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Election Interference

2017 February 27

So, Obama put sanctions on Russia, ostensibly for interfering in American elections.

The argument has been made that keeping them under these sanctions “disincentivizes” Russia interfering in other countries’ elections.

Okay.

I think this falls to the level of schoolyard ethics.

Russia should stand down when the US stands down. The US has interfered in multiple elections, and recently helped the Maidan overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government in a coup.

As for electronic spying, what is known is this: Americans were tapping the German Chancellor’s phone.

There is nothing that Americans want Russians to stop doing that they themselves do not do, with the possible exception of annexation. (And there’s a strong argument that the US still annexes what it wants, de facto, if not de jure.)

The schoolyard bully telling others, “Only I get to hit people” doesn’t go across really well.

It is simply impossible to take the US seriously on any form of “don’t spy,” “don’t fight,” or “enforce human rights.” Just impossible. Of course Russia will try to get friendly governments elected when the West has it under economic sanctions. Of course Russia will try and get friendly governments in power: Just like America does.

Two wrongs may not make a right, but people who unilaterally disarm and refuse to fight get a lot worse done to them than having their faces shoved in the dirt.

America supported a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government. There is no question about this. Then, when the Russians intervened in the Ukraine, they insisted on punishing the Russians.

Think this through a little.

At most, Russian interference in the US election involved the selective release of real, true, information.

The rest of the world wishes American interference stayed at that level.


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Perez Chosen as DNC Chair

2017 February 25
by Ian Welsh

Ellison, of course, was the left-wing choice, endorsed by Sanders, etc.

I’m going to have a lot more to say about the Democratic party, neoliberals, Obama, and Clinton later. For now, I simply note that the most important thing, for those who control the liberal party, is retaining control over the liberal party.

I note also that they genuinely believe in neoliberalism. They genuinely don’t want a $15/minimum wage and will only grudgingly give on something as basic (and really, minor to them) as that.

They want Americans poor. They want the poor to stay poor. They want the middle class to decline.

I mean this exactly as I say it: The policies they prefer make the middle class poor, and make the poor poorer, and have done for 40 years.

This is who they are. This is what they want.

They are the enemy of all people who prioritize any form of kindness to other human beings.  Whether they are better than Trump is irrelevant, they’re just another group of enemies.

More on this later. Perez is only an occasion to mention it, and nothing major: He’s just another sign that, no, they don’t want people who favor decent policies in charge of anything, ever. They would certainly far rather lose elections to someone like Trump than allow the left power.

Enemies.


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The Realpolitik of Britain’s Interest in a LePen Victory

2017 February 24

Marine LePen continues to close the margins on a final round run-off. She’s still likely to lose, but it’s getting closer.

The odd thing here is that if Britain intends to Brexit, which it does, it would be very helpful to Britain if LePen won, because right now Brussels is determined to punish Britain severely for Brexit, so as to dissuade other possible rebels.

But LePen has said she wants Frexit, and if both France and England are leaving, it becomes quite hard to “punish” them, so long as they work together even slightly. That’s just too much of Europe, and especially Europe’s economy.

As I said in the past, I’d favor Brexit under a left-wing government, even minus the Euro, the binding agreements that are part of the EU make running a real left-wing government impossible, but under the Conservatives, it’s likely be a fiasco.

However the case for France is a lot stronger, because France isn’t winning under the Euro and hasn’t been for some time. France would be better out of the Euro. Again, it would be better that it be done by someone other than LePen, but the left has emasculated itself in these debates by refusing to be for nationalism, and thus ceding the anti-EU argument mostly to the right. (There are some exceptions.)

Frankly, the entire south of Europe should leave the Euro (though not necessarily the EU), and so should France. It just is not in their interest to stay, at least not if “interest” means “the interests of most of the population.”

It is a pity that people like LaPen and Farrage are the people filled with passionate conviction, while most of the left swings in the wind pathetically, and the only major left-wing leader of conviction, Corbyn, has polls leaving him far, far behind the Conservative party. (Though I consider that more an indictment of Britons than Corbyn.)

If the good people won’t do the right thing, it falls to the bad people to do the right thing in so much the wrong way that it may turn out to be the wrong thing.

This, by the way, is true as much of the EU as of leaving the EU. The EU and the Euro in particular were set up to force people into neoliberal policy. This was a betrayal of the spirit of the EU, which was about preventing war, not about impoverishing people. The technocrats are so convinced they are right that no amount of real world evidence of failure can convince them otherwise.

And so the right-wing rises. And Europeans are embracing them more and more.

Create an intolerable present with a clearly intolerable future and people will take a winger on very unpleasant people for even a slight chance to change things.

So it is, and so it shall be–if our elites don’t start changing, or we don’t change our elites.


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Immigration and Wages

2017 February 22
by Ian Welsh

Wages are partially determined by supply and demand. The tighter the labor market, the higher the wages. There is a very direct relationship.

People who dislike immigrants for economic reasons think that if there are less immigrants, there will be less people competing for jobs, and therefore wages will be higher.

The alternative argument is that immigrants spend money. They are consumers. The more money being spent, the more demand there is for goods and services. Therefore, the more demand there is for workers, and therefore wages are higher.

Which of these is true varies by society and time period, but also depends on what jobs you’re talking about. Immigrants compete for low-end jobs, and they compete for some high-end jobs as well (in particular various tech jobs, especially in programming, engineering, and science). The latter tend to come in visas, often worker visas which give them limited rights. The former are often undocumented; these are the folks Trump wants to deport.

A lot of older programmers (coders) can’t get hired. If there were fewer work-visa immigrants, perhaps they could.  If there were fewer undocumented workers, perhaps there would be higher wages for low-paid manual labor jobs.

I support immigration, but I recognize that making immigration work means having policies which generate domestic work from domestic demand. If an immigrant makes money and spends most of it on Wal-mart goods made in China, it might well be that he or she is producing less local demand for workers than the job or jobs that immigrant has.

There are ways of making it so that immigrants produce more jobs than they consume, but this takes political will, and it hasn’t been a priority for most nations for decades. Heck, it hasn’t even been a consideration, much less a priority, because policy has been run to keep wages from increasing as fast as inflation, let alone as fast as productivity.

In this environment, it is not unreasonable for low-wage workers who are directly competing with undocumented workers to see them as competition. They are competition.

The right way to fix this, as with almost everything, is to make sure it’s a clear win/win, and not questionable which way it goes. Low-wage workers, and tech workers, need to see a tight labor market where there’s plenty of work and wages rising faster than inflation. In such an environment, they won’t care about immigration.


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The Press Is Trump’s Enemy, Not the Left’s Friend

2017 February 20
by Ian Welsh

The enemy of my my enemy is not my friend. It often isn’t even my ally, but just someone with whom I have something in common.

Roosevelt on the Press from F.D.R. and the Press

FDR wasn’t that left wing, yet the press savaged him relentlessly. Corbyn is relentlessly savaged and lied about by the British press, and his political beliefs are basically 60s liberal with a side of anti-nuke.

The media works for its owners. As of 2000, 80 percent of US media was owned by six companies, and that percentage is higher now. The media serves the interests of the people who own it and anyone else’s only incidentally and insofar as those interests don’t contradict the owners. Furthermore, and at this point, almost all journalists and editors in the US media are Ivy League grinders.

Such people are deeply, personally, offended by the idea that someone like Trump, who just does not know how to act and who is rich despite being everything that parses as incompetent and gross to them, is President. Trump is not part of the club; despite being rich, he never has been. His father was rich, he was rich, but he comes across as nouveau riche, a parvenu, without taste or class. And his followers, in whose company he revels, are culturally beyond the pale to virtually anyone who was conditioned in an Ivy League school, and who jumped through all the hoops to get into an Ivy League school (a process which requires the unfortunate subject to be a grind and a brownnoser from elementary school all the way through high school).

Just as the intelligence community’s opposition to Trump does not make them good guys, the press’s opposition to Trump does not make them good guys. For all the screams about “fake news,” the worst purveyors of false news in the past 20 years were the mainstream media who sold the Iraq war for George Bush; with the most prestigious newspaper in America, the New York Times, making the flagship effort.

As a result, by the time Iraq was invaded, 72 percent of Americans thought that Iraq had been involved in 9/11 and a majority thought they had WMD and were a threat to America.

Now that’s fake news.

The media has been relentless in mocking any real left wing candidates as well. Kucinich, who ran for president multiple times, was treated as a joke. Oddly, he had been a successful mayor–he was both a successful legislator and a successful executive, but somehow he wasn’t credible.

For anyone who wants a better, more egalitarian world, with greater welfare for all and true respect for democracy, the best case scenario of the Trump/media fight is for them to destroy each other, and the media to be even further discredited, so that it can be broken back up into thousands of pieces. Even in that state, the majority of media outlets will be the enemy of all decent, kind individuals. However, that way they will be less powerful, and there will be room for a larger minority to advocate for something other than oligarchy and empire and all the evils that flow from both.

Remember, it is a rare person or institution that doesn’t serve the interests of whoever controls it, and if you cut a person’s paycheck, you are paying for control over that person. That is literally what the check is for, and if the person doesn’t act in the interests of their owner, they get fired.

The media is not your friend. They are the bought and paid for workers for oligarchy. That is their job. On the side, where the oligarchs don’t care much, they may do some good, but if “good” and “pushing the interests of their owners” conflict, they will always side with pushing the interests of their owners.

Trump cut the TPP. Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA. Trump wants huge tariffs on various countries. He wants to kick out undocumented immigrants, who work for bad wages in shitty jobs for people who don’t want to pay enough for people who aren’t scared of ICE to do the job.

There are oligarchs who support Trump’s plan, to be sure (see Fox, various others), but there are plenty who don’t.

That doesn’t make Trump’s plans good, nor by itself does it make them bad. It just means that giants are fighting above our heads. To them, we are ants, and ifm while they fight each other, they happen to step on some ants, that isn’t important to them.

Trump: Not your friend. Media: Not your friend. Intelligence agencies: Not your friends. This is true even if part of their current interests happens to coincide with yours.


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Fools Russians Where Angels Fear to Tread

2017 February 18
by Mandos

(NB: post by Mandos.)

Recent events suggest that, whatever they may have originally thought, the Trump administration is in the process of being pulled back into the overall historical attractor of US policy regarding Russia. The Russian establishment had made no secret of its preference for Trump and its belief that Trump was a person with which they could deal on a more even footing, a politician in a mold they understood, etc.

I’m not here to argue whether or not Trump (or Flynn) is some kind of Russian plant, an issue that seems to be occupying many others.  I gather that conclusive evidence on this matter has yet to be produced and that it so far lies in the realm of (negative) wishful thinking.  However, Russian policy-makers are already voicing disappointment that Russia-favorable entities in the Trump administration are increasingly weakened. The US state, particularly its intelligence community, are deeply set up for conflict with Russia, for better or for worse, and it turns out that the White House is only part of a large infrastructure, and any fantasies of an election resulting in a vast purge and house-cleaning were just that: fantasies. The intelligence community still believes to its core in the necessity of containing Russia.

However, one thing that is different now is the position of Western social liberals. Unfortunately, Russia had decided to back in spirit, if not always materially, movements that are identified with various strains of nationalist conservatism that are hostile to the goals and beliefs of social liberals. This is not only in the USA, but especially so in Europe, with the on-going rise of the Le Pens, the Wilders, and other groups in the world. Once upon a time, social liberal groups were principally parochial movements which were relatively indifferent on foreign policy questions regarding Russia, and to a very large extent also overlapped with anti-war movements — and so were once at odds with the intelligence community.

However, the apparent desire of Russia to return to a world of ordinary nation-state politics, and therefore its willing appearance (at minimum) of siding with conservative nationalist movements, have led to many social liberals now viewing Russia as mortal threat to their projects, and therefore, having a plausible motive to try to subvert political movements like that of Trumpism to their aims.  In this situation, social liberals (or “identity politics” movements, or whatever you want to call them) will quite rationally stake out a position that the devil you know (American intelligence forces) are better than the devil you don’t (Vladimir Putin). This is not helped by the appearance of things like Russia loosening its laws on domestic violence.

While social liberals have not lately been winning elections on their platforms (most notably, in the USA due to the Electoral College structure), it would be a mistake to assume that these groups have no power whatsoever. In fact, they have broad and deep bases of popular support (merely electorally inefficient), and those bases are being pushed into the arms of forces hostile to Russian interests. The combination of Cold War-style intelligence community conservatism with popular social liberalism is one that is likely to lead to an even more hostile neo-Cold War posture on the part of the Western establishment in the medium-term, unless in the short term Trumpism can generate the political competence required to coerce the establishment in the other direction.

For its part, Russia has been attempting to play, in the “further abroad”, a soft power role given that its other options are not effective. It is attempting to play the part of a rival global hegemon without actually being a hegemon. It does not currently have the cultural or technological reach to do so.  While it operates a technologically advanced, developed economy, it is still highly dependent on natural resource development and export. That means that the risks accruing from a strategy of using cultural divisions in the currently hegemonic Western social order are high: should social liberals gain the upper hand due to the inability of nationalist populism to operate the levers of state effectively, they will be confirmed in a resolve for further containment and suppression of a Russia that took sides against them.

How to Fix Posts and Comments Not Showing

2017 February 16
by Ian Welsh

Ok, after some hours of fun, fun, fun, posts should now show as soon as they are published and so should comments.

If they are NOT, please press ctrl-F5 (or command-F5 on Mac) and that should resolve it. For Chromebook, use Ctrl-Shift-r.

Comments were turned off; they are now turned on. If you have any problems, please let me know (comment below, or admin-at-ianwelsh-dot-net).

The Deep State vs. Trump

2017 February 15
by Ian Welsh

So, Flynn is gone. This was foolish on Trump’s part, because the odds of a Logan Act prosecution were zero.  Telling Russians to chill could easily be argued to be a good thing: If they hadn’t, it would have meant the Russians would have inflicted their own sanctions on the US, which, presumably, Americans wouldn’t want.

Not that I care if Flynn is gone. The man was an insane warmonger on the subject of Iran.

Meanwhile, there are constant leaks, always un-named and virtually never with any actual evidence.

Trump pissed off both the intelligence community and the foreign affairs community, and they want him taken out.

There were two stories used to delegitimize Trump during the election: He’s a Fascist (Hitler reborn, he’ll put you all in camps and exterminate you), and He’s a Russian Pawn.

Both are being run heavily now. The idea is to have a constant stream of scandals until he’s so damaged that he can be impeached by Republicans and replaced with Pence. (And if Pence goes down, you get Paul Ryan, who will be worse than Trump on many issues. There is no Nice Daddy to be gotten by impeaching Trump, children. They’re all bad people.)

The intelligence services are anti-Trump. The police are pro-Trump and where the military stands is uncertain.

The power circle here is as follows: Police > Intelligence > Military > Police. When there’s a confrontation, that’s who tends to win. Intelligence tends to beat the military, the military the police, the police the intelligence services. (That’s assuming unity. When you have a coup like the one in Turkey, where the military is not unified, the police can beat them.)

The question here is the loyalty of the FBI, which is the primary investigative arm of the police forces. If loyal, Trump should use them hard, to find who the leakers are. These ‘unnamed sources” have to contact journalists, and thanks to Obama, it is legal to wiretap journalists to find out who leakers are.

Once they are found, Trump should not just make examples of them, he should use them as a reason to break at least one agency (probably the CIA, far weaker than the NSA), with the understanding that there is enough material to break others if they continue.

I do not say “should” in the sense that I hope Trump does; I am agnostic. Unlike many left-wingers, I do not think that just because bad actors oppose Trump (a bad actor), they are now my friends. I’m a left-winger: No intelligence agency is my friend.

I am, however, genuinely concerned by the anti-Russia hysteria being whipped up. It is shameful and could easily lead to real, hot war with a nation which is much weaker than the US and its allies, except in nuclear terms. A nation whom has also noted that it will use nukes in case of a war.

Pushing Russia up against a wall is in almost no one’s interest and is profoundly dangerous.

I am dismayed that so many on the left are willing to collude in this anti-Russian hysteria, but I suppose I shouldn’t be, nothing more is to be expected.

The game will continue, and, yes, if Trump goes down, it will be because of a concerted campaign by the intelligence community. However much you may hate Trump, if you think that’s a good thing, you are delusional.

Note that I have no position on what happened or didn’t happen. I don’t know. I want proof. After Iraq, I don’t take “the intelligence community’s word” for anything. Only a fool would.

(Also, this:

)


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