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By Mike Davis
Making Sense of Trump's Victory
Nov 15, 2016 - We should resist the temptation to over-interpret Trump's election as an American Eighteenth Brumaire or 1933. Progressives who think they've woken up in another country should calm down, take a stiff draught, and reflect on the actual election results from the swing states.
Data, of course, is incomplete. The leading exit polls, like Pew and Edison, are hardly flawless in their harvesting of opinion and the final word on the turnout and its composition must await the Current Population Survey's reports over the next year or two. Nonetheless, the county-level returns authorize some pertinent observations.
1. Turnout was initially reported to be significantly lower than 2012, but late returns indicate the same percentage of voters (app. 58 per cent) although with a smaller major party share. The minority parties, led by the Libertarians, increased their vote from 2 to 5 percent of the total.
2. With the exceptions of Iowa and Ohio, there were no Trump landslides in key states. He polled roughly the same as Romney, making up smaller votes in the suburbs with larger votes in rural areas to achieve the same overall result. His combined margin of victory in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania combined was razor thin, about 107,000 votes.
3. The great surprise of the election was not a huge white working-class shift to Trump but rather his success in retaining the loyalty of Romney voters, and indeed even slightly improving on the latter's performance amongst evangelicals for whom the election was viewed a last stand. Thus economic populism and nativism potently combined with, but did not displace, the traditional social conservative agenda.
4. The key factor in carrying the Republicans was Trump's cynical covenant with religious conservatives following the primary defeat of Cruz. He gave them a free hand to draft the party platform at the Convention and then teamed with one of their popular heroes, Pence of Indiana, a nominal Catholic who attends an evangelical megachurch. At stake for right-to-lifers, of course, was control of the Supreme Court and a final chance to reverse Roe vs Wade. This may explain why Clinton, who unlike Obama allowed herself to be identified with late-term abortions, underperformed him by 8 points amongst Latina/o Catholics.
5. The defection of white working-class Obama voters to Trump was a decisive factor mainly in a lakeshore rim of industrial counties in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania - Monroe, Ashtabula, Lorain, both Eries, and so on - which are experiencing a new wave of job flight to Mexico and the US South. This region is the most visible epicenter of the revolt against globalization.
In other depressed areas - the coal counties of southeastern Ohio, the former anthracite belt of eastern Pennsylvania, the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia, the piedmont textile and furniture towns of the Carolinas, Appalachia in general - the pro-Republican blue-collar realignment in presidential politics (but not always in local or state politics) was already the status quo. The mass media has tended to conflate these older and newer strata of 'lost Democrats'; thus magnifying Trump's achievement.
6. I've been unable to find reliable data about the turnout of non-college whites in key states or nationally. According to the dominant narrative Trump simultaneously mobilized non-voters and converted Democrats, but the variables are independent and their weights are unclear in states like Wisconsin or Virginia (which Clinton narrowly held) where other factors like Black turnout and the size of the gender gap were likely more important.
7. A crucial cohort of college-educated white Republican women appeared to have rallied to Trump in the last week of the campaign after having wavered in previous polling. This has been attributed by several commentators, including Clinton herself, to Comey's surprise intervention and renewed skepticism about her honesty. Disapproval of Trump's rapist behaviour, moreover, was counterbalanced by disgust at Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson* (the wife-abuser who was Rubio's Democratic opponent in Florida). As a result, Clinton made only modest gains, sometimes none at all, in the crucial red suburbs of Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. ...Click title for more
By Paul Blest
On Friday afternoon, Nov 11, Bernie Sanders blasted out an email to his millions-strong campaign list with a simple headline: "It looks like you like Keith."
In the aftermath of Hillary Clinton's defeat Tuesday night, Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who was the first Muslim-American elected to Congress and who cochairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, threw his name into the hat for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison was one of Sanders's only congressional endorsements, and Sanders returned the favor: less than twenty-four hours after Ellison announced he was running, more than 250,000 Bernie supporters were backing him.
After a grim few days, this signaled at least a nod toward the future for a Democratic Party that is presently in shambles. Republicans haven't so thoroughly dominated the country since the late twenties; they not only control the presidency, but also the Senate, the House of Representatives, two-thirds of governorships, and nearly two-thirds of partisan state legislative chambers in the country. In fact, Republicans are one state legislature away from claiming an unfettered ability to amend the Constitution; just for reference, the party's platform includes, among other things, calls for a "right-to-life" amendment and an economically disastrous "balanced-budget" amendment.
At every level, American liberalism has been decimated, even as Democrats won the popular vote in six out of the last seven presidential elections. That leaves an important question: What is the way forward for the progressive movement?
The answer is simple: the left needs to organize-in a political sense, an activist sense, and a literal sense-both against Trump and for a better future.
First, you have to look at what's working. Last week, Nevada flipped a Senate seat and two seats in the House of Representatives; this was largely due to the effects of unions. The Culinary Union Local 226 is around sixty thousand strong, and its field program was a huge boon for both Clinton and down-ballot candidates. Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston said in late October that the union's field organizers had knocked on more than 62,000 doors in Reno and 220,000 doors around Las Vegas.
Contrast this with Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker and the legislature rescinded the right to collective bargaining for public employees in 2011. Not only did Clinton become the first Democrat to lose Wisconsin since 1984, but progressive stalwart Russ Feingold lost his rematch to Senator Ron Johnson and Wisconsin Republicans increased their majorities in the legislature. This part of the country has gone redder as unions have declined; Democrats have to figure out how to bring these voters back into the fold.
The second way forward is activism. Arizona, for example, went for Trump, and voters reelected Republican senator John McCain. But they also approved a minimum wage increase, and Maricopa County voters dumped longtime sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for his department's racial profiling and immigration raids. The efforts of immigrant-rights activists and union members were instrumental in making this happen.
And in North Carolina, the Moral Monday movement and the protests that arose in the aftermath of HB 2 show that grassroots social justice activism will be essential. Groups like fast-food workers fighting for a $15 minimum wage, the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights organizations, and graduate students fighting for a union have all put up a united front against the state's right-wing government.
Finally, there needs to be a renewed focus on economic justice, which is something that all of these groups can rally around. And that's where Ellison comes in. As head of the DNC, Ellison would be tasked with candidate recruitment, which would focus on fielding progressives with credible credentials who can tap into the same energy Sanders did during the primary.
Political sea changes have happened before-and quickly. After George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, there was talk of a permanent Republican majority; two years later, the Democrats reclaimed Congress. In 2008, President Obama's decisive reelection seemed to herald an era of Democratic rule; two years after that, the Republicans retook Congress on the strength of the tea party movement.
The tea party can be particularly instructive, if Democrats steal from its playbook and obstruct relentlessly, beginning with whomever Trump nominates to the Supreme Court. The Republicans, after all, decided on day one that they would not work with Obama at all, and their obstruction stopped a hell of a lot of momentum in its tracks. Given the dangers a Trump administration poses-and the congressional Republicans licking their lips at the prospect of dismantling the New Deal-Democrats should reciprocate in full measure....Click title for more
By Steven Rosenfeld
Priebus, Bannon, Mercer
Every right-wing media operation needs a billionaire funder
Nov 15, 2016 - Donald Trump's elevation of Breitbart News CEO Stephen Bannon to chief White House strategist is prompting many to ominously predict the Trump presidency will be like the worst of the campaign. But there's an even more disturbing power play in the works.
Before Bannon turned "Breitbart News into Trump Pravda," as one ex-Breitbart writer put it, Bannon backed 2016's darkest ideologue, Republican Ted Cruz. Bannon went all-in for Cruz, not just because of his libertarian economics, but because his patron and ally, the family of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, enlisted him and other Mercer-funded political assets for Cruz.
"Breitbart News was cranking out a stream of favorable Cruz stories," Politico recounted in September. "And both the Mercer-backed pro-Cruz super PAC, 'Keep the Promise I,' and the Cruz campaign signed up Cambridge Analytica [Mercer's data research firm]. And only hours after the Texas senator officially launched his campaign at the Christian university Liberty University, he and his wife appeared at [daughter] Bekah Mercer's extravagant Upper West Side apartment for a fundraiser."
The Mercers, led by Rebekah, didn't quit after Cruz's bid failed. They met with Trump's children and the nominee, and in August their team, including Bannon and pollster Kellyanne Conway, were running Trump's presidential campaign. As Politico noted, people who know the Mercers and their team said they were working for a far-right agenda, not any particular Republican candidate.
"I don't think it's about Trump. Trump is just a vehicle," a Mercer family colleague told Politico. "It's about wanting to be a player and wanting to beat Hillary, in that order. Because if you remember, they wanted to use Cruz as a vehicle before that. They do want to beat Hillary, but they also want to beat the Kochs and Paul Singer and the Ricketts [other far-right billionaires]."
This week, when Bloomberg described how campaign CEO Bannon directed Cambridge Analytics to test-market Brexit-like messages to white voters in Rust Belt states, Bannon had chilling words for anyone who believes in progressive federal government.
"This is not the French Revolution," Bannon said, characterizing Trump's achievement and goals. "They destroyed the basic institutions of their society and changed their form of government. What Trump represents is a restoration-a restoration of true American capitalism and a revolution against state-sponsored socialism. Elites have taken all the upside for themselves and pushed the downside to the working- and middle-class Americans."
Who's Calling Who Elite?
Bannon's revolution is being led by the very people Trump demonized in his final political ads in Rust Belt states-the elite players in American finance and media. No one epitomizes that contradiction as clearly as the billionaire Mercers, and their long embrace of Trump's new White House strategist, Bannon, who made a fortune at Goldman Sachs and in Hollywood before taking over Breitbart.
Bannon, who grew up in a Democratic household in Virginia, was a Navy veteran who became a Wall Street trader before turning to media. He is among a handful of grantees and causes that have been boosted by multimillion dollar investments or infusions from the Mercer family. Breitbart received $10 million, and in turn, as Politico said, dutifully publicized Mercer grantees and causes, including some of the most notorious right-wingers, such as the activists who made the 2008 anti-Hillary Clinton movie that led to the Citizens United lawsuit and U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the few remaining limits on campaign cash.
Breitbart, under Bannon, has relished vulgar attacks on liberals. It's compared feminists and Planned Parenthood to Nazis, has had anti-Semitic headlines and embraced a spectrum of white supremacist causes. Two decades ago, Bannon's wife filed domestic abuse charges that were eventually dropped. Early in the campaign, a Bannon-run non-profit, the Government Accountability Institute, astoundingly convinced the New York Times and other mainstream papers to partner with it and publish reports based on its latest attack on the Clintons, a book called Clinton Cash. As Bannon told Bloomberg in an extensive profile later in 2015, that "weaponized" the attacks, because old attacks broke out of the right-wing echo chamber and spread like a virus through the mainstream media....Click title for more
Le Pen and France's 'National Front'
The Washington Post
By James McAuley
Nov 13, 2016 - Marion Maréchal-Le Pen - a rising star in the France's far-right National Front and the niece of the party's leader, Marine Le Pen - wrote on Twitter Saturday that representatives of President-elect Donald Trump had invited her to "work together."
Ms. Le Pen, 26, became the youngest member of France's parliament in 2012. She was elected to represent Vaucluse, a region in southern France with heavy ties to the National Front, a party founded by her grandfather, the 88-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen. He once referred to the Nazi concentration camps as a "detail of history."
"I answer yes to the invitation of Stephen Bannon, CEO of @realDonaldTrump presidential campaign, to work together," Marion Le Pen tweeted.
Mr. Bannon-the former executive chairman of Breitbart News Network with ties to the so-called alt-right - is rumored to among the possible candidates for Mr. Trump's chief of staff.
Ms. Le Pen's tweet reflected a highly unusual phenomenon: an American president-elect seeking to forge relationships with ultra-nationalist and populist factions overseas that are often sharply critical of their countries' governments. It also raised the question of whether Mr. Trump and his representatives have been reaching out to foreign populist parties before first reaching out to foreign heads of state.
Also on Saturday, Nigel Farage, the interim leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), was seen at Trump Tower in New York City. The principal architect of the "Brexit" vote - when Britain shocked the world by voting to leave the European Union - may have been the first British politician to meet America's newly elected president.
British Prime Minister Teresa May was the 11th foreign head of state that Mr. Trump called after his victory, causing British media to speculate whether her place in line had constituted a snub. But Mr. Trump called May before he called French President François Hollande, who in the months before the election was a particularly outspoken critic of the billionaire real estate developer and his rhetoric.
Mr. Trump's relations with foreign politicians have been an issue in the campaign. In a statement last week from Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, said that Russian government officials had been in contact with members of Mr. Trump's campaign before the election, prompting further questions about the nature and extent of the relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In Europe, France's National Front is chief among the many right-wing parties whose commitment to ethno-nationalism and whose distaste for an American-anchored world order has found a natural ally inMr. Putin's Russia. In 2014, Marine Le Pen accepted a €9 million ($9.8 million) loan from the Moscow-based First Czech Russian Bank, insisting that French banks would not lend to her. In February, the National Front's treasurer confirmed reports in French media that the party would appeal to Russia again for an additional €27 million ($29.3 million) if French banks continue refusing their requests. The money would be used for the party's campaign in the French presidential elections next in the spring....Click title for more
By Loz Blain
Nov 14, 2016 - An Asia-based group of entrepreneurs has put forth a vision for a global, interconnected energy grid that connects energy users with renewable generation sources half a world away. Starting with an Asia wide super grid, GEIDCO is aiming for a connected world by 2050.
Clean, renewable energy will soon be cheaper than traditional polluting sources - but there's still a big problem. It tends to get generated in inconvenient places, at inconvenient times that don't necessarily match up with where it's needed.
Part of this problem could be solved with grid-level battery storage - if anyone can come up with a big enough, cheap enough, workable solution for that. But an international group of entrepreneurs is working on an extremely ambitious scheme to link the entire globe together into an interconnected power grid that would let renewable energy be generated and used at any time, from anywhere.
GEIDCO - the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Co-operation Organization is a China-based group that now has agreements with energy companies in China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, as well as utilities, equipment manufacturers and universities from 14 countries.
It's simple enough; whenever there's a big power load somewhere, there's somewhere else in the world where that demand matches up with a generation spike. When it's noon in the Gobi desert, and solar generation is at its peak, it's dinner time in the UK and everyone's boiling kettles.
The first step for GEIDCO is to build a connected Asia Super Grid that could bring the theoretically huge renewable energy generation capabilities of North China's Gobi desert as far east as Japan.
The entire idea is contingent on ultra high voltage power transmission lines, thousands of miles operating at more than 1,000 kilovolts AC/800 kilovolts DC. High voltages reduce losses over long distances, and both Russia and Japan already have hundreds (in Russia's case thousands) of miles of ultra high voltage lines up and running. These pale in comparison to China's infrastructure; since 2009 China has built nearly 10,000 miles of UHV power lines, with about the same again to come online in the next two years.
The larger GEIDCO's interconnected web of renewable energy becomes, the more stable the supply is, because it's less dependent on individual sources, so moving toward a global energy network that shares power from Greenland to South Africa, Australia to Switzerland is the ultimate goal.
Of course, there's a lot of obstacles in the way - from geopolitics, to who's in control of the grid, to grid stability in an interconnected world, to the enormous infrastructure costs involved. But having already begun to face extreme levels of pollution due to its massive 1.35-billion population, China is pushing hard on renewable energy and making huge investments....Click title for more
By Nadia Prupis
Amnesty International and other groups estimate the civilian death toll in Iraq and Syria since bombings began in 2014 could be more than 2,500. (Photo: Domenico/flickr/cc)
In report released quietly on Election Day, U.S. Central Command adds new numbers to death toll, admitting it is double previous estimates
The U.S. Pentagon has vastly under-reported civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Syria-by half.
According to new figures released Wednesday by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), 119 civilians died since bombing against the Islamic State (ISIS) began in 2014, an update that now includes an additional 64 deaths between November 2015 and September 2016.
Previously, CENTCOM only acknowledged 55 civilian deaths since airstrikes began. The new figures come after an internal investigation was launched into the bombing campaign after rights groups accused the U.S. military of "significantly underestimating" the toll on civilians and infrastructure.
Those groups, such as Amnesty International, have put the death count much higher, estimating that more than 1,700-and possibly over 2,500-civilians have been killed since 2014.
"The latest disclosure is in the right direction but we do not consider it to be adequate....None of the 11 incidents we examined carefully for our memo and found some 300 likely civilian casualties from them is included in the incidents here," Neil Sammonds, an Amnesty researcher on Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, told Sputnik News on Thursday.
Surviving the Trump Era
The latest report notably omits figures from a series of strikes in July in Manbij, Syria, which killed an estimated 500 civilians, including 56 deaths from a single bombing. At the time, the Pentagon claimed it believed the targets were members of the Islamic State (ISIS). Antiwar.com writes:
Despite the Pentagon feeling the need to come up with excuses for the Manbij strikes at the time, they not only didn't include them in the final death toll, but didn't even hazard an attempt to mention the well-documented incidents in the document.
Sammonds similarly told Sputnik that the report provided no evidence how U.S. officials determined that the attacks were unlawful, stating, "The disclosure brings the overall acknowledged civilian deaths across both Iraq [and] Syria to be 119. As I said, from those 11 incidents alone we believe there were in the region of 300 civilians killed-[and] independent NGOs have documented at least 650 civilian killings in Syria alone. The actual, total figure is likely higher still."...Click title for more
By Maureen Ryan
Without any outside help, humans are doing a pretty good job of making a mess of things on this planet, so it's hard to put alien invasion high on the list of existential threats.
The defanged nature of that premise, long a staple of sci-fi storytelling, accounts for much of the amiability of "People of Earth," a gentle and modestly pleasing comedy about a support group for alien abductees.
Of course, storytellers have had comedic fun with the premise before, most notably in "The X-Files," which didn't always take itself all that seriously. In fact, "People of Earth" could be read as an homage to one of the Fox series' greatest hours, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space." It doesn't have the poetry of that installment of "The X-Files" - few episodes of television do - but the TBS series also uses alien-abduction scenarios as a vehicle for exploring ideas about connection, loneliness, and the ways in which memories can be manipulated for possibly unsavory reasons.
Wyatt Cenac plays Ozzie, a journalist who writes a story about an abductee-support group that meets in the small, fictional town of Beacon. Ozzie spends much of his time reacting to odd stories spun by group members and to strange or unsettling events that happen to him, and through it all, he projects a air of bemused skepticism and mildly cynical compassion. Cenac's deadpan reactions supply a good deal of the laughs, especially in the early going, and his able performance provides a solid center for a comedy that, by design, has a lot of oddballs floating through its orbit.
Oscar Nunez of "The Office" plays Father Doug, a put-upon priest who rents a parish room to the support group, and once again he is perfectly cast as a man who can't believe the shenanigans of the supposed adults around him. For all his exasperation, however, Father Doug doesn't necessarily judge the well-intentioned men and women in the support group, which is also the attitude of the show itself.
"People of Earth" may be slight and decidedly modest in its ambitions and execution, but it's not a show that sets out to mock or belittle unconventional people. Like its tonal cousin, "Northern Exposure," this new comedy gently celebrates the offbeat, the beleaguered and the obsessed....Click title for more
Twenty-First Century Socialism:
Is There Life after Neoliberalism?
Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2014.
119pp., £13.95 pb
Reviewed by Rudy Leal McCormack
Marxism and Philosophy
Atilio Boro´n is an Argentinian professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires. Twenty-First Century Socialism: Is There Life After Neoliberalism? was published in Spanish in Buenos Aires at the end of 2008. Afterwards, Susan Ashdown translated the version under review into English. The intent behind this critical analysis is no secret. Boro´n has a personal story of the Washington consensus, for the reason that Argentina his native country felt the full force of neoliberalism's influence. Latin American Countries (LAC), as Boro´n contends, have become the exploited subjects of capitalism for the benefit of a few powerful nations.
In the first paragraph of the introduction, Boro´n succinctly defines the main idea: that capitalism is not a universally applicable model nor is it an eternal answer for prosperity and growth in LACs. Boro´n's useful invoking of the ideas of Immanuel Wallerstein, in addition to Marx and Engels, conveys that the global construction of capitalism as a world economy has a center (the United States, Western Europe, etc.) that sets the rules for the exploitation of the periphery and develops itself by appropriating surplus value from the periphery (Latin America, Caribbean, Africa, etc.). As a result, Boro´n prescribes a twenty-first century socialist solution, an alternative possibility where nations, especially LACs, can develop through democratic means.
Boro´n's book is divided into three main chapters. The initial chapter tackles the constructed narrative of capitalist development by the neoliberal ideological long victory in the 'battle of ideas.' This simply means the ideological global grip of capitalism as a hegemonic model over alternative systems. The second chapter traces the history of capitalism in LACs and Boro´n identifies a roadmap in finding a different direction within capitalism from the Washington consensus. The final chapter supports Boro´n's ultimate purpose of the book, a refined definition of the socialist horizon.
In the first chapter, Boro´n deconstructs in detail the myth sold to the rest of the world. This myth robs LACs of a bright capitalist future that never comes to fruition. Boro´n calls them the 'eternal countries of the future' (25). Put simply, the capitalist myth is a story inculcated within LACs designed to keep them in a perpetual state of economic and political dependency by advanced capitalist interests. In fact, this metaphorical treadmill of illusory economic growth plays into the mythology of capitalism by the core countries. This ongoing myth has demonstrated how effective neoliberalism's ideological grip has been in LACs and through globalization.
Further, Boro´n suggests, in a world of transnationalized markets that include pressures of globalization, it is fictional to believe LACs can depend on their own national capital development. For example, between 1870 and 1930 Argentina lost its 'national bourgeoisie' (29) made up of agrarian landholders. The national bourgeoisie, various and stratified proved to be weak in waging a struggle against imperialism and transnational businesses. The foreign takeover of LACs such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico share a pattern of underdevelopment identified by Boro´n, which aggravates the mythology of capitalism for LACs.
This first and crucial chapter shapes the overwhelming challenges for LACs in a neoliberal world order. For example, Boro´n describes the international apparatuses that give such an advantage to the core nations in the international realm made up of 'free' trade agreements, the Washington consensus, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Essentially, these same tools act as proxies for the United States Department of the Treasury, which maintain the imperial world order and its grasp on LACs. The result, as Boro´n labors to demonstrate is that capitalism is unsustainable due to its destructive social forces.
The second chapter directs our attention towards capitalism's historical development. In a show of dramatic urgency Boro´n considers capitalism - rightly - to be 'a slow social holocaust'(40), 'a sacrifice brought about by the unprecedented intensification of the predatory characteristic of a particular mode of production which conceives of men and women and nature as mere commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace for a profit' (ibid). However, the 'Golden Age' (41) for capitalism, the period from 1948 to 1973, became a model of unprecedented economic prosperity for many core countries that set a precedent for a long time. The 'Keynesian welfare state' as economists called it gave rise to the best capitalism could offer. However, financial institutions with the help of deregulation by top state administrators in the United States perverted that model and capitalism fell back on its hard-core primal instinct: 'the maximization of profit at whatever price.' (43). Neoliberalism, this perverse transformation, became the model that is leading society and the environment toward an accelerated path to destruction....Click title for more