Saturday, August 27, 2016

Labor Day in 2016: What you don't know about the American labor movement does benefit the 1%



If you check your TV schedule for Labor Day weekend, you won't find an annual PBS show recognizing American workers. Nor will you find any national broadcast coverage of parades or fireworks or memorial day type ceremonies honoring workers who died advocating labor causes.

But then again, you won't see either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump leading a celebration despite the fact that angry American workers were their base of support.

The American Labor Day Holiday was literally given to you to smooth over the killing of American workers on strike by U.S. Government officials. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland pushed Congress to establish the holiday as a way to reduce class tension following the Pullman Strike. During that strike thousands of United States Marshals and 12,000 United States Army troops were called out to suppress the strike and about ninety workers were gunned down.

Cleveland’s choice to establish Labor Day in September deflected attention away from another explosive labor action — the Haymarket massacre of 1886, where the deaths of American workers did contribute at least one lasting legacy to the international movement for working-class liberation — a workers’ holiday, May Day, celebrated around the world on May 1.

Tied to the socialist movement, May Day as a national holiday was unacceptable to the American Establishment of the late 1800's. But a response from the Government over the Pullman Strike deaths was needed, so Cleveland selected what we now celebrate as Labor Day in the hopes that working Americans would be mollified and someday forget the labor movement.

But that didn't happen rapidly. Thirty years later, in 1916, Congress passed the Adamson Act creating the first legally enshrined eight hour work day in order to avoid a nationwide railroad strike which would have resulted in deaths.

It would take years before most Americans would forget about the meaning of Labor Day - after The Great Depression, beyond the Revolutionary 1960's, really all the way to the 1980's when the Industrial Revolution was replaced by the Digital Revolution.

During the 1980's decade most Americans seem to have decided they had nothing in common with the laboring class, had no need for organized labor, and literally raised a generation that thinks Labor Day exists for stores to sell stuff much like the Valentines Day "holiday."


To learn a little more about the history of  Labor Day you can read When Labor Day Meant Something and  Labor Day is May 1, today is a boss’s holiday, though you should learn a lot more about what the labor movement struggled to secure for you though that would require reading books. You should at least be aware that there is a Wikipedia entry List of worker deaths in United States labor disputes.

Or you could embrace your ignorance, sit back and enjoy an NPR Jazz Sampler Labor Day Blues And Grooves.

Just keep in mind that the 1% depend upon most workers not understanding that laws like the minimum wage, mandatory overtime, etc., exist not because of some benevolent President but because of the American labor movement. There has always been the 1%, but there isn't much of a labor movement now. Some thoughtful folks might wonder if there is any relationship between that and who benefits from the economic growth....

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Cultural Divide: Will Donald Trump's "Hard 8" Bet Payoff?

The day after Labor Day has traditionally been the start of the post-Convention Presidential Campaign.

Yesterday was three weeks before the day after Labor Day 2016. The Donald is getting ready to start his campaign.

Yesterday, Donald Trump bet his money on the cultural divide, a complex "Hard 8" bet, which he sees as his route to winning on the craps table that is 21st Century American politics.

Democrats and liberals need to understand that, while it is risky for Casino owner Trump, he understands that the payoff is big. Trump feels lucky about it.

After all he's already thrown the dice getting numbers that would have been the losers if he had made the bet earlier or if the numbers were to show up between now and the election. The folks around his table have groaned a bit the past few weeks. After that few weeks of rolling the dice, now he knows how to blow on them for better luck.

More about Trump's bet yesterday after addressing another subject. First let's see if you are at all in touch with the side of the cultural divide, the "Hard 8" side, represented by Trump's bet.

If you haven't been hearing this song you are probably on one side of the American cultural divide:


If you have never heard this song written by Brad Paisley, Chris Dubois, and Kelley Lovelace, clearly you choose to live in a bubble that culturally isolates you.1

It isn't that you shouldn't choose what bubble you live in. It's just that chances are you were probably as shocked by the success of this year's Presidential Election Republican nominee, as surprised as the well-educated liberal and conservative media pundits.

In other words they and you are out of touch with the reality facing the 40% of Americans who would like to vote for Trump. It's a very foolish position for you to be in because you probably have made decisions that made their lives worse.

Now don't misinterpret this song used here as something it is not. In February after a Republican debate Brad Paisley commented...


...which, not surprisingly, got him into hot water with a huge (using a Donald Trump word) number of his fans.

If you go to the YouTube page for the video above, among the comments was this one...


...which would be a typical response from a typical Paisley fan.

If you think Paisley's fans are rednecks, think again.  The commenter is this Paisley fan who was one of five Knox County students to sit on stage with Obama at Pellissippi State Community College in January 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee. In this report about the speech given months before anyone, including Bernie Sanders, announced they were running for President in 2015, we should have learned from the intellectual press:
When Obama said he proposes bringing the cost of community college "to zero," the room erupted in a standing ovation. Obama pointed to Gov. Bill Haslam's Tennessee Promise and announced he plans to call his proposal "America's College Promise."
In fact, you would have to wonder how many tech-savvy Bernie supporters let Bernie get away with presenting his free tuition proposal without mentioning Obama's proposal, but you need not have wondered because most Bernie supporters were political inactivists who would have never seen this YouTube video nor heard the proposal repeated in Obama's 2015 State-of-the-Union Address:


The proposal was introduced in both houses of Congress as S.B. 1716: America’s College Promise Act of 2015 and H.R.2962: America's College Promise Act of 2015 where they languish in committees.2 It is, of course, part of Hillary Clinton's Education Policy Vision. But so long as the Bernie supporters remain political inactivists when it comes to Congressional elections, it will continue to languish in committees.

Then again, this policy proposal would not have inspired the Feel the Bern folks because it is an economic proposal aimed at the very people who will be the voters responsible if Trump beats Clinton as explained here in the post The innane bigotry of the educated is the reason why Trump's “I love the poorly educated!” is a winner as well as discussed in detail in the post series here Dissidents in American Politics. It is a proposal to get the high-school-only's and the high-school-dropouts to go to community college, not to make it cheaper to go the University of California.

There is one thing worse than being out of touch with the 40%. It is being a Bernie supporter who thought that free tuition was a Bernie idea. You aren't just in the lefty bubble but also in a bubble of bigoted ignorance inside the lefty bubble - the "double bubble". You don't want to know about what Democratic Establishment Politicians are trying to do because you want to believe everything wrong in your life is someone else's fault. And you won't help them get that free tuition for community college students.

Which brings us back to Trump's bet. As he announced in a story in The Wall Street Journal:
Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, an outspoken Trump supporter and a former Goldman Sachs banker, will assume the new position of campaign chief executive. At the same time, Mr. Trump also is promoting Kellyanne Conway, a veteran GOP pollster and strategist, to become campaign manager. Ms. Conway has been a campaign adviser for several weeks.

“I want to win,” Mr. Trump said in an interview Tuesday night in which he disclosed his hires. “That’s why I’m bringing on fantastic people who know how to win and love to win.”

The appointment of Mr. Bannon is likely to stir its own controversy. Breitbart News, which he runs, is a freewheeling populist news site that has served as a kind of platform for Trump supporters. He has, among other things, helped produce a movie about the personal wealth of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump has known Mr. Bannon, a former Naval officer, for years. Mr. Bannon will take a leave of absence from Breitbart.
If you don't follow or at least occasionally look at Breitbart News, you can read the erudite New York Times pieces What Is Breitbart News? and Meet Stephen Bannon, the Trump Campaign’s New Chief Executive to get a thorough overview. But the Washington Post story also offers an extensive analysis with these key paragraphs:
Trump’s stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump’s presentation and pitch for the general election. And it sent a signal, perhaps more clearly than ever, that the real-estate magnate intends to finish this race on his own terms, with friends who share his instincts at his side.

While Trump respects Manafort, the aides said, he has grown to feel “boxed in” and "controlled" by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.

Trump's turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primaries with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski's mantra was "let Trump be Trump" and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture, the aides said.

In Bannon especially, Trump is turning to an alter ego — a colorful, edgy figure on the right who has worked at Goldman Sachs and made several films, including a documentary about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months to not mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable, the aides said. Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.

Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal, the aides said.
Perhaps the most cogent analysis comes from Deadline Hollywood which understands that 21st Century winners are defined by audience size and fan commitment (which applies to Apple devices as well as movie stars), not by critical discussion and wonky analysis:
Donald Trump, playing to what he knows best – media – has brought in scorched-earth-er Steve Bannon to shake up his campaign, as polls show the candidate sliding in key states, and news headlines showed him losing control of his narrative.

Word that the Breitbart CEO, known for his take-no-prisoners style, had joined Camp Trump comes hours after reports ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes was giving Trump debate a advice/resource/consultation/whatever. Bannon has been with Breitbart since the launch of the web site that has been a virtual Trump campaign newsletter with posts about Hillary Clinton’s health, Clinton’s emails, fond looks back at Bill Clinton’s canoodling over the years, etc.

Today’s news guarantees, if nothing else, that the upcoming debates between Trump and Clinton are going to be the very definition of Must See TV. Sorry, NFL.
If you don't understand that final "Sorry, NFL." comment you need to get out of the double bubble.3

Finally, the Washington Post story noted:
“Buckle up,” wrote a Trump strategist in a text message Wednesday to The Washington Post.

Several people close to Trump said Bannon and Conway have decided to target five states and want to devote the campaign’s time and resources to those contests: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is in those states where they believe Trump’s appeal to working-class and economically frustrated voters has the best chance to resonate, the people said.
Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. From the Brad Paisley song:
We work in the factories and the fields
Assembly lines, the coal mines
And the steel mills

We might fix your water pump or your AC
Bring your apple pie and fill your glass of tea
We'll take that FedEx package to your door 
I live in Democratic California and I know that my vote is not going to change the outcome in this election. Also the song's descriptions do not apply to me and therefore even if I lived in one of those states I wouldn't be a Trump campaign target, though I do listen to country music sometimes.

Trump placed his bet on a table surrounded by folks that live in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania who fit the description. It's a risky bet, but Nate Silver's historically successful 538 Election Forecast system (which right now says Clinton has a 70%+ chance of winning but did have her in the 50%+ numbers a month ago) tells us that absent some major event hurting Clinton it is the only bet for Trump:


Except Trump now decided it is safe to do it with an ex-Goldman Sachs banker/online media mogul which should be a source of skepticism for Trump's base. Maybe I am out of touch.

__________________________
Footnotes:
1I have taken the liberty of reorganizing the lyrics of the song to make a point:

We work in the factories and the fields
Assembly lines, the coal mines
And the steel mills

We might fix your water pump or your AC
Bring your apple pie and fill your glass of tea
We'll take that FedEx package to your door

We crank up our music Friday nights
On two thousand country stations
And we drink ice-cold beer on Friday nights

That's what we do but there's more to us than that
If you wanna know who we are
It's on the logos of our caps

We're all across the map, down city streets and old dirt roads
We're the fabric of this nation
And we're a nation all our own

We're Mountaineers, we're Volunteers
We're the Tide that rolls, we're Seminoles
We're a herd of Longhorn steer
We drive Ford and Chevrolet
Cheer 24 and 88
We're Wildcats, we're Wolverines
We're Tigers, Buckeyes, Bruins
Bulldogs, Hogs and Hurricanes
We pray before we race
Cheer 14 and 48

But underneath that apron or that uniform
Yeah, we're one big country nation, that's right
2 S.B. 1716: America’s College Promise Act of 2015 - U.S. Senators Primary Sponsor Ms. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and co-sponsors Mr. Booker, Mr. Brown (D-OH), Ms. Hirono (D-HI), Mr. Murphy (D-CT), Mr. Leahy  (D-VT), Mr. Durbin (D-IL), Mr. Heinrich  (D-NM), Mr. Cardin (D-MD), Ms. Stabenow  (D-MI), Mr. Markey (D-MA), and Mr. Whitehouse (D-RI). Not a sponsor Mr. Sanders (I-VT)
H.R.2962: America's College Promise Act of 2015 -  Representatives Primary Sponsor Mr. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) and co-sponsors Mr. Hinojosa, Mr. Clyburn, Mr. Butterfield, Ms. Judy Chu of California, Ms. Linda T. Sánchez of California, Ms. Adams, Mr. Moulton, Mr. Takano, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. Richmond, Ms. Brown of Florida, Mr. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Mr. Blumenauer, Ms. Bonamici, Ms. Bordallo, Mr. Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania, Mrs. Capps, Mr. Cicilline, Ms. Clark of Massachusetts, Mr. Conyers, Mr. DeSaulnier, Ms. Edwards, Ms. Eshoo, Mr. Fattah, Ms. Fudge, Mr. Al Green of Texas, Mr. Gene Green of Texas, Mr. Gutiérrez, Ms. Hahn, Mr. Honda, Mr. Jeffries, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Kilmer, Mr. Kind, Mr. Larson of Connecticut, Ms. Lee, Mr. Levin, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Ted Lieu of California, Mr. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Mr. McDermott, Mr. McGovern, Ms. Moore, Mrs. Napolitano, Mr. Norcross, Ms. Norton, Ms. Plaskett, Mr. Pocan, Mr. Rangel, Ms. Roybal-Allard, Mr. Rush, Mr. Sablan, Ms. Loretta Sanchez of California, Mr. Schiff, Mr. Serrano, Mr. Swalwell of California, Mr. Takai, Mrs. Torres, Mr. Van Hollen, Ms. Wilson of Florida, Mr. Yarmuth, Mr. Beyer, Mr. Pascrell, Mr. Delaney, and Mr. Keating.

3Trump's objection to the debate schedule was because two of the three debates are scheduled on the same nights as NFL games. Because Trump is in another bubble of ignorance he misrepresented how the debates were scheduled. They are scheduled well in advance of an election by a commission not at all well-balanced between the ordinary football fans versus The Establishment (the Academic Oligarchy and the Shareholder Capitalists) that includes the following members:
Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
John C. Danforth, Former U.S. Senator
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University
Charles Gibson, Former Anchor, ABC World News with Charles Gibson
John Griffen, Managing Director, Allen & Company LLC, see also Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference
Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO, California Community Foundation
Reverend John I. Jenkins, President, University of Notre Dame
Jim Lehrer, Former Executive Editor and Anchor of the NewsHour on PBS
Newton N. Minow, Senior Counsel, Sidley Austin LLP
Richard D. Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners LLC
Dorothy S. Ridings, Former President, the League of Women Voters and former President and CEO, Council on Foundations
Olympia Snowe, Former U.S. Senator
Shirley M. Tilghman, Former President, Princeton University

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Freedom of Speech" as a right actually has a definition that includes a kindness obligation

We need to start holding websites, particularly social media websites, responsible for the failure to uphold the "kindness" obligation that is part of the definition of the right of free speech and expression.

We need to do so particularly when the owners of the websites have become billionaires by failing to meet the kindness obligation.

Controversy over abusive behavior on the internet is beginning to erupt. Most recently this piece appeared on BuzzFeed News “A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment which begins with the explanation:
For nearly its entire existence, Twitter has not just tolerated abuse and hate speech, it’s virtually been optimized to accommodate it. With public backlash at an all-time high and growth stagnating, what is the platform that declared itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” to do? BuzzFeed News talks to the people who’ve been trying to figure this out for a decade.
Perhaps in this article the most significant paragraph describing the history of these billionaires gives us a sense of a level of arrogance and ignorance in the evolution of social media on the internet:
Working with Alexander Macgillivray, a die-hard free speech advocate who was then a Google attorney, Blogger made a core principle of the universal right to publish, despite outside criticism. “We don’t get involved in adjudicating whether something is libel or slander,” Goldman told Forbes in 2005.
This is a Trump-like approach to something that has become lost in "conventional wisdom." "Freedom of speech" is a cherished American right ... except, of course, most American's have no idea what it is. You are basically ignorant if it comes a shock to you that freedom of speech is a government granted and legally limited freedom that comes with obligations.

So without repeating all the research and details offered at the Wikipedia page, I'll just quote the summarizing words:
Freedom of speech is the right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship.

Governments restrict speech with varying limitations. Common limitations on speech relate to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, the right to be forgotten, political correctness, public security, public order, public nuisance, campaign finance reform, perjury, and oppression. Whether these limitations can be justified under the harm principle depends upon whether influencing a third party's opinions or actions adversely to the second party constitutes such harm or not.
In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

You'll notice that this is all about government. Our "cherished American right" is about the protection of speech from government restriction although the Supreme Court, as explained by Wikipedia, "has recognized several different types of laws that restrict speech, and subjects each type of law to a different level of scrutiny."  The most well-known type of exclusion was enunciated by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Wikipedia also explains another concept:
The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Article 19 additionally states that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals."
Just to make it clear, Article 19 of the ICCPR reads as follows:
Article 19
  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    1. For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
    2. For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
In other words, at no time has there been some societal grant of freedom of expression to any person "through any media of his choice" without placing on that person "special duties and responsibilities."

If there is one word that can be used to generally define those special duties and responsibilities, that word is "kindness" meaning a behavior marked by humane characteristics reflecting a pleasant disposition and concern for others.

At no time has there been some law requiring any private sector publisher, internet service or other media provider to define and engage in the protection of free speech and free expression, particularly to allow speech and expression not only devoid of kindness but filled with hatred and harm.

Newspapers and magazines in the 20th Century prior to the internet selectively printed articles and letters to the editor. And many still do today. If you felt your message wasn't getting out there, you could have your own book or newspaper or flyer printed and distributed, all at your own expense.

Again, protection of free speech and expression is a societal activity mutually engaged in through government, including the courts which we seem sometimes to forget is a branch of government. It is not defined through individual action particularly when that action is motivated by profit.

It takes a significant level of arrogance for those involved in providing a web site to believe that their role is to define and assure free speech and freedom of expression. Today that kind of arrogance can be found only in "Silicon Valley" - meaning among newly rich tech folks who have as a primary motive for daily living making as much money as possible, a motive that colors how they define free speech and expression and the special duties and responsibilities associated therewith.

Arrogant techies wave as a flag Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (a common name for Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) that granted providers and users of the internet certain immunity from liability for anything someone else puts on the internet through them.

But Congress when adopting the Act included the so-called Good Samaritan provision which also protects the same people from liability for restricting access to certain material or giving others the technical means to restrict access to that material. In other words, immunity still allows for kind behavior.

There is no private sector context for the term "free speech." Employers have no obligation to let you say whatever you want in the workplace. I have no obligation to let you into my home so you can say whatever you want to me.

Websites like Twitter or Facebook may have immunity from legal liability for whatever the "assholes" post or tweet.

But the Good Samaritan provision is there to allow the billionaires who run those web sites to indicate to us how they balance making money against the "special duties and responsibilities" that should cause them to reduce their wealth ever so slightly in the name of kindness by limiting the activities of the "assholes."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why shouldn't we pick on Bernie "The Investment Mogul" Sanders?

This week we learn that Bernie and Jane "plopped down nearly $600,000" for a "lakefront camp" which "has four bedrooms and 500 feet of Lake Champlain beachfront on the east side of the island — facing Vermont, not New York. The Bern will keep his home in Burlington and use the new camp seasonally."

Or as the right wing Washington Examiner put it Bernie Sanders just bought a third home. Tell that to the 99 percent.

The bemused politically conservative British tabloid The Daily Mail offered with its story this photo...


...under the headline...


...though to be fair about it they did note "The Sanders family had recently sold a lake house in Maine, which had been passed down from his wife's side of the family."

The Sanders now own real estate that reportedly include homes in the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Capitol Hill where the median home price is roughly $726,000, a home in Vermont that realtor.com values at approximately $320,000, and this $600,000 home - all totaling to real estate worth $1,646,000.

But, of course, that is not all.

Looking at the couple's assets other than real estate, a Money Magazine analysis of the Sanders other investment wealth concluded Bernie Sanders Is a De Facto Millionaire, as have others who have ignored the Sanders' "do-what-I-say" preaching and looked at the "not-what-I-do" of the man.

It bothered some that the millionaire couple only donated $8,350 to charity in 2014 making him the target of a story How Sanders’ charitable giving may undermine his central message:
But despite being in the top 4 percent of U.S. earners and living in relatively cheap Vermont, Sanders gave a mere 4 percent of his income to charity. Furthermore, his effective tax rate was a mere 13.5 percent. This is less than Mitt Romney, who was roundly criticized for paying a low percentage in taxes.

Unless we learn more from Sanders, which might put these numbers in a different context, he is a victim of his own critique: He is not paying his fair share.
In the tradition of the typical "hot-and-bothered" quadrennial-only American voter, Bernie supporters denied the truth about Bernie's personal finances during the primary campaign.

But now they are going to take care of his hypocritical behavior with tweets as noted in this story Fresh Off His Campaign to Make Socialism Great Again, Bernie Sanders Buys $600,000 Summer House:
Twitter was swift to respond to the irony:



But Bernie still has his defenders on the internet as we learn from Please Stop Shaming Bernie Sanders for Buying a House which offers up Bernie's curious redefinition of socialism that during the primary campaign went right over the heads of most of his fervent, but ignorant, quadrennial-only-American-voter followers:
These tweets also seem to fundamentally miscomprehend what Sanders' democratic socialism is actually about.

“To me, democratic socialism means democracy. It means creating a government that represents all of us, not just the wealthiest people in the country,” Sanders said at a fall debate.

Sanders' campaign platform focused on income inequality via regulating big banks, reforming campaign finance, and making healthcare and college more affordable. These jabs use a misapplied pop-cultural caricature of socialism to portray Sanders as hypocritical, but miss the point that his democratic socialism never called for "taking people's stuff," or preventing people from doing well enough to buy houses.
Actually, if these folks would switch from their Twitter app to a Wikipedia app (they may have to download that because I don't believe most care about learning anything), they could learn:
Democratic socialism is a political ideology that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production, often with an emphasis on democratic management of enterprises within a socialist economic system. The term "democratic socialism" is sometimes used synonymously with "socialism"; the adjective "democratic" is often added to distinguish it from the Marxist–Leninist brand of socialism, which is widely viewed as being non-democratic in practice.

I'm old like Bernie, and though I am not as wealthy as Bernie, my life is comfortable. So I can't begrudge him his wealth.

But I wish he had been more honest than the typical politician because Bernie knows democratic socialism indeed calls for "taking people's stuff" and limiting their wealth. He just wasn't honest with the very poorly educated ignorant college students and graduates supporting him who don't want to learn anything about political history.

At least neither The Donald nor Hillary can mislead people into thinking they live like the ordinary family.

It would have distinguished Bernie from politics-as-usual if he regularly offered up a disclaimer that for a couple their age the Sanders are among the 1%.1

1 You likely do not understand who "the 1%" mathematically are which I point out in 4. Dissidents in American Politics: Who are we angry at? as part of my series reflecting the theme: " One can't help but ponder, to consider the historical context, about how too many 20th Century American dissident voters (and yes, all current voters were born in the 20th Century) brought America back to where we are today."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dissidents in American Politics

The year 2016 had become the most depressing and ominous Presidential election year since 1860. Then out of the fog came Michelle Obama....


This is a face and voice of a 20th Century American telling 20th Century Americans what we should already know, that 2016 is the year we decide what life will be like in 2050 for Americans age 16 and younger - telling us that the focus of our nation over the next decade cannot be about the needs of people who voted for Jack Kennedy or Ronald Reagan.

As Hillary Clinton says:
“Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build. So let's be stronger together. Looking to the future with courage and confidence. Building a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country.

In contrast, in 2016 the 20th Century Republican Party has been declared dead and reborn. Longtime GOP strategist for President George W. Bush and for Senator John McCain, Nicolle Wallace, recently bemoaned that Republican Party candidate is "a man who believes in protectionism, isolationism, and nativism."

(As an aside, we need to note that the Democratic Party survived only because the outsider who attacked it was unsuccessful. Bernie Sanders was never a Democrat and has declared he will continue to serve in the Senate as an independent. Political parties are, of course, private organization whose members and staffs work hard to elect majorities in the Senate, House, and state legislatures where public policy is made.)

One can't help but ponder, to consider the historical context, about how too many 20th Century American dissident voters (and yes, all current voters were born in the 20th Century)  brought America back to where we are today.

It is not like vocal dissidents are a new thing, but what we've seen this year is the worst that is embedded within the American soul. This, at least partially, is the result of an unforgivable ignorance of American and world history, particularly political and economic history.

Voters' attitudes are painfully reminiscent of the "Know Nothing" movement of the 1850's which arose in response to an influx of  Irish and German Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment (though in California it was based on opposition to Chinese immigration). It resulted in former President Millard Fillmore running for President in 1856 on the American Party ticket, winning 23% of the popular vote and carrying one state.


It may seem like this is just what happens in America. But history has details that the broad strokes don't tell you.

Yes, if you add to Nicolle Wallace's words "protectionism", "isolationism", and "nativism" the anti-Muslim anti-Hispanic bigotry of Donald Trump's rhetoric and you might think you have Millard Fillmore reborn, just with Islam substituted for Catholicism.

Except that unlike Trump, Fillmore was a knowledgeable, experienced public official who, when it came to government administration and public policy, "had a clue" as they say.

Prior to his run for President on the American Party ticket, Fillmore was an Inspector of the New York Militia's 47th Brigade with the rank of Major, an attorney, a New York State Assemblyman, a Congressman as a Whig Party candidate, a Vice-President as a Whig, and a President as a Whig after the death of President Zachary Taylor.

In Trump we have as a major party nominee someone that spent his life as a con man who gained notoriety as a reality show host. A reality show host....

This happened because we are in a time in which our political discussion has been reduced to the divisiveness of uninformed, dismissive, content-free, frequently hate-filled tweets.

We have literally created in the form of "apps" the mechanism to amplify the worst in ourselves, the worst in America, creating the worst kind of dissidents.

Because those "apps" - whether they are tweets, Facebook posts, or news web sites - generate corporate revenues, they proliferate becoming the source of "The Conventional Wisdom" instead of truthful facts.

For those who do not understand the term "The Conventional Wisdom", economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his 1958 book The Affluent Society prepended "The" to the phrase "conventional wisdom" to emphasize its meaning narrowed to those commonplace beliefs that easily became acceptable and comfortable to society, thus enhancing their ability in the minds of people to resist facts that might diminish or belie them.

In contrast to tweets, I can only offer "for the record" my ruminations on early 21st Century American politics in an historical context, adapting an early-20th-Century-magazine-article-style long-form format divided into 10 more long, though  hopefully provocative and/or informative, blog posts.

Below is a linking "table of contents":
  1. Dissidents in American Politics: "Left", "Right", "Conservative" and "Liberal" are Meaningless Labels
  2. Dissidents in American Politics: 21st Century Political Divisions
  3. Dissidents in American Politics: The Authoritarian U.S. President
  4. Dissidents in American Politics: Who are we angry at?
  5. Dissidents in American Politics: The Shareholder Capitalist Class
  6. Dissidents in American Politics: The Academic Oligarchist Class
  7. Dissidents in American Politics: The Romantic & Mythical in Politics
  8. Dissidents in American Politics: Shareholder Capitalists versus Academic Oligarchists
  9. Dissidents in American Politics: The Prospect of Revolution and Tyranny In the United States
  10. Dissidents in American Politics: Beliefs, Facts, and  Future Shock

Monday, July 18, 2016

1. Dissidents in American Politics: "Left", "Right", "Conservative" and "Liberal" are Meaningless Labels


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the first in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


The political terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the Estates General:
  • Those who sat on the left generally supported the revolution including the creation of a republic and secularization;
  • Those who sat on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime including the monarchy and a strong belief structure derived from a revered book of beliefs we call "religious."
In other words, the terms were based on an 18th Century French seating chart.


In many ways it was weird that those terms were incorporated into the political language of the United States; after all, the American Revolution created a secular republic.

If that isn't bad enough, we English speakers then divided into "left" and "right" the two extreme 20th Century implementations of tyrannical, totalitarian dictatorships - Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union - both of which embraced a strong, religious-like belief structure derived from a revered book.

It is even harder to understand logically how we got from there to a broad acceptance of the idea that...
  • the American right is laissez-faire capitalism based on the reactionary writings of Russian immigrant Ayn Rand - Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum. a member of a Jewish bourgeois family born in 1905 and raised in Russia - who, after the Russian Revolution opened universities to women, was in the first group of women to enroll at Petrograd State University and who in her later years was a lecturer at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard; and
  • the American left is libertarian socialism influenced among others by Robert Owen's experiment in New Harmony, Indiana, by the Nonpartisan League's North Dakota tradition of government rejection of big business, and more recently by the reactionary writings of Noam Chomsky (born in the United States of Eastern European immigrant Ashkenazi Jewish parents) who was educated at the University of Pennsylvania
 ...both of which embrace an economic philosophy that abhors centralized state control of the economy. If Rand and Chomsky had held public office they would have been in America's Academic Oligarchy by virtue of university affiliations, as that term is explained later in these posts.

What is odd is that politics and economics as academic studies somehow became separated in the minds of serious, but confused, people. Perhaps it is time we Americans remind ourselves of something:


In the 21st Century, as it was in the 20th Century and half of the 19th Century, paper (and now digital) money is a central government created and controlled commodity.

For our first 65 years, from the founding of the United States to the passage of the National Banking Act, some 8,000 different entities - mostly state charted banks - engaged in the highly profitable business of issuing currency. In addition to encouraging rampant counterfeiting, this created an unreliable money supply as frequently these banks would fail. It also created a multitude of local economies, interfering with travel even between cities, much less between states.

Without going into all the complexities, by establishing a single national currency during the Civil War, the National Banking Act eliminated the overwhelming variety of paper money circulating throughout the country thereby facilitating a true national economy.

To put it as simply as possible, the central government controls the supply of money through  monetary policy and assures its acceptance as "legal tender" so that payment for labor and goods can be accomplished reliably. Further, the value of an asset - property - is measured by what someone would pay for it in dollars - federal reserve notes - not in pumpkins or "Bank of Nome Alaska" notes.

(As a side comment, Brexit is about money. It is no coincidence the United Kingdom never substituted the Euro for the Pound. The UK was only "sort of half in" when it came to the European Union. Thus in part the Brexit vote ironically reflected the reluctance of those who opposed Brexit to be a full participant in the first place.)

By definition, an economy depends upon the money supply and in the 21st Century it is the government's responsibility to see that an economy works. Government is controlled by politics. Therefore, politicians facilitate the economy. Remember this fact - politicians facilitate the economy, economists ruminate on the idea of an economy, businesses take advantage of the economy, workers struggle to survive and sometimes they can strive to be comfortable in an economy.

On the other hand, a government has a hard time coping with the impact of what people do with the money they are allowed to keep - after taxes sends some of that money back to its creator. Not to be repetitive, money is a government created commodity in the first place.

It is the dispute over how much wealth (measured in money) individuals and corporations can control versus how much the government controls that supposedly is reflected in the popular labels  "left" and "right."

What that has to do with gay marriage and being "liberal" or "conservative" demonstrates just how confusing these labels are and how little we understand the role of government in our society.

With the advent (the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event) of Brexit into British politics and Donald Trump into American politics, it's time for English speakers to toss the political terms "left" and "right" into the scrap heap of history. And based upon the vote in Britain and the weakness of the parties in the United States, we should reconsider our use of the labels "liberal" and "conservative" in politics.

In the second post of this series, I will discuss proper labels for people actively participating in politics and the economy either as members of "The Establishment" or as "dissidents."

2. Dissidents in American Politics: 21st Century Political Divisions


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the second in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


In the 21st Century, our nation, if not the world, has clarified how to classify people in the context of the political and economic milieu. People engaged in the political/economics milieu fall into one of two divisions and one of four classifications:
  • An Establishment including
    1. Shareholder Capitalists who run the world's economy, and
    2. Academic Oligarchists who run the national governments;
  • Authoritarian Revolutionary dissidents opposing "The Establishment" including
    1.  Romantic Populists who believe that the "virtuous" citizens are being mistreated by a small circle of elites and favor the "proper" division of economic resources through a government imposed sharing society, and
    2. Mythical Reactionaries who believe that "once upon a time" there was a state of society which possessed characteristics such as discipline, respect for authority, etc., that are absent from contemporary society and favor a government imposed return to that state of society.
Politically disengaged persons, typically about 40% of the adult population in the United States, are not relevant to these classifications. Their disengagement becomes relevant only when a revolution is attempted.

In the 21st Century world through experience (See Arab Spring) we have learned that the likelihood of a successful relatively peaceful democratic - non-authoritarian - revolution is slim mostly because of that disengagement. The likelihood of successful non-authoritarian democratic revolutions through violence offered by the American Revolution is also slim as the French learned when their revolution culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon. What we need to understand is that, in most of the world, positive government change towards a non-authoritarian model is achieved in an evolutionary process such as occurred in the United Kingdom.

As we shall explore later, the division of powers within the American Constitution creating a strong central government was necessary to replace a weak, failing national government established under the Articles of Confederation and one of those divisions created the position of President in which intuitive authoritarian powers were vested.

In response to the rise of Donald Trump, early on in this Presidential Election cycle we began to be offered in news commentary and in-depth articles on the 1990's-2000's research of political scientists who have defined "authoritarianism" as a psychological profile of people. Under the right conditions, people will desire certain kinds of extreme policies and will seek or favorably respond to strongman leaders - demagogues - to implement them.

This year the rabid supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have made it clear that a large number of voters desire an authoritarian revolution, though they are somewhat divided in orientation between over-40 reactionary ultra-nationalists (Trump supporters) and the under-40 populist multi-culturalists (Sanders supporters).

From the beginning it rapidly became clear that the rabid Trump supporters are supporters of authoritarian government. It wasn't until the majority of Democratic Party voters selected Hillary Clinton that the rabid Sanders supporters indicated they are also supporters of authoritarian government when they clearly rejected the democratic outcome in favor of imposing their own sense of order and correctness on the majority.

We also saw that generally the younger the voter age, the more likely a dissident will embrace populist multi-culturalism while seeking economic change through authoritarian actions by a President. Generally, the older the voter age, the more likely a dissident will embrace reactionary ultra-nationalism while seeking economic change through authoritarian actions by a President.

This split is at least partially the result of two terms seemingly with a common root - communications and community. (After all, "commune" has two different definitions: (1) a noun, a group of people who live and work together and share responsibilities; (2) a verb, to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy, etc.)

The younger the voter's age, the more likely the voter will have embraced the early 21st Century communications system - the internet and text messaging - which creates a sense of participation in a broad multi-cultural, even international, community, but without actually contacting another human where "contact" is traditionally defined as "the act or state of touching; immediate proximity or association."

In addition, their heavy personal device use reduces direct human interaction within the local geographic community creating a sense of isolation from groups, clubs, organizations, such as the political party system which is structured from local party "central committees" which participate creating the national party.

This has created a misuse of the word "community" where people think a community exists because of interactions on Facebook and the like - where participants have interactions with others for whom they have no responsibility for their well-being as breathing mammals beyond impersonal devices like GoFundMe.

The older the voter's age, the more likely the voter does not use the internet or text messaging, or does not use it as extensively. In the 21st Century these people have continued sense of participation in a geographic community of friends, family, and older co-workers - people they know in person from direct face-to-face interaction.

On the other hand, these older voters are more isolated from. and usually fearful of, the rapidly changing face of the broader American community and the very foreign international community. It creates a sense of isolation from the late 20th Century national political party systems where national leaders in both the national Democratic and Republican parties had a strong sense of internationalism.

Most of these older voters do understand that the grassroots "Tea Party" Mythical Reactionaries have impacted on the Republican Party. However. most Americans do not know that since the 1992  a well-financed sophisticated organization of extremely conservative Shareholder Capitalists - the State Policy Network - has successfully implemented a specific goal of taking over the state governments and Congress using those "tea party" folks.

While age and other factors may tend to divide dissidents into Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries, we need to acknowledge something simply expressed by one American stock market analyst:
There are a lot of angry people almost anywhere you care to look, and that anger isn't simply going to blow over. That's what happened in the late ‘60s and all of the 1970’s, and that is what's happening again now.
Age difference has not created an anger divide; they are all equally angry at "The Establishment" even if for different reasons. An increase in mass anger means an increase in the number of people who become avid Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries as the number of politically disengaged become angry.

This isn't limited to the United States, as observed by a New York Times Editorial Board Opinion Piece which described the Brexit vote results:
It was a cry of anger and frustration from more than half the country against those who wield power, wealth and privilege, both in their own government and in Brussels, and against global forces in a world that they felt was squeezing them out.
The important fact to understand is that most of these angry dissidents are not avid ideologues - most of the large numbers of Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries in the U.S. aren't advocates for some esoteric communist or fascist philosophies which they've studied in detail.

But they do feel the need to immediately and significantly disrupt the complex status quo created by the Shareholder Capitalists who run the world economy as facilitated by Academic Oligarchists who run the national governments. And they want it done by an authoritarian President.

The disengaged really don't care about their country being ruled by an authoritarian President ... until they do.

For ordinary people in Nazi Germany, life was comfortable, and in the period from 1950-1990 many disengaged Germans looked back and remembered accurately their years before 1939 as good years, much better than pre-1932 years. After 1939?  Yes, each day they began to care a bit more when it was too late.

Since many Americans do not understand the historical legitimacy of the authoritarian President, we will explore that subject next.

3. Dissidents in American Politics: The Authoritarian U.S. President


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the third in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.

The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest by dissidents in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. Throughout counties in Western Pennsylvania, protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent federal officials from collecting the tax.

It ended when President Washington rode at the head of an army of 12,950 militiamen provided by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania effectively suppressing the insurgency. Because relatively few men volunteered for militia service, a draft was used to fill out the ranks. Draft protests were widespread, and conscription efforts resulted in protests and riots, even in eastern areas. That was handled in a clearly authoritarian, violent manner.

Click on image to see a larger version!


For example, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, two civilians were killed by the federalized militia, an unarmed boy was shot by an officer whose pistol accidentally fired and a man was stabbed to death by a soldier while resisting arrest. Eventually, a federal grand jury indicted 24 men for high treason, ten men stood trial for treason in federal court, only two were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, but were pardoned by President Washington. Pennsylvania state courts were more successful in prosecuting lawbreakers, securing numerous convictions for assault and rioting.

President Andrew Jackson began the Indian Removal Policy which as continued by President Martin Van Buren led to the "Trail of Tears." Subsequent Presidents, as Commander in Chief, continued the genocide of Native Americans over the next 70 years. But the Native Americans weren't the only ones who experienced this fun side of traditional American bigotry.

Click on image to see a larger version!

Religious discrimination has been supported by the authoritarian use of power by a President. The Mormons are well aware of the tradition of authoritarian Presidents as their forebears experienced it as religious discrimination.  The religion's Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, and the alleged murderers were found not guilty by a trial jury was composed exclusively of non-Mormons after the judge dismissed the initial jury, which included Mormons.

Click on image to see a larger version!


To make a long story short, the Mormons moved to the Utah Territory and established a territorial government. Because of a great deal of rumor and innuendo, in 1857 U.S. President James Buchanan sent an army to Utah resulting in the Utah War.

(President's George W. Bush and Barack Obama both worked to avoid the rapid expansion of this kind of religious bigotry toward Muslims.This contrasts with Donald Trump's successful effort to capitalize on the bigotry within America using a promise that isn't far from Buchanan's attitude - a traditional American attitude of religious bigotry that, right behind racial bigotry and ethnic bigotry, has always been the third core element of the American truth, as opposed to the American myth)

When does the use of violent force by the established government become authoritarian in conduct. Juan Linz's influential 1964 description characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:
  1. limited political pluralism; that is, such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
  2. a basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as underdevelopment or insurgency;
  3. minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
  4. informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting powers.
Abraham Lincoln's Republican Presidency clearly fit that description. So let's take a look at the Civil War, not as Northern lefty intellectuals nor Southern Klan members, but as open minded truth seekers.

The U.S. Civil War produced at least 1,030,000 casualties (3 percent of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths. Based on 1860 census figures, 8 percent of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6 percent in the North and 18 percent in the South.

It could have have been avoided, but Americans in the North had latched onto a goodness versus evil belief system about the institution of slavery that ignored the Three-Fifths Compromise part of the U.S. Constitution permitting states to maintain the legality of slavery.

(As an aside, if you think the rule of law is critical, than you would have supported slavery. If you believe in the recently invented moral absolute that human slavery is unacceptable even though we know it was a continuously accepted human condition dating back to at least 8000 BC, than you would have supported killing 1 million Americans to free 4 million slaves. Absolutes in morality are such fun things.)

As is always the case, when a large minority of the U.S. population embraces beliefs contrary to the status quo beliefs of another large minority of the U.S. population, a high level of fear for personal wealth and well-being is created, in this case within The Establishment in the South.

(As an aside, today we have anger because a large minority of the U.S. population embraces beliefs contrary to the status quo beliefs of another large minority of the U.S. population which has created a high level of fear for personal wealth and well-being is created. The solution, of course is for these folks to defend their beliefs irrationally in some manner comparable to the 1860's, justifiably killing 10 million Americans at random.)

Prior to Lincoln assuming the office of President, negotiations over the issues were moving forward. On December 18, 1860, the Crittenden Compromise was proposed to re-establish the Missouri Compromise line by constitutionally banning slavery in territories to the north of the line while guaranteeing it to the south. Here is the map they were arguing over. Red states were slave states, blue states were free states, the green line is the Missouri Compromise line. The gray indicates territories that would become states.

Click on image to see a larger version!

The adoption of this compromise likely would have prevented the secession of every southern state apart from South Carolina, but Lincoln and the Republicans rejected it.

It was then proposed to hold a national referendum on the compromise. The Republicans again rejected the idea, perhaps because they knew a majority of both Northerners and Southerners would have voted in favor of it. (This self-righteous minority group also self-swaddled themselves in ignorance choosing to believe that even if there was a Civil War it would be over in months - something anyone informed about the other side would never have believed.)

Click on image to see a larger version!

By the definition discussed in a previous post, Lincoln's Republicans were Romantic Populists who believed "virtuous" people were being mistreated by a small circle of elites wrongly holding economic power.

History has been so twisted that it is not bothersome to most Americans that with an 82.2% voter turnout, Lincoln won with only 39.9% of the popular vote but still led Americans into a Civil War assuming authoritarian powers and refusing compromise.

Lincoln is an American hero who could be a model for authoritarian action for Donald Trump's deportation program.  In case you didn't know this, here is a history lesson:
In 1861, John Merryman, a state legislator from Maryland, was arrested for attempting to hinder Union troops from moving from Baltimore to Washington during the Civil War and is held at Fort McHenry by Union military officials. His attorney immediately sought a writ of habeas corpus so that a federal court could examine the charges. However, on May 25, 1961, President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus in the United States, and the general in command of Fort McHenry refused to turn Merryman over to the authorities.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court
Roger Taney issued a ruling that President Lincoln did not have the authority to suspend habeas corpus. Lincoln didn’t respond, appeal, or order the release of Merryman. But during a July 4 speech, Lincoln was defiant, insisting that he needed to suspend the rules in order to put down the rebellion in the South.

Five years later, a new Supreme Court essentially backed Chief Justice Taney’s ruling. In an unrelated case, the Court held that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus and that civilians were not subject to military courts, even in times of war.

This was not the first or last time that a U.S. President imprisoned Americans at will. Pursuant to Executive Order 9066 issued by another revered President, Franklin Roosevelt, hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps and denied the right to
a writ of habeas corpus.
Indeed if a President Trump were to imprison Muslim Americans after persuading Congress to declare war on ISIS, he could become a revered hero like the extremely authoritarian Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Looking at the Crittenden Compromise map, in hindsight many argue that slavery would have ended without the Civil War but not for a number of decades. If so do you think those decades were worth the 1+ million casualties? Without arguing about what the people thought at the time, what does it say about you if you believe the Civil War was justified?

It doesn't matter because a minority Party of an authoritarian President rejected compromise thereby initiating the killing 620,000 soldiers and tens of thousands of others, all Americans fighting because of the true believers and the truly fearful.

By the time the Civil War was over, authoritarian actions of Presidents had been validated beginning with Washington and continuing until Lincoln who gave a permanent home in the Presidency for what is clearly defined as authoritarianism.

Of course, in the end the Civil War was a testing ground for modern total warfare. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant casualties. Americans perfected it in WWII.

Feeling a bit guilty about mass casualties in the Vietnam War, we've recently applied technology to our warfare with President's authorizing the use of drones to kill evil radical Muslim terrorists foreigners and even evil radical Muslim American terrorists in foreign lands.

Since that worked so well, following the model of the authoritarian U.S. Presidency, domestic police forces now use a variation on that technology (robots carrying small bombs) within the United States to kill alleged terrorists. It's far less of a video media embarrassment than all those police in body army carrying assault weapons riding around suburban Boston in armored military vehicles.

Just think. Instead of shooting all those holes in that bystanders boat and not killing the suspect, resulting in a long expensive trial, they could have just blown up the suspect and the boat. Soon we won't need to worry about all those Constitutional rights. After all, the Presidents don't.

The authoritarian U.S. Presidency has become an accepted tradition. Since the Civil War, as examples we've had:
  • the Pullman Strike of 1894 with military and U.S. Marshal intervention ordered by President Grover Cleveland:
  • the 1902 Coal Strike in which President Theodore Roosevelt fearing that the "attitude of the operators" would "double the burden" of those who stood against "Socialistic action" continued the practice of intervention in labor disputes though this time achieving success with on the threat of using force; 
  • the 1932 Bonus Army incident of President Herbert Hoover;
  • the 1942 internment of Japanese Americans ordered by Franklin Roosevelt; 
  • in 1950, in anticipation of a crippling strike by railroad workers, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order putting America’s railroads under the control of the U.S. Army; 
  • and more.
For an analysis of how this expansion of Presidential powers has continued in more recent times, read The Washington Post article Donald Trump and the expanding power of the presidency.

Perhaps one thing needs to be made clear. An Authoritarian Revolution strikes at the heart of a democratic republic government which depends upon compromise in the recognition that the give-and-take in such a political system is a substitute for violence being used to secure a preferred outcome (such as killing a million people in the Civil War).

In the United States there usually is a block of reasonable citizens, about 40% of the voters, who at some level understand and prefer that give and take decision-making system. A problem arises, however, when the system is hijacked and brought to a halt.

In the past 20 years the Mythical Reactionaries, never representing more than a small minority of Americans, frequently have succeeded in bringing that give-and-take system to a halt. At that point, the patience of the reasonable citizen erodes, and some of those 40% of the voters become unenthusiastic Mythical Reactionaries or Romantic Populists.

A further review of the four groups of people can help understand our political system. But first, we need to examine recent developments in our economy that have amplified the likelihood of an authoritarian Presidency.

4. Dissidents in American Politics: Who are we angry at?


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the fourth in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.

As previously noted, people are angry...well, some people are angry.

Certainly, not the rich, whoever they are. They are who the angry are angry at or angry about. Maybe we need to know who the rich are.

Recently, we've begun to talk about the 1% . But we tend to get lost in discussions about income and wealth which are two different things. Wealth, or net worth, is the sum of all assets minus the sum of all liabilities.

Sometimes it's easy to think of the rich in terms of Forbes 400 wealthiest individuals. According to an Economic Policy Institute report The State of Working America’s Wealth, 2011: Through volatility and turmoil, the gap widens: "In 2009, the price of admission to the Forbes 400 was just short of $1 billion, and the collective net worth of these 400 individuals was $1.3 trillion."

But this isn't reflective of the 1%, even though the 400 are in the 1%. In 2009, when The Great Recession impacted personal wealth the most ("recession" ...uh... more about that later),  the report tells us: "Average wealth of the top 1% was close to $14 million in 2009..."

That pretty much defined the top 1% in terms of wealth in 2009 - a household net worth that can be rounded to a number that exceeds $10 million. That's substantially less wealth than that $1 billion mark.

It is important to keep in mind that if we use wealth (net worth) as the measurement, the impact of The Great Recession was somewhat uneven according to that report:
On average, the top 20% lost 16.0% and the bottom 80% lost 25.1% of their total wealth in 2008 and 2009. Average wealth of the bottom 80% was just $62,900 in 2009...slightly less, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it was more than a quarter-century ago in 1983.... The lowest 20% had -$27,200 of wealth in 2009. Since 2001 there has been a continual erosion of wealth for this class regardless of cyclical timing.
Of course, most of the loss in The Great Recession was housing value with many homes "under water", meaning that the value of the house was less than the mortgage.

As you might guess, many of those angry folks are in the bottom 80% whose average net worth dropped from almost $105,000 at the peak to about $63,000 as the result of The Great Recession.

Another way of defining the 1% is in terms of income. Since The Great Recession according to this chart we in the 99% have something to be angry about even though the economy is starting to provide some income growth to them:

Click on image to see a larger version!


In terms of income, the 1% are not the same folks as those with 1% of the wealth. In a 2010 piece titled The United States of Inequality we learned:
The American aristocracy is less different from you and me than it was in Fitzgerald's day. ...The top of the heap are overwhelmingly job-holders deriving most of their income from their wages. Did it become posh to have a job? Not exactly. Having a job—the right job, anyway—became the way to get posh. That's encouraging in one sense: To roll in the dough you now have to work for a living. But it's discouraging in another sense: You can't blame enormous income disparities on non-working coupon-clippers who exist outside the wage structure (and reality as most of us understand it). The wage structure itself is grossly misshapen.
The author divided the rich into three groups, "Sort of Rich, Rich, and Stinking Rich." And he explained that "it’s useful to think of the top 10 percent as the 'sort of rich,' the 1 percent as the straightforward 'rich,' and the 0.1 percent as the 'stinking rich.' "

In a more recent article Who Gets to Be “Rich”? And why do most people seem to think they are “middle class”? we are offered this piece of information: "...A household income of about $113,000 lands you at the top 10th, while $394,000 makes you a bona fide member of the 1 percent." What he then goes on to explain is:
...More than 76 percent of Americans get to experience the joys of a six-figure household income for at least one year, just more than half will make $150,000 or more at some point, and about 20 percent hit the $250,000 mark at least once, which these days would put them within the top 2 percent of earners.

... Just half of Americans hit six figures for five or more years, and only one-third manage it for a decade total. Meanwhile, less than 2 percent cross the quarter-million-dollar threshold for at least 10 years of their lives. Just 1 percent do it for 10 consecutive years.

Why do our incomes rise and fall so much? People get sick and leave work. They get bonuses. They spend a year pulling enormous amounts of overtime. Parents leave their careers to care for children or cut down to part-time hours. Life isn’t a steady march, and nor are our incomes. This, I think, should complicate our idea of class. Quite a few of us get our 15 minutes of affluence, but sustaining it is hard.
And yet we're told "the bottom 60 percent earned a maximum of $59,154 in 2010, the bottom 40 percent earned a max of $33,870, while the bottom 20 percent earned just $16,961 at maximum" in Who are the 1 percent?

To confuse matters more, we are offered this chart in How Much Income Puts You in the 1 Percent if You're 30, 40, or 50?:

Click on image to see a larger version!

The point is that if you make $135,000 a year and your age 27-31, you are in the top 1% of your age group. If you are 50+ you need to make $340,000±.

From all this, what we know is that if you are 40 making $285,000 a year, you're in the top 1%. Likely you'll be in that group for no more than five years of your life.

Then you may slip into the group of angry people.

You could easily find yourself making 30% of that and still be in the upper 40% income group - a middle class income.

And you might retire in the bottom 40% income group earned a max of $33,870 but still middle class. And still angry.

So who is this 1% we're angry at? The Forbes 400? People with a household net worth of more than $10 million.  Or a 30-year-old techie making $135,000 a year. Heck, they are all in some version of the 1%.

Are we angry at them or angry at "The Establishment" because these 1% folks exist without "me" being among them?

Are we angry at Congress and the state legislatures because they don't tax these people enough?

Are we angry, really? Yes we are.

As I wrote here in the post The effect of the white white-collar Democrats' class war against white blue-collar American women there was The Great Recession and afterwards government and corporations "didn't do much to help restore to their prior status predominately white unionized blue collar age 40+ industrial workers who were used to making upper middle class incomes."

Here is where things get confusing. Economists have created lots of interesting terms about the ups and downs of an economy.  We have economic downturns, recessions, and depressions.

An economic downturn is a general slowdown in economic activity over a sustained period of time in a specific region  or on a global scale. It's a little hard to distinguish an economic downturn from a recession. The key features of an economic downturn include:
  • Negative or very low economic growth
  • Rising unemployment
  • Falling asset prices – shares and house prices
  • Low consumer confidence and falling investment.
  • Rising spare capacity (negative output gap)
  • Increasing government borrowing due to higher government spending on benefits and lower tax revenue.
Usually economic downturns are temporary and part of the economic cycle.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines an economic recession as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."

All member states of the European Union including the United Kingdom define an economic recession as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, as measured by the seasonal adjusted quarter-on-quarter figures for real GDP.

A severe recession (GDP down by 10%) or prolonged recession (three or four years) is referred to as an economic depression.

According to the US National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of US recessions) The Great Recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, thus extending over 19 months. By virtue of the way they measure "economic growth" which includes the flow government spending including the bank and GM bailouts, The Great Recession never became a depression.

Sure, as explained in economist talk in Wikipedia:
The distribution of household incomes in the United States has become more unequal during the post-2008 economic recovery, a first for the US but in line with the trend over the last ten economic recoveries since 1949. Income inequality in the United States has grown from 2005 to 2012 in more than 2 out of 3 metropolitan areas. Median household wealth fell 35% in the US, from $106,591 to $68,839 between 2005 and 2011
In other words, as measured the GDP quit declining, the banks finished foreclosing on family homes and sold them to corporate landlords and real estate flippers, and some people found jobs at much lower wages than before causing the unemployment rate to drop.

 As I explained in the post here The inane bigotry of the educated is the reason why Trump's “I love the poorly educated!” is a winner, construction employment is still 1.6 million jobs short of its 2007 level, manufacturing has 1 million fewer jobs than it did before the recession, and, compared to pre-recession employment levels, office and administrative support occupations have experienced the second-highest decline in jobs - 1.4 million.

Evidence is mounting as explained in Is the Middle Class Being “Disrupted” Into Extinction? that educated professionals of all types - tech, legal, education, journalists, nurses, "are falling prey to an unstable new America." Recently a study indicated that the leading tech companies expect that in the next three years automation and machine learning will replace 5% of their workforce.

The author has coined a new term derived from combining "proletariat" and "precarious" - the Middle Precariat. We all know what that "precarious" as defined by Dictionary.com (first definition) means "dependent on circumstances beyond one's control; uncertain; unstable; insecure.". The "proletariat" is a term  in a capitalist society for the class of wage-earners whose only possession of significant material value is their labor-power, their ability to work.

Which brings us back to the anger. GDP means Gross Domestic Product. It measures productivity in terms of the value of output of goods and services. It doesn't measure whether workers contribute to or share in the wealth created by that output.

That's ok for economists to talk about. But it's not ok in real life for real people, particularly including politicians.

You see economists may think The Great Recession didn't turn into a depression because GDP stopped falling in less than two years. But when median household wealth fell 35% in the US between 2005 and 2011, that's six years. And when in 2013, real median household income was 8.0 percent lower than in 2007 that's six years.

The reality to be faced by the Shareholder Capitalists and the Academic Oligarchists - and by Congress and state officials - is that in 2008 for somewhere between 60% to 80% of American households a recession began that has not ended. For real people, not economists, in fact The Great Recession turned into a depression because real people don't care what happens to corporations, they care about what happens to people.

To give the situation a term, what happened in 2008 was an Economic Collapse built upon an earlier economic decline for which according to Wikipedia "there is no precise definition." Instead, Wikipedia offers a description of symptoms (emphasis added):
The term has been used to describe a broad range of bad economic conditions, ranging from a severe, prolonged depression with high bankruptcy rates and high unemployment (such as the Great Depression of the 1930s), to a breakdown in normal commerce caused by hyperinflation (such as in Weimar Germany in the 1920s), or even an economically caused sharp rise in the death rate and perhaps even a decline in population (such as in countries of the former USSR in the 1990s).
The crux of the matter is that an Economic Collapse means a period of a few months that results in the long term significant loss (greater than 10%) of personal wealth (net worth) for the 80% of the households having the lowest wage income. That means most of the people.

As indicated in Wikipedia "often economic collapse is accompanied by social chaos, civil unrest and sometimes a breakdown of law and order."

As discussed in posts here, we not only have had prolonged unemployment and other symptoms of an Economic Collapse that really began with the burst of the dot-com bubble which took place during 1999–2001, but we now know that we likely have an economically caused sharp rise in the death rate as "white women have been dying prematurely at higher rates since the turn of this century, passing away in their 30s, 40s and 50s in a slow-motion crisis driven by decaying health in small-town America."

And that is what the election of 2016 is all about - ignorance among the best educated people among us about the 21st Century Economic Collapse. They have been literally Economic Collapse deniers because it really didn't impact them for any length of time. And frankly the revolt is, in part, because of the one type bigotry not recognized by and deeply ingrained in the college-centric politically correct police as explained in detail in The Atlantic article The War on Stupid People:
"When Michael Young, a British sociologist, coined the term meritocracy in 1958, it was in a dystopian satire. At the time, the world he imagined, in which intelligence fully determined who thrived and who languished, was understood to be predatory, pathological, far-fetched. Today, however, we’ve almost finished installing such a system...."
What the article explains is that a dystopian, predatory, pathological system of economic and social discrimination has been put in place since the 1960's that strongly favors 20%± of the population and seriously dispossess 60%± of the population, while leaving the remaining 20%± feeling a great deal of unease. In the article we are told: "From 1979 to 2012, the median-income gap between a family headed by two earners with college degrees and two earners with high-school degrees grew by $30,000, in constant dollars."

Of course, 1979 was the beginning of the Information Age. Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists were enthralled with the advent of the Digital Revolution/Information Age precisely because it created a preference on intelligence, as they defined it, as opposed to wisdom which can be possessed by anyone and has no direct correlation to intelligence scores.

Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists seemed to have lost touch with even modern history. For instance, there is a line, albeit not completely straight, that runs through intellectuals Hegel, Marx, Kerensky and Lenin leading to Joseph Stalin who began his method of taking control by ousting Molotov and Shlyapnikov as editors of the newspaper Pravda because he had an understanding of, and control of, then modern media coverage and because he understood how really unwise intellectuals are.

So let's take a deeper look at the four groups, particular the Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists who the rest of us are angry at. Let's begin with the Shareholder Capitalists.