Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Open Season for Avid Gun Users  (Trump Wears Idiocy As Badge of Honor?)  Killing Health Care Behind Your Back  (Kochs Destroy World Without End Amen?)  NC Voting Laws Proudly Suppress Minorities  (DE Set Up to Hide Big Boys $$$$$$)  Bad Smell Pervades Global Economy  (Election Stealing? Why Bernie May Have Actually Won New York)  The Endgame of 2016's Anti-Establishment Politics  (Starhawking Brings Immiseration to Most Women in the Privilege Game) Lee Camp and Max and Stacy Bring the Game Home  (Happy Bloomsday) PBS Wholly Privatized?

Pacifying Raqqa: ‘Staggering Loss of Civilian Life’ During US-backed Siege of Raqqa
Hell's Fire Reigns Down From the Skies: I think of Dresden and Tokyo and know there is nothing new in burning living persons in their beds . . .
Fed Raises Interest Rates Again, Based on Nothing in Particular
Well, the Fed has gone ahead and raised interest rates, as expected: “The labor market has continued to strengthen,” the Fed said in an upbeat statement ...

Did anyone see this coming?

What's To Be Done About Trump?

I'm pretty sure no one thought this would be the answer:

What Did They Expect? Open Season For Murderous Thug G.O.P.
The office of Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) received a threatening email with the subject line “One down, 216 to go…,” shortly after a shooter opened fire on GOP lawmakers who were at a congressional baseball practice, according to her office.

Although the following is a probability:

'Trump Is an Idiot, but Don't Underestimate How Good He Is at That'
The fact that Naomi Klein predicted the forces that explain the rise to power of Donald Trump gives her no pleasure at all. It is 17 years since Klein, then aged 30, published her first book, No Logo – a seductive rage against the branding of public life by globalising corporations – and made herself, in the words of the New Yorker, “the most visible and influential figure on the American left” almost overnight. She ended the book with what sounded then like “this crazy idea that you could become your own personal global brand”.
Speaking about that idea now, she can only laugh at her former innocence. No Logo was written before social media made personal branding second nature. Trump, she suggests in her new book, No Is Not Enough, exploited that phenomenon to become the first incarnation of president as a brand, doing to the US nation and to the planet what he had first practised on his big gold towers: plastering his name and everything it stands for all over them.

Klein has also charted the other force at work behind the victory of the 45th president. Her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, argued that neoliberal capitalism, the ideological love affair with free markets espoused by disciples of the late economist Milton Friedman, was so destructive of social bonds, and so beneficial to the 1% at the expense of the 99%, that a population would only countenance it when in a state of shock, following a crisis – a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a war.
Klein developed this theory first in 2004 when reporting from Baghdad and watching a brutally deregulated market state being imagined by agents of the Bush administration in the rubble of war and the fall of Saddam Hussein. She documented it too in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka, when the inundated coastline of former fishing villages was parcelled up and sold off to global hotel chains in the name of regeneration. And she saw it most of all in the fallout of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, when, she argued, disaster was first ignored and exacerbated by government and then exploited for the gain of consultants and developers.
Friedmanites understood that in extreme circumstances bewildered populations longed above all for a sense of control. They would willingly grant exceptional powers to anyone who promised certainty. They understood too that the combination of social media and 24-hour cable news allowed them to manufacture such scenarios almost at will. The libertarian right of the Republican party, in Klein’s words, became “a movement that prays for crisis the way drought-struck farmers pray for rain”.
In 2008, the year after The Shock Doctrine was published, Klein believed that the financial crash would prove a reckoning for this cynical philosophy. That the ways in which the Wall Street elite had enriched itself through manipulation and deregulation would finally be exposed in plain sight. In retrospect, it seems, the monumental frailties of the system, its patent vulnerability, allied with concerns over terrorism and a global refugee crisis, only made populations more desperate and fearful. They appeared to crave anyone who could suggest simple solutions to apparently intractable problems. Anyone who said that they could turn back the clock to “make America great again” and who had the branded cap to prove it.
Speaking at her home in Toronto last week, Klein suggested to me that Trump’s novelty was to take the shock doctrine and make it a personal superpower. “He keeps everyone all the time in a reactive state,” she said. “It is not like he is taking advantage of an external shock, he is the shock. And every 10 minutes he creates a new one. It is like he has these lasers coming out of his belt.”
She wrote the book very fast, much faster than is her usual habit, because she feared that the further into a Trump administration America travels, the less scope there might be for resistance, for building an alternative. In this she believes that there are important precedents for people to understand.
She points hopefully to the example of Spain in 2004, when after the Madrid train bombings the prime minister, José Maria Aznar, announced that a state of emergency and special state powers were necessary. The people, remembering Franco, took to the streets to reject that analysis and kicked the government out, voting in a party that would pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. She is fully aware, too, of the alternative in Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdoğan’s successful plea for dictatorial powers following the chaos of the failed coup in 2016. Klein’s book sets out those examples in advance of any comparable shock in America, and makes the case for collective resistance in the event of crisis. “I hope none of it happens [in the States] and none of it is useful,” she says, “but just in case, I wanted to have it out there as soon as possible.”
. . . “I think he is a showman and that he is aware of the way that shows can distract people,” she says. “That is the story of his business. He has always understood that he could distract his investors and bankers, his tenants, his clients from the underlying unsoundness of his business, just by putting on the Trump show. That is the core of Trump. He is undoubtedly an idiot, but do not underestimate how good he is at that.”
Beyond that he has, presumably wittingly, “surrounded himself with some of the world’s most expert crisis profiteers”. Men who have made billions out of meltdown and financial crisis, such as Wilbur Ross, the “king of bankruptcy” who is now Secretary of Commerce, or the various crash-plutocrats recruited from Goldman Sachs and elsewhere. (“In any other moment,” Klein says with a laugh, “the very fact that the CEO of Exxon Mobil is now the secretary of state would be the central scandal. Here we have a situation where there is so much else to concern us it is barely a footnote.”)
. . . Her overriding anxiety is that while the liberal left wrings its hands over the ways that the US election was lost, and gets embroiled in Russian conspiracy theories, not enough attention is being paid to the conspiracy happening in plain sight:  the dangers of kleptocracy, and the broken promises to the working class.
“I am not saying Russia is not important,” she says, “but Trump’s base is very well defended against that: ‘the liberal media is out to get him’, ‘it’s fake news’, and all the rest.” While we are all clicking and fixing our eyes on the never-ending Trump show – the handshake with Macron, the hand-holding with May – he is, she argues, enacting policies that are systematically moving wealth upwards, and crucial questions are not being asked loudly enough:  Is your social security safe? Is your healthcare safe? Are your wages going to be driven down? “He benefits so much from that focus away from economics.”
Klein has not been surprised how, at a time of economic downturn and mass migration, nationalism has once again proved such a potent force in successive elections in the west. She makes the argument that the only thing that can rival those forces of white nationalism and xenophobia is a justice-based economic populism on the left. What Hillary Clinton’s campaign proved, she suggests, is that when you run a centrist free-market candidate against “fake populism” it’s a recipe for disaster.
Doesn’t the election of Macron in France prove that pragmatic centrism is still a viable force if the right candidate emerges to express it?
Klein believes the jury is out on that question. “The fact is Le Pen did better in that election than she ever should have. I think the issue is what happens if Macron governs with the kind of austerity that has fuelled these forces, and his shine wears off? What happens the next time around?” The analogy that Le Pen equals Donald Trump is not exact, she says. “It is more Le Pen equals David Duke [former leader of the Ku Klux Klan]. If David Duke got the percentage of the vote that Le Pen got, we would be terrified, as well we should be.”
. . . “I have good days and bad days,” she says. “Or good parts of days and bad parts of days. It is undeniably terrifying that at this moment of such intense gravity for the planet this figure of such extreme stupidity has risen to power. But that means that there is more urgency to find solutions.” She laughs. “Will that do as my message of hope?” she asks.

Donald Trump Tells Senators To Kill Healthcare For Millions Without Being ‘Mean’
Donald Trump wore his human mask briefly Tuesday. Nobody took him seriously, though. What a joker! 
Trumpcare will make health insurance too expensive again for the 40 million people who were uninsured in 2008. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images) 
Trumpcare will make health insurance too expensive again for the 40 million people who were uninsured in 2008. (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Why Are 13 Republican Men Writing the Health Care Bill in Secret?
Literally behind closed doors, 13 Senate Republicans (all men) are writing a piece of legislation that could upend the entire US health care system and deprive millions of Americans of access to care. Like their counterparts in the House, Senate Republicans have eschewed any element of legislative transparency. I asked Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who as she reminded me is a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, if she knows anything about the pending legislation. She told me she has “no idea what’s in the bill. Doors are locked, window are sealed. There’s been no public debate, no hearings, no committee process, no opportunity for a fresh set of eyes to read” as to what Republicans might be proposing.
From a mere good governance perspective this is simply astounding. The US health care system represents around one-sixth of the nation’s GDP. More than 140 million Americans rely directly on some form of public health care — be it Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or the Obamacare exchanges.

Writing a bill that could impact the health care coverage of so many Americans without even a whiff of transparency is policy-making at its absolute worst. That the basis for this effort is the oft-repeated Republican lie that Americans need to be rescued from access to affordable health care coverage provided by Obamacare makes it so much worse.
Yet all of this practically pales next to breathtaking hypocrisy of the GOP’s legislative machinations.
For eight years, Republicans incessantly complained that Democrats rammed Obamacare through on a party-line vote and made no effort to bring Republicans into the process. Like pretty much all of the GOP’s claims about Obamacare, this is a lie. Democrats repeatedly tried to work with Republicans, so much so that some on the left would argue it hamstrung the entire effort.
Even in the face of GOP obstructionism, amendments proposed by Republicans were voted on and added to various iterations of the legislation, and the support of Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, in the Senate Finance Committee, helped bring Obamacare to the floor of the Senate. But the truth of the matter is that Republicans never had any interest in working with Democrats on health care reform and, in the end, opposed it en masse.
This time, Republicans aren’t even pretending to involve Democrats. According to Oklahoma Republican James Lankford, “We know there’s not going to be bipartisan support for this.” Since Democrats won’t support eviscerating a bill that has helped tens of millions of Americans get health insurance coverage, Lankford, says, “There’s not a reason to do this through a committee hearing process.”
One might argue that informing the American people about far-reaching congressional legislation — and, in particular, the potentially 23 million who might lose health insurance because of this repeal effort — is what legislators are supposed to do. But of course, the GOP’s health care plans have nothing to do with policy and everything to do with politics.
(Bill Moyers) While He Was Tweeting:  Goodbye to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau 
One of President Trump's key campaign promises was to dismantle much of the protection put into place after the 2008 financial crisis. Part of the proces...
In Trump's Withdrawal From the Paris Accord, the Koch Brothers' Campaign Becomes Overt

North Carolina's Voting Laws Are Conspicuously Suppressing the Vote

Charles Pierce
26 April 2016

And yet they were just upheld by a Bush-appointed judge.
I keep thinking that all this village chattering about how everyone must come together and back Hillary in the election next November is akin to asking for people who are militantly against supporting certain political positions (seeing them as evil) to dishonor themselves in the service of ideals that can only rank as lesser evilism.
Something that only politicians see as appropriate today.

The Bad Smell Hovering Over the Global Economy

This Industry Is Literally Making a Killing

Trump, Clinton Both Refuse To Explain Why They Share Same Address In Delaware

Reportedly dozens of Fortune 500 companies — Coca-Cola, Walmart, American Airlines, and Apple, to name a few — use Delaware’s strict corporate secrecy laws and legal tax loopholes by registering the North Orange Street address for official business.

. . . “It’s easy to set up shell companies here, no questions asked.”

. . . While the legitimacy of taxes as a concept may be up to personal interpretation, what matters in Clinton’s use of the so-called Delaware loophole, in particular, is her constant harping on the need for corporations and elite individuals to pay their fair share.

As Rupert Neate explained for the "Guardian," being registered in the tiny state allows “companies to legally shift earnings from other states to Delaware, where they are not taxed on non-physical incomes generated outside of state.”

In fact, some have claimed — all revelations of Panamanian documents aside — the use of tax-friendly locations inside the U.S. makes it the biggest tax haven in the world, with Delaware, alone, costing other states some $9 billion in lost taxes over the past decade.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Investigative Journalism:  Why Bernie May Have Actually Won New York

submitted by turn-trout
Even after Tuesday’s voting debacle, many have assumed that even without election-day mishaps, Hillary Clinton would have won New York. Fairly reasonable, right? After all, it was a decisive sixteen-point win in her home state.

Not so fast; I’m going to present a series of facts that should lead the rational observer to be suspicious of these results. Before we begin, I want you to know that I am a staunch Sanders supporter; therefore, I will do my best to remove my “Bernie bias” from the equation (please join me in keeping a close eye on my personal beliefs, lest they color my analysis or cause me to omit relevant counter-evidence). We’re going to examine the situation using a device called Occam’s razor, which essentially says to choose the simplest theory that covers all of the bases.

Let’s look at what we know.

This is not a Sanders vs. Clinton issue. This is about the sanctity of our democracy.

Exit Polls

An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling stations. Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, or some similar formulation, an exit poll asks for whom the voter actually voted. Pollsters – usually private companies working for newspapers or broadcasters – conduct exit polls to gain an early indication as to how an election has turned out, as in many elections the actual result may take hours or even days to count. Exit polls have historically and throughout the world been used as a check against, and rough indicator of, the degree of election fraud.

After all votes are tabulated, exit polls are “adjusted” to match recorded results. According to NPR, for this election cycle, a firm called Edison Research conducts the polling used by major networks. Exit polling has not been conducted for every contest thus far. Here are the unadjusted exit polls against the final results (significant discrepancy | state flip; data source):
State Sanders Margin of Victory, Actual Results Sanders Margin of Victory, Exit Polls Difference (in Clinton’s favor)
Arkansas -38.1 -31.4 6.7
Alabama -60.4 -44.7 15.7
Tennessee -34.2 -25.4 8.8
Virginia -29.3 -24.8 4.5
Georgia -43.4 -31.0 12.4
Texas -32.6 -22.7 9.9
Massachusetts -1.4 6.4 7.8
Oklahoma 11.1 4.3 -6.8
Vermont 72.7 73.6 0.9
Mississippi -66.8 -56.4 10.4
Michigan 1.7 6.2 4.5
North Carolina -14.5 -12.7 1.8
Florida -31.9 -27.9 4.0
Missouri -0.2 3.8 4.0
Ohio -13.9 -3.8 10.1
Illinois -1.8 2.3 4.1
Arizona* -8.2 25.0 33.2
Wisconsin 13.4 27.2 13.8
New York -16.0 -4.0 12.0

Side note:  although Edison Research did not conduct exit polling in Arizona, a local newspaper called the Daily Courier did – but only for Yavapai County. Official results have Clinton winning the county 52.9-44.7; however, the Courier’s exit polling had Sanders crushing her 62-37. Possible explanation:  heavy early voting advantaged Clinton; nonetheless, Arizona was a quagmire.

Excluding Arizona (because only one county was polled), Sanders has suffered an average 6.92% deviation among all contests with exit polling. In particular, assuming that New York exit polling was conducted correctly, the statistical likelihood of a 12% deviation from exit polling is 1/126,000. Theoretically, the results would be equally likely to deviate in either direction; the probability that the 18 of the 19 exit polls above swung to Hillary’s advantage is 0.000038 (that is, fewer than four in one hundred thousand elections would roll this way due to chance).
  1. The exit polls didn’t really reflect public sentiment; something is wrong with their methodology. Possible explanations include:
    • (a) Bernie supporters are more enthusiastic; therefore, they’re more prone to tell the pollster all about their selection.
    • (b) Exit polls have consistently underestimated the strength and turnout for Clinton strongholds (underweighting).
    • (c) Exit polls don’t include early voting, where Clinton excels (I could write a whole article on early voting alone; however, for the purposes of this argument, let’s just assume that everything checks out).
  2. Election fraud. A few ways this could occur:
    • Weighted voting could be coded into tabulation machines; essentially, a Sanders vote counts for 0.7, while a vote for Clinton is normally counted.
    • After voting is finished, the machine could just toss out a certain number or percentage of votes for one candidate and award them to their opponent. This happened in Chicago; we will explore this later.
    • A certain percentage of votes could simply be changed during processing; anecdotally, one of my New York friends reported that her vote was changed from Sanders to Clinton. The poll worker refused to let her rectify the ballot.
    • Curious to learn about even more ways in which the average American could, theoretically, be disenfranchised? Dive down the rabbit hole.
Through Occam's Razor

Let’s examine what each hypothesis requires us to assume. Hypothesis 1) only requires accidental fault on behalf of Edison Research in designing polling methodology. At first glance, hypothesis 2) seems far more improbable; after all, a literal conspiracy would have to be taking place. Note that hypothesis 2) need not directly implicate the Clinton campaign; indirectly-hired agents (or even a few rogue Clinton supporters acting outside the law to help her win) would fulfill the necessary conditions.

However, taken alone, slanted exit polls aren’t sufficient to push hypothesis 2) through Occam’s razor. After all, not only did Oklahoma buck the trend by favoring Sanders in a significant way, a few other states are within reasonable deviation (a few percentage points). Furthermore, hypothesis 1a) is supported by Sanders’ stronger performance at caucuses (average:  65.1%; caucuses require you to try to convince your peers and spend a good few hours at the affair) than at primaries (average:  41.3%; primaries just require you to fill out a ballot – much less enthusiasm is required).

The Smoking Gun

If only we had solid evidence – perhaps revealed under sworn affidavit – of the type of conspiracy suggested by hypothesis 2). Guess what – we do. On April 5th, the Chicago Board of Elections allowed citizens to present their results from their 5% audit of the machine count – an effort “to audit the audit.”

What we saw was not an audit. We are really concerned… There was a lot of hiding behavior on behalf of the Board of Elections employees to keep us from seeing the actual votes… What many of us saw was... that the auditors miss votes, correct their tallies, erase their tallies to fit the official results. There’s a lot of pressure that’s pushing them towards complying with the Board of Election’s results… In our packet, we have a bunch of affidavits. In one particularly egregious example… they had to erase 21 Bernie Sanders votes and add 49 Hillary Clinton votes to force the hand-count of the audit to the official results… We would like an independent audit.
Numerous affidavits attest that according to the hand-counted results for one Chicago precinct, Bernie Sanders won 56.7% of the vote. However, according to the official machine-tabulated results, he lost with 47.5% of the vote – an 18.4% swing. Remember, Illinois exit polling gave him a 2.3% lead; however, he lost the state by 1.8% (in large part due to Chicago). This confirmed case of election fraud cannot be explained just by hypothesis 1); at least for Illinois, hypothesis 2) is now the simplest theory that fits all of the facts. Furthermore, it would be logical to be more wary of repeat occurrences in other states.

The Empire Strikes Back

With that in mind, let’s examine the New York results. Sanders outperformed his benchmarks upstate, where ES&S (the company that bought Diebold, which was famous for handing George W. Bush the presidency in both 2000 and 2004 and has been charged by federal prosecutors for “a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct”) voting machines are not used. However, he got slaughtered in the Queens, Kings, Nassau, Bronx, Richmond, and New York counties, where those machines are used. Although these counties pose challenges to him demographically, he underperformed his already-low benchmarks for those areas. Correlation is not causation; it’s entirely possible that he actually did underperform.

Also, it’s important to note that not all discrepancies crop up in areas served by ES&S; for example, the aforementioned Yavapai County employed technology by Unisyn Voting Solutions, and we know that Cook County’s results were modified (in at least one precinct) by Sequoia-manufactured machines.

The unadjusted exit poll tells an incredibly different story than do the final results. I recommend reading this exposé on how the exit poll was contorted in an impossible fashion to fit the tallied results:

Apparently, the last 24 respondents to exit polls yesterday were all Latina or black female Clinton voters over 44, and they were all allowed also to count more than double while replacing more than one male Sanders voter under 45.

So, now that it’s entirely plausible that results in New York were modified, what would the race look like if the 52-48 exit poll held up? Easy:  Bernie would have incredible momentum right now. But wait a minute… weren’t there more problems in New York (aside from its draconian registration-change deadline:  October 9th – 193 days before the primary – which screwed many Bernie-loving independents out of voting for him en masse)? Yes, there were.

125,000 registered Democrats were removed from the voter rolls in Brooklyn alone, rendering them unable to vote
. Meanwhile, registration increased in all of the other boroughs. Polls were late in opening, machines were down, and over two hundred unsworn affidavits were filed through Election Justice USA, decrying their wrongful purging (13 of the plaintiffs are named in the filing here).
TWC news reports that over 10,000 provisional ballots were cast in Erie County alone; it’s not unreasonable to infer that hundreds of thousands of voters were forced to cast affidavit or provisional ballots because their registrations had been purged. Note that while Brooklyn was hit hardest, the other boroughs were not left unscathed.
Perhaps these registrations were accidentally removed. OK, but NPR reports that entire city blocks were taken out of the database. Demographically speaking, if the voters were randomly purged from the Brooklyn rolls, Clinton would be the injured party. We have no proof one way or the other, just reasonable suspicion; that’s why independent investigation is required.
I’m a democracy supporter first and a Sanders supporter second; if Clinton lost votes due to the purge, I fully support her gaining the additional delegates. However, given the Chicago incident, we would do well to be suspicious – is it really too hard to imagine that, if some party were willing to modify the votes themselves, they’d also be willing to remove likely Sanders voters from the rolls?
Here is the crux of the matter:  if hypothesis 2) is true for New York and election fraud really did occur, and if Sanders' voters were targeted by the voter purge, then Sanders could find enough votes from the hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots to push him from 52C / 48S to 49.9C / 50.1S. Bernie Sanders could have won New York, and if we don’t demand every vote be counted (by hand), we will never know the truth.

More Trouble Ahead
Mayor de Blasio issued a statement condemning the purge and urging action. Additionally, the comptroller announced an audit of the Board of Elections in a sharply-worded letter. The comptroller is a delegate for Clinton; de Blasio also supports her. To be sure, I’m just pointing out potential conflicts of interest; it’s entirely possible that both men will do everything in their power to impartially resolve the situation.
New York may well be the most heavily suppressed election this cycle, but it’s neither the first – a similar purge raised hell in Arizona, nor is it the last. One month ago, /u/Coelacanth86 warned not just of New York, but of similar incidents occurring in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and California; anecdotal reports of these unauthorized registration switches in New Jersey have also emerged. Despite record-breaking enthusiasm this election cycle, Rhode Island announced they will only open 1/3 of their polling places for their primary on the 26th – a decrease of 18.6% from 2008.

In Conclusion
Isn’t it a bit odd that after weeks of being campaigned by both candidates in a heavily-hyped, incredibly important election, New York had the second-lowest percentage of turnout of Democratic primaries this year, coming in just after Louisiana?
That “low turnout” is because hundreds of thousands of provisional and affidavit ballots have yet to be counted.
What if Bernie does better in caucuses not only because his supporters are enthusiastic, but it’s much harder to game the vote? Right now, we only have one verified instance of election fraud and a handful of what could be described as extremely lucky breaks for Clinton. It’s possible that the incident in Chicago was isolated to just that precinct; it’s also possible that a series of such events has decreased Sanders’ delegate count (if the primary results were faithful to their exit polls, Sanders would only be behind by roughly 1.3 million votes – half of Clinton’s current lead).
The only way to put this matter to rest is to audit all primaries to date with the help of an independent firm. I believe this bears repeating:  this is about the sanctity of our democracy.

Sanders campaign:  please ask for an independent audit.

. . . a moderator at the non-partisan /r/CAVDEF (Coalition Against Voter Disenfranchisement and Election Fraud). Please come join us!

Our goal is to document irregularities, fraud, and suppression while providing resources for individuals who have been disenfranchised to find acknowledgement and legal remedies.

And not that anyone needs a memory refresher about who the players still are . . .

The Endgame of 2016's Anti-Establishment Politics

By Robert Reich, Roberts Reich's Blog
25 April 16
ill Bernie Sanders’s supporters rally behind Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination? Likewise, if Donald Trump is denied the Republican nomination, will his supporters back whoever gets the Republican nod?

If 2008 is any guide, the answer is unambiguously yes to both. About 90 percent of people who backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries that year ended up supporting Barack Obama in the general election. About the same percent of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney backers came around to supporting John McCain.

But 2008 may not be a good guide to the 2016 election, whose most conspicuous feature is furious antipathy to the political establishment.

Outsiders and mavericks are often attractive to an American electorate chronically suspicious of political insiders, but the anti-establishment sentiments unleashed this election year of a different magnitude. The Trump and Sanders candidacies are both dramatic repudiations of politics as usual.

If Hillary Clinton is perceived to have won the Democratic primary because of insider “superdelegates” and contests closed to independents, it may confirm for hardcore Bernie supporters the systemic political corruption Sanders has been railing against.

Similarly, if the Republican Party ends up nominating someone other than Trump who hasn’t attracted nearly the votes than he has, it may be viewed as proof of Trump’s argument that the Republican Party is corrupt.

Many Sanders supporters will gravitate to Hillary Clinton nonetheless out of repulsion toward the Republican candidate, especially if it’s Donald Trump. Likewise, if Trump loses his bid for the nomination, many of his supporters will vote Republican in any event, particularly if the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton.

But, unlike previous elections, a good number may simply decide to sit out the election because of their even greater repulsion toward politics as usual – and the conviction it’s rigged by the establishment for its own benefit.

That conviction wasn’t present in the 2008 election. It emerged later, starting in the 2008 financial crisis, when the government bailed out the biggest Wall Street banks while letting underwater homeowners drown.

Both the Tea Party movement and Occupy were angry responses – Tea Partiers apoplectic about government’s role, Occupiers furious with Wall Street – two sides of the same coin.

Then came the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in “Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission,” releasing a torrent of big money into American politics. By the 2012 election cycle, forty percent of all campaign contributions came from the richest 0.01 percent of American households.

That was followed by a lopsided economic recovery, most of whose gains have gone to the top. Median family income is still below 2008, adjusted for inflation. And although the official rate of unemployment has fallen dramatically, a smaller percentage of working-age people now have jobs than before the recession.

As a result of all this, many Americans have connected the dots in ways they didn’t in 2008.

They see “crony capitalism” (now a term of opprobrium on both left and the right) in special tax loopholes for the rich, government subsidies and loan guarantees for favored corporations, bankruptcy relief for the wealthy but not for distressed homeowners or student debtors, leniency toward corporations amassing market power but not for workers seeking to increase their bargaining power through unions, and trade deals protecting the intellectual property and assets of American corporations abroad but not the jobs or incomes of American workers.

Last fall, when on book tour in the nation’s heartland, I kept finding people trying to make up their minds in the upcoming election between Sanders and Trump.

They saw one or the other as their champion:  Sanders the “political revolutionary” who’d reclaim power from the privileged few; Trump, the authoritarian strongman who’d wrest power back from an establishment that’s usurped it.

The people I encountered told me the moneyed interests couldn’t buy off Sanders because he wouldn’t take their money, and they couldn’t buy off Trump because he didn’t need their money.

Now, six months later, the political establishment has fought back, and Sanders’s prospects for taking the Democratic nomination are dimming. Trump may well win the Republican mantle but not without a brawl.

As I said, I expect most Sanders backers will still support Hillary Clinton if she’s the nominee. And even if Trump doesn’t get the Republican nod, most of his backers will go with whoever the Republican candidate turns out to be.

But anyone who assumes a wholesale transfer of loyalty from Sanders’s supporters to Clinton, or from Trump’s to another Republican standard-bearer, may be in for a surprise.

The anti-establishment fury in the election of 2016 may prove greater than supposed.

April 20, 2016

Starhawking the Privilege Game

The last two posts here on "The Archdruid Report," with their focus on America’s class system and the dysfunctional narratives that support it, fielded an intriguing response from readers. I expected a fair number to be uncomfortable with the subject I was discussing; I didn’t expect them to post comments and emails asking me, in so many words, to please talk about something else instead.

Straight talk about uncomfortable subjects has been this blog’s bread and butter since I first started posting just shy of ten years ago, so I’ve had some experience with the way that blog readers squirm. Normally, when I touch on a hot-button issue, readers who find that subject too uncomfortable go out of their way to act as though I haven’t mentioned it at all. I’m thinking here especially, but not only, of the times I’ve noted that the future of the internet depends on whether it can pay for itself, not on whether it’s technically feasible.

Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve gotten comments that rabbited on endlessly about technical feasibility as a way to avoid talking about the economic reasons why the internet won’t be able to cover its own operating costs in the future of resource depletion and environmental blowback we’re busy making for ourselves.

It’s not just hard questions about the future of the internet that attracts that strategy of avoidance, mind you. I’ve learned to expect it whenever some post of mine touches on any topic that contradicts the conventional wisdom of our time. That’s why the different response I got to the last two posts was so fascinating. The fact that people who were made uncomfortable by a frank discussion of class privilege actually admitted that, rather than trying to pretend that no subject so shocking had been mentioned at all, says to me that we may be approaching a historical inflection point of some importance.

Mind you, frank discussion of class privilege still gets plenty of avoidance maneuvers outside the fringe territory where archdruids lurk. I’m thinking here, of course, of the way that affluent liberals right now are responding to Donald Trump’s straightforward talk about class issues by yelling that he and his followers must be motivated by racism and nothing else. That’s partly a standard bit of liberal rhetoric — I’ve discussed the way that the word “racist,” when uttered by the privileged, normally functions as a dog whistle for “wage class” — but it’s also an attempt to drag the conversation away from what policies that benefit the affluent have done to everyone else in this country.

In some parts of the current Neopagan community, that evasive maneuver has acquired a helpful moniker:  “Starhawking.” With apologies to those of my readers who may find the behavior of one of America’s smaller minority religious communities uninteresting, I’d like to recount the story behind the label. Here as so often, a small example helps clarify things; the reduced scale of a social microcosm makes it easier to observe patterns that can be harder to see at a glance on the macrocosmic scale.

Those who haven’t had any contact with the Neopagan scene may not know that it isn’t one religion, or even a group of closely related religions; rather, it’s a grab-bag of profoundly diverse faiths, some of which have less in common with one another than Christianity has with Shinto. Their association in a common subculture comes not from shared beliefs or practices, but solely from a shared history of exclusion from the religious and cultural mainstream of American society. These days, something like half of American Neopagans participate in some flavor of eclectic Paganism, which emerged out of the older British traditional witchcraft in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the rest fall into two broad categories:  one consists of older initiatiory traditions such as the British traditional witchcraft just named, while the other consists of recently revived polytheist faiths worshipping the gods and goddesses of various historic pantheons — Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and so on.

There’s a great deal of talk about inclusiveness in the Neopagan scene, but those of my readers who know their way around small American subcultures will have no trouble figuring out that what this means is that eclectic Paganism is the default option almost everywhere, and people from other traditions are welcome to show up and participate, on terms defined by eclectic Paganism, so long as they don’t offend the sensibilities of the eclectic Pagan majority. For a variety of reasons, most of which are more relevant to my other blog than this one, those sensibilities seem to be getting more easily offended of late, and people from the minority traditions have responded in a variety of ways. Some have simply walked away from the Neopagan scene, while others have tried, in an assortment of forums, to start a conversation about what has been awkwardly termed “Wiccanate privilege.”

One such discussion was under way at a large San Francisco-area Neopagan event in 2014 when Starhawk put in a belated appearance. For those who aren’t familiar with her, she’s one of the few genuine celebrities to come out of the US Neopagan scene, the author of The Spiral Dance, one of the two books that basically launched eclectic Paganism — the other is Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon — and a notable political figure over on the leftward end of the spectrum. According to people I know who were there, she proceeded to insist that the conversation should not even be happening, because all Pagans need to unite to save the Earth.

Mind you, there were plenty of other conversations going on at that event that had nothing to do with saving the Earth, and neither she nor anyone else seemed to feel any need to try to silence those conversations — just the conversation about privilege. That’s Starhawking:  the rhetorical tactic of insisting that some other issue is so important that the privilege of the speaker must not be discussed. To be fair to Starhawk, she didn’t invent it; it’s all over contemporary discourse in America, quite often in contexts where the stakes are considerably higher than they will ever be in the Neopagan scene.

Madeleine Albright’s recent insistence that every woman in America should vote for Hillary Clinton or fry in hell comes out of exactly the same logic. Issue A in this case is the so-called “glass ceiling,” the habit of excluding women of the privileged classes from the upper reaches of power and wealth. Issue B in this case is the fact that putting Hillary Clinton into the White House will only benefit those women who belong to the top end of America’s class structure, since the policies Clinton has supported throughout her political life have brought impoverishment and immiseration to the vast majority of American women, i.e., those who belong to the wage class and the lower half or so of the salary class.

When Starhawking comes from the leftward end of the affluent class, it’s almost always framed in terms of another kind of bias — racism, sexism, or what have you — which can be used, along the lines detailed last week, to blame the sufferings of one underprivileged group on another underprivileged group. When it takes place on the other end of the political spectrum, as of course it does all the time, other issues are used to drown out any discussion of privilege; among the favorites are crime, Christian moral theology, and the alleged laziness and greed of people on public assistance. The excuse differs but the rhetorical gimmick is the same.

One of the things that makes that gimmick viable is the ambiguous nature of the language that’s used to talk about the various candidates for Issue A. “Crime,” for example, is a nice vague abstraction that everyone can agree to oppose. Once that agreement has been obtained, on the other hand, it descends from the airy realm of abstraction into some very questionable specifics — to note a relevant example, none of the politicians who boast about being “tough on crime” have shown any interest in locking up the kleptomaniacs of Wall Street, whose billion-dollar swindles have done far more damage to the nation than any number of muggings on the mean streets of our inner cities.

In the same way, words like “racism” and “sexism” are abstractions with a great deal of ambiguity built into them. There are at least three things conflated in labels of this kind. I’d like to unpack those for a moment, in the hope of getting a clearer view of the convoluted landscape of American inequality.

The things I want to pull out of these portmanteau words, and others like them, are privilege, prejudice, and acts of injustice. Let’s start with the last. Police officers in America, for example, routinely gun down black teenagers in response to actions that do not get white teenagers shot; a woman who gets hired for a job in the US today can expect to get, on average, roughly three-quarters the pay that a man can expect to get for doing exactly the same job; two people who love each other and want to get married have to run a gauntlet of difficulties if they happen to be the same gender that they would not face if they were different genders. Those are acts of injustice.

Prejudice is a matter of attitudes rather than actions. The word literally means pre-judgments, the judgments we all make about people and situations before we encounter them. Everybody has them, every culture teaches them, but some people are more prejudiced — more committed to their pre-judgments, and less willing to reassess them in the face of disconfirming evidence — and some are less so. Acts of injustice are usually motivated by prejudice, and prejudice very often results in acts of injustice, but neither of these equations are exact. I’ve known people who were profoundly prejudiced but refused to act on their prejudices because some other belief or commitment forbade that; I’ve also known people who participated repeatedly in acts of injustice, who were just following orders or going along with friends, and didn’t care in the least one way or the other.

Then there’s privilege. Where prejudice and acts of injustice are individual, privilege is collective; you have privilege, or don’t have it, because of the categories you belong to, not because of what you do or don’t do. I’ll use myself as a source of examples here. I can walk through the well-to-do neighborhoods of the town where I live, for instance, without being hassled by the police; black people don’t have that privilege. I can publish controversial essays like this one without being bombarded with rape and death threats by trolls; women don’t have that privilege. I can kiss my spouse in public without having some moron yell insults at me out of the window of a passing car; gay people don’t have that privilege.

I could fill the next ten posts on this blog with a listing of similar privileges I have, and not even come close to running out of examples. It’s important, though, to recognize that my condition of privilege isn’t assigned to me for any one reason. It’s not just that I’m white, or male, or heterosexual, or grew up in a family on the lower end of the salary class, or was born able-bodied, or what have you; it’s all of these things and a great many more, taken together, that assign me my place in the hierarchy of privilege. This is equally true of you, dear reader, and of everyone else. What differentiates my position from yours, and yours from everyone else’s, is that every station on the ladder has a different proportion between the number of people above it and the number of people below. There are, for example, plenty of people in today’s America who have more privilege than I do, but there are vastly more people who have much, much less.

Note also that I don’t have to do anything to get the privileges I have, nor can I get rid of them. As a white heterosexual man from a salary class background, and the rest of it, I got assigned nearly all of my privileges the moment I was born, and no matter what I do or don’t do, I’ll keep the vast majority of them until I die. Ths is also true of you, dear reader, and of everyone else:  the vast majority of what places you on whatever rung you occupy in the long ladder of privilege is yours simply for being born. Thus you’re not responsible for the fact that you have whatever level of privilege you do — though you are responsible, of course, for what you choose to do with itYou can exploit your privilege to benefit yourself at the expense of the less privileged — that is to say, you can engage in acts of injustice. The more privilege you have, the more your prejudices affect other people’s lives and the more powerful your acts of injustice become. Thus advocates for the less privileged are quite correct to point out that the prejudices and injustices of the privileged matter more than those of the unprivileged.

On the other hand, privilege does not automatically equate to prejudice, or to acts of injustice. It’s entirely possible for the privileged — who, as already noted, did not choose their privilege and can’t get rid of it — to refuse to exploit their privilege in this way. It’s even possible, crashingly unfashionable as the concept is these days, for them to take up the old principle of noblesse oblige:  the concept, widely accepted (though not always acted on) in eras where privilege was more openly recognized, that those who are born to privilege also inherit definite responsibilities toward the less privileged. I suppose it’s even possible that they might do this and not expect lavish praise for it, though that’s kind of a stretch, American culture today being what it is.

These days, though, most white heterosexual men from salary class backgrounds don’t think of themselves as privileged, and don’t see the things I enumerated earlier as privileges. This is one of the most crucial points about privilege in today’s America:  to the privileged, privilege is invisible. That’s not just a matter of personal cluelessness, or of personal isolation from the less privileged, though these can of course be involved. It’s a matter of enculturation. The mass media and every other aspect of mainstream American culture constantly present the experience of privileged people as normal, and just as constantly feed any departure from that experience through an utterly predictable set of filters.

First, of course, the experience of the unprivileged is erased — “That sort of thing doesn’t actually happen.” When that fails, it’s dismissed as unimportant — ”Well, maybe it does happen, but it’s no big deal.” When it becomes clear that it is a big deal to those who have to cope with it, it’s treated as an occasional anomaly — “You can’t generalize from one or two bad examples.” When that breaks down, finally, the experience of the unprivileged is blamed on the unprivileged — “It’s their own fault that they get treated like that.” If you know your way around America’s collective non-conversation about privilege, in the mass media or in everyday conversation, you’ve seen each one of these filters deployed a thousand times or more.

What makes this interesting is that the invisibility of privilege in modern America isn’t shared by that many other human societies. There are plenty of cultures, past and present, in which privilege is right out there in the open, written into laws, and openly discussed by the privileged as well as the unprivileged. The United States used to be like that as recently as the 1950s. It wasn’t just that there were Jim Crow laws in those days formally assigning black Americans the status of second-class citizens, and laws in many states that gave women second-class status when it came to a galaxy of legal and financial rights; it was all over the media and popular culture, too. Open any daily newspaper, and the society pages splashed around the difference in privilege between those people who belonged to the elite and those who didn’t.

For a complex series of reasons rooted in the cultural convulsions of the Sixties, though, frank talk about privilege stopped being socially acceptable in America over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. That didn’t make privilege go away, of course. It did mean that certain formal expressions of privilege, such as the Jim Crow laws just mentioned, had to be scrapped, and in that process, some real injustices did get fixed. The downside was the rise of a culture of double-talk in which the very real disparities in privilege in American society got fed repeatedly through the filters described above, and one of the most important sources of those disparities — class differences — were shoved completely out of the collective conversation of our time.

The habit of Starhawking is one of the major rhetorical tools by which open discussion of privilege, and above all of class privilege, got thrust out of sight. It’s been used with equal verve at all points along the political spectrum from the far left straight across to the far right. Whether it’s affluent liberals insisting that everyone else has to ignore their privilege in order to get on with the task of saving the Earth, affluent conservatives insisting that everyone else has to ignore their privilege in order to get on with the task of returning America to its Christian roots, or — and this is increasingly the standard line — affluent people on both sides insisting that everyone else has to ignore their privilege because fighting those horrible people on the other side of the political spectrum is the only thing that matters, what all these utterances mean in practice is “don’t talk about my privilege.”

That sort of evasion is what I expected to field from readers when I started talking about issues surrounding class privilege earlier this year. I got a certain amount of it, to be sure, but as already mentioned, I also got comments by people who acknowledged that they were uncomfortable with the discussion and wanted me to stop. What this says to me is that the wall of denial and double-talk that has closed down open discussion of privilege in today’s America — and especially of class privilege — may be cracking at last. Granted, "The Archdruid Report" is well out there on the cultural fringes of American society, but it’s very often the fringes that show signs of major social changes well before the mainstream ever hears about them.

If it’s true that the suppression of talk about privilege in general, and class privilege in particular, is in the process of breaking down, it’s not a minute too soon. The United States just now stands in the path of a tidal wave of drastic change, and current patterns of privilege are among the many things that bid fair to be upended once it hits.

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