Friday, January 31, 2020

But I don't feel Vichy...

A number of years ago I was reading a book by Vichy France scholar Robert O. Paxton in which he made what I consider to be a very insightful point, and one that seems especially relevant as the U.S. Senate is about to let DT off the hook for his blatant corruption and abuse of office.
Paxton explained the difference between what he called the "normative state" and the "prerogative state." What this means, as I understand the difference, is that while modern governments carry out a large host of functions, only some of those functions are genuinely political in nature--and the prerogative state pertains to those heavily political functions while the normative state pertains to the non-political (or marginally political).
For example, even in Vichy France it was presumably necessary for various government agencies to do things like deliver the mail, regulate meat plants, inspect coal mines, etc. I suppose one could easily use his or her imagination and come up with ways that a Vichy mail carrier might do the job differently than a free French mail carrier, or how Nazi meat regulations might differ from ordinary meat regulations, or how a Vichy mine safety inspector might assess dangers differently from other mine inspectors, and so on. But for the most part, mail is mail Meat is meat. A coal mine is a coal mine. These are normative state functions. So except maybe around the extreme margins, having a Vichy government doesn't really feel much different than any other government with respect to normal, everyday functions.
Then you have the prerogative state. These are going to be the things deeply politicized in a given society (often any society). The content of education. Policing. Foreign policy. Immigration and naturalization policies. Civil rights. Freedoms of expression, press, assembly. Voting rights. Certainly there is much more--but these are the prerogative state issues that truly reveal the character of a government. These are the areas where having a Vichy regime rather than a true democracy truly manifests.
Whether the chief executive of a republic is subject to that country's laws is obviously a core prerogative state question. It has historically been fundamental to this's country's notion of itself as a democracy that the answer to that question be yes. One whose rights need not be respected is not a citizen, but a slave.
When the Senate fails to accumulate the necessary number of votes to remove Donald Trump from office, despite copious evidence that he abused the office for personal political gain and then repeatedly lied about having done so, it will effectively establish that no, the POTUS is not subject to the country's laws. The POTUS is, in effect, a king who may do what he pleases. The essential yes will have become a no.
Things may not feel much different the day after that happens. The mail will still be delivered. Meat plants will still be regulated. Coal mines will still be inspected. We likely will not feel as though we've become slaves--certainly not in the sense Roger Taney was writing about.
But we should not dare presume that we remain citizens. One is only a citizen if his or her rights must be respected.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Thoughts heading into the first Dem primaries

Was just looking at for basically the first time since 2016. Here's something interesting that I noticed.
The first four primaries are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Sanders is projected to win Iowa, NH, and Nevada, while Biden is projected to win S. Carolina.
Then comes Super Tuesday. Sanders is the projected winner in California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Colorado. Maine, and Vermont, while Biden is projected in Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, and Utah.
Okay, so let's divide these states into three groups: reliable blue, battleground, and reliable red:
  • In reliable blue states, Sanders is favored in 8 and Biden in 0.
  • In battleground states, Sanders is favored in 1 and Biden in 2.
  • In reliable red states, Biden is favored in 7 and Sanders in 0.
I think the people who view Biden as more "electable" figure that any Dem will carry the reliable blue states and thus someone like Biden gives them a better shot at the battlegrounds or even flipping a reliable red.
I don't personally agree with that; partly I don't think the reliable blue states can be taken for granted with a corporate Dem (case in point: DT won Pennsylvania in 2016) and partly because I think these numbers are skewed because the progressive vote is being split three different ways right now. But I did think it was interesting and worth pointing out.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Unfuck the USA

Short list of what needs to happen in 2021-22:

1. Warren or Sanders needs to win the Dem nomination and then defeat DT in the general.

2. The Dems need to hold the House and take over the Senate.

3. Once in control, the Dems then need to pass a law expanding the U.S. Supreme Court to something like 25 justices, nominate as many new ones as are needed, and confirm them.   Similarly expand and fill the federal appellate and trial courts.  If actual de-trumpification is not possible then we at least need to dilute and minimize their effect.

4. Enact the following policies on voting/democracy: 
a.       Make election day a national holiday;
b.       Prohibit felony disenfranchisement laws and voter ID requirements;
c.       Comprehensive campaign finance reform that includes limits on individual donations, restricts participation by non-natural persons, and requires public media to refrain from publishing material that is demonstrably false or misleading;
d.       Require all states to conduct electoral redistricting through a process that uses a computer program, created by a non-partisan team of computer experts, to draw lines that establish districts according a standard set of objectively fair and reasonable criteria that are not calculated to advantage one political party or the other;
e.       Make the receipt of federal funding contingent upon a host of pro-democracy policies, including (i) vote-by-mail or on-line voting, (ii) instant-run-off voting, (ii) automatic voter registration schemes, etc.

      The Dems should also do whatever they can to extend the political franchise to D.C. residents, Puerto Ricans, and any other U.S. citizens who do not currently enjoy full participation in the government.

       5. Take action on inequality, including the following:
a.       Establish single-payer health coverage (Medicare for all) to ensure all Americans have access to basic health care (and also alleviate the financial strain on small business and innovation);
b.       Establish public funding for “K-16” and cancel existing undergraduate student loan debt, to ensure future generations have access to the basic education level needed to enjoy economic opportunity in our modern economy, alleviate the burden that student loans already impose on the economy, and avoid the eventual burst of the student debt bubble;
c.       Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hr. and require automatic annual adjustments thereafter pegged to the U.S. productivity level, which will further redistribute wealth from the uber-rich to working households and exert upward pressure on the wages of all workers;
d.       Establish at least 12 weeks of paid parent leave for new parents;
e.       Fund housing vouchers at a level appropriate to the need, invest in capital improvements to existing affordable housing, and appropriate additional moneys as needed to erase the 7.2 million dwelling unit gap in affordable housing, and fully fund McKinney-Vento programs predicated on a Housing First model to end homelessness throughout the USA;
f.        Enact comprehensive immigration reform that (i) makes all DREAMers eligible for green cards immediately and provides a path to citizenship if they want it, (ii) reaffirms the U.S. commitment to international refugee and asylee law, abolishing detention camps and reuniting families as quickly as possible; (iii) reverses all Trump-era and preexisting discriminations against non-citizens, ranging from the travel ban to the public charge rule to everything in between; (iv) restores the USA’s self-image as a haven open to people seeking a better life (and which recognizes that most immigrants work hard and build businesses that employ people, contrary to the myths of the right), with immigration restrictions limited to very serious considerations (such as screening out terrorists or people carrying contagious diseases, and none of the political white supremacy bullshit).

6. With whatever additional time the Dems have within their guaranteed 2-year window, enact the “Green New Deal” and save the fuck out of the planet while there is still something left of it to preserve. 

7. Cancel Columbus Day as a federal holiday and replace it with the first two days of the NCAA Tournament.

Letter to University of Michigan President Santa Ono on Pro-Palestine Protests of March 24, 2024

 Dear President Santa Ono: Although I was generally in agreement with the content of your letter regarding the disruption at the honors conv...