Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ralph Nader Should Not Run

Ralph Nader announced another independent candidacy for President today. I am against him running for President. Let me count the ways.

But first let's note that I have no problem with Raph's run in 2000 on the Green Party ticket. He saved the nation from Al Gore. In post-2000 America, Al Gore is the darling of liberals and environmentalists. But up until 2000 Gore could easily have passed for a Republican. He was vice-president for 8 years and did zero about global warming. He pushed the global trade agreements that have been so destructive to the environment and to working people. As a Senator and Vice-President he never saw a military budget appropriation he did not like. We should all be glad he has since done some good work promoting an understanding of global warming, but that does not erase his pre-2000 record.

In 2004 Ralph Nader, revealing his core arrogance, demanded that all independents and third-parties drop to their knees and genuflect before him. Within the Green Party he was challenged by another pubic interest attorney, David Cobb. Rather than running in the Green primaries and going to speak at Green state nominating conventions (most states have laws designed to keep the Green Party off the ballot), Ralph just demanded that the Green Party endorse him and not run a Green Party candidate. David Cobb got the nomination. Even then Nader and his supporters tried to steal Green Party ballot lines at the state level. It was ugly and it revealed how dishonest Mr. Nader and his camp followers can be when they want something. It was a sad end to a long career.

But like General Franco of old, Nader refuses to die. He is nearly 74 years old (See Nader bio at Wikipedia). Maybe he's inspired by John McCain.

Nader said he had held back from announcing yet another run because John Edwards (now out of the race) was saying good things. Yet Ralph is not willing to support Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman from Georgia, in her bid for the Green Party nomination. Cynthia McKinney is far closer to Ralph politically than John Edwards.

I think Ralph is a closet sexist and a racist. He demanded seatbelts for cars but he never was a leader for civil rights for blacks, Hispanics, or women. Not that everyone can do every kind of activism, but he sure seems to have missed that one of the Green Party Ten Key Values, feminism, might mean letting there be a female Green Presidential candidate for the first time in U.S. Green Party history. At this point, if Ralph keeps Cythia off the Green Party ballot line, I'll vote for some party that does nominate a woman or non-white candidate. It is way past time.

Ralph's legacy is being flushed down the toilet by his senile egocentric obstinacy. He should have supported Cynthia McKinney.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Barack Obama and Andrew Jackson

You might think it makes sense to compare to Barack Obama, contender for the Democratic Party's nomination for President, with Andrew Jackson, the first President who was a member of the Democratic Party. Barack Obama inspires the same great hopes in his followers that Andrew Jackson did almost 2 centuries ago.

Or if you know a little more about Andrew Jackson, for instance that his wealth came partly from slavery (not just working slaves on his plantation, but actively trading them and even breaking up African-American families to make a profit), you might think this essay will show how far the Democratic Party has come since it was the party first of slavery, then of the Confederacy, and then of segregation.

But despite some substantial policy and personality differences, Barack Obama and Andrew Jackson are similar in the way they campaign(ed). Just as Jackson's followers were surprised at his actions in the White House, so Obama's followers may be surprised if their leader ever makes it to the White House.

Andrew Jackson was made of sterner stuff than Barack Obama. He started killing men early. He killed white gentlemen for disagreeing with him and he killed Indians because he wanted their land. In the course of killing people, during the War of 1812, after killing some Indians who were defending their land and ancient way of life, he found himself in command of what passed for a U.S. army in the Battle of New Orleans. He did not really win the battle, and in fact almost lost it because he failed to allocate proper strength to his right wing across the river, but the British took some heavy losses and retreated. The war, as every schoolchild knows, was actually already over, the peace treaty had been signed, but communications were so slow back then that it took weeks for the news of peace to spread to the far-flung armies.

Around that time and into the 1820's there was a lot of popular discontent with the old Republican or Anti-Federalist party that controlled Washington. In addition, especially in the frontier states, most white men were becoming able to vote (originally, in most states, only wealthy white men were allowed to vote). The only thing most of these newly enfranchised farmers and workers knew about Andrew Jackson was that he "won the Battle of New Orleans." A new political party of "outs" was coalescing. They choose Andrew Jackson as their Julius Caesar. To the wealthy eastern elite Jackson and his followers, this new Democratic Party, seemed as dangerous as the revolutionaries of Republican France.

In fact, Jackson did little or nothing for his followers except to give appointments to lucrative civil service offices to some who had been prominent in his campaign. His inner circle were men who were rich and powerful. Jackson continued ruling class policies: slavery, confiscation of Indian land, and a legal system that prioritized private property above civic responsibility.

Thus a dangerous moment in American history, for the ruling class, was turned to greater profit.

I don't think Barack Obama has ever killed anyone, which I suppose is a plus. I believe that he started as an activist working for the people; he was one of them. But I see little in his public service that indicates he is a catalyst of change. He has not caused any problems for the U.S. ruling class during his career as Senator. In fact he does not seem to have caused any problems for anyone at anytime.

Barack's campaign is all about hope and change, it is emotionally charged and it has swept up the gullible. But from my point of view he has failed every key litmus test:

1. He joined a party with a history of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
2. He has not pissed off anyone important during his term as Senator.
3. He has not made a serious effort to stop the war from within the Senate.

So all I can see clearly is that he is not George W. Bush. Which is the American tradition: change the officeholders, maybe even change the rhetoric, but keep the system intact.

Now that does not mean that he might not be a Harry Truman (the good Truman, not the war criminal who ordered atomic weapons dropped on the Japanese). He might be better in office than his past behavior would lead me to expect.

Change for the good requires backbone and a bit of aggressiveness and willingness to upset the applecart. I see none of those qualities in Barack Obama.

I think there is a 98% chance that the Obama campaign is all about jive. Going to really screw the oppressed? A sector of the cynical ruling elite might just think that is best done in black face.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Saving, Spending, and the Federal Reserve

Those who give advice have told the American people, for decades, that they should spend less and save more. Apparently towards the end of 2007 Americans, or enough of them anyway, finally learned their lesson and cut back on spending. Now Wall Street and their servants at the Federal Reserve Board are in a panic. Their plan: cut interest rates, inject credit into the big banks, and get Americans over-spending again. Add to this the genius of politicians who will use this opportunity to do some more tax cuts and run up a higher federal deficit, and you have an election year.

You had to be really an idiot to believe in 2006 that house prices would go up forever. One might forgive the folly of some people who just wanted to own a home, but speculators and lenders should have known better. Even those who wanted to own a home were doing the typical American fatter-is-better thing: people who could easily afford a 1000 square foot home were taking out jumbo mortgages to move into 3500 square foot homes. For a year a two the American Dream, typified in the Beverly Hillbillies, had come true. Even a clerk at WalMart could get a loan to move into a MacMansion. People with real job skills were buying palaces. And the truly spendthrift, who bought houses before 2005 and saw their on-paper value of their comparables double or triple, added to their mortgage debt so they too could lead the American version of the good life.

So now interest rates are being cut down to practically nothing. It is mainly to save the greedy idiots who ran the big banks and brokerage houses, the Citicorps and Merill Lynches and Morgan Chases. It will help Americans spend their way through the slowdown or recession. It will lower interest rates on CDs, stressing out senior citizens. The Fed is bringing another truckload of bad hooch to the party. Hooray!

So is saving money bad? Is being thrifty bad? Is buying a Corolla instead of a Hummer bad? Is living in a 1000 square foot house bad?

According to the Fed and the creatures that pass for financial reporters in the U.S., saving is good for individuals, but bad for the economy. The savers loan to the spendthrifts and on we tumble; everyone can't save.

Of course all you have to do is look outside America to see that national economies don't have to be based on a spendthrift culture to grow. China is a good, big example. People save more their. This creates a virtuous cycle (if economic growth is the goal): savings is invested in production. Rising production allows for more consumption and more savings.

Americans, from the Fed to the average Jack and Jill, have forgotten about the value of productivity. Ignore for the moment the ecological impact of all this. Think: if we produce more we can sell more, locally, nationally, and globally. Then we can save more and even spend a little bit more too.

Well, a lot of houses were built in the U.S. between 2000 and 2007. They were big houses that require a lot of carbon fuel to keep warm in winter or cool in summer. So here's a project: lets split them all in half. Half a MacMansion should be plenty of room for most families. And affordable too.

How about a 3 month home construction holiday? Give the workers a rest and a vacation. Allow some of the excess inventory to be absorbed. When people see that prices are no longer falling, what with ultra-low mortgage interest rates being in the vogue again, the market will get on an even keel.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Presidential Power and Primary Horse Races

Political consultants and media outlets that play political ads are rejoicing at the outcome of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire Presidential nomination primary. No clear victor has emerged, though some lesser lights have been eliminated from the Democratic Party and Republican Party contest. The first contested Green Party presidential primary will be contested in California on February 5th. Voting-by mail is becoming the norm in California and such voters have their ballots in hand or may have cast them already.

The funny thing is that the President of the United States is an executive officer. He (or maybe she) does not actually make policy. The President is supposed to see that the executive branch, the bureaucracy, carries out the laws written by Congress, with occasional instruction on constitutionality from the Supreme Court.

So Congress is where citizen voters should focus their efforts. But in most districts in the U.S., and certainly in California, there are no real contests. One party machine or another dominates. Only rarely does a district change hands.

Partly this is because citizens have been trained to accept their politics in bundles. Accept the pro-abortion, pro-ruling class bundle; or accept the anti-abortion, pro-ruling class bundle.

That said, there are differences in the Presidential candidates, and those will make some difference in how the United States and its imperialist possessions are run. Who wins votes tells us political analyst types what people want, even if they and we know the promises are mostly empty.

I like Hillary Clinton the best. I don't like her politics, of course: I think she is pro war and not willing to buck the corporate ruling class in any significant way. Like all the other candidates who were taken seriously by the corporate media and big-pockets donors. I think she can at least try to be fair. I admire a woman getting so far in within our political establishment. I like the fact that the genetic-throwback Republicans hate her so much.

It is every male against Ms. Clinton right now, which shows you how shallow both American politicians and voters are. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is offering hope and a fresh face. It seems to me the last time the Democrats offered hope and a fresh face was when Mr. Clinton ran back in 1992. We got global trade agreements but no health plan from the Clinton-Gore team, which by the way did absolutely nothing about global warming. Still, it would be a change of pace to have Barack as President. He'd be about the least experienced presidents since John F. Kennedy, but he probably would not have the Kennedy family's ties to organized crime to haunt him. John Edwards would have been the best Democratic Party candidate in decades, but had the bad luck to finally have to take the fall for the run of white males we've been having.

On the Republican side, I like Mitt Romney. Of course his free-markets for workers and consumers, subsidies for rich corporations and individuals economic policy would be a disaster. But I think he is honest and however strange their taste in underwear, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints seems to do a better job than most religious cults in instilling values I share like honesty, taking personal responsibility, and working hard at what you believe in.

Unless you can hire a lobbyist, expect the next Congress to do nothing for you.

The most important thing citizens can do right now is to help to build a party that does not have a long history of committing and commitment to war crimes. While there are some other choices, the best party to work with right now in the United States is the Green Party. I hope to write quite a bit about the problems of creating an election-winning Green Party in this blog.