SocraticGadfly: 8/23/15 - 8/30/15

August 27, 2015

Liberalism, economic class, race, elections: #FeelTheBern, #BlackLivesMatter, #GreenParty

As Bernie Sanders makes focus on economic class issues a primary part of his campaign, and simultaneously has faced disruption from Black Lives Matter, two new pieces from the Jacobin are very relevant for this issue.

Toure Reed discusses how racism and classism have a fair degree of overlap, especially for blacks trying to advance, and shouldn't be separated as much as some liberals do — or as much as some activists do. He specifically notes mid-20th century black civil rights leaders like Philip Randolph who explicitly combined them, in fact.

It's very good reading, not just for proper policies and stances, but because it leads to the next piece.

Lance Selfa dashes cold water on Sanders' chances of getting the Democratic nomination. Sunkara starts with 1968 and "establishment" candidate Hubert Humphrey being rammed down Democrats' throats. But, what about 1972? He says George McGovern had more establishment support than some may realize, but not enough. And, that Jesse Jackson, among others in 1972, sank the possibility of a third part from the left at that time.

That of course gets us back to Sanders, who decided to run as a Democrat. And, beyond that, who has specifically disavowed a general election run if he's not the Democratic nominee.

How many of his supporters, in such a case, would actually vote for Jill Stein or whomever is the Green Party nominee? No more than 10 percent, I venture, because most of them will believe whatever pablum about party unity, etc., that Sanders spouts at the convention.

And, if Sanders makes platform demands of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention, how many will she accept? If Walter Mondale in 1984, getting back to Jackson, is any indicator, about none — at least none with any teeth.

Of course, beyond what Selfa notes about 1984, this was as much due to Jesse's personality as anything else. He wasn't walking away from "money in the bank" because a lot of it went into his own pockets.

Of course, as Selfa notes in conclusion, Denny the Dwarf Kucinich never left the Democratic party, either, and he wasn't lining his pockets like Jackson was.

August 26, 2015

Joseph Ellis slouches toward Gomorrah

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This might, in reality, be worth a third star, but it's getting so many five star reviews that I had to downrate it.

Ellis is writing primarily pablum when he's not outrightly wrong.

And, he is outrightly wrong on a couple of major issues, right at the start.

First, while Charles Beard and his progressive historian followers may have overstated the importance of class issues, whether in the American Revolution or the Constitutional Revolution, even more, they weren't all wrong, contra Ellis' claims. Indeed, there's been a resurgence in a more moderated version of Beard's thesis.

Related to that, Ellis presents a false dichotomy that the Constitutional Revolution can either be about confederationists vs nationalists OR democrats vs aristocrats, but not both. And, if there's a "totally wrong," it's that false dichotomy.

Second, Ellis gets the issue of slavery all wrong.

First of all, at the Constitutional Convention, nobody was arguing for abolition; in fact, nobody was even arguing for immediate cessation of slave importation. The only argument was if slaves counted as people for census purposes (while not counting for people otherwise, or not. THAT WAS IT.

Secondly, Ellis ignores several new books that point out how deeply slavery was already (a half-decade before the cotton gin) engrained in the American economy.Gerald Horne's "The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America" is a very good starting point, discussing the role of the Somerset decision and other slavery-related factors in the American Revolution. (That said, author Gerald Horne does stretch some points too far, I think.) "The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism" takes the story from then, through the Constitutional Convention times and into the 19th century, in much more detail. (That said, author Edward E. Baptist writes often-purplish prose and really, really needs an editor better than what he's had.)

And, "Empire of Cotton" puts 19th-centure U.S. cotton capitalism in a global context.

Ellis essentially pretends these books don't exist.

Thirdly within this main point, he ignores that people like one of his Quartet, Hamilton, and another founding father, Franklin, were both actually involved with abolition efforts.

The third main issue, as other reviewers note, is to essentially dismiss the whole mindset behind Lincoln's "fourscore and seven years" at Gettysburg, rather than noting that that was a deliberate stake in the ground — an assertion that, contra Ellis, the United States did begin in 1776.

Beyond that, Ellis is wrong about the metaphysics behind the Articles of Confederation. For that, too, we have to start with the Declaration of Independence, per its text.

First, the Declaration starts:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, 
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands...

All of that indicates that the Declaration's ratifiers saw themselves as representing one nation. An inchoate and loosely connected one, yes, but one nation.

The last paragraph refers again to "united States of America." Again, loosely connected, perhaps, but one nation.

Ellis talks elsewhere about Jefferson and Adams as ambassadors. He ignores that they were ambassadors of the "united States of America, in General Congress, assembled," and not of Virginia, Massachusetts, etc.

Indeed, I can make half an argument that the Articles of Confederation were half a step backward from this.

Ellis, IMO, goes further downhill with each new book; with this one, he accelerates his rate of decline.

(And, for Texans who have to put up with the nuttery of the State Board of Education, Ellis' respectable-sounding Constitutional hagiography fuels their pushes toward American exceptionalism.)

View all my reviews

Of #oilprices, recessions, Saudi Arabia and China

They tie together, as ships and rings and sealing wax and kings, etc.

First, the oil side. A good piece here wonders how long the Saudis can flood the market, even as they dip into their own cash reserves. That said, since the U.S. rig count actually went up two last week, it seems that many private American oil drillers still aren't ready to cry "uncle."

Add into it that the looming likelihood of recession in China will dampen oil demand. Sometimes, the smaller the bone, the more two dogs fight over it. Shrinking demand is certainly a smaller bone.

Those fears, meanwhile, are stoking fears of recession elsewhere, as the WSJ notes.

This ties back to the first piece. Cheap oil is crippling Russia, hamstringing Nigeria, and obliterating Venezuela.

The journal piece notes that cheap oil may also destabilize the Middle East. Iran, even coming back out from sanctions, will have little money to throw around. Iraq has less money to battle ISIS. The Saudis have less money to control other portions of the Middle East. (On the other hand, to the degree ISIS or other terrorist groups have oil connections, they now have less money, too.)

As for America being affected by China, this once again illustrates the gap between Wall Street and Main Street.

The American economy is doing well, despite employees still getting stiffed on wages. China's Potemkin villages and Potemkin market shouldn't affect America; Japan's early 1990s bubble didn't, after all. Unfortunately, Wall Street, by kowtowing to Beijing has fueled both bubbles even as it knew better. (Of course, China's done plenty of internal bubble inflating, too.) Sounds familiar, no?

So, if we do have another recession, even if not as bad as the Great Recession, the first unofficially official sign, before rearview hindsight of two quarters of economic retraction, will be the boo-hooing of banksters.

August 25, 2015

Biden's running, folks

Doesn't this look like a Mafia "blessing"?
It's not officially, but it's unofficially official.

First, Obama's press secretary said he might endorse somebody in the Democratic primary. I figured it probably wouldn't be Hillary Clinton and definitely wouldn't be Bernie Sanders.

And now, Obama, without an endorsement, has gone so far as to give Biden his "blessing." See the cutline for my thoughts on that bit of loveliness.

That said, I'd previously said Biden needed to shit or get off the pot by Labor Day. He may not be shitting yet, but he just swallowed a healthy dose of fiber. The public announcement by Dear Leader's team, first of the endorsement possibility, then the blessing, indicates that, despite remaining semi-neutral, Obama's backing a horse.

And that, gaffes and all, he apparently likes Biden.

That said, what Michael Tomasky calls ugly, I call entertaining. Hell, American politics is a dog-and-pony show of entertainment anyway.

#JebBush and #DonaldTrump: Let that be your last battlefield, like #StarTrek

Add caption
Per my further Photoshopping of Jeb Bush's black hand image, a la the "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" episode of the original Star Trek, and per Donald Trump's groin-kneeing of the Jebster on it, Jeb Bush has come out returning fire.

Of course, Jeb Bush has had to backpedal on the phrase "anchor baby." Beyond that, his claim to support civil liberties and the 14th Amendment are laughable after the 2000 general election and the infamous Brooks Brothers Riot. So, Jebmeister, spare us the bullshit. It's simply not true, and a lot of us know that.

(If only we could force GOP candidates to often speak to GOP-only audiences at times.)

And, if Trump is shifting the GOP campaign to his terms, what happens when he presumably implodes?

That said, I wouldn't bet on that happening.

And, why not?


GOP voters have consistently shown that they'll believe stupid lies by the rich, as long as they're told with Hitlerian conviction. Even some independents will. If Ross Perot hadn't undermined himself in 1992 with his initial drop-out (though, it wouldn't surprise me if he were right about the Poppy Bush campaign spying on him) maybe he could have won.

August 24, 2015

If not Hillary, then whom (for Democrats)?

Per the poll on the right, a post of mine from last week, a post of PD's from last week, and this Huffington Post piece, what if 2016 is 2008 redux for Hillary Clinton? She's got a fresh semi-scandal on hand with her email server, done to avoid both the real and fake parts of the "vast right wing conspiracy" and also done for Clintonian secrecy. (Ultimately, this seems more a Hillary than a Bill thing.)

I agree with Perry that there's enough "real" in the email scandal, plus, enough Hillary Clinton mindset in the issue, and the fact that it's going to be a "drip, drip, drip" for at least a couple of months, that she's officially entering damaged goods territory. Bernie Sanders, per Puff Hoes, is drawing crowds, doing the right thing with Black Lives Matter (if/when they let him), etc. If not the frontrunner, he is in "serious contender" territory.

Is he a winner? (Not in terms of electability, but first in terms of actually getting the Democratic nomination, then in terms of desirability.)

First, other candidates.

I've already said I don't get anybody visiting this website, if they know my political views, and, per that poll, favoring Jim Webb over Clinton. Ugh.

O'Malley? I've noted, without a specific blog post, that a fair amount of today's Baltimore policing issues stem from his time as mayor. If Black Lives Matter wanted to disrupt anybody's campaign, it should probably start with his.

Biden? I blogged about the optics of how he's sticking his toes in the water, among other things; he has now met with Elizabeth Warren, a sign that he's sticking more toes in the water, and perhaps trying to position himself as the electable midpoint between Clinton and Sanders. He'd be incrementally better than Clinton, probably, but that's about it.

(Update, Aug. 24: He's running, it seems more and more.)

Al Gore? I shot him down a month ago, even before more massage therapist rumors started coming over the transom.

Sanders? I've noted that he's not all he cracks himself up to be. On foreign policy issues, a "tell" will be if he votes against Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. For me, that could be a semi-bright line as to whether I'd vote for him, or for nobody, in the Democratic primary.

And, as I noted on the Biden piece, while not listing Gore's age, Lincoln Chafee is the only announced or hotly rumored candidate who's not eligible for Social Security. Biden and Sanders are both 70-plus.

Meanwhile, Nate Silver and his 538 gang provide an analysis of Sanders' chances. It's more off the cuff than scientific, but I agree with the issue that Sanders needs to increase his black support to have a real chance in the primaries. A black supporter of Sanders in South Carolina says it's about name recognition and familiarity as much as anything. Probably at least halfway true.

And, I also agree that Biden's not likely to enter unless Clinton's "drip, drip, drip" picks up.

Which gets to a longer-term question: Where's the Democratic bench? Jerry Brown in California's in the geriatric set and the original neolib governor. Andrew Cuomo in New York is skating on the edge of state-level scandal. Colorado's John Hickenlooper, if the GOP wins 2016, will probably move to the front of the line of 2020 Democratic candidates, if he wants. And he'd be 68 then. Jay Inslee of Washington, just maybe, but on age, he's a year older than Hickenlooper.

Name any other Democratic governors that catch your eye. Or senators. If Kamala Harris replaces Barbara Boxer, she's a possible, but 2020 would be a Senate election year for her, too.

Finally, if you're a Democrat, do you even really want it other than ego? Depending on what oil prices and the Chinese economy look like a year from now, you could be starting your presidency battling a recession, plus trying to figure out the half of Obamacare that's yet to be officially implemented, and other things.

TX Progressives look at Trump, elections, national parks, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance liked it better when politicians wanted to kiss babies and not deport them as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at who votes in City of Houston elections.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos notes that when the GOP opened its house to dog whistles it ushered in the wolves.  The GOP Deserves Its Monster.

Fresh off his vacation, and as it approaches its centennial, SocraticGadfly casts a critical eye at what he describes as the decline and fall of the National Park Service.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Donald Trump is exposing the world to the racism consuming the GOP along with its authoritarian, 2nd amendment mindset.

It was all Houston mayoral elections all last week for PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, who attended a forum in his back yard, smelled some oligarchy in the HGLBT Caucus endorsement, covered the two adverse developments for the HERO, and witnessed Chris Bell's smackdown of Adrian Garcia.

With Bernie Sanders running strongly for 2016, Neil at All People Have Value wrote that polling data reports more and more Americans are open to Socialism. APHV is part of

Sometimes it takes great distress to reveal greatness of leadership.  As the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches on August 29th,">Texas Leftist
reflects on the">extraordinary role Houston played in the storm's aftermath and recovery


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Paradise in Hell previews the fried delicacies that await us at this year's State Fair of Texas.

The Lunch Tray confirms that Americans do indeed want kids to eat healthier food at school.

Texas Watch tells you what's really driving the cost of your car insurance bill.

Alexa Garcia-Ditta takes you on a tour of San Antonio's new HB2-compliant abortion facility.

Tamara Tabo explains why you haven't heard more about all those bikers who were arrested in Waco in May.

The Makeshift Academic reports that Arkansas has fully embraced Medicaid expansion.

Pamela Coloff awards the title of Worst Lawyer in Texas to disgraced and now disbarred former prosecutor Charles Sebesta.