Hillary Clinton’s Problem

As maHillary Clinton 2014ny commentators have noted, Hillary Clinton seems to be sleep-walking to the 2016 Presidential nomination. The absurdity of U.S. Presidential campaigns nowadays is one in which candidates seem to feel they must begin their soft campaigns years ahead of their actual declared campaigns, including all the fund-raising and ass-kissing involved.

As we know, this ruinously expensive process ends up floating up the well-known pols and largely sinking the serious candidates that don’t fit the predominant messaging of either party. The GOP, especially since the Reagan Era is particularly vulnerable to rigid ideological posturing, which, as we know, is hostile to the values of much of the American public but which can work in gerrymandered, conservative, predominantly white districts. As a result, the Congress has become polarized and paralyzed in a divided government.  So states are becoming ever more dissonant from each other in their policies and laws. This is the GOP policy of enabling the 10th Amendment.  They know it won’t work in the states which aren’t GOP dominated but in those that are it is all about bringing back “Jim Crow” and medieval social and labor practices.  Whoopee.

In this ferocious context, for Hillary to offer a candidacy of “I am the first woman president” but otherwise it’s business as usual won’t work.  Worse still, she seems to be staking out a position of being the Illinois “Gold Meir”, i.e., I am a bad ass military-oriented  woman don’t mess with me.  This, of course, is music to our military-industrial, war-as-theatre elite.

Unfortunately, back in early 2009, our genius current President (“first African American President”) immediately abandoned the progressives that voted for him and became a moderate conservative to the astonishment of many who had elected him to do otherwise. The White House did lead the stimulus but the health care reform and financial reforms were all really led by the Democratic Congress and Obama did little to help the ball game and, in fact, abandoned climate change pretty much right away.

This is not to say he hasn’t done progressive things. He right away signed the Lily Ledbetter bill and he tried to end Guantanamo. He has faced an unrelentingly racist and reactionary GOP, which is determined to give him nothing even if it hurts the Republic.  They have unrelentingly opposed him from his first day in office.  The Neo-Confederacy now lives like it hasn’t in more than 50 years.

Given the GOP’s decision, upon losing the 2008 general election to resurrect the 1950’s-1960’s massive resistance (to integration) strategy, Basically, as soon as he tried to do something constructive, his Presidency was doomed. This was partly a failure of his Administration. They had an awesome campaign outreach and communication system the likes of which have never been seen before. But once elected, the “professionals” took over and must outreach and involvement of the public simply disappeared. The GOP, sensing the vacuum, mobilized its awesome domination of the media to arouse fear and spread disinformation. This allowed the third factor: American voter apathy and stupidity to create an unnecessary wave election in 2010 that will have negative repercussions for generations for the vast majority of Americans, at least.

So this is a long-winded way of saying that the Democrats have to get their sh*t together on communicating and messaging.  I get at least 60 pleading emails from various dem folks literally every day.  I can give money but the democrats need to figure out an effective GOTV strategy and a way to personalize messages, especially to the 18-34s.  Otherwise, the GOP will succeed in turning this country into a bought and paid-for oligarchy.

Corporate Oligarchy as a Ruling System: A Lesson

Vladimir-Putin-horsebackThere is not much doubt that the eastern Ukraine ethnic Russian insurgents shot down a Malaysian commercial airliner with Russian assistance, since this was a highly technical operation. That much is clear. What is not clear is…Why?

Anyone paying attention to the world’s news has seen the ongoing drama starting from last Fall in Ukraine, which has culminated some nine months now in the birth of the criminal Ukrainian Russian insurgency. One that very clearly shot out of the sky, at 33,000 feet, 298 innocent people in a Malaysian Airline (MAS).

And it ultimately goes back to this particular criminal, this ex-KGB operative, currently Russia’s President who has clearly never been able to envision a future for his country other than a frigid version of Nigeria with nukes. Because he is an ex-KGB thug who likes to ride bare-chested on horses because he has masculine issues, evidently. I mean, who even does that who is not on a comedy show?

I worked in Russia, in the 90s, for USAID. I mainly worked in the Russian Far East (Primorsky and Khabarovsky krai) on environmental matters and I worked simultaneously with some of the best Russian technical people and artists I ever met but also some classic, leftover, Soviet bureaucrats, utterly uninterested in doing something good for their region. Also spent some time in Moscow, which was a whole different trip.

Russia is in a long-term transition. It is a giant, resource-rich region with an utterly medieval governance regime, which guarantees an utter waste of valuable human capital; a true tragedy. A lot of that human capital is working in criminal software development, tragically. Putin is the poison that has prevented the democratic governance transition and is also strangling the younger generation from blooming and also fomenting these pointless wars to recreate the Soviet Union, which will never happen – absolutely but which he hopes will be able to recast himself as the next Peter the Great or maybe Stalin.

More to the point, I believe the Koch Brothers and other right-wing Oligarchs in America probably have a real envy of modern day Russia and would impose such a regime on this country if they thought they could. And I believe this is on their agenda.

SCOTUS Beats Up on Women’s Rights

AlitoToday, the SCOTUS delivered a despicable but unfortunately predictable decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby deciding that “closely held” corporations’ “religious beliefs” (undefined in this country, of course) could trump the healthcare law and (by logical extension) just about any law or regulation if it violated the “religious beliefs” of said “privately held corporation”.

This is truly awful law. It opens up the judicial system potentially to a huge number of lawsuits and chaos in the labor market and corporate regulations generally. Religion is one of the biggest “third rails” of American politics along with race and guns so expect corporations to exploit ti to the extreme for their benefit, ideologically or profit-wise. Yes, it is unlikely GM will deprive women of contraceptive coverage but maybe they will suddenly discover some other “religious” objection to get out of another mandate.  This decision just adds another scalp to the corporate right wing’s long game of rolling back eventually all of the human, civil and economic rights that Americans struggled to achieve all through the 20th century.

Appropriately, the extremist Justice Alito delivered the majority opinion and basically declared that women really have no rights in law, as far as the extremist right-wing male majority is concerned.

Elections have consequences.  I hope Ralph Nader is happy with this one.


A Life Milestone

My son Kevin graduates from college today. Of course, millions of parents have experienced this milestone in a (usually) young person’s life. And yet each event is also the culmination of a lifetime of intense interactions we call education and parenting and just growing up together that is an ongoing voyage of mutual discovery and so very interesting for that reason alone.

Kevin is an interesting physical combination of mine and my wife’s genes but his personality is really what is intriguing and still emerging for us and, presumably, for him too. He has elements of my sense of humor and his mother’s analytical mind but also her poetic sensitivity and my artistic sense.

I am not a professional artist rather a reluctant economist and my wife is a scientist – but also a poetess and a manager. We all have layers of talents and inclinations that may or may not be expressed in our own lives in various ways but unexpectedly pop up in our children in often strange and interesting ways. So, Kevin, from a very early age – proficient with computers and software – tried to compile a software program for “happiness” when he was 10 years old.

The point of all this is that we are celebrating a moment in a long and convoluted stream of many souls including ours but all who came before and all of his close friends and teachers, of course. The stream rushes on and changes all the time. But congratulations, Kevin, well done!  And now back to the life stream…

The Future of Obamacare

There has been a blizzard of surveys, opinion-bloviating and other analysis about the verity of Obamacare sign-ups. Of course, these rants pile on the ongoing, largely right-wing critique about Obamacare being a socialist nightmare.

The fact is that Obamacare/ACA is too big a change in our dysfunctional, profit-centered and cost-bloated health care system and the changes are still too new and still evolving (especially the future cost savings) to have major impacts now. So, John/Mary Q. Public can hardly have a coherent view of it right now, which is why we are seeing this “hate it-not good enough” dichotomy, based on very little information. The whole healthcare system – never mind how we pay for it – will continue to evolve in dramatic ways over the next 10 years at least. The wingers have lost and so have the health insurance parasites; it’s just a matter of time and education. And the Obama Administration’s communication team has been just awful on public education for years (except during campaigns). Weird.

End of the world economics

skidroadNobody will read this but the fact is that the US economy is drifting steadily from a post-war, pseudo-Capitalism model to a Third World formal-informal sector economic model. So, you have formal sector, registered corporations ranging from all the huge corporations we know about to small neighborhood businesses.

But, post economic crisis, and the New Savage Economy, increasingly we will see an ever larger unregistered economy of people who have no hope of any other employment in the economy I described above. What we will see increasingly are a large number of businesses created under the radar which won’t be IPOs or anything resembling Wall Street. None of which are being tracked now – except by the NSA, of course.  Welcome to the New Post-Depression.

JFK Remembered

ImageBasically, JFK changed the socio-political narrative for the country and most likely led to the current polarization of the country by advocating for an activist, positive vision of government that inspired liberals even though he was at best an Obama-like cautious centrist on domestic policy.  But he changed the dialogue during the coming of age of the Boomers and the decades since were forever changed as a result.

My parents were both 2nd generation Irish Catholics from Massachusetts, the children of poor, working class immigrants.  So the assassination of President Kennedy was as profoundly dismaying as his election three years earlier was a cause for joy.   When he announced the creation of the Peace Corps, I was 11 years old and knew little about the world and yet I decided that I would be a Peace Corps Volunteer someday.  He was that inspiring to a kid from my background.  I did become a PCV and spent two years in Ethiopia, which then changed the trajectory of my life and career.

I was in my 8th grade class at St. Philomena’s primary school in Pittsburgh when one of the nuns rushed in and whispered to our nun and we were ordered to the small school hall whereupon a TV was rolled into the hall and Walter Cronkite and CBS was turned on.  The whole thing was totally surreal; none of us really understood what was going on and the youngest kids were lost.  When his death was confirmed we were sent home.

Two days later and television was all about the assassination all the time, I was in the basement watching the transfer of Oswald to the county jail when Oswald was shot live on TV.  This was probably the first live murder on television,i.e. in real time. Certainly it must be one of only few.  I remember it vividly and remember being stunned and not really comprehending what was happening, heightened by the immediate pandemonium in that very crowded basement area.  I ran up and told my Mom what had happened.

Well, the conventional wisdom is that JFK’s assassination enabled the passage of civil rights and possibly voting rights legislation as well as the War on Poverty and maybe other liberal legislation. His tax cut is also widely cited as the precedent for Ronnie Rayguns radical tax cutting (not good given a different fiscal environment).