Last best hope

Xenophobia – fear of foreigners – Robert Reich tells us in his latest excellent video is the new “word of the year”.  He goes on to explain the rise of xenophobia in the world as a reaction to “globalization” and comments on the threat that xenophobia presents to traditional American values of tolerance and self-government.  All too true.

public_domain_astronomy_21Globalization has several facets and one can hardly empathize with how multinational corporations have spread a banal consumer culture – more McDonalds, Chevys, and sneakers – to every corner of the earth.  Moreover, those unchecked corporate values have systematically exploited the world’s poor for cheap labor while abusing the earth’s remaining resources.  It is clear, as Bernie Sanders has pointed out, that our trade policies must be more sensitive to avoid mindlessly exporting our manufacturing and jobs to obtain cheap labor and the ability to pollute an unregulated environment.  Our failure to address those issues has exacerbated nativism in the US and explains the success of Trump’s demagoguery.

But something else has happened under the radar while the American public obsessed about deflategate and the latest reality TV.  A multinational, largely educated and intelligent middle-class has been rising in the great international cities and universities of the world.  This too is a form of globalization, of internationalism, and it is almost all good.  At McGill University in Montreal, where my daughter studies, 25.5 percent of the student body hails from a country other than Canada.  Many students today are comfortable studying abroad, learning a much more ecumenical respect for variant cultures.  Many students are multi-lingual and subscribe to a borderless international world perhaps best reflected by social media.  Tonight in Montreal, there will be New Year’s Eve parties where young intellectuals slide effortlessly between English, French, and Spanish, and where young men and women talk, in real time over their Facetime or Google Chat with lovers in Stockholm or Manila.  For these young men and women, there is a new world in which the whole panoply of ethnic and racial diversity is endlessly fascinating, but which, at the end of the day is like points in “Whose Line is it Anyway?” – it doesn’t really matter.

This multinational, international culture is being resisted tooth and nail by the nativists, racists, and bigots among us.  The fear and hate inherent in xenophobia is powerful.  The best of us are in for a fight.  But understanding  our common humanity is our strongest weapon and our best hope.

 

Strategy: Facts, Votes, Boycotts – enhanced blog site

I’d like to discuss strategy.  How do we defeat Trump and the Republican Right?  Trump and the far right, as of January 20, will control the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and with their appointing power, a majority of the Supreme Court.  No foreseeable checks and balances.  And they gained this power, despite a minority of the voting public, through systematic misinformation and lies, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and character assassination, strategies that with the assist of the electoral college vaulted Mr. Trump to power.  Yes, how clever.  No point in denying that the manipulations of Trump and Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, and Breitbart worked.  They did.  We are now faced with the most serious threat to the Republic, if not the world, since the World Wars.  How do we fight back without debasing ourselves?  Or, as one wag noted, the Democrats brought a knife to the fight, the Republicans brought a gun.

Part of the answer lies in our recognizing the nature of the fight.  Civil discourse is much to be valued but not at the expense of allowing lies to go unanswered.  Mr. Trump, the mocker, should be mocked.  His incivility should be challenged at every turn.  The Democrats failed at virtually every turn to hold his feet to the fire.  Where is his tax return?  hrzgal-2040Did he pay off the stiffed creditors from his bankruptcies?  Who does he owe money to now?  Yes, Trump effectively controlled the news cycles – driving those issues off the front page, but the prominent Democrats let him do it and failed to angrily contest him and the media that facilitated it.

That has to change.  When it does change,  I believe there are three factors that strongly favor a swing in the tide: Facts, Votes, and the economic power of consumers.  We, as progressives and resistors, need to use all three:

  1.  Facts.  The facts are on our side.  The world is heating up from CO2 emissions – just ask the city planners in Venice now spending billions to avoid inundation.  Income inequality continues to rise in the US due to a rigged economy and a regressive tax structure.  Health care in the rest of the industrialized world is universal, better, and cheaper than in the US.  Facts are stubborn – they don’t go away.  In the face of facts, lies and misinformation have a limited half-life.  It took years to fight the tobacco industry but no sane person now contests the health effects of cigarettes.  The evident bankruptcy of Trump’s world (bankruptcy is one of his specialties) will become apparent.  In that vein, I intend to enhance this blog site with links to relevant scientific, fact-based sites on such issues as Global Warming, where the scientific data on the rise in CO2, and methane levels, is more than compelling.

  2.  Demographics.  Demographics and the future changes in the population favor progressives.  The Democrats won this election by almost three million votes – the electoral college gave Trump a tainted victory and should be eliminated.  We need to translate that voter plurality into elected representation at all levels, in our states, in Congress, and in the Presidency.  That means standing up to gerrymandering, running and supporting qualified candidates for all seats, and holding individual Republicans – notwithstanding that they may be certifiably “nice” –  accountable for the actions of their party.  Mr. Trump brags about sexual assaults and mocks the disabled?  How does that not reflect on them?  We need to actively speak up, not always nicely, and demand that the electoral process work for us.  I’m adding an events page to my blog site.  In the meantime, a good place to start is the Women’s March on Washington on January 21.

  3. Boycott.  Trump and the Koch Brothers (see Jane Mayer’s Dark Money for the nitty-gritty of their election buying) have a history of being driven by greed – they want it all.  They run global businesses that rely on consumer revenue to exist and prosper.  Their business models rely on carefully calculated income streams to pay their employees, to pay off loans, and to fund new projects.  As such they are potentially vulnerable to a consumer boycott.  A ten percent drop in their revenue would wreak havoc.  And much of their money comes from us.  Let’s end that now.  I’m revising my blog site to include links to boycott sites against Trump and against the Koch Brothers.  See Boycotts.  I include links to boycotts against North Carolina and Ohio because they don’t deserve our money either.  All of these sites have good information on how to make a boycott effective.  Let’s start now and see if they yell “Uncle”.

 

 

 

Insurance is the wrong model for health care – from my February 27, 2016 Facebook post – why the right model is the single payer system favored by Bernie

How is it that Americans pay the most for health care, get mediocre results, and deny access to health care to many? How is it that Europeans, Canadians, and all other industrialized nations do better?

Historically, it is because Americans decided to treat illness as a risk to be insured against. That made a modicum of sense when no one had a right to health care and there was a need to spread the rising cost over a sufficient time to make it affordable. But, in fact, in the modern world, the need for health care has nothing to do with risk. Young children require health care. So do the elderly, birthing mothers, men with high blood pressure, diabetics, disabled veterans, indeed, everyone. Access determines not only who lives and dies but their quality of life. And because a disabled person is less productive and may require further care, and because the ill may pass on diseases such as tuberculosis or AIDS or Ebola, there is also a social cost and a danger to us all when health care is denied.

Most of us understand that where there is a strong social need, we share the burden. We need people who can read and write so we pay for schools. In a world of belligerent nations, we pay for a military for our common defense. We pay for roads, sewers, other infrastructure. We don’t insure against the possibility that we will need an army or a road.

But in the US we insure to provide access to health care. And those insurers need to make money to build their offices, pay their employees, review claims, deny claims, pay their stockholders. And now, in the world of Citizens United, the insurers also fund political campaigns to ensure that the law protects their income stream. All of that, a multi-billion dollar insurance industry, has to be paid for by us in addition to any money paid for actual medical providers. In short, we have introduced a middleman, some might unkindly suggest a parasitic third party, that benefits only itself and its stockholders.

bernie_sanders_2014Any chance of correcting this travesty? Only if we get behind Bernie and demand a political revolution that puts people and the common good first.

Resistance Links

At this point, there is no reason to mince words.  Donald Trump and his movement represent a virulent form of fascism.  Targeting any opposition as if they were enemies (“lock her up”), threatening to register all Muslims, invoking nuclear weapons, surrounding himself with racists, bigots, and misogynists, showing contempt for facts, truth, or honor.  Acting as if he is above the law, unaccountable for conflicts of interest or to our tradition of civil discourse.  Fascism.  Unchecked, Mr. Trump will destroy our democracy.  He may destroy our world as we know it.

blockchain-its-complicated-810x405There are many points of resistance to Trump.  He received less than a majority of votes and many did not vote at all.  The newspapers and the internet are full of voices calling for an accounting.  I am configuring my blog site to collect links to the most articulate and important voices,  like those of Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Bill Moyers, and Bernie Sanders.  Please feel free to review and use those links as they may prove useful.  I also invite your thoughts as to how to improve my blog and as to what important sites I have overlooked.  I will work on improving the links.  I have no illusion that my voice or this site is in any sense unique.  It is just that now is the best time for us to speak out, protest, and generate momentum for a resistance.  We all need to do our part.   Mr. Trump and his supporters will not be idle.

Learning to Love the Bomb

nuclear-bombWoke up this morning to the following headline in the Hartford Courant:  “Trump Signals Nuke Buildup”.  Try that before a cup of coffee and see how your day takes shape.  My question – what exactly does Trump want to do with more nukes?   He can already destroy the whole world 20 times over.  Ever read Nevil Shutes’ On the Beach?  Are we playing macho with Putin and the Chinese?  A little game of dare, and double dare, and double dog dare?  Going to bring those North Koreans to their senses?

I get it that Trump thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and that he can take actions, virtually any actions, without personally experiencing the consequences.  It’s just that the evidence suggests the more troubling possibility that he is nuts and the American people are now handing him the nuclear codes.  It is not just Americans that are and should be scared by this.

 

Great – from my November 9 Facebook post.

Great. The world is awash with refugees from sectarian violence that was exacerbated by an arrogant and ignorant Republican president. The earth is riven by climate change and global warming, nuclear proliferation, and malevolent strongmen. The American electorate rise to the challenge by electing an arrogant and ignorant bigoted carnival barker. This is a nightmare out of a Stephen King imagination and I would note that the powers that be did not rescue the Jews from the Holocaust or the innocents at Hiroshima or the doughboys in the trenches of World War I. Future voting should be restricted to those with a passing acquaintance with On the Beach, Silent Spring, and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It will be tough enjoying my coffee this morning.

Dark Money – from my November 17 Facebook post.

Book review time. As our country wills itself deeper into the morass, I’d like to point out three books, among others, that provide insight into what is going on. I’ve previously noted Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, the nuts and bolts of how the ultra- rich – think Koch brothers, corporate money – think Citizens United, and the reactionary right, have waged a campaign to buy state and federal elections, appoint judges, and control or manipulate the media and academia to overturn the liberal humanistic impulses of the ’60s. I’m currently reading Andrew J. Bacevich’s America’s War for the Greater Middle East, which documents our egregiously failed military campaigns, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East, sewing chaos and sectarian violence as we go, all the while periodically exclaiming “mission accomplished.” Yeah, it’s a good read. Finally, I recently read (courtesy of my daughter Amy at McGill-Queen’s University Press) Invasion 14, Maxence Van der Meersch’s “lightly fictionalized” account of life in German occupied France during the first world war, a truly gripping and nuanced look at the complexities of what happens when one power occupies another and attempts to impose its values. The account resonates with the current day because people don’t change, whether it’s in France or Vietnam or Iraq and Iran. They don’t take lightly to being coerced or told what to do. And often what one gets is a lesson in unintended and often tragic consequences.

Put the electoral college in the waste bin. From my November 26 facebook post.

With the prospective election of Donald Trump by the electoral college notwithstanding that he received a minority of the popular vote, it is time to reconsider the legitimacy of the electoral college. You might find reviewing it in wikipedia to be instructive. The following is an interesting excerpt: “Some delegates, including James Wilson and James Madison, preferred popular election of the executive. Madison acknowledged that while a popular vote would be ideal, it would be difficult to get consensus on the proposal given the prevalence of slavery in the South. There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States, and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.” To put it in other words, the electoral college is a legacy of slave holding at the time the Constitution was adopted. Southern states objected to election by a popular vote because a substantial portion of their population was bound in slavery and could not vote. The electoral college was devised as a sop to those slave holding states. Since slavery has been abolished for the last 153 years, and because the electoral college otherwise violates the most basic democratic principles, and given that it is now operating to elect a science denying, crude misogynist, we should, with one voice, consign it to the waste bin of history. In the meantime, we should further demand that the current electors cast their vote in proportion to the votes cast in their respective states.

Fixit – from my November 28 Facebook post

In a recent post, I discussed the fact that, while Clinton received the majority of votes cast, Trump is poised to be elected President by a tainted electoral college. (See that discussion in my time line.) The electoral college was created as a sop to slave holding Southern states because a large portion of their population – the slaves – were not allowed to vote. Southern states, demanding equal influence, demanded a nondemocratic voting system skewed in their favor. With the abolition of slavery 153 years ago, that undemocratic rationale for the electoral college ceased to exist. It should have been terminated then. It should be terminated now. In fact, as shown by Mr. Trump’s recent tweets, he is quite aware of and sensitive to the fact that his “election” by a minority of the vote is less than legitimate.

But what do we do? If Trump had not run on appeals to racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual bigotry, if he was not a threat to the global climate and world peace, one might rely on the glacial institutional pace of Congress to rectify the electoral process. Surely in some decade, they would recognize that our country was created on the premise that all men are created equal and that that means, as demanded by democratic principles, that each vote has equal weight. But with Trump, the demagogue, poised to take power, we do not have that luxury.

I have a proposed solution. Just this past year, Great Britain, in what is popularly known as Brexit, concerned about threats to its national sovereignty from the undemocratic power structure of the European Union, held a referendum and voted to break away and reassert its democratic sovereignty. Similarly, those states that voted for Clinton should not tolerate the minority-elected Trump but should hold referendums to exit this undemocratic United States and to form a new, more perfect, union – the Democratic States of America – founded on the explicit right of all citizens to universal suffrage and on the equal weight of all votes. Such a proposed country would include both coasts and a major portion of our population and industrial activity. Moreover, membership would be limited to populations that had shown at least a modicum of concern for humanity and the fate of the world. My name for this exit? Fixit.

Orwell – From a December 9 Facebook post

This is in appreciation for Richard Ross’s letter to today’s Hartford Courant. Allow me the liberty of quoting in full:

“I’m shocked that no one in the media (to my knowledge) has yet made the obvious and eerie connection between Donald Trump’s latest lies – he won in a landslide and millions of people voted illegally – and the Ministry of Truth depicted in George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-four”.

The Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s dystopian world was responsible for the falsification and doctoring of historical events to show a government-approved version of events – its mission was to construct lies to fit with the government’s interpretation of reality. It’s frighteningly too familiar to the fiction that regularly comes from President-elect Trump.”

I couldn’t agree more. It is our responsibility to figure out how to effectively respond.