Tag Archives: Strategy

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats’ Obsession with Russian Election Hacking Makes Them Look Dumb

 

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They got Al Capone for tax evasion — only tax evasion. It wasn’t very satisfying for his prosecutors. But they couldn’t prove murder or racketeering. So they got him where they wanted him: behind bars. It wasn’t elegant. But they got the job done.

Congressional Democrats need some of that prohibition-era pragmatism. They want Donald Trump impeached. But unlike Capone’s tormentors, Dems are largely ignoring Trumpy crimes they can prove in favor of those they can’t — Russian “election hacking” that may not have happened at all.

Democrats seem determined to maintain their status as a political version of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
Day after day, Democratic leaders and their allies in corporate media have been going on and on about how “Russia hacked the election.” Exactly what they mean by “hacking” has been so frustratingly vague, and solid evidence so consistently absent, that it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they’re making it all up or, à la Bush and the WMDs in Iraq, conflating what they suspect with what they know.

This throw-hacking-allegations-at-the-wall-and-hope-they-stick approach has fed a dark alt-right media narrative about an attempted “deep state” coup against a democratically-elected president who won despite the virtually universal contempt of the gatekeeper class.

As the Dems derp around deep in the weeds of their confused and confusing Russia hacking narrative, they’re neglecting the much tastier, low-hanging impeachment fruit they could easily use to hasten the day when D.C. Metro cops frogmarch The Donald out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: straightforward corruption.

Russian hackers may have accessed a U.S. voting machine company. But even the spooks who accuse Russia of “meddling” — whatever that means, no one seems able to articulate — say they didn’t affect the election results. Hillary would have lost anyway. So why is this even a thing? Anyway, there’s almost certainly no tie there to Team Trump. Perhaps not a nothingburger, but useless to Democrats hell-bent on impeachment.

Then there’s the DNC emails posted by WikiLeaks. As I’ve noted before, WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange said he didn’t get them from Russia. Also at WikiLeaks, Craig Murray says they were handed to him by a pro-Bernie DNC staffer. So it was a leak, not a hack. Anyway, even if Russia gave them to WikiLeaks — which looks doubtful — we should thank Team Putin for revealing just how venal and corrupt the DNC was when they decided to cheat Bernie Sanders out of the nomination.

Telling the truth about lying DNC scoundrels who belong in prison is “meddling”?

If so, I’ll take more meddling, please.

The Democrats are right about one thing: there’s lots of smoke. They’re wrong about the type of fire.

The real Trump-Russia connection to look into is about a corrupt quid pro quo. It goes something like this: Trump aides tell their Russian contacts in 2016: if our guy wins the election, we’ll drop U.S.-led economic sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea. In return, you let our guy build as many ugly hotels in Russia as he wants. They might also forgive millions of dollars his businesses owe to Russian banks and oligarchs.

By declaring Trump’s election a constitutional crisis from day one, Democrats have been overreaching. Pushing the “Russia hacked the election” narrative — when there’s still no public evidence it happened at all, much less that Trump had anything to do with it if it did — is getting way ahead of the story.

If Democrats were smart, they’d focus on the corruption angle.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: 5 Things Democrats Could Do To Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)

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Coupla weeks ago, I speculated that we may soon witness the end of the Democratic Party as we know it. I was kind. I didn’t mention the fact that the party is all out of national leaders. I mean, can you name a likely, viable Democratic candidate for president in 2020? Can you name three?

I followed up with more crystal-balling in a piece predicting that the meek will not inherit the earth if and when Trump gets dragged out of 1600 Penn by Senatorial impeachment police. The meek — the Democrats — could have/should have been the Anti-Trump Party. But they’ve dropped the ball. After the deluge, Paul Ryan.

With everyone so focused on the Trump Administration dead pool — how will he go? when? — we’re overlooking that Republicans could come out of the Trump debacle stronger than they went in. How crazy is that?

Now I want to look at another facet of this political Rubik’s cube: what the Democrats could do to avoid political irrelevance.

explainersmall            Not that they will.

  1. Democrats should stop calling themselves “The Resistance.” It’s an insult to the actual resistance fighters of World War II who were tortured and murdered. It’s also an attack on Strunk and White’s diktat not to stretch words beyond their plain meaning. Resistance to Republicans hasn’t been part of Democratic politics for generations. Quit the hype. Under-promise, over-deliver.
  2. Democrats should actually resist Trump and the Republicans. They shouldn’t have gone along with any of his nominees, but their promise to filibuster pencil-necked right-wing libertarian freak Neil Gorsuch would be a nice place to start. No Democrat, including those from purple/swing states, should vote for any GOP nominee or legislative initiative. Let’s not hear any more stupid talk of finding “common ground” with Trump on infrastructure spending or anything else. The GOP controls all three branches of the federal government so they’ll get whatever they want — and they should own whatever happens as a result. Democrats shouldn’t get their hands dirty.
  3. Democrats ought to articulate an alternative vision of what America would look like if they were in charge instead of Trump and the Republicans. It’s nice (not least for the 24 million people who would’ve wound up uninsured) that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare imploded. But that victory goes to rebellious Republicans, not Democrats. Here was a national debate over the ACA — Obama’s signature achievement — and Democrats didn’t even participate! How crazy is that? Never mind that they wouldn’t have gotten a vote on it — Democrats should have proposed their own bill reforming the ACA, one that moves left by adding single payer. Every Republican idea should be countered by an equal and opposite Democratic idea. Other countries call this act of self-definition shadow governance or, in a time of war perhaps loyal opposition. Whatever you call it, refusing to let your adversaries frame the acceptable ideological range of political debate is basic. In other words, a standard party-out-of-power tactic (e.g., the Tea Party 2009-2016).
  4. Democrats need to stop disappearing between elections. Campaigns are exhausting and it’s natural to want to catch one’s breath and conduct a postmortem to determine what went well and wrong. But it’s gotten to the point that the only time left-of-center voters hear from the Democratic Party is the year of a major election, for the most part only a few months before November and then only to ask for money. In the era of the 24-7 news cycle and the Internet, that hoary see-you-in-two-to-four-years approach is as outmoded as Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s cut-and-paste stump speeches and network TV shows that take summers off for something called “vacation.” A modern party should become part of our everyday lives. Every burg needs a Democratic Party storefront bustling with activity. Every Republican officeholder needs a ferocious Democratic challenger, even at the localest of local levels. Door-to-door campaigning and grassroots organizing should happen every day of every month of every year — in every state, regardless of presidential race electoral vote considerations, just like Howard Dean said.
  5. Bernie Sanders says Democrats can and should do class issues and identity politics. He’s right. As we’ve seen with the increased acceptance of LGBTQ people in recent years, the two are intertwined: gays’ incomes have risen But here’s the rub: you can’t really take on poverty and income disparity while accepting contributions from banks and other corporations whose interest lies in perpetuating economic misery by keeping wages low. The biggest lesson Dems should internalize from Bernie’s candidacy is his reliance on small individual donations.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Won’t Democrats Kick Trump While He’s Down?

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Trump is failing bigly. Why aren’t Democrats taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to rebuild their party?

Barely four weeks in office and the president has his first scandal. Flynngate has everything a president doesn’t want: a top national security official accused of treasonishness, messy investigations afoot, reinvigorated enemy journalists smelling blood.

At first glance, losing a Labor Secretary nominee might not seem to matter. All the other cabinet picks got through; Labor isn’t State. Still, Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal reveals staggering incompetence. Trump’s #1 issue was illegal immigration. Puzder hired an illegal immigrant; dude was a billionaire too cheap to pay her taxes. Seriously?

Trump’s first major policy move, the Muslim travel ban, ended in tears — within hours. So-called judges and their stupid “Constitution”!

Political journalists have a technical term for a cluster–k like this at such an early date in an Administration: a s–tshow.

So where are the Democrats?

The only thing more baffling than the Great Republican Unraveling is the failure of the Democrats to rise to the occasion exploit the situation. Yeah, conventional wisdom says to stand aside when your opponent is making a fool of himself. Right now, however, the Democrats’ failure to articulate an alternative vision — becoming a “party of outrage” doesn’t count — seems less like jujitsu than political malpractice.

He’s retired and deserves some rest after all those late-night droning sessions, but the Dems’ colossal cluelessness is epitomized by that video of Recently Former President Barack Obama kitesurfing — a sport most voters never heard of before — with Virgin mogul Richard Branson.

Given his fanatic dedication to detachedness, Obama as exiled leader of the anti-Trump resistance is probably too much to ask. Still, as John Oliver observed, “Just tone it down with the kitesurfing pictures.”

He continued: “America is on fire. I know that people accused him of being out of touch with the American people during his presidency. I’m not sure he’s ever been more out of touch than he is right now…You’re fiddling while Rome burns!”

Trumpism is collapsing with impressive rapidity. In a two-party system, citizens expect the party out of power to step up, say I-told-you-so, and explain how and why they can fix this s–tshow. So far? Nothing.

The cavalry isn’t merely not coming. It’s asleep.

It’s easy to see why. The Democratic Party still suffers from the division that cost it the 2016 election. All the party’s energy is with the progressive base who backed Bernie Sanders (henceforth, the Guy Who Would Have Won Had the DNC Not Cheated), now gathered around the awkward, oddly colorless Elizabeth Warren. But its leadership caste is still dominated by the Dems’ fading corporatist DLC-Third Way hacks who installed Hillary as nominee. What was needed in 2016 to defeat Trump is still needed to defeat him in 2017: Sanders or someone like him. But the ruling Clintonistas won’t give up centrism unless it’s pulled out of their cold, ideologically dead hands.

The refusal of the Democrats to pogo-dance on Trump’s grave is one of the biggest missed opportunities in recent political history. For example:

He who sees first, and says so, wins. Remember, Trump anticipated Rust Belt rage over NAFTA. Clinton didn’t. Now to 2017 or perhaps 2018: Trump will probably face a forced exit sooner rather than later. Pushing for Trump’s impeachment now would position Democrats as forward-looking thinkers who had it right before anyone else. Moral authority matters.

Oh, and if you don’t do it, the Republicans will steal the moral high ground by doing it themselves. Ryan 2020!

Co-opt the nascent left-wing Tea Party movement. Sanders-Warrenites are flooding Republican town hall meetings the way the O.G. Tea Party of the right did eight years ago to Democrats. Hey, DNC: those kickass activists can freelance, perhaps setting the stage for a left-right split of the party. That is, unless you do what the GOP when they faced their version of a populist insurrection. Let them inside. Let them lead.

Republicans let their Tea Party take over the party; now the party controls the government. Democrats should do the same.

Remember Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” for a “Republican Revolution”? Lay out a “Democratic Revolution” platform that explains to Americans what you stand for. Right now, most voters know that Democrats don’t like Trump, but not what Democrats are for. But remember Hillary’s lame $12/hour minimum wage, at a time when big cities already had $15? Don’t bother unless those platform planks go big. You might not get the $25/hour you ask for — but you’ll get people talking and thinking. Right now, the only thing anyone’s talking and thinking about is the orange monster in the White House.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

CORRECTION, March 1, 2017: I wrote above that Democrats can deny a quorum in either House of Congress. Actually, they cannot. The Constitution, in Article 1, Section 5, states that a majority of each constitutes a quorum to do business. 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Quit Whining About Student Loans

Time for #OWS to Broaden Its Appeal

It has been 30 days since Occupy Wall Street began. The movement hasn’t shaken the world à la John Reed—not yet—but at one thousand occupations and counting, it can’t be ignored.

OWS has become so impressive, so fast, that it’s easy to forget its half-assed origin. No matter. The fact that the French Revolution was partly set off by the drunken ravings of the Marquis de Sade hardly reduces its importance.

Soon the Occupiers will have to face down a number of practical challenges. Like weather. Winter is coming. Unless they move indoors, campers at Occupy Minneapolis and Occupy Chicago will suffer attrition. But indoor space is private property. So confrontation with the police seems inevitable.

As I saw at STM/Occupy DC, there is an ideological split between revolutionaries and reformists. Typical of the reformists: This week OWSers urged sympathizers to close their accounts with big banks like Citibank and Bank of America and move their savings to credit unions and local savings and loans. If revolutionaries get their way, there will be no banks. Or one, owned by the people.

There is no immediate rush, nor should there be, to issue demands. The horizontal democracy format of the Occupy movement’s General Assemblies is less about getting things done than giving voices to the voiceless. For most citizens, who have been shut out of politics by the fake two-party democracy and the corporate media, simply talking and being heard is an act of liberation. At some point down the road, however, the movement will come to a big ideological fork: do they try to fix the system? Or tear it down?

The Occupiers don’t have to choose between reformism and revolution right away—but they can’t wait too long. You can’t make coherent demands until you can frame them into a consistent narrative. What you ultimately want determines what you ask for in the time being—and how you ask for it.

Trotsky argued for the issuance of “transitional demands” in order to expose the uncompromising, unjust and oppressive nature of the regime. Once again, an “epoch of progressive capitalism” (reformism, the New Deal, Great Society, etc.) has ended in the United States and the West. Thus “every serious demand of the proletariat” de facto goes further than what the capitalist class and its bourgeois state can concede. Transitional demands would be a logical starting point for an Occupy movement with a long-term revolutionary strategy.

Both routes entail risk. If the Occupiers choose the bold path of revolution, they will alienate moderates and liberals. The state will become more repressive.

On the other hand, reformism is naïve. The system is plainly broken beyond repair. Trying to push for legislation and working with establishment progressives will inevitably lead to cooption, absorption by big-money Democrats and their liberal allies, and irrelevance. (Just like what happened to the Tea Party, a populist movement subsumed into the GOP.)

Revolution means violence in the streets. Reform means failure, and the continued, slow-grinding violence by the corporate state: poverty, repression, injustice.

At this point, job one for the movement is to grow.

I don’t mean more Facebook pages or adding more cities. The day-to-day occupations on the ground need to get bigger, fast. The bigger the occupations, the harder they will be for the police to dislodge with violent tactics.

More than 42 percent of Americans do not work. Not even part-time. Tens of millions of people, with free time and nothing better to do, are watching the news about the Occupy movement. They aren’t yet participating. The Occupiers must convince many of these non-participants to join them.

Why aren’t more unemployed, underemployed, uninsured and generally screwed-over Americans joining the Occupy movement? The Los Angeles Times quoted Jeff Yeargain, who watched “with apparent contempt” 500 members of Occupy Orange County marching in Irvine. “They just want something for nothing,” Yeargain said.

I’m not surprised some people feel that way. Americans have a strong independent streak. We value self-reliance.

Still, there is something the protesters can and must do. They should make it clear that they aren’t just fighting for themselves. That they are fighting for EVERYONE in “the 99 percent” who aren’t represented by the two major parties and their compliant media.

OWSers must broaden their appeal.

Many of the Occupiers are in their 20s. The media often quotes them complaining about their student loans. They’re right to be angry. Young people were told they couldn’t get a job without a college degree; they were told they couldn’t get a degree without going into debt. Now there are no jobs, yet they still have to pay. They can’t even get out of them by declaring bankruptcy. They were lied to.

But it’s not about them. It’s about us.

The big point is: Education is a basic right.

Here is an example of how OWSers could broaden their appeal on one issue. Rather than complain about their own student loans, they ought to demand that everyone who ever took out and repaid a student loan get a rebate. Because it’s not just Gen Y who got hosed by America’s for-profit system of higher education. So did Gen X and the Boomers.

No one will support a movement of the selfish and self-interested.

The Freedom Riders won nobility points because they were white people willing to risk murder to fight for black people. Occupiers: stop whining about the fact that you can’t find a job. Fight for everyone’s right to earn a living.

The Occupy movement will expand when it appeals to tens of millions of ordinary people sitting in homes for which they can’t pay the rent or the mortgage. People with no jobs. Occupy needs those men and women to look at the Occupiers on TV and think to themselves: “They’re fighting for ME. Unless I join them, they might fail.”

The most pressing issues for most Americans are (the lack of) jobs, the (crappy) economy and growing income inequality. The foreclosure and eviction crisis is also huge. OWS has addressed these issues. But OWS has not yet made the case to the folks watching on TV that they’re focused like a laser.

It takes time to create jobs. But the jobless need help now. The Occupy movement should demand immediate government payments to the un- and underemployed. All foreclosures are immoral; all of them ruin neighborhoods. The Occupy movement should demand that everyone—not just victims of illegal foreclosures—be allowed back into their former homes, or given new ones.

For the first time in 40 years, we have the chance to change everything. To end gangster capitalism. To jail the corporate and political criminals who have ruined our lives. To save what’s left of our planet.

The movement must grow.

Nothing matters more.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Unions? What Unions?

Labor Leaders to Blame for Workers’ Weakness

I will never understand why the people who are jealous of unionized workers who earn $50,000 a year give a pass to the incompetent bank executives who get $5,000,000. Resentment is a terrible thing to waste.

Given how terribly companies have treated workers in recent years—mass layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages, piling on the work, while they pay their executives seven-figure salaries—you’d think Americans would be more receptive to unions. But organized labor’s bad rep isn’t surprising. A half-century of smears by big business and their media allies and sleazy laws passed by corrupt anti-worker politicians (c.f. the Taft-Hartley Act) have established today’s image of organized labor as corrupt, selfish and marginal.

As if that propaganda colossus wasn’t enough to contend with, labor unions have responded to these attacks with a series of poorly thought-out strategies that fed into that narrative.

As a result fewer than seven percent of private-sector workers belong to a union. And the last union stronghold, public-sector employees (36 percent represented), is under siege by Republicans in states like Wisconsin and Ohio.

Where did union leaders mess up? They made so many bone-headed decisions that it’s hard to know where to start.

During the 1980s unions forgot what they were and who they represented. They abandoned their traditional oppositionalism to management on the ground that their fates were interlinked: if the plant closed, union members would lose their jobs. Embracing schemes like “quality circles” and the “team concept,” in which workers and shop stewards worked side-by-side with bosses, unions increased efficiency at their own expense, essentially crossing their own non-existing picket lines. Unions took seats on the boards of companies they were supposed to be pressuring for higher wages and benefits.

The results of hobnobbing with corporate executives were predictable: givebacks and concessions to companies so they can pay their executives more and more. In 2009, for example, the United Auto Workers agreed to freeze their salaries to help save the big three Detroit automakers. They also slashed employee benefits, including healthcare.

Did the Big Three use those savings to invest in new plants? Hell no. They continued to outsource jobs overseas. Meanwhile, as UAW members got laid off and struggled through pay freezes, Ford gave president and CEO Alan Mulally a raise in his stratospheric annual salary, to $17.9 million. GM forked over $9 million to CEO Daniel Akerson. Despite having no apparent God-like superpowers—at this pay scale the dude ought to be able to shoot flames out of his mouth—Chysler-Fiat felt it appropriate to pay $7.7 million to its CEO, Sergio Marchionne.

This “please let me sit at the jocks’ table” mentality persists. UAW President Bob King said in January that seats on the boards of each of the big three Detroit automakers are at the top of his wish list. Memo from reality: you don’t hang out with your enemy. You fight them.

What is the point of a union that sells out its members?

The byword of American labor is “solidarity.” Considering that employers have the media and government on their side, sticking together is the only way to win.

Yet all too often unions under siege during the 1980s and 1990s did the opposite. They created two classes of workers—old and grandfathered-in, versus the young and screwed. In return for protecting wages and benefits for their existing (older) membership, unions such as the International Longshoremen’s Association agreed to a drastically lower tier of wages for new hires. By looking out for their narrow short-term interests, the ILA confirmed the perception that they were less interested in workers rights than self-preservation. Ironically it mortgaged its future in the process.

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, spearheaded a drive to organize women, minorities and low-paid workers. Though laudable, the new emphasis neglected labor’s traditional base, white males, who also happen to be politically influential “Reagan Democrats,” a.k.a. swing voters. These “angry white males” became today’s right-wing Tea Party.

Big labor’s abusive love affair with the Democratic Party has been bafflingly counterproductive. I don’t have a problem with the “forced” collection of union dues; it’s fair to require everyone who benefits from higher wages and benefits to support the union that makes them possible. But it’s ridiculous to use those dues to support one political party—the Democrats. Between 1990 and 2008 unions made more than $667 million in political campaign contributions, 92 percent to Dems.

Which might be justifiable, if unions got anything in return. NAFTA, GATT and WTO (signed by Clinton and continued by Obama) gutted American manufacturing jobs. The 2009-10 Democratic majority Congress ignored labor’s top priority, the Employee Free Choice Act. Neither Clinton nor Obama even considered repealing Taft-Hartley, which bans wildcat strikes, solidarity strikes, secondary boycotts, union shops and allows courts to break strikes arbitrarily.

A still bigger mistake has been labor’s inexplicable refusal to go after the ersatz “while collar” workplaces.

“There’s something new in the air,” UC Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken, who studies labor issues, told Reuters. “There is a sense that white-collar workers have become the blue-collar workers of the 21st century in terms of job security, wages and benefits. That’s certainly how they’re treated. And if you’re treated like a blue-collar worker, you may respond like a blue-collar worker and seek to protect benefits and maintain some job security.”

The AFL-CIO and other unions talk about organizing the white-collar ghetto. But they aren’t doing much. Few workers in the tech sector or advertising or finance or the media have ever met a union organizer. If labor had its act together, no cubicle farm in America would go a year without an attempt to unionize it.

Without the passage of a “card check” law to reduce employer retaliation, union organizing attempts might fail—but the workers who voted yes would always appreciate that they were trying to help them live better lives.

Labor is on the ropes. With the economy getting worse, however, there has never been a greater need for union leaders to get smarter and more militant—or a better opportunity to reverse their long slide.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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