May 20, 2017

The cult of Adolph Reed (and maybe, of dime-store Marxism? — updated)


Earlier this week, I tackled a very problematic piece at The Atlantic, one that claimed that postbellum segregation and Jim Crow in the U.S. South was about class first — and specifically about blocking the organization of labor across color lines first — and only about race second, with the implication that race was a distance second in that second.

I rightly noted that most the South didn't industrialize much in the first couple of decades after the Civil War, that when it did, unionization had its own racial problems, that farm organizations also had segregation problems, that the South also didn't urbanize much in that time and more.

That alone was enough to set off the Doug Henwoods of the world.

But, then, I dared question the insights of Adolph Reed and the shitstorm hit.

Reed is even worse in attempts to claim that modern minority economic problems in general, and modern black economic problems in particular, are "all about class" or nearly so

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.

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.)

(Update: If we want to properly follow through on ethnic assortment and police brutality, Reed is even more wrong, per High Country News:

In the West, as in the rest of the nation, Native Americans are the racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement, at a rate three times higher than whites.
And, hence, the development of a #NativeLivesMatter hashtag. Rather than do too much in the way of updating on this piece, I'll do a separate one with overhauling.)

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.


And, speaking of?


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? (That said, I'm not claiming that such violence IS what's happening. My claim is limited to Reed's claim about New Mexico's whiteness or not. That's contra one Reed-ite on Twitter who apparently thought — or more likely, wanted to believe — that I was making that larger claim. And, the screenshot map she sent me only included the Southwest. And, getting back to the issue of sociology vs. Marxist-based ideas of class, such data don't address the issue of how much, in a matter like policing, how much minority cops internalize attitudes toward minorities of their white coworkers.)


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.


And, I think Reed himself has problems with this. Let's look at at that pull quote just above.


I think he's trying to force racism to be viewed through a class based lens. And I simply disagree.


A further sign of that?


Elsewhere, per Naked Capitalism, Reed 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.


I also disagree with the following Tweets from the Twitter interlocutor who posted the Reed quote screen grab above.

Nope.

The "without race, no racism" is, of itself trite. The claim that "race" in the modern sense is a class construct? Those people need to read some sociology, and not just about the U.S., nor about the capitalist West in general. I'll also suggest non-Western social histories, social psychology, and to the degree that it is done right, evolutionary psychology done right.


It ultimately goes back there. The quasi-xenophobia our hominid ancestors had against members of outgroups, against "otherness," existed about, oh, 2 million years before capitalism.


Ergo, no, the idea of constructing "race" did not come from capitalism. Nor, of course, is racism purely a "white" thing and certainly not a "European white" thing. Pre-capitalist Islamic empire Arabs were racist against blacks. Blacks can be racist today. Jews certainly can be, and are. (During the Sassanid Empire, a Jewish state in today's Yemen joined the Sassanids in a sack of Jerusalem, complete with pogrom [sic] against Christians.)


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.


Period.


Now, more on the idea, which led to the Reed-ites popping out of the Twitter woodwork, on the issue of how much segregation and Jim Crow were due to simple, plain old racism, no class-first claims, and how much they were due to employers trying to break up interracial solidarity of workers.


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, and either couldn't or wouldn't bring themselves to transcend either their own racism, societally imposed standards of racism, or both. 


"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. This idea of nonmaterial sociological benefits is behind the whole idea of "mudsills," also covered by Eric Foner and others.


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. 


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.


Seriously, while I think Reed has some insights, I 

A. Think he's wrong on this issue;
B. Think there's a cult of sorts of Adolf Reed; and
C. Think there's a cult of sorts of chic Marxism.

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


Also, re the background of some of the class-first scattershotters, I think "Marxism" or "communism" (at least in America) are as vacuous of terms as is "liberalism." The typical self-professed American Marxist is likely to be making that profession while grasping to a handhold of a purchase in the middle class with two claw-like hands.


Beyond that, Marxists who put hammer-and-sickle combos on their Twitter bios, or nom-de-plumes, probably are unaware that the sickle comes from the Bolsheviks forcibly incorporating the Russian peasants' party, the Social-Revolutionaries.


Finally, no, I don't claim "some of my best friends are ..." I do state that I've spent a clear majority of the last 15 years in not just majority-minority cities (ever more big cities in America are majority-minority in the central city, and a fair amount in the broader metropolitan areas), but in majority-minority communities or neighborhoods, or suburbs or small towns. 


==


At the same time, having run into social justice warriors, or SJWs, repeatedly online, and now, more and more, within Green Party activism groups, I am halfway sympathetic to some of Reed's worries about Black Lives Matter, and other identity politics-based activism groups.


Halfway sensitive.


But not all the way sensitive.


And, still not really sensitive at all to the idea of needing to see nearly all issues of the left through a class-first lens.


==


Update: 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 Frantz Fanon. I'm not sure Reed does a lot, either.

May 18, 2017

The 25th Amendment solution (or non-solution)

Good old Rusty Douthat is proposing that we look at the 25th Amendment, rather than the impeachment process, as a way of dethroning President Trump.

Update: Proving that Peter Principleship stupidity is bipartisan for inside-the-Beltway / Acela Corridor pundits, Richard Cohen halfway makes the same call, though he doesn't go full Douthat.

Beyond my continuing to reject the idea of a Trump-Putin conspiracy, I do agree with Douthat that Trump probably hasn't risen to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" prescribed by the Constitutional impeachment process in part because he's too dumb to do that.

So, yes, let's look at the 25th Amendment.

Section 4 is the applicable portion:
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. 
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Several thoughts.

First, this is an invitation to a quasi-coup by a savvy Veep. Mike Pence is certainly more savvy than Trump. And, people like Rusty Douthat would greatly prefer him. In fact, I've half-jokingly tweeted that Trump tapped Pence as sort of a hostage against Congressional Democrats.

You just have to round up half the cabinet, plus one, and say, "Voila, I'm the acting president."

Then, if Trump contests it?

Oops, you're back to a quasi-impeachment setting.

Two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.

So, first, for this quasi-coup to succeed, Pence has to be a good vote-organizer, and a good vote-counter along with that.

Second, Members of Congress must have gonads nearly as big as they would for impeachment. Charles Cooke at National Review talks about the "psychic shock" of invoking the amendment. He's primarily referring to Trump voters, but this must also be extended to Congress, whose members in general like the daylight of responsibility about as much as cockroaches.

Third, it seems pretty clear this provides for a JFK-type situation, as Cooke also notes; in fact, it was in the wake of his assassination, and wonders about where U.S. leadership would have been at had Lee Harvey Oswald not killed him, but, say, the head shot did permanently incapacitate him, that the amendment were passed.

In this case, even for the initial coup, let alone two-thirds of Congress, Pence would have to get a psychiatrist sign off on a mental health evaluation. First, is Trump "diminished" in that sense? Probably not. Is he an idiot? Yes.

(Sidebar and addendum: If a threat of the 25th Amendment could be used to force Trump to take ADHD meds, if that's what he needs, well, in that limited sense, it might work. But, the threat has to be credible in the first place.)

And, Oliver Wendell Holmes, from the Supreme Court bench, long ago spoke about the rights of America to have idiotic laws and, presumably and tacitly behind that, idiotic government officials.

For example:
I always say, as you know, that if my fellow citizens want to go to Hell I will help them. It's my job.
And, unless something is unconstitutional, judges theoretically rule by statute, then common law.

So, no, Rusty, it's a non-solution. And I think you know that. Basically, you're trying to fart in already stinking bath water and pretend you're giving us a bubble bath.

There's also this sidebar, written about impeachment but also applicable to use of the 25th Amendment. What if it fails? You think Trump is stark raving mad NOW? To add to that, Bruce Bartlett notes that Faux News et al would likely have shielded Nixon today while sheepdogging Congressional Republicans.

==

Sidebar: This is yet another argument for parliamentary, or at least quasi-parliamentary, government. (A Donald Trump would have never risen to run the GOP. Unfortunately, a Paul Ryan might have, and a Hillary Clinton almost certainly would have headed the Democratic Party. Of course, quasi-parliamentary government would theoretically provide more openings for third parties.)

And, I also think Rusty knows THAT.

Per my review of "Frozen Republic," the real answer is constitutional reform that goes well beyond eliminating the Electoral College. All of this is badly, badly needed.

Sidebar 2: This is the second blog post in a row where I've had to note the Peter Principle class of inside-the-Beltway, Acela Corridor "journalists" has limited understanding of the U.S. Constitution. That's not to mention the Texas Legislature's ongoing cluelessness, mixed with willfulness, about that document.

May 17, 2017

And now, it's Comey's turn to change his story

A week ago, Comey's claim, via his own set of leakers, is that Trump asked him to be his consigliere, Comey said no, and that was that.

Yesterday, Comey's claiming no, really, it was about Russia. Well, the part about investigating Michael Flynn's alleged, potential, possible Russia connections. And, Comey says, while he doesn't have tapes, he does have memos.

My thoughts?

Comey's a skilled bureaucrat, a skilled non-elected politician, and a skilled bureaucratic infighter. He's probably guessing that "Russia" plays better with the GOP side of the Congressional aisle than does "not kissing The Donald's pinkie ring."

Of course, this is if you believe that Michael Flynn had illegal, or unethical, contacts with Russian officials.

I do not believe he had any illegal contacts. And, in the arena of what passes for political ethics in D.C., I don't think he had any unethical contacts — with Russia. The Russia Today payment? A nothingburger in D.C. terms, in my opinion. Speaking with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak? Well, gee, the man IS Russia's ambassador to the US and Flynn WAS National Security Advisor-designate.

Yes, we're learning more about how many previously undisclosed contacts Flynn, or other Trump surrogates, had with Kislyak or other Russians. Again, though, none of them illegal. And, really, other than the non-disclosure, none unethical. And, Counterpunch is probably right in that the national security establishment is working hand-in-hand with the mainstream media (whose leakers about Trump's Israeli intell leaking may be worse than Trump's original leaking) to make this nothingburger into a Big Mac.

Oh, presidents in general use unofficial backchannels. The issues are:
A. To what ends?
B. How skillfully are they used?

Unfortunately, Trump's idea of undercutting the national security establishment, while laudable in some ways, was undercut by both his general incompetence and his refusal to look at actual intelligence evaluations, even if he took a different line on them than the nat-sec eggs.

Meanwhile, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein's appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller to be special prosecutor in this case is reassuring as far as Rosenstein's ethics, and surely reassuring to the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. A good thing? That's another issue.

Back to the thread of Flynn himself.

Flynn's contacts with Turkish President Erdogan, or intermediaries, is a whole nother issue than the Russia contacts. They probably need investigation. And, they probably won't get investigatoin.

A full investigation might show otherwise on both Russia and Turkey. Or it might simply finish scapegoating Flynn. Flynn's a nutbar, with a son who's an Alex Jones-level nutbar. Flynn was an idiot when he ran the DIA. I feel no sympathy for him.

But "Turkey" ain't "Russia" in the jaundiced, bloodshot eyes of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. (This is also why I don't see a Nixonian conspiracy behind Comey's firing.)

And, the Emoluments Clause?

Not in effect. Flynn had retired from the military and had not yet been confirmed as National Security Advisor. A technicality, yes, but I know the Constitution better than the Peter Principle inside-the-Beltway and Acela Corridor media do. Ditto for whoever contributed to, and edited, Flynn's Wikipedia page.

Oh, and if it's not obvious by now, while AG Loretta Lynch did leave him semi-hanging at times, I still don't have a lot of sympathy for Comey, either. I've said that in more detail last week.

May 16, 2017

TX Progressives talk Trump, Comey, #txlege, even baseball!

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn't take loyalty pledges as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff considers the possibilities of Big John Cornyn's Senate seat being vacated by an appointment as FBI Director.

SocraticGadfly skips his writing about the Comey firing, and politics in general. It's baseball season, and he offers an update of a piece on how the Cardinals are lucky they didn't overpay to re-sign Jason Heyward.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes Sally Yates owned John Cornyn and Ted Cruz this week. Cornyn proved he's a Trump puppet and an excellent choice of FBI director - if you want to destroy our democracy and make Trump officially god emperor.

On the day the world lost its mind, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs was a little dizzy and nauseous but otherwise got through it ... same as everyone else.

Dos Centavos has a laugh, a cry, and a head-shaking about the ACLU’s Texas travel advisory.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston lauds what he sees as local school district voters rejecting the Tea Party.


Neil at All People Have Value attended a Trumpcare Die-in and saw a Sandra Bland memorial railroad car. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

===============

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

Paradise in Hell notes a correlation between life expectancy and Trump support.

The Texas Election Law Blog comments on a big ProPublica voter ID story.

Better Texas Blog laments the likely demise of some good school finance legislation.

Andrew Edmonson tells what you can do to fight against attacks on LGBT Texans.

The TSTA Blog wonders why charter schools are asking for more tax money.

Texas Vox bemoans the bills killed by the House "Freedom Caucus" in a fit of legislative pique.

Grits for Breakfast has an update on some criminal justice bills in the Lege.

TPJ adds up how much predatory lenders have been spending this legislative session.

And, R.G. Ratcliffe is now officially Texas Monthly’s politics editor.

-->

May 15, 2017

SCOTUS still hates third parties on voting rights issues; NC ruling was minor

Don't get sheepdogged by SCOTUS with or w/out Gorsuch
Don't let the Supreme Court's not granting cert on the North Carolina voting law fool you as to the Supreme Court's overall stance on voting rights issues. It actually declined to hear FOUR cases, all of which it had conferences about last week, as Ballot Access News details.

First, the NC case isn't as big a win as is being lauded on Twitter and other social media. The new Democratic administration had asked the court not to hear the case and thus let the appeals court ruling stand. That's all that happened.

The second and third were about open primaries in Hawaii and Montana, with suits by those states' Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. The Nine rightly decided not to intervene into legitimate state legislative actions.

The fourth is the most problematic one.

Here’s the details:
It refused to hear Libertarian Party of Kentucky v Grimes, 16-1034, thus continuing its 26-year record of refusing all cert petitions from minor parties and independent candidates that concern election law (unless the major parties were also in the same case). The issue was the state’s restrictive definition of “political party”, one which requires certain support in a presidential race.
Note first that long streak. Note that third parties are OK if they can coattail on a major party. In other words, while racial restrictions on voting are still the most important violation of the Voting Rights Act, they're not the only one, and non-racial violations continue to get even shorter shrift than do racial ones.

This should be of concern on the certain FEC appeal of its loss to the Libertarian and Green parties over the Commission on Presidential Debates back in February. It's also another reason I tell Dems-only voters that their "Oh the SCOTUS" scare tactics/sheepdogging every four years don't work, because the Nine vote on plenty of things besides abortion.

The edited NYT's "Duopoly Guide to Presidential Behavior"

The duopoly, face to face on many issues
The New York Times editorial board just published its "The Republican's Guide to Presidential Behavior."

In the desire for true bipartisan honesty — or rather, true anti-duopoly honesty — I've edited it, with italics about similar behavior by Bill Clinton and/or Barack Obama, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in cases where such applies.

Or, in the case of the Times' "Putin Did It" bullshit, simply written in "bullshit."

So, herewith, the Congressional Republican’s Guide to Presidential Behavior.
If you are the president, you may freely:
• attack private citizens on Twitter
Didn't Bill, and Hillary, do this pre-Twitter? The "vast right-wing conspiracy" was a mix of truth and bullshit, esp. since Hillary's never ever explained her cattle future killings.
• refuse to take responsibility for military actions gone awry
Killing civilians, and not calling them "civilians," but "collateral damage," as Obama did, works well.
• accuse a former president, without evidence, of an impeachable offense
Or accuse a former president's Veep or others of an impeachable offense, then as president, for the first of a jillion times, say, "I'm looking forward now."
• employ top aides with financial and other connections to a hostile foreign power
BULLSHIT.
• accept foreign payments to your businesses, in possible violation of the Constitution
Al Gore as Clinton's Veep, for the 1996 re-election campaign. Remember the Chinese donor solicitations on official government property? The NYT has the top Google search story on "Frank Giustra" + "uranium" + "Clinton Foundation." And Ken Silverstein has yet more on presidential-level Dems feeding at the the foreign capitalism hog trough.
• occupy the White House with the help of a hostile foreign power
BULLSHIT.
• intimidate congressional witnesses
NOT a "threat" or "intimidation" in normal use of the word. Besides, Sally Yates gets a separate ding for advising Obama not to commute Leonard Peltier's prison time. Strange that the name "Leonard Peltier" never even gets mentioned by the NYT.
• allow White House staff members to use their personal email for government business
Hillary's private email server.
• use an unsecured personal cellphone
Obama had to be "nudged" off his BlackBerry.
• criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products
• review and discuss highly sensitive intelligence in a restaurant, and allow the Army officer carrying the “nuclear football” to be photographed and identified by name
Going back far longer, but JFK ditching the nuclear football to fuck bimbos.
• obstruct justice
Bill Clinton and "is." Clinton asking Monica Lewinsky to perjure herself. Barack Obama and refusal to pursue war crimes cases, if not a legal definition of "obstruction of justice," an ethical one.
• hire relatives for key White House posts, and let them meet with foreign officials and engage in business at the same time
Hillary Clinton running Bill's Hillarycare plan.
• collude with members of Congress to try to shut down investigations of you and your associates
Clinton did not, that I know of, do this with members of Congress, but did with WH staff.
• repeat untruths
Clinton, many a time. Remember how members of your own op-ed board loathed the start of his administration? Obama, repeating half-truths many a time on drone strikes, as well as full untruths at other times, like the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.
• lie
See immediately above.
If you’re a Republican legislator, stick this list on the fridge and give it a quick read the next time you get upset at a president.
If you're tired of the duopoly, and the MSM's bullshit, stick this modified list on your refrigerator.


Counterpunch has yet more on Obama's and Clinton's (or Clintons') behavior, but notes that they had a certain liberal style. A je nais se quois? That allowed them to get away with Republican policy actions.

Things like this are why intelligent, independent-minded people who know politics laughed at the Times' aggressive post-election circulation drive and related news and opinion, long before its hiring of Bret Stephens gave us reason to laugh more and to say Eff You at the same time.