SocraticGadfly: 2/19/17 - 2/26/17

February 23, 2017

Political wish lists — looking at 2018 and beyond

I've already blogged about how I think the Green Party needs to revamp for the future, and, in analyzing Mark Lause, mentioned specific organizational and other issues.

So, let's focus on what I want it to stand for on a positive side. Let me note that I am an ecosocialist or something similar.

So, let's dig in.

1. Guaranteed basic income. And, this must be a non-libertarian version of it — one that does not use GBI/UBI to replace unemployment benefits, SSI/SSDI, etc. No libertarian sheepdogging.

2. Three weeks paid vacation time, guaranteed. We may never get to Western Europe's time-off level, but we should at least emulate Canada. Three weeks paid, guaranteed, after five years on a job, or after age 40 and three years on the same job. Sounds like a baseline. If Greens wanted to really be a party of the "working class," they'd push for this one right away.

3. Eliminating the Bush tax cuts that Obama "made permanent," put more progressivity in the tax code, make all income subject to FICA taxation, tax hedge-fund income like ... well, like income, etc. Taxing hedge fund income as, well, "income," and explaining the fairness issue could be a way for Greens to selectively target disgruntled Trump supporters.

4. So as to not gut the military Keynesianism of the past 70 years all at once, a 5-year, 25 percent cut in defense spending. Yes, Congress cannot officially budget for the military for more than two years at a time, but the Green Party could still express aspirational targets. And we need to do this.

5. Eliminate the NSA and CIA, and force the government to start over.

6. Ban privatizing national-security jobs, even if we don't achieve No. 5.

7. Carbon tax and tariff, all at once, one bill.

8. Single-payer national health care. That includes a British-style NHS, as necessary, to rein in costs. I've blogged about that before. I do not think "plain old" national health care by itself is enough to control costs, and I no more want taxpayers going bankrupt over health care than I do individuals and employers.

9. Science-based stances on medicine and GMOs. One can still raise concerns about the business side of either Big Ag or Pharma while accepting the science on GMOs and vaccines. (I've addressed this in other GP-related posts, but needs to be mentioned again.)

As far as the resistance to Trump in this, while I love almost everything Massimo Pigliucci has to say on philosophy, and most of what he has to say on evolutionary biology, he's wearing the Democrats-only blinders on Trump resistance.

I don't have a problem working with Democrats, or even saying I agree with Trump on trade policy issues, even if that's not likely to help inequality a lot.

But, per the list above, Greens, or parties of the left in general, when working to oppose Trump, must say what we stand for, as well as stand against. As Ted Rall notes, the Women's March didn't do that. On Massimo's post, I invited the Dems-only folks to do the same — say what they stand for. If they even halfway agree with the list of mine, then they need to stop voting Democratic.

Not that they will.

It's the two-partyism, and voting for lesser evilism out of fear of greater evilism, even as both slouch toward Gomorrah.

And, as for Massimo asking what Ted has accomplished? Erm, what did John Podesta accomplish, beyond giving us his risotto recipe?

And, we leftists and left-liberals must not let conservaDems, classical liberals, or whomever claim that the Democratic Party caved into identity politics at the expense of the working class.

Democratic Party local leaders stress that's a false dichotomy. And they're right. At the same time, "we" mustn't let identity politics cover up socioeconomic class issues, or, for Greens, the "eco-" part of ecosocialism. (And, we must remember that somebody else will raise an "identity" issue that many others have not; Greens, as well as identity politics Democrats, are pretty quiet about, say, secularism.) And, at some point, again, per Mark, if that's not Greens, then it's somewhere else.

Beyond that, even The New Republic, of all centrist neoliberal places, says Dems haven't earned the right to sheepdog.

And, beyond the libertarian sheepdogging on UBI, there's plenty of Dem sheepdogging out there, whether sheepdogging on Trump resistance, or former Bernie staffers sheepdogging a Berniecrat third party.

Finally, people who vote left must also make sure the Greens do not offer up accommoGreens to the public. And people who claim to be Green but also libertarian in the full economic sense and claim the free market can solve climate change, stop polluters and address other environmental issues need to be weeded out of the party. Call it reverse sheepdogging or whatever.

February 21, 2017

No, #segregation and Jim Crow were NOT all about breaking up labor solidarity (updated)

Speaking of solidarity, even more than I despair of some supporters of movements like Black Lives Matter ignoring possible interracial solidarity on socioeconomic issues, I grow tired of others claiming that almost all black problems today are ultimately class-based issues, while minimizing racial ones.

A highly oversimplifying article at the Atlantic by Alana Semuels, as retweeted by Doug Henwood, a primary abettor of the "it's all about class" narrative, have led me to drop a blog-posting dime about this while it's fresh in my mind.

First, there's the header that "Segregation had to be invented." Erm, no, wrong. Period.

Per Wikipedia's article on Jim Crow laws, such laws were already coming on the books by or before the formal end of Reconstruction in 1877. That's before the Populist Party formally existed — a party which itself by 1900, fractured in the South over black-white unity, as the political history of Thomas G. Watson shows. (Why Watson shifted, I don't know. I've never read a biography of him)

It is true that, in the South, the Farmers' Alliance started in Texas in 1876, and spread from there elsewhere in the South. But, per it's name, it remained focused on farm issues. For more of what that means, vis a vis the claims of Semuels, etc., look further down.

(I already knew most of this, but a teh Google for an intelligent but empirically unenlightened person wouldn't have taken that long.)

Indeed, worries about the possibility of Jim Crow led Charles Sumner and Ben Butler to push for the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which specifically addressed equality in accommodations, foreshadowing Southern state government acts that ultimately led to Plessy v Ferguson. But, also foreshadowing Plessy, and its vote on it, in 1883, the Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional in part — namely, the parts that were fully upheld in Plessy.

From 1875 to 1896 in broadest terms, or from the 1883 SCOTUS ruling to the 1890 Louisiana legislative act that led to Plessy, was there any great hue and cry among working-class whites about breaking labor solidarity?

Uhm, hear those crickets south of the Mason-Dixon?

The reality is that before 1890, the South, other than a few iron mills and the like, remained highly underindustrialized compared to the North, as well as highly less urbanized. Indeed, Charlotte, the focus of Semuels' article and a book behind it, had a population of just 7,000 in the 1880 Census — and 4,500 in 1870. That's why, in the brief period that Populism was able to get blacks and whites in the South together, its focus was on farm labor.

(Semuels has other problems, speaking of this issue and specific dates. She repeatedly uses "the late 1800s" in saying you could see this or that in Charlotte, without saying whether that's the 1870s, 1880s, or 1890s. And, if sources of hers are doing that, then she erred by not pinning them down.)

In other words, the likes of Semuels, and even worse, the likes of a Doug Henwood, and an Adolph Reed (more on him below) who will surely agree with Doug's liking of the piece, are conflating a mild American equivalent of Russia's Social Revolutionaries with a mild American version of Russia's Marxists.

Totally wrong.

As the South became more urbanized along with becoming more industrialized, post-Plessy segregation expanded, yes. It expanded because, with smaller cities, less need was seen for it before that time.

Beyond THAT, the very Eric Foner quoted by Semuels could have told her about the lack of industrialization in the South in the first 20 years after the Civil War. So could President Grant, as noted in Ronald C. White's new bio. Why? Northerners wouldn't invest down there, for a variety of reason. Railroad investments made more money in the Midwest and West. Other investments were problematic due to race-based violence.

Besides, as Wiki's piece on the Farmers Alliance notes, in the South, it was strictly white-only. And, it was both patronizing and condescending toward Southern blacks in maintaining Jim Crow. Again, 30 seconds on teh Google, or specifically, teh Wiki, is all that's needed to refudiate Semuels, and by extension Henwood, Reed, and others of their ilk, like Jacobin, which has on more than one occasion claimed that racism was not a problem in early organized labor. (And, in comments on one piece, doubled down on said denialism.)

Reed is even worse in attempts to claim "it's all about class."

A few months about, when discussing Black Lives Matter raising police brutality issues across the country, he responded rhetorically, wondering why police brutality was so high in New Mexico when it's one of the whitest states in the country, in his claim.
And, according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%.
No, I don't think that's playing "gotcha." Rather, I think it — and the whole piece — was Reed playing "gotcha" with Black Lives Matter activists. The first four states on the list all have high American Indian populations. New Mexico has a high Hispanic population and Arizona a medium one.

What if BLM is right — and we need to extrapolate from largely white cops' undue violence against blacks in particular to their violence against minorities in general.

But, that's a sidebar. New Mexico, separating out Hispanics of any race, as the Census calls it, as a separate socio-ethnic group, has long been a majority-minority state. Even without doing that, it's STILL a full one-third non-white. It has about zero in common demographically with Wyoming. I'm using Wikipedia, even if some call it "lazy-ass." (I'm also using my personal knowledge of New Mexico.)

And, now, Henwood apparently doesn't want to accept that, complete with screen grab sent to him via Twitter.

Dude? (And I use that term on purpose. And, now, perhaps for Henwood as well as Reed.)

New Mexico has been a majority-minority state for decades. It is one of four such states, and is specifically just 40 percent non-Hispanic white.

Whether Reed is that ignorant, or, just to insult BLM, he was claiming that if you're not black, you're white, in either case, I lost a lot of respect for him right there.

I also suspect that Tom Hanchett, author of “Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975,” is trying to make a case for Charlotte as being a foreshadower of the New South, just as Atlanta apologists have long done. That said, why Semuels is digging up a book nearly 20 years old to try to help her make her points is also interesting.

The last few paragraphs above, from the "Besides ..." on, are what led me to blog about this issue.

The left-liberals with a "class-only" lens seem to me to be guilty, first of all, of starting with a zero-sum approach to particular issues of labor or other socioeconomic troubles. And, because they're approaching it from the labor side, that zero-sum lens is a class-based one.

I have no problem seeing where class may have been an issue in segregation. But I know it wasn't the only one, and highly doubt it was the primary one. Ditto on other issues of black-white labor relations before World War II, at a minimum on a terminus ad quem.

Beyond that, I'll freely admit to being a bit of an agent provocateur, or neo-Cynic challenger of received wisdom. But, no, it's primarily that I see a certain amount of left-liberals operating with a "class-only" lens, or nearly so, on issues like this. And it's both wrong and off-putting.

To riff on an old bon mot directed against Freud? Sometimes racism is just racism.



Updates as they come via Twitter and my own research.

First, was an 1890s New Orleans strike an exception or not on poor race relations within organized labor in the South? I say more exception than rule. Even if blacks and whites struck together, they were kept in separate unions, in this case. Even with "relatively" enlightened miners in the early 1900s, segregated locals were maintained by the United Mine Workers! In other words, it's arguable that selfish white miners recognized they had to play ball with black miners just enough to keep them from being scabs, and nothing else. "Class" in capitalistic societies may ultimately be socioeconomic, but it's never JUST socioeconomic, and even that word has "socio-" in front of "economic."

And, the fact that white workers allegedly received no material benefit over racism is itself working through a quasi-Marxist lens. Many Religious Righters get no material benefit over voting GOP, but due to pro-life issues, continue to do so.

Second, a lot of people with either a class-only or a class-first lens for these issues are getting a little butt-hurt. That's fine, or "fine." It adds to my contrarian nature on something like this. (I notice that commenter "ebarr" created his Blogger or Google Plus account sometime this month, and I'll venture created earlier today just to comment here.)

Related, per one Twitter commenter? I do not claim to be seeing things through a "race-only" lens. Or necessarily through a race-first lens, though, if you want my comment on that, I DO view Jim Crow that way. Let's not forget that the incident that led to Plessy was about public transportation — nothing to do with labor issues. And, I'm sure I'm far from alone about viewing Jim Crow laws, and other elements of segregation, through a race-first lens.

And, re another commenter, I'm not a "liberal," I'm a "left-liberal." The two are different. I, as a rule of thumb, would place left-liberal — per the actual phrase — halfway between liberal and leftist. And, that self-description is nearly a decade old; today, I'm probably halfway between left-liberal and leftist. For a variety of reasons, I don't foresee using the word leftist of myself in the immediate future. That said, per that allegedly piece-of-crap Wikipedia, "libertarian socialist" is a OK, but not great, descriptor. (At the same time, I recognize that many non-communal aspects of socialism are hard to develop without government intervention, so the "libertarian" part needs a grain of salt, too. But, not too much; I'm probably about in the middle of Greens as far as views on such things. Speaking of, eco-socialist might be better yet as a descriptor. I am generally NOT a localist, as I think that, in America, that stance leaves the door open to libertarianism, states-rights movements, and big business co-option, among other things. Otherwise, I consider my political stances, along with other aspects of my self, to be kind of protean.

Re yet another Twitter commenter, I never claimed Reed was wrong in his claims on shooting disparity. Just that he was wrong — way wrong — in his demographic claims about New Mexico. Said person is now muted. I'm not a Communist, and not a real fan of people putting the hammer-and-sickle icons as part of their Facebook aliases, either. (That said, "Marxist" seems to be getting to be almost as vague a word as "liberal."

Third, I'm likely to do a pull-out or knockoff from this piece related to the first two update points. And, I'm certainly likely to do a pull-out on the Reed piece. (Elsewhere, per Naked Capitalism, he has claimed that identity politics are being used to undermine class-based politics. Dude, there are plenty of people who aren't Hillbots or other DNC surrogates, and who, like me, find your "either-or" claim ridiculous. And, you don't have to be a Green to know that. Local Democrats in Ohio are on the record as rejecting any such dichotomy. And, yes, worshipers at the cult of Reed, I think he IS perpetuating a dichotomy. Deal with it.)

Seriously, while I think he has some insights, I 
A. Think he's wrong on this and
B. Think there's a cult of Adolf Reed.

Well, as a good neo-Cynic, I love puncturing cults' balloons.


Update 2: This led me to write a blog post about Twitter protectionism by myself or others, kind of like a miniature version of concern trolling. Well, sometime between writing the Reed piece and it, Henwood blocked me. Good-bye. Just to make it formal, even though he wasn't following me, I blocked him back.

I should add, per this Existential Comics issue, that it's "interesting," during the time I followed him on Twitter, that Henwood just about never, if at all, mentioned Franz Fanon. I'm not sure Reed does a lot, either.


Update 3: This is a good point, speaking of misinterpretations of American history, to remind people that the Electoral College is NOT "all about slavery," as I blogged a month ago.

February 20, 2017

TX Progressives say Happy Presidents Day with the weekly wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance will light a scented candle outside Ikea in solidarity with the confused people of Sweden and salutes the good, the bad, and the ugly among American presidents on Presidents' Day as it brings you this week's roundup.

 Libby Shaw at Daily Kos is amused by the Republicans hiding from their constituents. No wonder. The Party has been serving the interests of billionaires and oligarchs for decades, both domestic and Russian, apparently. No Republicans we are not about to move on. This is more dangerous than Watergate.

 The last few months have been perplexing, as we try to figure out life on the Trump train. UGH. But as Texas Leftist points out, some things are slowly coming into focus. After seeming to be free from consequences, we're finally seeing that the President and his Administration can be held accountable for their actions.

 SocraticGadfly, on hearing about the death of Norma Jean McCorvey of Roe v. Wade fame, offers an extended take on her, the plaintiff in a simultaneous suit, and the state of abortion in America today.

 Shadetree psychologist PDiddie at Brains and Eggs diagnoses President Trump as in desperate need of an intervention.

 Easter Lemming Liberal News showcases Pat Van Houte's grassroots campaign (website) for Pasadena mayor which relies on small donations and prohibits donations from city contractors.

 CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme warns that the disrespect the Republicans show are constitution is only getting worse.  Now they want to actually write their hate and kleptocracy into the document, itself.

 Neil at All People Have Value made note of the climate change art exhibit made by the construction crew on Memorial Drive in Houston. APHV is part of


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

 Grits for Breakfast explains why indigent defense costs have risen as crime has declined.

 The Texas Election Law Blog analyzes two significant election-related bills that have been filed.

 Paradise in Hell notes that Dear Leader Trump is now 0.00002% closer to proving his claims about election fraud.

 Raj Mankad wants to see multiple approaches taken to make our streets safer.

 Julie Rovner takes a deep dive into four GOP talking points on health care.

 Raise Your Hand Texas explains why voucher advocates are becoming irritable.

 Eater Houston notes that several Houston restaurants will be raising money for the ACLU in support of their immigrant employees.

February 19, 2017

Thoughts on the death of Roe — that is, Norma McCorvey

Norma McCorvey (Washington Post)
Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff, as the anonymized Jane Roe, in the famous Roe v Wade case that legalized abortion, in general, across the US, died yesterday at 69.

In one sense, other than being white and not minority, one might argue that she was not the ideal candidate for the challenge to Texas' abortion laws, and ultimately, similarly restrictive ones elsewhere.

I don't mean the observation about her skin color to be pejorative to people of any skin color or socially constructed "race." It's simply an observation that, with America even more white-majority 45 years ago than today, I think many dispassionate observers would agree with.

Outside the "other"? She obviously had some degree of depression at the time of wanting an abortion, whether she really had cut her wrists, as she claimed.

And, she felt — whether totally accurately, totally inaccurately, or somewhere in the middle — that she was "used" by the pro-choice movement.

That said, her mental health issues did make her, both then and now, an ideal candidate for allowing for, then, and preserving, today, maternal mental health late-term abortion rights.

And, speaking of, it appears that McCorvey, out of her own mental health issues, might not have a totally accurate story about being "used," and might have done some "using" herself. And that judgment comes from both pro-choice and pro-life leaders:
Harsher judgments presented Ms. McCorvey as a user who trolled for attention and cash. Abortion rights activists questioned her motives when she decamped in 1995, after years on their side, and was baptized in a swimming pool by the evangelical minister at the helm of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue. 
The minister, Flip Benham, told Prager, who profiled Ms. McCorvey in Vanity Fair magazine in 2013, that he had come to see her as someone who “just fishes for money.”
That's pretty blunt. But honest. 

She was allegedly bitter that her attorneys, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, wouldn't find her an illegal abortion site. She found one herself, per her Wikipedia page, but it closed before she got there.

That said, while attorneys don't have a Hippocratic oath (insert "legal ethics" joke here), surely it is legal malpractice to deliberately suborn criminal behavior. McCorvey may not have understood that, but that nonetheless stands.

Also, among the people who claim she was "used" by the pro-choice movement is Gloria Allred, who's no stranger to using people herself, although I think there's a degree of truth about this.

But, behind it all, I think there's an issue of neediness, along with mental instability, that surely goes back to her childhood. Yes, she wasn't asked to speak at Roe v Wade rallies. That said, that case ultimately became a class action, and also was decided by the Supreme Court the same day as a lesser-known case, Doe v Bolton. The "Doe," Sandra Cano, claims, like McCorvey, that attorneys lied to her. You think McCorvey's life was complicated? It had nothing, arguably, on that of Cano.

That said, pro-choicers should at the same time acknowledge that her regret was probably at least to some degree legitimate. (Ditto for that of Cano, who died in 2014.) After she allegedly became pro-life, she still supported first-trimester abortions, so she didn't jump into being a pawn of the Religious Right.

And, she remained a lesbian, in a relationship, for a full decade after that.

In short, her relationship to the issue of abortion was somewhat convoluted and certainly messy, other things aside. And, you know, overall, that's where most Americans are at. They, like McCorvey, certainly support first-trimester abortion by a clear majority. A smaller majority, but still a sound one, supports second-trimester abortion with some restrictions. Of course, the Casey case has replaced the trimester structure with one of fetal viability. (And, "Brave New World" artificial wombs and lustful hopes of some aside, I don't think fetal viability will be moved much further back. And, note to the Religious Right: The Old Testament/Tanakh says nothing about abortion per se, and has one passage about induced abortion by assault of a pregnant woman that treats even that like only a minor crime, and the New Testament says nothing, period.)

And, on the third hand, per Idries Shah talking about "sides of an issue":
To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.
And, given the general unreliability of memory and oral testimony decades later, I wouldn't take either McCorvey's or Cano's regret stories at 100 percent face value. I think both of them were angry at being pushed forward, even under pseudonyms — or rather, being put on the spot more than pushed forward, as both of them had given birth multiple times and put all of their babies up for adoption. But, as noted above, I wouldn't totally dismiss them either.

Abortion will remain messy — no matter what the Religious Right tries to do. And, it will remain messy, despite some on the pro-choice side who may want to present it as a relatively simple or clean decision.

And, as someone in that muddled middle, who would use the phrase pro-choice to describe himself, within the fetal viability strictures, but used to be pro-life when religious, I think some people on "both sides" could use some learning.

Some pro-choicers, without giving credence to the Religious Right idea that all women who have abortions have guilt trips later, could acknowledge that some women indeed do have that happen, and work with them.

Some, or many, pro-lifers, could stop guilt-tripping women in general. The Religious Right portion of pro-lifers could also acknowledge the reality of, and real concerns of, feminism. It could also acknowledge secular pro-lifers like the late Nat Hentoff. But, moral superiority may come off as easier than expanding their circle.

Speaking of secular pro-lifers? Some pro-choicers, who reject the idea of fetal viability in general, might want to realize they too are off-putting to some of us in that muddled middle, that "third side."

(And a sidebar: "Pro-lifers," by self-label, who support the death penalty can drop the label, as the Vatican, for example, has opposed the death penalty for decades — and we haven't even talked about its still-racist application in the US.)

And, I haven't even mentioned, until now, related issues, such as access to birth control, both ease of availability for something like RU-486 today, and its coverage, or non-coverage, by insurance plans. The Protestant portion of the Religious Right, if it doesn't buy Catholic arguments on contraception, doesn't even have a good theological leg to stand on here.

So, while the pro-choice side of "both sides" isn't always perfect, it's in general more accurate, more honest, and more concerned for the broader issues that pregnant woman face — and the gamut of options to address pregnancy-related concerns — than is the pro-life side.