Friday, June 24, 2016


If Hillary wins the vote at the Democratic National Convention, I have been planning to vote for her.  As of today I am not making this a personal guarantee.  I will not make my final decision...and no one ever does...until in the privacy of the voting booth.  I could radically change my mind a few minutes before on the basis of some very good reason.

I think some people take these things too seriously.  Voting is marginally worth doing, as economist John Quiggen has calculated, on the basis of a very tiny but non-zero chance of changing election outcomes in one's favor, but it is not worth agonizing over for a year or so--as I have done, despite being critical of the same.

There are many other aspects to political life, talking to people, organizing groups, running for office, serving as a poll worker, serving as a precinct chair.  Uninvolved people take these things for granted too much.  If it isn't for active participation, the vote is not correctly inspired or counted.  I consider all the possible extra voting activities to be far more important than voting itself, as personal activity. If you affect the vote of tens or thousands, that is more far imporant than one.

In some sense, to a limited degree, I also consider the party more important than the candidates.  Like many, I fear a low turnout for the corporatocracy friendly Hillary will also mean a low turnout for other Democratic candidates, most of whom are far better than Hillary and far far better candidates and people than their opponents.  (Pretty much, Hillary is the sad legacy--annointed Candiate--on the Party's right, which is the way things go in a corrupt political system because it is the most powerful job.)  But most people are inspired to vote by the Presidential race, and a low Democratic Party turnout would mean a continuation of the disasterous Republican congress.  Right now, I consider that the most important, the presidential choice between Hillary and Trump less important than the congressional and other races.

I am continually surprised that many people who are more intelligent and knowledgeable than me are planning to write in Bernie or vote Green, at least for President, and this anti-Democratic-Party stance may have ill effects on other races everywhere, to huge if not huger downside.

Generally the rationale for not voting with the Party is weak: personal purity.  I feel that's a fetish which should play no part in political actions.  What leads to the best actual outcomes for people is most important.  And as dangerous as the Clinton Presidency seems to me, Trump seems more dangerous, so for utilitarian reasons I should take the most effective action against that (and the only effective action, actually, short of additional campaign help--which I have no plans to do) by voting for Hillary.  It costs little except to my purity, which I don't care about anyway, and could stop the probably catastrophic Presidency of Trump.  I give myself a gold star for increasing the overall good of humanity, by one tiny increment, by a act taking seconds if any (if I just select "Democratic", it takes less effort than not voting for Hillary but still voting for the other Democrats).  However what if Clinton's Presidency goes bad?  It depends on how bad.  If it's only as bad as Obama's, I get a pass, Trump's would certainly be worse.  If it's unimaginably bad (as a Trump presidency might be) leading to the breakup of the Union or something, then perhaps I rue the day.   My best forecast of the distribution of probable outcomes on election day will determine the better choice based on information available to me up to then, which is generally considered the best I can do.

Where it gets even more tricky is considering the longer term.  If voters never disciple a party by varying their loyalty to it, the party is likely to become taken over by corporate shills, as it has, like Obama and Clinton.

Given the duopoly which I'd argue that Madisonian democracy makes inevitable (the only possibility is replacing an old party with a new one, which last happened 160 years ago with the Republicans) essentially the only way to keep a party in keeping with the desires of the electorate is through discipline.

Even if Hillary wins, the turnout registers how happy with the choice, and this will factor into the calculations of future candidates considering the electability of corporate vs non-corporate politicians like Bernie.

The limitations of the strategy were personally illustrated to me by the selection of the disasterous President George W Bush.  That has driven my yellowdogism since then, I feel like I have something to pay back.  But others may not.

So there's point in letting people vote as they will, as they see fit, in applying pressure one way or another on the political system, to shape future candidates, and quite possibly the actions of current political actors and media as well.  So I shouldn't try to change everyone's mind to match mine, even if I could, or knew mine.

The numbers matter I might add, even if they are not decisive.  Third party numbers matter too, but less than they should because often hard to find.  What matters almost nothing to the counts, though it may matter to one's personal narrative, or momentarily to a poll worker, are write ins and non-votes, though I have done both.

The numbers mattering means that it is important to vote for President even in a state where the candidate is almost certainly going to lose.  The vote will nevertheless show up in all the vote counts.  The same is true for a state in which a candidate is almost certainly going to win.  But beware that polls are often wrong.

But it is not going to matter as much as non-votes elsewhere, in "decisive" states.  So some people who are weak on corporate candidates can use this lack-of-election-result argument to justify their 3rd party or non votes.

Anyway, just remember there are uncertainties all around.  None of us really knows what may happen or how our actions may change things.*  The most important thing to know, always, is the limits to our knowledge, which basically means how incredibly limited it is.

I think the best tack is to try to lobby Hillary, and I plan to give her a few coins and my vote in the process.  If your plan is different, good luck, diversity itself is a good thing.

I'd like to be reassured by Hillary that I should vote for her, for positive reasons..  I'm going to ask questions, of both candidates...  It is said that Bernie supporters no longer have leverage, but I think they do, officially through the end of the convention, and after that as an activist force and voting block in local elections.  Even the weak have leverage, the trick is knowing how to use it.  As politely as possible for starters, but not as sheep.

*And likewise nobody can absolutely know about how actions in past elections, such as the candidacy of Ralph Nader, changed things.  I have long felt guilty for supporting  Nader (I sent him $25), I don't think my Texas vote for him was of substantive effect, since Gore was virtually certain not to win Texas anyway.  But others vehemently deny that "they" elected GWB by voting or supporting Nader.  Once again, if there was any effect either way, I'd consider substantive "supporting" like campaign donations or work to have a larger effect, particularly on an insurgent campaign such as Nader's.  Your vote has a limited effect, but some action such as an ad, rally, phone call, or mailing could have a much larger effect.  Plus, only you know for sure you might never have voted for Gore.  As for me, I might have.  The only way this can be settled would be in a complete counterfactual world where you do something different and see what the different results are.  And even that world may not only have one reliable outcome but a distribution of possible outcomes.  So you see this can't be settled because we lack infinite knowledge.  Well, wrt the Nader candidacy counterfactual.  There are many other counterfactuals.  If only the State of Florida hadn't instituted a voter recall list which erronously listed 91,000 people erroneously identified as ex-felons by corrupt government officials (who didn't check the list returned by a crony contractor), or applied some comparably dirty trick, Gore would have won in a landslide.  Or if only the uniform standard of vote counting for paper card ballots finally adopted by the Florida State Government were applied instead of being summarily suspended by the US Supreme Court.  And on and on.  "Success" has many parents.  That's another issue, btw, there are always infinite other possibly decisive counterfactuals, and infinitely more indecisive ones.  But that doesn't necessarily make any one undefinitive...though if dirty tricks were being applied, in the case there were a few more Gore voters, could they just deploy a few more dirty tricks to compensate?  There are probably limits to this, most likely all vote stealing schemes would be implemented, especially in this case.  Even if 2000 wasn't an example of this, 3rd party spoiler candidacies are a genuine possibility, however the big things of our times are primarily vote suppression and economic corruption of elected officials through campaign financing and opportunism and monopolization of media.  So if you feel good about your useless 3rd party effort that will win fewer than 5% of the vote, if you believe that this time will be different, or there's hope for building a future party, or just don't want to get your hands dirty in real electoral politics, or whatever your reasons are, it probably isn't going to make a difference for the worse, though it might.  It could, even, make things better somehow, including through the mechanism of party discipline I described above, though my estimation of that probability is lower than the other one.  Nevertheless, in the face of  uncertainty, and allowance for freedom of self expression, etc., I give you my best wishes, not my castigations.  None of us knows, you could be right, diversity is good.  As for me and myself I mainly think that kind of work is misplaced and would be better directed to something not merely making a statement in the electoral arena.  It's a wasted effort mostly.   My recommendation is to spend a few moments to vote following utilitarian principles as I do, then get on to more important stuff.  Asking questions and other forms of lobbying are in that more important stuff category.

Brexit voters say: We're not going to take it!

[Update:  Glenn Greenwald has the best article post Brexit that I've seeen.  I second what he says, and would just have you read that instead of my attempts to say something similar.]

I was surprised and even humbled by the outpouring of something that has to be understood as real democracy, not just trumped up hate (though that played a part).  This is what actual democracy looks like, it is live and surprising and dangerous.  Britons have had very unsatisfactory neoliberal governance at least since Thatcher.  The economy has been terrible for most working people, less so for bankers and other elites, and hardly anything but downturn since 2008.  Finally after decades of No Alternative with both parties in power pushing the same austere neoliberal program, The People get a chance to express themselves in some substantial way. And there's a strong enough sentiment in many places to overwhelm the establishment and internationalist regions and Scotland and endless threats from all establishment quarters, with a huge turnout that blew away the predictions.

I'm a bit worried about how it's all going to work out.  Like Jeremy Corbyn, I wasn't pushing for this one, it was a mixed deal.   Much better to stay in the EU and go back to Old Labor, I thought.  Though in some part I was happy to see people resisting the neoliberal and technocratic EU, which
applies similar monetary and fiscal policies on Britain as it does on Euro countries.  This is a far more intrusive neoliberal regime than such operations as NAFTA, WTO, and GATT, though it does good in some areas, it is cruel in others.

Now if we can only resist TPP and tear up all the other agreements like NAFTA, GATT, and WTO as well, and replace all right wing governments with left social democratic ones, I'd really be happy.  That's the flicker of hope in Brexit that picked up my day first thing this morning, but sadly it's probably a mirage.

I wonder if, in large part the austerity--and the way it hit the working class--was more a function of Conservative (and New Liberal) government in London than the EU, though apparently EU membership does come with economic controls which are similar and even identical in some cases to those controls which apply in the Eurozone, and that control could conceivably force austerity on Britain.  That it was really the fault of the Conservative government is the belief of Corbyn and I'll go with that.  Now there's a great fear that Brexit will lead to more austerity.

Any candidate who promotes agreements like TPP should be very scared.  The EU had some redeeming features as well as being an institution for so long and I'm willing to give Corbyn a pass on not having opposed it.

Where does Hillary stand?  I've heard she has said she will oppose TPP.  I want to hear more of that, because I recall that Bill Clinton signed NAFTA after saying he'd fix it first.  He didn't and probably couldn't.  You can't take the neoliberalism out of an agreement like NAFTA.

I sign every petition against TPP that I can.

Update: Well success has many mothers, failure none.  In this case, the success of Brexit is generally ascribed to nativists.  In fact the mainstream will have it no other way.  The reality is a bit more complicated.

In fact the Leave campaign was highly colored if not dominated by nativists.  But among the Leave voters there were also a lot who merely wanted national sovereignty, and there was a solid fraction opposed to EU neoliberalism, as I earlier opined.

TPP isn't immediately killed by this, but it looks like TTiP is killed by it.  We can hope.

The infamous Cameron (and before) austerity was probably not driven by Brussels so much as Downing Street.  I don't have the particulars, but that seems to have been Corbyn's argument.

Hillary's initial response seems to identify with Cameron.  We won't let ourselves loose like him.  This doesn't sound good to me or, I'd think, other leftists.

Brexit as repudiation of elites, technocrats and neoliberalism is one of the largest themes in a very long discussion at NakedCapitalism.

The Guardian calls this a fake revolution.  That sounds plausible but the Guardian itself was incorporated into the neoliberal media some time ago so I don't trust them on this in the slightest.  Real revolutions are not pretty either, and just because we don't like it, doesn't mean it's not a revolution.

Crooked Timber has good discussions on Brexit.  An interesting point made by F. Foundling in comment #192 is that to those not adversely affected by Brexit, and he hopes for the best, Brexit has the democracy enhancing effect of saying, "Yes, there is an Alternative," in that countries can leave.  This is the only existing way to keep EU governance from becoming authoritarian, cruel, etc., as in fact to some countries it has become, even if not so much Britain itself.  I agree with this idea in general, and conveniently Sandwichman posted the horrifically misguided Flexible Labor Market rules from the EU which apply to both Euro and non-Euro countries.  These rules essentially prohibit the progressive use of fiscal policy, the most direct way countries can fight unemployment, recession, and depression, and simultaneously prohibit significant government investment and increasing social democracy.  The only thing possible under such rules is the continual dismantling of social democracy when any crisis hits.  Neoliberalism at its worst.

The conservative government asked to be excluded from the labor protections part of the EU rules, but not the macroeconomic parts.  Given what Sandwichman has posted, Brexit is the only socially acceptible option IMO.  I'm shocked, it's now looking like the mob was right and ultimately astute in it's denunciation of the EU regime.

The rules for the US Federal Reserve rightly direct the institution to minimize both inflation and unemployment, and set no hard targets.  The USA has many problems, including the dysfunctional Independent Executive design, and mostly a government of spectacles where the important work is opaque and plutocratic, but the dual mandate rules of the Fed (and, for that matter, Roe V Wade) are exemplary laws.

Sandwichman himself says he hopes to take Brexit, perhaps not overall a good thing (though perhaps not as bad as threatened), and turn it into Flexit, abolish the Flexible Labor Markets set of macroeconomic rules throughout the EU.

No Brexit, Flexit!  (Sadly, Flexit is probably the least likely outcome of all.  Brussels isn't going to be forced to change the rules!  I would blame it all on the neoliberal economists who designed the EU rules.)

The reliably left and brilliant Bruce Wilder sees Brexit as an opportunity and castigates the existing Labor government for not pushing Brexit:

Earlier Poster> Britain imposed austerity on itself. It voted that in. The EU didn’t. It chose right-wing governments that imposed right-wing economics 

“chose” is worth examining closely. The process of choice featured the complete abdication of the mainstream Left. Both Labour and the Lib-Dems echoed the neoliberal rhetoric in a me-too chorus. And pretty much every Party, major and minor, except the right-wing, continued this elite consensus regarding Brexit.
There is no left, left. In the sense that the left apparently cannot conceive of any institutional means of better government that does not involve abdication to a Tory gov’t or a Europe in the iron-grip of a neoliberal cabal of sociopaths. It is pathetic.

The sociopaths he is referring to are the technocrats in the EU.  And then more here:

The problem of Europe is how to organize political cooperation that enables democratic action for public purposes, and particularly in the management of money (“movement of capital”, fiscal discretion in taxing and spending), trade (movement of goods and services), and migration (movement of people).
The neoliberal regime seeks to disable the nation-states as managers of these flows and the economic risks that attend their fluctuations, freeing private business and finance to organize and dominate the management of flows and attendant risks (externalizing the risks and looting the vulnerable vestigial nation-states and communities).
I do not understand how a left that refuses to manage any of these things ever even conceives of governing

Another leftist Plume worries that the cost of this change to achieve that is too great, and wonders if Bruce isn't merely projecting his fantasies onto the situation: he thinks the beatings will likely continue under local authorities.

I can see if I were a Briton myself, I might not like Brexit for the loss of freedom to travel.  But seeing what the EU actually is and how it works, I think it should be abandoned if it can't be reformed.  I'm pretty much in agreement with this comment at NakedCapitalism (where you see a lot of pro-Brexit).

Given the Ordoliberal roots of the most powerful actor in the Eurozone, Germany, it's inconceivable they will ever agree to rules that would work elsewhere.  So the only possible thing is to go back to the earlier Common Market rules, with no attempt at monetary integration or normalization.  As strongly as anything I think the Euro should go, and I believe it will, as proof of the Taoist notion, that which cannot bend will break.  The Euro was an attempt to create a virtual Gold Standard, perhaps even worse than the real Gold Standard.  Let independent floating currencies enable trade among the motley economies of Europe.  That's really the only system that can work, no point in prolonging the agony.

Now one might wonder why it doesn't seem like the Conservative government isn't fighting the non-binding referendum (though they are attempting to delay the official withdrawl a bit...and Brussels wants it to happen now if ever).  Certainly in most capitalist countries, if the rabble were to win somehow, surely the victory would be cancelled somehow.  In this case, a sizeable part of the ruling class actually wanted Brexit, and they don't want their victory snatched away, nor do those in the enraged Northeast rustbelt.

In this case, there was a solid fraction of Conservatives, not just xenophobes, who supported Brexit.  In fact there appears to be a very central figure, though with no legal role (in fact, any meddling of hers would be illegal), Her Majesty.  She apparently suprised a number of people with a long a detailed discussion of how Brussels was going in the wrong direction.  This tabloid report was officially denied, as officially the Queen is not supposed to interfere in politics.  But her feelings likely being as described, and likely known to the PM and other key players, given a vote going her way, they're certainly not going to waste time turning it around.

So, Her Majesty gets it.  Brexit, and it seems for the right reasons.  God Save the Queen!

I'm actually partial to the idea that we need a parliamentary government, and actually a constitutional monarchy with an independent lifetime Head of State.  Over time, if not so much recently, England's government has worked pretty well.  I don't think it's irrelevant who the Head of State is, someone caring and thoughtful like me is required.

Anyway, I wish all the best, though I would like to see the EU out of monetary operations and the like, back to where it started.  Neoliberalism is tyranny.

The proper way to handle Brexit is expansionary.  Create new jobs for stuff previously outsourced or bought.  Then the proper way to do this is jump right in.  Expand to create the new more self-sufficient Britain.  Employ everyone at the highest capacity possible.  Full employment is the first attribute of success.  The best time is now: jump right in.  I think some visionary idealism helps expand into a new era.

Progress is made with large leaps, not small cuts as neoliberalism does.

Sadly the Conservatives aren't a full employment party, they're a full exploitation party, and that requires a modicum of unemployment to perpetuate fear.  So they're sticking with the neoliberal approach of regress through sacrifice from the commoners, and so would Blair New Labor.  So keep your nose on the grindstone, the beatings will continue until a new excuse can be invented, wouldn't want to go without some bogeyman.

Update: here's a very balanced take on the Brexit situation by Foreign Policy in Focus.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

When do I take down my Bernie sign?

The day after Bernie lost to Hillary in the Texas Democratic Primary in early March, I wondered to myself whether I should take down the Bernie sign in my front yard.  "As a Texas Democrat, since Hillary has won the Texas vote, I should follow that decision now, or people might think I'm some kind of anti-Texan" I thought for a second.  Then a millisecond later, it occurred to me this was wrong.

For one thing, I was still planning to go to the Senate District Convention for my state senate district in late March, the next step in the Texas party process.  And of course I would go as a Bernie supporter.  If lucky, as I was in 2004, I could be selected as a delegate representing Bernie in the Texas Democratic Convention in mid June.  It had been incredibly interesting in 2004.  Actually it wasn't luck, in 2004 the turnout in the Senate District Convention was sufficiently low that anyone who wanted to go to the state convention could go.  It had not been so low in 2008 and though I attended the Senate District Convention then too, I did not get selected as a delegate.

I did go to the Senate District convention this year, and just over 60 people attended.  Since that number was below the delegate allotment for my Senate District, once again anyone who wanted to could be a delegate to the state convention.  My friend and I signed in as Bernie supporting delegates.

We went for one day at the Texas Democratic Convention.  We signed many petitions (I know one group of petitions we signed was successfully added to the Texas Democratic Platform) and voted for a Bernie supporting delegate to go to the National convention.  (The delegate we voted for won, and I've since sent her a small donation.  The Hillary supporting chair seemed to try to talk her out of it, giving warnings, especially that it would cost money.)  To be clear I believe the total number of Bernie supporting delegates and Hillary supporting delegates were actually determined by and in proportion to the election results, but among several people in our district running for Bernie delegate we voted for one.  We also voted for a number of other officials.

It was a very interesting experience, though more grueling than fun this time and we decided not to go back for a second day.  We had at least done some things.

So now all the delegates, including the Bernie delegate that I am supporting, are headed to the Democratic National Convention.  One day there will be an actual vote, in which my Bernie delegate will be voting for Bernie.  On that day, the Superdelegates will officially be voting for the first time, and adding their extra voice as working pols (which, btw, is fine with me in principle).   That vote will officially determine who the Democratic Party candidate is.  Before that time, there is no official determination.

It occurs to me that I should at least not take down my Bernie sign until after that vote.  Otherwise I am not showing solidarity with the many hard working Bernie campaigners and supporters I have talked with and supported.

Going a bit further, those principled and far sighted Bernie delegates will also be able to influence the platform and rules at the Democratic National Convention, which is a major reason it has been important not for Bernie to simply capitulate to Clinton.  Maybe I should keep my Bernie sign up until the morning after the Democratic National Convention ends.

Some have suggested just leaving it up, no matter who gets elected President.  I can see it would be a great "Told you so!" whenever anything goes wrong.

But that's not me.  I don't believe in an individualistic politics.  Politics is about groups.  When and if Sanders loses he has pledged to withdraw, and return to his Senate career, where he relies on many Democrats, and to support Clinton.  When the post-convention era begins, I'm not going to be pissing on the wagon, I'm going to try to get on and make the right vibrations to keep it in the right direction and successful, which are actually the same thing.

The thing to do is accurate critical reporting of all candidates.  All should be asked the tough questions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Euro

Greg Palast gives an interesting reading here.  But you really have to read all 4 pages of comments to get a fuller picture.

While Mundell was a great promoter of the Euro, and was a University of Chicago economics professor, Mundell's very own Optimal Currency Area theory did not predict a good outcome from the Euro in the reading of many others, including Paul Krugman.  And fellow UofC economist Milton Friedman strongly opposed the Euro in a 2000 debate with Mundell, with Friedman making arguments straight out of the Optimal Currency Area theory.

So did Mundell ignore his own theory just because he hated his Italian plumbers?

I was directed to the Greg Palast article from a comment (by Bruce Wilder) on a thread started by Henry at Crooked Timber.  This asks the larger questions about democracy and technocracy and is also worth reading down through all the comments.