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Nederlog

Jul 31, 2016

Crisis: Assange, Demagogues, Representative Democray, Sanders, Clinton
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Introduction

1.
WikiLeaks' Julian Assange on Releasing DNC Emails
     That Ousted Debbie Wasserman Schultz

2. Never Has a Demagogue Reached This Point in Our
     Electoral System Before

3. Are We Witnessing the Death of Representative
     Democracy?

4. Sanders: 'Trump is the Most Dangerous Presidential
     Candidate in the Modern History of This Country'

5. Hillary's Convention Con

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, July 31, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about Julian Assange and his recent publication of DNC emails; item 2 is about Bernstein on Trump (not bad, but also not very good); item 3 is about a fine article about the radical declines in representative democracy in the USA; item 4 is about Bernie Sanders and an interview he had on July 29 with Bill Maher which is quite good; and item 5 is a quite sensible reaction of Ralph Nader to the Democratic Convention.

1.
WikiLeaks' Julian Assange on Releasing DNC Emails That Ousted Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The first item today is
by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following introduction:
WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange joins us from London about their release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. This comes as the Democratic National Convention is opening today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, amid massive party turmoil. The DNC chair, Florida Congressmember Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has resigned following the leak. The emails also reveal a close relationship between mainstream media outlets and the DNC.
It is meanwhile quite clear that the DNC "favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders", and indeed here is Bernie Sanders (quoted):
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I told you a long time ago that the—that the DNC was not running a fair operation, that they were supporting Secretary Clinton. So what I suggested to be true six months ago turns out, in fact, to be true. I’m not shocked, but I am disappointed. ... What I also said many months ago is that, for a variety of reasons, Debbie Wasserman Schultz should not be chair of the DNC. And I think these emails reiterate that reason why she should not be chair. I think she should resign, period. And I think we need a new chair who is going to lead us in a very different direction.
And meanwhile Wasserman Schultz has resigned (which I think is a good result).

Here is Assange on his release of nearly 20,000 emails about the DNC:

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, it’s quite remarkable what has happened the last few days. I think this is a quite a classical release, showing the benefit of producing pristine data sets, presenting them before the public, where there’s equal access to all journalists and to interested members of the public to mine through them and have them in a citable form where they can then be used to prop up certain criticisms or political arguments.
And this is Assange on some of the things in his release that have not been reported on:
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, actually, I think the most significant ones haven’t been reported on, although The Washington Post late last night and McClatchy did a first initial stab at it. And this is the spreadsheets that we released covering the financial affairs of the DNC. Those are very rich documents. There’s one spreadsheet called "Spreadsheet of All Things," and it includes all the major U.S.—all the major DNC donors, where the donations were brought in, who they are, identifiers, the total amounts they’ve donated, how much at a noted or particular event, whether that event was being pushed by the president or by someone else. That effectively maps out the influence structure in the United States for the Democratic Party, but more broadly, because the—with few exceptions, billionaires in the United States make sure they donate to both parties.
There is considerably more in the article which is recommended.

2. Never Has a Demagogue Reached This Point in Our Electoral System Before

The second item is by Elizabeth Preza on AlterNet:

This starts as follows, and is concerned with Carl Bernstein (<-Wikipedia) on Donald Trump:

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein joined Twitter
Tuesday the only way an iconic journalist would: With an interview. In a Q&A session hosted through the video-sharing app
Periscope, Bernstein critiqued Donald Trump’s nomination, calling this election “the Gettysburg of the American cultural wars.”

“Whoever wins this … whoever wins—the country is going to never be the same,” Bernstein told Twitter’s head of news Adam Sharp. “And it’s going to determine the future of our country for generations.”

I don't quite agree. I rather think that if Hillary Clinton wins, it will be mostly more of the same as was given by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but I agree with Bernstein if Trump wins: That will "determine the future of our country for generations", and in a far worse way than Hillary Clinton would have (about whom I am also not optimistic at all).

Here is Bernstein on Trump's qualifications:

“We’ve got to look at Donald Trump as unique in our history in terms of being the nominee of a major party for president,” Bernstein said. “Not only because he comes from outside the political system, but because of the views he holds and how extreme they are.”

“They are based on exclusion and it is totally outside the history of presidents of the United States,” Bernstein added.

Yes, but this is also about the minimum he could say about Trump. There is also this about Trump and Hillary Clinton:

“Never has a demagogue reached this point in our electoral system before," he added.

On Trump’s Democratic rival, Bernstein, who wrote a biography of Hillary Clinton, described the former Secretary of State as “having a difficult relationship with the truth.”
I agree with Bernstein on Clinton and truth (and see item 5) but it is far better than the indeed extremely bad relation between Trump and truth.

3. Are We Witnessing the Death of Representative Democracy?

The third item is by Andrew Gimbel on AlterNet and originally on the New Press:

This has a subtitle which is correct and instructive (bold in the original):
Billionaires now sponsor presidential candidates (or run for president themselves) the way Renaissance popes and princes once patronized artists.
Yes, I think that is basically correct (though I wouldn't be very amazed if Trump is not a billionaire).

Next, the article itself opens with an interesting quotation that in fact dates back to 1960:

"Imagine a political system in which votes are bought and sold freely in the open market, a system in which it is taken for granted that people will buy all the votes they can afford and use their power to get more money in order to buy more votes, so that a single magnate might easily outvote a whole city. Imagine a situation in which elections have become a mere formality because one or a few individuals are owners of a controlling number of votes. Suppose that nine-tenths of the members of the community are unable to exert any appreciable influence. Suppose, moreover, that the minority is entitled to very little information about what is being done. That is what the political system would be like if it were run the way business is run." —E.E. Schattschneider
In fact, this has mostly happened since 1980. Not quite everything, but most of this has been realized now.

The article - in fact: taken from a book published this year: "Down for the Count" - then starts as follows:

Does representative democracy have a future, or is it just a phase we’ve been going through? If by “representative democracy” we mean a system in which a majority of voters holds meaningful sway over policy outcomes, the game in the United States may already be over.
Yes and no, it seems to me.

In the first place, I think "
a majority of voters" may never have held a "meaningful sway over policy outcomes" in the USA, except perhaps over very general issues. That is, I think it is quite likely that by and large politicians determined policy outcomes, much rather than some "majority of voters" (except for very general issues).

And in the second place, what really changed was that the politicians (who mostly took the decisions) were responsible to the voters, after the fact, and that mostly because (i) the politicians were not financed (by big money, by big donations, by lobbyists) because such financing was forbidden, other than in small amounts, and (ii) the voters were capable of getting more or less true information about many policies and many outcomes (though certainly not all).

It is especially these two points that have radically changed: All elected politicians now may be supported by big money, big donations and by lobbyists, for while that used to be forbidden, this has now all become legal,
while there is much less true information about politicians, policies and outcomes than there was, simply because there are far fewer independent
papers and far fewer independent TV-companies: all information that the people get by the main media is - in the end - controlled by a few rich men, and has been radically restyled as propaganda much rather than truth.

Then again Gimbel sees most of this as well:
The corrupting influence of money hasn’t just upended the priorities of elected officials, who now spend more time raising funds than talking to constituents or researching the issues they vote on. It hasn’t just made campaigns more expensive, more media-saturated, and more vicious. The scenario that Schattschneider imagined in 1960 has largely come to pass. Magnates do outvote entire cities, at least in those cases—the majority—where media coverage of political campaigns cannot keep up with the relentless flow of money. For many people living in noncompetitive or uncontested districts, elections have indeed become just a formality. Billionaires were capable now sponsor presidential candidates (or run for president themselves) the way Renaissance popes and princes once patronized artists; where those candidates previously had to sway party committees and state delegates to become viable office seekers, now they need to win over an audience of just one.
Yes, indeed. And - not at all suprisingly - the billionaires who now have much of the political power and much of the political propaganda are rather different from ordinary voters:
Another recent study comparing the political views of America’s top 1 percent with the electorate as a whole found the billionaire class to be far less committed to excellence in public school education (35 percent against 87 percent of all Americans), less committed to public-sector job creation, less committed to providing viable benefits to the unemployed, and less interested in increasing taxes to support universal health care—or for any other purpose. In short, they skew significantly to the right of the average voter and are generally skeptical about the public sector’s power to generate jobs and beneficial social change. They favor tax cuts over programs for the poor, and deficit reduction over government stimulus plans.
This is all quite true, to which it must be added that by deregulating the
financial laws that guaranteed some influence of ordinary voters, the billionaires have taken over most of the power.

Here is Seymour Martin Lipset (<- Wikipedia), incidentally not a radical:

Another political theorist from the baby boom years, Seymour Martin Lipset, wrote a famous paper arguing that middle-class stability, not just overall prosperity, was essential to a successful democracy. Wealth inequality was poison, he said, because it ate at the very core of that achievement: “A society divided between a large impoverished mass and a small favored elite would result either in oligarchy . . . or tyranny.”
And that is the case in the present USA, at least in the sense that there is "a large impoverished mass" and there is "a small favored elite", that also is extremely rich, and has been given the legal powers to spend their riches on
politics by the Supreme Court.

Then there is this on how the few rich got a whole lot richer since 1979, while the many non-rich all got quite a lot poorer:
Between 1979 and 2012, the income of the top fifth of the population increased 48.8 percent in real terms, while the bottom fifth saw a 12.1 percent drop. Every income group except for the top 20 percent has lost ground in the last forty years, regardless of whether the economy has boomed or tanked and regardless, too, of which party has held the presidency or controlled Congress. The gap between rich and poor stopped widening briefly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, only to start growing again with a vengeance, with the top 1 percent snagging more than 90 percent of new income in 2010.
Finally, I'll quote this on the multi-national corporations:
Multinational corporations are far more powerful now than they were in the era of the original robber barons because they have the power to bankroll politicians as long as they remain useful and to close down factories and move investments and jobs overseas if they do not. The history of democracy has been largely a history of the empowerment of the working class, but now we live in a world where much of that working class lives in another country, working in sweatshop conditions for minimal wages, with no voice whatsoever in our electoral process—or, often, their own. Where once industry stayed put and could be regulated, now, to a large extent, it regulates us.
Yes, indeed - and note that "the power to bankroll politicians" is new; the power "to close down factories and move investments and jobs overseas" is new; as is the consequent fact that the present "working class" that works for American multinational corporations does in fact live "in another country, working in sweatshop conditions for minimal wages".

All three changes are recent; all three changes were and are loaded with very many consequences; and all three changes enormously multiplied the power of the multi-national corporations.

There is much more in the article, which I thought quite interesting and is recommended.

4. Bernie Sanders: 'Trump is the Most Dangerous Presidential Candidate in the Modern History of This Country'

The fourth item is by the Common Dreams Staff on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and the quotation is from the beginning of the interview that is linked below):

Bernie Sanders appeared on Real Time With Bill Maher Friday night to share his thoughts on the Democratic National Convention and the "dangerous" Donald Trump.

"I think it was a good convention. I think it brought together people with different points of view within the Democratic Party. But I think what comes out of that convention is the understanding that Donald Trump is the most dangerous presidential candidate in the modern history of this country and he must be defeated."

"And I say that not just because of his absurd views on so many issues. He believes that climate change is a hoax. He wants to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent," Sanders added. "But above and beyond all of that, this guy is running his entire campaign based on bigotry. Based on trying to divide us up. Based on trying to insult Mexicans, Latinos, Muslims, women and African- Americans. Remember, that this guy was one of the leaders of the so-called Birther Movement."

Incidentally, here is a link to Maher's interview with Sanders. It takes slightly over 9 minutes, and is well worth seeing:

And here is also the final bullshit point of Jill Stein that I discussed yesterday, after which I decided to give her up completely (because she almost never rationally answers questions; has a quite bad presentation; and fills her public statements with very many "you know"s):

Let’s go back to Bernie Sanders for a moment. Why do you think he has chosen to throw his support behind Clinton, and is now trying to get his supporters to do the same?  

I think his paradigm is obsolete.

That was baloney. See the last dotted link for the truth.

5. Hillary's Convention Con

The fifth item is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams:

This is from near the beginning:

She said she’d tax the wealthy for public necessities, but declined to mention a sales tax on Wall Street speculation that could bring in as much as $300 billion a year to support such initiatives. She opposed “unfair trade agreements,” but remarkably omitted saying she was against the TPP (the notorious pending Trans Pacific Trade Agreement backed by Obama that is receiving wide left/right opposition).

She paid lip service to a “living wage” but avoided endorsing a $15 an hour minimum wage, which would help single moms and their children – people she wants us to believe have been her enduring cause. Few people know that it took until the spring of 2014 before candidate Clinton would come out for even a $10.10 minimum wage.
I take it these are all true - and they all show that Clinton also is lying a lot except that she does it (unlike Trump) mostly by ommitting what is relevant, which I agree is considerably more subtle than Trump's interminable straight lies and fantasies served as facts.

There is this on the multinational corporations:

To her verbal credit, Hillary Clinton raised the “unpatriotic” charge against too many U.S. corporations (not all she added) when it comes to our country. Born in the U.S.A, grown to profit on the backs of American workers, bailed out by American taxpayers and occasionally by the U.S. Marines overseas, these giant companies have no allegiance to country or community. They are, with trade agreements and other inducements, abandoning America’s workers and escaping America’s laws and taxes.
That is quite true - and it is also quite true that they can abandon "America’s workers and escaping America’s laws and taxes" thanks to the politicians (they probably bought).

There is this on Clinton's program of being "stronger together":
Does she have an agenda for a devolution of power from the few to the many so that we can be “stronger together,” (her slogan for 2016)? No way. Mum’s the word!

This immense gap has been the Clinton duo’s con job on America for many years. Sugarcoating phrases, populist flattery, getting the election over with and jumping back into the fold of the plutocracy is their customary M.O.

Yes, quite so - and a similar technique was practised by Obama, incidentally.

And there is this on Clinton vs. Trump:

The best thing Hillary Clinton has going for her is the self-destructive, unstable, unorganized, fact and truth-starved, egomaniacal, cheating, plutocratic, Donald Trump (See my column “How Unpatriotic Is Donald Trump?”).

Nader is correct that - by far! - the strongest argument for Hillary Clinton is her opponent, but indeed because her opponent is so extra-ordinarily bad that
is a strong argument.

There is more in the article, and it is recommended.

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