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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
May 11, 2016

The Progressive Case For Hillary Clinton Isn’t Much of a Case At All

The Progressive Case For Hillary Clinton Isn’t Much of a Case At All
A recent argument for Clinton from the left fails to convince.

BY Douglas Williams

(In These Times) In a recent issue of In These Times, Sady Doyle made “A Progressive Case for Hillary Clinton.” That such a case could be made might come as a surprise to many progressives, considering that Hillary Clinton has, for instance, derided single-payer healthcare as something that will “never, ever come to pass,” and has poohed-poohed calls for free public higher education by stating that students need more “skin in the game.”

Still, it’s worth asking: Does Doyle’s case hold up under scrutiny? Let’s take a look.

Has sexism influenced assessments of Hillary Clinton?

Doyle spends the first third of her piece arguing that “it is impossible to analyze Clinton—her policies, her career path, her hair—without understanding how gender bias operates,” and that “as progressives, it is our duty to resist these stereotypes, and, if we are journalists, to help our readers understand how gender bias operates at an unconscious level.”

It is true that we all have biases, and it is undoubtedly true that there are many, many people who have made sexist statements about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy—it’s been a central trope of the Right’s attempt to discredit her for more than two decades now.

But aside from the fact that pointing out and condemning such sexism, while important, does not constitute a progressive case for Clinton, there are two problems with this argument.

The first issue is with the research cited. Doyle references a 2010 study from Yale School of Management professors Tyler Okimoto and Victoria Brescoll which found that women who seek to gain political power can elicit negative reactions due to their deviation from the expectation that women exhibit more “communal” traits, such as warmth and comfort. But a 2013 methodological study by Kathleen Dolan found that surveys and experiments that ask people about support for female politicians in the abstract or about hypothetical candidates—like the study that Doyle cites, which constructed fictional state senators—do not get at the question of the role that gender plays in vote choice. ....................(more)


May 11, 2016

The Panama Papers expose the hypocrisy of England’s oligarchs

Cuts for the Poor, Tax Havens for the Rich
The Panama Papers expose the hypocrisy of England’s oligarchs.

(In These Times) In 1960, when we moved into the house I still inhabit, the real estate agent described this part of Chelsea as “run-down” but “coming up.” Indeed, my mother-in-law, who’d just stopped being a stalwart Communist, congratulated her son on living at last “among his own people.” She’d lived in our street briefly in the 1930s and remembered it as working class. Nowadays, the news that I live in Chelsea occasions whistles of surprise or disapproval or possibly envy. It’s where rich people live.

Yet until a month ago, there were five men sleeping on the ground under an overhanging concrete shelf by the local fire station, which is exposed to the elements and the unfriendly. I took them to be refugees, as they didn’t speak much English. Presumably those who sometimes left croissants and bananas and occasionally books thought the same. Now they’ve been evicted and their temporary sanctuary made impenetrable by the erection of a nasty green steel barrier. They are just some of the thousands and thousands of people who are told these days they’re not wanted, that they should return to homes that no longer exist, should expose themselves and their families if necessary to drowning and bombs, and to poverty and starvation.

A famous 19th-century institution, the Charity Organisation Society (which spread to the United States later in the century), saw its primary duty as distinguishing between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. We appear to be returning to those times, as the state disowns responsibility for suffering or poverty and spends longer sifting the sheep from the goats than on confronting the causes and the extent of poverty in the world.

All that may seem miles from the so-called Panama Papers and the embarrassment they’ve caused our prime minister, David Cameron, when they revealed that his father ran a tax-avoiding investment fund in one of the “treasure islands” (otherwise known as tax havens) that now constitute what’s left of the great British Empire. Not surprisingly, Cameron turns out to have benefited from his father’s foresight, though it’s not clear that either father or son acted unlawfully. But Cameron refused four times to come clean about it all, and when he finally admitted to his party colleagues that it had been a “bad week” and he was sorry if he’d misled them and handled it all badly, his mea culpa ended with assurances that the Conservatives were still the “low tax” party, which is what matters most to them all. ..............(more)


May 11, 2016

Noam Chomsky: American Power Under Challenge & The Costs of Violence

from TomDispatch:

American Power Under Challenge
Masters of Mankind (Parts 1 and 2)

By Noam Chomsky

Pt. I

When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.

States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” -- a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.

In the contemporary global order, the institutions of the masters hold enormous power, not only in the international arena but also within their home states, on which they rely to protect their power and to provide economic support by a wide variety of means. When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled “free-trade agreements” in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with “fast track” procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate.

The Second Superpower

The neoliberal programs of the past generation have concentrated wealth and power in far fewer hands while undermining functioning democracy, but they have aroused opposition as well, most prominently in Latin America but also in the centers of global power. The European Union (EU), one of the more promising developments of the post-World War II period, has been tottering because of the harsh effect of the policies of austerity during recession, condemned even by the economists of the International Monetary Fund (if not the IMF’s political actors). Democracy has been undermined as decision making shifted to the Brussels bureaucracy, with the northern banks casting their shadow over their proceedings. .................(more)



Pt. II

The Costs of Violence
Masters of Mankind (Part 2)

In brief, the Global War on Terror sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world, from Africa through the Levant and South Asia to Southeast Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraq War “generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.” Other exercises have been similarly productive.

A group of major human rights organizations -- Physicians for Social Responsibility (U.S.), Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Germany) -- conducted a study that sought "to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones [Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] during 12 years of ‘war on terrorism,'" including an extensive review “of the major studies and data published on the numbers of victims in these countries,” along with additional information on military actions. Their "conservative estimate" is that these wars killed about 1.3 million people, a toll that "could also be in excess of 2 million." A database search by independent researcher David Peterson in the days following the publication of the report found virtually no mention of it. Who cares?

More generally, studies carried out by the Oslo Peace Research Institute show that two-thirds of the region’s conflict fatalities were produced in originally internal disputes where outsiders imposed their solutions. In such conflicts, 98% of fatalities were produced only after outsiders had entered the domestic dispute with their military might. In Syria, the number of direct conflict fatalities more than tripled after the West initiated air strikes against the self-declared Islamic State and the CIA started its indirect military interference in the war -- interference which appears to have drawn the Russians in as advanced US antitank missiles were decimating the forces of their ally Bashar al-Assad. Early indications are that Russian bombing is having the usual consequences.

The evidence reviewed by political scientist Timo Kivimäki indicates that the “protection wars [fought by ‘coalitions of the willing’] have become the main source of violence in the world, occasionally contributing over 50% of total conflict fatalities.” Furthermore, in many of these cases, including Syria, as he reviews, there were opportunities for diplomatic settlement that were ignored. That has also been true in other horrific situations, including the Balkans in the early 1990s, the first Gulf War, and of course the Indochina wars, the worst crime since World War II. In the case of Iraq the question does not even arise. There surely are some lessons here. ......................(more)


May 11, 2016

Fight Climate Change, One Bus Ride at a Time

(Bloomberg) Success in the fight against climate change doesn’t demand dramatic innovations. Houses that heat themselves and jet planes fueled by sunshine and pond goo are good ideas, but there’s no need to wait for them. Power plants that emit only a steady drip of macchiato would be great, too, but they aren’t strictly essential.

Adequate if mundane solutions are already at hand. Many of them even make sense regardless of global warming. It’s just a matter of exploiting them. High on the list: public transit.

President Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting climate change centers on limiting carbon emission from power plants. Yet in the U.S., transportation accounts for almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as electricity generation -- and despite the federal government’s efforts to make cars more fuel-efficient, those emissions are increasing.

Electric cars may take care of that one day, but not soon: They make up less than 3 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S., and their share of the market has been falling. Buses, subways and streetcars emit far less carbon. On a passenger-mile basis, driving a car with one occupant emits between two and four times as much as traveling by subway. A bus that’s three-quarters empty produces about 30 percent less emissions than the equivalent number of single-occupant cars, and half the emissions of the corresponding fleet of SUVs.

That matters because three in four U.S. commuters get to work by driving alone -- compared with 64 percent in 1980, when climate change wasn’t yet a concern. The share of commuters using transit hovers around 5 percent, less than half the share in 1960. Leaving cars at home is one of the simplest ways to reduce emissions, yet few of us do it. ...............(more)


May 10, 2016

San Francisco: Muni experiments with a double-stop routine to speed things up

(SF Chronicle) Muni Metro riders may have noticed something different in the stations beneath Market Street. Trains, at least during commute hours, are stopping in different places, and two are stopping at the same time.

The unorthodox train behavior is part of a double-stopping experiment by Muni in the Montgomery, Powell and Civic Center stations to eliminate those annoying backups that leave passengers stuck in rail cars inside or just outside the stations, especially during the peak ridership hours.

Here’s how it works: A Muni train pulls into the station, lets riders off near the start of the platform then proceeds to the far end of the platform, where passengers board. Meanwhile, a second train pulls into the station behind the first train and lets its passengers off.

“This is meant to help customers get where they’re going faster,” said Paul Rose, a Muni spokesman. ............(more)


May 10, 2016

More woes for the Washington Metro


MAY 9, 2016, 8:36 A.M. E.D.T.

WASHINGTON — Metro says a train that became disabled while testing tracks after a small track fire is causing delays on three lines in southeast Washington.

Metro spokesman Richard Jordan says a small fire broke out the tracks early Monday between the Minnesota Avenue and Stadium-Armory stations. He says that fire was put out using a fire extinguisher.

Jordan says a train testing whether the track was ready to open after the fire and weekend track work became disabled outside Stadium-Armory.

Jordan says trains are using just one track through that area on the blue, orange and silver lines. He says the delays will continue until the train can be removed and another train can test the tracks in that area. He says it's not clear how long that will take.

May 10, 2016

Official “Labor Market Conditions” Give off First Warning Signs

Official “Labor Market Conditions” Give off First Warning Signs
by Wolf Richter • May 9, 2016

Jobs metrics were immune to worsening economic malaise.

The official labor market metrics in the US — unemployment rate, number of jobs created, weekly unemployment insurance claims, etc. — have been immune to the worsening malaise visible elsewhere:

• Total business sales have declined since mid-2014.
• Business inventories have reached crisis levels.
• Corporate earnings, no matter how financially engineered, have fallen four quarters in a row.
• Productivity is down.
• Commercial bankruptcies in April soared 32% year-over-year to 3,482, with Chapter 11 filings skyrocketing 67%.
• The Freight Recession hit full stride with trucking deteriorating and railroad traffic down sharply as layoffs spread across the industry, and even Union Pacific engines are idled in large numbers in out-of-the-way places across the US.
• Layoff announcements are cascading through the country, including tech.
• The brick-and-mortar retail sector is in crisis and faces a wave of bankruptcies.
• The oil and gas sector is practically collapsing.

And throughout, the official employment metrics did not reflect these trends.

Now, however, the first squiggles are showing up in the numbers. So today’s Labor Market Conditions Index (LMCI) is particularly important — because it shows those squiggles.

We already got a foretaste last week when unemployment claims surged by the most in over a year, and the nonfarm jobs number, the worst since January 2014, was a doozie of a disappointment for many analysts. ...............(more)


May 10, 2016

Chinese Government Warns World of “L-Shaped Path”: a Dive & No Recovery

Chinese Government Warns World of “L-Shaped Path”: a Dive & No Recovery
by Wolf Richter • May 9, 2016

[font color="blue"]Don’t count on us, it said.[/font]

It’s fascinating how Wall Street soothsayers and American industrial companies, such as automakers, hype the Chinese economy, even as Chinese government officials are getting cold feet about their economic miracle, as they’re gradually figuring out what’s going on in their construct. And now, they’re trying to prepare the world for what they see coming.

With economic growth down to the official rate of 6.7% in the first quarter, the slowest official growth rate since the Financial Crisis, soothsayers are busily pointing out that it’s still astronomical compared to the growth rates – if you can call them that – in the US, Europe, and Japan.

But now the People’s Daily, the official paper of the Communist Party and thus a government mouthpiece, published an exclusive interview with an unnamed “authoritative figure” – a description that is “usually used for high-level officials,” the paper explained. It even ran the article on its English-language site for the entire world to see.

This authoritative figure told the People’s Daily that the Chinese economy won’t see a V-shaped recovery, or a U-shaped recovery, or any recovery of economic growth, but an “L-shaped path going forward.”

So a decline followed by no recovery. ....................(more)


May 10, 2016

Wealth Confiscation for the Digital Age: the New “Cash Tax”

Wealth Confiscation for the Digital Age: the New “Cash Tax”
by Brian Hunt • May 10, 2016

[font color="blue"]Directly from your bank account.[/font]

From Brian Hunt, director, Casey Research:

“Negative interest rates” have become a phenomenon with economists and the media. But I’m writing to tell you something about negative interest rates you haven’t heard. You certainly won’t hear about it in the mainstream press.

What’s coming at you is a historic event. It’s something our grandchildren will hear stories about, much like the Great Depression or the Cold War. It could send the price of gold much higher in the coming years.

If you know what’s coming, it could mean the difference between having lots of free cash in retirement and barely getting by. And please remember this warning: Social Security will help even less than you think.

To understand the gravity of this moment, let’s cover one of the most bizarre ideas in the world…

Negative Interest Rates.

In a normal world, your bank pays you interest on your savings. It takes your money, pools it with other people’s money, and loans it out. The bank makes money by paying out less in interest on your deposit than it earns in interest from borrowers. For example, it might pay out 3% to depositors while earning 6% from borrowers. This is how it has worked for decades. ............(more)


May 10, 2016

Hillary Clinton Hints Her Husband, Ardent Advocate of Trade Pacts, Might Be Her Jobs Czar


Hillary Clinton has suggested that she might appoint her husband, who played a leadership role in championing trade deals that have hemorrhaged jobs from the US, as jobs czar to create manufacturing positions. Say what? Even Bill appears puzzled. (Photo: Eric Austin)

Politicians in tight spots often say the most puzzling things. While campaigning in coal country, where large numbers of miners are without jobs, Hillary Clinton has been met by grassroots opposition to her (hopefully accurate) comment earlier this year that coal, as a fuel, is on its last legs.

As Politico reported on May 2,

Clinton has faced increased scrutiny and backlash from coal-producing areas of the country after boasting at a March town hall, "We're going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business." Though she followed up by saying that the United States should "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," the remark created consternation in the coal community. On Sunday, Bill Clinton confronted protesters in West Virginia unhappy with his wife's comments.


However, Hillary Clinton provided some evidence to bolster the cynical viewpoint with her attempt to reassure coal country voters. She tried to assuage their economic fears with a hint that her husband might become her jobs czar. Now remember, this is Bill Clinton, the neoliberal globalist who played a cheerleader-in-chief role for the trade pacts that had a significant impact on the very loss of jobs in manufacturing that Hillary Clinton says she is concerned about. As CBS News reported on May 2,

Clinton is often asked exactly what kind of role her husband would play in her administration.

On Monday, in Kentucky coal country, she said she would put the former president in charge of reviving jobs in communities hard hit by manufacturing losses.

"I told my husband he's got to come out of retirement and be in charge of this because you know he's got more ideas a minute than anybody I know," she said.

Yes, and many of these ideas are like big meteors hurdling toward you.

Global trade pacts that favor corporations are not a significant reason coal is doomed -- that's actually due primarily to the development of cleaner and more cost-efficient fuels and the need to save the planet from climate change -- but they have become the symbol of a US government policy that has accelerated the hemorrhaging of US manufacturing jobs to less-costly overseas settings. ....................(more)


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