No Class Consciousness? No Way!

First, let me begin by repeating (for those already unaware) that I am queer myself and that even if I wasn’t I’d totally support LGBT liberation, because it’s part of the struggle for human liberation. But, reread that last bit: it’s only part of the struggle for human liberation. Such can be said about any identity politics issue.

The Democratic Party in particular and the Left in general have in the USA tended to focus mainly on identity politics issues in recent decades. This has overall been nothing short of a disaster, as many members of the white working class have been presented with very few messages explaining how left-wing politics are in their own best self-interest.

Which brings us to this campaign. If it succeeds, it will be seen by many as nothing more than another brick in the wall of an elitist corporate/liberal conspiracy to keep the heartland poor and backward. If it fails, it will be celebrated as a victory in “making America great again” and a triumph over the same conspiracy.

Part of the problem is the broader context that the campaign is being conducted in. What if instead there was a large and powerful organized labor movement participating in it, because many of those same anti-LGBT states are also anti-organized-labor?

However, even though organized labor is currently nothing but a shell of its past self, unions still exist, and of course it’s still possible to articulate a more class-and-labor-based argument against Amazon moving to most of those same states. Yet that wasn’t done; the site’s opening page is completely silent on labor issues, despite Amazon having not precisely the best record on these (just type “Amazon warehouse workers” into your search engine for a whole bunch of examples).

As a political enemy of mine might conclude in one of his tweets: Sad!

The State of the Union Speech

That it was considered a success illustrates how low Trump has set the bar. It was good only relative to how awful the norm is for him. Had any other president delivered that speech, s/he would be now receiving withering criticism for its numerous lies and its racist stereotyping of immigrants.

The Cuban “Attacks”

“Attacks” in quotes because despite the hyperventilating news coverage, there’s been no hard evidence that the mystery ailments besetting US diplomats there are the result of deliberate attacks. A far more accurate description of the story would be the Cuban mystery.

Could the symptoms conceivably be the result of deliberate attacks? Of course. But it’s important to stress that such attacks really don’t serve the interests of the Cuban government, which has a lot to profit by improving relations with the USA and so restoring the tourist economy that was disrupted decades ago when US/Cuban relations swirled down the toilet after the Cuban Revolution.

If the attacks are deliberate, the most likely culprit would be rogue elements in the Cuban government’s security apparatus, of which there’s plenty of room for, given that the island is run by a large and intrusive surveillance state. A plausible guess would be hardcore types that are worried about Raul Castro’s desire to have Cuba depart from Fidel’s orthodoxy in favor of a more Vietnamese or Chinese inspired model. But the key word here is guess. At the present time, this is just a guess, nothing more.

Another guess would be some sort of mysterious disease which is causing those symptoms. If that’s the case, Cubans have doubtless also fallen victim to it, so the Cuban government (which runs the health-care system) is aware of the disease and has chosen to conceal evidence of it (most likely because they are worried about its impact on the tourist trade should it be officially acknowledged). This is also just a guess, of course.

However, the second guess seems more plausible to me. That story above hints at (just hints at, mind you, read it fully and you’ll see that the correlations between the symptoms of tourists and those of diplomats have not been well-confirmed) tourists falling victim to the same ailments. What plausible reason would Cuba have for deliberately targeting tourists, particularly given how important tourism is to their economy? A disease makes much more sense.

Earlier I mentioned hardliners and interests being served. The USA also has its hardliners with interests, and I will close by pointing out that trying to paint the ailments as the result of attacks deliberately being carried out by the Cuban government serves their interests perfectly.

It Should Be 30 Seconds to Midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists doomsday clock, that is. When it was last 2 minutes, the leaders in the nuclear standoff were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Joseph Stalin. Stalin was a truly awful guy, but he was not mentally unstable like both Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump are. The danger of nuclear war is thus far, far greater this time.

Two mentally stable leaders, both with nukes versus two mentally unstable ones, both with nukes. No comparison. In making the clock two minutes to midnight, the Bulletin is guilty of normalizing Donald Trump.

Glenn Greenwald and other Russia Deniers

What’s up with Glenn Greenwald and others on the left who generally deny the possibility that Russia successfully interfered in US domestic politics, tipping the election?

I think part of it is the desire to avoid facing an unpleasant fact; namely, the fact that the preponderance of evidence indicates that Russia acted in a hostile way that merits serious consequences in return. Note that this does not mean war; it does however mean an end to any sort of normal, routine relationship that one would have with a non-hostile nation.

If you emotionally invest a great deal into a political theory which paints the US military/industrial complex as nothing but a conspiracy to inflate foreign threats in the name of sucking down tax dollars, then it might be awkward to have to admit that some threats from abroad actually do exist. It can be even harder if you remember a time when bloated military spending (and thoroughly evil imperialistic interventionism) were being justified on the basis of a military confrontation with the (largely ethnic Russian) USSR. It can be harder yet if your name is Glenn Greenwald and when you were a reporter for the Guardian, you helped Edward Snowden expose some crimes of the US national security establishment.

Of course, a more nuanced view that allows room for there to both be actual threats from abroad and for there to be mostly fake ones hyped up by a self-serving national security state is also possible. But it tends to be emotionally very easy and seductive to operate in a world where actors get reduced to simplistic good or evil characters, even if on an intellectual level one knows better (Greenwald is not stupid).

It’s not the first time that many on the left have fallen into such a trap. In the 1930s, many pacifist leftists found it impossible to admit that Nazi Germany was a military threat. For many of those leftists, opposing World War I was a defining experience, and there was much merit in the claim that WWI was largely a result of the foibles of an imperialist ruling elite first squabbling over how to best steal land and oppress Africans then siding with the side their bankers had lent a lot of money to. One of the reasons Neville Chamberlain found it so easy to appease Hitler is that appeasement had broad support from across the political spectrum in the UK.

None of this is to say that the US ruling class is blameless in all this. As I’ve written before, the US and its allies basically laid the foundations for the current state of affairs, by encouraging and supporting Boris Yeltsin when he staged a coup against parliament and proceeded to create a strong presidency in Russia. Putin simply inherited that presidency and started putting it to uses other than the originally intended (by the West) one of ramming through a transition to a fully capitalist economy.

Likewise, Britain was not blameless in the rise of Hitler. Together with the rest of the European Triple Entente countries, the UK ended the war on terms extremely humiliating for Germany. This undermined the German economy and created a fertile environment for demagogues like Hitler to arise. Such humiliating peace terms (and their paving of the way to a later, more brutal war) were in fact correctly predicted by socialist Rosa Luxemburg in 1915.

But that no more proved that Hitler wasn’t a threat than the US history of intervention in post-Cold War eastern Europe proves Putin isn’t a threat.

Not Oprah, Please

I mean, sure, she’d almost certainly be better than the current occupant of the White House, but “better than Trump” is an extremely low standard to set.

Plus, judging by the speech she gave, her candidacy would represent a doubling-down on identity politics (and a continued de-emphasis of class politics) on the part of the Democrats, which is just about the last thing we need.

Jones Shows Sanders Would Have Probably Won

Doug Jones won election from an overwhelmingly conservative state despite having liberal views on abortion that would normally cause the chattering classes to proclaim him “unelectable” there. And his other views tend to the left end of the political spectrum (by Alabama standards, anyhow) as well.

Yes, of course Jones won because Roy Moore was a tragically flawed candidate. Of course that means a non-tragically-flawed, garden-variety Republican would have mopped the floor with Jones. But a garden-variety Republican wasn’t running against Jones. Moore was.

Likewise, Sanders wouldn’t have been running against a garden-variety Republican, either. He would have been running against deeply flawed, faux populist Trump. Sanders’ genuine (or at least more genuine by far than Trump’s) populism would have enabled him to mop the floor with Trump in the debates.

Yes, Trump would have played dirty and tried to paint Sanders as an unrequited Stalinist. It probably wouldn’t have worked. Vermont is far less thoroughly liberal than most give that state credit for (it currently has a Republican governor, and for a long time its other, non-Sanders senator was a Republican).

Yet Sanders’ rhetoric has managed to successfully sell himself to many who don’t generally identify as leftists. Plus Sanders’ own experience selling himself to such voters would have led him to campaign seriously in swing states and normally Republican-leaning areas that Hillary Clinton decided weren’t worth wasting her time on. That in turn would have stopped certain key states from swinging to Trump.

One of the biggest errors politically moderate pundits make is assuming that because they, personally, happen to be highly ideological people, everyone else is, too. (Adhering to political moderation is as ideological a behavior as is adhering to any other political ideology.)

I do not believe the describes most swing voters, who are what I call “non-ideological pragmatists.” They’re not tightly committed to the left, right, or the center; they’re more focused on individual candidates and their messages than they are on any ideology. If a candidate does a good, convincing job of explaining him or herself, these pragmatists tend to be seriously willing to give him or her a try. It’s a huge part of the reason Ronald Reagan (who wasn’t labeled “The Great Communicator” for nothing) was so successful.

Bernie Sanders is another of those great communicators and as a such would have had a real chance, particularly when you figure in the high negatives of his opponent.

Whistling Past the Korean Graveyard

What astounds me is how much the Establishment media are downplaying the grave and imminent danger of war between two nuclear-armed states both led by irresponsible madmen.

I was going to post something on this, then decided to shelve such plans when the news that Tillerson was secretly talking with the North Koreans came out. Which brings me to these points that Jennifer Rubin recently raised.

What’s wrong, I think, is that Tillerson is cracking under the stress of his job. That also explains why he’s trying to stay on: he has first-hand experience that the US president is in fact a madman, and fears what will happen if his influence attempting to moderate same is gone.

Of course, Rubin’s points are still valid, which means that Tillerson is probably on his way out. But keep in mind that Tillerson’s apparent worries are also valid.

What it all means is that Trump’s handlers are not able to rein in his worst attributes.

Make no mistake, the danger we are facing is now extreme.

What a Madman

Probably doesn’t even see the irony in making a speech that contains both this:

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

and this:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

Russia Reset, Kompromat, Etc.

First, Trump’s Russia Reset is Dead

Trump’s possibly treasonous Russia collusion backfired, bigly. It was too galling even for most members of today’s Republican Party. With its sanctions bill, Congress has hobbled Trump with respect to Russia.

It’s somewhat surprising that Trump didn’t decide to force the issue with a (doomed) veto. He’s certainly immature and short-tempered enough to do just such a thing. His handlers probably had to argue with him quite a bit to get him to acknowledge the inevitable, and accept today’s humiliation of having to sign a hated bill into law rather than tomorrow’s humiliation of an overwhelming veto override.

Onward to a New Cold War?

In the short term, definitely. Even through the medium term, quite likely. That really sucks, but with the successful (and unrepentant) Russian interference in the US (and other nations’) political systems, non-sucky immediate-term outcomes simply don’t seem possible.

Of the sucky outcomes possible, a new Cold War seems to me the least sucky. It exerts consequences on the Putin regime, whose domestic economy is quite weak already and which was counting on a Russia reset in the West to end sanctions, create domestic economic growth, and boost the regime’s popularity.

Now all Putin gets is a short-term opportunity to rally Russians around the flag while he copes with a long-term set of economic constraints that will act to undermine his regime’s popularity.

Karma Has Bitten the West, Too

Don’t think Russia is the only nation hoisted by its own petard for interfering with other nations’ politics. The West interfered with Russian politics in a huge way by backing Yeltsin’s 1993 coup against Russia’s constitutional government. That coup created the imperial presidency that Yeltsin’s successor Putin used to create the dictatorship that ended up destabilizing the USA and other Western nations.

Kompromat? Probably None of That

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the alleged (and it was always alleged; there never was any hard evidence of it) extreme dirt Putin had on Trump probably doesn’t exist. US/Russia relations are now totally in the doghouse, so Russia has every possible reason imaginable to retaliate against Trump with every diplomatic weapon in its arsenal. If it doesn’t come out in the next week or two, it’s safe to conclude the kompromat simply doesn’t exist at all.