Category Archives: Elections

A Principled Left Should Tell You What To Go Do With Yourself.

Over at Common Dreams, there is a piece titled “Why a Principled Left Should Support the Benghazi Inquiry” by Ajamu Baraka.

And if you thought that didn’t bode well, here’s the subtitle:

The GOP want to destroy Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in one fell swoop, but there’s a deeper issue to investigate that deserves public scrutiny: How the US/Nato invasion of Libya unleashed widespread violence across North Africa and beyond.

So basically let me sum this up for you. You can’t understand Boko Haram without understanding how the operation against Qaddafi’s Libya and the weapons we provided the rebels energized all sorts of crazy radicals in Africa. Oh, but Boko Haram is older than that operation. Also, there are emails that may indicate the administration mislead the public, if by “mislead” you mean “pre-emptively PR spin to counter any possible assertion that the attack was a direct result of U.S. policies,” which I guess is true because nothing is completely a result of U.S. policies. Also, if by “the administration” you mean “one guy in the administration.” Oh, and if by “emails” you mean “an email.”

He also says that… oh fuck this, I’ll just quote him.

The response from the Democrats has been predictable. Democrats already lined-up behind a Clinton campaign understand that no matter what comes out this inquiry, Benghazi has the potential to become a permanent yoke that wears down the Clinton candidacy. But in another bizarre display of political and ideological subordination to the Democrat Party and its rightist elite, elements of the left have also expressed opposition to this inquiry.

One would think that those on the left would support this inquiry, as limited and partisan as it will be, on the democratic principle that the people have a right to know what occurred before, during and in the aftermath of the attack. But even more importantly, by demanding a more comprehensive examination of all the activity of the U.S. in Libya in the aftermath of the destruction of that state, including the mission of the CIA in Benghazi, the left can and should raise serious questions that expose the dangerous strategy of empowering anti-democratic, right-wing forces, from al Qaeda-connected jihadists in Syria to neo-fascists in Ukraine.

Holy fucking shit I can not believe a Lefty human being living in the U.S. over the age of 40 actually wrote that. Limited? Really? Like Ken Starr was limited to investigating Whitewater, then spent YEARS digging into every orifice the Clintons had in order to come up with SOMETHING they could use against him? Partisan? You’d better fucking believe it’s partisan. The only difference now is this has race mixed into it, something you’d think Mr. Baraka would understand, since he’s done a whole lot of work talking about racism in the U.S.. He honestly tries to convince us in this essay that he thinks this is aimed at Hillary Clinton, but not at Barack Obama. Then he flips it around again.

I welcome the hearings and could not care less about the implications for the candidacy of Hilary Clinton or the reputation of Barack Obama.

Neither do I.

I am more interested in curbing the right-ward militarist trajectory of U.S. policy.

You’re a little late for that, and if you think that trajectory is going to be changed by a Tea Party-driven investigation centered in the Republican Majority in the U.S. House, you’re out of your goddamn mind.

As an African American the plight of the more than 200 school girls captured by Boko Haram holds a special outrage for me. But I am also outraged by the murder of people defending their rights to self-determination at the hands of U.S.-supported thugs in Odessa Ukraine, outraged by the fact that people are daily terrorized by the constant buzz of U.S. drones that kill women and children in wedding parties and individuals who may “act” like they might be so-called terrorists, outraged that people can call themselves moral and even progressive and support the brutal Israeli occupation and de-humanization of Palestinians.

Yeah, you’re a goddamn clear-eyed humanitarian. Except for the continued inability of minorities in the U.S. to get the benefits they need, especially in states that (in a shocking coincidence) not only have shitty Medicaid benefits, they also refused the Medicaid expansion and are suppressing the shit out of minority voters! By the way: before someone accuses me of valuing the lives of people in the U.S. over people outside of it, read on, there’s a little lesson for you at the end here.

And I am outraged knowing that U.S. policy-makers don’t give a damn about the school girls in Nigeria because their real objective is to use the threat of Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country to justify the real goal of occupying the oil fields in the South and to block the Chinese in Nigeria.

You display a stunning ignorance as to why this is happening, even as you’re so outraged by it.

Exposing the whole sordid story of the destruction of Libya and the role of Al-Qaeda as the “boots on the ground” for U.S. geo-strategic objectives in North Africa and the Middle East represents the only strategy that an independent and principled left could pursue in wake of the fact that the hearings are going to occur. Anything other than that is capitulation, something that the left has routinely done over the last six years, and some of us still struggle against in the hope that one day the “responsible” left will eschew the privileges that stem from its objective collaboration with the interests and world-view of neo-liberal white power and re-ground itself in authentic radical principles and the world-wide struggle against Western domination.

Let me say this in the clearest, most concise manner possible.

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL.

The Benghazi hearings are about electing Republicans and defeating Democrats. Period. The overthrow of Qaddafi was as much about local politics in the EU as anything else (a big part of it being an attempt to bail out BP because of their massive losses in the US after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which was destroying pension holdings in the UK). We pulled out of Viet Nam because a domestic political shift made it politically untenable to remain there. Same for Iraq. Same for Afghanistan. If you want to make a long-term change in the behavior of people towards something that’s far away from them, find the intersection between the effects that thing produces and how they live their lives and hammer on that. You do not do it – ever – by giving political cover to your enemies.

All that the Left would do by supporting the Benghazi investigations is help the GOP to continue bashing anyone to the left of Ted Cruz. Assisting the party that is actively encouraging the disenfranchisement of your base is not the way to win in politics unless you are attempting to start a revolution. If that’s what you’re trying to do, you’re a horrible human being because you’re (from a position of authority and privilege yourself) saying that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and by eggs you mean people who have virtually no power or voice in this world. Way to go!

Finally in the spirit of the title, I’d just like to say this:
bagofdicks

Why Participating in your Local Politics Is Important (no, SERIOUSLY)

A possible subtitle for this post would be “A Tale of Two States,” those states being Pennsylvania and Virginia.

I’d like you to look at the maps of their congressional districts (Virginia, Pennsylvania – links open in new windows) and you may want to keep those windows open to look back at what is probably the clearest example of why we re-elect incumbent Representatives in the House.

First, let’s take a look at Pennsylvania. Notice that the five districts that went Democratic this time are clustered near major cities, and that the Democratic districts really don’t cover much in the way of area. Notice on the Secretary of State’s website that none of the races in the Democratic-leaning districts were really very close (in fact, they were very lopsided), resulting in the 5 Democratic Representatives (out of 18 total) being re-elected with solid majorities. The GOP winners won (generally) by much narrower margins. In PA, the Congressional districts are drawn by the State Legislature and approved by the Governor, while the Legislature districts are drawn by a commission balanced between Republicans and Democrats. If you wonder whether the redistricting process, consider that the total votes for Democratic U.S. House candidates in the 2012 PA election was 2,702,901, and the total votes for GOP U.S. House candidates was 2,626,851. So we have a state that’s almost evenly divided (Dem vs. GOP), but the House representation is 5 to 13.

Now on to Virginia.

First, the oddity that is the 3rd congressional district (the blot in the lower-right corner of the VA map linked above that looks like three little districts, but is actually all one district, is something that was put in place after the 2000 census. In Virginia, gerrymandering has been going on so long that it’s simply expected (and both sides cry foul at the other side doing it).

On to the stats. Virginia has 3 Democratic Representatives and 8 Republican ones, with 1,797,905 votes cast for Democratic candidates and 1,873,491 votes cast for Republican ones (aggregated from stats here). Given wailing and gnashing of teeth about Democratic gerrymandering in the link above, I’d say that the GOP is guilty of being more adept at the process.

Really, the only people who benefit from gerrymandering are the politicians themselves, since they’re choosing their voters. So remember, when you feel like bitching about “those elites in Washington who aren’t paying attention to us,” the reason they’re there is because of elites right next door who are deciding which elite you will vote to send to Washington, and in what group of voters your vote will be counted. Your local elections are what decide this, and you fail to participate in them at your peril. Also, I recommend much ranting and raving about the gerrymandering – it’s not cool when anyone does it, and I believe it’s at the root of how our two-party system has become so entrenched at the national level.

A Simple Answer to a Stupid Dilemma

As I’ve discussed before, as election season approaches and every voter faces the prospect of looking at what they have (or haven’t) done, many are facing this moment of truth with wailing, gnashing of teeth, wearing of hair shirts and public penitent flagellation. Today’s example is as follows:

The time has come again for the liberals to attack those on their left. Such things are cyclical, like the coming of the cicadas. This is interesting timing because the liberals I know and read are very, very confident that Obama is running away with the election. And this itself is interesting, as the typical justification of the rampant redbaiting and Peter Beinart-style calls for purges of the unfaithful is that we’re in a trench war, here, people, and Charlie is everywhere, and so if the Democrats were to nominate Zell Miller your job would be to shut the fuck up and support him as he destroyed everything we believe in, because it’s a two party system. But, now, see, because they think that their guy is winning, it’s also not the right time because… well. You know. It’s never the time. They are, in every sense, kept people, owned by a party and its leader, and they have given away every part of themselves that is capable of critical thought.

I don’t know how else it say it, considering I’ve said it a thousand times. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don’t know how to act or what to do. I want it so bad I can’t sit still or sleep at night. I want it with everything I have that’s capable of want. And I know that this is the kind of talk that invites pure contempt from those like Tbogg, who have only the idiom of sarcasm and derision and cannot imagine straightforward moral sentiment. But that’s the truth. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. And the innocent people we kill the most, these days, are Muslim. And the policy of the Obama administration has expanded the zone in which we kill innocent Muslims, they have shown no interest in stopping killing innocent Muslims, and in fact their campaign constantly brags about the drone program which kills innocent Muslims. That’s just true. All of it is just true. Obama is directly responsible for the expansion of hostilities against Muslims targets which result in the death of people who have taken no violent action against the United States. Voting for him cannot, does not, and will not challenge that reality.

I don’t know who is telling him not to challenge this outside of the voting booth, because that’s a stupid thing to say (and I believe him that people are saying this; I’ve gotten shit myself for not being sufficiently pro-Obama), but guess what: politicians have absolutely no way of connecting your motives for (not) voting as you choose to with the outcome of the election. It’s a stupid, pointless gesture to not-vote in protest unless your sole goal is to make yourself feel good, unless you don’t live in a swing state. I live in VA, so this race is very contested here. If you live in state that’s heavily weighted one way or another, then feel free to sit it out (or better yet, vote for a third-party candidate), but the action will be meaningless without more action outside of election season to back it up. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky in the video below, of course you can fucking vote for the lesser of two evils, because you get less goddamn evil!

And let’s get back to this little gem from the comment above, because I want to highlight it:

I don’t know how else it say it, considering I’ve said it a thousand times. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don’t know how to act or what to do.

I’m sure these people could use some help. Or these people. Do you vote in your primary elections? Do you donate money outside of election season (and include a note as to why you’re donating or why it’s not more, or why you’re donating a goddamn penny because you’re so pissed off)? If you don’t know how to act or what to do, then ask people who are doing something and be willing to follow through. Find some way to help and do it, but don’t pretend that casting a ballot is the time to make that difference. From my earlier post:

Think of it this way. You’re on a large train, and the track divides at regular intervals. During the ride, you can contact people who are building the line ahead of you to influence the way the tracks are going to go, but once the tracks are built, nothing can change them short of a natural disaster. Just before you get to the switch where you can go in one (or more) possible directions, everyone on the train gets a vote as to which way the train will go. No matter what you do the train is going on one of the tracks that have already been laid out. If you wanted a different option, your only time to influence it was the long ride before the vote (write-in candidates just do not win without considerable groundwork; think of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska). Whether you spent this time slamming down drinks in the lounge car or frantically calling ahead to try and change the direction the rails are being laid out, at this point it doesn’t matter. The options have now been decided, and the train is not going to stop. With considerable difficulty you can get off the train, but that can be a complex (and sometimes dangerous) process that can be hard to reverse if you change your mind, but the train will not stop.

So the question on a ballot is, “which way will the train go?”

And once again DJW’s re-telling of hilzoy’s wonderful response:

I can’t recall when or where, but I believe it was hilzoy who gave the best answer I’ve ever heard to this kind of question, which I wholeheartedly endorse. It was, essentially, that she would be indifferent to voting for the least bad viable candidate when things had gotten so bad that she was actively involved in violent rebellion against the government. Significantly, this is a higher threshold than “things are so bad violent revolution is justified in the abstract, but I’m not currently doing it”, but actual active rebellion. This seems exactly right to me. Either you should use the tools available to make better/reduce the harm of the current state, of you should begin engaging in a plot to overthrow it, or find a way to contribute to an ongoing one. If the latter is not to your taste because you have other priorities, or you (probably wisely) deem it unlikely to be unsuccessful and as such not a reasonable risk of life and limb, you have no reason to avoid the first strategy, and you get no credit for moral high ground for avoiding it.

And if those are too complicated for you, then I offer you the simple, traditional response: “don’t mourn, organize!

Fox Wierdness

Want to see something strange? Take a look over here at OpenSecrets.Org’s listing of top contributors to federal candidates and parties in yhe TV/movies/music industry. Scroll down to number 7. News Corporation, the parent of Fox News, contributed more than twice as much to the Dems as the Republicans*. I wonder how I can get more detailed numbers. I wonder if we can start calling Fox part of the Liberal Media Establishment now. :P Most importantly, I wonder WHY it played out the way it did. Probably because there is a lot more to Fox than the
‘newsroom”.

*(statement of methodology from OS.org’s website: “The numbers on this page are based on contributions from PACs, soft money donors, and individuals giving $200 or more. (Only those groups giving $5,000 or more are listed here.) In many cases, the organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates. All donations took place during the 2003-2004 election cycle and were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, October 25, 2004. Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics.”)

Giving the Democrats one last chance.

There is a petition up at MoveOn.Org demanding that the new chair selected for the DLC disconnect from special interest politics and get back to the people who comprise the party membership. I figure this is about the party’s last chance at regaining credibility in my eyes. I signed it, we’ll see what happens.

SB 7/1/14: This is the closest I ever came to becoming an advocate of third-party voting.

The mighty Values Vote may be a little less mighty than previously thought.

An interesting read on the origin and nature of the values vote myth.

My favorite part: ‘Brian Healy was the CBS News producer covering the exit polls, something he has done in many elections. He recalled that everyone was surprised that moral values topped the list as the numbers came in, but it wasn’t until about 4 a.m. that someone quite innocently asked, “What exactly are ‘moral values’?”‘