Monday, July 31, 2017

Unreconstructed Cold Warrior Chastises Liberals For Their Anti-Putin Fanaticism

". . . .hostility to Russia and hatred of Putin seem to exceed anything some of us remember from the worst days of the Cold War.

"Putin’s Russia is called imperialist, though Estonia, next door, which Russia could swallow in one gulp, has been free for 25 years.

"Russia invaded Georgia. Well, yes, after Georgia invaded the seceded province of South Ossetia and killed Russian peacekeepers.

"Russia has taken back Crimea from Ukraine. True, but only after a U.S.-backed coup in Kiev replaced the elected pro-Russian regime.

"Russia has intervened to back Bashar Assad in Syria. Yes, but only after our insurgent allies collaborated with al-Qaida and ISIS to bring him down. Is Russia not allowed to support an ally, recognized by the U.N., which provides its only naval base on the Med?

"Russia has meddled in our election (allegedly, -ed.) And we have meddled in the affairs of half a dozen nations with “color-coded revolutions.” The cry of “regime change!” may daily be heard in the U.S. Capitol.

"Putin is not Pope Francis. But he is not Stalin; he is not Hitler; he is not Mao; and Russia today is not the USSR. Putin is an autocrat (elected - ed.) cut from the same bolt of cloth as the Romanov czars.

"His cooperation is crucial to the peace of the world, the freedom of the Baltic States, an end to the Syrian civil war, tranquility in the Persian Gulf, and solving the North Korean crisis.

"While our tectonic plates may rub against one another, we are natural allies. The Russia of Tolstoy, Pushkin, Solzhenitsyn and the Orthodox Church belongs with the West.

"If America stumbles into a war with Russia that all our Cold War presidents avoided, the Russia baiters and Putin haters will be put in same circle of hell by history as the idiot war hawks of 1914 and the three blind men of Versailles in 1919."

------Pat Buchanan
"Russia Baiters and Putin Haters"

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Major Political Science Study Confirms: Large Majority of Americans Have "Little or No Influence" Over Their Government

"A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.

"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. (italics added)The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite-Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism . . . 

"A final point: even in a bivariate, descriptive sense, our evidence indicates that the responsiveness of the U.S. political system when the general public wants government action is severely limited. Because of the impediments to majority rule that were deliberately built into the U.S. political system - federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism - together with further impediments due to anti-majoritarian congressional rules and procedures, the system has a substantial status quo bias. (italics added)Thus when popular majorities favor the status quo, opposing a given policy change, they are likely to get their way; but when a majority - even a very large majority - of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants. In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about 30 percent of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80 percent of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43 percent of the time. 

"In any case, normative advocates of populistic democracy may not be enthusiastic about democracy by coincidence, in which ordinary citizens get what they want from government only when they happen to agree with elites or interest groups that are really calling the shots. When push comes to shove, actual influence matters. 

------"Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens," Marten Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, 2014 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America

“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.”

Dorothy Day

Strong words from a brave woman unknown to most Americans because her bravery and boldness didn’t just concern a minority group but all of humanity. She demanded radical change in a system and not just one or another representative to operate that system in a more beneficial way for her group. And the Catholic Worker, the organization she founded and led, operated on behalf of the poorest of americans while working to both help them and everyone else by advocating and working for radical social change of a system and not just its board of directors. She called a spade a spade, unlike most political leaders of her time and ours. They give euphemism a really bad name and are more likely to identify a spade as a club, hypocrisy as democracy, war as peace, and humans as a market.

Euphemism in words and phrases can be thoughtful when used to protect feelings, as in “he passed” rather than “he died”, but they can also be employed to hide truths for more malevolent purposes. Even when used in innocence or naivete, language softening or word substitution can be harmful in covering up material reality with labels as harmful as calling a bottle of arsenic a health drink.

The present near hysterical public mental state  brought about by a far worse material situation is a clear and dangerous case in point. Visiting a therapist to confront a psychological problem when one is actually suffering  a crippling physical disease could become fatal. Social assaults on physical reality  covered by language to make them seem personal problems more suited to therapy, meds or individual criminals can mask  the need for social transformation to end the illness before it kills far more than individuals but society itself.

A failing system is one that benefits fewer and fewer people while costing more and more and making the benefits enormous for the few and the costs almost beyond belief for the many. Thus American capitalism that rewards a tiny % of the population with incredible wealth while increasing numbers descend into poverty with larger numbers in danger of joining them the moment their credit is cut off. People rightfully concerned and demanding change can be herded into seeking criminals – some very likely – but miss the systemic root of the problem and so kept searching for villains and scapegoats when a social disease is what must be cured before the epidemic kills everyone while they’re kept busy lynching doctors, drug sellers and delivery crews.

Cancer is not a multi billion-dollar industry because of evil oncologists, mendacious pharmaceutical workers or greedy truck drivers. It is subject to the rules of a system dependent on the procurement of private profits at the market and as long as cancer treatment is a bigger profit maker than a cancer cure would be,  investors in treatment will prosper, the disease will increase in the population, and the cancer death rate will rise. 
We do not comfortably house tens of millions of our pets while hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens live in the street because we are nasty individuals but because the private profits available in sustaining those animals is greater than that of housing those humans. 
All of us, whether accepting or hiding behind labels like liberal, conservative, democratic, republican, of color, no color, straight, gay, bent, crooked or transpecies, are part of that system. We play roles at vastly different levels of power but we need to understand that value system which Dorothy Day passionately labeled filthy and rotten. And in a system in which my dog is deemed more profitable than your child, maybe words like filthy and rotten are euphemisms.

While it may seem easier to provoke dislike for a company CEO  or a political representative of supposed democracy who really stands for corporate capital, pursuit of such villains is often supported by the richest and most powerful dominators of the economic system who can thus focus attention away from themselves and be rid of some scapegoats while remaining the leading profiteers in the anti-democratic politics of capital.

The number of americans who sank into poverty went up by 8 million during the term of the last resident of the subsidized housing at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, but simply blaming that on him is as dumb as believing the "success" of the economy - for the rich and their professional servant class - was all his doing. Replacing a smooth talking figurehead parroting the usual lies with an outspoken clod who does the same but in more honest everyday language means nothing different except which minority will be doing well at the expense of a majority who will do worse.

Current obsession with Trump is a strong case in point of a misdirection in which an individual, however much his personality, character, intellect, or  coverage by media warrants concern, becomes a relative scapegoat for a system which is far more in need of “resistance” than this rich egomaniac. Trump is probably over-qualified to lead a nation nearing ruin due to its wealth, arrogance and global menace. We need to change the focus of the enterprise and not simply concentrate on who or what it employs as chief spokesperson for warfare, pet care and other things deemed more profitable than social justice, democracy and humanity.

Under capitalist market forces of private profit, public loss, individualism and dog eat dog competition, anti-democratic government is a subsidiary of ruling class wealth and acts against the interest of most of the people. This invites the kind of criticism from conservatives and liberals that says, understandably, get the damned government off my back, or, get it to support and work for me and not you.

In a truly democratic system government would be controlled by the people and act for public profit first, and there would be far less, if any, contradiction between it and the people. Whether we think of that as political democracy as opposed to political hypocrisy, or social as opposed to anti-social economics, we have neither now and that is the problem. We need both, which is the only solution.

Monday, July 17, 2017

James Madison Explains Why Minority Rule By The Rich Must Be Protected

"Such are the various pursuits of this life, that, in all civilized countries, the interest of a community will be divided. There will be debtors and creditors, and an unequal possession of property, and hence arise different views and different objects in government. This, indeed, is the ground-work of aristocracy; and we find it blended in every government, both ancient and modern. Even where titles have survived property, we discover the noble beggar, haughty and assuming.

"The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge of the wants or feelings of the day laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but, in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law (land redistribution, ed.) would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. (italics added) The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered."

----------James Madison, 1787
Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Requiem For The American Dream, (Seven Stories, 2017)