connections. So, while Obama's plan would boost minority enrollment, it would probably also mean fewer minorities getting into prestigious schools and thus the corridors of power. As the above 2015 study mentioned, minorities are already getting funneled into community colleges by rising tuition costs:
Not only do tuition increases discourage students and families from enrolling at more expensive “first choice” schools, shifts in campus diversity are more pronounced when there are more postsecondary competitors, such as community colleges, in the surrounding area. More precisely, as public four-year institutions grew more expensive, the likelihood that black and Hispanic students would choose to enroll elsewhere also increased
Both Barack and Michelle Obama went to Harvard. Making entry economically easier only at the community college level, would make their inspiring story even less likely to duplicate than Sanders’ plan would. I do not think we live in even a rough a meritocracy and I am against having a ruling class. Yet, ironically, my preferred plan would make it easier for minorities to enter it. So Sally can say I am a bad socialist and I can say Sally is a bad ally to people of color. Oh, wait. I can already say that.

3)
Sally Albright was attacking Bernie Sanders’ free college plan, but Sanders has spoken of the importance of providing childcare on other occasions – and not limited to students. His platform called for universal childcare. No doubt Albright would characterize this as only paying for rich families' nannies.

Moreover, Sanders voters are more likely to support such legislation than Clinton voters. For example, they were far more supportive of paid family leave. The reason is centrists prefer programs that do not cost anything or inconvenience corporations. Actual progressives do not have these hang-ups.

Albright was insinuating that Sanders doesn't care about childcare because he didn't specifically mention it in his college plan. It's a tired tactic of Clinton cultists. For example, when Sanders unveiled his single payer "Medicare for All" plan, he neglected to specifically mention the anti-abortion Hyde Amendment. From that oversight, Clintonistas insinuated that he was anti-choice. Never mind that he has consistently voted to repeal the Hyde Amendment and has a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood. But who needs to read voting records when you can let your fevered imagination run riot reading between the lines? 

4) I suspect Albright's strange take might be the result of some hilariously garbled misreading of Ta-Nehisi Coates. He did indeed argue that New Deal programs contributed to the postwar wealth gap between blacks and white - because blacks were excluded from them. Thus, they were not truly universal.

Should some special effort be made to close the gap? Of course! But that's not the same as saying that America's most vulnerable populations would not benefit the most from a universal program - let alone Albright's strange claim that they would not benefit at all.

Many Clintonites interpreted Coates' criticism of Sanders as an endorsement of Clinton. Quite the opposite. Coates was criticizing how very safe and lame even the "radical" wing of the Democratic Party was. As Coates explained, he singled-out Sanders for criticism because: 
Hillary Clinton has no interest in being labeled radical, left-wing, or even liberal. Thus announcing that Clinton doesn’t support reparations is akin to announcing that Ted Cruz doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose. The position is certainly wrong. But it is hardly a surprise, and doesn't run counter to the candidate’s chosen name. 
Coates has been consistently critical of Clinton and voted for Sanders in the primary. As Coates explained in his Democracy Now interview, "One can say Senator Sanders should have more explicit antiracist policy within his racial justice platform, not just more general stuff, and still cast a vote for Senator Sanders and still feel that Senator Sanders is the best option that we have in the race." Unfortunately, too few straw-grasping Clintonistas ever got the memo. 

5) You cannot deny Ayn Rand’s hypocrisy with any dignity. Every excuse looks ludicrous. Most focus on the fact that she paid into the system. But she was not just taking back what she had put in. First, she had not been paying-in her whole working life and she had very expensive lung cancer. Others subsidized her care. Indeed, this would be the case even if she had contributed throughout her working life because, of course employers contribute. Second, payment does not negate hypocrisy. Consider homophobic pastor Ted Haggard paying his gay gigolo for six years. Third, being forced to pay by the government doesn’t make any difference either. Our tax dollars subsidize the cattle and dairy industries, but that doesn’t mean a vegan can honestly chow-down on a cheese burger. Nor could a prohibitionist do shots of vodka after buying a ticket to an event that s/he later learned had an open bar. Fourth, Rand had called such social programs “theft.” Well, if it is, then she’s a thief too. Or if she is not a thief, then nobody else is either. Either she is guilty or no beneficiary is. The yardstick of hypocrisy is always: "Are you partaking in something you think should not be available to anyone?" And Ayn Rand's apologists of course ignore this.

6) Yes, Ayn Rand is such a ridiculous figure that merely mentioning her name is a valid punchline.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Recalcitrant House Cats

My blog needs more traffic. And that means more cats. So let's mix some animal metaphors.

Common sense strongly suggests that guilt-tripping non-voters does not work. Yet faux woke centrists still default to it to explain their failures - frequently in the same breath as calling themselves "realists." They set up the board, positioning the pieces pretty stupidly, and then blame the pieces for the dismal results.

Let's see how many metaphors I can pile on. Surely one of them will get the point across. Blaming the straw that broke the camel's back ignores all the anvils that some idiot piled on beforehand. Blaming the last actor in any sequence of events is like building a house of cards and faulting the wind for its collapse.

In short, the set up matters. You want to call recipients/end users stupid? Okay, let's run with that shoddy, self-serving assumption. Here's another analogy using cats, as I promised. It is also a personal story.

After my previous geriatric cats passed away, I went on cat hiatus for a few years. But this past winter I took in a stray when the temperature dropped to negative one degree Fahrenheit. Since then, I've discovered that I'd forgotten a lot about having a cat. I had to relearn some things.

One thing was not to refill the food bowl while it is still on the floor. Otherwise, the damn cat will stick his head in the way, giving himself a kibble shower sending the pieces flying all over the kitchen floor.

Yes, I futilely yelled at my cat for interfering with my efforts to feed him. (Spoiler Alert: It didn't work.) And he kept doing it. In retrospect, my previous cats did the same. Eventually, a few seconds' reflection told me that I had to change my ways - not least of all because I had the most control over the situation.

In my frustration, I was being just as dumb as my cat. Now, I pick up the bowl, fill it, and set it back down on the floor. This new/old system works great! Again, the set up matters. What happens first always matters more than what happens last.

And, yes, I just compared non-voters to domestic cats. It's my analogy - but it's the establishment's attitude. I'm just illustrating its inherent stupidity.


Next Day Edit:

To be clear, I have voted in every Federal election since my first in 1988 and urge everyone to vote. I am making a point about motivating people who can be just as contrary as cats. Guilt trips are typically counter productive - particularly when done in advance. Guilt trips are the habit of chronic incompetents trying to shift blame or moral scolds who just love to lecture. Neither type of person is particularly popular, so they probably should not be put in charge of messaging.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Nincompoop Comparisons

This post may not go where you think. Or maybe it will.

In the 1970s, hippies often called hawks "fascists." The Vietnam War was on and protest signs turned the X in Richard Nixon's name into a swastika more-than-once. Conservative critics reacted angrily to this hyperbole. Yet, when militarism and racism are combined, it's an understandable comparison. When most people think of Nazis, they think of bellicose bigots with rigid authoritarian tendencies. In fairness, you must admit that was Nixon all over. He was not an affable chap.

In the 1980s, many progressives called the Reagan Administration "fascist" for such things as stoking nationalism and militarism again, funding death squads in El Salvador, propping up dictators like Saddam Hussein and Ferdinand Marcos, defending South African Apartheid, ignoring or joking about the AIDS pandemic, and busting unions. And then there was his infamous Bitburg Cemetery visit which eventually exposed a host of unsavory associations. Moderates who often went along with Ronnie's policies of course deplored Nazi analogies because he was such an affable nincompoop.

In the 2000s, many progressives called the Bush Administration "fascist" for additional militarism, two formally declared wars and a conceptual "War on Terror” we were told would never end, using torture, the flouting of international law, curbing civil rights at home, and floating the notion of postponing the next elections until things were safe. (Maybe after the forever war.) Moderates who tolerated or voted for these policies tisked progressives' vocabulary again because Dubya was another affable nincompoop.

In 2016, Donald Trump got elected, thanks in large part to moderates’ phenomenal incompetence.

But then something utterly unexpected happened:

Moderates suddenly discovered the word "fascist" and arrogantly presumed leadership of the very same progressive resistance they have been belittling and undermining all this time. This is not because Donald Trump’s policies are terribly different – most have recent antecedents in the Republican administrations I just mentioned – but because he is a vulgar and abrasive nincompoop. And that cannot stand. As I wrote before, there's not much daylight between Ronald and Donald except that the latter acts dickish about it.

It seems a new Cold War is brewing. And just as in the last one, I imagine actual anti-fascists will be branded "premature anti-fascists"(1) by the tardy reluctant ones - especially by the erstwhile collaborators, the centrist quisling officers who ordered decades of demoralizing retreats. In the 1950s, American conservatives who openly praised Hitler prior to Pearl Harbor went after those who always hated Hitler. There was another parallel in France. As the author of this Antioch Review article noted:
My French maquisards had a phrase for the Frenchmen who, in 1944, as the Allied armies broke out of the Normandy pocket and raced across France in pursuit of the retreating Wehrmacht, finally tried to join the Resistance.  Résistants de la dernière heure was their contemptuous name for them-"last-minute anti-Fascists."
But let's be clear: While centrists in "The Resistance" deplore Trump's personality, they apparently adore his legislative agenda because they keep voting for it. And, yes, this includes the racist facets as well.(2) Sorry for the Nazi analogy. I ordinarily advocate avoiding them, but it's the Trump era after all.

However, if you still object, I can go with a Civil War comparison. It's high time we follow Abe Lincoln's example and replace General McClellan with General Grant. Because McClellan's sympathies explain his hesitancy and we need strategists who lack that particular handicap. Or maybe he was a nincompoop.

Either way, fire the centrist idjits because they lack the skill or will to win.


__________

1) The term primarily applies to veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigades - Americans who went to Spain to fight General Francisco Franco's fascists. There is actually dispute as to where the term originated: Whether it first coined by critics, admirers, or mordantly by the veterans themselves. Conservatives think this is significant. It isn't. The point is they were hounded by the FBI.

2) A few months ago, a friend of mine told me I was bringing the word "Quisling" back. So I am amused to see that it is the first word in this article, even though I am probably not really responsible. But I have long been doing my part to boost the signal.

I also advocate calling conservatives "Tories." It is what conservatives are called in the rest of the English speaking world and highlights the left/liberal character of the American Revolution. I elaborate on this in my bookConservatism is Un-American & Other Self-Evident Truths

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Predictable Perfidy

David Brooks' grotesque concern trolling on abortion proves once again that centrists have no principles on social issues either. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. 

In 2016, centrists pretended to be feminists and woke on race, but their advice is always to throw another liberal issue or constituency under the bus. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Each time, they portray surrendering as neutralizing some supposedly losing position so Republicans cannot use it against us anymore. Drop this dead weight issue and we will soar! That and stealing Republican thunder are their two favorite strategies. 

Remember when it was Welfare Reform? That was actually a hybrid of the two strategies. It looks less like giving-in if you out-do the opposition. Just pump up the tough love rhetoric and say you will do it more competently or humanely.(1) Centrists consider this surrender a great victory.

Then there was that infamous 1997 Mother Jones magazine editorial which suggested that we should abandon affirmative action by arguing it had "eroded liberals' moral credibility as reformers."(2) Profiles in courage! Perhaps they should consider their own erosion.

Abortion rights have long been something that centrists suggest we abandon as a losing battle. Concern trolling on it is nothing newYes, they have spent the past two years presenting a false trade-off between economic and social issues; but centrists have frequently targeted social issues in the past. We are just witnessing a resumption. Consider the recent Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones in Alabama: Centrists predictably dismissed Jones because he was pro-choice, but after he won they explained it was because he was a "generic Democrat." Yes, boring wins. Consider our string of victories with wooden presidential candidates like Al Gore and John Kerry. But I digress.

Last July, a poll showed that 52% of Americans don’t think the Democratic Party actually stands for anything other than just opposing Trump. That’s what decades of centrist leadership get us. This is not the byproduct of imaginary leftist cynicism: It is the direct result of repeated betrayals by centrist cynicism. And the ridiculous rehabilitation of George W. Bush's image is not helping us look steadfast.

David Brooks has the gall to ask "Do we want [legal abortion] so much that we see our agendas on poverty, immigration, income equality and racial justice thwarted and defeated?"

What’s with this “we” and “our” stuff? Does anyone actually think Brooks shares the slightest sympathy with any of those agendas? I dunno. Let’s Google the key words "David Brooks” with those issues.

On poverty, Brooks thinks the poor need stern lectures on morality. It's his perennial prescription. Here's a 2012 Charles Pierce piece in Esquire noting that Brooks has been pedaling such pabulum for years already. Every other year or so, David Brooks rehashes long-discredited conservative canards and gets called out on it - in 20142015, and  2017. So, we are not off to an awesome start.

On immigration, he's actually not entirely terrible - only partially. Or maybe he’s just bullshitting. He shows how immigration is economically beneficial, but he wants to limit admitting unskilled workers. In other words, yes to doctors and scientists – but no to farm workers and domestics. Opportunity should be reserved for those deserving immigrants who least need it. Brooks doesn't phrase it this way, but I suspect he feels any draconian policy would be okay so long as it carves out exceptions for those who are not desperate. And since few children are chemists or cardiologists, I suppose they must go.(3) To be clear, I am not against welcoming professionals, but they have options that other immigrants do not. I am arguing for welcoming the desperate as well. Brooks not so much.

On income equality, it's obvious why Brooks has always been awful on the topic. If his politics on poverty is retrograde, why should his stance on this issue be any different? And the same pattern ensues: Brooks writes a column that is phenomenally moronic and callous and gets roundly mocked for it. Repeat. Here are some quick 21st century examples from 20112012,  2014, and 2015, but he has been saying such things for far longer. Yes, in 2016, he began making pretty noises that starkly contrast with everything he has written before. Shouldn't we cut him some slack? Not if he is putting the issue in opposition to abortion.

I'm sure I will get called a "purist" for questioning the sincerity of David Brooks' intentions. But this isn't about getting a perfect progressive score or passing some litmus test. He has a documented history of fraud and trying to guilt liberals. Concern trolling is the bulk of what he does. Last March, I wrote a blog post arguing that concern trolling is the essence of centrism. Brooks personifies this, so extra skepticism is warranted. Considering trustworthiness is just prudent and past habits are relevant to such assessments. Glenn Beck releasing his listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton has more credibility by comparison because at least Beck doesn't have a history of trying to convince liberals that he is actually sympathetic.

As for racial justice, well, David Brooks concedes that racism is bad; but What about the constables? How do they feel when the public erupts over police brutality, "officer involved shootings," suspicious deaths in custody, and the predictable acquittals that occur with infuriating frequency? On Freddie Gray's death in custody, Brooks wrote, "He was apparently a kind-hearted, respectful, popular man, but he was not on the path to upward mobility." It's the genteel version of “He was no angel.” And do you want to know what the kicker is? The column was actually about "The Nature of Poverty" rather than police brutality. The whole column was a pompous shit-show of scolding. So yeah, fuck David Brooks.

And one last point: “thwarted and defeated” are pretty much the same thing and thus redundant. It is yet another example that Brooks’ editor is asleep at the switch. Seriously, does anyone look at any New York Times opinion piece before it sees print?(4)

You may say there’s no betrayal because David Brooks is not really one of us. I heartily agree on the later. The first sentence in the Wikipedia article on him says he is a conservative. Under the subheading "politics” it says "Ideologically, Brooks has been described as a moderate, a centrist, a conservative, and a moderate conservative." But establishment Democrats have adopted him with a passion. He is widely called "the liberals' favorite conservative" - and not in some "Even Reagan/Bush/whoever wasn't that bad" sort of fashion. For centrists, the enthusiasm is genuine and comes with scant, pro forma qualifications. 

To centrists, every liberal position is a liability to be jettisoned the instant it gets any negative attention no matter how overtly orchestrated or absurd the accusations are. Remember, the central centrist conceit is that this is a conservative country and we must cool our jets accordingly. That means everything is expendable. Everything is on the chopping block. If it can be called “liberal” it is a target for deletion and centrist concern trolls will pounce – just as David Brooks has done on the issue of abortion.

Just stop and ask yourself what would some future Reverend Martin Niemöller say about neoliberalism? 
When they eliminated food stamps, I didn't say anything because I wasn't poor. When they busted unions, I didn't say anything because I wasn't union. When they restricted abortion, I didn't say anything because I wasn't a woman. When they de-funded public schools, I didn't say anything because I didn't have kids. When they eventually struck their long sought 'Grand Bargain' on Social Security, I didn't say anything because I was not yet elderly.
Divide and conquer is is the inevitable effect of the centrist enterprise. It's high time we recognized it.

That centrists who admire the likes of David Brooks want to lead "The Resistance” is ridiculous considering they rolled over and played dead the last time a Republican candidate lost the electoral vote but became president anyway. Remember George W. Bush’s two illegal wars and who voted to approve them? Progressives protested while centrists acquiesced - and tisk-tisked progressive protesters, of course. Bush once boasted, "I'm a uniter not a divider." No, he was not. Not unless you consider his coercive "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" rhetoric unifying. 

I'm all for party unity, but we should rally around ideals more than candidates - the standard rather than the standard bearer. And those who have pulled at our banner's threads for decades should not have that job. Calling out dividers is not divisive - it's defending unity against conservative saboteurs.

Let's stop uniting around dividers. Because it's pretty shitty for the party's structural integrity.


EDIT 02/11/18: Shit and grits! THIS is BRILLIANT!

SECOND EDIT 02/15/18: It seems others share my suspicion about the Times' poor editorial oversight.

____________

1) Clinton apologists will point out that Bill Clinton vetoed the first two bills Newt Gingrich’s congress sent him. But in her memoir, Hillary Clinton bragged about talking Bill into signing the third version. It seems like an odd thing to brag about. Indeed, as recently as the 2012 Democratic convention, Bill touted it while waxing nostalgic about bipartisan cooperation with Ronald Reagan! "[A]s governor, I worked with President Reagan on welfare reform." (transcript) As I keep saying, Slick Willie finished the Gipper's to-do list. Slick Willie has a habit of boasting about things he was supposedly forced to do. Witness his 1996 radio spots boasting that he had stopped gay marriage. 

If the Clintons feel any genuine contrition, they should admit that they helped push the issue of Welfare Reform. They legitimized a conservative issue by campaigning on it. Maybe they shouldn’t have done that.

Oh the poor Clintons! They painted themselves into a corner by making unconscionable campaign promises. They played with fire and others got burned. But my sympathies lay with those who suffered the material effects. Let me be clear: I do not like the Clintons, but this is not about personal animus. My target is the type of thinking that typically gets such results and David Brooks’ column shows that such thinking persists in centrist circles. It defines centrism.

2) The magazine Mother Jones was named after a radical labor agitator. Listen to this track by Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco if you don’t know who Mother Jones was. Alas, Mother Jones writer David Corn doesn’t seem particularly jazzed about his magazine’s namesake. He made this clear by tweeting, "I guess it seemed like a good idea in 1970. Or something." Talk about eroded moral credibility as reformers!

3) I am reminded of when Hillary Clinton infamously declared, "We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.” It all sounds so resolute and reasonable, doesn’t it? I should be chastised for my dearth of faith.

4) 
I caught a huge goof in my last post. Alas, it was after-the-fact so I had to add an erratum. Also, all this time, I have been typing “errata” instead of “erratum” which is also very embarrassing. That happened in part because I don’t have an editor or intern to save me from myself. It’s just me working here. The Gray Lady and I both need to hire some people. The difference is they can easily afford it. Just fire some unconscionable columnists. You have a vast surplus of them.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Considering Reticence

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of 
dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am 
contradicted."  Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Clinton cultist: [blocks Emerson]


I’m toying with a self-imposed moratorium on mentioning the 
Clintons anymore. Toying.

The reasons are multi-fold, but a big one is I am sick of thinking about them. The topic has also hijacked my blog for too long and postponed completing my second book.

Moreover, polls suggest the Clintonista population is dwindling outside of centrist think tanks. That or they never were a significant voice in the electorate to begin with: Maybe they just had an expensive megaphone. Despite a never-ending slander campaign against Bernie Sanders, he is even more popular than ever, while Hillary Clinton’s numbers have conversely never been lower. Stunningly, her poll numbers are now even worse than Donald Trump’s.(1) This is rapidly aging information, but it still staggers the imagination. That Sanders would have beaten Trump is obvious to every sane observer. Doubting it is like climate change denial. It’s the dishonest agnosticism of the Tobacco Institute’s old bogus claim that nobody really knows if smoking causes lung cancer. The data is in: We know.(2)

To clarify, when I say Clintonistas, I don't mean most supporters. I mean the vicious cultists. Not my friends who said "Yeah, Hillary Clinton's hawkishness bothers me too, but I worry about the Supreme Court" but those who bashed Bernie Sanders and insisted Hillary Clinton was a perfect candidate. I voted for her in the general and still retain those friends. We agree to disagree here, as reasonable people can. Alas, that does not apply to the loonies who call all Clinton critics Putin's stooges. 

There are roughly two kinds of hardcore Clintonistas left: fans and shills. The former’s loyalty is entirely personal - they are emotionally invested in the Clinton family and cannot countenance any criticism of them. No evidence will convince them the Clintons had ever done any wrong or that Sanders did anything right. Just posting a poll can get you blocked.(3) Then there are the shills who want to secure more corporate tax breaks, deregulation, and privatization. They promote the Clintons to foster a favorable business climate for themselves.

Both kinds will always exist to some extent. Like those who still defensively insist the Civil War was fought over "states rights" instead slavery, obnoxious Clinton fandom will persist despite the all evidence against their cherished narrative. As for the shills, they will always exist for the same reasons all lobbyists do - and they are therefore the most dangerous. The difference between centrists and progressives parallels the difference between Republicans and Democrats: They have the money, but we have the numbers. This parallel shouldn’t surprise. It’s actually the exact same struggle.

With these facts before me, the arguments for and against mentioning the Clintons are these:

On the one hand, most Clinton fans are not policy wonks, so they will ignore serious discussions about it. Analysis showed that Hillary Clinton’s TV ads were even less policy-driven than Donald Trump’s - indeed less that any in the last four presidential elections. Hillary may be studious, but apparently her fans are not. They are also proudly “post-ideological” so they will pass on that topic too. They only care if people are being mean to their sacred cows - the Clintons.(4) Leave the Clintons alone and most will probably tune out. And maybe the Clintons will go away if we stop talking about them. Maybe we can mummify this dynasty by keeping mum. Call it a boycott. I doubt it will work, but worth a shot.

On the other hand, it is difficult to discuss the venality of centrism without mentioning the Clintons. After all, centrist Democrats are also called “Clinton Democrats,” so the association is set in stone. And if we want to see what centrism applied looks like, the Clinton years epitomize it for both critics and celebrantsMoreover, centrists are incentivized to mention the Clintons because the family’s fading nostalgic luster is the only thing that can jazz-up their otherwise unattractive schemes. As I wrote twice before, Ronald Reagan’s geniality and charisma helped sell his heartless policies. In that regard, Slick Willie reprised the Gipper. Both exploited voters’ cognitive disconnect between an amicable president and his callous acts. And fans get very defensive of them when you mention unflattering facts.

Indeed, centrist Democrats are still talking about how we can learn to win elections from Bill Clinton. Take this imbecilic tidbit in the Washington Post with the headline "What Democrats can learn from the centrists who got Bill Clinton to the White House."(5) It’s imbecilic for two reasons: First, that conceit once again ignores the fact that Barack Obama twice won the presidency decisively. Have they forgotten him already? And second, I think Hillary Clinton already knows these folks and their terrible advice. (The discussion panel in the piece seems to have forgotten that she exists as well.) And what do these geniuses think voters want in a candidate? Someone who opposes “big government,” of course.
Centrists may eventually cash-in on Obama nostalgia in earnest, but for now they are largely still milking Clintonista resentment. But the future transition might prove a bit bumpy - not because Obama is a secret socialist as conservatives claim, but because he has decent political instincts and can see the writing on the wall. Bill Clinton was president when centrism was shiny, new, and poorly understood by most voters so he overtly embraced it. Obama may or may not be a centrist at heart, but he knows the brand is now tarnished and intelligent self-interest suggests holding it at arm’s length. While he was still president, Obama defended the populist label which centrists try to turn into an epithet. (Most of the false equivalencies drawn between Sanders and Trump hinged on distorting the word.) Was Obama expressing a genuine sentiment or practicing political opportunism? It doesn’t matter. What matters is what that says about the American electorate.

Being called a socialist didn’t slow Obama - nor did it slow Sanders for that matter. The only difference is Sanders proudly called himself one. Throughout the primary, centrist insisted Sanders' numbers would tank once voters discovered this. Never mind it’s the first thing people learn about him and his popularly only soared as more got to know him. Socialism was not Sander’s impediment - early lack of news coverage was. He was initially unknown and the media worked long and hard to keep him so.

Hillary Clinton is justly associated with her husband’s litany of policy betrayals because she had claimed co-credit for them. So it was absurd to claim she was a “progressive who likes to get things done” when the centrist mantra - i.e. the doctrine of "Clinton Democrats" - is that ambitious progressive policies are politically radioactive. It's tempting to conclude that Hillary Clinton was the victim of a shift in the national mood and that the Clinton name brand became a drag rather than an asset. But I don't really think that happened. Rather, I think it is now harder to tell the public what it wants - harder to keep people from realizing that other people want the exact same things.

For example, single payer healthcare has
consistently polled well for decades, ranging from fifty four to sixty six percent - but establishment pundits absurdly insist nobody wants it. Weird.

And as I noted above, Ronald Reagan was popular but his policies were not. When I illustrate this, I typically link to a 1986
newspaper article on the paradox. But I previously failed to emphasize two things: First, that the article specifically mentioned Republican discontent too. Second, that the paper was based in deep-red North Carolina so they weren't  quite "Left Coast" Schwarzenegger Republicans.

Back in 2006, the late, great Molly Ivins wrote a scathing anti-Clinton piece stressing that most Americans already strongly supported progressive causes. After ticking off a list of issues, she demanded, "That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?" (Emphasis original)


A 2010 study found that 92% of Americans would prefer Sweden's level of wealth distribution and that party affiliation did not impact that preference one way or the other.

[EDIT: There is indeed a longstanding conservative critique of unregulated capitalism.]


Do y
ou know what also enjoys strong bipartisan support according to studies? Opposition to additional military interventionism. One survey discovered that 64.5% of Republicans and 68.8% of Independents shared this sentiment with 78% of Democrats and concluded that Hillary Clinton's hawkishness may have cost her the election. After all, it's a large part of why she lost the Democratic primary to Obama in 2008. Who knew life-and-death issues like war were still important to voters?

In short, the electorate is well to the left of where we are routinely told. I would SO much rather talk about that than the Clintons. But the predictable centrist response would be that taking progressive positions would alienate voters, so we should do what the brilliant Clintons did instead.

That's the problem with self-imposed moratoriums: Those to your right make them challenging to keep.


Errata/Update 01/17/18: 

As originally written, this blog post claimed that two thirds of Republicans liked Bernie Sanders. Of course, it was actually the reverse. Many websites incorrectly reported that the August Harvard-Harris poll showed Sanders' popularity had become bipartisan since their April poll and it had not. That combined with the fraction sticking in my head is my best guess explanation for Sunday's brain fart.

I discovered the goof when going to compare the Harvard-Harris polls with today's Quinnipiac poll. It roughly confirms the previous two polls - although it shows some slight slippage. However, it confirms that women and people of color like him better than white men. Minority support remains especially strong. As Corey Robin dryly quipped, "Either you have a very robust theory of false consciousness to explain this or maybe you should reconsider the idea that Bernie speaks only to and for white bros." I am waiting for centrists to suggest PoC are somehow more suggestible to Putin's propaganda apparatus.


________

1) But I suppose that is to be expected when guilt trips and fear are all you have to motivate voters. Many held their tongues before Election Day and their noses in the voting booth. For months, they were told to shut up and now they had no reason to remain silent. People resent being told to shut up - all the more so if it still gets them nothing. It’s a form of buyer’s remorse.

2) From early on, Sanders beat Trump in the overwhelming majority of match-up polls by comfortable margins - an average of +10.4 points. By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s chances were always dicey - so much so that her campaign bolstered Trump's bid for the GOP nomination because other Republicans were far more formidable. Marco Rubio would have beaten her. John Kasich consistently crushed her by +7.4 points. Who? I already forgot what he looks like. Exactly. Any candidate with double-digit net negative “strong favorability” rating is by definition a terrible candidate. That Trump then had even worse numbers than Clinton did does not make her a great candidate or seal the deal.

3) I have twice been de-friended on Facebook for posting these charts (from hereshowing that economic inequality continued to climb during the Clinton Administration. Who can look at this chart and still insist that wealth was distributed more equitably during Bill’s tenure? Well, I now know of two. Don’t they know that is in part why Robert Reich resigned as Clinton’s Secretary of Labor? Reich was pushing to address this issue while the rest of Clinton’s cabinet rolled their eyes. If the stock market was happy, then the economy must be. (And if you agree, they you must love Trump.) [EDIT 02/05/18: One year in, the market belatedly turned on Trump with the single biggest one day drop in history. Twitter has been brilliant. But the fact stands that the stock market is how conservatives measure the economy.] Reich felt like he was talking to a brick wall. (Inequality for All , 59:45.) 

Sharing such unattractive facts can get you blocked. Just imagine if I had mentioned when Bill Clinton was basically Pharmabro - or more accurately, the pharmaceutical industry's callous enforcer. I'm sorry, but if you hate Martin Shkreli you have to hate Bill Clinton too. At least a little.

4) Their sole policy yardstick is “Are you for or against the Clintons?” Hence they make reflexive false equivalencies between critiques from the left and ones from the right – even though they are mutually exclusive. The right thinks the Clintons are too liberal while the left thinks they are too conservative. These are the opposite arguments. Moreover, the right’s strange take is rife with bizarre conspiracy theories like Benghazi or the stupid lunacy that Hillary ordered Vince Foster murdered and made to look like a suicide. By stark contrast, the left says she is a corporate Democrat and the epitome of establishment Washington - which she definitely is. She vacations annually with war criminal Henry Kissinger for fuck’s sake. And, yes, I once got blocked for just mentioning Henry Kissinger.

5) Of course, the corporate media's complicity cannot escape comment. Newsweek seems especially keen to slander Sanders. Last August, they ran a sleazy piece with the click-baity headline "BERNIE SANDERS VOTERS HELPED TRUMP WIN AND HERE'S PROOF." It breathlessly emphasized that ten percent of Sanders' primary supporters crossed the aisle and voted for Trump in the general election. But it turns out that percentage of defections is par for the course in presidential elections. And buried at the bottom of the article is a disclaimer that destroys the whole premise:
While much was made of the so-called Bernie-or-bust phenomenon, the number of Sanders supporters who crossed party lines to vote for Trump in 2016 may not be that unusual. A 2010 study in Public Opinion Quarterly found that in the 2008 election 25 percent of those who voted for Clinton in the Democratic primary ended up voting for Republican John McCain, rather than Barack Obama, in the general election.
In other words, Democratic defections were two and a half times greater in 2008 than 2016. Sanders primary voters supported Clinton more loyally in the general than Clinton primary voters supported Obama eight years before. That little fact should stop centrist stone throwing, but the article was written to encourage it. The NPR article's language was slightly better and WaPo's slightly better still. All three articles acknowledged the study, so all three should have concluded there was no relative effect. Baseline normal conditions should not cause catastrophic failure. That's like saying the ship sank because "a wave hit it." If that's what happened, it's a shitty ship and the wave is not at fault.