It’s the Economy, Stupid: Some brief, and (you’d think) obvious, reflections on Election2016

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-11-59-28-am

Silly Bernie Bros! This is all your fault! Photo (c) NYT

By JT Haines — December 1, 2016

 

I’ve been a little quiet since election night, mostly because I’m angry about the result, and haven’t wanted to dump that on people during a difficult time. I’m angry, I’m intensely concerned (obviously), and, like many of us who have been paying attention, I’m not shocked. (I warned of this prospect back in 2013. Michael Moore was dead on in July of this year. Warnings like these were many, and not heeded.)

With some time having passed, I’ll say this now: Arrogant establishment Dems who got all this wrong, at our incredible expense, need to take responsibility, and, frankly, get the hell out of the way. At the very least, we must take anything they have to say right now with a mountain of salt.

Fortunately, there are some useful narrative corrections available to us, which I believe will help us get on a better path. This first hand account from three Sanders delegates is, to my mind, basically correct. Excerpt:

Against this virulent anti-establishment backdrop, the Democratic Party chose to run the most disliked establishment candidate in modern history against Trump, who criticized some of the same institutions voters disdain.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) deluded the party’s faithful into believing that this was “her time” to break the glass ceiling and that because Trump’s rhetoric was so divisive, violent and traumatizing, Clinton could simply leap over the significant hurdles of gender, her own personal image and all of the baggage that accompanies her and her husband.

We met working class voters while campaigning for Sanders. Many of us were these voters. A lot of Republican and Independent voters told us they would vote for Sanders if he were in the general election, but they would not vote for another Clinton.

The whole piece is worth a read. (Bernie on Democracy Now yesterday is excellent as well.)

The old new way isn’t working any more, if it ever did. We need to put all of that behind us, immediately, or continue down a destructive and divisive path which has mainly benefited the careerist establishment and urban elite. If there’s any silver lining here at all, it’s that there must be a reckoning. Here’s to hoping for the best. We have some serious, and scary, work ahead of us.

###
Advertisements

Necessary, and Not Sufficient: Election Reflections 2016

 

2016-us-election-logo

November 7, 2016

Well, we made it. And congratulations to us! Despite it all, we’ve succeeded in making this entire presidential election a referendum on “Not Trump” and “Yes, first woman president.”

Both absolutely necessary, to be sure, but sufficient? Time will tell.

Regarding the facts immediately in front of us, though, most “progressives” will indeed vote for Hillary Clinton, and they should. It’s too late for anything else. It wasn’t too late in 2013 when we published this suggestion here at Newspeak Review, but it is now.

So, for all the reasons well understood at this point, let’s go ahead and hope Hillary Clinton wins. (And, by the way, let’s also hope that Jill Stein magically garners the exact maximum number of votes possible without swinging the election. Such deadening gyrations would not be necessary if we didn’t have both corporate parties quietly enforcing a voting system that does not record people’s true preferences, but that’s a subject for another post.)

Just as importantly, though, let’s also move forward with eyes wide open. Because here’s the thing:

Each little surrender like this — each time we kick the can down the road, each time we cajole and abuse each other into carrying water for the political establishment in the name of the latest immediate term imperative — has longer term consequences.

It makes the next Standing Rock more inevitable. It makes the next Syria more likely. It makes taking to the streets more necessary. As we continue our slow 40 year march of one step forward, three steps back, it makes people putting their bodies on the line to protect and defend what is left of our rights and our security and our planet yet more difficult and more certain.

I do not think this is a path that most of us favor, but it is the one we’re on.

Genuine departure from that path will involve significant risk. In this campaign cycle, for example, at no point has Hillary Clinton not been the most likely president elect. That of course feels compelling, and determinative. But such likelihoods did not and do not relieve us of the responsibility to consider issuing a different demand, despite the odds. At some point we will need to take that risk. (Of course many feel we’re already long past that point.) And, as importantly, we must openly express willingness to take that risk so others can see us doing so. We’re closer than we’ve been in decades.

In any case, it’s election day tomorrow, and here we are. We still have the right to vote in this country, and we still have some confidence that our vote will be properly counted. These are things to behold. So do your thing.

And to those of you well-meaning souls who have expended substantial energy supporting a candidate who has already shown herself almost certain to oppose the genuine change that we need, here’s to #Nov9 and on. You know what you have to do.

Happy voting tomorrow, friends.

###

Labor Day Message: Another World is Possible

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.38.37 AM

By Thom Haines — September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day in the U.S.! Another World is Possible! Proud to be an AFSCME member!

International labor solidarity is a key component to realizing another world where people and the environment are more highly valued than profit. A vibrant labor movement in the United States acting in solidarity with workers around the world will create a politically effective force that has the power to change an exploitive system supported by the armed forces and military aid of the United States and other Global North countries.

Honduras is an especially clear example of what is wrong with the current system and what is needed to fix it. The Human Rights Delegation to Honduras Report — released last week by the Alliance for Global Justice, CODEPINK, and the Honduras Solidarity Network — helps us connect the dots. Abusive labor practices, militarization of police forces in the name of fighting drugs or communism or terrorism, killing journalists, killing union organizers, killing environmental activists like Berta Cáceres, trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the TPP, and knee jerk nationalism are all components of the same problem.

The global economic system does not want to change and will not until forced. In the United States, in spite of some hopeful signs such as the Sanders campaign and Black Lives Matter, we must admit that we have not yet achieved a politically effective force to change the world. While organized labor may be weaker than it has been, rebuilding the labor movement is possible and offers hope.

At a Keith Ellison Labor Day rally in Minneapolis on Sunday, Sen. Al Franken expressed pride in belonging to three unions. I’m only a member of one, but I am proud to be in solidarity with other AFSCME members. In the coming years, it is my fervent hope that unions grow and that we see beyond the next contract to the possibility of international solidarity. Another world is possible.

Thom Haines is an Assistant County Attorney in Minnesota, where he serves on the Minnesota State Bar Association Data Practices Committee. He is a member of the boards of the United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries, the Mayflower Church Foundation in Minneapolis, and G Project, a 501(c)(3) supporting human rights story-telling in Guatemala. Thom is a former Teamster and CWA member, and current member of AFSCME Council 65.

Twin Ports Banker Weighs in on USFS Lease Renewal Question

By JT Haines — July 31, 2016

Brian Waldoch is a banker in the Twin Ports area of Minnesota and Wisconsin. He recently attended the US Forest Service listening session in Duluth on July 13, on the question of whether or not the USFS should renew federal mineral leases currently held by Twin Metals. (Twin Metals Minnesota LLC is a wholly owned operating subsidiary of the Chilean company Antofagasta PLC, “one of the top 10 copper producers in the world.” The leases concern land in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota, and would be required for a proposed copper/sulfide mining project to move forward.)

After the session, Waldoch submitted his own comment to the USFS, published here with permission, edited for length.

***

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 10.45.09 AM

The famous economist Adam Smith said that we are all motivated by self interest.

I attended the public comment session held at the DECC in Duluth earlier this month and the arguments I heard boiled down to: 1.) The BWCA is a special place and we should do everything we can to protect it, and the region’s drinking water is at risk. 2.) The Range is struggling economically and we should support the people, families and their way of life. Both have merit, both are important. We could debate which one is more important until we are blue in the face but that isn’t what this is about.

This is about the likelihood of outcomes. On one end, there is the possibility that the mine returns economic stability to the Range for generations and the technologies used to develop the mine do not pollute the BWCA or Lake Superior. On the other, the mine brings jobs for one generation and does irreparable damage do the BWCA, ruining the ecosystem and polluting Lake Superior to the point that it is undrinkable. The likely outcome lies somewhere in between.

“The self interest is the same as for all companies: Profit.”

If you, like Adam Smith, believe that people and corporations are motivated by self interest, it is clear that it is more likely than not that the BWCA will end up damaged and Lake Superior polluted. We are very familiar with the interests of the people who live here. But what of the company?

At the session, I did not hear anyone representing Twin Metals that would speak about the self interest of the company. This is concerning to me because they have the most to gain from this proposal and completely control the outcome. I think it is safe to assume what their self interest is, it is the same as for all companies: Profit. Quick, painless profit. The flashiest presentation we’ve ever seen won’t change this basic reality.

What does this mean for us and the likelihood of outcomes?  What it means is that the company’s interest is to build a mine and strip it of all of its resources as fast as possible, and as cheaply as possible. That’s how their shareholders reward them. That is how they determine how successful the mine is. Sure they will boast that they did it environmentally “safe,” but really what they mean to say is “we complied with the law.” But the law doesn’t have billions of dollars studying the outcomes and does not know the true environmental impacts until it is too late.

“If there is a corner to be cut in the name of profit that sacrifices the environment, rest assured, it will be cut.”

What is perhaps the most alarming to me about this whole situation is that the Twin Metals’ self-interest is directly opposed to the miner’s self interest. The miners believe that this mine will bring economic stability for generations, when really the mine is motivated to keep it open for a short as possible. This just kicks the can down the road so that our children can have this debate 20 years from now. Twin Metals’ self interest is to pay as little as possible for a short as possible. The mine will only keep the BWCA and Lake Superior as clean and quiet as it legally has to. If there is a corner to be cut in the name of profit that sacrifices the environment, rest assured, it will be cut.

“We carry all the risk and little reward.”

All this boils down to this: if we approve this mine, we are placing our trust in a global corporation’s self interest to make the best decisions for our people and our environment. They have all reward and little risk. We carry all the risk and little reward.

All we need to do to validate Adam Smith’s assumptions is to look around the world in countries where there are fewer environmental laws — it is obvious, the mine companies’ self interest is alive and well and environmentally friendly and economically stable mines are not.

We only have one opportunity to not mess this up. Please make the right decision and do not renew the mineral leases.

Thank you,

Brian Waldoch

Brian Waldoch lives in Duluth with his spouse and works in Superior. He is an avid hunter, fisher, and camper, and a lifelong resident of the state. Reader note: Brian and I are friends; he attended the listening session at my invitation. The comment and decision to submit are his.

It’s Go Time for Sanders Supporters. Democratic Primary Update

February 21, 2016 — by JT Haines

After three states, delegate counts on the Dem side are even at 51 (non-superdelegates, that is), and Sanders is well ahead in the overall popular vote, 60%-38%. Looks pretty good for Team Sanders, all things considered, right?

Make no mistake. Steadily and per script the corporate machinery of the DNC and Clinton campaign is grinding, quietly telling insiders that this thing could be over as soon as March 1.

The next 10 days are a probably a lot bigger than they seem to many Sanders supporters. Until now, the Sanders campaign has enjoyed tremendous success on social media, at rallies, and through millions of $27 donations. It is very clear that people want an alternative to the politics of Wall Street, Wal-Mart, and Monsanto, and they want it now. So it might feel as though the campaign can simply continue and grow, that the real Sanders v Clinton moment will happen some time in the future, like at a convention or at a general election.

That may yet happen. And because of the delegates Sanders has won and will win, the demands of the campaign will be present on some level going forward, regardless of who wins the next several states. However, the reality is, a couple more primary “victories” by Clinton would allow her campaign, and the mainstream corporate media that donates to her campaign, to pivot the narrative back from one about political revolution to the preferred narrative of inevitability. It’s happening already, even with the delegate count tied, and the next couple states are tough sledding for Sanders. If enough talking heads say it’s over, people will start to believe it.

In order for conversations about the possibility of Sanders winning to continue in their fullest form (as well as conversations about superdelegates, corporate contributions, and DNC manipulations that come with them), there will need to be a new surge on the Sanders side, and probably within the next 10 days.

This means Sanders supporters, most critically those in Super Tuesday states*, going beyond social media and talking directly to friends and neighbors about voting on March 1. Only major turnouts have the chance of counteracting the incredible amount of establishment machinery leaning on the process on the other side. (Turnout was low in Nevada.)

Short of this, a few minor concessions notwithstanding, prepare yourself for what is certain to be a really, really, unpleasant summer of being told that you must vote for a candidate who does not believe it’s necessary to challenge the system nearly as much as you do.

To vote on March 1 in Minnesota:
Go to your precinct caucus location, which you can find here: http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us/  Voting will take place between 6:30 and 8:00pm. Heads up, a few things that are confusing people:
  1. Party caucus locations are NOT election polling locations. You have to look it up. [Update: I’ve been on the doors myself this weekend. I’m finding that nearly everyone thinks they’re going to their polling place (in our case, a church), when actually they’re going to the caucus location (in our case, the high school). Gotta check — Spread the word!]
  2. You do not have to stay around for all the party business to vote in the binding presidential poll. In other words, if you want to vote and leave, you can do that.
  3. Voting is from 6:30 to 8:00. If you’re in line by 8:00 you can vote.
  4. The poll is binding — meaning, the results determine how many delegates the candidates will get at the national convention from Minnesota. Think mini-primary.

 

*Super Tuesday Democratic states include:

Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia.