Friday, May 26, 2017

Impeachment Or Resignation: It's Only A Matter of Time

Looks like any day now, Trump (and hopefully Pence and the rest of the administration) will be "Out Like Flynn".  In fact, former NSA head Michael Flynn apparently decided to "plead the Fifth" about the burgeoning Trump-Russia scandal.  But that's not all.

Just when you thought that Trump's really, really messed-up week (in which he fired former FBI director James Comey) was his worst, the past two got even worse still.  Most notably, Trump discussed classified information about a terrorist plot in a closed-door meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov, respectively. That's right, he literally gave sensitive secrets to the Russians, and willingly.   And now, justifiably, Israel won't share intelligence with the USA anymore--especially since they were the source of the intelligence that Trump shared with Russia.  Oh, and an independent special prosecutor has been appointed to oversee the Trump-Russia investigation.  Just in time for recent revelations (from Kislyak himself) that Jared Kushner wanted a secret communications channel with the Kremlin.  I swear, you really can't make this stuff up!

But Trump didn't stop there, no.  On his recent trip to Europe, he just had to go and insult our NATO allies, especially Germany.  He just had to shove the Prime Minister of Montenegro out of the way just to get a quick photo-op.  If there were any doubts left that Trump was Putin's puppet on a string, those doubts are basically gone.  Ditto for anyone who still thought that he had any sort of class or decorum at all.

And the European intelligence community is supposedly prepared to leak some serious dirt on Trump in the very near future.  Whether that dirt is incriminating or merely very embarrassing, either way it does not look good for a president and administration that is already imploding at warp-speed.  There is already enough evidence to impeach him for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, conflicts of interest, and perhaps misuse of classified information as well.  Will these next leaks be enough to add TREASON to this list as well?

UPDATE:  As of May 30, it looks like Michael Flynn is finally ready to break his silence and basically roll over on his former boss. Not like Trump needs any help self-destructing, as he seems to be doing a pretty good job of that already.  BIGLY.  Believe me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

As the Russiagate Scandal Is Exploding, the Trump Administration is Imploding.

It's been a really, really messed-up week for the Trump administration, believe me.  And the week hasn't even ended yet!

Let's see:  Sally Yates (who Trump previously fired ostensibly for opposing the Muslim Ban, but more likely for knowing too much) and James Clapper both testify about the Russiagate scandal.  James Comey, director of the FBI, had requested more resources for the burgeoning Trump-Russia investigation, and the FBI very recently issued grand jury subpoenas for Michael Flynn and his associates in regards to potential collusion with Russia.  Trump abruptly fires Comey from his position as head of the FBI, and apparently Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommended that Trump do so.  And of course Trump, Pence and others in the administration doggedly deny that the firing had anything to do with the Russiagate investigation (riiiight)--not that that stopped Trump from lawyering up. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer goes into hiding (literally in the bushes!) and refuses to talk to any media other than Faux Noise.  He has Sarah Huckabee Sanders stand-in for him and hold a press conference in his place, and it was a total disaster. Move along, nothing to see here folks....

All this in a matter of just three days, and no sign that this will go away anytime soon.  It's only a matter of time before Trump, Pence, and perhaps even the entire administration are "Out Like Flynn".

I swear, you really can't make this stuff up!

UPDATE:  On Thursday, two days after firing Comey, Trump finally admits that it was because of the Russiagate scandal--which of course he still claims is a "made-up story" and "fake news".  Riiiiiiight.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

In Defense of Nationalism

Nationalism.  That is a word that gets thrown around all the time, usually with a rather negative connotation.  It seems to have many definitions these days in fact.

Recently, author E.D. Hirsch, Jr. penned an excellent article in Democracy Journal, aptly titled "A Sense of Belonging".  In it, he discusses how misunderstood, underrated, and often unfairly maligned the concept of nationalism in the USA has been for the past several decades, and how our lack of the sense of belonging that nationalism provides has left Americans alienated and discontented.   He discusses how our educational system (particularly elementary school) has been recently failing to impart the essentials of a shared national culture, history, and citizenship, and how the left's overzealous avoidance of the (very real) dark side of nationalism ultimately ends up throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.  The trends of the past several decades towards both hyper-individualism as well as an explicit anti-nationalism end up inhibiting our overall social cohesion and sense of community, with negative consequences resulting.  And this is coming from an author who one can safely say is on the political left himself.

He basically argues, in a more eloquent and detailed fashion, something not very different from when Bernie Sanders famously cautioned fellow progressives against overreliance on "identity politics". While this was not very well received and he came across as tone-deaf and failing to check his white straight male (etc.) privilege, he was not in fact against such intersectionality at all.  Rather, he was concerned that focusing too much on the pluribus at the expense of the unum would be detrimental to the overall progressive movement.  Which in turn would make it harder to maintain a united front against our real enemy, the oligarchy.  And while he did not use the word "nationalism" by name, it was certainly implied that the left needs to reclaim nationalism, lest it fall into the hands of the right--which did in fact happen.  Consider the following chillingly prophetic words by Richard Rorty in 1994:

"The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone to assure them that once he is elected the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodern professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . . All the sadism which the academic left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back."

Which basically describes the whole Trump phenomenon in a nutshell.  That is what happens when the left neglects the need for nationalism:  disaffected voters will seek it out from other sources, namely the right.  And the right's version is virtually always going to be toxic and jingoistic, if not altogether racist, fascist, and authoritarian.  There is a reason why so many Trump supporters openly call themselves "white nationalists", after all.

Nationalism can indeed be a very good thing if it is of the proper sort and in the right hands, while the wrong sort and/or in the wrong hands can indeed be horrific.  All the more reason to reclaim it from the right. To quote Hirsch:

"The right kind of modern nationalism is communal, intent on including everyone. The wrong, exclusivist kind, exemplified by the racism of the Nazis, gave all nationalism a bad name and helped turn the post-Vietnam left away from nationalism of any sort. The sentiment was that most countries are pretty bad, especially big ones that prey on little ones."

As we like to say, nationalism is like nitroglycerine:  it can either be used to blow up bridges or heal hearts.  And the TSAP represents the good kind of nationalism that is so desperately needed to heal the wounded and heavy heart of America.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The "Spiritual Ruin" of a Universal Basic Income? No, Not Really.

Recently, there was an article in The Week by Damon Linker titled, "The Spiritual Ruin of a Universal Basic Income".   He basically argues that it is a bad idea for the left to pursue the idea of a UBI because 1) it fails to address (and perhaps even intensify) the psychological and spiritual consequences of joblessness, which are (in his view) distinct from and worse than the economic consequences, 2) most people couldn't handle joblessness even with a basic income and would thus become depressed and purposeless and give themselves over to video games, porn, and/or drug addiction, and 3) the left should not concede that automation (and the resulting job losses) is in any way inevitable.

And all of these things are in fact false.

First, only a person of relative privilege could possibly see the economic consequences of joblessness as entirely separate from, and less significant that, the (admittedly real) psychological and spiritual consequences of same.  The former can indeed cause or contribute to the latter in a big way, and it is very difficult to disentangle them.  Poverty and desperation are well-known to be harmful to the mind, body, and spirit, and only meaningful work (as opposed to work for the sake of work) can be said to be beneficial to same.  When the economic consequences are resolved via a UBI, the remaining noneconomic consequences of unemployment would in fact become that much easier to tackle.

Second, there is no logical reason why a UBI and the sort of New Deal 2.0 jobs program that Linker advocates would be mutually exclusive.   The TSAP, in fact, advocates exactly that combination, with both a UBI and a Job Guarantee program for everyone who wants one.  We also advocate shortening the workweek as well, which would spread the remaining work among more workers, thus more jobs.  Thus the noneconomic consequences of joblessness can also be adequately dealt with as well.  So that is not a valid reason for the left to abandon the idea, anymore than it would be a reason to abandon the idea of a social safety net in general.

Third, the idea that UBI will cause most people or even a particularly large chunk of the population to become lazy and/or self-destructive is not borne out by the facts.  Numerous experiments with UBI and related schemes have been conducted in diverse cultures and locations in the past half-century, and the overwhelming weight of the evidence strongly suggests that this will not occur.   If anything, one notable effect is an increase in entrepreneurship due to a decreased fear of failure and more time and money to invest in their goals. Students and new mothers will likely work fewer hours than before since they are no longer forced by dint of economic necessity (the effect on hours worked is likely negligible for everyone else), but is that really such a bad thing?  Of course not.

Nor is there any credible evidence that substance abuse would significantly increase either as a result of UBI, and it may even decrease.   But just to drive the point home even further, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sam Altman argues that even if 90% of the population sat around smoked weed and played video games instead of working, a UBI would still better on balance than not having one, as everyone would be free to pursue their passions and the remaining 10% would innovatively create new wealth.  Not that he thinks that 90% would actually do that, of course, but the point was well-made nonetheless.   One can also point to the Rat Park studies as well.  It is amazing how addiction diminishes or even disappears when rats (or people) are not treated like caged animals in the "rat race"!

And finally, a real pragmatist would realize than automation really is inevitable in the long run.  Contrary to what the neo-Luddites like to argue, fighting against it will not stop it, only delay it a bit.  The best that we progressives can do is admit that fact and do whatever we can to ensure that the fruits of this automation will benefit all of humanity and not just the oligarchs at the top.  To do so, we must take the power back from the oligarchs.  And a crucial step to that goal is a Universal Basic Income, so We the People can actually have some bargaining power, no longer dependent on our employers for survivial.  Whether we get this one right will basically be the difference between a futuristic pragmatic utopia (as Buckminster Fuller envisioned) or a horrifying technocratic dystopia straight out of 1984, Brave New World, or [insert other dystopian novel here].  So let's choose the right side of history!

After all, as the late, great Buckminster Fuller--the Leonardo da Vinci of the 20th century, famously said in 1970:
We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Thus, on balance, a Universal Basic Income Guarantee for all is a good idea regardless.  A win-win-win situation for everyone but the oligarchs.  And the only real arguments against it are paternalistic and/or sadistic ones, which really means there are no good arguments against it in a free and civilized society.  So what are we waiting for?

Trumpcare 2.0 Passes The House

Well, the Rethuglicans finally did it.  On May 4, 2017, they passed a new and even crueler version of Trumpcare in the House.  Apparently it was cruel enough to win over the arch-conservatives, since it guts Medicaid and throws people with pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions under the bus.  It will ultimately result in roughly 24 million people losing their healthcare coverage if it becomes law.

Fortunately, though, it does not seem likely to pass the Senate.  Thus the Senate is working on their own milder version of it to appease the moderates, which means that if it passes, they will still have to hammer out the differences between the two bills.  It's either alienate the moderates to appease the conservatives, or alienate the conservatives to appease the moderates.   And that will likely be the sort of catch-22 that ultimately kills Trumpcare once and for all.