Friday, November 9, 2012

Paul Krugman says, "Let's not make a deal."

As he so often is, Paul Krugman is right about the current budget negotiations in Congress. Krugman argues that the by gaining seats in the Senate and by winning the presidency by a clear majority have the political capital to refuse the demands of House Republicans in order to reach a budget deal.
In saying this, I don’t mean to minimize the very real economic dangers posed by the so-called fiscal cliff that is looming at the end of this year if the two parties can’t reach a deal. Both the Bush-era tax cuts and the Obama administration’s payroll tax cut are set to expire, even as automatic spending cuts in defense and elsewhere kick in thanks to the deal struck after the 2011 confrontation over the debt ceiling. And the looming combination of tax increases and spending cuts looks easily large enough to push America back into recession.

Nobody wants to see that happen. Yet it may happen all the same, and Mr. Obama has to be willing to let it happen if necessary.

Why? Because Republicans are trying, for the third time since he took office, to use economic blackmail to achieve a goal they lack the votes to achieve through the normal legislative process. In particular, they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, even though the nation can’t afford to make those tax cuts permanent and the public believes that taxes on the rich should go up — and they’re threatening to block any deal on anything else unless they get their way. So they are, in effect, threatening to tank the economy unless their demands are met.

Mr. Obama essentially surrendered in the face of similar tactics at the end of 2010, extending low taxes on the rich for two more years. He made significant concessions again in 2011, when Republicans threatened to create financial chaos by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And the current potential crisis is the legacy of those past concessions.

And a hat tip to Progressive Breakfast for the link.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


The while [male] establishment is finished. Bill O'Reilly says so. This clip has gained a lot of attention over the past few days, and I want to keep a record of it on my blog because it may mark a historic turning point in US and world history.

O'Reilly's arrogance is annoying, to say the least. He says that Democratic voters "want stuff," meaning unearned handouts. In other words, he is against a humane society in which we all recognize our interconnection and help out people who are having a difficult time. And he ignores the "stuff" that the present system has given to white people, to men, to the 1 percent of the wealthiest US citizens whose greed in endangering the well-being of the 99 percent and the rest of the planet.

But he's acknowledging that US society is becoming more ethnically diverse, and with that change, our society is becoming much more progressive. He is mourning something that I would personally celebrate--the passage of racist, capitalist patriarchy.

With a lot of hard work, those who welcome a changing United States can make this come true.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The lesser of two evils?

If the Green Party's presidential candidates had been listed on the Oklahoma ballot, I would have voted for Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala.

Given Oklahoma's extremely restrictive ballot access laws, the only two choices I had were Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Obama is the lesser of two evils by a large margin. Romney demonstrates a complete lack of core integrity, a willingness to shift from progressive to extreme conservative opinions based on whatever is popular at the moment, and an alliance with the most regressive economic and political forces in the United States.

Nevertheless, I wish I'd had the option to vote for Jill Stein today. For one thing, living in the reddest of red states, I know that Oklahoma will go solidly for Romney. Given the reality of the way the Electoral College operates, a vote for anyone else is a protest vote. I would like my protest vote to be for the candidate I prefer.

As Doug Henwood put it in a recent post for The Nation:
...I wish, just once, an endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate coming from the left would mull over some serious structural issues that are at stake.

There are certain eternally recurrent features of these endorsement editorials, and they are depressing. The shortcomings of this year’s Democrat are acknowledged, only to be dismissed, because this is always the most important election since 1932, or maybe 1860. If the Democrats lose, brownshirts will move into the Oval Office. It will be repression and immiseration at home and aggressive war abroad. Sure, there will be some repression, immiseration and war even if the Dem wins, but see above re dismissal of shortcomings.

The persistence of the pattern is no exaggeration. Here’s something from a 1967 essay by Hal Draper on the imminent 1968 election: “Every time the liberal labor left has made noises about its dissatisfaction with what Washington was trickling through, all the Democrats had to do was bring out the bogy of the Republican right. The lib-labs would then swoon, crying ‘The fascists are coming!’ and vote for the Lesser Evil.”

And what is the consequence of that swoon? Draper’s answer: “the Democrats have learned well that they have the lib-lab vote in their back pocket, and that therefore the forces to be appeased are those forces to the right.” Almost every editorial urging a vote for this year’s Dem will lament the rightward move of our politics without ever considering the contribution of such calls to the process.

In other words, the Democrats will continue to ignore and disrespect the progressive vote, because they've learned that they can get away with it.

I would much prefer to have the opportunity to vote for candidates who actually respect my views.

Oklahoma State Ballot Questions

Oklahoma Policy Institute has an excellent page explaining the 2012 Oklahoma State Questions. This page has links to further information about each ballot measure. I especially like their explanation of the many flaws of SQ 759. Here's one example:
Extensive research on affirmative action has so far uncovered no evidence of a new regime of ‘reverse racism.’ In fact, White women have benefited enormously. In the thirty years following the onset of equal opportunity, White women reached their proportionate share in management occupations and more than tripled their rate of college completion.

Equal opportunity initiatives do not advance women and minorities over Whites and men; they privilege fair and equal access for all groups. A scholarly analysis of thousands of ‘reverse discrimination’ cases in federal courts in the mid-1990s found that almost all of them lacked legal merit. Most of these cases failed because disappointed applicants erroneously believed that a woman or minority got the job based on race or sex, not because their qualifications were superior to their own.
In other words, the not-so-subtle subtext of SQ 759--and other efforts against affirmative action--is the unfounded belief that if someone besides a white guy succeeds, it must be because of "reverse discrimination."

But what about quotas? Aren't those a bad idea? The answer is, quotas have been illegal in Oklahoma since the 1980s:
Many people mistakenly believe that affirmative action is a quota system, where people are hired based on a ‘count’ of minorities that must be selected. Public hiring quotas and contract preferences have been illegal in Oklahoma since the early 1980s. The State Regents for Higher Education have never used minority admissions quotas. The myth is so pervasive, even several legislators think that SQ 759 would eliminate quotas.

What is affirmative action? In Oklahoma, state agencies report annually on the demographic make-up of their workforce, and are encouraged to improve outreach during the hiring process among demographics they find poorly represented. The state Office of Personnel Management says affirmative action involves simply, “identifying departments in which the number of women or ethnic minorities is below that for the general workforce, then recruiting qualified candidates to address the situation.”
I'm voting no on State Question 759.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Soviet naval officer who prevented WWIII

I was six years old during the Cuban Missile Crisis back in 1962. I remember the nuclear air raid drills that we used to do when I was in elementary school. I have vague memories of the 1960 presidential election that happened the year I turned four. I have fairly vivid memories about the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. But I remember nothing of the missile crisis. Did the grownups protect us children from the news about this horror? Or was it so frightening that I simply blocked it out?

One reason that the Cuban Missile Crisis is only an important and frightening historical event that I can't remember, and not something far worse, has to do with the bravery of Vasily Arkhipov, a Russian naval officer who refused to consent to the launching of his submarine's nuclear weapon. 

Edward Wilson, writing for The Guardian, tells what happened:
If you were born before 27 October 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov saved your life. It was the most dangerous day in history. An American spy plane had been shot down over Cuba while another U2 had got lost and strayed into Soviet airspace. As these dramas ratcheted tensions beyond breaking point, an American destroyer, the USS Beale, began to drop depth charges on the B-59, a Soviet submarine armed with a nuclear weapon.

The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, had no way of knowing that the depth charges were non-lethal "practice" rounds intended as warning shots to force the B-59 to surface. The Beale was joined by other US destroyers who piled in to pummel the submerged B-59 with more explosives. The exhausted Savitsky assumed that his submarine was doomed and that world war three had broken out. He ordered the B-59's ten kiloton nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing. Its target was the USS Randolf, the giant aircraft carrier leading the task force.

If the B-59's torpedo had vaporised the Randolf, the nuclear clouds would quickly have spread from sea to land. The first targets would have been Moscow, London, the airbases of East Anglia and troop concentrations in Germany. The next wave of bombs would have wiped out "economic targets", a euphemism for civilian populations – more than half the UK population would have died. Meanwhile, the Pentagon's SIOP, Single Integrated Operational Plan – a doomsday scenario that echoed Dr Strangelove's orgiastic Götterdämmerung – would have hurled 5,500 nuclear weapons against a thousand targets, including ones in non-belligerent states such as Albania and China.
Ironically, there might have been far fewer casualties within the US, Wilson notes, because "The very reason that Khrushchev sent missiles to Cuba was because the Soviet Union lacked a credible long range ICBM deterrent against a possible US attack." In other words, the US government considered European civilians to be "acceptable pawn sacrifices" should the Soviets launch a nuclear attack.

Fortunately, we don't know how that war would have turned out. Before the B-59 could launch its nuclear missle, all three of its senior officers had to agree. Two of the three officers said yes. Vasili Arkipov said no.

A recent PBS documentary tells the story. The entire Edward Wilson article is also worth reading for its analysis of how nuclear weapons still endanger the survival of life on Earth.

Hat tip to Brandon Wade for posting about Arkhipov on Facebook.

Enough is enough...

...according to Emma's Revolution: