Warren and Sanders the Philosophical Divide and Why the Situation Renders it Meaningless

Despite the bad HuffPost headline “The Real Dem Divide: It’s About Power” (its not about a power struggle between Sanders and Warren, please), this is a good piece by Zach Carter that looks at the philosophical divide between the Sanders approach to fixing inequality (more socialism) and the Warren approach (fixing capitalism)  Which is in all practical respects moot right now because the system’s lights have been blinking red for so long, with only inaction and regressive action, that underlying philosophy notwithstanding, the vast majority of Americans from all over the spectrum see a need for structural reforms in our economic system.  For Warren and Sanders the bottom line is pretty much the same answers to the same problems.

But they’re not alone at all anymore.  In fact, those opposed look out of touch now as the Howard Schultz roll out with Bloomberg side show illustrated (we need fundamental tax code reform but not raising taxes on billionaires ’cause that would make us Venezuela – JEEEEZ!).  The newly elected 2018 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led faction in the House are all on the same page with Sanders/Warren.  Even the Democrats of moderate stripe are ready to talk about the really modest proposals that the media and the GOP’s billionaire relief caucus will call radical.  Polling shows that people get that we need real action and put their hopes in the Democrats to push initiatives that can level a playing field that has been actively tilted for the “economic royalists” for decades.

The government shutdown showed real time examples of what studies have been saying for years in that a huge faction of Americans really do live pay check to pay check and missing even one check can start a Jenga tower of catastrophe.  40% of the country cannot deal with a sudden $400 emergency.  And what is $400 in this day and age?  That’s a few hours of emergency plumbing or an emergency room visit.  It’s a minor car repair, not a middling one.   There are millions of economic potholes Americans can fall into  that $400 wouldn’t even cover.  The situation is pretty goddamn dire.

“The two senators disagree over the best method to give the working classes a leg up,” according to David Dayen. “You can restructure markets so everyone benefits, or you can break down the market system, either eliminating the profit motive or giving everybody a public option.” For Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara, Warren aims at “seeking to construct better policy but not an alternative politics,” rejecting “the class-struggle, worker-centric approach of Sanders.”…

The trouble for leftish intellectuals is a confusion over the terms “socialism” and “capitalism.” Both words are extremely flexible, and their meanings shift with political currents. In an American context, it has never been easy to distinguish between socialism and reformed capitalism ― and committed capitalists have denounced both with vigor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was condemned as a socialist by congressional Republicans. In the 1940s, American conservatives viewed the social safety net in Britain and the Stalinist Soviet Union with almost equal alarm. By the 1950s, Herbert Hoover had concluded that the words “liberalism” and “socialism” really just meant the same thing.

So Howard Schultz can say FDR was his favorite Democrat in the last 50 years (who died 75 years ago), but not square the circle that his top marginal tax rate was 90% as he rejects AOC’s 70% proposal.  History has shown that FDR saved American capitalism – as the hard core right wing at the time considered him a socialist – those marginalized right wingers are now the mainstream of Republican conservatism.  Before the 2020 election is over, every Democrat will be called a socialist.  And the public for the most part will yawn as they did in the 30s because of the situation.  Solutions like Medicare for All, that was hardly spoken before 2016, will become commonly accepted planks in the Democratic platform in 2020.

It depends on the problem they’re trying to solve. In practice, they end up supporting an awful lot of the same solutions. In addition to Medicare for all, breaking up the banks and taxing the rich, both Warren and Sanders are advocates of a federal job guarantee, postal banking and a bill making it easier for workers to unionize.

Nobody talks about postal banking.  I have.  But until AOC mentioned it in the last month the last time I saw it in print was likely when I blogged about it.  But it’s a really no-brainer, simple solution to  a big problem for millions of people at the bottom of the economic ladder.  And like raising the top marginal rate, it’s NOT A NEW IDEA, WE HAD IT TILL 1967.  It’s bringing back things that worked that were removed through the lobbying of big banking interests.

All of these proposals transfer money and power from the super-rich to the not-rich. Take postal banking. About 32.6 million households rely on a check-cashing service, payday lender or other expensive, small-dollar financial bottom-feeder at least once a year, according to the FDIC. On average, these households earn about $25,500 a year and spend nearly 10 percent of their income ― $2,412 ― on these sketchy financial products. That’s over $82 billion going from hard-up homes to predators every year. You can deal with payday lenders a lot of different ways: ban them, regulate them or, the preferred tack of Warren and Sanders, have the government make them obsolete. If every household can get a low-fee bank account with the Post Office, they won’t have to turn to legalized loan sharking to get by. That’s bad news for payday loan executives, like ACE Cash Express CEO Jay Shipowitz, who made almost $4.5 million in 2004 alone. Is postal banking socialism or reformed capitalism? Yes.

Democrats have to make the argument that taking some of the power from the banks and corporations and restoring a modicum of protections for the working class will actually inure to the benefit of the people at the top as well.  They’re taking an ever larger slice of a static pie and starving the source of their wealth.  Give a bigger slice to the consumers and the pie grows.  Make productivity matter instead of squeezing pennies out people and everyone benefits.

Those that fear monger and call it a plan to create Venezuela will just look silly.

The Blue Wave Has Actually Continued as Repubs Defect

Quietly, under the news radar, with all of the big churn stories about shut downs, foreign policy insanity and the 2020 candidate roll outs, despite the media bothsidesing every damn thing, the strength of the Democratic message has continued to resonate in statehouses around the country.  In one of the signs of the GOP apocalypse, Republicans with a conscience have switched parties.

Over the past two months, as lawmakers were sworn in and this year’s statehouse sessions got underway, Republicans in CaliforniaKansas and New Jersey switched their party affiliations to become Democrats.

They cited various reasons, but the party-switchers have one thing in common: They say the GOP under President Donald Trump has become too extreme.

One of the little mentioned stories of the GOP takeover of statehouses during the Obama years, when wonks cite the around 1,000 seats that switched from D to R over those years, is how many of those were not electoral losses but individuals switching parties to catch up to the political currents in places like Alabama and West Virginia. Into the 2000s those states were still vestigially Democratic on a local and voter registration level, but wildly Republican on the national electoral level.  During Obama’s 8 years hundreds of conservatives from the South finally made the formal move over to the Republican Party.

By the same token, places like California, Virginia, New England, etc. shed Republicans slowly, but in 2018 there was a big blue anti-Trump churn that continues and promises to carry through 2020 as well.


The Dems Next Move

The Senate kinda, sorta, halfheartedly tried today with two doomed votes on (1) Trump’s terrible proposal and (2) the same spending bill Republicans approved unanimously before the shutdown, but now is unacceptable.

So the next move has to be a counter proposal from Pelosi and Company.  I think they should have made a counter proposal earlier in the week already.  But now they have to, ASAP.  It should include:

  1. A vote on HR 1 the House bill on electoral reforms
  2. A vote on a $15 minimum wage
  3. Permanent DACA and TPS
  4. $5.7 billion in spending on border security and humanitarian relief, the moneys to to be spent by the decisions of a Bipartisan Commission on Border Security which would include experts and border state lawmakers.

This is both a reasonable proposal and a great PR strategy to intravenously inject the first 2 Democratic planks into the public debate.  Everybody should know what the first bill the Democrats passed in the new Congress was.  Everybody should know Democrats stand for a $15 minimum wage.  And Republicans should be made to vote on those things, which they would never do if McConnell had his way.

So far the shut down has been just awful and painful, but is almost completely being blamed on Trump (although not enough on McConnell) and pressure should continue to build on them.  Nevertheless, to stay on the right side of the public on this Dems have to be be seen to be willing to negotiate in good faith to end this.  There’s no both sides on this.  Trump closed the government and McConnell has enabled it.  But for this to be a total win for the party, which it is so far, in a media landscape that just can’t help bothsidesing, Dems have to play the game.

Documenting the Evidence of Toxic Inequality

NYT front page.  Sometimes the juxtaposition of stories tells it all.


Link to the important story.

As the dismissal of the Davos denizens shows, there’s a myopia among the super privileged that the structural reasons for their immense wealth can’t possibly be part of the problem.  Surely, they think, I’m not greedy, look at how much I give voluntarily – how dare you make me do it involuntarily!  Likewise, with the Blairs and Bushes of the world, the long lasting profound consequences of their world changing actions are never to be acknowledged – that I kind of understand, like a form of psychological denial they have to suppress the reality of their actions or the horror would be too much.


The Question Has Always Been: Can Trump Crawl to Finish Line of 4 Full Years?

While some were arguing in vain about his (possible) re-nomination and (impossible) re-election – the real question was always when the wheels would completely come off.  To be sure, they were always operating on 3 rickety wheels and with no real understanding of how to operate the machine, but their criminality going back to the election, besides their greed after, was always going to end this mishegas early.  The best you could say for all of it was that every day with Trump in office is a day less of a Pence administration.

The nomination of Bill Barr was very modestly intended to get Trump through to January 2020 by doing whatever he reasonably (very broad use of that word) could do to protect Trump from Mueller.  But the collusion and obstruction cases are gathering public steam too fast to make it to 2020.  And again, Mueller has it ALLLLLL.

Barr’s nomination is a moot point already.  He will not be able to do any damn thing to protect Trump.

Saddest of all is the GOP Senate may very well continue to protect him and stonewall his removal, believing that they are electorally invulnerable in 2020 and 2022.  That’s the only firewall to get him, or Pence, limping into 2020 still in the WH.  But that firewall would doom their control of the Senate.  Like every tragic character felled by overconfidence, they never see that their invulnerability is overrated until its too late. We’ve always been able to count on Republican arrogance leading them to shooting their damn feet off, eventually.  This group of political morons is several generations more deluded by the Fox News base than the group of statesmen (read: realists) that forced Nixon out.

Now We All Know Who CardiB Is – Still Not a Good Thing

December 27, 2017 I wrote in a screed on my end of year pet peeves:

“I don’t know who CardiB is.  I just really figured out who Rihanna is in 2016 after I’d heard songs she recorded for years in commercials or on Glee (remember Glee?).  There are too many “pop stars” who are completely interchangeable and forgettable, a mix and match game of names, faces, skimpy outfits and very bad songs.  Is CardiB Nicki Minaj?  is Nicki Minaj Rihanna?  Would it matter if they merged corporeal bodies and ceased to be two individual persons (if they are in fact two individual persons)?  I know that Taylor Swift sings songs and dates lot of boys although I’ve never seen her actually do those things and have no interest in seeing either.  Why do I even know that?  And let’s not leave men out of this.  I don’t know who Drake is either…

…My country is already way too much a fascist corporate state since Citizen’s United and all of the many  baby steps our leaders in legislature and jurisprudence have taken to empower corporations and the super wealthy to have a disproportionate say in our supposed democracy.  This is not so much a pet peeve but a primal scream, I guess.

What does CardiB think about this?”

This week we found out what CardiB thinks about it on Instaface or whatever and this clip was played on every news show, and panels were asked for their opinions about it. Vox says she had some good points.

The country is a hellhole and “ANYWAYS TWERK VIDEO OUT NOW.”

All you need to know about America NOW.

“Now, I don’t want to hear y’all motherfuckers talking about oh, but Obama shut down the government for 17 days. Yeah, bitch, for health care,” she said. “So your grandma could check her blood pressure and you bitches could go check your pussy in the gynecologist with no motherfucking problem.”

P.S. Actually, that’s hilarious!  Bronx girls are having a heluva good week, all love to AOC. CardiB is damn cute and you have to respect a former stripper who is open about it and unapologetic about her showbiz beginnings. I’m still not interested in her music (strong instinct to put quotes around the word music there, but imma gonna be fair), but okay.

P.S.S. So whose name am I going to be forced to know next?

Nancy Pelosi is Very Smart

She writes a letter to Trump saying that the State of the Union speech should be delayed until after the shutdown is over.

He loves his I’m a very important person camera time.

He wasted his Oval Office speech last week talking about the Wall when it appears he should have been having an Oval Office speech denying he’s a Russian asset.  He should probably get a dog named Checkers too.  But Trump hates animals so that’s a no-go.  And if he did get a dog to distract from the allegations he’d probably get a Russian Wolf Hound named Misha and it would just feed the suspicion.

Thank Goodness Trump Hasn’t Packed All The Courts… Yet. Fed. Court Rules Citizenship Census Question Illegal

A Federal court blocked adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.  Adding a question to the census about citizenship is a terrible idea, if you want an accurate census, which is actually a constitutional mandate. Anything that would make the census less accurate is literally unconstitutional.

Wilbur Ross is a maroon who apparently is on board with the Bannon/Miller vision of immigration and racial purity.  The Mr. Magoo look alike, who sleeps through cabinet meetings, seems benign but he was on board with the white nationalist notional idea of  locating all of the “illegals” by asking about citizenship on the census, which would most likely in effect cause immigrants to not respond to the census out of fear.  The repercussions of that would be that immigrants, citizens or not, would be underrepresented in the census for all sorts of funding and planning purposes, and effectively under count brown people in the reapportionment of congressional districts to the benefit of Republicans.

Total population figures will be used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives in 2021, so the contours of Congress, the Electoral College and thousands of state and local political districts could be affected. Because noncitizens tend to live in places that disproportionately vote Democratic, undercounting them in the census would be likely to shift federal spending and political power to Republican areas.


That Time of Year I See Movies

I used to see everything.  EVERYTHING.  When movies were worth seeing.  Now they should get off my lawn!  So I go to a movie a year, maybe and wait till SAG and the WGA  send me disks and/or let me in on the secret handshake to download films.

Seen some good things, but the best thing was already on Netflix so there’s your film democracy!  Definitely watch Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.  I don’t know why it’s called Roma, but it’s a masterpiece of scenes that look like cinema verite life. Half way through the film I realized that almost every scene is one long take with a camera that flows and rolls swoops through and around the characters as they live their lives.

Also good:

“Vice” is a really creative telling of the Dick Cheney story with some great fanciful storytelling flourishes by Adam McKay (“The Big Short”).  How did this mush despised politico ever get so much power over so many lives? Christian Bale (inspired by Satan) is amazing in his physicalization of Cheney, as usual. And no I don’t think the film humanizes Cheney or his family. It tells the publicly known facts of their lives, which is hardly humanizing. There’s good reason these people, even the daughters, are seen as loathsome power mongers.

“BlacKKKlansman” is a great story, well told.  Spike Lee makes a good movie every now and then.

Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me.” Good little film about an unsentimental middle aged woman, who isn’t a monarch, forced by circumstances to make difficult and ill advised choices to get by.  That’s pretty damn rare for movies.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was surprisingly enjoyable because of Rami Malek and the music.  Boilerplate musician biopic where the characters just start noodling a tune that we recognize as one of the biggest hits in rock history as they throw it of as “just something I’m working on.”  I’m a Queen fan but did not know all that much about Freddie Mercury’s personal life other than the obvious story of his death due to AIDS (did not know he was Pakistani).

As for monarch movies there are two:

Another retelling of “Mary Queen of Scots” with two last year’s best female performers Saoirse Ronan (great in “Ladybird”) and Margot Robbie (the truly underrated “I, Tonya”).  If you’re into it I’d revisit the Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave 1971 version instead. This version practices a 16th century intersectionality in which actors of color appear on screen when you know that character was anglo (really anglo!).  It’s as distracting as if Mary had been played by a dude.

And “The Favourite” a bitchy film with one great performance by Olivia Colman as a vacuous Queen Anne who is manipulated for her favors by two awful, awful people played by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.  This is an example of movie fantasy feminism where all the men in the film are complete afterthoughts and these three women exert control over their lives that just wasn’t possible in the age being portrayed. The fact that all three are icky is fine.  Women have as much right to be unlikable as any man so fine tell that story, although the casual sexuality fluidity feels like exploitative titilation.  But BIGGER, the sound design of the film takes an ANNOYING turn into underscoring scenes with monotonous percussive sound that makes scenes sound like they’re taking place in a factory instead of a palace.  That irksomeness is only topped at the end with end credits that are ridiculously spaced (with full justification) as to be unreadable.  The cast and crew should be up in arms because you won’t find out who they are from the most annoyingly illegible credits I’ve ever seen.


In The Nation Today – FDR’s Second Bill of Rights and Sherrod Brown, Real Thing

I could do separate posts but I’m lazy and its Saturday and I want a grilled cheese sandwich.

Everyone should know FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. Should know it as a reality!! 75 years later economic freedom is still aspirational if not a fucking pipe dream.  The rhetoric coming from the newly elected Dems like AOC is not new, it’s at least 75 years old, but its time has come back around.

Seventy-five years ago today (Jan. 11th), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his State of the Union address to declare that the government should guarantee a basic floor of well-being. Political rights alone, he argued, could not assure “equality in the pursuit of happiness,” he argued. “True individual freedom cannot exist without security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.”

A modern pol who would agree is Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.  Sherrod Brown is the real thing, a Democrat with integrity regarding the working class and the theft of their legacy by Wall Street.  Not that there aren’t others, Warren certainly is too. Brown/Warren or Warren/Brown would be outstanding, but likely too white for 2020.  He should get in the race.

Politicians like Sherrod Brown lose lots of times, maybe most of the time. But their virtue shines through muck and disappointment. The ambitious ones can pull the party along with them and persuade others to take larger risks.

I still think that there will not ultimately be as many Dems running as the media laughingly anticipates. Brown should be there. Julian Castro could easily be a VP nominee for a white person at the top of the ticket.