Monday, May 25, 2020

You don't have to be a socialist to want to improve America

Originally posted on An Unexpected Error.
Not Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan Sleepless in Seattle
Frank Watson tells us in his Thursday, March 5th commentary in the Cheney Free Press, that, “…patriotism really is a good thing.” Read on and discover that what Frank means is that if you agree with him, you’re patriotic and if you don’t, you’re not. But Frank is not so much commenting on patriotism as he is on socialism — a favorite axe Frank enjoys grinding.

Frank is taking Bernie Sanders to task for advocating accessible and affordable health care for all Americans (Medicare4A), and vastly improved education, including tuition-free undergraduate degrees at public colleges and universities. Not one for nuanced argument, Frank paints all the Democratic candidates (even Mike Bloomberg, for cryin’ out loud) with the same broad brush — dipped in red to reflect their socialist (and by extension,“communist”) leanings.

I responded to an earlier lament that Frank wrote about the evils of socialism (CFP, 10/17/19) by pointing out that Frank, as a member of the military, spent much of his working life living under a model socialist system, and now in his retirement enjoys continuing socialist programs (Medicare, Tri-Care for Life, military pension, and other VA benefits, including burial). Nevertheless, Frank believes he isn’t a socialist, and that’s because Frank doesn’t want other Americans to enjoy the same benefits.

The bottom line on Frank’s arguments extolling the virtues of America’s hospitals and universities is that he’s right — they are excellent. They just aren’t affordable for the vast majority of Americans. You don’t have to be a socialist to want to change that.

“When we stop and look into the face of poverty,
we recognize that “the poor” are not strangers.
They are our sisters and brothers, members of our human family.”
A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of the State of Washington

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The bottom line in affecting change: Go for the money

by Rivera Sun

Activists tried to block one of Shell’s Arctic drill rigs from leaving Seattle in May 2015. (Daniella Beccaria, Flickr). 
It’s rare to hear business magazines admit the power of nonviolent action. As the editor of Nonviolence News, a service that collects and shares 30-50-plus stories of nonviolence in action each week, I often see business journals minimizing the effect of activism.

Usually, industry tries to conceal the impact nonviolent action has on their bottom line by chalking it up to market pressures — as with the case of Shell’s Arctic drilling rig. Business magazines credited falling fossil fuel prices with the decision to withdraw from drilling in the Arctic. Beneath that story, however, the reality was that hundreds of kayaktivists in the Shell No campaign blockaded the oil rig all the way from Portland, Ore. to Seattle, Wash. to Alaska, eventually succeeding in stopping the drilling project.

That’s why I was glad to see an honest admission of activists’ impact in Newsweek recently. An article blared the news that a first quarter securities filing from private prison company GEO Group warned their investors that activism poses a risk to their bottom line. Due to widespread resistance to mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline to nationwide outrage over family separation policies, private prisons and detention centers are facing the heat of a (rightfully) outraged public.

GEO Group’s admission offers an important reminder to activists: go for the money. Unlike politicians (whose risks are measured in two-four-six year election cycles), businesses measure their risks and profits every day, and report to financial committees every three months. The knowledge of how activists can impact industry is powerful, especially if used strategically. In Quebec, after learning how much money per day activists could cost a fracking company, an anti-fracking campaign drafted a plan of action, calculated the multi-million dollar price tag, and circulated that information to the press and shareholders. For years, the fracking industry stayed out of Quebec.
Shareholders and investors are particularly important targets for activist groups. Unlike industry professionals, their interest — and loyalty — lies with profit, not the industry itself.  Shareholders are fairly responsive to activist campaigns, voting to halt or change company policy to respond to the demands. An on-going, decades-long campaign against Monsanto has Bayer shareholders screaming over the “nightmare” of the Monsanto merger as 500 protesters showed up to demonstrate outside the meeting. Potential investors watch the risks posed by public dissent and often withdraw from a controversial and embattled industry

The Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline led directly to three major banks pulling out the project and triggered a global wave of fossil fuel related divestments.

Divestment campaigns are powerful. Organized among colleges and universities, retirement and public funds, and religious and faith institutions; divestment campaigns pressure organizations to withdraw their investment funds from certain industries (ideally moving the money into more ethical and just investments). In 2015, the Earth Quaker Action Team won a campaign to stop PNC Bank from bankrolling mountaintop removal, getting them to divest from coal mining.
Beyond shareholders and investors, industry also faces myriad pressures from concerned consumers, organized workers, and suppliers with ethical concerns. Italian dock workers refused to load a Saudi arms ship headed to Yemen, stating that they refused to be complicit in the conflict. Tech workers forced Google to drop a major military surveillance contract called Project Maven. Over 6,000 Amazon employees called on Jeff Bezos and the company’s board to adopt a climate plan that will transition the company to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Across the United States, strikes are on the rise: 2018 was a record-breaking year and 2019 is on track to exceed those numbers.

These campaigns are changing the face of industry far more effectively — and swiftly — than government policy, legislative changes, or regulatory enforcement. Citizens are finding creative and powerful ways to pressure business, target destructive practices, and stop abuses. Using the tools of nonviolent action, people have hundreds of tactics at their disposal. More and more, we’re seeing people put these tools and tactics to use as they strive for real change in our world. The bottom line of all these stories is: go for the money. With divestment, strikes, boycotts, shareholder action, and more, find strategic and creative ways to pressure business into taking more ethical, just, peaceful, and sustainable practices.
Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, has written numerous books, including “The Dandelion Insurrection.” She is the editor of Nonviolence News and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Checking on the Trump SWOT -- The Mueller Report

In what seems like eons ago (but was just last March) I published my crack at a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis for Donald Trump heading into the 2020 election. There are some interesting developments since then, especially in the Threat category, that point to advantages for Democratic hopefuls. The threats to Trump identified in the SWOT are listed below. We'll start with the Mueller Report. The other threats will be addressed in future posts.
  1. Mueller investigation shows collusion or obstruction
  2. SDNY indicts Trump
  3. Member of Trump family indicted (that idiot, Donald Jr!)
  4. House passes bill to force Trump to release tax returns
  5. Evidence arises showing Trump interfered in security clearance procedure
  6. Enough Republicans in Congress turn against Trump to make impeachment a possibility
  7. Russia does something stupid (e.g., invades Ukraine) and turns on Trump over sanctions
  8. DPRK begins nuclear weapons testing
  9. Market crash
  10. Environmental disaster
  11. Trump suffers serious health problem limiting ability to do rallies 
  12. Democratic Party unites behind strong candidate with wide appeal

Mueller Investigation
The Mueller Report was released to the public on April 18, 2019. Despite the Attorney General, William Barr, covering for the President in the form of a misleading 4-page summary of the 448-page report, followed by an equally misleading press conference the day the report was released, an actual reading of the report presents a damning picture of the President and his campaign.

We all know by now that the Special Counsel did not clear the President on obstruction of justice, and we know why the Special Counsel did not charge him. I think people are less clear about what the Special Counsel found regarding "collusion."

The Special Counsel treated the general idea of collusion as “conspiracy,” a legal concept the Counsel defined as, “An agreement-tacit or express-between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.” The Special Counsel’s report pointed out that, “this requires … two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests.” Proving without a doubt this sort of explicit coordination is difficult and while “the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.”

The investigation established that “several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”

In addition, the Special Counsel’s report stated that:
  • Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination
  • Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete
  • Some individuals, including some associated with the Trump Campaign, deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records.
So, the Special Counsel’s bottom line on collusion was more nuanced than Mr. Barr would have us believe. In fact, the Special Counsel wrote, “Given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.” 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's May 29th statement provides context for his report's conclusions. It is now up to the House and its Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to decide on where to go with Mueller's findings.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."
Impeachment is a possibility being weighed as much by political as by symbolic considerations -- symbolic because of what George Will calls the "supine behavior of most congressional Republicans." Will's op-ed in the Washington Post is an excellent argument against impeachment. Will's acerbic conclusion is that, "Impeachment can be an instrument of civic hygiene. However, most of today’s Senate Republicans, scampering around the president’s ankles, are implausible hygienists."

Monday, March 11, 2019

SWOT Trump

SWOT Analysis for 2020 Presidential Election
Just a few of the possibilities for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate
Democrats are known for being inclusive and are demonstrating that by giving a shout out (or shout at) a plethora of announced, emerging, probable, potential, or possible people who may or may not or who've already said they won't (Oprah), run for president in 2020. The other thing democrats are know for is "eating their own."

According to polling, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders stand together at the top of the polls. The anti-establishment Berniecrats are already fulminating that the establishment DNC will try to screw them again a la Hillary-2016, but with Biden assuming the mantle of middle of the road establishment democrat. Russia if your listening, here's where you put your oar in the water.

Meanwhile, according to Tara McGowan of the Hill, Trump is already winning 2020, and not just because he's busy inventing insulting nicknames for anyone foolish enough to challenge him for the title of Commander and Tweet. The Trump Campaign is prioritizing digital channels over traditional paid media and leveraging social media platforms to fire up Trump's base, as well as on acquiring voter data and building potential supporter lists. Brad Parscale, who many credit with Trump's 2016 success, is on board and leading the digital effort.
If you're on Twitter, you're hearing from @parscale.
Wouldn't it be interesting if democrats focused on how best to beat Donald Trump and not on how to beat the democratic establishment candidate, or the socialist candidate, or the corporate candidate? Well, that's what SWOT analysis helps with.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Let's outline a SWOT for Trump as if we're Trump's [very frank] Campaign Manager. Please add your SWOT items in the comments section.


Loyal base will stick with him no matter what
Has a cadre of single-issue voters on board who can be easily manipulated
Can travel all over U.S. on taxpayer dollar
Garners media by virtue of Office
Fox Network reliable channel to voters
Strong with rural voters
Electoral College favors him
Republicans hold 22 states (to Democrats 14) in which they hold all three positions in state government, facilitating efforts to strengthen voting regulations [i.e., further restrict voting rights]
Conservative judges on the SCOTUS have a 5 to 4 advantage (should voting irregularities go before the Court)
Strong economy
Can count on Russian help [again]


Appeals to a narrow demographic
Often speaks without thinking and goes off message; lies compulsively
Needlessly alienates large swaths of people
Extremely limited attention span
Not likely to prepare seriously for debates
Has ethical lapses, e.g., emoluments
WH staff prone to leak potentially damaging material
Under investigation by special council and SDNY


Further divide Democrats by manipulating existing factions
Have Trump seem to pivot to the middle, while moving to "socialist" drumbeat
Nominate another person to SCOTUS
Build strong base of support in Senate should Congress move to impeach
Work with local media (e.g., Sinclair Broadcasting) to publicize "atrocities" by undocumented immigrants
Use Executive Orders to appeal to conservative factions
Cement support of evangelicals, e.g., by focusing attention on faux abortion issues
Start an armed conflict (short of outright war)


Mueller investigation shows collusion or obstruction
SDNY indicts Trump
Member of Trump family indicted (that idiot, Donald Jr!)
House passes bill to force Trump to release tax returns
Evidence arises showing Trump interfered in security clearance procedure
Enough Republicans in Congress turn against Trump to make impeachment a possibility
Russia does something stupid (e.g., invades Ukraine) and turns on Trump over sanctions
DPRK begins nuclear weapons testing
Market crash
Environmental disaster
Trump suffers serious health problem limiting ability to do rallies 
Democratic Party unites behind strong candidate with wide appeal

Add your ideas for the Trump SWOT and then consider the SWOT for a "generic" democratic candidate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What I missed in assessing the Republican Strategy for Winning in 2016

In a piece I wrote in June 2016 titled, The GOP's Strategy for Winning Hearts and Minds, and the 2016 Election, I wrote that Republicans worked at winning the 2016 Presidential Election from the day Barack Obama won the 2008 election. That was accurate. Republicans turned 'loyal opposition' into outright obstructionism. Their thinking was that if nothing worked, if policies weren't promulgated, if laws weren't passed, if vacancies weren't filled, it would thwart Obama's "liberal agenda," and as a bonus, make Americans become disillusioned with government. When that happened, voters would be less likely to turn out for elections. That would favor Republicans, as it has historically, and as it did, ultimately putting the "Grand Old Party" back in control of both the House and the Senate.

But they needed to do more to win the Presidency

The RNC made it their mission to reach out to "low information, low propensity" registered Republicans, who made up some 35% of the Republican base and generally didn't vote. They made a concerted, heavily-funded get out the vote (GOTV) effort through direct, personal contact -- these folks didn't do social media. In my 2016 post I identified some of the organizations they reached out to on this. Click on these hyperlinks and be amazed.





Uniting the Right Wing Base

The Republican strategy also involved uniting the right-wing base, which consisted of a plethora of single-issue factions (like the Democrats, actually), including:

National Rifle Association (NRA), Gun Owners of America (GOA), other gun groups, and militia organizations.

The Tea Party, which had split into the Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Express, and unaffiliated voters who call themselves Tea Partiers.

The 9-12 Project (an Ayn Rand sort of group with god thrown in for good measure). Their principles included, "Government cannot force me to be charitable."

Smart Girl Politics Action (SGPA) This organization began with the mission to "engage, educate, and empower conservative women to get involved in the political process." The RNC didn't think they'd have to do much to entice them into the fold, but they began to worry when Trump became the nominee. They needn't have worried. Trump won 53% of the vote of white women -- not Republican white women -- all white women voters. Digest that. was Sarah Palin's personal money making venture designed to capitalize on what she termed "her historic endorsement of Donald Trump." Palin's fund-raising message to prospective donors was that she supported "anti-establishment" candidates, but the RNC wasn't particular. If they could latch on to Sarah's "momma grizzlies," they'd use their money and voter network and nominate who they damn well felt like nominating. Of course things didn't quite turn out the way they hoped.

Grassfire a very social media centric group, which the RNC used it to network with the organizations outlined above.

Evangelical Christians. In the 2014 midterm elections, white evangelicals or born-again Christians made up 26 percent of the electorate and 78% of them voted for Republican candidates. During the primaries, a plurality of self-identified white evangelicals voted for Trump (40%), while the majority split their votes between Ted Cruz (34%), Marco Rubio (11%), and John Kasich (10%). The RNC's challenge was to unify that voting block behind their presumptive nominee. It wasn't a problem once Trump promised to rollback the last half century of progress made on women's reproductive rights ("Two Corinthians" notwithstanding). Evangelicals continue to stand firmly with Trump, as I write about here.

The laying on of hands
AsaMom mission was, "to empower Moms and Moms at Heart in preserving our Constitution, country and children’s future." The RNC had to convince this voting block that Donald Trump was only kidding when he said it doesn't matter what the media said, "as long as you have a beautiful piece of ass with you." The Access Hollywood video surfaced later and the RNC thought, "Oh, shit," but once Trump explained that it was "only locker room talk" everything was okay.

Why the RNC got Donald Trump instead of JEB!

The problem the RNC had in leading up to the Republican 2016 Primaries and in then trying to unify the above groups, whose commonality was primarily angry disaffection, was that the RNC was the 'establishment' and it was peddling the same, tired establishment bullshit. In other words, they totally misjudged the give-a-shit basis for their audience's mood, which was poor-paying jobs, no jobs, shitty jobs, and Mexicans taking all the shitty jobs that they didn't want, but were unhappy to see said Mexicans making money at. But the elephant in the room was named 'Xenophobia' -- a fear that the white person's place atop the slag heap was in danger of toppling. So yeah, "Fuck you, RNC, we'll vote for an asshole, that'll teach you!" And voilĂ  -- Donald Trump.

And then came Russia barreling down the Fulda Gap

Now this rather too-long piece is about my 2016 assessment of the Republican strategy for wining the election, not why Hillary Clinton lost -- there have been plenty of hand-wringing analyses of that. What I want to express is how embarrassed I am for missing what turned out to be a key ingredient in the Republican strategy, viz, Russia. I didn't see Russia coming. Did you?

Ultimately, our Intelligence agencies ferreted it out and not long after Trump's inauguration, their findings led to the Mueller investigation looking into whether the Trump Campaign and Trump himself had been colluding with Russia (remember, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"?).

Is it too far fetched to think that the RNC itself was colluding with Russia. After all, the RNC watered down language in the Republican Platform supporting U.S. assistance to the Ukraine in its efforts to resist Russian interference in their internal affairs. And according to reports, the RNC was also penetrated by Russian hackers, but their data were not released. More recently, Republican lawmakers faced scorn when they decided to celebrate July 4th in Moscow. Did they have favors to return?

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) led the eight-member Republican delegation on a multi-day tour of Russia.
Donald Trump claims the Russia investigation is a "witch hunt." Well, a lot of witches have been rounded up. It will be interesting to see what the latest witch, Maria Butina, revealed about her contacts with the RNC and with her handler, Alexander Torshin when questioned by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and by Robert Mueller.

Scott Walker between Walker stood between Maria Butina and Alexander Torshinh
We now know that Russia deployed active measures to influence the 2016 Election, and they did so to aid Donald Trump. There is growing evidence that members of the Trump Campaign colluded with Russia, with the latest revelation being that Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with the Russians before the 2016 Election. Certainly this aided the Russians social media blitz. What we don't know for sure, and may never know, is how much Russia's interference impacted election results. Opinions?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Stop Waiting for Robert Mueller to Do Your Work

The 2020 election is just two more episodes of “March Madness” away, and I mean the college basketball tournament, not the debacle that poses as DC politics. In the meantime, left-leaning political operatives are conducting their own madness as various factions maneuver to place their preferred progressive on the Presidential Ballot. Not all, or even most of these groups are democrats. Some are decidedly not democrats, such as DemExit, which appears to be more a hashtag than a coherent organization.

We have to hope that the one coherent party with an opportunity to overthrow the wannabe dictator, Trump, can get its act together and unite like-minded progressives behind that imperative. Even if it does, there’s no guarantee Trump can be defeated in 2020.

Past experience shows that an incumbent president is re-elected 75% of the time. Democrats may feel that their impressive gains in the 2018 midterms will carryover to the 2020 Presidential election and sweep Trump out of office. But history has shown that there is very little correlation between a president’s first midterm election and their reelection bid. For example, Bill Clinton’s party lost 52 House seats in 1994 and Barack Obama’s party lost 63 House seats in 2010, yet both men garnered more than 330 Electoral Votes in 1996 and 2012, respectively.

Political analysts, licking their wounds after most predicted Hillary Clinton would wipe the floor with Donald Trump, have since explained to us why he won. Their verdict? It’s the rural voters. If that’s the case, what changes in 2020 to turn the red tide (given that we still have an Electoral College, and we will)?

Pollsters show Donald Trump retaining a dedicated cadre of supporters, no matter what the latest “blockbuster” reveal is about his repugnant behavior or his criminal exploits during or after his campaign. The best assessment I’ve found of what factions of society make up Trump’s base comes from Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) in Data for Politics. Rural voters are just the tip of the cornstalk. It shouldn’t surprise you to find out that the real barnacles on the hull of our ship of state are white evangelicals. Being “born again” seems to equate to being born yesterday when it comes to believing and/or believing in Donald Trump. That demographic is no small thing when it comes to making Trump a one-term president. Evangelical voters account for 1 in 4 voters; roughly equivalent to the share of the electorate accounted for by people of color.

Laying on of Hands by the Clergy on the Chosen One
I’ve read the posts of many progressives who try to reason with evangelicals, arguing that their positions on many issues actually run counter to the teachings of Jesus. Forget about it! Evangelicals are a lot more practical, not to say hypocritical, than that. Donald Trump has embraced and actualized anti-choice rhetoric, selected Mike Pence as his Vice President, appointed culturally conservative Supreme Court justices, and promised to repeal RoeWade and the Johnson Amendment. His Administration recently negotiated the release of American Evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson after two years of captivity in Turkish confinement, after which one televangelist said, “I love him so much I can hardly explain it.”

I haven’t seen a substantive plan for how the DNC plans to take on Trump in the 2020 election. Rather, I see a widening chasm forming over whether to run full socialist, or take over the right of center territory abandoned by Republicans when they veered hard right into Donald Trump’s fascism — in other words, to run a moderate and move left incrementally. So this could shape up as the socialists versus the incrementalists.

Lacking a unified platform, let alone the broad general outlines of a plan, the Democrats, the disaffected, the Dem Exits and Enters, the “Our Revolution,” and the “Resist” movements wait with fretful anticipation for Robert Mueller’s report, which they hope will put the stake through the heart of Trump’s presidency, if not Trump himself. But will it?

According to @MuellerSheWrote, writing in The Economist, "the report, when it eventually comes, will probably not be made public." William Barr's testimony during his confirmation hearings did nothing to assuage my fears that it won't be. @MuellerSheWrote went on to point out that, "The judgment on what that report means for the president will be political, rather than legal. It will rest on the views of Republicans in Congress. And many of them would rather not think about it."

So, my feeling is that since the president could not be removed by articles of impeachment unless around 20 Republican senators break with him, almost no matter what Mr Mueller may find, we may find Donald J Trump on the 2020 Ticket as the Republican nee Fascist nominee. Given that eventuality, I recommend we come up with the best damned plan for defeating him that the best damned minds in the progressive multiverse can devise.

In the meantime, my favorite really, really non-establishment candidate to go up against Trump so far is Vermin Supreme. Supreme has said that if elected President of the United States, he will pass a law requiring people to brush their teeth. Can’t argue with that.
Vermin Supreme