The Incredible Ever-Moving American Center

Jonathan ChaitOf all the failures that have led to the historical disaster of the Trump presidency, perhaps the least-remarked-upon is the abdication of responsibility of the American center. Those of us with moderate inclinations need an effective center as a brake against extremism. When one party veers too far from the center, the center joins the opposing party, until the extreme one can be coaxed back into the mainstream. David Brooks calls for a rejuvenation of the center under the Trump presidency. But Brooks himself is the perfect encapsulation of why the center has proven so hapless, allowing itself to enable extremism rather than prevent it.

The premise of Brooks’s column is that there needs to be space “between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.” This is a terrible way to conceptualize the political map. First, it distorts the ideas of the two sides, equating a small-d democrat like Sanders (who merely proposes more regulation, taxes, and spending) with Trump, who — as Brooks concedes — is authoritarian. And second, it distorts their power. Sanders remains a left-wing outlier among his party, while Trump is the dominant force within his…

The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand. The well-documented reality that the parties were undergoing asymmetric polarization was one they refused to accept…

The centrists could have played a role in braking the growing extremism of the Republican party. It would have meant telling the country that there was now one moderate, governing party and one extremist faction, and parking themselves with the moderate party until such time as the dynamic changed.

–Jonathan Chait
David Brooks and the Intellectual Collapse of the Center

Russia and the Idea of Objectivity in US Journalism

Spys from Russia Destroying US DemocracyI’ve never really doubted that Russia was involved in influencing the 2016 presidential election. I never got upset about it because I’m sure that they have done the same thing since about the time our nation was founded. The only reason it was of any special interest this year was that one of the major candidates for president was on record as being relatively positive in his posture toward Russia. And as a result, journalists were sniffing around more than they normally would and we learned more.

Even still, it isn’t like we ever found a smoking gun. During the election, I looked for information that proved that Russia was doing things that were meant to swing the election toward Trump. But I never did find anything. It was always just that a bunch of American governmental agencies believed that this was the case. I’m willing to go along with that, but it isn’t anything too outrageous.

Ridiculous Outrage

What is outrageous is how much liberals have become outraged about all of this. After all, the United States has a long history of not just interfering with the elections of other nations, but of actually staging coups to overthrow democratically elected governments. With the death of Fidel Castro, we liberals should take a moment to remember this. Regardless of what Russia did in the presidential election of 2016, the United States is the most meddlesome country in the history of the world.

On Thursday, Craig Timberg of The Washington Post published, Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread “Fake News” During Election, Experts Say. Oh my! There’s a snore-fest. Or you would think it would be one. But it wasn’t. It was big news. By Friday, everyone was talking about it. And just what did we learn? Well, not much:

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Clinton Was Harmed By “Real” Stories in US Media

This is just absurd. Sure: there were lots of fake stories. They weren’t all intended to make Clinton look bad, but most were. Just the same: so what? The uncorroborated stories against Trump were taken far more seriously. But it wasn’t the fake stories that lost Clinton the election. Look at all the true stories about Trump — ones that would have killed the campaign of any normal politician? Those didn’t hurt Trump. Who, at this point, actually thinks that Clinton lost because the voters got the wrong information.

If you had to pick a single reason for Clinton losing, it would have to be constant innuendo about her private email server. And this was all, technically, true. It wasn’t things like the fake story that Obama withdrew his endorsement of Clinton. So this whole “fake story” obsession is just silly anyway.

But Timberg’s story was worse than even its obsession on “Russian propaganda destroying US democracy” would make it seem. Much of the article is based on work by PropOrNot (Propaganda Or Not) — a website that is completely anonymous. We aren’t even told the name of the executive director. According to the article, he “spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.” I don’t remember the last time I heard so much hooey.

Russia Is Destroying US Democracy!

Much of the article is also caught up in what Robert Orttung had to say about all this, “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.” Oh yeah, it’s the Russians who are doing this! It’s not the Republican Party who have been pushing this argument for decades. It isn’t the president-elect himself who claimed that the election was rigged. It isn’t all the domestic propaganda about voter fraud. No, it’s Russia — using “our” technologies and “our” values.

This is what I most hate about our media. They spend a year and a half covering the presidential election as though it were the “most popular boy” contest for the high school yearbook. They obsess about Hillary Clinton’s email server, even though there was no actual information to report. And when it all ends in an ignorant narcissist being elected President of the United States, then it is time to get serious about what’s really going wrong in our democracy: Russia! Hackers!



For more push-back on Craig Timberg’s article, see Mathew Ingram’s No, Russian Agents Are Not Behind Every Piece of Fake News You See. And see Ben Norton & Glenn Greenwald’s Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group.

It’s the Racism, Stupid!

Mehdi Hasan - It's the Racism, Stupid!So who were the people who put Donald Trump in the White House? Is it a revolt of the dispossessed? Or the left-behind — globalization’s losers? Is it the backlash against free trade? Some of the top voices on the US left seem to think so. But what if the economy isn’t the main driver? What if it’s racism and racial resentment that helped put Trump in the Oval Office? What if it’s the “whitelash”?

Just look at the evidence. First off, exit polls from the primary found the median household income of a Trump voter was well above the national average. And the exit polls of the presidential election confirmed Hillary Clinton won the majority of voters making under $50,000. In addition, a massive pre-election Gallup study found that living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support.

Second, people of color in the United States, especially black voters, are far worse off economically than their white counterparts. If it’s all about income and jobs and trade, why did people of color vote overwhelmingly for Clinton, not Trump? Or did their economic anxiety not count?

Third, just listen to what Trump voters actually say about why they support him. One study found that the easiest way to identify if someone supports Trump over Clinton is to ask if they think Barack Obama is a Muslim. It’s more accurate than asking them whether they’re Republicans. That study also found that factors like economic pessimism and income were statistically insignificant to Trump’s rise. Other studies found a strong relationship between anti-black attitudes and support for Trump — with Trump supporters more likely to describe African Americans as criminals, unintelligent, lazy, and violent — more likely to think people of color are taking white jobs, with a majority rating blacks as less evolved than whites. Do I really need to go on?

But what about all the low-income white voters who Obama won in 2008 but Trump won in 2016? A, there’s no evidence that the same people that voted for Obama voted for Trump; we just don’t have that data yet. B, Democrats lost more votes in counties where white income growth was highest than where it was lowest. And C, Obama wasn’t running against a candidate who engaged in the textbook definition of racism, and had a long history of anti-black bias.

There are multiple reasons why Trump won: a flawed Democratic candidate and low Democratic turnout; the email issue; and, of course, the economy played a role. But to focus all or most of our attention on income inequality and the “left behind” — real issues that need addressing — doesn’t tackle the racist elephant in the room. And yes, I accept, not all Trump voters are racist. But the racists did vote for Trump. Plus, as one very viral tweet actually put it, “Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn’t a deal breaker.” And so we have a situation where in January, the first black President of the United States will hand over to a president endorsed by the KKK. But apparently, “It’s the economy, stupid!” I don’t think so.

–Mehdi Hasan
Noam Chomsky on the New Trump Era — UpFront Special

Measuring the Down Ballot Election: Part 2

Democratic Party BaseNow we will finish off our discussion of the House races and Senate races. As with the rest of the election, it is a mixed bag.

California Heart Break

All three Democratic candidates have lost as of right now. Here is the weird thing: California has an immense amount of voters and their vote tally takes forever to finish. That is why Hillary Clinton keeps getting more votes to be honest — the sheer number of votes out in California.

Which means if Trump ticks that state off enough, it could decide to Calexit and turn into the sixth largest economy country wise while trashing the entire US South.

Anyway on to the break down:

California 10

Despite his frosted tips, it appears that even with the 50,000 votes still outstanding, Michael Eggman is not going to manage to pull off an upset and beat Jeff Dunham. Right now it is a difference of a little over ten thousand between them so Eggman will have to get 60% of the outstanding vote total to beat Dunham. Could it happen? Sure. But as of now, probably not.

California 25

This one is trickier. While as of right now Bryan Caforio is down 17,851 votes, much of the district is in the Los Angeles County with almost a million votes still left to be processed and counted. It is a hugely steep climb though, so I don’t think that Caforio will be able to pull it off. What remains is to see how close it is It is a district that is winnable without the lack of baggage that Caforio had (he was a new comer and I think that probably hurt him).

California 49

This one is tight. While in Orange County (of course), Issa is winning massively by about forty points, San Diego is going in for Applegate, with him 14K votes ahead.

Orange County has about 71,000 ballots left and San Diego has about 164,000 ballots left. It is unclear where exactly those votes are for the two of them exactly but…

Issa only has a 3,234 vote lead which means that Applegate may still pull this off and be our seventh pick up.

Illinois 10

Here is a shocker: we didn’t just win, we won with enough points that this seat may not flip back. Robert Dold won with 3 points in 2014. And Brad Schneider won in 2012 with one point.

This time Schneider won with 5 points or 13,916. Which caused me to tweet that this might keep going…

2018: Dold with 7%

2020: Schneider with 9%

2022: Dold with 11%

Until one of them drops dead. But really, it might stay with us in 2018. We will see. I don’t know if Schneider is going to be one of the Democrats fighting Trump tooth and nail or not, and that can have an impact.

RNC Rundown?

I know I promised that I would write about the race for DNC chair but I am going to probably do that as a separate post because it requires some explaining. And I am going to be like Lucy and ‘splain in greater detail.

Chelsea Manning: Obama Should Pardon Her Now

Chelsea ManningAs you know, Presidents have Constitutional authority to pardon people for any federal crime. This can be someone convicted, or someone who hasn’t faced trial yet. Ford pardoned Nixon of all crimes Nixon might have committed in office. A loyal gesture which doomed Ford to half a term.

You also know that Presidents are concerned about their “legacies”: how they will be remembered by historians. Perhaps this comes from reading too much modern history of past Presidents. Jackson, for example, is not coming off so well as he once did. Every President since Hoover has a Presidential library, where documents, recordings, and films are stored. Sometimes bones of those Presidents are there, too; six chose to be buried at theirs. Ford has both a library and a museum! (He’s buried at the museum.)

Up until recently, Barack Obama often said he hoped the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would be a major part of his legacy. Now, Democratic dreams of using the ACA as a start towards better and better health-insurance reform appear to be all but dead. With control of Congress and the White House, Republicans are almost guaranteed to wipe the law from history.

If President Obama wants to have something in his legacy besides being America’s first black chief executive (a proud legacy in itself), he should pardon Chelsea Manning.

Different Kinds Of Pardons

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth (this sentence imposed when Manning was 25). She has attempted suicide twice.

Pardons are used by Presidents for different reasons. Sometimes they are the result of a petition movement that stirred the President’s compassion. Sometimes they arise from a sense of injustice. Lincoln pardoned 264 of 303 Sioux men sentenced to death in the Dakota War of 1862. Perhaps this was out of mercy, perhaps sending a message that Confederate soldiers would not be tried as traitors. (The Sioux executed were those who had committed crimes against civilians; Lincoln pardoned those who only fought against the US Army.)

Pardons may protect former political allies. George HW Bush pardoned several Iran-Contra participants,. Bill Clinton did the same for old Arkansas cronies. Presidents pardon family members (Carter pardoned his brother). They can be posthumous. Send a cultural message. They can be any or all of the above; Carter also pardoned Jefferson Davis. This neatly acknowledged that Davis was a traitor and forgave him for it simultaneously.

A pardon of Chelsea Manning would send a different message; one to the future. The Trump administration is practically certain to commit high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump has already vowed vengeance on reporters who’ve ever criticized him. A Manning pardon could announce that people who expose government wrongdoing are to be celebrated, not persecuted.

Chelsea Manning, American Hero

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth (this sentence imposed when Manning was 25). She has attempted suicide twice. The first time resulted in a cruel and unusual punishment of solitary confinement; the second time was during this confinement.

Manning’s conviction was over releasing classified video and text information which revealed two primary things. One, that US diplomats routinely lie to and manipulate other diplomats, which is a complete shock to absolutely no one (diplomats from other countries do exactly the same).

The second offense was identifying war crimes committed by the US military. Chelsea Manning leaked a number of important things:

  • Video of airborne soldiers rejoicing as they murdered civilians
  • Internal documents which proved that Pentagon statistics on civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were deliberately falsified
  • How assaults, rapes, and murders of civilians were being reported to superiors by principled military personnel, and those atrocities were not being investigated.

Doing so was an act of pure moral courage on Manning’s part. And, quite possibly, required by military law.

Soldiers Can’t Follow Illegal Orders

Adolf EichmannIn the Nuremberg trails of Nazi war criminals, an argument used repeatedly by defendants involved claiming they were only following orders. Partially in response to this (also possibly to bolster our moral authority in reconstructing Germany and Japan, where we’d bombed millions of civilians), Congress authorized new rules for our armed forces in 1950. They are the Uniform Code Of Military Justice, or UCMJ.

The UCMJ is our military law. It concerns violations within the armed forces. If a soldier on leave is caught pickpocketing a tourist’s wallet in Times Square, that soldier will face criminal prosecution under normal New York laws. If a soldier steals a fellow soldier’s smartphone while on base, that soldier is disciplined via the UCMJ.

Everyone joining the military is made aware of the UCMJ. They aren’t taught the whole thing (it’s huge), but told how the rules are different from other rules. For example, spitting on another person’s shoes in civilian life is not illegal (most places). Spitting on an officer’s shoes in the military can get you in big trouble. Conversely, if you punch a fellow soldier, you will be busted for months, yet no criminal charge goes on your civilian record. In civilian life, you can be sued or charged with a crime for that.

Article 92

Article 92 of the UCMJ says that military personnel have a duty to obey lawful orders and to disobey unlawful ones. What is an unlawful order? This is tricky. Generally, anything that would be considered a war or civic crime. What constitutes a war crime can be difficult for combat personnel to answer. Consider this: you are ordered, “Blow up that house!” You say, “I saw kids in there.” And your commander says “They’ve left, it’s all enemy soldiers now.” Who bears the moral burden?

If you blow up the house, and find dead children, who was wrong? Perhaps your commander saw shadows and thought they were children running out. If you refused to blow up the house, you would be under major risk of prosecution for insubordination. If you defend your insubordination as disobeying an illegal order, you need to prove your commander knew for certain kids were inside. That’s almost impossible to prove.

Ethical Conviction, Civilian Oversight

Manning had vast proof of illegal orders being issued, of war crimes, and things that others in the military had reported and were being ignored. She wrote “This is one of the most significant documents of our time removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.” Whether or not Chelsea Manning was acting out of fidelity to the UCMJ, or simple moral revulsion, I do not know. She made a brave decision to share this information with the world — and more important, with the American people.

Our President is called the commander in chief of the United States Armed Force for a reason. The President is a civilian; our military is under civilian control. By voting for President, we decide who gives orders to our military. In order to assess if our President is a good commander, we need to know what our military has actually done. Past tense: done. Things the enemy already knows. War crimes? Body counts? Those are not secrets to the other side. And if they are kept secret from American voters, this effectively eliminates citizen command of the military.

What Chelsea Manning leaked about diplomacy was a good laugh to diplomats all over the world. It embarrassed us a little bit. Who cares? That’s like sharing video of a President farting. It harmed no one. What Manning leaked about our wars was a vital service to American democracy, and fully in keeping with the highest ideals our military forces aspire to.

Obama’s Legacy, Trump’s Accountability

One of Donald Trump’s notable characteristics is never admitting to being wrong. One of Barack Obama’s many noble attributes is his willingness to share self-criticism in public. The first poses as strength; the second shows real strength.

President Obama did not choose to put Chelsea Manning in prison (she was charged under the UCMJ). But he has not pardoned her service to the nation. And his administration has prosecuted other whistleblowers who acted out of ethical concerns.

Sending a Signal

President Barack ObamaIf President Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, it’d signal to America what distinguishes Democrats from Republicans most: our ability to change what doesn’t work. Obama, no doubt, thought it crucial for national security that we come down hard on whistleblowers in this new age of cyberleaks. And yet we need to distinguish between those who should be removed from sensitive positions and those who should be jailed for treason. (Much like the decision Lincoln made about pardoning the Sioux men.)

It would signal that in the next four years, what we need above all are fearless people willing to shine a light on any wrongdoing by the new administration. Power, especially unchecked power, affects the judgment of even those most determined to resist it. There is little indication President-elect Trump has any such determination.

A Legacy to Be Proud Of

Barack Obama will be remembered as an inspiring example to America of what foolishness we perpetuated by keeping African-Americans from our political sphere, and what evil we continue to perpetuate by permitting the poison of racism in our culture. He’ll be remembered as a skilled political navigator who overcame Republican efforts to dismantle functioning government during his last six years.

Yet his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act will almost certainly be gutted — becoming a historical footnote. But there are still things he can do to help the nation and improve his legacy. He could do something unprecedented and far-reaching by pardoning Chelsea Manning. It is something that might inspire the next person in the next (or any other) administration to have Manning’s courage to speak out.

That would be a legacy. It’d certainly last longer than the worship we once had for Jackson.

Measuring the Down Ballot Election: Part 1

Democratic Party BaseBesides the glamor of the Presidential Race we had the House races and Senate races. There the news was okay but not great. The Democrats picked up four seats in the Senate and six in the House. Mobility has been down due to the lackluster recovery from 2008. As a result, my belief that redistricting doesn’t matter six years later has taken a bit of a hit. Maybe though it means that we can manage in 2018 but we have to be ready as a national party to take advantage. More on that later.

Arizona 01 and 02 Races

AZ-01 was a keeper for the Democrats. Tom O’Halloran managed to destroy Paul Babeu throughout the district, winning by an impressive seven points. He got 117,048 to Babeu’s 100,236. The independent wasn’t a factor so this might stay in the Democratic column in 2018.

AZ-02 was not a pick up, but then I didn’t think it would be. As I said earlier, Martha McSally had been doing everything right by literally going to every neighborhood event she could get her hands on. That kind of careful working of the district really helps keep you in office. She won 157,677 to 120,572. So unless Gabby comes out of retirement (I saw her election night. She isn’t.) the seat will probably stay in the Republican hands absent someone who is even more well-known and liked.

Arizona did have some upsets as Sheriff Joe Arpaio finally lost as did embattled Maricopa County recorder Helen Purcell. I expect that these will flip back to Republicans unless Maricopa County goes more blue. If it does, because shenanigans aren’t going on with the Recorder, we might actually see the state go blue. Arizona will be a minority majority state

Nevada Races

This is about the vaunted Reid machine and it turned out. Both of these seats were two of our six pick ups.

In NV-03, Jacky Rosen’s understated style of campaigning worked. However that doesn’t mean that 2018 won’t be a real fight since she only won by a small percentage. Her win was 146,653 to 142,726 so if she pulls a Martha McSally, that will make her seat safe for the Democrats. Also, of course, it depends on what else is going on at the national level in a year.

In NV-04, Ruben Kikuen reminds me of another Ruben I know getting some attention for the fiery style he has (my congressman Ruben Gallego who is going to have his first baby soon; may Kate have the easiest pregnancy ever!) And he organized relentlessly, so he won by four points. Kihuen got 123,782 to 113,429. I think this will be a keeper.

The Senate Race was a bit closer, but Cortez Masto pulled off a heck of a job (sorry not sorry) and beat Heck by just under four points. She made history as being the first Latina to make it to the Senate. That means that the new class of Senators is very lady-filled since four of the new Senators from our side are women.

Minnesota 02

I was hoping for this to be a pick up but it wasn’t. Angie Craig lost by a small percentage 167,071 to 174,030. However, that said, it is possible Lewis will alienate voters and if we are ready for 2018, it can be picked up because 2 points is winnable. Remember, I lost by less than 20 points in 2004 but in 2006 we won that race with a candidate who was well known, kindly, and drove his opponent nuts. It also would help if we didn’t have an independent spoiler (Paula Overby got 28K votes and that is why the district didn’t go blue).

I am pretty down on third parties — this is not a nation that allows for parties to be coalitions. So I don’t think they should be in close races on our side if we want to get the progress we want.

Pennsylvania 08

I wasn’t sure this would be enough of a wave year for a pick up. And it wasn’t, so Fitzgerald won his brother’s seat by just over 11 points: 173,871 to 144,772. This is unlikely to be a pick up in 2018, lest something very odd happens.

This also might be one of the very few Republicans who will stand up to Trump’s massive corruption and conflict of interest problems. I don’t have much faith but hey, there has to be at least one honorable Republican still left. Stop laughing! It could happen!

New York 03, 19, and 22

We kept NY-03 as the Democrat won there fairly decisively. Suozzi won with 146,457 to 131,718 so the seat stayed in our column.

In NY-19 the exact same thing happened but in the negative direction. Zephyr Teachout, whose left wing history allowed her opponent to bring back the Russian communism thing to attack her on. Unfortunately it may have worked. Teachout lost 100,499 to 113,093. It may be a pick up at a later time, I don’t know.

NY-22 was a bigger loss for the Democrats. Kim Myers lost by six points: 100,549 to 115,557. It really wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but I do think it isn’t going to be a pick up any time soon. Five point range is usually good.

Wisconsin 01 and 08

There was no surprises in WI-01. Paul Ryan may have annoyed his base for a few days, but he never really rejected Trump and it didn’t hurt him. So he won with 68%. It will take a great deal of effort to beat him and I don’t think the Democrats, even with Howard Dean at the helm, will seriously contest this district any time soon. So while I wanted people to pick the better Ryan, they didn’t. Ryan Solen lost handily.

WI-08 hurt. Tom Nelson is a good campaigner and a solid Democrat, and he got slaughtered as the district went all in on the Republican 208,982 to 126,613. I am not sure why. It might have to do with the fact he keeps running for a bunch of different offices. I really don’t know. Not sure if this will be something that we can pick up in 2018 since Gallagher doesn’t have much in the way of scandalous behavior.

To Be Continued

There are several more I have to talk about but I just realized this has already hit over a thousand words so I am going to split it up into two and then talk more about the selection of the next Democratic National Committee Chairperson.

It’s Not Hard to Get Your Copyright Notice Right

Copyright NoticeI’ve become something of an addict of Current Affairs. It’s not that I agree with it all the time. But I like the style. I am clearly a member of its demographic. It’s for educated people with a focus on politics. But it is also a magazine of culture. And the two things mix. When they write about culture, they bring in politics; and their political writing always touches on culture. They do a great job. What they can’t seem to do is put a proper copyright notice on the bottom of their pages.

This bugs me. They are smart people. Their website is written with the Bootstrap framework, so they aren’t total neophytes. If you are going to hand-code a site, it’s a good way to go. I’m a big believer in WordPress, but that’s more an indication of my age. I’m just not interested in the technical side of things anymore. (Yes, I know: it’s what I do for a living; but I get paid for caring about it then.) So it makes no sense that at the bottom of every page, we get this:

Current Affairs - 2015 Copyright Notice

Let Computers Do What They Do Well

It’s almost 2017. What’s more, the site started at the end of 2015 (29 November is the first time that noticed it). So they put in the copyright notice and never looked back.

I know: putting the copyright notice on the bottom of webpages is a pain. Many sites wait well into January before they finally get around to moving to the new year. And some take a good deal longer than that. There is no reason for this! Computers are great at doing really boring stuff like displaying the current year in your copyright notice.

There is an endless number of ways to solve the problem. If you look, you will see that at the bottom of every page on Frankly Curious is this:

Frankly Curious - 2016 Copyright Notice

And the wonderful thing is that at 0:00 on 1 January 2017, that will say, “© 2009-2017 Frank Moraes.” I never have to think about the issue except when I go to otherwise well designed websites that claim that fine articles published on 19 November 2016 have a 2015 copyright.

Automating Your Copyright Notice

There are a lot of ways to do this. It’s a single line of PHP code for instance. (WordPress is written primarily in PHP)

echo "&copy; 2009-" . date("Y") . " Frank Moraes";

That has the advantage of not requiring that the web browser be running JavaScript. Of course, there are very few people who have JavaScript turned off in their browsers. But if you want to create a website that doesn’t require JavaScript, that’s one way to do it. It can be done with any other backend language like Ruby or C# or whatever.

The JavaScript Solution

It’s very easy to do in JavaScript. And you can even set it up so that it works without JavaScript, but those users will have to wait for you to update the year before they see things correctly.

&copy; 2009 -
document.write(" " + new Date().getFullYear());
Frank Moraes

Now this has the disadvantage that it does have to be maintained. It’s just automatic for the vast majority of your visitors. It’s also the case that it doesn’t work with my WordPress theme. The <noscript> tag is just stripped out and I end up with two “2016” strings. So I use the much simpler solution:

&copy; 2009-<script>document.write(new Date().getFullYear());</script> Frank Moraes

If JavaScript is enabled, the visitor sees the normal thing, “© 2009-2016 Frank Moraes.” But if they don’t, they see “© 2009- Frank Moraes.” Since the copyright notice isn’t necessary as a legal matter, this actually works just fine. Constructions such as “2009-” tend to be interpreted as “2009 to the present.”

Given this, one wouldn’t necessarily need to do anything but to put in “&copy; 2009- Frank Moraes.” But I think having the current year is clearer and gives the reader the impression that the website owner takes copyright more seriously.

Regardless, none of this is difficult. All anyone has to do is copy and paste some code. I’ll even provide it for the folks at Current Affairs:

<span id="copyright">&copy; 2015-<script>document.write(new Date().getFullYear());</script> Current Affairs</span>

Now they have no excuse. Not that they did before…

Breitbart Is an Antisemitic Website

BreitbartBreitbart states that the “origins” of the alt-right can be found in “thinkers as diverse as… Oswald Spengler, H L Mencken, Julius Evola, Sam Francis, and… Pat Buchanan.” It’s an odd collection of forerunners, with a few unknown figures. But note that every single one of the “diverse” thinkers from which alt-right ideas originate has one thing in common. The editor of Mencken’s works found him “clearly and unequivocally” antisemitic, calling Jews “the most unpleasant race ever heard of.” Julius Evola was also a notorious antisemite, and wrote an introduction to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sam Francis thanked Billy Graham for daring to point out the Jewish “stranglehold” on American media and believed Jews were the technocratic operatives of a managerial class that dominated society. Pat Buchanan has long been notorious, and watched closely by the Anti-Defamation League, for his statements on Jewish political dominance. And while Spengler personally disowned antisemitism, he was the favored philosopher of the Third Reich and his theories have a prominent place in neo-Nazi thinking.

Thus it’s curious that this should be the entire list of thinkers Breitbart itself posits as inspiring the alt-right. After all, it’s a fairly eclectic and obscure group of writers to cite… unless you’re an antisemite. To lay it out step-by-step, then: (1) [Stevphen] Bannon says openly that he wishes Breitbart to be a platform for the alt-right. (2) Breitbart‘s own guide to the alt-right cites only five intellectual influences. (3) Four out of five of these influences are openly antisemitic, and the other is beloved by Nazis.

–Oren Nimni and Nathan J Robinson
Alan Dershowitz Takes Antisemitism Very Seriously Indeed

[Note: the article itself is about the hypocrisy of Alan Dershowitz and how he says we can’t call Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon antisemitic because there isn’t enough evidence. The article documents all the people who Dershowitz found were antisemitic like Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu. I recommend reading the whole (short) article. -FM]

They Shoot Democrats, Don’t They?

They Shoot Democrats, Don't They?They shoot Democrats, don’t they?

I wasn’t in a good mood when I was answering comments yesterday. I’m probably in a worse mood today. Everyone is depressed and we all deal with it in a different way. But I’m not saying anything I haven’t been saying over the last seven years I’ve been running this blog. It’s telling that I missed our seventh year anniversary given that it came right after the election and I was, well, preoccupied with the election results.

I’m not a liberal in a technical sense. For example, I think that capitalism is a failed system. It is a government dictated “law of the jungle.” People see it as “natural.” And I suppose that’s true. It’s natural in the same way that gangrene is natural. But there is nothing natural about it in a sociological sense. Humans have survived these tens of thousands of years because we are able to work together. If the world really were bellum omnium [everyone against everyone] then we would have gone extinct long ago.

Does Capitalism Make Sense?

So I ask you: why do we continue to base our society on an economic system that is modeled on what we know to be a myth? I don’t know what your answer is. Mine seems incredibly simple: the “winners” set the rules. It isn’t the people volunteering at the soup kitchen who make the rules. It’s the people with all the money who dictate the soup kitchen exist.

Oh wait! I forgot: the Soviet Union proved that the only viable economic system is capitalism! That was decided in the 1950s here in America and no one has given it a second thought sense then. Because just as America represents the Platonic ideal of capitalism, the USSR represented the Paltonic ideal of socialism. The fact that there are endless forms of capitalism and socialism doesn’t matter. Capitalism is the ultimate system and we can never question that.

There is one little thing I learned in college though: all modern economies are actually a partitioning of capitalism and socialism. Now if you believe that (And why would you given it is only based on facts?), then you might notice that countries that tend more toward socialism do better. They are more democratic. They have more equality. Their economies work better. The United States — perhaps the most capitalist of the mixed economies — resembles a kleptocracy more than anything else. We aren’t moving up. We are moving down. Let’s fact it: we are on our way to being a banana republican, except that we don’t have much in the way of bananas. But maybe we can carve up Yosemite to allow us to get along for a while.

Time to Shoot Democrats — Metaphorically?

Yes, I’m angry. I want a better system of government and a better economic system. But I’m willing to accept marginal progress. I may be a radical, but I’m no revolutionary. But we are now facing a political catastrophe that was unthinkable in 1990. But the Democratic Party’s turn to the right brought us the president-elect today. Because when the liberal party because conservative by the standards of the world, it is no surprise that the conservative party goes full-tilt fascist. So I want to see things move along at a fast clip on the left.

The most American film ever is They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? It has great lines like this one our president-elect might say, “I may not know a winner when I see one, but I sure as hell can spot a loser.” And the ultimate line, which should be on our flag, “These wonderful kids deserve your cheers because each one of them is fighting down pain, exhaustion, weariness — struggling to keep going, battling to win — and isn’t that the American way?!”

They shoot Democrats, don’t they?

Thomas Frank on Election 2016

Thomas FrankYou’re describing the same thing that put Barack Obama in the White House in 2008. Only then, it was a hopeful movement. I mean, people were scared then, too, people were frightened. But what you see in the Trump phenomenon is desperation; it is hope after it has curdled in vinegar for eight years. People had such high expectations for Barack Obama and they were disappointed. And I think that they were right to be disappointed. He really did not deliver in all sorts of ways that people expected him to. And things that he easily could have — it’s not like they were expecting things that were outlandish or really radical or completely off the table. He just didn’t deliver them.

When I say desperation, we’re talking about people that can see their way of life slipping away from them. The middle class of this country is crumbling. This is terrifying to people. And they rolled the dice and took a chance on Trump. Hillary did not really promise anything different. I mean, if you read the campaign platform very closely, she had a lot of things that I thought were pretty awesome — I voted for her — I’m certainly not going to vote for a guy like Trump.

But the thing is that nobody believed her promises. Nobody really thought she would actually try to get them done. There’s just something about the way the Democrats have ruled. It’s not just something vague. People just knew they couldn’t expect anything different from Hillary.

–Thomas Frank
Democrats’ Failure to Address Economic Insecurity Gave Trump Election Advantage

Marx Got It Backward: Wages Fall, Workers Turn Right

R W JohnsonThe failure of the American Dream, as we are told repeatedly, has produced a populist revolt of volcanic proportions. At the heart of the problem is the stagnation of real wages and the lack of upward social mobility as higher education costs escalate out of sight. The data is persuasive. Between 1948 and 1973, productivity rose by 96.7 percent and real wages by 91.3 percent, almost exactly in step. Those were the days of plentiful hard-hat jobs in steel and the auto industry when workers could afford to send their children to college and see them rise into the middle class. But from 1973 to 2015 — the era of globalization, when many of those jobs vanished abroad — productivity rose 73.4 percent while wages rose by only 11.1 percent. Trump argued that this was caused by unrestricted illegal immigration and the off-shoring of jobs, though these were only partial causes: the erosion of trade unions probably accounts for 25 to 30 percent of the net loss in earning power. The 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US form only part of the vast mass of non-unionized labor competing for jobs.

In any mass democracy, this would spell trouble, but it was masked for some time by more women going out to work, creating two-income households, and later by many workers taking two or three jobs. Sooner or later the stress of such a downward spiral had to be felt and the results are more and more visible. Drive across America and you will notice who operates the pumps at the gas stations. Over and over again it is white men and women in their seventies, pensioners eking out a few more dollars. What does it mean for someone on social security to walk past shops with watches or shoes or dresses marked in the thousands of dollars? Each price ticket says: “You’re just nothing, you’re a loser.”

There is no sign of any halt in the trend towards greater inequality (and a Trump victory, bringing tax cuts for the rich, will only increase it). Since 2000 the wages paid to college graduates have fallen. For men wages have risen slightly but for women they have plunged, producing an overall fall. The situation at the bottom is more serious still: the worst paid 10 percent saw the biggest drop in wages between 1979 and 2013. At the same time, employers have slashed health benefits. In 2011, only 50 percent of high school graduates — the peculiar America-speak for those who didn’t have a higher education or enter the middle class — got them (down from 67 percent in 2000) and only 76 percent of college graduates, down from 84 percent.

Another telling figure. On average in 1965 an American CEO earned 20 times what a worker did. By 2013, on average, the number was 296 times. Marx foresaw ever greater concentrations of capital accompanied by the pauperization of the working class. But the result has been the opposite of what Marx predicted: the rise of right-wing demagoguery.

–R W Johnson
Trump: Some Numbers

The 2016 Election Was Lost in 1992

Bill Clinton - Not Much of a Friend of WorkersSince the election, it’s been hard for me to blame the voters. I don’t have the highest opinion of them anyway. And I certainly don’t expect them to follow politics the way that I do. But I do blame the Democratic Party. The issue isn’t that Hillary Clinton had bad policy ideas. I’m sure if you sat down the average voter and went through her policies, you would find that they liked them. But in a very real way, Hillary Clinton is paying for the sins of her husband. And by sins, I certainly do not mean Bill’s dalliances. I’m referring to Bill Clinton as the first and most “successful” New Democrat.

We all know the standard narrative. The Democratic Party was dying. It had lost three presidential elections in a row! Yet it had held the Senate since 1987. It held the House of Representatives that entire time. The same holds true of governorships. There was no need to panic. Nominating Bill Clinton in 1992 was very much like the Republicans nominating Bernie Sanders in 2016. The Republicans didn’t do that, of course. They did the reasonable thing: full steam ahead. And they won. Quelle surprise!

Voters Didn’t Want New Democrats

Of course, I don’t think that Bill Clinton became president in 1993 because Democratic voters were screaming for Republican Party Lite. There were power players in the Democratic Party who wanted the party to take a hard right turn on economic issues. Oh, the social issues? Who cares! Rare is the billionaire who hates the LGBT community. Just ask Peter Thiel! The people at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) wanted to make sure that the whole nation was safe for the wealthy. Vote Republican or vote Democratic — it didn’t matter. Taxes would still stay low. Regulations would be minor. The Democrats are now like the Republicans used to be. The DLC just managed to make what used to be (righly) seen as crazy seem “liberal.”

And just as the Republicans had long before lost the working class, the Democrats now set out to lose the working class. But the Republicans had an advantage. They had other issues that could pull the working class toward them. They had racism! That’s what abortion is all about. But even if you don’t want to believe that, abortion was still a huge issue for the Republicans. There were far more single-issue abortion voters who were Republican than were Democrat. So the New Democrats’ turn to the right on economic issues might have helped the party in the very short term, but in the long term it was a catastrophe.

New Democrats Lost Workers

Howard Dean - Not Much of a Friend of WorkersIn the long term, it led to what we face today. The truth is that things are not good for American workers. And the Republicans deserve a great deal of blame for that. But it is an arguable point as to whether the Republicans are more responsible for that over the last 25 years. And in that case, is it any wonder that people just vote with their guts?

If the Democratic Party over the last two and half decades had been filled with Bernie Sanders types who were focused on what the working class was going through, then there would be a real fight. A bigot might feel the pull of a demagogue, but think, “The Democrats have been the ones fighting for workers like me.” Instead, the Democratic Party isn’t so clearly a friend of the worker. And so there really was no contest.

None of this is to say that the Democratic Party hasn’t been a friend of the workers. That’s why I’m a Democrat. Workers who vote Republican are fools. But it is unquestionably true that the Democratic Party isn’t a really good or close friend of workers. In fact, the Democratic Party seems to be just as good a friend of workers as Wall Street will allow it to be.

Liberals Have to Take Back the Democratic Party

And that’s a huge problem. A billionaire con man was able to make the case that a Democrat who spent most of her life in public service was too close to Wall Street. That wasn’t because she was too close to Wall Street (although she was). It was because that’s a big part of the Democratic Party brand.

We, the liberals, must wrest control of the Democratic Party from the remnants of the New Democrats. Even now, I know all the elites are thinking, “We lost this election because the people just don’t understand what a boon NAFTA has been for the American worker.” We need to get rid of these people. And I’m afraid that as much as I like Howard Dean as a pit bull, allowing someone with his New Democratic beliefs to lead the DNC would signal the end of the Democratic Party. It’s time to move on. It’s time to make a hard left turn.