Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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Andy Schmookler


All Anyone Needs to Know about Scott Walker

In America today, corporate profits are a larger portion of the GDP of the United States than at any time in our nation's history.

In America today, the proportion of GDP that goes to workers' wages is lower than it has been in living memory.

In this situation, this is what Scott Walker has done in Wisconsin: he has cut taxes for the rich corporations, and waged war against his state's workers.

What more should anyone need to know?

A Culture of Dogma

[Starting to run in newspapers in the 6th District-- part of my strategy of "See the evil. Call it out. Press the Battle."*]

In a healthy democracy, differing points of view contend to shape the destiny of the society.

What does it mean, however, when a major subculture of that society is perennially of but one mind?

From the 1830s until the Civil War, there was no robust debate in the politics of white Southerners about the rightness of slavery. It was the major issue in the nation as a whole, but within the South one point of view was virtually unchallenged.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was no robust debate in the politics of white Southerners about the rightness of re-imposing a regime of racial domination and intimidation (Jim Crow). That regime was a blatant violation of the newly amended U.S. Constitution. The epidemic of lynchings that was intended to intimidate the black population became a blot on the reputation of the United States. But in the South, this system of terror and domination faced no major challenges.

Likewise in the 1950s and 1960s, there was no robust debate in the politics of white Southerners about the rightness of resisting the judicial mandate to end the regime of segregation. No major faction emerged to say that the fraud of "separate but equal" was an injustice that should be abandoned.

Most Americans - including most white Southerners, I suspect - would agree now that slavery was wrong, Jim Crow was wrong, and desegregation was right. But not at the time, not when it mattered.

Such uniformity of political position is unnatural. It can happen only if people have been taught by the culture not to think for themselves, or taught not to express what they think if it differs from the dogma imposed by their political community.

Either way, it is contrary to how a democracy is supposed to work.

We see that same kind of dogma in the Republican Party of today.  


On the Question of God or gods, on the Contrast Between the Hebrews and...

I find myself wondering something about the idea of God. It grew out of my noticing the strangeness of the contrast between two important cultures in the millennium before the birth of Jesus: the culture of the ancient Greeks and that of the ancient Hebrews.

Here's the thing. These two peoples/cultures inhabited basically the same world - empires, metals, lots of war, slavery, annihilation-but despite that sameness they can to very different conclusions about a question of a matter most fundamental to worldview: the question of having God or the gods at the center of the cosmic order

Which is it, and what might be the fundamental difference between the cultures that would account for such different ways of seeing the fundamental order of the world.

The Greeks saw the world of the divine beings as a plurality, a whole diversity of gods having dealings (not always admirable) among each other. A many-ness, and a strong flavor of amorality.

The Hebrews saw the world of the divine as inhabited by ONE GOD -- and indeed from Abraham onward that was THE defining feature of the Hebrew religion, and is still at the center of the basic Jewish prayer, the Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one"

So it looks like the Hebrews at least would have said that the difference between believing in One God or in many gods was of the utmost importance.

Which is what leads to the question:

Is it a really fundamental matter about how to perceive reality, and if so, what can account for how these two cultures living choosing so differently on this matter despite inhabiting the same basic world?

Did their cultures give them basically different ways of thinking? If so, what was that difference? Or did they come to have different needs, or different senses of the nature of life, growing perhaps out of different historical experiences?

Dylann Roof and a Culture that Turns the Truth on Its Head

"You rape our women," Dylann Roof is reported to have declared just prior to shooting nine black people in a Charleston church. And in that, he showed a mentality that reflects something deep in the culture.

It's not just that the idea of the black rapist has a long and sordid history in the South. And it goes deeper than that the accusation was generally a false one.

More than that, it is a mirror image of the truth. It turns things upside down. Black is white, and white is black.

While the image of the black man raping the white woman has been a powerful and deep part of the Southern political culture, the historical reality of the problem of interracial rape was the negative of that picture: i.e., the white man raping the black woman.

DNA studies have shown that perhaps as many as 35% of African-American men carry a Y chromosome of European origin.  

The meaning of that is unambiguous: in the history of this nation, many black women gave birth to children sired by white men. When the black women are owned by the white men, it is hardly voluntary. It is plain in the history of many Southern plantation families: white masters forced themselves on black women.  

When Events Amaze

This past week has been one of those special times that prove how unpredictable the flow of events can be. It is an important realization, in our dark era in America, to recognize that our sense of what's possible is likely way too constricted. It tells us that it is never appropriate to yield entirely to despair because we "know" that there's no way things can turn around and get better.

I'm talking about the amazing speed with which, in the past several days, America - most definitely including many leaders on the American right - has been turning away from some of the long-celebrated emblems of the Confederate States of America.

The Confederate Battle Flag is being rejected in some places that have long held out for this supposedly guiltless icon of that American region that was willing to fight a Civil War to defend the rights of white people to own and exploit black people and that, two generations ago, resisted with defiant passion being compelled to abandon the regime of Jim Crow by which the descendants of those black slaves were terrorized and oppressed.

The Republican governor of South Carolina says it's time that the Stars and Bars cease flying over the South Carolina state house. The governor of Tennessee has called for the removal from his state house of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general and one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Disgrace of Virginia Republicans’ Blocking of Medicaid Expansion

[The following is running in newspapers in the heavily Republican VA-06 congressional district.]

As the American public recognizes, our political system has become dysfunctional. A big component of the problem is that disgraceful political conduct has become acceptable, and is often even rewarded.

The rejection of Medicaid expansion by the Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly is a case in point.  

It is hard - perhaps impossible - to find a way that this rejection is good for Virginia or its people.

Many will not be swayed by the most obvious factor-that it leaves a couple of hundred thousand Virginians without the kind of health care security that every citizen gets in other advanced democracies. Some people will not be moved by the human cost of the failure to extend Medicaid, just as some applauded at a 2012 Republican presidential debate when one of the candidates said we should let the uninsured die.

But the rest of us are hurt, too.  

Signs of a Movement, and a Challenge for Hillary Clinton

Bernie Taps into a Something Deep in America

The news people have noticed that Bernie Sanders is attracting crowds bigger and more enthusiastic than they'd have predicted. What's happening here, they've wondered?

My hypothesis is that Bernie Sanders is tapping into something deep and strong in the American electorate: a desire to fight back against the Big Money power that's been stealing wealth and power from the American people.

Bernie Sanders is speaking truth about several profound issues about which growing numbers of Americans are unhappily aware.

That the middle class is being hollowed out, while the rich get richer, is something they experience in their daily lives.

This is what Bernie Sanders has called the great moral, economic, and political issue of our times.

That money has become too powerful in our politics is something that, according to a poll just out from the New York Times and CBS, some 84% of the American people recognize.

Bernie Sanders has declared his intention to deal with the corruption of our democracy by money, including overturning the Supremes' disgraceful Citizens United decision.

That climate change constitutes a crisis we are morally obliged to deal with responsibly is something that growing numbers of people - including a small majority of Republicans (according to a recent national poll) - acknowledge.

Bernie Sanders is speaking plainly about this, too.

Bernie Sanders’ Fine Choice of Battlefield

Bernie Sanders writes:
"Congress is now debating fast track legislation that will pave the way for the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) unfettered free trade agreement. At a time when our middle class is disappearing and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, this anti-worker legislation must be defeated. Here are four reasons why."

I think Sanders has chosen wisely in making himself the champion of the anti-Trade Pact sentiment in the Democratic Party, and beyond that in the country more broadly. This is a fine battlefield for him to fight his fight, which is our fight as well: for the TPP appears to be one more place where the Big Money Power is working its will at the expense of the people.

This "trade" agreement seems to be less about bringing down trade barriers than about shifting power away from governments and onto the corporate system.  From various reliable witnesses, it seems that TPP would allow corporations to by-pass the court system and to have a system largely of its own creation adjudicate matters that rightly should be decided by the judicial component of our American democracy.

The TPP would give corporations new ways of fighting against efforts by governments to protect the greater good against the "unfettered" global corporate system. Corporations, it seems, would be able to enforce, as their "right," being compensated for whatever they might lose by being regulated in the public interest.

The TPP appears to be one more way Big Money is attempting to control government rather than be limited by government's efforts to take into account the needs and rights of the American people. One more step in the ongoing hostile corporate takeover of our nation and its destiny.

ALEC’s Threatened SLAPP Suit Against the LCV: Another Part of the Assault on Our...

Some thoughts about the press release that my wife, April Moore, put out earlier this week. In it, she challenged her opponent - Virginia State Senator (and apparent would-be-Virginia's Scott Walker), Mark Obenshain - to condemn the suit threatened by corporate powerhouse ALEC against the League of Conservation Voters.  

ALEC's attempt to intimidate the LCV represents should be understood as part of the larger picture of how the Big Money Power is subverting American democracy.

This particular abuse of money power is not directly connected with the electoral process. Rather it is an attempt of Big Money to strangle the public discourse on which a healthy democracy depends, the flow of information and ideas that helps the American people give informed consent to their government.

Bringing such a suit - or even just threatening it - represents a serious abuse of the legal system to silence those people who are doing for the nation precisely what our founders had in mind when they constructed the American system of liberty: telling the public the truth about what's going on.

This kind of abuse of the legal system has a name: SLAPP, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

Although America's founders set up the court system as a means for achieving justice, in suits like this, that purpose is turned on its head. "Justice for all" is what is implied by the blindfold that Lady Justice wears. When Justice weighs the facts and the law in its scales, it is blind to who is powerful and who is weak. Thus the Courts are supposed to be the one place - besides also the ballot box - where the weak have equal standing.

Undoing Our Founders’ Achievement

This piece appeared as an op/ed in newspapers in Virginia's 6th congressional district.

In a previous column, I declared that historians will judge that the most important political battle of our times was not over the issues that most people focus on - immigration, abortion, guns, etc. - but on something far more fundamental. The vital battle now is over whether the American people will be able to preserve the gift our founders gave us, or whether a new kind of Big Money will fully succeed in transforming our nation into a society in which the powerful few dominate the many.

To understand how revolutionary our founders' vision was, we need to remember the old order in the European civilization from which they came. In Europe, for centuries, the ruling one percent of the population controlled nearly all wealth. Power ran only from the top down. Feudal fiefdoms established by the sword dominated those who worked the land; and eventually all became the "subjects" of kings who claimed "divine right" and were answerable to no one.

The founding of the United States was a cure for this injustice.

No longer, in Jefferson's words, would it be supposed that the mass of mankind be "born with saddles on their backs" while a "favored few" were "booted and spurred, ready to ride." America's fundamental principle would be that "all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

No longer would the few dominate and exploit the many for, in America, the government would derive its powers from "the consent of the governed."

This great achievement is being dismantled right before our eyes.  

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