Chilcot Drops

A.Y._Jackson_-_A_Copse,_Evening,_1918

This is something I hope Adam will take up in earnest, but we should probably have a thread for the Chilcot report on Tony Blair and the British rush to war in Iraq.  Here’s a link to the Guardian’s coverage.

In brief, and in my reading of the press reports only, it looks like Sir John Chilcot has produced a devastating body of work that effectively condemns both Blair and Bush — and by extension the many more who enabled them in their catastrophic rush to war.

That’s obviously going to hurt, and we’ve already got a taste of the derp to come in David Frum’s claptrap, discussed below.  We’ll see a lot more ass-covering, excuse-bandying, and outright bullshit from all the usual suspects over the next few days.

But what struck me most in the immediate reaction to Chilcot’s report was one snippet from the few minutes of Tony Blair’s press conference that I managed to catch.

There, he admitted the failure to plan for what to do after an initial military victory (you think?) — but he said he stood by his decision to go to war and would make the same decision now, given the intelligence at the time.  He admitted that the intelligence was faulty, but noted that leaders have to decide based on what they know at any given time, which is certainly true.

The problem with that pivot to “bad intelligence” is that it is bullshit.

Those in a position to know understood at the edge of war that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction as generally understood.  I give you a speech that should be much better known than it is, Robin Cook’s personal address to the House of Commons to explain his resignation from Tony Blair’s government:

 

Here’s a text version.

Our leaders knew that the stated reason for war in Iraq was false.  They did it anyway.  There’s plenty of blame to go round — and while it’s not clear how much individual members of Congress or Parliament knew, compared to the heads of government and the cabinets in both the US and the UK, some of that responsibilty certainly accrues to those legislators who went along to get along.

But the central villains of this piece are the leaders who made the choice to cajole and coerce their colleagues and their countries into war.

One last thought:  the upcoming election is between someone who’s learned from the Iraq disaster, and someone who just yesterday hearts him some murderous Saddam.

Image:  A. Y. Jackson, A Copse, Evening 1918, 1918



Dean 2004, Obama 2008, Sanders 2016 and white liberals

Just a few quick notes on the current campaign through the eyes of a white liberal who has never felt the Bern.

On fundraising through February 2016:

Sen. Bernard Sanders may have lost a majority of states on Super Tuesday, but he continues to pull ahead of Democratic presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton in the money race.

The Sanders campaign announced Tuesday it raised $42.7 million in February, and the Clinton campaign announced Wednesday morning it raised $30 million during the month.

On the primary campaign demographics in 2016:

There are three times as many nonblack voters as black voters in the Democratic primary electorate. To cancel her strength, Mr. Sanders would need to win nonblack voters by about 20 percentage points, since Mrs. Clinton leads by more than 60 points among black voters.

And now backing things out a bit.

The Dean campaign in 2004 was overwhelmingly white liberals who were looking for a cause.  The Dean campaign was the first time I showed up on an FEC report.

The Obama coalition in the 2008 primary was a combination of white liberals and the African American community plus not getting crushed among the other major groups within the Democratic primary electorate.  The Sanders coalition is primarily white liberals and rural Democrats.  The Clinton 2008 coalition was moderate and conservative Democrats, Latinos and a bit more female then the party as a whole.  Her coalition in 2016 is her 2008 coalition plus the African American bloc.

What we are seeing is the limit of white liberal power within the Democratic coalition.

It is more than sufficient to fund campaigns but it is insufficient to create a durable national majority.  White liberals by themselves are a much larger, and far less crazy analogue to the Paulbots of the Republican Party — more then sufficient to generate a lot of money and advance ideological arguments.  It is well connected to to privileged positions within the media and discussion ecosystem and due to its demographics plus committment of its members, it can fundraise efficiently on the internet at small to medium donor levels.  Internet fundraising allows for a fairly low burn rate on the part of ideological and aspirational campaigns to tap this set of small donors.    These are two very strong political assets.

However white liberals alone or with minor coalition partners, are not able to form a majority within the Democratic Party.  .  White liberals get a whole lot closer to forming a majority than libertarian dude bros but they cap out significantly short of a majority.

 

 



Buyer’s Remorse From Topeka To Salina

Turns out GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s ridiculous austerity program is incredibly unpopular in Kansas a year after being re-elected on a platform of massive tax cuts magically creating revenues.  Hoocoodanode, right?

A new poll from the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University shows only 18 percent of Kansans are satisfied with Gov. Sam Brownback’s performance in office, and most (61 percent) think his signature tax policies have either been a “failure” or a “tremendous failure.”

The Fall 2015 “Kansas Speaks” survey also showed a large majority (61 percent) favor expanding Medicaid. Another 84 percent oppose requiring colleges and universities to allow firearms on campus, and 82 percent are skeptical that voter fraud is a significant problem in Kansas.

The survey of 638 Kansas adults was conducted Sept. 14 through Oct. 5, with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

The survey asked respondents to indicate whether they were very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neutral, somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with a list of elected officials. Overall, only 18 percent said they were either somewhat or very satisfied with Brownback.

That question is slightly different from the standard polling question, which asks people whether they “approve” or “disapprove” of a person’s performance in office. It wasn’t immediately clear how much impact that subtle difference in wording may have had on the results. One thing that was clear, though: Brownback’s “satisfaction rating” among Kansans was 10 points lower than President Barack Obama’s.

Brownback is losing to Obama in a blood red state.  That’s how bad his austerity regime has been for Kansans, and in fact his platform planks of opposing Medicaid expansion, putting guns on university campuses, and voter suppression laws have been complete losers for the guy.

I’d argue that Brownback has actually replaced Jindal as the most hated governor in the US right now, especially with Jindal’s term up in January.  Kansas on the other hand has three more years of Brownbackonomics to go, and I’m pretty sure his massive tax hike on cigarettes and beer in order to make up for his ever-deepening budget hole may put him in single digits by this time next year.

But once again, Kansas, you brought this on yourself.  You knew exactly what Brownback was going to do, he followed through, and you’re all surprised now that your state is a hellhole?

How about “stop voting Republican” guys?



The Big Trade-Off

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is back in the news and back as a 2016 campaign issue for both parties as the final touches on the deal have been worked out.

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.

But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr. Obama spent recent days contacting world leaders to seal the deal. Administration officials have repeatedly pressed their contention that the partnership would build a bulwark against China’s economic influence, and allow the United States and its allies — not Beijing — to set the standards for Pacific commerce.

The Pacific accord would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.

Several potentially deal-breaking disputes kept the ministers talking through the weekend and forced them repeatedly to reschedule the promised Sunday announcement of the deal into the evening and beyond. Final compromises covered commercial protections for drug makers’ advanced medicines, more open markets for dairy products and sugar, and a slow phaseout — over two to three decades — of the tariffs on Japan’s autos sold in North America.

The question for the assembled is this: does this deal pass Congress?

Lot of factors in play here: Obama’s legacy, Republicans who want this deal passed despite giving Obama a win, Democrats who want this deal scrapped, the 2016 candidates all over the map on this, corporate interests, environmental interests, unions, you name it, everyone has a stake in this deal.

But having gotten this far and the final international deal now done, does this deal pass from sheer inertia of history or does the politics of 2016 mean it can’t?



Judging By His Enemies

As Steve M. has noticed, suddenly the Right-Wing Noise Machine is very much taking Bernie Sanders as a real threat.

Maybe I just haven’t noticed it, but this seems new to me. It’s as if Sanders topped Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire in one poll and the word went out on the right to scramble the jets and start trying to take Sanders down.

I’d have thought the wingers wouldn’t worry about a wild-haired old lefty, but they know it’s a crazy year and a significant portion of the public might go for a candidate who’d have been deemed unacceptable even a year or two ago. They also know that even in defeat Sanders might have a real influence on the way we talk about taxes and government programs and economic inequality.

Right-wingers don’t let grass grow under their feet. I guess they’re going to try to address this threat now.

The Wall Street Journal, FOX News, even the Daily Mail are all going after Sanders this week, doing everything from saying his policies would cost $18 trillion dollars over ten years to Krauthammer attacking him as “insignificant” (why attack him then, Chuck?)  Add too the meatheads at Power Line, who literally are reduced to repeatedly screaming “Bullshit” at lines of Sanders’s speech at Liberty University.

Suddenly attacking Bernie is really, really popular in the epistemic closure bubble. Yeah, I’m still not sold on the Sanders 2016 train (or Hillary for that matter) yet, but if Bernie’s making enemies like these pay attention to what he’s doing, he’s probably on the right track in some fashion.



Turn The Machines Back On

The Kroog looks at the state of global markets after Friday’s bad day (and the impending bad day today) and notes there’s something of a global commodities glut.

What’s causing this global glut? Probably a mix of factors. Population growth is slowing worldwide, and for all the hype about the latest technology, it doesn’t seem to be creating either surging productivity or a lot of demand for business investment. The ideology of austerity, which has led to unprecedented weakness in government spending, has added to the problem. And low inflation around the world, which means low interest rates even when economies are booming, has reduced the room to cut rates when economies slump.

Whatever the precise mix of causes, what’s important now is that policy makers take seriously the possibility, I’d say probability, that excess savings and persistent global weakness is the new normal.

My sense is that there’s a deep-seated unwillingness, even among sophisticated officials, to accept this reality. Partly this is about special interests: Wall Street doesn’t want to hear that an unstable world requires strong financial regulation, and politicians who want to kill the welfare state don’t want to hear that government spending and debt aren’t problems in the current environment.

Once again, with interest rates at rock bottom, Republicans refuse to invest in government spending so they can privatize and profitize as much infrastructure as possible (which is the real problem), and they’re shocked that years of Austerity Bombing hasn’t created utopia yet (ask Kansas how that’s going.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s solution is “I’m really rich and I want to go after hedge fund guys“, which makes about as much sense as the rest of his campaign, but I guess that’s the point.



Life After Death

Some good news today on the capital punishment front, as Connecticut’s state Supreme Court has ruled the state’s use of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

After a sweeping two-year review, the state Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in Connecticut Thursday, saying the state’s death penalty no longer comports with evolved societal values and serves no valid purpose as punishment.

The 4-3 decision would remove 11 convicts from Connecticut’s death row and overturn the latest iteration of the state’s death penalty, a political compromise effective April 2012 that halted executions going forward but allowed death sentences to be imposed on the inmates already sentenced.

The majority decision, written by Justice Richard N. Palmer, found flaws in the death penalty law, which banned “prospective” death sentences, those imposed after the effective date of the law. But the majority wrote that it chose to analyze capital punishment and impose abolition from a broad perspective.

After analysis of the law and “in light of the governing constitutional principles and Connecticut’s unique historical and legal landscape, we are persuaded that, following its prospective abolition, this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose,” Palmer wrote.

“”For these reasons, execution of those offenders who committed capital felonies prior to April 25, 2012, would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

This is excellent news, given all the numerous examples of execution of innocent people, and people exonerated from death row based on DNA and other evidence. There’s just no way the death penalty can be justified anymore, and I’m glad that Connecticut realizes this.

Now if only we could get five SCOTUS votes on a ruling like this…