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Hometown: London
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Current location: Stockholm, Sweden
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2018, 07:25 PM
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Journal Archives

Social democracy in one corner of the world

Branko Milanovic argues that ‘stop the world, we want to get off’ is no basis for a revival of progressive politics.


Caught between relentless Trumpian protectionism and xenophobia, on the one hand, and the neoliberal coalition of sexual liberators and money bagmen on the other, the left in rich countries seems bereft of new ideas. And worse than lacking new ideas is trying to restore a world gone by, which goes against the grain of modern life and the modern economy. Yet this is an exercise in which some parts of the left are engaged. I have in mind several essays in The Great Regression, a book I reviewed here, a recent piece by Chantal Mouffe and, perhaps most overtly, Paul Collier’s The Future of Capitalism (reviewed here and here). Dani Rodrik provided early ideological ammunition for this point of view with his celebrated ‘trilemma’. It is also the context within which my Capitalism, Alone was recently reviewed by Robert Kuttner in the New York Review of Books. This project aims to recreate the conditions of around 1950 to 1980, which was indeed the period of social-democratic flourishing. Although many people tend to present the period in excessively bright hues, there is no doubt it was in many respects an extraordinarily successful period for the west: economic growth was high, western nations’ incomes were converging, inequality was relatively low, inter-class mobility was higher than today, social mores were becoming more relaxed and egalitarian and the western working class was richer than three-quarters of humankind (and could feel, as Collier writes, proud and superior to the rest of the world). There is much to be nostalgic about.

Special conditions

But that success occurred under very special conditions, none of which can be recreated. What were they? First, a very large portion of the global workforce was not competing with workers of the first world. Socialist economies, China and India all followed autarkic policies, by design or historical accident. Secondly, capital did not move much. There were not only capital restrictions but foreign investments were often the target of nationalisation and even the technical means to move large amounts of money seamlessly did not exist. Thirdly, migration was limited and when it occurred happened among culturally similar peoples (such as southern-European migration to Germany) and thanks to rising demand for workers pulled by growing domestic economies. Fourthly, the strength of domestic socialist and communist parties, combined with trade unions and the Soviet threat (especially in Europe), kept capitalists on their toes: out of self-preservation they were careful not to push workers and unions too much. Fifthly, the social-democratic ethos of equality was in sync with the dominant mores of the times, reflected in sexual liberation, gender equality and reduced discrimination. Within such a benign internal environment, and not facing any pressure from poorly-paid foreign workers, social democrats could continue to be internationalists, as reflected most famously by figures such as Olof Palme in Sweden and Willy Brandt in West Germany.

Drastic changes

Under the entirely different social and economic conditions of today, any attempt to recreate such a benign domestic environment would involve drastic and indeed reactionary changes. Without saying it openly, its proponents call for social democracy in one country—or, more exactly, in one (rich) corner of the world. Collier advocates the walling-in of the rich world to stop migration that is seen as culturally disruptive and unfairly undercutting domestic labour. Such policies, most notably followed by social democrats in Denmark, are justified by Collier out of concern for less-developed countries, lest the outflow of their most skilled and ambitious workers push them further into poverty. It is clear however that the real motives for such policies are to be found elsewhere. Others would protect the west from the competition of China, arguing, again disingenuously, that western workers cannot compete with less well-paid workers subjected to harsh shopfloor discipline and lacking independent trade unions. As with policies that would stop migration, the justification for protectionism is camouflaged in the language of concern for others. Within this perspective, domestic capital should be made to stay mostly at home by promoting a much more ‘shallow’ globalisation than exists today. Ethical western companies should not hire people in (say) Myanmar who do not enjoy elementary workers’ rights.

Great Unwashed

In all cases, such policies aim to interrupt the free flow of trade, people and capital, and to fence off the rich world from the Great Unwashed. They have close to zero chance of success, simply because the technological advances of globalisation cannot be undone: China and India cannot be pushed back into economic isolation and people around the world, wherever they are, want to improve their economic position by migrating to richer countries. Such policies would moreover represent a structural break with the internationalism that was always one of the signal achievements of the left (even if often honoured in the breach). They would slow down the growth of poor countries and global convergence, would arrest the reduction in global inequality and poverty, and would ultimately prove counter-productive for the rich countries themselves. Dreams of a restored world are quite common, and we are often (especially at an older age) wont to indulge in them. But one should learn to distinguish between dreams and reality. To be successful in real time, under current conditions, the left needs to offer a programme that combines its erstwhile internationalism and cosmopolitanism with strong domestic redistribution. It has to support globalisation, try to limit its nefarious effects and harness its undoubted potential eventually to equalise incomes across the globe. As Adam Smith wrote more than two centuries ago, the equalisation of economic conditions and military power across the world is also a precondition for the establishment of universal peace.


Kingston's Good Ghost



Here are all the women on Trump's list for possible SCOTUS nominees

Bold are the ones I think most likely to be picked


United States courts of appeals

Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
Allison Jones Rushing (born 1982) (appointed by Trump) <<<< 3rd most likely

Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
Joan Larsen (born 1968)

Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
Amy Coney Barrett† (born 1972) (appointed by Trump) <<<<< my best guess who it will be
Diane Sykes (born 1957)

Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
Bridget Shelton Bade (born 1965) (appointed by Trump)

Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit
Allison Eid (born 1965) (appointed by Trump)

Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
Britt Grant (born 1978) (appointed by Trump)
Barbara Lagoa (born 1967)(appointed by Trump) <<<< Cuban-American from Florida, my 2nd most likely, would be a pure political pick

Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Meg Ryan (born 1964)

United States district courts

Martha M. Pacold (born 1979) – district judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (appointed by Trump)

Sarah Pitlyk (born 1977) – district judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (appointed by Trump)

Executive branch

Kate Comerford Todd – Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President

This Trump supporter in Florida just hit a 13-year-old girl in the face & chest with a flagpole.

He assaulted this young lady for yelling "Biden 2020" out her window. MAGA I suppose...


"A Clay County man, Norbert Logsdon, is facing a felony child abuse charge, accused of hitting a 13-year-old girl in the face with a flagpole during a political demonstration."


An Experiment in Wisconsin Changed Voters' Minds About Trump

Changing voters’ minds is famously difficult, but a recent progressive effort found real success.


No state has haunted the Democratic Party’s imagination for the past four years like Wisconsin. While it was not the only state that killed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes in 2016, it was the one where the knife plunged deepest. Clinton was so confident about Wisconsin that she never even campaigned there. This year, it is one of the most fiercely contested states. The Democrats planned to hold their convention in Milwaukee, before the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation. Donald Trump is also making a strong play for Wisconsin. Trump’s weaknesses with the electorate are familiar: Voters find him coarse, and they deplore his handling of race, the coronavirus, and protests. One recent YouGov poll found that just 42 percent of Americans approved of his performance as president, while 54 percent disapproved. But when the pollsters asked about Trump’s handling of the economy, those attitudes reversed: 48 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved, despite the havoc wreaked by the pandemic. The high marks that voters give Trump’s economic record are a key obstacle to Democratic efforts to win back Wisconsin and other upper-midwestern states.

But a surprisingly effective progressive effort this spring to undermine Trump’s approval ratings on the economy provides a model for how the president’s opponents can hurt Trump where he’s strongest—and maybe even tip the election to Joe Biden. Changing voters’ minds is famously difficult. Recent national campaigns have spent more effort on increasing turnout—getting sympathetic voters to go to the polls—than on winning over new supporters. Political scientists and pollsters have found that as the country grows more negatively polarized, fewer true swing voters are up for grabs. But the Wisconsin effort, notable for both its approach and its scale, seems to have found some success. From February to May, the advocacy group Opportunity Wisconsin, with help from a progressive advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., called the Hub Project, managed to do remarkable damage to Trump’s standing with a group of persuadable voters. The effort sought to identify voters who took a favorable view of Trump’s record on the economy but who might still be receptive to alternative perspectives, then spent weeks targeting them with messages arguing that the economy was actually not working for Wisconsin, and that Trump’s policies weren’t helping.

“The most impressive thing is that they clearly had some effect in changing how people think about Donald Trump, and that’s just really difficult to do,” says David Broockman, a political scientist at UC Berkeley who studies persuasion. “For a real program to have effects on what people think about Trump in the field, not an artificial setting like a focus group, is quite impressive. There’s very little I’ve seen this election cycle that has found that.” Research by Broockman and Yale’s Josh Kalla from earlier this year showed that while messages about Biden could swing voters’ opinions about him, views about Trump were almost immovable. The Opportunity Wisconsin push was built on a combination of tactics old and new, simple and sophisticated. The group is officially nonpartisan, and does not disclose its donors. But Meghan Roh, a former Democratic House and Senate staffer who is the group’s program director, told me it was formed out of a concern that progressive organizations weren’t speaking effectively to people in Wisconsin. Trump’s strong economic numbers in the state jumped out as a perfect example.

As my colleague Ronald Brownstein reported in 2019, citing Hub Project research, a potentially crucial group of voters approves of Trump’s handling of the economy, but is skeptical of his overall performance. The president’s numbers on the economy remain a rare bright spot for him, even amid coronavirus-induced economic devastation. Just a few months ago, there was routinely a double-digit spread between those who approved and disapproved of his handling of the economy—but Trump's numbers remain narrowly positive, according to RealClearPolitics’ average. The national trend holds true in Wisconsin. In a recent Marquette Law School poll, 51 percent of Wisconsinites approved of Trump’s handling of the economy, versus 46 percent who did not. (In the same poll, respondents favored Biden over Trump, 48 percent to 42 percent.) With Trump even more embattled than he was a year ago, these voters who approve of Trump on the economy but not on much else are even more crucial in November. Opportunity Wisconsin saw this as a classic chance to attack an opponent’s strength, rather than his weakness.


Intersectionality: time for a rethink

The current understanding of intersectionality is a dead-end for progressive politics.


‘Women are a heterogeneous group and may face intersectional discrimination based on several personal characteristics. For instance, a migrant woman with a disability may face discrimination on three or more grounds,’ reads the new gender-equality strategy of the European Commission, presented in March and running to 2025. This additive conception of intersectionality is ahistorical, essentialising and homogenising. Since its emergence intersectionality has had various interpretations and uses, yet through leftist activism and policy-making in the United States, and its export worldwide, the hegemonic understanding has concentrated solely on discrimination (on more than one ground) and on positionality along the so called axes of oppression. This approach is theoretically shallow and politically problematic: it doesn’t adequately grasp the root causes of inequalities, while it undermines solidarity and unwittingly contributes to the popularity of right-wing contestation of any recognition claims. Instead, we should strive to make sense of injustices, beyond discrimination and positionalities, and attempt to influence policy-making in challenging the structures of oppression.

Social movements

The term intersectionality was first used by the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. But the intersectional approach is rooted in the social movements of the US in the 70s and 80s, as a critique of feminist and anti-racist struggles. The general experience of black women was that in feminist activism the interests of white women were at the forefront, whereas in anti-racist struggles men predominated. Hence intersectionality used to be a critical response to the practices of identity-politics movements of the time. But these two approaches have become inseparably interlocked: today’s identity politics is intersectional. Now it’s true that ‘multiple oppressions’ and ‘intersectionality’ pointed to important blindspots in western politics of the 60s and 70s. And one cannot now return to orthodox-Marxist class analysis, or to the one-dimensional gender or race analysis of second wave feminism or anti-racism. So what’s the problem? The problem is the current individualised, additive approach to identity politics and intersectionality. This is to treat oppression as if one could compile an Excel sheet of individual experiences. But the different oppression structures (class oppression, patriarchy, racism) have different roots and so cannot be treated at the same analytical level. Also, the Excel-sheet view is ahistorical and static. For instance, old age can be a source of respect or of discrimination and this can be true for all other dimensions.

Oppression Olympics

This individualist political practice raises at least three further problems. First, the current practice of the intersectional idea presumes that those who experience the most oppressions will understand best the nature of the oppressive system and pursue the least particularistic politics. But one cannot simply add (or multiply) such positions in the manner of an oppression Olympics—who has more points in the oppression race, in how many dimensions one is standing on the losing side of the Excel sheet. Secondly, the ultimate framework of intersectional politics is individual subjective experience and identity. Political statements can be true or false, as long as they refer to objective social circumstances, but one cannot have a discussion about subjective experience: the experience of suffering and identity is unquestionable. The question is no longer whether in a given situation an insult or violence has happened but, rather, what someone experiences as an insult or violence. ‘Only ! know my gender’ reads a graffito at Hamburg University, expressing the subjectivist and dogmatic nature of identity politics, and its rejection of social-science knowledge. It is impossible to separate the gaze, the questions and interpretations from the experience of the viewer, the researcher, because they are inevitably influenced by their social embeddedness.

This insight contributed greatly to the legitimacy of the feminist perspective in the social sciences: it pointed out that knowledge considered objective was problematic due to biases stemming from men’s life experience. It did not want to delegitimise male (or European, white and so on) cognition or experience—only to point out that often a particular knowledge had been elevated to universal rank. But, thirdly, this useful insight has gone astray: it has become a means of diverting attention from the substance of arguments to their origin, as if the speaker’s position were in an easily deducible relationship with the power purportedly hidden in what they are saying. Such ad hominem argument is an important element of all kinds of totalitarian thinking. If the main issue becomes recognition of individual uniqueness or an identity mix, then not only is it an ad absurdum extension of the feminist slogan ‘the personal is political’—to only the personal is political. This also renders particular identities inscrutable—which means that groups so constituted can neither show solidarity with each other nor formulate a common goal. They can then fit in with the individualistic neoliberal spirit of the era, which delegitimises all systemic critique, for instance concerning its categories of class and gender.


How The Firehose Of Trump News Is Eroding American Democracy

Democracies die by a thousand cuts, and under Trump, there have been many more than a thousand.


WASHINGTON, DC -- Whenever we’re blasted in the face by the explosive stream of burning hot crapola from the firehose of news, it’s sometimes difficult to plug the various bombshells into proper context. It’s partially because the news is so shocking, like driving past a harrowing car crash, but it’s also because the context itself is even more terrifying than the news. The information from Bob Woodward’s book alone is enough to make us feel thoroughly battered. In the past week, we’ve read about how the president and his lover, Kim Jong-un, almost got us into a real-life nuclear war back in 2017. This was real. The president’s defense secretary, General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, was so freaked out, he was sleeping in his clothes. We were that close. And yet, I bet if you surveyed people who closely follow political news, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who could spontaneously recall that story, despite the fact it dropped just six days ago. Since that news dropped, we also learned that Trump knew and understood the seriousness of COVID-19 as early as January, and in April told Woodward the virus was "so easily transmissible, you wouldn't believe it." This was just four days before he insisted upon liberating Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia while also demanding that the nation reopen.

Woodward also reported that Trump intentionally “played down” the virus in public. During a town hall on the ABC network, Tuesday night, Trump said he actually “up-played” the threat. During the same TV appearance, the president called for “herd immunity” as the solution to the pandemic -- he actually said “herd mentality,” but, you know, the brain worms. Herd immunity requires that around 65 percent of the U.S. population become infected with the virus, which would also mean millions of deaths. Meanwhile, the CDC has been scrubbing reports about the pandemic, removing any facts that are unflattering to the president. We also read that a gynecologist hired by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been performing what amounts to surgical mutilations of women being held in ICE custody -- unnecessary hysterectomies, to be specific. This alone should be enough to charge the Trump regime with crimes against humanity. Trump announced another so-called peace deal that was completely superficial, given how the two parties in the deal, Israel and Bahrain, were already doing the things required in the peace deal. The same thing goes for the alleged peace deal between Israel and the UAE. Both were fake peace deals passed off as legit.

Michael Cohen reported in his new book that Trump wants to be the American version of Vladimir Putin, further confirming that the president will refuse to leave office if he loses the election. Add into the mix the incomprehensible number of dumbstupids out there who continue to attend Trump’s superspreader rallies, refusing to wear masks or socially distance from each other, spreading the virus and worsening American life well into the future. By now, the revelations from The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg about Trump’s brutal disrespect for all soldiers, including POWs and MIAs, including wounded warriors, seems like a distant memory despite being just two weeks ago. Can you blame us for forgetting the nuclear war story? The point of this exercise is to illustrate how each of these despair-inducing events represents the erosion of democracy -- not to mention the erosion of our national reputation, our national dignity, too. Our moral standing in the world has been reduced to being no better than Putin’s or Kim’s. We’re now synonymous with the dictator in the White House, and our ability to bring democracy and human rights to other parts of the world has been almost entirely drained away by all of this.

We don’t see it close up, but when we pull out to a wide-shot, it’s plain and unmistakable. Unless enough Americans pull up on the cockpit controls, the United States will crash headfirst into the ground, taking us all with it. Most non-voting Americans are merrily unaware, while 35 to 40 percent of the voting population doesn’t realize that they’re the ones nose-diving the nation, enabling and affirming their strongman dictator’s actions. Trump was never going to simply snap his stubby fingers or press a secret button that lights the original copy of the Constitution on fire. Democracies die by a thousand cuts. And by my count, there have been many more than a thousand cuts inflicted upon our once-great but flawed nation. If the Democrats can win a majority in the Senate, a second term for Trump won’t be completely unleashed, and there are opportunities to block him as a last ditch effort. So re-election won’t be the end, just the beginning of the end. Knowing the horror show that’s lurking around the corner, let’s all agree today as patriots and constitutionalists to make sure the worst case scenario never comes to pass. Let’s make sure that by this time next year, Trump and his collaborators will be in federal custody awaiting trial rather than the chaotic alternative.


As Trump sows chaos, Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold public hearings, help restore

confidence in election integrity

“We believe this issue is above partisan politics,” the senators wrote to the GOP Senate Majority Leader.


In order to combat those sowing chaos and backing conspiracy theories about possible results, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter Wednesday to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to create a bipartisan committee to “guarantee the integrity of our election process” ahead of November voting.

The letter (pdf), which was written in response to what Sanders (I-Vt.) called “the disturbing rise in attacks on the fundamental security and legitimacy of our elections,” pressures McConnell (R-Ky.) to form the committee “to hear testimony from state and local officials, election experts, and others to reassure the American people that the election will go smoothly and reliably.”

“Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the integrity of our elections,” Sens. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sanders wrote. “Sadly, there are some who are systematically undermining public confidence in the voting process, and irresponsibly fanning suspicions and conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of election results.”

“With the election less than two months away the Senate should immediately establish a special bipartisan committee, with equal representation from both parties,” the senators continued. “The function of that committee must be to hold hearings about what is being done around the country to make certain that our public institutions are prepared to conduct a smooth and reliable election which will be free from voter suppression and intimidation, that every vote will be counted, and that there will be confidence in the ultimate outcome.”




Robert Reich - Racism is profitable

To end the Oppression Economy, our government must end the criminalization of people of color, end their political suppression, and curb runaway corporate power.


Since the first colonizers arrived in the United States to this very moment, wealthy elites have used the tools of theft, exclusion, and exploitation to expand their wealth and power at the detriment of Black, Latinx, Indigenous people, and marginalized people of color.It all boils down to this simple truth: Racism is profitable. The profitability of racism sparks a vicious cycle called the Oppression Economy:Elite institutions are motivated to keep suppressing the economic vitality of people of color. That economic oppression in turn hinders their political power, and that political oppression kneecaps their ability to change the system.

This cycle plays out in every aspect of our economy and is particularly apparent in mass incarceration.The criminalization of people of color is a multibillion-dollar industry: In 2017 alone, mass incarceration cost $182 billion; trapping mostly low-income Black and Latinx people in a cycle of economic and political disenfranchisement. If we follow the money, we find that some of America’s largest banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, have all extended millions of dollars in credit lines to for-profit prison operators like GEO Group and CoreCivic.

The unregulated operations of prisons has increasingly mandated cheap service for maximum profit. For example, bail bonds companies, telecommunications, food, and commissary companies gouge both those incarcerated and their families.The exploitation doesn’t stop upon release from prison. The suppression of economic vitality of people of color is just beginning. Because of discrimination, formerly incarcerated people face an unemployment rate of 27 percent — higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including during this pandemic and the Great Depression.

Fines and fees associated with the criminal “justice” system have placed $50 billion in debt on the shoulders of approximately 10 million people who have been through the system. To make matters worse, many states bar people convicted of felonies from receiving any government assistance.That’s just incarceration. Over the past four decades, the cost of policing in the U.S. has skyrocketed, almost tripling from $42.3 billion in 1977 to $114.5 billion in 2017. Of the 100 largest cities in America, the nine police forces that kill people at the highest rate per population all take up over 30 percent of their cities’ budgets — leaving paltry resources to invest in housing, education, or health care.


Susan Collins is now down 12 points to Gideon in ME, Graham is tied with Harrison in SC

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