Sunday, August 4. 2013
Some scattered links this week:
Paul Krugman: Chaos Looms: My bold, but it's also the line that
Julian Rayfield highlighted over at Salon.
In the short run the point is that Republican leaders are about to reap
the whirlwind, because they haven't had the courage to tell the base that
Obamacare is here to stay, that the sequester is in fact intolerable, and
that in general they have at least for now lost the war over the shape of
American society. As a result, we're looking at many drama-filled months,
with a high probability of government shutdowns and even debt defaults.
Over the longer run the point is that one of America's two major political
parties has basically gone off the deep end; policy content aside, a sane
party doesn't hold dozens of votes declaring its intention to repeal a law
that everyone knows will stay on the books regardless. And since that party
continues to hold substantial blocking power, we are looking at a country
that's increasingly ungovernable.
The trouble is that it's hard to give this issue anything like the amount
of coverage it deserves on substantive grounds without repeating oneself. So
I do try to mix it up. But neither you nor I should forget that the madness
of the GOP is the central issue of our time.
Paul Krugman: Delusions of Populism: One of several smackdowns I've
read recently attempting to address the oxymoron "libertarian populism."
Supposedly this is the next big wave in the neverending effort to sell
oligarchy to the masses. Krugman makes good points, including debunking
the notion that "Mitt Romney fell short last year largely because of
'missing white voters' -- millions of 'downscale, rural, Northern whites'
who failed to show up at the polls." He adds:
Moreover, if you look at what the modern Republican Party actually stands
for in practice, it's clearly inimical to the interests of those downscale
whites the party can supposedly win back. Neither a flat tax nor a return
to the gold standard are actually on the table; but cuts in unemployment
benefits, food stamps and Medicaid are. (To the extent that there was any
substance to the Ryan plan, it mainly involved savage cuts in aid to the
poor.) And while many nonwhite Americans depend on these safety-net programs,
so do many less-well-off whites -- the very voters libertarian populism
is supposed to reach.
Specifically, more than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment
insurance are white. Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries
are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. For example,
in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white.
Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites,
but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent.
So when Republicans engineer sharp cuts in unemployment benefits, block
the expansion of Medicaid and seek deep cuts in food stamp funding -- all
of which they have, in fact, done -- they may be disproportionately hurting
Those People; but they are also inflicting a lot of harm on the struggling
Northern white families they are supposedly going to mobilize.
Of course, it's not those downscale whites the Republicans
want to get out to vote. Their entire concept of populism is limited to
prejudice-baiting and demagoguery, and if they aren't already pushing
those buttons, anyone else low class is unlikely to respond to their
messages. Moreover, libertarianism is peculiarly anti-populist: its
big appeal is to John Galt types imposing their will on a craven world,
not something Americans used to getting the short end of the stick can
much relate to. Any thoughts otherwise is just further evidence of the
Andrew O'Hehir: Give Manning and Snowden the Nobel Peace Prize:
This isn't the first time I've linked to such a proposal, but it bears
repeating, especially given that one of the week's big news stories
is Bradley Manning's conviction on numerous "espionage" charges.
Can you even imagine how outraged, how red-faced and apoplectic, John
McCain and Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein and the talking heads
on the Sunday news shows would be? It would partly make up for the
profound shame of having given the prize to Henry Kissinger, one of
the 20th century's great war criminals, in 1973. And then there was
what Svallfors calls the "hasty and ill-considered decision" to award
it to Barack Obama in 2009. That seemed mysterious at the time -- his
great accomplishment was that he was a brand new American president
who wasn't George W. Bush -- and it looks considerably worse now.
[ . . . ]
Manning and Snowden peeled back the curtain of empire and showed us
its inner workings. Understandably, we didn't much like what we saw, but
the real question is what we're going to do about it. More specifically,
they gave Americans a brief glimpse of our country as the rest of the
world sees it, a boorish and blundering military-intelligence superpower
so convinced of its moral superiority that it respects no universal
human rights, no law and no authority except its own.
[ . . . ]
Here's a handy guide to American politics: Anytime John McCain,
Chuck Schumer and Jeffrey Toobin all try to convince you of something,
you can be 100 percent sure you're being bamboozled. Toobin, the New
Yorker writer who presents as a moderate, mainstream legal scholar,
has led the ideological charge in support of Manning's conviction. He
assures us that the right people are in charge of keeping secrets and
that he, with his prep school-Harvard-Harvard Law pedigree, trusts
those people a whole heck of a lot more than he trusts some kid from
Oklahoma with a high school education. No, the nerd has to be locked
away forever for the grievous crime of telling us the truth[.]
Patrick L Smith: Snowden, Manning: The Face of Patriotism. And
John Cassidy: In Defense of Leakers: Snowden and Manning:
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the Snowden case has been the
official effort, going all the way up to Secretary of State John Kerry,
to depict him as a traitor. Actually, Snowden appears to be an idealistic
young man who had no ill intentions toward his country but who gradually
became disillusioned with some of its actions. He enlisted in the Army
during the Iraq War because, he told the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, "I
believed in the goodness of what were were doing," only to be discharged
several months later. Even now, he told Greenwald, he believes that
"America is a fundamentally a good country; we have good people with
good values who want to do the right thing, but the structures of power
that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at
the expense of the freedom of all publics."
Also, a few links for further study:
Ben Birnbaum: Here's What John Kerry's Peace Settlement Will Look
Like (Probably): Israeli writer at what I've long assumed to be
one of the major Zionist mouthpieces in the US, sketches out a set
of compromises that Netanyahu supposedly might live with, although
I've never seen any evidence that he would allow any such thing.
Even more fancifully, there's this:
David Makovsky: Benjamin Netanyahu Hopes to Sell Peace. Here's
Now: The Israeli prime minister's new path. And Birnbaum, again:
Seven Reasons There's Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. I
would, of course, be delighted to see any form of deal. In fact,
my recent thinking calls for solutions that offer Palestinians
less territory, little if any of Jerusalem, and no prayer for any
sort of return, in exchange for complete independence, a promise
of equal rights for those Palestinians who wind up in Israel, a
lot of cash, and maybe a couple players to be named later. And
my thinking behind it is that Israel has no need to negotiate nor
any desire for peace, so you need both to appease it and to move
the rest of the world powers, including the US, into a position
which allows Israel no other option. Given the way Nethanyahu
has kicked Obama around for five years now the US isn't ready
for that, and since the US isn't ready, neither is Netanyahu.
And there's one more non-trivial problem: nowhere in these three
articles is Hamas mentioned. How exactly can you make a "final
status" deal with Abbas only when the Palestinians are so split?
That may not matter to Birnbaum and Makovsky, nor to Netanyahu
and Kerry, but it's got to be a concern deep in the mind of
Abbas. Bringing in the Arab League may provide some measure of
proxy support for Hamas, but you can't close the deal without
Hamas support, and continuing the hostilities against Hamas is
a sure way for Kerry et al. to telegraph that they're not really
John Cassidy: Obama's Corporate-Tax-Cut Proposal Is Clever, but Is It
Wise?: I haven't tried to unpack Obama's proposal, mostly because
it's clear to me that anything progressive has to surmount impossible
obstacles in Washington (starting with Obama himself), but also because
the top-line message -- let's cut taxes on corporate profits -- winds
up so much louder than the bits about closing loopholes, because the
"revenue-neutral" promise doesn't drive the additional spending that
we need, and especially because what we really need is more equitable
income distribution, and you're never going to get there by helping
rich people avoid taxes. And let's add one more reason: Obama's great
fondness for "nudges" has never worked: on the one hand it makes him
look shifty and devious, on the other inept and ineffective. We'll
never know, for instance, whether he could have sold the people on
a better health care system than the one he got his name stuck on.
We do know that he can be an eloquent spokesman if only he had some
principles to speak up for.
G William Domhoff: Wealth, Income, and Power: All the basic numbers,
charts, and information you need on the growing maldistribution of
income and wealth in America is here. Domhoff wrote a book back in
1967 called Who Rules America? that showed that the egalitarian
society Paul Krugman recently celebrated as "the great compression"
wasn't all that equitable -- I read it at the time along Ferdinand
Lundberg's The Rich and the Super-Rich: A Study in the Power of
Money Today, an update of his 1937 book America's Sixty
Families -- and I'm pleased to see that Domhoff has kept his
book, now in its 7th edition, up to date (although it seems to be
Kevin Drum: Supreme Court's Gutting of Voting Rights Act Unleashes
GOP Feeding Frenzy: Drum's prime example is North Carolina, which
is at the moment in thrall to exceptionally rabid Republicans, and is
a state where the partisan balance is so tight that it wouldn't take
a lot of disenfranchisement to keep the Republicans in power. Most of
the commentary to date on the Roberts Court's decision has been to
look at voting rights in the context of the 1960s struggle, but what
really matters is the struggle now. Republicans have clearly understood
that the main difference between victory (as in 2010) and defeat (as
in 2008 and 2012) is voter turnout, so anything they can do to suppress
voter turnout helps their odds, and they have absolutely no scruples
about manipulating the electoral system for their advantage -- even
using their edge in the Supreme Court, as they did in Bush v. Gore.
Consequently, this is the worst possible time since the 1970s to gut
the voting rights act, because this is the time when the "white man's
party" is most prepared to press its every advantage.
Alex Henderson: 10 Worst Examples of Christian or Far-Right Terrorism:
One can quibble about the order and omissions, and also note that only
one predates 1994 (the murder of Alan Berg in 1984), but the list is a
sober reminder that not only do conservatives "vote to kill" but some
even practice what they preach.