Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Is the “Green New Deal” a Marxist Plot?

At the CEPR blog, Beat the Press, Dean Baker and Jason Hickel are debating degrowth. Dean makes the excellent point that “claims about growth” from oil companies and politicians who oppose policies to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, “are just window dressing.” I also agree, however, with the first comment in response to Dean’s post that his point about window dressing could be taken much further.

I would add that economic growth is window dressing for what used to be referred to much more aggressively as “man’s triumph over nature” or the “control of nature.” Climate change deniers are more forthright about this connection between aggression and so-called growth: “Is “Strive on — the control of nature is won, not given” a controversial statement? What does it mean for science if it is?” asks Linnea Lueken at the Heartland Institute website.

Scattered throughout his writings, Donald Winnicott made fleeting but intense criticisms of “sentimentality.” “Sentimentality is useless for parents,” he remarked in a 1949 article on the analysis of psychotic patients, “as it contains a denial of hate, and sentimentality in a mother is no good at all from the infant’s point of view.” The inference he drew from this observation was that “a psychotic patient in analysis cannot be expected to tolerate his hate of the analyst unless the analyst can hate him.”
In a 1946 article on the treatment of juvenile delinquents, he warned against “one of the biggest threats” to the use of psychological methods in the management of young offenders was “the adoption of a sentimental attitude towards crime:

If advances seem to come but are based on sentimentality, they are valueless; reaction must surely set in, and the advances had better never have been made. In sentimentality there is repressed or unconscious hate, and this repression is unhealthy. Sooner or later the hate turns up.

The most thorough discussion by Winnicott of his aversion to sentimentality is probably his 1939 article, “Aggression and its roots.” As it is only three paragraphs, I quote it in its entirety:

Finally, all aggression that is not denied, and for which personal responsibility can be accepted, is available to give strength to the work of reparation and restitution. At the back of all play, work, and art, is unconscious remorse about harm done in unconscious fantasy, and an unconscious desire to start putting things right.

Sentimentality contains an unconscious denial of the destructiveness underlying construction. It is withering to the developing child, and eventually it can make him need to show in direct form destructiveness which, in a less sentimental milieu, he could have conveyed indirectly by showing a desire to construct.

It is partly false to state that we ‘should provide opportunity for creative expression if we are to counter children’s destructive urges’. What is needed is an unsentimental attitude towards all productions, which means the appreciation not so much of talent as of the struggle behind all achievement, however small. For, apart from sensual love, no human manifestation of love is felt to be valuable that does not imply aggression acknowledged and harnessed.

He might well have added, “And I’m not so sure about sensual love.”
This all may sound somewhat arbitrary and speculative but actually it is a very compressed and jargon-free application of Melanie Klein’s developmental theory of the self. What Klein referred to as the depressive position involves an infant’s feeling of “guilt” — or in Winnicott’s less extravagant terminology, “concern” — about its aggressive fantasies toward its mother. In Klein’s rather lurid account of the infant’s aggressive fantasy:

The phantasied attacks on the mother follow two main lines: one is the predominantly oral impulse to suck dry, bite up, scoop out, and rob the mother’s body of its good contents.… The other line of attack derives from the anal and urethral impulses and implies expelling dangerous substances (excrements) out of the self and into the mother.… These excrements and bad parts of the self are meant not only to injure the object but also to control it and take possession of it.

Whether or not the infant has such unconscious aggressive fantasies about the mother’s body, Rex Tillerson, when he was CEO of Exxon, expressed similar, fully-conscious ones, “My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that’s what I want to do…” Robert White-Stevens, the corporate-designated nemesis of Rachel Carson following the publication of Silent Spring, exemplified the “control of nature” faction of science:

Miss Carson maintains that the balance of nature is a major force in the survival of man, whereas the modern chemist, the modern biologist and scientist, believes that man is steadily controlling nature.

White-Stevens’s vision of a “feeble creature” penetrating “every corner of the planet,”  and “contest[ing] the very laws and powers of Nature, herself,” could have been written as a Kleinian parody of the of the infantile arrogance of scientistic triumphalism:

Within the past 100 years, man has emerged from a feeble creature, virtually at the mercy of Nature and his environment, to become the only being which can penetrate every corner of the planet, communicate instantly to anywhere on earth, produce all the food, fiber, and shelter he needs, wherever he may need it, change the topography of his lands, the sea and the universe and prepare his voyage through the very arch of heaven into space itself.

This is the stuff that science is made of, and man has learned to use it. He cannot now go back; he has crossed his Rubicon and must advance into the future armed with the reason and the tools of his sciences, and in so doing will doubtless have to contest the very laws and powers of Nature herself. He has done this already by expanding his numbers far beyond her tolerance and by interrupting her laws of inheritance and survival. Now, he must go all the way, for he cannot but partially contest Nature. He has chosen to lead the way; he must take the responsibility upon himself.

But I digress. What does all this have to do with economic growth? Again, as Winnicott explained, “aggression that is not denied, and for which personal responsibility can be accepted, is available to give strength to the work of reparation and restitution.” However, “[i]n sentimentality there is repressed or unconscious hate, and this repression is unhealthy. Sooner or later the hate turns up.” Indeed, the hate does turn up at the Heartland Institute, where the “Green New Deal” is exposed as the “Old Socialist Despotism.”If it fails to acknowledge the primitive aggression of “man’s triumph over nature” that lies beneath the reparation of adopting environmentally-friendly policies, the debate between degrowth and green growth risks descending into sentimental bickering about the window dressing in the hotel on the edge of the abyss.

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Increase in Uninsured Children

I get the alerts from Georgetown University Center for Children and Families weekly. The news much of the time is a reflection of the number of attacks on families and children who have lesser means to provide for healthcare themselves and depend upon Medicaid, ACA, and CHIPS for care. Since the election of Trump, McConnell and Ryan have been strutting around like the cocks on the walk demonstrating their machismo as they hold women, children and families hostage. Tough guys both and it is easy to threaten women and children.

For the first time in a decade, the number of uninsured children rose in the US. It is not much of a surprise to me as Republicans made it miserable for many in states which did not expand Medicaid, held CHIPS hostage, and threatened those applied to become citizens with denial if they used the nation’s healthcare.

Some Stats:

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families:

– An estimated 276,000 more children were uninsured in 2017 than in 2016
– Three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in non-expansion Medicaid coverage states for parents and low-income adults. The uninsured rates for children increased at almost triple the rate in non-expansion states compared to Medicaid expansion states.
– Nine states experienced statistically significant increases in their rate of uninsured children (SD, UT, TX, GA, SC, FL, OH, TN, MA).
– Texas is #1 again. Texas has the largest share of children without health coverage with more than one in five uninsured children in the U.S. residing in the state.
– States with larger American Indian/ Alaska Native populations tend to have higher uninsured rates for children than the national average.

Some History:

The funding for CHIP expired September 2017 and Republicans and Trump were playing cat and mouse with Democrats to extend it while they looked for ways to repeal the ACA or weaken it. As Joan Aker the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families stated;

“The majority of uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but are not currently enrolled. The name of the game here is to make sure that families are aware that their child has a path to coverage and that these kids get enrolled and stay enrolled.”

2017 was tumultuous for families dependent on Medicaid, CHIPs, and the ACA. Added to this was Trump’s hostility towards immigrant families. 25% of the children living in the United States have a parent who is an immigrant. For “mixed status” families, the fear of interacting with the government deters them from enrolling their children in government sponsored health coverage.

Conclusion:

Again, Joan Akers of the Center for Children and Families: “The nation is going backwards on insuring kids and it is likely to get worse.”

If we can get the Democrats in the House off their butt and start to represent “their constituents” as determined by the founding fathers who designed the House to represent the population, we may be able to put in place the foundation for future healthcare gains. Instead, we have the House Representatives playing the secret ballot game for House Speaker with a promise of a Dean Wormer double-secret ballot come January.

Under Trump, Number Of Uninsured Kids Rose For First Time This Decade

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Cindy Hyde-Smith Says She Never Lost Faith in Mississippi

Some humor, sarcasm, and disappointment.

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (The Borowitz Report)—Celebrating her election victory on Tuesday night, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said that, despite predictions that her state was ready to turn the page on its shameful past, “I never lost faith in Mississippi’s racists.”

“For weeks, we’ve been hearing national pundits say that Mississippi was ready to enter the twenty-first century,” Hyde-Smith told a crowd of supporters at her victory rally. “Tonight, with your help, we proved them wrong.”

Hyde-Smith said that, despite the media’s unearthing of a cavalcade of embarrassing comments and actions from her past, “I never doubted that, at the end of the day, the people of Mississippi would listen to the racist voices in their heads.”

Choking back tears, Hyde-Smith thanked her supporters for honoring Mississippi’s storied heritage of hatred and cruelty.

“Mississippi voters do not want to tear down the relics of our Confederate past,” she said. “As such a relic, I am eternally grateful.”

Exit polls showed that Hyde-Smith performed extremely well with voters who described themselves as bigots, and dominated among those who could not correctly spell “Mississippi.”

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Healthcare and….

Via Naked Capitalism and Lambert Strether:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. –Corinthians 13:13

I posted this letter in Links, but I found I could expand on it. Spectrum Health Care’s letter to Hedda Martin speaks for itself, and for what our health care system has become under neoliberalism:


View image on Twitter

Dan Radzikowski@DanRadzikowski

(The provenance: I started with AOC, who hat-tipped @DanRiffle, who linked to the original poster, @DanRadzikowski, quoted above. From Radzikowski’s thread, Hedda Martin: “This is me”; Martin’s GoFundMe, which was successful.) In this post, I’ll focus on two things: the intriguing backstory of Spectrum Health, the institution that denied Martin care until she could raise $10,000; and the weaknesses of GoFundMe as a solution. Before I get to the main part of the post, however, I’ll point out that Hedda Martin’s example is not exception…

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“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running”

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running”

Two years ago in a post entitled “Those who cannot see must feel”, I wrote:

That’s the translation of an old German saying that I used to hear from my grandmother when I misbehaved.  It is pretty clear that, over the next four years, the American public is going to do a lot of feeling ….  The results will range somewhere in between bad, disastrous, catastrophic, and cataclysmic, depending on how badly foreign affairs are bungled ….

I have some hope … because both China and Russia are smart enough to figure out that they can get what they want by bribing Trump without resorting to armed conflict.

Although I never published it here, below is the conclusion of an email I sent to several correspondents six months ago:

Ever since Trump’s election, the lyrics of Al Stewart’s song about the 1937 Spanish Civil War, “On the Border,” have been going through my mind:

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running …”

and I have thought that 2019 is the time of maximum peril to Taiwan and Ukraine.

The midterms were less than three weeks ago. Today Russia blocked the Kerch Strait, entrance to the Sea of Azov, effectively cutting off one of Ukraine’s ports. Ukraine says its navy is leaving port.

Between now and the end of 2019 is the most dangerous time, because any potential U.S. Foe will want to have any aggressive move be a fair accompli by the time the 2020 U.S. Elections are underway, let alone by the time a replacement for Trump can be inaugurated.
Good luck to us all.
[UPDATE: In case you’ve never heard it, here’s a link to the song.]

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Squanto — A Sad Thanksgiving Tale

Squanto — A Sad Thanksgiving Tale

I do not know how widely it is still taught or how, but when I was in elementary school in Ithaca, New York, I was taught about the “First Thanksgiving,” an event that happened in October, 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, following a good harvest after the pilgrim colony, founded in 1620, had a hard year that saw half their population die (about 50 people, mostly of starvation).  It was a joint feast of the pilgrims with neighboring native Indians of the Pokenok tribe of the larger Wampanoag confederacy, led by Massasoit.  Crucial to the event was the assistance of Squanto, who taught the colonists how to grow corn (maize) and several other crops, including the use of fish for fertilizer, thus becoming the model of a “good Indian” who helped European, especially English, colonists in what would become the United States.  Much of this is true, although much is murky, such as what exactly was eaten aside from the deer brought by Massasoit’s people (probably not turkey).

The problem with the tale is more about what is left out rather than any outright falsehoods such as claims that what was eaten was what is now the standard set of dishes consumed at modern Thanksgiving dinners.  It was not even the first Thanksgiving on US soil, with previous ones in St. Augustine, Florida in 1585 and at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia in 1619, although both of these were simply major thanksgiving prayer sessions that did not involve either food or participation by neighboring native Indians, with indeed the Berkeley colony being completely wiped out by a native Indian attack in 1622 that also nearly wiped out the nearby Jamestown colony.  But there are more important things left out, with some of them disturbing and sad.

I found out about this stuff as I investigated this matter this year anticipating having Thanksgiving dinner with my niece, Erica Werner (who writes for the Washington Post), and the extended family of her husband, Bill, and their adorable two young daughters, Lucy and Olive.  As it was, both because there were too many grownups talking about this and that as well as them being clearly fully occupied with other matters, I did not get around to telling the tale there.  So I am telling it here, an addition to the old tale I and many others were taught in school at some time or other.

The most important detail is that the pilgrims were far from being the first English people to have dealings with the various tribes of the Wampanoag confederacy in what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island (where Massasoit had his home base).  There were at least two previous attempts to start colonies in the area, in 1602 and 1605, both failed as the English insulted the natives and provoked them into hostilities, as well as failing to figure out how to produce food.  More egregious than just trying to impose Christianity and treating them as inferiors was that beyond these two failed efforts, English traders and explorers would regularly raid the tribes, outright stealing goods, and more importantly, kidnapping tribal members.  This is where the story of Squanto begins: he was kidnapped by a Captain Tom Hunt in 1614.

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NYT video series on Fake News. Worth the watch

I had heard about a video series on NPR’s Fresh Air regarding the origin and current issue with the concept of Fake News via Russia.  You can listen and read the interview of the author, Adam Ellick here. 

There are 3 videos of 15 to 17 minutes each.  The series is titled: Operation Infektion,  Russian Disinformation: From Cold War to Kanye You can watch them here.   It begins with the AID’s hoax that it was a biological weapon developed and released by the US Military and how the KGB planted it and got it to spread such that it was ultimately reported on a US national news broadcast.  This hoax still has it’s believers.

We learned about propaganda from our experience with Nazi Germany.  With the advent of the internet, propaganda has become a more effective and a less costly means of waging war.  Based on the reporting in the last episode of this series the US is vastly behind the curve when it comes to protecting our self from the harm it causes.

This really is an issue as large and significant as any of those most directly effecting us such as health care, climate change, income inequality.  Unfortunately unlike those whose effects are directly experienced, propaganda/fake news has a virtual reality cover.  Which leads to me to the question: What happens as humanity becomes more accustom to experiencing life via virtual reality than naturally?  I suspect we become more susceptible to the intent of propaganda/fake news.

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I disagree with Jennifer Rubin

(Dan here…lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

by Robert Waldmann

I disagree with Jennifer Rubin

Conservatives object to the Washington Post defining never-ever-ever Trumper Jennifer Rubin as a conservative. Reflecting, I had to admit that I hadn’t disagreed with anything she wrote for months. Now, finally, I do. But, sadly, this isn’t evidence that she is still a conservative. She has clearly become a radical centrist third way mugwump (RC3WM).She argues that the 2018 blue wave shows that Democrats should reject Bernie Sanders and rely on a poll conducted by “The Third Way”.

I think this is nonsense consisting entirely of setting up an oxymoronic straw man and pretending that values shared by conservatives, liberals, centrists, progressives, socialists, and fascists belong to conservatives.

Her column.

My comment

I don’t see any evidence that people rejected Sen Sanders’s policy proposals, which are actually fairly moderate. It is very easy to get issue poll results one wishes by choosing the questions. Notably, the ACA is only moderately popular (50% approval) while Medicare for all has 70% approval (recently including Donald Trump).

On entitlements the moderate centrist approach is to achieve trust fund solvency with balanced tax increases and benefit cuts. The vast majority of the public wants more generous pensions, expanded medicaid and an increased Medicare budget.

 

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More House Speaker Details on Who Will Lead

A Rehash

Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

Nancy LeToureau at Washington Monthly detailed a Pelosi experience giving her remarks on Twitter. “On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Nancy Pelosi, Nov 13, 2018 on Twitter:

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

Nancy LeToureau: These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

The Letter’s 17

On the same day, some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House. There are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments; however, the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership has different motives.

About a dozen incumbent Democrats and a half-dozen incoming Democrats are preparing a letter pledging to not support Pelosi on the House floor for speaker. The members also intend to note another contingent of Democrats who privately say they won’t support the longtime California Democrat but won’t sign the letter, according to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), one of the ringleaders of the effort to block Pelosi.

Sources (HuffPost) familiar with the letter say there are currently 17 names on it, but the group is trying to get more than 20 members before releasing it. Currently on the letter, though not certain to stay on it, are:

– Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
– Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)
– Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.)
– Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
– Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)
– Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas)
– Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)
– Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.)
– Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
– Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.)
– Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.)
– Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.)
– Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.)
– Max Rose (D-N.Y.)
– Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.)
– Ben McAdams (D-Utah)

There is another contingent of Democrats ― including Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Dan Lipinksi (D-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) ― who are seen as likely to vote against Pelosi, but who appear to be hesitant to sign the letter.

In comparison, just “How progressive Is Nancy Pelosi” when compared to the 17?

Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) writes; “not only has Pelosi consistently been in the top third of the most liberal Democrats in the House, Pelosi is a lot more liberal than Republican Paul Ryan is conservative.” The insurgency against Pelosi amongst House Democrats consists of people who are to Pelosi’s right on the ideological scale. The 17 Democratic signatories on the anti-Pelosi letter when compared to FiveThirtyEight’s DW NOMINATE ranking / Trump scorecard shows that only two of those people have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Pelosi has.

The person from that group who’s being floated as a potential replacement for Pelosi, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, is accused of being openly hostile to LGBTQ rights. Osita Nwanevu of the New Yorker: “The anti-Pelosi stuff in Congress is mostly backed by centrist & conservative Dems who want to cave to the right’s sexist & latently anti-LGBT messaging (‘San Francisco values’) against her.”

Do We Want to Be a Part of the 17?

One sure way of dampening the forward progressive movement of the Democrats in the House is to have open warfare amongst ourselves on leadership when the leader is already more progressive than the upper third of Democrats in the House and much of the 17. Such fighting will give rise to questioning of the ability of new and incumbent representatives to gain bi-partisan agreement in the House for passage of Democratic bills. If they can not agree amongst themselves without open warfare, then we have already lost even before the new session has started.

This is not the time to kick the most experienced Progressive House leader out the door. It is time to start grooming new and younger leadership who have returned to the House over the last decade. First term representatives should spend time learning the politics of the House, the Democrats and Republicans, and avoid the conflict being led by those to the right of Pelosi. Only two of the 17 have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Nancy Pelosi.

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MbS Guilty!

MbS Guilty!

According to the top stories in both the New York Times and Washington Post this morning, somebody in the CIA has leaked that Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Of course no sensible observer is remotely surprised, but the Trump administration had been working mightily to deny this obvious fact, with reports surfacing that they were plotting to send Turkish cleric Gulen to Turkey as authoritarian President Erdogan has long been demanding (Gulen is Erdogan’s all-purpose scapegoat for everything) in the hopes that Erdogan would stop making it clear that MbS was guilty of ordering the assassination.  But now there is no point in that as the cat is fully out of the bag, no matter how much this leak will anger Trump (Fake CIA leak!).  Indeed, it may well have been reported unhappiness by various government officials in the face of this effort to sacrifice Gulen that triggered the leak.

What is a bit surprising is that the leak involved publicizing that NSA bugs the Saudi embassy, although I would imagine that anybody there who did not know that was stupid.  But crucial to the leak is both that MbS phoned his full brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the US, ordering him to phone Khashoggi and tell him he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to the documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee, and that he would be safe in doing so, and that KbS then followed through and made the phone call. The only thing we do not know is whether KbS was in on what was going to happen to Khashoggi or not when he made the phone call.

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