Saturday, April 30, 2016

Was Chavez Assassinated?

After reading this story published by Mike Whitney, interviewing Eva Golinger, I think probably so.

Do I agree with her assessment of Chavez:
Eva Golinger– The loss of Hugo Chavez has been crushing. He was my friend and I spent nearly ten years as his advisor. The void he has left is impossible to replace. Despite his human flaws, he had a huge heart and genuinely dedicated himself to build a better country for his people, and a better world for humanity. He cared deeply about all people, but especially the poor, neglected and marginalized.

Though I hope the void is not, ultimately, impossible to fill.

Chavez one of the greats...even if not socialist as self-proclaimed and called communist by others.

Chavez was a social democrat, much in the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I consider FDR the single greatest President.  He has been impossible to replace (though Bernie could, given similar popular support).

Was Chavez as great?  Well in a southern world not run from Washington, he might have been.

FDR's legacy at least partly still lasts, 70 years after his death.  It was going strong in 1968.  How much of Chavez legacy remains?

It was rather a long time before a nearly full throated advance could be made on FDR's New Deal, the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson and especially Medicare.

And that was pretty much it.  Nixon made a few additions, but got impeached before he could advance his universal healthcare proposal (or Teddy Kennedy's).

How far did FDR's accomplishments go?  And Chavez?  Well I'll leave that question open, though my sense is that FDR went far further with his social democracy.  Of course he was fortunately in that regards to the time and other factors...ultimately the war too.

Most likely, however, Chavez did far fewer negative things.  So there is indeed truth to what Eva says.

Why we want Bernie

Two of my favorite bloggers describe why Bernie is best.

Doug Henwood shows the inconsistency of technocratic Paul Krugman, who has long called for something like Swedish social democracy in the US.  Now that a candidate is offering what he has long claimed to want, Krugman has joined the finger wagging "no you can't have that" contingent.

Steve Waldman discusses what is important in politics.  While competency is important, the campaign is not necessarily a good demonstration of that, and the most important thing is that the candidate shares your values and vision, which is why he supports Sanders.

One of the many commenters on Steve's OP gives a peek to a darker side perhaps we best not think of too much lest we lose our courage:

United Fruit writes:
Ha, ha, I see what you did there. You say politics. Then you say words: democracy, democratic polity, democratic process. In which of your wet dreams did US politics have anything to do with democratic anything? The legal test for democracy is free expression of the will of the electors. Did you like your free expression of the will of the electors when you voted JFK in and CIA shot him? When you pushed LBJ out and CIA shot RFK before you could vote for him? When you tried to send them a message with spoiler Wallace and CIA shot him? When you voted Carter in and CIA shitcanned him with a humiliating hostage crisis arranged with US enemies? When you voted Reagan in and CIA shot him and tried to take him back to the White House instead of the hospital? When you finally gave up and voted in the former CIA director? When you got to choose between the former CIA director and the comprador of the CIA drug trade at Mena Airport? When you voted Al Gore in and they said No, none of this vote-counting business, it’s going to be spook cadet G.W. Bush? When you voted to replace him with Kerry and CIA stole the whole state of Ohio? When you voted for a credential-free empty suit who worked for BIC, took an inexplicable intern trip to Pakistan, and whose mother, father, Australian squeeze, and Grandpa were spooks?
So knock yaself out, vote for Grampa and watch Marine One throw a rotor and crater in leaping flames.

There are a few facts in there, some of which I've mentioned before.

How AIPAC gets what it wants

The story of the rise of Chris Van Hollen is very telling.

Van Hollen started his career being very skeptical of the very reliable US support of Israel and the congressional sense that Israel can't do anything wrong.  That didn't last long, he was quickly pulled back into the fold of strongly pro Zionist politicians, which is nearly all of them (including especially Hillary Clinton).

Some of what is described, such as being organized, visiting a congressman, and threatening not to vote for him, are just exactly the ways the political process should work and illustrations of what everybody should do to advance their political priorities.

But the part that involves campaign contributions, super PAC funded advertisements, and threats from mega donors are illustrations of how the US political system is corrupt--rotten to the core.

As Molly Ivins once wrote, anybody who is a real Democrat should support Single Payer Healthcare and Publically Financed Elections.  Molly did not like triangulating politicians, and specifically mentioned Hillary in that regards.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tax Evasion was whole point of Panama "trade" agreement

Bernie was right on this issue even as the agreement was being debated in the Senate.  He saw it couldn't be seriously about US jobs, so then what?  Answering his own question, he pointed out that Panama was already one of the world's top venues for tax evasion and money laundering.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Paul Krugman becomes Very Serious

For more than ten years now I've been a reader of Paul Krugman's Blog, Conscience of a Liberal.  It was at first for that reason alone I subscribed to the electronic edition of the New York Times, when it became necessary, though later getting distraction from the extra features.

I've often had quibbles, especially in matters where he takes up his defense of something like mainstream economics, which he used to call Keynesian, now more honestly calling Hicksian.

But I though he had a voice worth listening to, even if generally more "centrist" (conservative) than me.  As an essentially conservative economist, it gave him some authority to defend and praise the Social Security program as it actually exists, and also the merit of Single Payer Healthcare and nationalized healthcare generally, the "Scandinavian" model of social democracy, and on and on, in ways fully rooted in standard conservative economics.  He has been very critical of globalization agreements, ,and has taken income inequality to heart.  He even wrote glowingly about Occupy Wall Street back in the day.  He's given out pointers to lefter critics of himself, including Yves Smith at NakedCapitalism who is often very very critical of Krugman.  So I think reading Krugman has been worthwhile.

I think he characterized the Presidential race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reasonably fairly from evidence available at the time.  He claimed Hillary was the more progressive candidate, and serious about a national healthcare plan because hers included mandates which Obama's didn't.  Krugman correctly opined that this sort of regulated health insurance plan HAD to have mandates, and if it didn't it couldn't work.  Well of course the plan we got had mandates.  Anyway what Krugman claimed may have been correct about domestic policy.  Obama has been Very Serious, Very Consistently, falling into the trap of talking up federal debt when he should have been talking about unemployment and inequality.  His pick of Geithner was pure sell out to Wall Street.  Hillary might have been more flexible in domestic policy, maybe.  Where Hillary has distinguised herself however has been in unmitigaged hawkishness in foreign policy.  In that arena Obama has actually delivered a number of positive surprises along with the predictable mere continuation of what went before.  It's not clear that Hillary would have delivered the positive surprises.  So they're not fully one way or the other, but both reasonably well fit the profile of corporate Democrat, beholden primarily to the more liberal financial industry (it's oil and gas which owns Republicans), but nothing of an FDR at all, in fact part of the continuing move away from New Dealism which began under Jimmy Carter.

But now it seems to me that not only has he been shrill and unfair in his opinions about Bernie Sanders, he's almost made a parody of many previous articles, where he himself coined the term "Very Serious People" to refer to analysts who get caught up in the seriousness of things like public debt, deficit spending, and so on to justify austerity, missing the big picture that auterity is only going to make the debt and deficit worse in the long run.

He seems to be making that same kind of mistake in his criticisms of Bernie Sanders, losing sight of the big picture.  His technical criticisms of Sanders proposals are just that--technical.  Those same proposals have gotten technical defense by other economists of equal ability as Krugman.

But what Bernie's campaign is really about is not the technical details anyway, and Krugman, the Krugman I thought I knew, would have known this.  It's about who do you trust to do the right thing for the people.  On that the record is pretty clear, Bernie has consistently been on the people's side, whereas Hillary has always been on the side of an impossible neoliberalism: marketizing everything possible.

Paul Krugman himself has pointed out many times where Obama started the negotiation process by offering everything his opponents wanted, and then of course they want more.  One big failure of the Bill Clinton administration was that by balancing the budget, he made it possible for the next administration to give it all away as tax cuts.

Hillary's ideas aren't going to get through a Republican congress either.  But what we need is someone who will stick with what the people want--what the people need, and not sell out to corporate rentiers beforehand.

Which was, sadly, exactly what happened to Obamacare, as Obama leaned over to the conservative side on every occasion, rather than using his congressional majority to push through a more progressive plan having things like a Public Option.   Just before Obama gave a speech praising the possibilities of such a system including Public Option, his chief of staff Rahm Emmanueal had accepted a major campaign donation from a hospital association who had been told that that Public Option would not make it into the final plan.  After that, talk of Public Option vaporized.

Many years ago, Doonesbury's Slackmeyer's industrialist father explained why ethical principles were important.  "By insisting on ethical principles, you can get better deals that require you to give them up."

This brings up what Hillary says about influence.  Of curse when one has been as much in the thick of it as she has, she doesn't have to be influenced by anyone.  She knows what is expected of her and delivers, essentially Obama 3 and 4, as much neoliberalism as possible, more neocon if possible.  Defense of all the bogus "achievements" of Obama, Obamacare and the weak (if troublesome) financial services reform.  No re-opening of the opportunities available for those reform movements that were brushed aside by Obama.

There is zero question that Hillary Clinton is a corporate democrat, whose ideas mirror the corporate establishment well enough to justify the speech fees and campaign donations she gets.  (In the same club as Obama himself who was the biggest recipient of finance industry contributions in 2008.)

And that Bernie Sanders is not a corporate democrat, but basically a return to the New Deal tradition represented by JFK and FDR, the former who was famously critical of banks.

And Bernie is exactly what we need.  Paul Krugman must have developed temporary blindness not to see now.  It's a huge surprise to me to see a challenge to the corporatism of the Democratic Party to get this far, it's what we need desperately, it's what we've needed for a long time.  Someone who would negotiate for the people, not for the corporate interest first.

As long as both political parties are fully owned and operated by corporate sectors, it will be impossible to get laws that are actually in the public interest in any major way, but only half way measures such as Obamacare.

Sadly an early generation of political reforms didn't actually eliminate the undue influence of the wealthy, they merely systematized it.  Then even those reforms have fallen away.

But we won't get anywhere without candidates committed to campaign finance reform so much they practice it during their own election.  That is the only way it can start.

Update:  Wow.  The day after I canceled by Times Online subscription, Yves Smith reposted a hard hitting article on Paul Krugman by Gerald Epstein entitled "Paul Krugman Crosses the Line" which deconstructs his most recent Op Ed as being basically nonsense.  In the worthwhile discussion that follows, at least two other commenters have cancelled their Times subscription because of Krugman's recent sneering and shallow incorrect analysis of Bernie Sanders.  You'd have to guess however that most commenters, including Yves herself, have generally had a very dim view of Krugman for quite some time, though Yves chimes in to come to the defense of the previous behavior of Paul Krugman several times, including his 2008 actually calling for Citibank to be nationalized.  (I remember that, actually Krugman mainly praised the Swedish model of nationalization followed by re-privatization.)  Very qualified and trustworthy economists Stiglitz, Reich, and Hudson have denounced Krugman's reading of Sanders point-by-point and overall, and his defense of the biggest banks for a long time.  Actually Krugman's defense of big banking goes way back.  Perhaps no wonder he is the one chosen by the NYTimes, however I've long thought and even now that we were lucky to get someone to defend social democracy from a conservative economic point of view as skillfully and memorably as Paul Krugman, as well as ably piercing many movement conservative ideas.  But others, even those critical of Krugman for a long time, think he's really flipped now.

The whole Bernie Bro thing is itself a form of pseudo-feminist sneering lacking in perspective and evidence.  As if all people supporting Sanders were misogynist guys.  In actuality, many of the most outspoken supporters of Sanders are women, and Sanders has a majority of support among women less than 35 years old, just as he does among men.  This "BernieBro" accusation nonsense is explored in numerous worthwhile blogs, inlcuding Glenn Greenwald's.

Real radical feminists (and people of color) support Sanders because he is the best for women and everyone else, except in their sometimes limited imaginations the billionaire class.  And blacks, hispanics, of course, Sanders is best for all people, while Clinton has always been pushing the neoliberal and neoconservative projects, while playing special friend to most Democratic Party groups.

FAIR has also printed a debunking of the notion that Bernie is short on facts, which is the spin usually put on his interview with the New York Daily News.

Many observers had the opposite impression, that Bernie gave exactly the correct answers.  Such as in breaking up the big banks, letting the banks decide how to do it (as Bernie said) is exactly the correct answer.  The government doesn't know the best way to break up JP Morgan, but JP Morgan does.  Among the observers who felt that Bernie was giving the exact correct answers was Juan Gonzalez, who was one of the people interviewing Sanders for the paper.  (He wrote an article for the paper about it also.)