Posts Tagged ‘liberal’

Reaching For The Impossible

March 17, 2020

The NY Times headlined “Bernie Sanders Wants to Fight On. He Has His Reasons.” (Sydney Ember, 3-16-20). Politico headlined “‘Who is going to advise him to drop out?’: Bernie may not be ready for quick exit” (Holly Otterbein and David Siders, 3-17-20). Both articles investigated and speculated as to what could be the reasoning resisting a quick exit. Through interviews with campaign staffers, political operatives and analysts the articles arrived at the tried and true conclusion that it must have something to do with leverage – the ability to get certain concessions within the Democratic platform and policies based on the strength of committed delegates. It was pointed out that already Joe Biden has made some concessions to Sanders originated proposals (free college education, health care). But the answer to why the man tilts at windmills was left untouched. In an essay entitled “Teaching the History of American Radicalism in the Age of Obama” (1-2-17) Eric Foner offers a studied insight. The writing is from a book entitled “Battles For Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History” which is composed of his essays spanning 40 years published in The Nation. Mr. Foner is a historian (professor) at Columbia University. The History of Radicalism essay describes the final class of this name which Foner regularly taught at Columbia. First, a contextual review of difference, the Bernie Sanders difference in lived aspirational outlook: “A revealing moment came at a press conference at the end of November 2008, when he [Barack Obama] was asked how he reconciled his campaign slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” with the appointment of an economic team largely composed of the same neoliberal ideologues who had helped bring about the financial crisis. “The vision for change,” Obama replied, “comes…first and foremost…from me.” As I mentioned to my class, one can compare Obama’s top-down remark to a comment attributed to the early twentieth-century socialist Eugene Debs: “I would not lead you to the promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.” Debs understood that movements, not just political leaders, make social change possible. Obama has never really learned that lesson. To be sure, he sought to cultivate an identification with history by embracing the civil rights movement, though this is hardly a controversial stance at a time when Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is a national holiday and even Glenn Beck claims his legacy. But even then, Obama embraced a sanitized version in which the movement represents a fulfillment of basic American ideals, not the unfulfilled “revolution of values” that King hoped to see. Obama doesn’t invoke the radical King who spoke of “democratic socialism,” launched the Poor People’s Campaign, and supported the antiwar movement.” It is undeniably clear, from such a context, where Sanders is found. However, it is the last paragraph of Foner’s essay that illuminates as to why a quick exit is incompatible with Bernie Sanders: “On the first page of the course syllabus, I always include the words of Max Weber, a rebuke to those who believe that critics of society should set their sights only on “practical” measures: “What is possible would never have been achieved if, in this world, people had not repeatedly reached for the impossible.””

Food For Thought

February 6, 2020

During the past mayoral election of November, 2019, just over 26% of Newark’s registered voters took the time, made the effort to vote. The number of votes re-electing the incumbent mayor was equal to 10% of the population of the city as a whole, 16% of those registered to vote. Yawn was the collective reaction. Indeed, the numbers were even less than previous years; in other words the downward trend is considered the norm. Oh, but the recent brouhaha in Iowa is definitely not a yawn. In all the “new tech is the answer to all our problems” reviews, the real news was that voter turnout in the Democratic caucus was also down. “According to a NBC News entrance poll, even first-time voters — the young backbone of the progressive forces — dipped below past years as well. In 2008, first-time voters soared to 57%, thanks to the enthusiasm over Barack Obama’s campaign; last night, an estimated one in three voters was a newcomer. And it gets worse: Past turnouts were already at such cringe-worthy lows. In 2016, only 15.7% of Iowa’s voting-eligible population took part in the caucus. Our record turnout, thanks to Obama’s campaign in 2008, clocked in at 16.1%.” (Forget Iowa’s stupid app: Democrats can’t ignore the dismal turnout if they hope to win My caucus in Iowa City had 60 fewer people than four years ago. Tepid turnout will re-elect Trump for sure, Jeff Biggers, 2-5-20, Salon) In an interview with USA Today’s Nichelle Smith (‘Overwhelm the system’ to thwart voter suppression, Stacey Abrams counsels blacks, 2-4-20) Abrams responds with “I think there are two pieces to focus on. One is ensuring that voter suppression does not have its intended effect, which is by making it more difficult to vote, people decide not to bother trying. Our goal through Fair Fight and Fair Fight 2020 is to ensure that people know about the obstacles that are being placed in their way, but (are encouraged to) vote in even larger numbers to overwhelm the intention of the system. The best way to defeat voter suppression is by having such a high turnout that the barriers to voting have limited effect. The second piece I want people to pay attention to is the 2020 Census. While people don’t often think of that as a voting rights issue, it’s directly related not only to the allocation of congressional leaders, but to how the (voting district) lines are drawn for school boards and for city council and county commissions and state legislatures.” Analysis wonders where the barriers are in Newark. Even more pressing is why has no one noticed? But in terms of the greatly hyped aspirations of the Democrats with regard to the 2020 presidential election it gets even more messy. Buttigieg and Sanders came out of Iowa neck and neck. Between the two of them is the actual “showed up to caucus” backing of over half of Iowa’s Democrat nominating participants. Immediate news out today gives Sanders an enormous campaign contribution haul in January, 2020. Active, engaged participation is there and yet Jeff Biggers  can still, quite accurately, write “The real discussion, post-Iowa, is whether Tom Perez’s Democratic Party can galvanize the necessary vision, enthusiasm and opposition to beat Donald Trump in November — or not. Will an entrenched party leadership under Perez allow Sanders, Warren or Buttigieg to rise in the front ranks? It’s about the Democratic Party uniting around a bold vision that not only challenges the empty promises of Trump’s economic claims, devastating environmental rollbacks, and reckless immigration and global policies, but inspires new and dispossessed voters to show up on Election Day. Battered by the trade wars, a farm crisis and historic flooding, Iowa should not have been a tough playing field to rouse enthusiasm. Rising health care costs and climate change remain the top two priorities of caucus-goers. But with Democratic leadership that has refused to allow debates on climate change, stacked the convention committees with members of the corporate establishment, and eased debate requirements for billionaire Michael Bloomberg, you have to wonder:” Analysis also wonders how such pressing issues could drive turnout in a national election and yet not exist at all in a local mayoral contest just one year prior. Food for thought

 

Queasy

June 22, 2016

queasy 1. inclined to or feeling nausea. 2. causing nausea; nauseating. 3. uneasy; uncomfortable. 4. squeamish; fastidious.
Loathsome doesn’t begin to describe the response most have to the presidential election of 2016. How about those not finding it loathsome but rather exciting, its opportunity to participate in the making of history, or reclaim America? Analysis can’t help but notice a certain queasiness pervasive in this arena of engaged, informed and passionate electorate. The possibility of the opponent actually winning out, the loss of any sense of inevitability or righteousness, contribute to that unease. Analysis finds all this quite curious in that in all these electoral contests, stark contrasts are usually delineated in order to define one candidate as being completely different from the other. Nausea usually sets in with the realization that “it makes no difference. It is all unpalatable.” Could that actually be the case? The presumed Democratic candidate for president recently spoke in central Ohio at the Fort Hayes educational facility. She lambasted her opponent on many levels, primarily for the disingenuous way her opponent enriched and enriches himself. Why, the line of suits he markets is made in Mexico. Analysis reveals a breakdown of these economic talking points acts out enrichment through the practice of neo-liberal policies, aspirations and agendas. This is the very neo-liberalism that was threatened by the Scandinavian Socialism promoted as “difference“ by the self-same speaker’s primary opponent. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate prides himself, nay, runs on the very basis of his qualifications, his ability to enrich himself by his mastery of the workings of the neo-liberal global economy – be it trade, the mobility of capital and financing, or the mobility of labor. Analogous to service providers, be they Google, Apple, Amazon or AT&T (etc. etc. etc.), it is all about choice, and more and greater individual choices implying more and greater freedom (the very core of neo-liberalism). Of course the regimen constantly changes and is in need of updating, upgrading, but the promise of better is always there, always the marketing incentive. The ultimate and greatest benefits enrich those at the top, the service providers, while those “being served” gain more and more freedoms. The analogy with neo-liberalism is complete by each and every new and additional freedom incurring an additional charge or fee. Is it any wonder that the Clintons attended the last Trump wedding and spend the winter holidays at the Kissinger estate in Florida? The queasiness sets in when Democrats realize that maybe, just maybe, the neo-liberal charade will be exposed for precisely what it is – a Victor Kiam Remington shaver ad promoting a ridiculously affordable electric shaver that eventually continuously requires expensive replacement cutter heads. “Progress” won’t be progress anymore but just another part of global marketing strategy. The queasiness on the part of Republicans is realizing that their “conservatism” orbits around a tacit acceptance of the neo-liberalism their forebears helped implement and is currently represented by a caricature spouting “See, I learned how to play by the rules of neo-liberalism, and enriched myself. We can do that self-same to make America great again.” Locally we find this with the recent unemployment statistics for Licking County in May, the lowest they’ve been since pre-911, when the bloom of the dot com bubble hadn’t yet burst. The championing of neo-liberalism’s greater freedom and choice through the inclusion of more in the market (employment as labor for business) elides the mushrooming of children’s summer nutrition programs to help feed those who, for some mysterious reason, aren’t being benefitted by these global marketing aspirations, policies and agendas. Queasiness sets in when “liberal” Democrats realize that conservatives have embraced neo-liberalism as status quo in order to thrive, and “conservative” Republicans realize they have to continuously change to play by the rules of global economic neo-liberalism.

Debt

October 24, 2015

A curious report appeared in the international news this week; curious not because of the story but what was said in it. AP’s Vanessa Gera reports “Poles eager to oust pro-market party in vote despite growth” concerning the upcoming Polish elections. The story highlighted the appearance of the Law and Justice Party candidate, Beata Szydlo, before an abandoned factory promising, of course, the return of such jobs if elected. The Law and Justice Party is considered conservative challenging the current rule of the incumbent Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and her Civic Platform Party (progressive), somewhat vaguely analogous to what we Americans categorize as right and left. The curious part appears in the thumbnail sketches of the two parties given by: “Another Law and Justice victory on Sunday would complete the nation’s shift to a brand of politics that mixes patriotic rhetoric, deeply conservative social values and a desire to use the state to level out economic inequalities. The party promises to reverse an unpopular rise in the retirement age and put more money into the pockets of struggling families with tax breaks, monthly cash bonuses for children under 18 and free medication for people over 75. It also wants to raise taxes on the mostly foreign-owned banks and big supermarkets in Poland and give tax breaks to smaller local businesses and those that adopt Polish technologies.” and “Civic Platform, the pro-business and centrist party that has overseen steady economic growth during its past eight years of rule.” (“When Poland threw off communism in 1989 it moved quickly to embrace free-market policies, with low taxes on corporations and a weak social safety net by European standards. The policies kept down debt and attracted massive foreign investments, bringing prosperity to many, especially in the cities.”), “Part of society is very successful but a smaller part is unsuccessful and still experiences many difficulties in daily life,” said [Dominik] Owczarek, an analyst with the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw. Even though the poor and disadvantaged are in a minority, they tend to be highly motivated voters with the power to influence the election outcome, he said.“. How is this possible? Within European politics much of “the right” stretches back through the Fascism of the 1930’s (prevalent throughout Europe), which actually courses even deeper into the 19th century. Its DNA is much more from the ground up, centered in various organized social accumulations meant to claim for themselves what was possessed by royalty or wealth (Communism, “the dictatorship of the people”, was one manifestation). The U.S. definition of this time/experience was more top down, a kind of McCarthyism, with the folks running things, the wealthy industrialists, etc. hiring thugs, Pinkerton’s, police etc. to muscle and force compliance by the social accumulations in upheaval. So the party affiliations the report describes, of progressives versus conservatives, follows accordingly, given the context of European history. Analysis finds curious the contemporary composition of U.S. party affiliation (which can’t be accounted for because it is the soup we swim in). Since the Reagan elections, the “right” has been supported, promoted and empowered by the very populace its policy’s and priorities do NOT promote. The stereotype is of the “left” favoring give-aways — women’s concerns, social programs (retirement or healthcare), unemployment compensation, welfare, children’s nutrition and education programs, etc. The “right” is generally associated with the market, business interest, wealth and property ownership (land, guns, etc.), and religion (fundamental moral perspective). This differs markedly from the parallel situation described by Gera. Ohio is exemplary of the actuality with the legislature, executive and judiciary dominated by the “right” (though it has a rich “worker’s” history). Someone elected these individuals, or should we say, this party. What Mitt Romney inadvertently revealed (that the individuals of almost half this nation have no net worth) doesn’t correspond with his assessment (that this portion votes for a party that will promote its interest. Something the “right” promotes in Poland. Then again, in Poland Mitt would be considered a progressive!). The focus on the stereotype in Mitt’s covertly recorded statement was misplaced, evidenced by who got elected to run things in Ohio (as well as in a slew of other states). The media and pundit emphasis was on the reason for voting aspect when it should have been on the net worth part. Net worth is derived from comparing an economic entity’s (which is a hypothetical) assets (things of market re-saleable value) with liability (debt, what is owed). If Romney had considered the percentage of people in debt rather than with zero or negative net worth, his prognosis may have differed. The majority of the U.S. populace carries some kind of debt. This debt creates a relationship, an interaction between the borrower and lender, the debtor and creditor. Mistakenly, this relationship is stereotyped as a master/slave relationship, especially in terms of Pay Day lenders, Check Cashers, etc. But a more insightful assessment would be a more nuanced description of support and promotion; that is, of debtor supporting and promoting creditor. If a sibling or close friend borrows/lends money then the debtor and creditor have created/forged a social bond within their relationship; that is, until the debt is absolved (after which they don’t need to interact out of necessity). With debt, they MUST interact with each other. This interaction (social exchange) must be civil, courteous, supportive and promotional, especially if it is accelerated by continuous borrowing, etc. At social functions one will always defer to the other, take a feigned (or genuine) interest in the other, promote or support the activities, priorities, policies of the other; all because debt determines this asymmetric relationship. The nature of debt, with its accompanying support and promotion, may have much more to do with the distinction informed by Vanessa Gera’s article. Interest rates for most consumer debt have been historically low for almost 20 years now (large ticket items, home purchases, student loans, even credit card rates). The asymmetric debt relationship, the inability NOT to promote or support the creditor may account more for why the party of big business, of the market and austerity, is continuously voted into the governance of a nation dependent on credit and long term debt (austerity, after all, guarantees that debt payments will continue without disruption). Getting rid of the debt is certainly NOT in such a party’s interest. Prioritizing “getting rid of the debt” is more revealing of the bad conscience (along with the great rhetoric) continued debtor/creditor interaction produces than any Ben Franklin kind of righteous freedom loving virtue.

Nuts

November 21, 2013

Once, at a business seminar, the speaker stressed that the only constant we can rely on is change (a bit disturbing to most of the “invested” business audience; change is such a hassle, sigh). That was during the heyday of disruptive innovation, primarily the personal computer which was eating the big mainframe guys’ lunch but also videos, CD’s, self serve, a plethora of cars from Japan, etc. It wasn’t called “disruptive innovation” then (though it was change, and disruptive to most), just sound business advice from savvy successful entrepreneurs.

A recent exchange in the online Newark Advocate commentaries (re; an article about Walmart defending its employees’ soliciting for contributions to afford a decent T day) reminded me of that. The main imbroglio was between a “liberal” point of view (Walmart should more equitably share their success with those who helped achieve it) and the ready-made answer given by a “conservative” (no one is forcing the employee to take a job there). The New Oxford American dictionary gives “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics” as the definition of conservative. Wiktionary gives about the same, but shorter: “A person who favors maintenance of the status quo or reversion to some earlier status”. NOA defines “liberal” as a person of liberal views (obvious to say the least!). Liberal as an adjective is defined variously. “open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values” is the first given. Wiktionary is only a tad better: “One with liberal views, supporting individual liberty”. That same day AP ran a couple of quickie articles, “How many nuts should you eat for your health?” and “Study ties nuts to lower cancer, heart death risk.” In fact the former article even states “Regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease, in fact, were less likely to die of any cause during a 30-year Harvard study.” (Eureka!). To pollinate the almond crop in early spring (next to marijuana, the most lucrative agricultural cash crop in California) now requires over half the bee hives existing in America. Last year, the migrant commercial beekeepers who supply the bees for pollination fell short in meeting this demand. Not that there was suddenly an overabundance of almond trees. Rather, there is a steady depletion of bees (and beekeepers). There is, however, an overabundance of reasons given for this change. They are irrelevant. What is relevant is that this disruptive change is what the business speaker spoke of at the seminar. “A person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes” is on precarious ground in dealing with the healthful (and tasty) properties of almonds, their relationship to bees, and our topical/systemic pesticide reliant agricultural practices. Favoring “maintenance of the status quo or reversion to some earlier status” doesn’t cut it with regard to addressing or solving the problem (of change, of the continuous loss of pollinators). No amount of digging in one’s heels and insisting that if “it was good enough for granddad, it’s good enough for me” will deal with the change that is already in progress. Wiktionary defines a “progressive” as “A person who actively favors or strives for progress towards improved conditions, as in society or government.” NOA gives “a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.”