Thursday, September 29, 2016


bruce wilder 09.29.16 at 1:04 am

likbez: How you can defend such a deeply flawed (as in insane) candidate is beyond me.


By focusing on the other guy, on Trump.

Today, Brad Delong points to the daily anti-Trump screed by James Fallows, which features a four month old piece by Robert Kagan:I disagree with Robert Kagan on just about everything. But in the months since he originally published his essay, called “This Is How Fascism Comes to America,” I think his arguments have come to seem more rather than less relevant.

Robert Kagan is desperate to save us from fascism, you see. Because anything Athens did wrong in the Peloponnesian War, America can do again, but bigger. And, his wife is a favorite to become Secretary of State. She’s deeply experienced, having brought peace to Ukraine.

None of that matters because Trump is unprecedented.

Yan 09.28.16 at 7:24 pm

Rich @80
“1. HRC is the lesser evil.
2. I can’t stand voting for someone purely as the lesser evil: my ego requires that I affirmatively support someone.
3. Therefore the lesser evil is really kind of good and anyone against it is bad.”

My favorite part is:
4. HRC critics, you should vote for her because she’s a lesser evil
5. But I can’t stand endorsing someone purely as a lesser evil
6. Therefore, you shouldn’t just vote for her, you should stop criticizing her and actively praise her.
7. Or you’re objectively supporting Trump.

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.16 at 7:32 pm

Climate policy is no longer really about denialists. Trump is an outlier in this regard, but what the Paris Agreements did was to semi-permanently shift the Overton Window to official, international acceptance that the problem is real and that we’re supposed to do something about it. I don’t think that Trump and/or the U.S. can unilaterally turn that back any more.

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.16 at 7:43 pm

The “you’re objectively supporting Trump if you write anything critical of HRC on a blog” runs into the clear problem that by that logic you’re objectively supporting Trump if you write stuff on a blog that causes people who might vote for HRC to instead vote for Stein in disgust. That pretty much started with the coinage “Trump-curious” and its associations with a kind of untrustworthy bisexuality and continued on through the whole “you’re racist”, “you’re sexist” romp.

But really this has something to do with the bandwagon effect. The implicit logic (if any) seems to be that while you and I might be capable of voting knowingly for a lesser evil, there are other unnamed people out there who aren’t capable. So we have to preserve a solid front of denial for their sake.

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.16 at 12:25 pm

I think that the election comments on CT are perfectly typed by how, on the last thread, Bruce Wilder wrote that he was going to vote for Jill Stein and faustusnotes told him that he must not like HRC because he didn’t like old women.

We have to work with these people somehow over the next 4 years, and I can hardly wait. 10-dimensional chess, Green Lanternism, to deep need for humanitarian mass killings, hypothetical atrocities that always could have been worse than the real atrocities…

What should people should notice now is that no one is really pushing these propaganda lines on people. They’re doing it to themselves. The summer of the moderate Republican can coexist with a feeling that maybe HRC should distance the party from GWB’s legacy by resolving the cognitive dissonance in favor of “anyone who wants to win has to do this.” It’s the Church of the Savvy for people who don’t even have their jobs on the line as journalists do.

Friday, September 16, 2016

William Timberman 09.16.16 at 8:22 pm

Trump didn’t raise these demons. He’s a symptom, not a cause. So also are Hillary and Bill, the Bobbsey Twins of go-along-to-get-ahead. You could argue that winning in today’s political context requires a vast influence-peddling and money-laundering machine like the Clinton Foundation, that it requires cozying up to bankers and generals, that it also requires castigating the unnecessariat, winking at mass incarceration, profiting from rent-seeking in the privatization of public education, bombing peasant weddings, etc., etc. This, we’re told, is realism, this is what it takes to win.

And after your nest is feathered, after you win, then what? You remember suddenly that you’re supposed to be the steward of our common destiny? Eye of the needle stuff, if you ask me, not that you did. Mind you I don’t blame Hillary for this. She does what she has to do, given her imperatives. It’s her imperatives that I question…and the system which makes them imperatives in the first place.

bruce wilder 09.16.16 at 8:19 pm

Raven Onthill: Bruce Wilder, Two of the best public poll analysts, Sam Wang and Nate Silver, say that Trump has a significant chance, and his chance is improving. All signs point to a close election and so we need the participation of all. I would rather be morally damaged by supporting Clinton and have prevented World War III . . .

My feeling is that polls sell newspapers (and attract eyeballs to new media) and therefore the people who pay for polls always want the polls to show how close an election is going to be. Nobody has a stake in polls that show the other guy is in a hopeless position. Trump’s chances are being exaggerated in a news Media that gets a huge payoff (as in beaucoup bucks) from campaign advertising.

This election may turn out to be different, in a “past experience is no guarantee of future performance” kind of way. I do sense that legitimacy issues loom larger this year than usual, but that’s just an extension of my cyclic argument. It would shock me if those issues mature fast enough for enough people to drown Clinton before the election almost as much as it would surprise me if they don’t contribute to drowning her Presidency afterwards.

My argument is not an argument against voting, or against voting for Clinton even, if that’s what your preferences or judgment dictate.

Even if a vote for President wasn’t swallowed up in the math of millions of votes, it would still be an impossible existential choice. You simply cannot project the ultimate consequences of such a choice. Even if you were the only one voting, I would not have confidence that you could possibly understand the consequences of your choice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in democracy. I do, very much, as a good (American social) liberal. Mobilizing people behind a political program or candidate can be a vitally important device for coordinating behavior and expectations in a large-scale society. The existential uncertainty problem gets buried under civic ritual and solidarity; it is not about the person of the candidate, so much as the collective exercise of the franchise, which enables elected officials to rely on political solidarity to enable and support necessary political choices made subsequently.

I am arguing it is not good to be herded in this case by these oligarchic shepherds. The oligarchy does not need the “participation of all” to achieve Clinton’s election. They want the “participation of all” to legitimize that election and the policies that follow. They don’t need your vote so much as the pernicious rationalizations and emotional arguments dampening cognitive dissonance and critical assessment.

I am fine with holding your nose and voting for Clinton as the best of a bad lot. I am against not-holding-your-nose and pretending to yourself and others that she doesn’t stink.

If you think voting enthusiastically for Clinton is going to prevent WWIII, you have not been paying enough attention to who Clinton is. (Yeah, yeah, I get it Trump is volatile and in over his head; don’t disagree.) Clinton is the scariest major party candidate since Barry Goldwater. Her belligerence and bad judgment is staggering.

She may well want to go to war or create provocations. Remember, the post-WWII economic and political order is crumbling — that’s a real thing that’s happening and not a choice she makes. This isn’t Reagan in a peaceful world facing a decrepit Soviet Union waiting for Granada to demonstrate his manhood. Clinton will see the U.S. challenged across the globe and China, the next hegemon, in economic turmoil. These are really, really dangerous times and Clinton does not have a record of good or foresightful judgment. She just doesn’t. The Republicans make a scandal out of the wrong accusations, because they are idiots, but that doesn’t redeem her.

If the left feels it has to defend Clinton as a “normal liberal” President, one of their own, I think that may, in the inevitable crises to come, prove to be a major mistake, a trap, as it has been a trap during Obama’s Administration for so many left aspirations. So, vote for her, if you feel that’s best, but please do it with all the enthusiasm you would muster for Tricky Dick Nixon if you can remember him. Because it may not that far in the future when the “participation of all” may well be necessary to stop Clinton from taking us to the apocalypse.

bruce wilder 09.16.16 at 6:45 pm

Hillary is patient President ~8 zero for a coming continuing pandemic. The next corrupt nexus of a corrupt system, but not the beginning. If she fumbles badly enough — and given her apparently sometimes terribly faulty judgment of people and situations, she just might — she might mark the end, or — since there’s never a really an end as long as the human species lives and breathes — an inflection point in continuing anacyclosis.

I saw some wag comment the other day that if you are faced with the choice of two evils, you might want to consider taking the worse in the hope of getting it over sooner. Maybe that’s what we are in the process of doing — I don’t know.

There’s been lots of speculation on this blog about the end of Clinton’s particular political style or more broadly, global neoliberalism (if that term doesn’t make your eyes roll back in your head in incomprehension). The long political and economic cycles are interesting to me — like any thing on a large-enough scale, they can be hard to see for what they are, close-up. But, I credit that the feeling that “the system” is crumbling and nearing some kind of crisis is common among voters albeit maybe vague and incoherent in expectation of detail. Certainly, I see frequent blogospheric references to “late capitalism” and “the end of empire” and prospective “imperial collapse” as titular themes for ephemeral commentary on the fine details of some event or other — military economic or political. It is increasingly felt to be the context of our times. I take due note.

Can you talk yourself into thinking that the status quo will continue, staggering on, muddling thru? Sure. Can you want that? Every sensible person wants that. You can only pump your 75 year old fist in the air, sputtering about “Our Revolution” if you’ve never experienced a real one in your lifetime. IBGYBG, indeed.

Back around 2005 or so, I thought we were headed to a kind of beneficent political Perfect Storm that would serve to motivate the reversal of much that had gone wrong in our politics since 1980 (~Reagan). My nostalgia for the New Deal or at least its post-WWII political legacy led me to hope for that Perfect Storm and that reversal. We got the Perfect Storm. Katrina. Losing in Iraq. Financial collapse. Two wave elections sweeping the Republicans from power. We didn’t get the political reversal; we got Obama, who thought the Surge in Iraq merited a similar Surge in Afghanistan, who couldn’t find a bankster worth prosecuting or a whistleblower he didn’t want to torture, who thought help on foreclosures meant helping banks not home “owners”, a Constitutional scholar who supported the 2nd Amendment and murder-by-drone, a master of electoral politics who conceded control of Congress and most States for at least a decade, and whose legacy is a health care reform focused on shoveling more money into for-profit health insurance in the country with the highest health care costs and most mediocre record of population health in the developed world. But, never mind, I’m an impractical who doesn’t understand the importance of securing a Supreme Court seat for . . . Merrick Garland, a sixty-three year old pro-prosecution centrist.

So, now we’re back for another bite of the apple. Instead of the economic system cycle reaching crisis — the economic cycle that started in the 1930s and turned in the Nixon’s day, and reached crisis right on schedule in 2008 — we get to witness the crisis of the post-WWII international economic and political order, which turned in Reagan’s day.

Only now, recent experience says that the oligarchy has a firm grip. This is likely to get ugly. I am not so sure I will be gone soon enough.



bruce wilder 09.16.16 at 3:31 pm

After the election, if Hillary wins, do everything you can to shift her to the left.

If Obama is the relevant precedent, “everything” will be a lot excuses and denial, just as it has been in this thread.

What was it the man said about staring into the abyss? The trouble with supporting a candidate or a Party is that support moves you, not the candidate, not the Party.

The trouble with American politics is its domination by an irresponsible economic oligarchy with global ambition and scope. Hillary Clinton has done everything she can over more than a dozen years to make it crystal clear she is with that oligarchy and to draw that oligarchy into alignment with her. That oligarchy is ambivalent about Clinton and partly in its self-interest some in the oligarchy work pretty hard before and after elections to make sure Clinton’s are constrained to remain in alignment on policy that matters to the oligarchy. The Clintons never feud with their billionaire tormentors and use the Media’s Clinton Rules to their advantage, to conserve with popular sympathy their own base of popular electoral support against the evidence of their policy and fundraising record.

There are no good choices on the America ballot in November. I cannot predict the future well enough that I feel comfortable identifying one of the major Party candidates as lesser evil. I do predict the future well enough that I remain confident Clinton will win.

No individual’s vote matters much. Thinking that it does practically is delusional. First, there is the math. Second, what part of oligarchy did you miss? American politics is responsive only to the interests of large business and the very wealthy on the issues they care about. That is not my impression only; political science confirms as much with detailed measurement.

Letting yourself be mobilised by Clinton does more damage morally to you as a person than it does to meliorate in any degree the politics of the system. Vote as you will; it does not matter. But, don’t invest your faith and twist your moral judgment into knots.

There may come a time when you can join with others and be politically effective if you are available. Be available. Detach yourself from this politics now. It does not need you or want you — that is what is wrong with Clinton’s politics: it does not need you to do anything except to acquiesce in continuing and extending the status quo, a status quo that is slowly destroying civilization to make a few of the rich, richer. It is an ugly, depressing truth, to admit powerlessness in the face of such evil, but it is the truth in this political moment, and as the man said, the truth shall set you free.

bruce wilder 09.15.16 at 12:59 am

The U.S. government does not run. This isn’t greasing the proverbial gears; this is throwing sand in the gears.

In many respects, the corruption is aimed at preventing routine prosecution for economic crime and executive malfeasance — possibly Obama’s most important legacy being the blanket immunity given to banksters. As executive level leadership pays itself more and more — and the numbers have been staggering for quite a while — the money has to come from somewhere, and it often comes from looting institutions. As the high standard for executive pay has spread out from large business into non-profit sectors, the looting has disabled some institutions for which people have had genuine affection. The erosion of integrity in educational institutions is widely felt. Quite a lot of people are trapped in debt peonage by student debt or are experiencing the continuing deterioration of American health care and insurance under the pressure of high costs driven by greed and for-profit strategies.

There’s still a high-level of ethical inertia in American society I think, but it is eroding and with it the legitimacy of institutions. Sometimes, it seems like there’s just enough ethical inertia that scandals are exposed along with the political failure to respond proportionately, so the corruption is not contained but the popular disillusion is fed a steady diet.

With both candidates for President widely reviled for their dishonesty, it feels like this trend of declining legitimacy has the potential to get much worse or even reach a critical point. Certainly, the traditional two-party remedy of rotation in office is seriously blunted by the foreclosure of options.

I am inclined by temperament to be doomsayer, so I am not always a good barometer, but I sense a growing unease about financial and business stability — I am not talking about anything more than a routine recession, except that these circumstances make the potential for precipitating a political crisis of legitimacy from even a mild recession seem to me quite significant.

The inability of the U.S. military to win a war, or just end one cleanly, is also hanging out there after 15 years.

Even if you take the pejorative of “corruption” out of the analysis, the performance of U.S. elites on behalf of the country’s general welfare and their apparently insatiable demands for an increased share of income and wealth seems unsustainable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016



bruce wilder 09.13.16 at 6:14 pm

Layman: globalization is more or less like a force of nature

Certainly, it is remarkably convenient to the powers-that-be if you think that.

Racism, historically, has been mobilized as an organizing principle, a rationalization for the institution of slavery, the institution of Jim Crow segregation, conquest and genocide of Native Americans and so on. In its details, racism often had as a feature a political consolation prize for the lower rungs of the economic hierarchy: e.g., in the plantation South you might be poor white trash, your interests neglected by the state, but you were better than the negro; all your resentments could be vented on someone a couple rungs down the social and economic ladder.

So, now we have the spectacle of both a tribalist racism and a pseudo-tribalist anti-racism and they both organize their thoughts to enable expression of their passionate if petty and irrational resentments while ignoring the increasing parasitism of elite power and wealth.

The narratives may differ across the divide. The racists are told a simpler story: the system is rigged, the Chinese are stealing your jobs, the stupid liberals think they are better than you, those people are taking advantage of the secret welfare system, things would be fairer if they were simpler — flat tax!, and so on.

The anti-racists are trained in a more abstract narrative. Cosmopolitans like us are better humans. Globalization and technology are impersonal forces; the key to a better future is more education. The racist tribalists must be opposed in all things and they will block all the good things our good leaders want to do so we have to settle for the politically practical.

The extremities of political polarization are associated with extremities of economic inequality for a variety of reasons that come down to, because it works to reinforce economic domination by elite predators or parasites as the case may be.

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