Month: April 2017

Libertarian-ism and the Corporate State

George S LedyardThere are two kinds of Libertarians on the political scene today; the actual members of the Libertarian Party and the members of the Republican Party with strong Libertarian views.
The Libertarian Party folks are where you find the true believers, the ones who are radically anti-government and pro individual freedoms. The one thing that you can say about these folks is that they are consistent in their application of these principles. They are fine with just about any behavior as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults. You don’t get the socially conservative tendency to legislate morality with these guys. But the party is also where you find the true nut cases, the ones who are so Libertarian that they are pretty much anarchists. At the Libertarian Convention in 2016 one candidate actually suggested that drivers licenses were an imposition by the government on our personal liberty. It’s pretty clear that the official Libertarians are not where you look for people to govern your country.
Most people with Libertarian leanings are to be found in the Republican Party. And they are far less concerned with being consistent. They favor small government and maximum personal freedom, or so they say, but are often the first in line to legislate morality that fits with Christian fundamentalist values, which hold a lot of sway in the GOP. Really, they mostly skip the personal freedom aspect and focus on the property rights side of things.
People shouldn’t be told what to do with their property by some central government. In fact Federal government ownership and management of public lands is suspect. Corporations are people, so all the rights of the individual are extended to the corporations and a overwhelming trait of the philosophy held by these people is an almost religious faith in the market place as the most efficient force in managing an economy.
These folks are the Über Capitalists. The current Republican crusader for Capitalism sees his personal mission as undoing virtually every piece of regulatory legislation passed since the New Deal and dismantling the Federal regulatory structures that performed this oversight.
These people have waited for years and years for the Holy Grail of a Republican Congress and Presidency full of truly radical right wing conservatives. With Donald Trump, they may not have found the guy who will pursue the radical social conservative agenda he seemed to promise in his campaign, but they definitely have a champion of the billionaire corporate class willing to destroy virtually all of the protections offered by our government against corporate malfeasance.

Donald Trump has asked Corporate representatives to make their recommendations as to what regulatory legislation they would like to see undone. This is asking the fox to guard the hen house. This is giving a group of folks whose sole interest is in delivering short term profits to their share holders free rein to pollute, to discriminate, to have unsafe working conditions, and so on.
If you look at the America proposed by Republican libertarian / Tea Party advocates, it is an America in which business is free to pursue its own course as dictated by the market place. The problem with all of this is that we have already been here before. From an historic point of view there is absolutely zero evidence that a corporation will ever choose to forego possible financial gain when it conflicts with maximizing profits.

Smog
LA smog in the 70s

When business did have pretty much free rein we had our nations rivers full of undrinkable carcinogenic waters. In the most famous case, the Passaic River in New Jersey actually caught fire. The air on our major urban areas was toxic and in the worst cities, like Los Angeles, toxic smog clouds hovered over the city, virtually obscuring the city from the view in the mountains. Our national bird, the bald eagle, was on the edge of extinction dues to the use of the pesticide DDT, lung cancer due to smoking killed tens of thousands of Americans every single year, and so on.
Child LaborThe fact is that when our US government was run on a more libertarian model we had unsafe air, unsafe water, unsafe food, unsafe working conditions, child labor, no social safety net, rampant sexual harassment, housing discrimination, racial discrimination,  massive economic fluctuation due to unrelated speculation in the stock market and so on. The economy would crash and serious economic depressions happened with some regularity.
This is the world of the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We had it already and we chose to change it. Now, people with absolutely no historical perspective, who derive their political philosophy from the works of Ayn Rand, are ready to take our country backwards in time to a world that will look more like Charles Dickens than anything we’ve see for 150 years.

asbestos is toxic
Removing asbestos from a home

The idea that the market place and unrestrained capitalism with voluntary self regulation by the corporations would do anything but open us up to the predations of corporate pirates is laughable. These are the same people who for decades denied that asbestos was terribly dangerous and was killing people. They sponsored studies that faked research and they lied through their teeth in order to preserve their profits.
These are the same people who for decades knew, from their own research, that tobacco caused cancer but fought all attempts to acknowledge that fact in court while simultaneously working to develop a product that was even more addictive than it was naturally.

Unsafe at any speed
Ralph Nader exposes the auto industry and the Corvair

These are the same people who produced an automobile that they knew was unsafe but chose to not correct the problem because it was cheaper to settle the law suits than it was to correct the problem.
It is simply an observable fact that every single instance of attempts to institute clean water standards, clean air standards, work place safety standards, equal rights, the list goes on and on, was resisted tooth and nail by the industries concerned. It’s history. You can read it and verify it.

The fact is that the only thing that stands between our citizenry and total corporate control of our nation like something out of a science fiction novel, is the Federal Government. No other entity in our society has the power to stand up to the power of the corporations derived from the vast wealth concentrated under their control. That’s why the wealthy and the corporations spend so much money trying to subvert it.  Every single positive step this nation has taken on the environment, worker’s rights and safety, auto safety, child labor, every single instance was IMPOSED on unwilling industry by the government.

desegregation of the schools
Women resisting school desegregation

This is also true on the equal rights front. Without the power of the Federal Government and the forcible imposition of civil rights legislation on the Southern States, we would still have segregation. Without the Fair Housing Act we would still have redlining and rampant discrimination in all areas of real estate.
LGBT rights, Women’s rights, the rights of the disabled, none were voluntarily enacted by most of the country. Supreme Court decisions backed by the enforcement power of the Federal Government were what forced the nation to start living up to its stated values. It was not voluntary. People did not voluntarily decide to act better, As society began to evolve, it needed to reach a tipping point at which it was ready to change. But it was the government that made that change happen in the larger society. It has been both the mechanism for making positive change happen and the guardian of those changes once they did.
So, we are now looking at the dismantlement of the only agency in our society that effectively stands up for our rights, for our environment etc. The right has hijacked the Supreme Court and they wish to cripple enforcement. Donald Trump’s invitation to private industry to suggest what legislation it wishes to repeal is just the start. It’s just one step away from total corporate control of our nation. The wall that has protected us from the self serving, profit before the public good, predations of the industrial pirates is slated for demolition. We must do what we can to ensure that this effort does not succeed.
From the New York Times EPA is major Target

Moderates and Normalizing Trump

George S LedyardFrom Fareed Zakaria via the Washington Post
“Liberals have to avoid Trump Derangement Syndrome. If Trump pursues a policy, it cannot axiomatically be wrong, evil and dangerous. In my case, I have been pretty tough on Trump. I attacked almost every policy he proposed during the campaign. Just before the election, I called him a “cancer on American democracy” and urged voters to reject him. But they didn’t. He is now president. I believe that my job is to evaluate his policies impartially and explain why, in my view, they are wise or not.”
This is an interesting take on Donald Trump’s Presidency and I think it points out the fundamental misunderstanding of proper roles under which many establishment media folks labor.
The question is often framed this way, “Do you want America to succeed or Trump to fail” . This often comes from the folks who actually voted for Trump. But you also hear it from establishment folks who are trying to be nice. moderate, reasonable types who want to appear to be impartial, like journalists.
They mis-frame the question right at the start. It isn’t that our choice is between the country failing because the President failed or it succeeding if he succeeds. From the standpoint of any moderate citizen, right or left of center, and certainly anyone farther to the left, Trump being “successful” as President is the death of the country as we have known it. It is the undoing of ever piece of progressive social legislation since the New Deal. It is the complete dismantling of 50 years of environmental protections. It is the return to complete freedom to discriminate based on race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. It is the end of separation of church and state.
For our country to succeed, for it to continue to progress towards a just and sustainable society, Trump must fail and fail almost completely. Fareed Zacharia’s attempt’s at being an impartial journalist actually makes him complicit in the attempts by the President and his team to manipulate public opinion and distract from the on-going daily disaster that is the Trump administration.
I have no problem with Zacharia agreeing with a Trump decision which he thinks is a correct decision. But it’s how he frames that agreement that we are talking about here. When this otherwise disastrous President bombs Syria and you start to re-characterize him as being “Presidential” you are complicit with the efforts to “normalize” him.
You want to agree with the bombing decision? Then describe it for what it was, the disastrously unqualified President listening to his advisers for once. I know that some people like Zacharia work on the principle of rewarding good behavior… If you are going to hammer the President for most of what he’s doing, then you should tell him, and the nation, when he does something right. Maybe he’s trainable and will learn, over time, to do more “right” things.
The problem is that this is a bit like saying Benito was being “Duche-like” because he got he Italian trains running on time. Every horrid dictator manages to do something positive or he doesn’t last long. But they are still what they are… terrible men.
Trump is a self admitted serial sexual assaulter who is unrepentant and publicly defends others, like Bill O’Reilly who are doing the same thing. Trump is a bigot, a racist, and a serial teller of massive untruths. His hold on reality seems so tenuous that we doubt that he even knows all the time when he is telling an untruth.
Trump is inherently, fundamentally, and absolutely incapable of being “Presidential” regardless of whether he manages to make a decision or two that resemble intelligent decision making. The absolute best that this man is capable of, given his utter lack of credentials or preparation to be in the job, is that occasionally he listens to the most qualified of his advisers (and they certainly are not all qualified themselves) and let’s them implement a good decision or two. That is not, in any dimension of reality of which I am aware, not the picture of someone who is “Presidential”.
Trump at worst is a force that could destroy this country and even the world. At best he is a reality TV card board cut out version of a President. Donald Trump and the term “Presidential” is an oxymoron. And every time a journalist even hints that Trump might be coming around and becoming more “Presidential: they are simply colluding with the KellyAnne Conway / Sean Spicer public relations spin machine’s efforts to convince the rubes that Trump is competent and knows what he’s doing.
Zacharis stated that. “If Trump pursues a policy, it cannot axiomatically be wrong, evil and dangerous.”  That is true. It is Trump himself that is axiomatically wrong, evil, dangerous and un-Presidential. Individual decisions with which we agree to do in any way shape or form change who this man is and what his overall agenda is. Attempts to frame it otherwise is a form of  “collaboration” with the enemy and people like Fareed Zacharia should expect to hear from us when they do it/
We must resist and we must never normalize.
Original opinion piece

Domestic Politics “Trumps” Foreign Policy Positions

George S Ledyard“There’s no such thing as foreign policy, there is only domestic policy” – Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com in an interview on NPR today.
In this case he was talking about Donald Trump’s recent bombing of Syria, ostensibly in response to Assad’s sarin gas attack on civilians. His take on it, and I think it makes sense, is that Trump is basically bombing Syria, in order to try to show the American people that he isn’t in bad with the Russians.
Cruise missiles SyriaInterestingly, the total flip flop from the Reagan era when the GOP was full of anti-Russian cold warriors and the Democrats, as the opposition party were obligated to oppose Reagan’s global anti Communist efforts, we now have a Republican administration which is clearly positively disposed towards Russia and an almost hysterically anti-Russian Democratic Party.Anti RussianThis creates the most amazing political conjunction. Many of the far left Progressives who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign, seem far more focused on the perceived evils of the Democratic Party establishment, the so-called Neo-Liberals, than they are  with what the people on the ultra right are doing. So, we find these Progressives putting forth the same pro-Russia, anti-Democratic messages that the far right talk show hosts are putting out.
WikiLeaksThey question whether the Russians really did hack the DNC, they deny that the Russians intervened in the election to benefit Donald Trump, they are depicting the Syrian gas attack as a false flag operation designed to generate support for anti-Assad  forces and pressure the Russians to perhaps distance themselves from their ally.
Isn’t it rather insane that a group of people who share absolutely no agenda items in their vision of America with the GOP or the Tea Party radicals end up allied on foreign policy issues with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?
And the Democrats themselves, have so committed to the anti-Russian narrative that, when their arch enemy, the Great Satan, Donald Trump chooses to bomb Syria in order to convince people he isn’t in the pocket of the Russians, they end up praising his actions and actually assisting him in his attempts to appear more “Presidential”. It is actually the far right nationalists, who thought Trump was going to be an isolationist that are upset about the bombing and his flip flop on the US as a global policeman.
My point here is that the Syrian issue ends up highlighting just how irrational most folk’s foreign policy positions are. They have little or nothing to do with the realities of the political and military situation on the ground in Syria. Folks take their positions based on the interplay of political considerations here on the domestic scene.
Trump PutinTrump clearly has a serious Russian influence problem. So, he goes against his publicly stated stance as an isolationist, and bombs Syria in order to show he’s not in the pocket of the Russians. The Democrats who have suddenly become hyper anti-Russian (just since the election amazingly) have been using the Russian influence scandal to bludgeon Trump. So, when Trump actually does something that runs counter to Russia’s stated interests, the Dems end up helping to legitimize and normalize this man whom they strongly oppose. This of course totally validates Trump’s attempts at deflection.
Hillary Clinton Progressive OppositionThe far left Progressive fanatics are trying to create a movement to set up a third party. Their narrative is that the Democratic Party is compromised beyond repair. They want to split off Democratic Party support in order to grow support for their new party. This means that their major focus isn’t on resisting Trump or the Alt Right, it’s on opposing any and all Democratic efforts to appear to recover from the Hillary Clinton / DNC electoral loss. So, if the Democratic establishment is taking an anti-Russian stance in response to Trump’s clear pro-Russia agenda, the Progressives end up pursuing the same agenda as the Trump forces.
Can everyone see just how little this has anything at all due to historical, cultural, and political reality in Syria? While I am sure that in the intelligence and military communities there are educated people striving for fact based decision making. But if one is listening to the leaders of ANY of the different political factions, Tea Party, Republican, Democratic, Progressive, it doesn’t matter, you see their positions change with the wind, based on domestic political concerns and with little regard to educated and consistent foreign policy agendas.

The Democratic Dilemma – Where to Go from Here?

George S LedyardThe Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
Campaign Finance ReformIf we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization.
What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.

Democratic Baby Boomers
Hillary Clinton’s Supporters Were Older

Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|

Cornell West and Bernie Sanders
Dr. Cornell West and Bernie Sanders

The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the  millions.
How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
White Young Bernie Sanders SupportersAfter eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.

Watergate and Its Relevance to the Trump Administration Scandals

George S LedyardFor those that are impatient to be rid of Donald Trump, it is good to remember that Watergate, the worst scandal in US history, took 26 months to unfold.
The Nixon people had a war with the journalistic establishment every bit as vicious as what we are seeing with Donald Trump and company.
Initially, the GOP attempted to shield the President but as more and more information came out, they hung him out to dry and began to distance themselves.
The importance of having an independent investigation in bringing Nixon to justice can’t be overestimated nor should the integrity of various members of his administration who refused to go along with his attempts to shut the investigation down.
Our current scandal isn’t just one of political evil doing… it’s about foreign influence over our electoral process, possible collusion with a foreign power by current members of our administration,and even potential penetration of the administration by Russian FSB agents.
I was in college when the Watergate scandal broke. I was quite the aficionado of all the details. I knew the names of all the Watergate burglars, the names of all the “Plumbers” inside the white house. Everyone in the country watched the Senate hearings presided over Sam Ervin. Every day more details emerged of just how much illegal activity has been occurring. It was stunning.
The biggest thing I came away with was the extent to which people will go when they are “true believers” in a cause. Nixon and comp[any really believed that everything they did was necessary and justified in order to protect the nation from Socialism at home, Communism abroad, and dissent from liberals, minorities, women, etc who didn’t understand the realities of world power politics.
These people had a “mission” and they believed that it was their job to save the rest of us, often from ourselves. The law was inconvenient and could justifiably be circumvented for the greater good, as determined by… themselves.
The similarities with today are too many to ignore. We have a sociopathic leader for whom truth is what currently suits him, surrounded by zealots. Some are religious zealots some are captains of capitalism once again saving us from creeping socialism. Some are single issue zealots on issues like abortion, others are big picture Global strategists in the East West culture wars fighting for the lest vestiges of white Eurocentric American culture. But the one thing that Trump’s people all have in common is that they are all “true believers”  in much the same mold as the old Nixon minions.
They all are on a “mission”, they all see themselves as important figures in turning back the forces of progressivism, of undoing just about every advance we have made since the New Deal in terms of the government role in protecting civil rights, providing the social safety net, and managing those areas we have deemed “public goods” such as clean air, drinkable water, workplace safety, safe food, and so on. Some are fighting what they see as the result of globalization which is diversity itself. They are “crusaders” for America first”. which really means white America first.
I bring this out as a way of understanding that for “true believers” there is seldom any behavior that is out of bounds in advancing the agenda. Couple that with the very real possibility that one or more of the administration figures may have been compromised by the Russian FSB and are compelled to do their bidding and one can see just how threatening the current situation is to our democracy. This is a crisis of the first order, potentially worse than the Watergate scandal.
Robert Redford has written a wonderful piece on Watergate and its relevance to what is happening now. Take a look, it’s a great piece of work.
45 Years After Watergate, The Truth is Again in Danger
Trump as Nixon and Watergate - Russian Hacking