February 20, 2016

Crisis: Democracy Now!, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Corruption, Scalia
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Democracy Now! Turns 20
2. Hillary Clinton Cries Crocodile Tears for Latin American

How the Democratic Party Got Lost
4. The Conundrums of Justice Scalia

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 20, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. It is a Saturday, and I found just four articles that I thought worthy of reviewing: item 1 is about the fact that Democracy Now! just got 20: I like them; item 2 is about one of Hillary Clinton's awful hypocrisies and is a recommended article; item 3 is about how the democratic party got lost: I think it is partially correct, but underplays the roles of money and corruption; and item 4 is about an article of Ralph Nader on Justice Scalia, which is also interesting, although Scalia doesn't seem much of a conundrum to me (for I think he was a conservative catholic before being a lawyer, which explains many of his "legal" judgements).

1. Democracy Now! Turns 20

This first item is by Amy Goodman (<- Wikipedia) on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:
Twenty years ago today, Democracy Now! went on the air on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. The date was February 19, 1996. The show began as a radio show on a handful of stations. It expanded into television five years later. Today, 5,000 episodes later, Democracy Now! airs on over 1,400 TV and radio stations. We spend the hour looking back at some highlights, including our first broadcast; Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill’s investigation, "Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship"; President Clinton accusing Amy of being "hostile and combative"; our coverage of the 2004 U.S.-backed coup in Haiti; Juan González debating Lou Dobbs; the 2008 arrests of Amy, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar at the Republican National Convention; and our live coverage from the Georgia prison grounds where Troy Davis was executed.
I say. I knew Democracy Now! is about 20 years old - in fact, so is my site, but in November of 2016 - but no more. I congratulate it, simply because I think it is a real leftist site (at a time when many leftists are mere "leftists" - think Hillary Clinton) and it generally is intelligent and sensible, and I like the site.

There is a lot more in the last dotted article - including a quite interesting conversation with Bill Clinton while he was president - but I will leave this all to your own interests.

But I have one more comment, which is also praise:

Personally, I never watched a video from Democracy Now! which I did not do  because Democracy Now! has the excellent habit of writing out their videos and I generally like to read much rather than to watch, were it only because I read at least four times faster than I can talk.

2. Hillary Clinton Cries Crocodile Tears for Latin American Immigrants

The second item is by Meleiza Figueroa on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
At first glance, Thursday seemed like a banner day for Hillary Clinton’s “minority firewall.” Several respected leaders of Latinx organizations offered their enthusiastic support for the Democratic presidential candidate, while at the same time—Beyoncé-style—her campaign dropped a new, emotionally charged ad into the Nevada market two days before the state’s crucial caucus event. In the ad, a 10-year-old Latina girl expresses fear for her parents, who have just received a letter of deportation. Clinton urges her to be “brave” and let Clinton do “all the worrying”; the candidate chokes up as she tells the child, “I’m going to do everything I can so you won’t be scared.”
What a hypcritical freak is Hillary Clinton - or at least that is what I think, I suppose along with Meleiza Figueroa.

Indeed, here is a part from Figueroa's argument:

A look at her foreign policy record with regard to Latin America finds plenty to be scared about. Indeed, the very prospect of Clinton in the driver’s seat of the American empire should trigger alarm bells in anyone who has witnessed or lived through the consequences of Central America’s “dirty wars.” Yes, the bloody legacy of regime change in America’s backyard started with President Reagan, not Secretary Clinton, but two things—her embrace of Henry Kissinger as a “friend” and “mentor” on foreign policy and her personal involvement in the 2009 coup in Honduras that forcibly removed President Manuel Zelaya, a left populist, from power—reveal her commitment to maintaining a legacy of political terror in Latin America that has caused millions of people to flee their homelands.
And there is this is on "the benefits" of Bill Clinton's NAFTA and CAFTA (that foreshadow the plans for Europe once the TTIP is accepted):
How did NAFTA and CAFTA (the Central America Free Trade Agreement) propel undocumented immigration? In academia, we can spend years counting all the ways. But in large part, it was because of the absolute devastation “free trade” brought to these countries’ family-based agricultural economies. Peasants who had supplied themselves and their communities with staple foods for centuries could not compete when thrust into a global market against a flood of cheap corn and wheat produced by the U.S. government-subsidized agricultural industry. This, and the opening of collectively held lands for sale on the private market, left millions of peasant families broke and landless, with no choice but to go north.
There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

3. How the Democratic Party Got Lost

The third item is by Michael Brenner on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

The Clinton juggernaut is losing traction. Powered by the full weight of the Democratic Establishment, it was designed to smoothly carry its idol across America and into the White House. It still may get there. But now it must traverse a far more treacherous and uncertain route than Hillary Clinton and her entourage ever imagined.

Yes, indeed.

And while I agree that Hillary still may win, I think that if she does (i) the only choice left for ordinary Americans is that between which groups of extra- ordinarily rich men is going to exploit them, and (ii) about the only argument for Hillary is that all of her Republican opponents have shown themselves to be  loony, lying and irresponsible  extremists. (In case the choice is between Hillary and a Republican, my advice is Hillary, but not because I like her but because all the Republicans are more horrible than she is.)

Then there is this on the causes that made the Democratic Party loose many of its voters, that started (according to Brenner) in the mid-eighties:

Mondale’s defeat convinced many pols that the future lay with the Reagan smorgasbord of discredited nostrums and myths repackaged by skillful political craftsmen as the new Revelation. Market fundamentalist economic models, a cartoonish version of American individualism a la Ayn Rand, financial libertinism, muscle-flexing abroad in the mantle of democratic proselytizing, and anti-government demagoguery were fashioned into an intoxicating cocktail.

Actually, I tend to believe more was involved:

I think a considerable part of the Democratic Party was corrupted rather than convinced, and my two reasons are that the neoconservatives had a lot more money available to "convince" others of Reagan's and Rand's myths, and that anyone who seriously believes these myths must be both quite stupid and quite ignorant or else quite egoistic and quite rich.

But I also agree that "corruption" is a vague term, if only because there are at least 10 lobbyists per senator, all of whom seem to operate with a mixture of arguments and cash.

Here is how this worked out according to Michael Brenner:

Disoriented Democrats badly miscalculated the danger, and in the process lost sight of who they were. Most damaging, many found a comfortable niche in this new world of hallucination. Among them are the careerists, the trendy intellectuals, and the ambitious politicians who thought that they had discovered the one route to recouping power and glory.

Together, they reshaped the Democratic Party into a me-too auxiliary to a waxing conservative movement.

Again, I'd say money (corruption) seemed to have played an important role, as indeed is pointed out (implicitly) by the third statement in the above quote.

Finally, I quote this bit because I partially agree and partially disagree:

Only the Bush era collapse into disaster abroad and at home made possible Barack Obama – who presented himself not as the embodiment of Democratic values but as a transcendent bipartisan healer — with just a few vermilion strokes. A prophet without message or mission. Whatever liberal ideas he had sounded were swiftly abandoned in what is surely the most shameless bait-and-switch in American political history.

This was predictable. After all, he thrice cited Ronald Reagan as the man who most influenced his view of the Presidency. His administrations arguably were oriented to the Right of Richard Nixon – on civil liberties as well as on economic and social programs. Look it up.

I agree that Obama was one of "the most shameless bait-and-switch" politicians in American history, and that his recipe is quite simple: Always say what you believe those who may vote for you desire to hear; and normally do whatever pleases your financial backers.

But I don't quite agree that this "was predictable" - or if it was, it was mainly for journalists and intellectuals who read all his speeches and who were prepared to believe he was very dishonest.

Anyway, this is an interesting article that is recommended (though I don't agree with everything).

4. The Conundrums of Justice Scalia

The fourth and last item today is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams and originally on his site:
This starts as follows:

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia evoked widespread commentary about how outspoken he was both on the Court and at law schools and other forums where he often lectured and sometimes tangled with audiences. Knowing of Justice Scalia’s unusual expressiveness for a jurist, my colleague Robert Weissman and I wrote him a challenging letter in 2006, starting with these words:

We are writing to inquire as to how the application of the Bill of Rights and related constitutional protections to the artificial creations known as corporations can be squared with a constitutional interpretation theory of “originalism.”

We referred to the Supreme Court case which was falsely reported to have decided that a corporation is a person. This was the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.
I didn't know that (and this is very long ago as well). Even so:
Despite this fraudulent representation of the Court’s opinion, subsequent Supreme Court cases started extending Bill of Rights protections to corporations. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of the words “corporation” or “company.” The word “person” meant to the Framers in those early days a human being; the Framers never said a company or corporation is a person. The Preamble of the Constitution, we should remember, starts with “We the People,” not “We the People and the Corporations.”

This is no minor distinction. Corporations have seized on this equivalence with being a “person,” to escape health and safety regulation, consumer and labor rights, and even strong regulation or prohibition of tobacco advertising that pushes a product known to take 400,000 American lives a year.

Yes indeed, though I fail to see the reasoned connection between (i) a falsely reported SCOTUS decision from 1886 and (ii) the utter semantical bullshit that corporations are persons: This is just baloney.

In fact, one of the most important things about corporations is that they are not persons and therefore limit the financial responsibilities of the persons who enter into an agreement to work together.

Here is my favorite English writer William Hazlitt (<- Wikipedia) in his "On Corporate Bodies" from 1822 (!!), that starts as follows:

Corporate bodies have no soul.

Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill. The principle of private or natural conscience is extinguished in each individual (we have no moral sense in the breasts of others), and nothing is considered but how the united efforts of the whole (released from idle scruples) may be best directed to the obtaining of political advantages and privileges to be shared as common spoil. Each member reaps the benefit, and lays the blame, if there is any, upon the rest. The esprit de corps becomes the ruling passion of every corporate body, compared with which the motives of delicacy or decorum towards others are looked upon as being both impertinent and improper.

There is a lot more in the original (on my site) and it is all highly recommended.

In 1988, I wrote a New York Times op-ed with public interest lawyer Carl Mayer. In this opinion piece titled “Corporations are Not Persons” we argued that:

The corporate drive for constitutional parity with real humans comes at a time when legislatures are awarding these artificial persons superhuman privileges. Besides perpetual life, corporations enjoy limited liability for industrial accidents such as nuclear power disasters, and the use of voluntary bankruptcy and other disappearing acts to dodge financial obligations while remaining in business.

The legal system is thus creating unaccountable Frankensteins that have human powers but are nonetheless constitutionally shielded from much actual and potential law enforcement as well as from accountability to real persons such as workers, consumers and taxpayers.

I completely agree - and again point out that William Hazlitt thought little different in 1822.

There is one thing that I may disagree with Nader, for I don't think Scalia was much of a "conundrum". Here is part of my reason, in Nader's words:
He was a major force in Bush v. Gore’s 5-4 majority opinion that stopped the Florida Supreme Court’s ongoing order for a full state recount. In an utterly specious, brazenly-political opinion by the five Republicans on the Court, the recount was stopped and George W. Bush was “selected” as President by five unelected lawyers. When questioned in public about this decision, he replied injudiciously “get over it.”
For me, lawyers who do that - whoever they are, also - are only doing law because it permits them to give expression to their political or religious opinions, which in Scalia's case were conservatism and catholicism. That is, they ceased
to be real lawyers, for real lawyers - whatever their religion or politics - serve the law rather than their own private political convictions.

But this is an interesting and recommended article.


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