Friday, February 5, 2016

Bernie Sanders: Progressive, Socialist, or just Liberal?

Is Bernie Sanders a really a Socialist or just another Liberal?

I cannot point out too many times that people tend to see specific word as representing a specific, real object. But we all have the experience that one word can mean many things, and that specific things may have more than one name. Words of the day: socialist and progressive.

The Democratic Party Presidential debate in New Hampshire on February 4, 2016 provided lessons in both semantics and real politics. It was a long debate. Anyone who listened to it, or who reads the transcript, might reasonably select different points to emphasizing in reporting on it. Not surprisingly, Bernie advocates believe he won the debate, while Hillary advocates believe she won the debate.

I am not concerned with who "won" the debate. I am not registered in any political party, but I certainly have a political agenda. And I have priorities. I put the environment first, international peace and justice second, and American economic & legal justice third. But I have an opinion about just about every detail of politics, society and culture.

To me the debate was an important read on Bernie Sanders' foreign policy. Hillary Clinton is too hawkish for my taste, but of course she is much closer to mainstream sentiments than I am.

Bernie harps on Clinton's vote to attack Iraq (which was a war crime, if you use the Nuremberg criteria for war crimes). But Bernie's rabble rousing speeches always fail to mention his vote to attack Afghanistan (which was a war crime, if you use the Nuremberg criteria for war crimes). When pointed out, he changes the subject, as he did in the debate. When it is pointed out to his supporters, they usually go back to the Clinton Iraq vote.

In the debate there was a second part to the question. Both Hillary and Bernie were asked, by the moderators: what would you do about the U.S. troops currently in Iraq. Hillary gave a clear answer without hesitation: she would leave the troops there, subject to the situation changing. Bernie tried to evade answering, but when pinned down said, or I should say mumbled, that he would leave the troops there.

Bernie is also for fighting ISIS, preferably with other nation's armies. It is a hypocritical position for someone who claims he has been screaming for 50 years about American job losses. Isn't killing ISIS soldiers a paid job? Why should that skilled labor go to foreigners?

Forgive me if I wax sarcastic. It's the "I'm perfect," from Bernie, "He's perfect" from his chorus of followers chanting that has become irritating. But then I'm from California, in fact northern California, where a Bernie Bot seems to be lurking in every smoke-filled room. No, not tobacco.

In short, when pushed to comment, Bernie was just as hawkish as Hillary. Too hawkish for me.

I was surprised and pleased that Hillary finally started poking at Bernie's allegedly perfect Progressive credentials. I think earlier in the campaign she and her advisors assumed she would beat Bernie easily. She did not want to alienate his followers, as she will need their support in November. But his follows drank his kool-aid, not knowing, as he himself remembers, what a bad little boy he has been these past thirty years.

Hillary pointed out that he voted to deregulate derivatives. Bernie did not deny it, he just went on to change the subject. Bernie Bots would be all over Hillary if she did something like that. They would claim it is proof that she is just a pawn for Goldman Sachs. But in all the commentary I've read today (admittedly just a fraction of what there is), I have seen no Bernie Bot criticizing Bernie for that vote. Maybe Bernie Bots don't know what a financial derivative is.

The Democratic Party is no home for Socialists. I would say the Democratic Party is socialist-influenced. Sanders bought the socialist line in college (so did I). Now, in his dotage, apparently doing something about it is on his bucket list. Great. Do something about it, if you can. I personally favor mixed systems, though I would probably argue about what specifically should be socialized and what should be left to free markets. Also I favor worker ownership of business, not the centralized government bureaucratic ownership of business that Sanders favors. Though I might make an exception in some cases, like localities owning their own utility companies.

So hurray for Bernie, but I've had enough of old white socialist male domination in my lifetime (most of my friends were fellow leftist activists). I'd like to try old white female liberal domination for 4 years, especially since the alternative is Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

I have watched a lot of bullying done by Bernie supporters both on the Internet and in my local area. At the comments section of the New York Times, for instance, you would think 98% of the Democratic Party voters favor Bernie. I've found that if I even hint to many voters around here that Hillary might be the better candidate, suddenly they want to talk. The rabidness of the Bernie Bullies is not something they can turn off. Most people need that personality defect to maintain a leftist stance in America. But bullying does not a Democracy make.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Nazi Party Before Adolf Hitler

"Hitler is a good Catholic." — Rudolf Hess, May 17, 1921

Adolf Hitler became "Party Comrade No. 55" in the fall of 1919 in the city of Munich in province of Bavaria in Germany. The Armistice that had ended World War I had been signed on November 11, 1918, while Hitler was in a hospital, recovering from poison gas used by the Allies against German soldiers. If you no anything about history at all, you probably know that Hitler went on to become the Chancellor of Germany and is generally considered the baddest of bad guys of the 20th century.

The party that Hitler joined, and quickly became the leader of, was not yet known as the Nazi Party. It was the German Workers Party (Deutsche Arbeiter Partei or DAP). At that time its members were all in Munich. The DAP was part of a broader trend of mostly small parties and clubs that were trying to combine nationalism with socialism. This trend was a spontaneous response to the combination of national sentiment with socialist thinking that was global in scope. The main line of development that led to the DAP originated in Austria, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the empire broke up at the end of World War I.

In Austria Roman Catholicism was the only legal religion. "In the face of the dual threat posed by socialism and capitalism, the Christian Social Party succeeded in attracting workers, shopkeepers, and white collar workers with national-social and anti-semitic catchphrases." [Bracher p. 51]

By origin Adolf Hitler was Austrian, not German. Yet the dividing line between Austria and Germany was an artificial consequence of politics. Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Braunau am Inn, on the Bavarian-Austrian border. The Austrian Empire had many ethnic groups, but the key rivalry that led to national socialist ideology was between ethnic Germans and ethnic Czechs. Despite the Marxist idea that class divisions were more important than ethnic divisions, within the Empire many labor unions ending up splitting along ethnic lines. Union workers wanted a party that fought the capitalist bosses, but they did not want to work with other ethnic groups.

The Roman Catholic Church contributed three critical components to the national socialist mix: anti-Semitism, the leadership principle, and corporatism. It should be noted that is was not the only source of these practices. Leninism, in particular, contributed strongly to the idea that an authoritarian party organization was necessary to seize power.

People and ideas moved freely from the German ethnic areas of the Austrian Empire to Bavaria. The first German Workers Party had been founded in Bohemia in 1904, but was centered in Linz, where Adolf Hitler went to school. As a young adult Hitler lived in Vienna (painting postcards but mostly living off money sent by his family) and read pamphlets written by German nationalist-socialist and Catholic anti-semitic groups, but did not join any.

The Bavarian version of the German Workers Party, or DAP, was founded at a conference held between January 2 and 5, 1919, at the Furstenfelder Hof. The founders were Anton Drexler and twenty-five of his coworkers from his railroad shop. At the time Munich had just passed through an attempted seizure of power by leftists that had been put down by the German military, police, and their right-wing allies. The DAP was just one of many such groups and conspiracies.

Hitler was in the employ of the military when he first contacted the DAP. Essentially, he was their military liaison. He was 30 years old. He already was anti-semitic, a German nationalist, and anti-capitalist, though he had never been a worker receiving a wage from a capitalist boss. As an soldier he was angry at Germany's loss of the war. The signing of the peace treaty at Versailles on June 28, 1919 gave a strong impetus to all right-wing groups in Germany. It was grossly unfair to Germany and did not keep the promises U.S. President Woodrow Wilson made to induce Germany to stop fighting. [Wilson tried to keep his promises, but was overruled by the British and French Empires.]

Within a few months Hitler became the most important person in the DAP, mainly because he devoted himself to it full time, whereas Drexler continued to work at the railroad shop. Hitler focused his recruiting on former soldiers, rather than the factory workers the DAP had been founded on.

On February 24, 1920, the Party had its first mass meeting. There Hitler introduced a new name, the National Socialist German Workers Party, or NSDAP, which connected it ideologically to nationalist socialist groups in Austria. He also introduced the revised party program of 25 points.

When thinking about the Nazis and World War II, there is a critical point that is always left out of the American and Vatican propaganda versions of Nazi history. It is best to just quote the point, number 24: "The Party as such advocates the standpoint of positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination."

Apologists for the Catholic Church later tried to (and still try to) use the adjective "positive" to deny that the Nazi party, like the Italian, French, Austrian, Polish and Spanish fascist parties, was aligned with the Roman Catholic Church. Hitler, an astute politician, talked almost constantly. By selecting carefully, a propagandist can make him sound like an atheist, a good Roman Catholic, or a pagan.

It was ultimately the Pope and the German military that together selected Hitler to be Chancellor of Germany. The explicitly Roman Catholic parliamentary party in Germany confirmed that selection.

Hitler was not just the head of the National Socialists in Germany. The National Socialists of Austria quickly accepted him as their leader as well. The Austrian national socialists were almost exclusively good Roman Catholics. The Austrian Roman Catholic Church was particularly anti-semitic.

The most reasonable interpretation of the phrase "without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination" was to leave room to recruit Lutherans, not just Catholics. In Bavaria almost everyone (except leftist atheists) was a Catholic. But Hitler wanted to rule Germany, which was majority Lutheran. Not a particular problem for Hitler, since Lutherans had been anti-semitic going back to Martin Luther himself.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Immigration Amnesty is Racist, Sexist, Classist and destructive to the environment

There is a lot of talk about immigration right now. It is a teaching moment. Political candidates who want to be President are talking a lot of nonsense.

Start with the basic facts:

The U.S. is overpopulated and creates more ecological destruction per human than any other country on earth (yes, including China).

The economy can not be expanded infinitely.

There has been growing economic inequality.

Immigration amnesties lead to further illegal immigration.

Illegal immigrants mostly compete for the lowest paying jobs. Even legal immigrants tend to compete for entry level jobs, though some are wealthy or educated enough to join the upper class or upple middle class as soon as they get here.

Who else competes for the lowest paying jobs in America? High-school dropouts, and even graduates, of course. That means mainly children of people who themselves are marginally employed or work regularly, but for low wages. Working class and welfare class women. And, disproportionately, people who have traditionally been discriminated against, including African-Americans, American Indians, etc.

The people who advocate for immigration amnesty, and hence for unlimited future immigration to the U.S., are well-intended. They see it as a human rights issue.

And there are long-term benefits to immigration for the economy. More people means more demand and more workers, and so more GDP. Legalized immigrants can better match their talents to the job markets. That is why the Republican establishment used to lead in advocating for more immigration, including immigration amnesty. That is why the largest single amnesty was put in place in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan.

The immediate impact of new immigrants, whether legal or illegal, is pressure on those jobs that require little skill to perform. They are often hard jobs. This includes childcare, cleaning services, and unskilled physical labor. These are exactly the jobs that unskilled citizens, including poor white, black, and hispanic citizens also want. The competition for these jobs pushes down wages, often to below the official minimum wages. It makes finding full time work difficult, except perhaps during brief economic booms. It makes it even harder for families that have been in the United States for generations to accumulate the resources necessary to climb out of the bottom of the working class.

That is why labor unions, otherwise pretty liberal and supporters of the Democratic Party, have traditionally been for minimal immigration.

The effect on the U.S. and global environment is also negative. Most illegal immigrants come here because they are greedy and want to have a higher standard of living than they would have in their native nation. To the extent they achieve that they are using more energy and other natural resources. They are generating more greenhouse gasses, and they are speeding up global warming.

In an ideal world the idea that "all men are created equal" might mean that men and women could move freely, to live wherever they want. We don't live in an ideal world. We live on a dying earth where most nations are already populated beyond what is sustainable. That is particularly true of the United States.

What we really need is a one-child policy in the United States. Mexico needs a one-child policy. So does Canada. So does nearly every nation on earth.

So what is wrong with my dear liberal and leftist friends? They are mostly herd animals, and they are not much for thinking for themselves. They "buy" a package of positions on issues that make them feel good about themselves. They want an environmentalist merit badge and a human rights merit badge. On many issues those badges are quite compatible.

But not for immigration. Increasing immigration and anything that encourages illegal immigration are positions that have practical consquences. They help rich white employers and bankers. They hurt working class men and women, and disproportionately hurt black workers. And they hurt the environment.

Congress should change the immigration law to allow in a number of immigrants each year that will not have a negative impact on employment for unskilled citizens. Congress should not grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.