Hey, Joe! These Are Our Demands

HISTORY on Twitter:

            Progressives and other leftists promise/threaten to pressure/take to the streets to make demands of Joe Biden if/when he falls short of our expectations. We on the left don’t want to be one of those bad bosses who tell you your work isn’t good enough but never say what they expect from you in the first place, so you’re reduced to fumbling around in the dark.

            Because there isn’t a political party or other formation that can credibly speak for a broad base of the American left, and because the left is divided between work-from-inside AOC-Bernie types and street-level activists, no one has defined a clear metric to judge the Biden Administration’s personnel, policy and legislative actions. As we saw under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, vague demands foment the unaccountability that allows Democrats to wiggle away and take us for granted.

            We need a clear set of demands.

          I think our demands should look something like the following, and that if and when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris let us down, we should point out their sins of omission and commission, and protest immediately in the streets, on issues which have a rapidly-ticking clock attached to them; eventually, as the voting cycle dictates, the protests must continue in voting booths.

            Planet Comes First. No other issue matters if the earth and the people on it are dead or the climate crisis has prompted the collapse of human civilization. In any classic trade-off between short-term economic growth and longer-term environmental prosperity, reducing carbon emissions to net zero as close to overnight as possible (2030 is too long) and taking every possible step to reduce air, water and other kinds of pollution must become any responsible political leader’s top priority. Biden’s campaign literature called the Green New Deal a mere “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Screw that watered-down pablum. AOC’s Green New Deal should be expanded and broadened, with a radically shortened timeline, and signed into law on January 20, 2021.

            Immediate Relief for COVID’s Economic Victims. No one should suffer economic ruin due to government-ordered lockdowns to stop the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone evicted for nonpayment of rent or whose home was foreclosed upon after March 15, 2020 should be given housing of equal or at higher quality government expense, zero rent, for at least one year. All back rent currently outstanding should be forgiven. All overdue mortgage payments should be forgiven. Banks and landlords should be made whole by applying to a new federal program funded by reductions in the defense budget. Not only should the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefits that expired on June 30 be renewed, checks for that amount dating back to July 1 should be issued at once. Furthermore, any American who is currently underemployed or unemployed should qualify for those $600-per-week payments regardless of whether they previously used up their time-limited benefits. Going forward, there should be no time limit on collecting unemployment benefits.

            Fully Socialized Medicine. We tried for-profit medicine. It failed even before COVID. It’s time to join the modern world. Hospitals, labs, research centers and clinics should be nationalized into a fully socialized national healthcare system. Doctors and other healthcare workers should become federal employees. Health insurance companies, no longer needed, can shut down.

            Fully Socialized Higher Education. The college and university model no longer works. It doesn’t make sense to require young men and women to take on staggering student loan debt that entry-level salaries will never allow them to repay, much less settle down and buy a house. Private colleges and universities should be nationalized by the federal government, which also has the benefit of being a fair punishment for charging full tuition for virtual online education during COVID-19. State and local colleges and community colleges should be folded into a fully federalized system of higher education that is as free as primary and secondary public schools. After all, employers’ insistence on hypercredentialization has turned the bachelor of arts degree into the new high school diploma. Both should be cost-free.

            Restart the Police. It is painfully obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that American policing is an engine of oppression rather than protection. That means it needs to be reinvented from the ground up. Reform isn’t enough. Taking away military hardware and training recruits with a guardian rather than a warrior mentality are starts, but systematic racism and the fact that the police view us as threats rather than as employers require starting from scratch. Every policeman — local, state, federal, postal, transit, whatever — should be fired. They should not be allowed to reapply for their old jobs. The police should become like abortions: legal, safe and rare. We need fewer cops. Most should be unarmed. None should be in the business of issuing fines. No one should be rewarded simply because they arrest more people. We shouldn’t be recruiting cops out of the military. Cops should be peace officers, not an occupation force.

            Empty the Prisons. Many inmates represent no threat whatsoever to society. Prison causes deep-seated psychological problems for the prisoners themselves, their friends and families, and society in general. Close down jails and prisons.

            End the Wars. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and international law are clear: the only legitimate casus belli is in self-defense, either to an armed attack or the clear and imminent danger of such an attack, such as an army massing along another nation’s border. Any involvement in armed conflict that does not qualify as one of these must be discontinued. Drone assassinations are immoral and illegal, as are proxy wars like the U.S.-backed conflict in Yemen and wars of choice, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

            Throughout the campaign, centrist Democrats told progressives that they should vote for Joe Biden and then push him to the left after he won. They even said that they would march in the streets alongside leftists. Well, Biden won because progressives voted for him. Now it’s time for the centrists to make good on their promises. Pushing for these and other progressive goals would be a good start.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Climate Change Is Pass Fail

Although Joe Biden’s website hat-tips the Green New Deal, he is opposed to it. Instead, he wants to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The problem is, scientists project the end of human civilization by 2050. So it’s a moot point. The environment is pass-fail. Incrementalism is doomed.

The Only Wasted Vote Is a Vote Not for a Third Party

What would be the totem animal for a third-party?

Jesus, Ted. All you ever do, some people tell me, is complain. We get it—you hate both the Republicans and the Democrats. We don’t like them either. But those are the only two parties that have a chance of winning an election. Stop telling us what not to do. Tell us what you think we should do instead.

That criticism is fair. If you don’t like something, it stands to reason you think something else is better and you ought to say what it is.

In my defense, people will never build a new political system until the old one is dead to them. Che Guevara said that the masses would not risk the violent upheaval of revolution as long as they still believed the old regime capable of addressing their needs and grievances to any significant degree. Although the elimination of the two-party duopoly in U.S. electoral politics does not necessitate violence, the same inertial principle applies: as long as progressives and other leftists continue to think that they can express their political will through the Democratic Party, they won’t create the space for what comes next.

So job one is to drive a stake through the corpse of the Democratic Party. Much of my work these days is dedicated to my belief that the Democratic Party is where progressivism and liberalism go to die. I am out to convince as many people as possible to get real, dump the Dems and move on. Articulating the platform of a new third-party or revolutionary movement before enough progressives and leftists have given up on the Democrats would put the cart before the horse.

It would also be arrogantly undemocratic. No one person, certainly not a 57-year-old cis white male political cartoonist, can or should write a programme for the future of an entire society. We all have to do that together.

If you’ve been reading my work for a while, you know that I think that nothing short of revolution is adequate to address the radical problems faced by Americans and by humanity, beginning with the climate crisis. The profit imperative of capitalism is inherently corrupting; it hobbles all efforts to move toward a sustainable relationship with the planet. But no one can make revolution. It happens or it doesn’t. What to do in the meantime? Specifically, for us now, what if anything should we do with our vote this November?

The most compelling argument for electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is harm mitigation, with a view toward preventing a second Donald Trump administration, cleaning up the mess from the last four years and governing better than Trump would have.

I don’t find this argument compelling. History shows that presidents rarely accomplish anything of substance during their second terms. Trump would probably be the same.

Not only did Barack Obama fail to clean up the mess he inherited from George W. Bush, he codified and expanded it: he told CIA torturers not to worry about being prosecuted, he expanded the assassination drone program, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, and he continued Bush’s policy of austerity for distressed homeowners and the unemployed with giant cash giveaways to the big banks. Likewise, Bill Clinton didn’t do anything to reverse the Reagan revolution; he went further right than the Republicans dared with “welfare reform,” Joe Biden’s devastating crime bill targeted at minority communities, NAFTA and the WTO. Given Biden’s half-century record of neoliberalism and his refusal to apologize for any of his crimes, it would be ridiculous to assume he would govern as anything other than a Republican.

After you accept the reality that a Biden administration would probably be even worse than keeping Trump, the question becomeas, should one vote and if so for whom?

There is a long and honorable tradition of voter boycotts throughout the world. This is especially true in countries without vibrant functioning democracies, like the United States. (In a European-style parliamentary democracy, most voters can find a party close to their personal ideological alignment. A two-party monopoly cannot possibly serve 330 million people.)

However, there is a relative dearth of data studying the motivations for people who stay home on Election Day. There is a cultural assumption in the U.S. that non-voters are lazy, apathetic or both. So it’s hard to ask intelligent progressives and other people disgusted with the two major parties to sit it out on November 3rd, knowing that they will be shamed.

Which leaves the third-party option.

There are two relatively notable third-party candidates this year. Clemson University professor Jo Jorgensen is the Libertarian Party nominee for president. On the left, the Green Party standard-bearer is unionist and environmentalist Howie Hawkins.

Given that neither candidate is likely to be elected, the main reasons to cast a vote for Jorgensen, Hawkins or another minor party candidate are to register a protest—I’m not apathetic, look, I vote—and to build an organization for the future. You can’t keep saying every two or four years, I would love to vote for a party other than the Democrats or the Republicans but the other parties are too small unless you actually do something to make one of those other parties bigger. That means voting for them. That means contributing money. Not two years from now, not four years from now, but now.

I have not yet decided whether to vote for Hawkins or someone else. I do know that I won’t be voting Democratic or Republican. I’m against both parties. Both parties kill innocent foreigners with abandon. Both parties neglect the poor. Neither party cares about the planet.

Why should I vote for a party I disagree with on almost every fundamental issue?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Who Was That Greta Girl Again?

People who comment on Greta Thunberg’s personality, demeanor and looks should instead focus on the fact that she is right that we face an existential environmental crisis.

A Grim New Definition of Generation X

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            People born in the 1960s may be the last human beings who will get to live out their full actuarial life expectancies.

            “Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat” to humanity, warns a recent policy paper by an Australian think tank. Civilization, scientists say, could collapse by 2050. Some people may survive. Not many.

            Some dismiss such purveyors of apocalyptic prognoses as hysterics. To the contrary, they’re Pollyannas. Every previous “worst-case scenario” prediction for the climate has turned out to have understated the gravity of the situation. “Paleoclimatologists have shown that past warming episodes show that there are mechanisms which magnify its effects, not represented in current climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the Paris Accords,” reports The Independent. It’s probably too optimistic to assume that we’ll make it to 2050.

            Gives new meaning to Generation X.

            Millennials and the children we call Generation Z face the horrifying prospect that they will get stuck with the tab for humanity’s centuries-long rape of planet earth, the mass desecration of which radically accelerated after 1950. There is an intolerably high chance that today’s young people will starve to death, die of thirst, be killed by a superstorm, succumb to a new disease, boil to death, asphyxiate from air pollution, be murdered in a riot or shot or blown up in a war sparked by environmentally-related political instability long before they survive to old age.

            Long threatened, never taken seriously, not even now that it’s staring us right in the face, human extinction is coming for the children and grandchildren we claim to love but won’t lift a finger to save.

            Shelves sag under the weight of books that have been written arguing that we still have a chance to save ourselves. I wish I could believe that. Human population has tripled since the 1950s. More than a million species have gone extinct. Ninety percent of the fish in the ocean have vanished, replaced by one billion tons of plastic. Two-thirds of the trees have been cut down. The polar ice cap is gone; it’s never coming back.

            We can’t stop global warming. An increase of four degrees Celsius over the baseline set at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution means game over. We’re well on our way there. It doesn’t make sense to think that we can avoid extinction.

            What if we woke up and demanded action from our political leaders? Radical problems require radical solutions; only the most radical of solutions could resolve the most radical problem of ruining our planet’s ability to sustain us: revolution. We would have to rise up and abolish—immediately—consumer capitalism in all the major greenhouse gas-producing nations, prioritize cleaning the environment as the human race’s top concern, and pivot to an economic mindset in which we extract the bare minimum from the ecosystem that we need in order to survive and nothing more.

            Voting might achieve some incremental reforms but reform falls far short of what we require. Saving our young people (and their children, should they be foolish enough to have any) would require global revolution, the violent overthrow of the ruling elites and replacing them with people who understand what must be done. It would need to happen today. Fifty years ago would be better. Got a time machine?

            None of this is going to happen. We are going to sleepwalk to our doom in a haze of social media and corporate entertainment distraction.

            So it’s time for people who are younger than I am to start thinking about how they want to spend the rest of their likely-to-be-truncated lives, and how they plan to face mass premature death.

            Pending human extinction destroys the answers provided by religion and philosophy. Knowing that there won’t be anyone to know that we were ever here raises the question: why bother to do anything? This column, this year’s “important” presidential election, love, hate, everything will lose its meaning when the last member of our species draws her last breath. Earth is unlikely to be visited by an alien archaeologist, much less uncover everything we’ve made and created (assuming any of it survives), much less figure out what any of it meant, before the sun expands into a red giant and ends it all.

            Much is to be said for hedonism: eat, drink, have sex, and don’t bother to sort your recycling, for tomorrow we die. Stoicism has its advantages too; go out with dignity rather than weeping and gnashing your teeth and making your fellow survivors miserable.

            Nihilism is about to become the best worst possible life strategy. Life is meaningless. That will soon become obvious. Moral principles, relics of a time with a future, will blow away like the irradiated dust we leave behind.

            None of this will have mattered.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

We Need a Hollywood President

Climate climate change could cause human extinction by 2050. What would the president do if he or she were in a Hollywood action thriller?

Sorry but It Really Is Too Late to Save the World

Even if humanity slams on the brakes, stopped emitting carbon dioxide and goes back to horses and buggies, global warming will continue for at least a few more decades. So although Donald Trump and his rolling back of air pollution emissions standards are annoying, it’s probably too late anyway.

Left, Center and Right: We’re All in Denial About Climate Change

main article image The political left, center and right do share something in common in today’s polarized America: we’re all in denial. The first step in 12-step programs begins with admitting that you have a problem for a reason: you can’t tackle a challenge whose existence you refuse to acknowledge. “From a psychoanalytical viewpoint, denial is a pathological, ineffective defense mechanism,” doctors M.S. Vos and J.C. de Haes observed in their 2006 study of cancer patients. A stunning 47% of the patients they polled denied that they had cancer! Denial reduced their chances of seeking treatment and then following through.

 “On the other hand,” Vos and de Haes observed, “according to the stress and coping model, denial can be seen as an adaptive strategy to protect against overwhelming events and feelings.” Denial lets you feel better.

 We think of climate change denial as a right-wing phenomenon. Indeed, only 56% of Republicans accept the scientific consensus that the earth is heating up; fewer still believe that humans are responsible, compared to 92% of Democrats who agree with scientists.

 Those who deny that climate change is real are engaging in what psychologists call “simple denial.” But those on the left aren’t much better. Liberals who think global warming is real often resort to “transference denial”: they blame the right and corporate polluters even though we’re all responsible. The scale of the climate crisis and the level of sacrifice and disruption that would be necessary to mitigate it feels overwhelming. A widely-reported analysis predicted that human civilization will collapse in 30 years. Others say it’s already too late to save ourselves.

 “We’re doomed,” predicts Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus at University of Westminster’s Policy Studies Institute. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

  He’s probably right.

 Bernie Sanders recently proposed the most ambitious assault on greenhouse gas emissions ever floated in U.S. politics, a $16.3 trillion plan to transition out of carbon-based fuels by 2050. By that time, though, we’ll be dead.

 As aggressive as Sanders’ plan is, it doesn’t go nearly far enough or fast enough. Yet Republicans and some Democrats say it’s too expensive. No one in corporate media is taking Sanders’ idea seriously. It’s stillborn.

 Liberals post their concern to social media. Some even attend protest marches. But they’re hardly acting like we face an existential crisis.

 The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders: “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.”

 Panic? Our “leaders” don’t give a crap. They’re too bought and too stupid to act.

 The bird population in the U.S. has collapsed by 29%—a total of 2.9 billion fewer birds—over the last 50 years. During that same period we lost half the world’s fish. Insects are on the way out too. “No insects equals no food, [which] equals no people,” says Dino Martins, an entomologist at Kenya’s Mpala Research Centre.

 None of this should come as a surprise. We were warned. “The oceans are in danger of dying,” Jacques Cousteau said in 1970. Life in the oceans had diminished by 40 percent in the previous 20 years.

 If you really believe that the planet is becoming uninhabitable, if you think you are about to die, you don’t march peacefully through the streets holding signs and chanting slogans begging the corrupt scoundrels who haven’t done a damn thing for decades to wake up and do something. You identify the politicians and corporate leaders who are killing us, you track them down and you use whatever force is necessary to make them stop. Nothing less than regime change stands a chance of doing the job.

 Nothing else—the struggle for income equality, gun control, abortion—matters as much as attacking pollution and climate change.

 Anything short of revolution and the abolition of consumer capitalism is “minimizational denial“: admitting the problem while downplaying its severity. Anything short of a radical retooling of the global political system that establishes state control of the economy with environmental impact as our first, second and third priorities is a waste of time that dooms the human race to extinction.

 There is no middle ground, no splitting the difference, no compromise. “Good enough” isn’t good enough. Mere progress won’t cut it. Human survival is a pass-fail class. The final exam is tomorrow morning—early tomorrow morning.

 Time to get serious, godammit.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

The Difference Between Liberals and Leftists

Image result for liberals vs leftists
Living as they do in a bipolar political world where politics consists of Democrats and Republicans and no other ideology is real, media corporations in the United States use left, liberal and Democrat as synonyms. This is obviously wrong and clearly untrue—Democrats are a party, leftism and liberalism are ideologies, and Democratic politics are frequently neither left nor liberal but far right—but as Orwell observed after you hear a lie repeated enough times you begin to question what you know to be true rather than the untruth. Sometimes it’s useful in this postmodern era to remind ourselves that words still have meaning, that distinctions make a difference.

Let us now delineate the difference between liberals and leftists.

Bernie Sanders votes and caucuses with the Democratic Party, campaigns as an independent and self-identifies as a “democratic socialist”—an ideology without a party in the U.S. but that draws comparisons to Scandinavia. His stances on the issues are left of center but American politics have drifted so far right that he’s really a paleo-Democrat—there’s no daylight between Sanders 2020 and McGovern 1972. No wonder voters are confused!

Liberals and leftists want many of the same things: reduced income inequality, better working conditions, more affordable housing and healthcare. There are differences of degrees. A liberal wants the gap between rich and poor to shrink; a communist wants no class differences at all. They’re very different when it comes to foreign policy: liberals support some wars of choice whereas leftists would only turn to the military for self-defense.

Reading the last paragraph it is tempting to conclude, as I used to and many people still do, that there is enough overlap between the two to justify, even require, cooperation. Liberals and leftists both want to save the planet and the human race from climate change—why not join forces to fight the polluters and their allies the denialists?

The Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is the ultimate liberal: a professor at Columbia, ex-chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and former chief economist for the World Bank. An op-ed he recently published in The New York Times provides a perfect illustration of why a lasting working relationship between liberals and leftists will always be a pipe dream.

As is often the case with screeds by smart liberals, there is a lot to like in “Progressive Capitalism Is Not an Oxymoron.” (Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes it is.)

Stiglitz correctly identifies the problem: “Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens. Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. This is not surprising, given that the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity.”

He correctly apportions the blame on “wealth-grabbing (or, as economists call it, rent-seeking),” businesses like hedge fund management that do not create anything but profits and the legacy of Reaganism: “Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities,” Stiglitz writes. “We relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.”

Then: “We could and should have provided more assistance to affected workers (just as we should provide assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of technological change), but corporate interests opposed it. A weaker labor market conveniently meant lower labor costs at home to complement the cheap labor businesses employed abroad. We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.” Boom! This.

Liberals like Stiglitz and leftists like me part ways when the discussion turns to solution. As Lenin asked: What is to be done?

Stiglitz answers: “It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve.”

“Government action is required,” he says.

We need “a new social contract between voters and elected officials, between workers and corporations, between rich and poor, and between those with jobs and those who are un- or underemployed,” he says.

Follow the link. Read the whole thing. I’ve included all the meat.

Stiglitz knows what is to be done. Mostly, he’s right. What he wants might not be enough. But it would do more good than harm.

What he does not know is how to make his proposals happen. Like the politics of all liberals, his is a toothless musing, a vacuous fantasy.

He said it himself: “Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.” This late-capitalism death spiral will not cure itself. There is no world in which corporations and their pet politicians and corrupt media propagandists will “recognize the vital role of the state.” They will not regulate themselves. They will not create “a new social contract.”

They are rich and powerful. The rich do not wake up one day and say to themselves, “Time to stop being a selfish ass, I’m going to redistribute my income.” The powerful do not care that the weak are miserable.

Money gets taken away from the rich one way: by force. The powerful are divested of their privileges the same way: when they have no choice.

Liberals and leftists identify many of the same problems. Only leftists understand that real solutions require serious pressure on the ruling elites. The credible threat of force—for example, a peaceful protest demonstration that could turn violent—may be enough to force reforms. But reforms always get rolled back after the left stops watching. Ultimately the rulers will have to be removed via revolution, a process that requires violence.

Liberals do not demand change; they ask nicely. Because they oppose violence and credible threats of violence, they tacitly oppose fundamental change in the existing structure of politics and society. Unlike leftists they are unwilling to risk their petty privileges in order to obtain the reforms they claim to crave. So, when push comes to shove, liberals will ultimately sell out their radical allies to the powers that be. And they will run away at the first sign of state oppression.

If you can’t trust your ally, they are no ally at all.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” 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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