28 April 2014

What then must we do?

I was listening to libertarian constitutional law scholar Bruce Fein on Ian Masters yesterday and I was struck by a point he made. There definitely IS a deficit in what he refers to as the "kinetic energy of the young" in activism on the left. And I blame the timidity as "acephalous" (again, his word) leadership of the Democratic party... we don't have a clear moral mandate, and the reason is that we continually compromise our moral stance.
Progressives must wrest control of the Democratic party from those who would remain beholden to monied interests that merely want to use the government for their own ends. We must stand for an end to the war-state, the national security state, the surveillance state, the state which subverts the regulatory function to actually ensure control and enrichment of special interests, in favor of a state which is the guardian of the freedom (read "access to power") of the citizenry and ensures that the interests of the people are the only interests of government. Where we Progressives differ from libertarians is that we believe that there is a proper role for government in regulating the wretched excesses of capitalism, and ensuring access to education, health care, keeping jobs in America, robust infrastructure, (let's just refer to FDR's "Second Bill of Rights" as a manifesto)-- and add a survivable environment and world.
These are non-negotiable moral imperatives, and if our political party stood for these things, and not for the interests of the monied elites, we would capture the enthusiasm and activism of young people, as well as older people. Then, in Wordsworth's words (also quoted by Fein), the time will again come when we will say "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!"

25 April 2014

Rhapsody on Piketty and Capital in the 21st Century

After reading Krugman's piece today and his longer earlier review (in which he calls it "magisterial"), I plonked down a few shekels for Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. (Kindle edition as the huge buzz for this academic book, of which no doubt only minor sales were anticipated, has resulted in the first print run being totally sold out). 
Apropos, one of Krugman's few criticisms is of Piketty's treatment of "supersalaries" in America as a sort of alternate to the inherited capital wealth that is the main source of distributive inequality in the world (including to a great extent in America too). Which he (Krugman) says is not as definitive as his (Piketty's) more general treatment of the historical roots and pervasive insidiousness of grossly unequal wealth distribution. 
And one of his (Piketty's) more pessimistic prognostications is that we are unlikely to easily be able to enact the kind of progressive taxation, including wealth taxes, that are needed to address this fundamental problem, because it took the "modern thirty years war" in the 20th Century to be able to do it after the Gilded Age. (He calls it the Belle époque and this shows his European vantage). Two observations: 
1. This discounts the importance of the Progressive Movement in early 20th Century America, which preceded WWI and was a largely grass roots movement; 
2. As Paul Ehrlich and others have said (going all the way back to Carter's "moral equivalent of war"), we need a modern economic equivalent of WWII to deal with the economic and ecological crises of this century anyway, so these reforms can be folded right in. 
Activism is the key. Us retired folks; we gotta be ready to march. On. Washington. Over. and over.

Because, as we are now learning from recently published serious academic studies (what we already knew)(all over the wonkier news lately): what ordinary people think and care about makes NO DIFFERENCE at all to policy makers (only what the elite with the big money wants has any influence at all on policy).

Unless we make it clear to them that we will defeat them if they don't act on behalf of our interests.

24 April 2014

Oultaw Bundy odious racist, big surprise

One sees where the odious Cliven Bundy has revealed his wretched, nay, putrid racist core. Unsurprising, and it shows how hollow and blind the Rightists are in backing a selfish outlaw like that on the "principle" that citizens can defy the law whenever they feel like it. WTF.

23 April 2014

A Clarion Call

OK. This needs to be said, not that it hasn't been already, by more and more reputable scientists and ordinary informed citizens. But truly, it needs to be said, over and over, by everyone who realizes the truth of it. 
I have robust confidence that this is true, and that the survivors of this century (if there are any) will consider this a glaringly obvious historical truth of which they can't understand why the leaders of our time could have been so very deep in denial. 
• The threat to the human habitability of our world from Global Climate Change is the greatest threat to survival the human race has faced since long before the invention of agriculture; and this Sixth Extinction now appears to be likely to be on a par with some of the gravest crises to life on this planet in its entire planetary history.
We have spent as a nation over a trillion dollars since 9/11 on so-called homeland security. Virtually all of that has actually been counterproductive; making us more insecure, more paranoid, more distracted. Meanwhile our government and the governments of almost all the world's nations have continued to make the real crisis... the threat to homeworld security, worse and worse. Biogeographers and climate and energy experts ... at least some of them... think it may already be too late to avoid catastrophe. 
We WILL experience huge shocks to our economy and civilization. These may come on gradually, but maybe not. It's not all that unlikely that as soon as ten years from now the world will look very different from today, with major disruptions and political crises at a fever pitch. 
The tragedy is that we, as a species, probably do have the power to survive and even mostly reverse this. But will we? The signs are not favorable. 
Everyone needs to become alarmed and start demanding the kinds of changes that will make a habitable world for future generations possible. It probably is not too late. But if we don't force major paradigm shifts in the behavior of our species; and make the equivalent of World War II effort to change to renewable energy and sustainable resource use; catastrophe will be unavoidable.

10 April 2014

Comment on US Israel relations at the moment

I would like to express 2 opinions that are unorthodox in America right now, but which I think are more than justified by events.

1. The U.S. should inform the Likud Apartheid government in Israel that financial aid will cease immediately, given the fact that the Israeli government has repeatedly sabotaged any possibility of peace with the Palestinians and has been undermining U.S. interests in the region for many years. Enough is enough.

2. The president should personally tell Netanyahu that the very suggestion that extortion... i.e., the demand to release the traitor and spy Jonathan Pollard... in the context of American HELP in trying to solve their territorial dispute with the Palestinians is DEEPLY offensive, and not only will not be considered but if they would like to have good relations with the US in the future an apology is necessary.

Of course, the AIPAC lobby has succeeded in throwing around the label "anti-semite" and creating a culture in Washington where anything short of equating US interests with Israel's is politically unacceptable... even though objectively we have few interests in common with the Right Wing Israeli regime today. So the possibility that any significant number of politicians of either party will agree with what I just said is effectively zero. But truth is truth, and I believe the facts, as I said, MORE than justify what I say here.