Monthly Archives: February 2020

Cross of Gold (1896)

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Bryan at the age of 36.

In 1895, the American government teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The Panic of 1893 had put millions of people out of work. As European investors called in their loans, the federal treasury was hemorrhaging gold reserves at an alarming rate. By February of 1895, not only were gold reserves down to 9 million dollars, a single investor held a bond for 10 million. One phone call and it was all over. To his dismay, President Grover Cleveland, a right-wing Democrat who had revived the party after the disaster of the Civil War, realized he had only one option. He would finally agree to meet with J.P. Morgan, had who arrived in Washington armed with an obscure law signed by Abraham Lincoln that made it legal for the federal government to sell bonds to private investors. On February 25, 1895, Morgan agreed to float the federal government a loan of 60 million dollars in gold. Soon afterwards, the markets, confident that the Cleveland administration had the backing of J.P. Morgan, began to revive.

Grover Cleveland may have “saved the economy” but he also delivered the Democratic Party into the hands of the left. In 1895 most Americans were two things, small farmers and small capitalists. As a result of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the Homestead Act of 1862, land ownership was remarkably widespread and democratic, but that was changing. By 1895 many farmers were heavily in debt and in danger of losing their property. The same debased currency that terrified bankers like J.P. Morgan would have actually worked in their favor. It would have meant inflation, and for all practical purposes debt relief. Grover Cleveland became the Barack Obama of his day, the right wing Democrat who sold his country out to Wall Street. In 1896, the left wing of the Democratic Party found their champion, the Bernie Sanders of the Gilded Age, William Jennings Bryan. That July, in Coliseum Park in Chicago, the 36-year-old Bryan would secure the Democratic nomination for President on the basis of one speech.

While the Cross of Gold speech is little read today, it’s surprisingly relevant to the Democratic Party of 2020. While the debate about “free silver” and “bimetallism” has long been settled for good or ill in favor of “fiat currency,” William Jennings Bryan is remarkably lucid about the idea of “democracy,” who favors it, who opposes it, who benefits from it, and how it’s different from the idea of “socialism.” The struggle inside the Democratic Party of 2020 is not a struggle between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg. It’s a struggle between two ideas, the idea of liberalism and the idea of democracy. Indeed, while democracy and liberalism are not necessarily opposed to each other, they’re not the same thing.

Grover Cleveland, J.P. Morgan, and William McKinley, the liberals of 1895, believed in pretty much the same things that Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bloomberg believe in 2020, procedural norms, the sanctity of the markets, and American exceptionalism. Above all, today’s liberals, who are perfectly willing to overthrow the majority vote if it doesn’t go their way,  believe in government by the best and brightest, not by the working class, who Republicans manipulate by narrow appeals to cultural conservatism and ruling class Democrats despise as being entirely white and entirely racist, as “deplorables.” As Anton J. Gunn, a former advisor  Barack Obama and South Carolina state representative, said to MSNBC‘s Craig Melvin. “The party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.” If Gunn’s remarks provoked bewildered outrage on the left wing of the Democratic Party, it’s largely because most Americas not only believe that the Democratic Party is actually “democratic,” they don’t completely understand the concept of “democracy” itself. Thus the endless, and tedious, debates about whether Bernie Sanders is a “democratic socialist” or a “social democratic.”

If you asked the typical American liberal what he means by “democracy,” he’ll probably tell you it means something like “the people choose their representatives.” Libertarians and conservatives, on the other hand, will tell you that “the United States is a republic, not a democracy.” It’s not that liberals and conservatives really disagree on who should run the United States — they both believe that an aristocracy of lawyers, capitalists and the “best and brightest” should rule over the ignorant masses –it’s that they see democracy in terms of process, not class. Neither would abolish the fundamentally undemocratic Supreme Court, electoral college, or Senate. Indeed, many libertarians see the 17th Amendment, which provided for the direct election of United States Senators — before that they were chosen by State legislatures — as the beginning of the decline of “the republic.” Both, however, largely agree that “democracy “means” voting. For Aristotle, on the other hand, who defined most of the political terms that survive to this day, “democracy” doesn’t necessarily mean “voting.” It means “rule in favor of the poor.” Indeed, for Aristotle, those “populist” governments in South America both liberals and conservatives in the United States agree should be overthrown by the CIA, are almost the very definition of “democracy.”

For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all. Tyranny, as I was saying, is monarchy exercising the rule of a master over the political society; oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.”

https://www.thoughtco.com/aristotle-on-democracy-111992

In 1980, Ronald Reagan and the corporate media introduced us to “supply side economics,” an old idea they marketed as a new concept. According to “supply side economics” if you lowered taxes on the very rich, they would invest in the economy and that wealth would “trickle down” to the working class. I still remember going to a Bible Study as a freshman at Rutgers in 1983 — the only time cute girls talked to me back then was to invite me to Bible studies — where the group leader carefully explained to us that “if you give 10 bucks to a poor person he’ll spend it on booze but if you give a responsible investor 1,000,000 dollars he’ll build a factory and then 100 workers would each get a 20 dollar bonus on Friday and be able to buy two bottles of booze.” For William Jennings Bryan the very opposite was true. If you invested in the working class that wealth would “trickle up” to the rich.

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5354/

For William Jennings Bryan, the class struggle centered on the debate between the Gold Standard and bimetallism. For Bernie Sanders, the key issue is “Medicare for All,” the idea that if we get rid of private insurance companies — the lawyers, bankers and lobbyists who stand between you and your doctor — that if we replace multi-millionaire insurance CEOs with middle-class government bureaucrats, health care would become cheaper and more widely available. Both liberals and conservatives look at the idea of “Medicare for All” with horror. Their kids, who attend “good” public schools before going onto the Ivy League, become those lawyers, bankers,and lobbyists who run private insurance. They don’t want to send their kids to Harvard only to see them make $150,000 dollars a year as a government employee. For profit, private health insurance is as important to the “meritocracy” as the gold standard was to J.P. Morgan.

While Bernie Sanders may at one time have been a socialist, these days he is, as his supporters argue, a “social democrat,” someone who believes in capitalism but capitalism with a strong federal government to limit the power of the corporations and advocate for the working class. The main difference between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who also favors stringent government regulation of big business, is that Sanders also favors mass popular involvement in government. Warren, by contrast, like the rest of the Democratic Party establishment, believes in rule by the “best and brightest,” Harvard Law professors like herself. Sanders supporters argue that the person going into the Democratic National Convention this Summer with the most votes should be the nominee. Warren is open to the idea of a “brokered convention” where the super delegates, elite Democratic Party politicians and lobbyists, make the decision on the second round of voting.

William Jennings Bryan, in turn, while a contemporary of Lenin and Frederick Engels, was a democrat, not a socialist or even a “democratic” socialist. Unlike Elizabeth Warren or even Bernie Sanders, Bryan was a principled anti-imperialist. He thought the United States should stay out of the affairs of other governments, resigning as Wilson’s Secretary of State in 1916 after it became obvious that Wilson intended to enter the war on the side of the British and French. He did not believe, however, in proletarian revolution. Rather, Bryan wanted to revive the old Republican, “Republican” with a large “R,” ideal of free soil and free labor, Lincoln’s belief that unlike old Europe, the United States was not bound by traditional class hierarchies. William Jennings Bryan and Abraham Lincoln both believed that every American had the chance to be a successful capitalist. Bryan didn’t think that capitalist were oppressing the workers. He thought that big capitalists were oppressing their fellow capitalists, that J.P. Morgan and Grover Cleveland had successfully mounted a coup that had destroyed the republic.

But we stand here representing people who are the equals before the law of the largest cities in the state of Massachusetts. When you come before us and tell us that we shall disturb your business interests, we reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your action. We say to you that you have made too limited in its application the definition of a businessman. The man who is employed for wages is as much a businessman as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a businessman as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a businessman as the merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, begins in the spring and toils all summer, and by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of this country creates wealth, is as much a businessman as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go 1,000 feet into the earth or climb 2,000 feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured in the channels of trade are as much businessmen as the few financial magnates who in a backroom corner the money of the world. We come to speak for this broader class of businessmen.

William Jennings Bryan would go onto lose the election of 1896 to William McKinley largely because in spite of his constant protests that he had nothing against Massachusetts, New York or the east coast, he saw the class struggle in narrow terms. Get rid of the gold standard, base the currency on a mixture of silver and gold, and the small farmers of the Midwest would save their land, and as a result, save Jeffersonian democracy. The industrial proletariat of the northeast, however, had no economic interest in seeing more inflation and cast their lot with McKinley and the Republicans. Bryan would go onto lose the Presidency two more times before he finally ended up as a laughing stock arguing against the teaching of evolution in the Scopes Trial. Indeed, after the mass of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe entering the factories in the 1890s had cost him the election of 1896, Bryan progressively retreated into an ever more  narrow-minded Protestant fundamentalism and nostalgia for the America of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

Who are the Democratic Party superdelegates from New Jersey?

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What you you mean no Bernie supporters?

We might as well list them here.

1.) Cory Booker: US Senator. Boyfriend of Rosario Dawson

2.) Bob Menendez: US Senator. Right wing Cuban American neoconservative freak from Union City. Wants to starve Iranians.

3.) Phil Murphy: Governor of New Jersey. Liberal. Former Goldman Sachs exec. Very very tall.

4.) Donald Norcross: Congressman. Member of the most powerful political family in New Jersey .

5.) Frank Pallone: Congressman.

6.) Bill Pascrell: Congressman

7.) Marguerite M. Schaffer: DNC member. Law professor. https://www.shainlaw.com/joel-shain-1

8.) Albio Sires: Congressman

9.) John Graham: DNC member. Insurance executive. Clinton supporter. https://www.politico.com/states/new-jersey/story/2016/06/wisniewski-speaks-out-about-being-booted-from-dnc-103074

9.) Bernadette P. McPherson: Law professor. https://www.jjay.cuny.edu/faculty/bernadette-mcpherson

10.) Tom Malinowski: My Congressman. Carpetbagger from DC. Has already endorsed Biden. Believes in “Medicare for All Who Want It.”

11.) Donald Payne Jr. : My old Congressman. Has already endorsed Biden

12.) Andy Kim: Congressman

13.) Josh Gottheimer: Congressman. Hardcore Clinton guy.

14.) Tonio Burgos: DNC member. Looks like some some corporate bigwig. http://www.tonioburgos.com

15.) Marcia Marley: DNC member. Head of some think tank. https://www.insidernj.com/new-jersey-policy-perspective-announces-marcia-marley-new-board-chair/

16.) George Norcross. Most powerful man in New Jersey. Right wing Democrat. He owns the state. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Norcross Member of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s country club in Florida.

17.) Kelly Stewart Maer: Corporate consultant. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellystewartmaer

18.) John Currie: Murphy supporter. https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/columnists/charles-stile/2019/12/17/phil-murphy-reaches-new-deal-nj-party-chairman-john-currie/2680300001/

19.) Bonnie Watson Coleman: Congresswoman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnie_Watson_Coleman

20.) Mikie Sherrill: Congresswoman. Hardcore Bloomberg stooge. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikie_Sherrill

nj.com gets rid of comments (finally)

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As a fifth-generation New Jerseyan, I have always been aware of the bad reputation of my state. Pollution, corrupt, mob-dominated politics, the Rutgers football team, New Jersey doesn’t exactly have a good reputation in the rest of the country. In the 1990s, when I lived off and on in Seattle and Southeast Alaska, the biggest compliment people thought they could pay me went something like this. “You’re from New Jersey? Well, at least you don’t have that accent.” Actually, I do have “that accent.” I sound a lot like Ray Liotta, who’s from my mother’s hometown of Union, did in Goodfellas. You cannot grow up as a Polish American in the great state of New Jersey without acquiring a sense of humor. Cynicism is part of the local culture, and that’s a good thing. At times it’s even poetic. Almost every song Bruce Springsteen writes is more or less about one thing: Getting the fuck out of New Jersey.

For the most part, while it’s often hilariously funny,  the stereotype of the typical New Jerseyan as a loud, ignorant, right-wing knuckle dragger, doesn’t stand up to the test of reality. New Jersey is by far one of the best-educated, most liberal states in America. There’s a reason we don’t have mass shootings. We’re smart enough to have gun-control. New Jersey hasn’t voted for a Republican President since it went for George H.W. Bush in 1988. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 55 percent of the vote to Donald Trump’s 41 percent. Most of the state’s big cities are “sanctuary cities” that forbid local police from cooperating with ICE. The Rutgers football team might be the worst team in the history of the Big 10 Conference, but Rutgers also has top 20 programs in English, history, and math, and top 10 programs in philosophy, women’s studies and library science.

Unfortunately, New Jersey also has a savage divide between its wealthy suburbs and its working class cities. If Donald Trump has no chance of winning the state in 2020 that’s about Newark and Elizabeth, not Westfield or Mountain Lakes. It’s probably more accurate to say that while blacks and Hispanics in New Jersey are liberal, white suburbanites are as reactionary as they are anyplace else in the country. The typical white man in New Jersey over 40 is a racist Republican who could probably pass for a Mississippi Klansman if it weren’t for “that accent.” What’s more, in spite of the fact that Barack Obama won the state easily in 2008, New Jersey also became an early center of “tea party” reaction. In 2009, Chris Christie became governor. In 2010, Koch Brothers funded goons regularly disrupted Congressional town hall meetings on Obamacare. And then there’s the comments section at nj.com

There’s a joke going around that “the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 51 racist hate groups in New Jersey, but it’s actually 52 if you count the comments section at nj.com.” If anything it’s an understatement. Even before the Koch Brothers started pumping money into the local media — in 2010 you couldn’t read an article about the weather without running into 500 comments by global warming deniers — the comments section at nj.com was a place for middle-aged, white men from the suburbs and the rural areas to complain about the “liberal” cities. After awhile, even I had trouble keeping track of all the dog whistle, and I speak fluent, passive aggressive WASP. It went far beyond “those low income housing applicants are going to ruin our good schools” or “crime in the city of Newark is inevitable in such a diverse city.” It went far beyond changing the name of Bruce Springsteen, one of the most explicitly Catholic rock stars in American history, to Bruce Springstein, and attributing his support of Barack Obama to his Jewish ethnicity. At some point in the late 2010s, the racist comments at nj.com became almost indistinguishable from Stormfront. The comments from the global warming deniers were even worse, often degenerating into conspiracy theories about chem trails, and incomprehensible spam. Finally, the management at Advance Media, which owns nj.com, decided they couldn’t go on funneling traffic to what had essentially become a hate site.

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I agree with Advance Media’s decision to pull the comments at nj.com, but I’m not naive enough to believe it was about any real objection to platforming racists. While the comments have gotten stupider and more incoherent, they’ve been viciously racist ever since the Bush years. I also vehemently disagree in the strongest possible terms with their decision to delete their archives. The white supremacist comments at nj.com are part of a historical document that should be studied by future generations of social media analysts. How exactly did the users’ forum at a mainstream media outlet in a “blue” state get taken over by white supremacists and neo-Nazis? Why couldn’t Advance Media simply hire moderators like the New York Times. The first amendment applies to government, not private business, but a private media company is certainly not obligated to choose from two bad extremes, unmoderated comments overrun by white supremacists, or no comments at all. How much exactly would it cost to hire a few interns to make sure the comments stayed on topic, avoided open expressions of racism, antisemitism, and homophobia, and at least made some kind of logical argument? The truth is Advance Media has nothing against racism. They’re just fucking cheap. They also want to destroy the evidence of just how complicit they’ve been in poisoning political discourse in the great state of New Jersey. My guess is the Koch Brothers money just ran out.

Literacy is Communism (Literally)

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While it would be temping for me to make a Polish joke about Mr. Kozlowski, and would be covered under the “you can make ethnic slurs about your own ethnic group exemption,” Polish jokes have their origins in Nazi propaganda and should never be used for any reason. Besides, Mr. Kozlowski, who’s a professor of Mathematics at the University of Warsaw, a dual British Polish citizen, and a self-proclaimed “Zionist” is just saying the quiet part out loud. He’s suggesting that the American ruling class, which is getting increasingly worried that they can no longer control the working class through the lie of upward mobility and the meritocracy, use the old Eastern European method of controlling the peasants. Keep them illiterate and ignorant.

Andrzej Kozlowski is no fan of Bernie Sanders, who he repeatedly compares to a disease. He decided to add his unwanted two cents to the discourse around the Democratic Party primaries when the corporate media started to red bait Sanders over his praise for Fidel Castro’s literacy program. Under Castro, Cubans, who are mostly black or mixed race, became the most literate people in Latin America. Even accounting for how some of the figures are probably Cuban government propaganda, it’s still an impressive achievement. Of course, Bernie Sanders is not suggesting that the United States move in the authoritarian direction of the Castro years. I doubt the American ruling class would have much trouble with “communist authoritarianism only capitalist” anyway. After all, they outsourced American manufacturing to China. What scares them is Sanders’s plan to reduce spending on the military industrial complex and funnel the money into healthcare and education, to institute a system of Medicare for all and debt forgiveness for student loans.

In the 1960s, the American public university system, that grew out of the Morrill Act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and the GI Bill, became the base for the last mass democratic uprising. By 1970, the anti-war movement, which had started at elite schools like the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, had “trickled down” to working class institutions like Kent State. The ruling class, terrified by what Samuel Huntington would later call “the crisis of democracy” — “crisis” meaning “too much” — moved to reign in access to higher education. My generation, the Boomer X generation born between 1960 and 1968, were the first to feel the pinch. Mostly it was cultural. Fraternities became cool again. Politically apathy and cynicism was encouraged. Careerism was the order of the day. Brett Kavenaugh, the most perfect representative of the Boomer X generation, currently sits on the Supreme Court. In the 1990s and the 2000s, encouraged by the wide availability of student loans, private college raised tuition rates. Public colleges, deciding it was easier to place the burden on the students rather than raise taxes, quickly followed. By 2008 and the great recession, an entire generation, saddled with massive student debt, couldn’t even think about going to protests. The brief anti-capitalist explosion during Occupy Wall Street was largely organized by recent college graduates who had nothing to lose. Even if they had wanted to pay off their student loans, there were no jobs anyway.

Andrzej Kozlowski’s traditional Catholic fascism is hilariously out of date. Salazar’s Portugal, Franco Spain, De Valera’s Ireland, and the Quebec of Maurice Duplessis aren’t coming back. But that doesn’t mean the American ruling class isn’t thinking about how they’re going to keep the peasants ignorant and brainwashed. Free Polish vodka would be nice, but my guess is that our lords and masters are much too cheap to get us drunk. What’s more, even Americans are a bit too smart for someone who says the quiet part out loud. Upper-middle-class Americans love their “good” (all white) schools. The black and Hispanic neoliberal elites can’t give up the illusion of the meritocracy, the idea that as long as you get good grades you might get that house in the suburbs and those “good” schools for your own kids. Jews and Asians aren’t going to keep their kids ignorant just because a few of them might become Bernie Bros. What the American ruling class needs is a way to keep the peasants down while still maintaining the illusion that the system is liberal and democratic.

Enter Amy Klobuchar. I’m not of course comparing her to Mr. Kozlowski, even though she is the only East European in the race,  but she has been consistent in her arguments that the last thing we all need is more higher education. What we need, she maintains, are more plumbers.

The other issue is we don’t have enough personnel. And so that’s where we get to this education plan.. And I don’t want agree with some of my colleagues here about putting hard-earned taxpayer money into rich kids going to college. What I think we need to do instead is look at what our needs are in our economy.

We’re going to have a million openings for home health care workers, particularly in rural areas, that we don’t know how to fill. We’re going to have over 100,000 openings for nursing assistants. We’re not going to have a shortage of sports marketing degrees. We’re going to have a shortage of plumbers and nurses.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-carolina-democratic-debate-full-transcript-text/

On Bernie Bros

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Have you ever had the following experience? You’re having a conversation online. You’re conducting a debate in what you believe to be good faith. You might even think to yourself “well I disagree with this person but at least we’re talking about the issues in an intelligent manner.” The moment you start to feel comfortable the person you’re talking to lashes out. “Oh you’re impossible. I’m blocking you.” One moment you were petting a friendly tabby. The next moment you get scratched. You try to figure out what happened. Was it something I said? Do they hate me because I’m a Polish American? Should post a better selfie? Was I engaging in some kind of logical fallacy? Am I just that same little boy my parents used to watch like a hawk every time we visited relatives just in case I said the wrong thing? Or am I just talking to a crazy person or a Russian bot?

The answer is both “all of the above” and “none of the above.”

Having a conservation online is a fundamentally different experience from having a conversation in “real life.” You don’t make eye contact. You don’t pick up on physical signals. You can’t get a sense of what the other person is feeling by listening to the tone of his, or her voice. You could get “canceled” for doing what I just did, using “he” as the universal pronoun, or accused of being “transphobic” for adding in the “she” to cover all your bases. In reality, in every conversation on the Internet, there are really only two people speaking. You and a machine. The machine is of course my Lenovo T450 Thinkpad I bought from B&H Photo 3 years ago for 600 bucks. It’s also the Ubuntu Linux operating system, and whatever servers I access on the Internet. Above all, the machine is the coding of the social media platform, the newspaper comments section, or the blogging platform which provides the forum for my online conversation.

The machine isn’t run by ordinary people like you and me. While any undergraduate computer science major can code a social media platform, what actually gets used is determined by a small group of advertisers, and wealthy venture capitalists, the corporate media, and the United States government. Twitter, for example, received a tremendous boost in 2009 during the student protests in Iran when the State Department saw it as a possible way to overthrow the Islamic Republic. The Atlantic even labeled the protests as “Iran’s Twitter Revolution.”

If the United States government sees social media as a useful tool, however, the primary motivation for most big social media companies is profit. From Twitter, Facebook, YouTube all the way down to the comments section at your local newspaper, one principle holds true. “If you’re not paying for something online, you’re the product.” Social media companies want to harvest your personal information, not only for the NSA and CIA, but for advertising companies who want to map trends. While I may have gotten banned from Twitter in February of 2019, my Tweets aren’t going away. You can’t see them, but they’re still on Twitter’s servers. They belong to the machine, forever. In the unlikely event I ever run for President, I guarantee you that the management at Twitter will “accidentally” leak every Tweet I ever made saying “fuck the police” or “long live Hugo Chavez.”

While commenting on social media provides a superficial sense of being empowered — look at me I have all these friends and all these people who think I’m a genius — deep down inside most people realize they’re being exploited, that they are in fact the raw material for a vast data mining operation. When people express their discontent, the way they express their discontent usually provides the machine with even more of their personal data. Pompous white men like me, who rarely have any cause to feel threatened online, will say something like “people on social media are uneducated idiots.” Black people will say “people on social media are racist.” Women will say “people on social media are sexist.” Gay people will say “people on social media are homophobic.” People on the extreme left will say “Twitter and Facebook are fronts for the CIA.” Zionists will say “Palestinians on Facebook are antisemitic.” Social justice warriors will maintain that your words are “actual violence.” Conservatives will say “the Internet is a liberal conspiracy against Donald Trump.” Liberals will argue that everybody who hates them is a Russian bot. Rich, liberal white women who support Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren will demand to see the manager.

That brings us to Bernie Bros, the idea that online supporters of Bernie Sanders are significantly more obnoxious, more sexist, and more racist than supporters of his Democratic opponents. While Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg have taken the place of Hillary Clinton as the most prominent critics of Sanders’s supporters online, the term dates from a 2015 article in The Atlantic by a writer named Robinson Meyer. While Meyer has since rebranded himself as a climate change specialist, he got his start in journalism writing hit pieces against followers of the long shot progressive Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The Berniebro,” Meyer wrote, taking advantage of the fashionable anti-hipster sentiment of the day,”is someone you may only have encountered if you’re somewhat similar to him: white; well-educated; middle-class (or, delicately, “upper middle-class”); and aware of NPR podcasts and jangly bearded bands.” But Meyer’s real objection to “Bernie Bros” wasn’t that they were hipsters. It was that they were socialists.

The Berniebro doesn’t really have a good answer when you ask why the Democratic Party, which has spent six years explaining how its market-based health-care policies aren’t socialist, would ever find national success nominating an actual democratic socialist.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/here-comes-the-berniebro-bernie-sanders/411070/

As I have written previously, unlike the Republican Party, which is a rock solid alliance of big business and social conservatism, the Democratic Party is fundamentally split between a largely progressive, even social democratic base, and a reactionary, neoliberal elite. While the former want the party to address the material needs of the American working class, the latter want more money for the military and intelligence agencies and less money for public healthcare. The former want to talk about Medicare for All. The latter want to talk about Russia. Nevertheless the Democratic Party elite do not consider themselves conservatives. They consider themselves the most moral, open minded progressive people in the world. Thus, they’re shocked by just how far right, and how far left the American people have been polarized over the past decade. Every time a “Bernie Bro” accuses an elite, Ivy League Democrat of being part of the “establishment” the elite, Ivy League Democrat suddenly feels a bit like Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man. He’s not so hip anymore. There’s something going on and he don’t know what it is.

Thus, in response of the precipitous lurch of the Democratic Party rank and file to the social democratic left, the Democratic Party elite had to find some way to manufacture the illusion of popular support online. They started out by weaponizing the traditional loyalty black voters in the South had to the Democratic Party, conveniently omitting the historical process whereby African Americans, traditionally loyal to the “Party of Lincoln,” switched to the Democrats in the 1930s to support Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. In 2016 there was no way Sanders, an independent from a small, mostly white state in Northern New England with little or no name recognition among black voters in the South, would take the South Carolina primary. Clinton supporters, however, didn’t say “nobody in South Carolina knows who Sanders is and James Clyburn is going to endorse Hillary anyway.” They said “Bernie has trouble speaking to black people,” implying that the working class Jewish progressive who had relatives die in the Holocaust was a racist. Sanders had also said some admittedly “problematic” things about immigrants lowering wages for the white working class, a position he has since reversed making him the overwhelming favorite among Hispanics.

The Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party elite, however, went beyond simply calling Sanders a racist to make him unpalatable to African American voters in the south. They weaponized discontent about social media in order to suppress the Democratic Party’s working class base. As has been widely reported, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party elite have always had a close connection to Silicon Valley. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard professor and Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration, has written extensively about how the elites can suppress popular discontent online, going so far as to suggest that the elites perform “cognitive infiltrations” against conspiracy theorists, who are still mostly on the far right, but which Sunstein made clear included anybody who attributed nefarious motives to the American ruling class.

The idea that Donald Trump is some kind of master of social media is ridiculous. Trump is a grotesque racist cretin who got lucky. He also started Tweeting with a substantial base built by big money libertarianism and the institutional far right. Starting with The Drudge Report in the 1990s, through Bush’s “war bloggers” in the early 2000s, to the massive troll armies funded by the Koch Brothers during the Obama administration, the far right has always had a massive presence online. Trying to hold a debate on the Internet can often seem a bit like wandering into a digital Klan rally. Just take a look at the comments section of you local newspaper someday. It’s actually gotten so bad in the local New Jersey media that the Star Ledger has decided to do away with comments altogether. On the other hand, from 2015 to 2020, the Sanders campaign has done something remarkable. They’ve provided the working class rank and file of the Democratic Party with a platform to express their discontent. While Sanders may not win the Democratic Party nomination, he has given voice to the millennial generation left out in the cold after the great recession of 2008, to traditional progressives like me who have watched the Democratic Party sell out to Wall Street and the military industrial complex our entire lives, to libertarian Republicans who are starting to realize that Donald Trump has no intention of draining the swamp in Washington.

Thus, the Democratic Party elite decided to weaponize discontent online, discontent with both establishment parties as well as with social media media in general, not against Donald Trump and the far right, a fight they know they’ll lose badly, but against the left. Accuse a conservative of being racist or sexist and he’ll laugh in your face. Accuse an earnest young leftist, however, and he’ll immediately wonder what he did wrong. Nobody on the left wants to be racist, sexist or antisemitic. Taking a page from the Israel Lobby, the Clinton Campaign mobilized the best instincts of the left against the left itself, making bad faith accusations that would lead to introspective apologies, which would immediately lead to more bad faith accusations. Eventually Sanders supporters would be left with two equally bad options. On one hand they could keep apologizing. On the other hand, they could take a page from the far right, tell their accusers to go fuck themselves, and quite unintentionally alienate potential allies from more vulnerable backgrounds, women, blacks, gays, immigrants, who would come to see “Bernie Bros” as no better than Trump supporters. Women, gays, African Americans and immigrants who supported Sanders as fervently as young, college educated white men could be conveniently ignored. Sanders spokespeople like Nina Turner and Briahna Joy Gray, both African American, could be demonized as “misfit black girls” similar to the way Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights like Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky have always been demonized as “self-hating Jews.”

Will it work? In the short run I think it’s failed. Bernie Sanders is now the front runner to be the Democratic candidate for President, and in the fall the Democratic Party elite will probably take a dive, move to throw the election to Donald Trump. In the long run, however, I think it’s important to remember that the working class doesn’t own the machine, that if social media opens the door to too much democracy the Silicon Valley elites will just shut it down. That’s why I think it’s important to rebuild the open source Internet of the 1990s and early 2000s, to get off of corporate social media and build our own platform.

The People of Nevada Say “No” to CIA Interference in American Elections

dulles

Sorry Allen, you got JFK. You’re not going to get Bernie.

The night before the Nevada caucuses, “someone in the intelligence community” leaked information that Vladimir Putin and the Russians were trying to help Bernie Sanders win the Democratic nomination for President. Establishment liberals at The Daily Kos, MSNBC, and the New York Times, who had been pushing Elizabeth Warren all week as a possible “unity candidate” at the Democratic National Convention in July, quickly split into two camps, the extremists who believed that Putin was trying to make Bernie the nominee because he’s sure Sanders will lose to Trump in the Fall, and the moderates, who believe the big bad Russian bogeyman is simply trying to sow chaos in what remains of the Democratic process in the United States. The people of Nevada, however, many of whom are working class Hispanics, made their views clear, a crushing victory for Bernie Sanders.

I don’t think the progressive media have sufficiently addressed the idea that, unlike dumb, white Boomers and Gen Xers like me, Latinos have a very sophisticated understanding of just how much of a deadly enemy “the intelligence community” of the United States — the muscle of the ruling class WASP American mafia — has always been to democracy. If you want to call Fidel Castro an “authoritarian” fine, but you also have to address the way the CIA overthrew the democratic government of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala, opening the door to the genocide of the indigenous in the 1980s, and the social democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile. Castro may have been an authoritarian, but unlike Allende and JFK, he lived well into old age. Saying that the “CIA aren’t really the good guys” is an understatement. They’re literal Nazis, and I don’t mean “American Nazis.” I mean literal Nazis who helped dozens of major German war criminals escape the Nuremberg Trials, and set up Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s Eastern European intelligence chief, as the President of the Federal Intelligence Service of West Germany.

Not surprisingly, their “intelligence assessment” that Vladimir Putin was trying to rig the primaries in Bernie’s favor “appears to have been overstated.”

Washington (CNN)The US intelligence community’s top election security official appears to have overstated the intelligence community’s formal assessment of Russian interference in the 2020 election, omitting important nuance during a briefing with lawmakers earlier this month, three national security officials told CNN.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/23/politics/intelligence-briefer-russian-interference-trump-sanders/index.html

Better luck next time assholes.

USA! USA! USA!

On the 40th anniversary of their shocking victory over the Soviet Union in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team was back in the spotlight this weekend — but in the eyes of some observers, it was more for political than patriotic reasons.

Members of the gold medal-winning “Miracle on Ice” squad, including team captain Mike Eruzione, appeared on stage at a Las Vegas rally Friday night for President Donald Trump wearing red hats emblazoned with Trump’s “Keep America Great” slogan.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2020/02/23/1980-miracle-ice-team-defends-appearance-trump-rally-vegas/4850510002/

The first time I ever heard the moronic “USA USA USA” chant was in 1980.

All through the 1970s, the American media had presented the Soviet Olympic hockey team as an unbeatable team of supermen, a gang of Ivan Dragos on ice. What’s more, very few of the best NHL players back then were Americans. Most were Canadians. I used to be a big fan of New York Rangers center Phil Esposito. The fact that he had a name that sounded like any New Jersey Italian only added to the appeal. We didn’t have the Internet back then. You couldn’t just Google. So when my uncle remarked that Esposito wasn’t from New Jersey and that he wasn’t even an American I refused to believe it. “No way Uncle Charlie. I go to school with 5 or 6 guys named Esposito. He’s got to be from New Jersey.” Later, in the small bookstore they used to have at the Two Guys department store on Route 22 in Union, when I looked up Esposito’s name in The Encyclopedia of Hockey, I realized the horrible truth. He was Canadian, born in some place I couldn’t even pronounce, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

You can imagine my joy, therefore, When I turned 15, and the American hockey team made its run for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Neal Broten, Ken Morrow, Mike Ramsey, Dave Christian, Mark Pavelich, none of them were Russians or dirty Canadians. Each and every one of them was a one hundred percent, red, white and blue American from the Midwest, a place I had never been to but was convinced was more truly American than New Jersey. When they beat the Russians, it felt like we had won the Cold War. While the “USA USA USA” chant had been ubiquitous in the media, I had refrained from joining in myself, but when NHL great Ken Dryden — alas another Canadian — started his famous count down in the last few seconds of the final game, I couldn’t help myself. “USA USA USA,” I shouted, “USA USA USA.” My father, who was zonked out on the couch in the next room, was having none of it, former United States Marine though he was. “Shut the hell up,” he shouted. “I’m trying to sleep.”

I even brought my patriotic fervor to school. To understand what that meant, you have to understand that I went to an urban high school just outside of Newark, New Jersey where being a leftist was not only socially acceptable. Thirteen years after the Newark Riot and five years after the last American helicopter took off from that roof in Saigon, it was almost socially required. Millennials, you cannot imagine what the world was like before 9/11. In spite of the fact that Ronald Reagan had just been elected President, most people hated the United States military. In fact, Reagan was never quite as popular as the corporate media would have you believe. He won mostly because of the incompetence of the increasingly neoliberal Democrats. Remember when Walter Mondale promised to raise taxes during his run for the Presidency? You don’t but I do. In any event, I sometimes have trouble understanding all of the outrage over Colin Kaepernick. In my high school, nobody was required to say the Pledge of Allegiance. They simply read it over the loudspeaker during homeroom and you could stand if you wanted. Nobody did. In fact, standing for the Flag Salute was considered the mark of an asskissing stooge, and doing it put you at the risk of having your ass kicked in the parking lot. But that February I didn’t care. I not only stood for the flag salute, when it was all over I kept standing.

“USA USA USA,” I chanted. “USA USA USA.”

“Oh sit the fuck down you dumb Polack,” one of my classmates said. “You’re being a fucking retard.”

“Fuck you,” I shouted back. “USA USA USA. And nuke the fucking Iranians.”

At that moment, our homeroom teacher — I forget his name but I do remember he was friends with the guy who wrote the novel The Exorcist — told us both to take our seats.

“Mr. Holmes,” he said to my antagonist. “Ethnic slurs and profanity will not be tolerated in my homeroom. And Mr. Rogouski,” he added, “neither will calls for genocide.”

“Genocide” I said. “What’s that?”

I sometimes wonder what I would have been like if Carter had won in 1980 and the United States had not gone down such a right wing path. I wasn’t really a super patriot back then. In fact, the next year I became an atheist after I finally saw Life of Brian by Monty Python on cable TV. I had been too young to see it in the theater. The ticket clerks, mostly older high school kids, had insisted on seeing my driver’s license to prove I was 18 and old enough to go unaccompanied into an R rated movie. They wouldn’t give me a break. Monty Python, not Karl Marx, turned me into a leftist. In any event, I wasn’t a genuine super patriot when I was 15. I had simply gotten it into my head that everybody else in the world was a dirty Vietcong worshipping hippie who hated their country and didn’t care that the Iranians were humiliating us each and every day. Being a super patriot was a way to be a rebel. Being a pot smoking leftist who listened to too much heavy metal would have meant being a miserable conformist. The American Olympic Hockey team of 1980 wasn’t the “dream team” that dominated the basketball court 12 years later. They were underdogs who seemingly had no chance of winning.

Now it’s the opposite. In spite of the rise of Bernie Sanders, we still have a racist, right-wing President and every white man in New Jersey over the age of 40 seems like some sort of Republican or “libertarian.” At best, they’re “economically conservative and socially liberal.” And the American hockey team of 1980? To nobody’s surprise they’re attending Trump rallies. Too bad they’re not Canadians. At least they’d have better healthcare.

Bernie Sanders: The American Léon Blum

In 1936, after he formed the leftist “Popular Front” in France, Léon Blum became the first Jewish leader of a major western European power. Benjamin Disraeli, who served as Prime Minster of the United Kingdom in the 1870s, was an ethnic Jew, but had been converted to Christianity in 1812 by his parents. The election of Blum as Prime Minister, who was a disciple of the great French socialist leader Jean Jaurès, the moderate social democrat who had led the struggle to free Alfred Dreyfus in the late 19th Century, caused a ferocious antisemitic backlash on the extreme right. French conservatives in the late 1930s would regularly raise their glasses with the toast “better Adolf Hitler than Léon Blum.” They meant it. When Germany invaded France in 1940, France was already in the middle of a low-grade civil war, socialists against nationalists, Catholics against secularists. Blum, who refused to leave France during the German occupation, paid a high price for his moral courage. The Vichy government Pierre Laval and Philippe Pétain had him deported to Germany, where he spent most of the war in a concentration camp.

Blum was among “The Vichy 80”, a minority of parliamentarians that refused to grant full powers to Marshal Pétain. He was arrested by the authorities in September and held until 1942, when he was put on trial in the Riom Trial on charges of treason, for having “weakened France’s defenses” by ordering her arsenal shipped to Spain, leaving France’s infantry unsupported by heavy artillery on the eastern front against Nazi Germany. He used the courtroom to make a “brilliant indictment” of the French military and pro-German politicians like Pierre Laval. The trial was such an embarrassment to the Vichy regime that the Germans ordered it called off. He was transferred to German custody and imprisoned in Germany until 1945.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A9on_Blum

Say want you want about the French, they like clarity, especially clarity of language. When a Frenchman’s a Nazi, he comes out and says it. When he’s an Islamophobe, he picks up the latest copy of Charlie Hebdo and chuckles over the obscene drawings of the prophet. Here in the United States, on the other hand, where culturally you’re also an Anglo Saxon and a Calvinist, whatever your religion or ethnicity, the very worst Nazis tend to believe that they’re the very best, most moral people in the world. Sexual, moral, intellectual and political repression have damaged the American mind. That brings us to Chris Mathews, the gross neoconservative cable news pundit who masquerades as a moderate Democrat on Russia obsessed MSNBC. After the Vice Presidential debate in 2004, Mathews, who bragged about how he voted for George W. Bush twice, was so taken with Dick Cheney’s performance over the admittedly hollow John Edwards, he almost seemed like a 1990s high-school girl swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. When the far-right-wing Democrat Zell Miller, who by that time was far into senile dementia,  threatened him on the air, you almost got the sense that he was ready to be Miller’s prison bitch.

You can always tell what a right-wing American like Chris Mathews thinks by what he accuses you of thinking. Indeed, if you hacked open an American neoconservative’s brain, you’d probably find two little men, one labeled “straw man” and the other labeled “projection” running on a hamster wheel. While the most prominent face of MSNBC and the most prominent Russiagate conspiracy theorist is of course Rachel Maddow, the guiding intellectual light behind MSNBC is Chris Mathews. Mathews, who’s now venturing into the same shadow of senile dementia as Zell Miller had been in 1994, has veto power over who gets hired and who gets fired at MSNBC. If you want to know why an otherwise decent liberal like Chris Hayes watches himself so carefully, it’s basically because he’s afraid of Chris Mathews. And now Mathews has compared the victory of Bernie Sanders in Nevada to Rommel’s Blitzkrieg in France. So get ready for the inevitable when Mathews, Maddow, Jennifer Rubin, David Frum and the rest of the “never Trump” neoconservative far right soon change their tune. There has always been a strong whiff of antisemitism about Russiagate. Get ready for the mask to come off. I can already hear them.

“Better Donald Trump than Bernie Sanders.”

A spectre is haunting the Democratic Party — the spectre of democracy.

All the powers of the Democratic Party estabilishment have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Warren and Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden, elite white feminists and liberal media pundits.

Where is any working class political activist that has not been decried as a bro or a Russian troll by Wall Street, neoliberal Democrats? Where is the billionaire donor class that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against even the old isolationist right, as well as any proposal to revive the social democratic ideals of the New Deal?

Two things result from this fact:

1.) Seemingly struck down by the hand of neoliberal capitalism, the idea of democracy is acknowledged by Wall Street and its lackeys to be making a comeback.

2.) It is high time that we the believers in traditional American democracy  should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish our views, our aims, our tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of democracy with a manifesto of the ideals on which this country was founded.

To this end, you might want to read this. And maybe this. Oh yeah, this too.

Michael Bloomberg is Didius Julianus

n 193 AD, after the death of Commodus, a wealthy oligarch named Didius Julianus bought the throne of the Roman Empire.

With Sulpicianus on the inside and Didius Julianus without the two men began to make offers to the soldiers for their support. Monetary offers were waged against one another until ultimately Didius Julianus purchased the throne for 25,000 sesterces per Praetorian, according to contemporary historian and senator Dio Cassius. (With 10 double strength praetorian cohorts of approx. 800 men, the total payment may have been as much as 200 million sesterces or 50 million denarii). The Historia Augusta suggests that Didius Julianus actually ended up paying some 30,000 sesterces but another contemporary (Herodian, though a child at the time) disputes this entirely, suggesting that the funds simply weren’t available to make good on the promised payments.

https://www.unrv.com/decline-of-empire/didius-julianus.php