On Politics & Markets

 


ExxonMobil and the Denial of Climate Change


by David E. McClean

I just sent this message to New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman. I hope you draft a similar message and send it to him as well. After you read this, you will know why. If you want more information (though there are many other sources), I direct your attention to two articles just published in The New York Review of Books concerning the Rockefeller Family Fund and its dispute with ExxonMobil over its decades-long attempt to mislead the public about climate change.


Dear Mr. Schneiderman:


I applaud your efforts to bring ExxonMobil to justice for misleading the entire world about the seriousness and virtual certainty concerning anthropogenic climate change, the most important issue of our time. I am writing a book on the moral and political dimensions of climate change (Springer, forthcoming, 2017), and in it will be making clear that ExxonMobil and certain members of Congress are morally reprehensible for what they have done to mislead the public.


I urge you to add another tool to your arsenal against ExxonMobil and its vast army of lawyers (and duplicitous and/or venal surrogates), now engaged in coercion to silence free speech, not unlike the tobacco industry did concerning the link between smoking and cancer. Not only is it probable that ExxonMobil violated state law in misleading shareholders about the prospect for future earnings (from sales of oil products that in all likelihood can never be sold without devastating consequences to the environment), but there is more than likely a raft of violations of FEDERAL laws as well, under SEC Rule 10b-5, Sarbanes-Oxley, inter alia (including rules of self-regulatory organizations).


There are also implications for those in the securities industry who are involved in capital-raising for ExxonMobil. They should be informed that they may be jointly and severally liable for their disclosures (pitch books, research reports, sales materials, etc.) concerning ExxonMobil, and that their books and records may be subpoenaed as well, including e-mail communications of investment bankers, brokers and research analysts.


All agencies that regulate securities sales and investment banking should be informed of this decision by your office, should you choose to go this way (and I urge you to do so, since it will bring additional attention to the seriousness of this issue). FINRA, the various exchanges, consumer protection agencies, and insurance regulators should be made well aware of the implications to the businesses that they oversee of their continued aiding and abetting of ExxonMobil in its almost demonic deceptions which could very well lead to millions of deaths, hundreds of millions of new refugees and migrants, and political destabilization across the globe, including here in the United States, which has for so long operated on the assumption that “it can’t happen here” (we just got a huge wake-up call on what, in fact, can happen here).

 

Indeed, banks and broker-dealers knew or certainly should have known that ExxonMobil's claims regarding its "booked reserves" were subject to revision, with highly significant consequences to its stated financial position, and that fact should have been disclosed to investors as a major investment risk. Of course, so far, there is little indication that you will get help from Mr. Trump, who, filling his administration with climate deniers of the first order, will likely have his know-nothing cabinet block your efforts.

But this is an hour for warriors of all stripes, including AGs and other public servants, as well as for citizens of conscience and resolve. Cowardice in the present hour is unacceptable, as is the reluctance to be extremely aggressive in the pursuit of justice for the people of the world. Let me know what I can do to help. For starters, I will be calling on my friends and family to STOP BUYING gas and other products produced by ExxonMobil.

Sincerely,


Dr. David E. McClean, Principal, The DMA Consulting Group, Lecturer in Philosophy and Business Ethics (Molloy College and Rutgers University), and author of Wall Street, Reforming the Unreformable: An Ethical Perspective (Routledge, Pickering & Chatto, 2015).


Twitter handle, @polinitics


dm@dmaconsultinggroup.net or dmcclean@rutgers.edu or dmcclean@molloy.edu


Office: 99 Hillside Avenue, Suite F, Williston Park, NY 11596

https://t.co/fJ8fd3Tjbj 


(Posted: December 4, 2016)



The Rudderless GOP


by David E. McClean

Millions of Americans claiming to be for "freedom" found their way to voting for a billionaire carnival barker who slights women, people of color, immigrants, disabled people and a wide assortment of other of his fellow citizens. His rhetoric has various minorities walking the streets of America in trepidation and fear, as I confirmed in conversations with my Rutgers students, many of whom are Muslims and people of color. And he sends mixed messages and has already made it clear that he will reverse himself on many hard campaign promises, throwing many in his base under the bus even before he takes the oath of office -- assuming he can without violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

So let's add this to the proof that the GOP has no ideological or philosophical rudder. The Carrier corporation intervention in Indiana represents everything that libertarian conservatives have traditionally deplored, on top of being shameless pandering. Trump simply had Pence "bribe" Carrier to keep  about 1000 jobs in Indiana, using $7 million of taxpayer money to do so. How's that for letting the free market do its thing? How's that for Republican integrity.

But it's worse than that. Carrier's parent, United Technologies, is a US defense contractor, and Trump-Pence seems to be willing to threaten American businesses (and their ability to procure new government contracts) with a "Do what we want, or else" message. If Obama intervened in the business decisions of corporate executives regarding where their companies' plants and employees would be located he would be called a communist or socialist.

And he was. When he bailed out the banks and auto industry with capital infusions in order to save hundreds of thousands of jobs, that's just what he was called, explicitly or implicitly, by "The Great Jack Welch" and many other market fetishists, although those investments were sold off with the result being large profits for American taxpayers. "It's a government takeover of whole industries; it's picking winners and losers," crowed CNBC libertarians, who are now ready to throw their Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman Objectivism to the wind, as Trump threatens and twists the arms of American business executives. And Trump's message to all those libertarians: GOVERNMENT will raise industries from the ashes, and GOVERNMENT will dictate the composition of the employees of US businesses, as well as where they may be domiciled. Not exactly Chicago School economics.

More rudderless "thinking" by the GOP, which believes in nothing but the vacuous (and dangerous) slogan "America First." Their own business and economic heroes are saying that Trump's policies, just optics and theater, will only weaken the competitive edge of American businesses. This, in an age in which there is no sign that globalization will slow, regardless of populist pandering and GOP protectionism.

The GOP: Unprincipled, rudderless, and dangerous to the health of our nation. Once a great party,  it has become one of the most idea-bereft and dangerous organizations in America, and, in view of GOP climate change denial (now on steroids), the most dangerous organization in the world.

(posted December 2, 2016)




Is The GOP the Most Dangerous Organization in the World?


by David E. McClean



I know how that sounds. It sounds a bit nutty, right? Well, read on. Here is the evidence to support what seems like an outlandish claim. All of these propositions, proposals and ideas are embedded deeply within the GOP and its members' minds. It is no wonder that Bobby Jindal calls the GOP "The Party of Stupid." It wasn't always like this, and maybe in a decade or so it can be fixed, but for now this is the reality.


1. Barack Obama is not a US Citizen: False. I won't elaborate on this. It's not worth the keystrokes. But the GOP is filled with people who believe this.


2. Obama is a Muslim: False. See above.


3. Obama is Sympathetic to Muslims: True -- We all should be "sympathetic" to Muslims . . . and Christians, and atheists, and Jews etc. Love and concern for our fellows demands this of us. So does basic pluralism.


4. Obama is a Leftist: False, to the chagrin of many leftists. He is merely left of center, and often refers to himself as a progressive and a pragmatist guided by facts rather than wish lists and ideology. He has a stable, nuclear, church-going family and they proclaim no leftist ideas or leanings, other than that people should be treated fairly and with respect -- a radical idea for Republicans.


5. Obama wrecked the economy: False. The economy has trended better quarter on quarter since Obama became President, even though growth has been slow. Unemployment has abated steadily over the Obama presidency, with scores of months of job growth. The United States is almost at what economists call "full employment." Wall Street and poor regulation wrecked the economy, and that was long before Obama came on the scene.


6. Muslims Are Violent and Their Founder Sanctioned Violence: False. Muslims are no more violent than self-proclaimed church-going Christians, who were responsible for two world wars, the Iraq war, the creation of the atomic bomb and the use of two of them, chattel slavery of Africans and others, lynchings, racial discrimination, gay bashing, burnings at the stake (Salem and elsewhere), the internment of Japanese Americans, the ethnic cleansing/genocide of First Nations Peoples, the Auto Da Fe, the expulsion of Jews from Spain and other countries, and the Holocaust. I could go on, but won't.


As for the Prophet Muhammad, no, he wasn't Jesus. In addition to his being a prophetic leader and charismatic founder of one of the world's great religions (still growing, with over 1.5 billion adherents), he was also an administrator, military leader, and a political leader. So comparisons to Jesus, who did not wear such a variety of hats, are off the mark from the start. His sanctioning of violence was for limited purposes only (mainly self defense -- the first Muslims were surrounded by enemies), though that sanctioning of violence has been perverted over the past several decades by extremists. He led millions of Arabs from a dark age of blood feuds, the abuse of women, and venality, though this is not the Muhammad known in the ignorant corporate media and the ignorant Republican Party.  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/…/reza_aslan_mahers_facile…


Another word about Muslims. Arab Muslims preceded Europe with modern ideas of economics, astronomy, logic (al-Kindi) medical procedures and medical knowledge (such as the circulation of blood). It was Arab Muslims who reconnected Western thinkers with the great philosophical works of the Greeks, by translating and offering commentaries of/on those works, which were lost or forgotten during Europe's dark ages (al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and others).


7. Obama created the worst national debt situation in US history: False. First, a little history. The national debt first reached $1 trillion under Ronald Reagan, not a Democrat president. The debt we have now is a reflection of the need to do massive stimulus spending to address the financial crisis of 2008 and The Great Recession that followed, which is typical Keyensian economics, accepted by most economists in the world. It was projected years ago to continue to rise, long before Obama became President. By 2026 the debt should hit about 29 trillion dollars, but that must be viewed in the context of the GDP and GDP growth, and the aging of the Baby Boomers who are going to draw heavily on the social safety net. Currently debt service (interest paid on the debt) is only about 1.4 percent of GDP, largely because the country has enjoyed low interest rates in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. The budget deficit (separate but not unrelated to the national debt) has also declined for almost the entirety of the Obama presidency -- something Republicans almost never talk about. Still, this is not great news, but neither is it Obama's doing.


8. Obama gave us a government takeover of health insurance: False. Very false. The Affordable Care Act uses private insurance companies to distribute health insurance, under certain requirements imposed by the law to make sure all Americans have access to coverage. Insurance companies have made a killing, which should please the so-called party of business. Apparently it doesn't.


9. The Affordable Care Act has Caused Premiums to Go Up: Partly True. In some cases they have. The administration knew adjustments would need to be made to the ACA (like assuring that enough young people sought out insurance in order to keep premiums low), and it has undertaken to make changes. But millions more people are now covered and need not fear bankruptcy or a medical emergency. Also, premium increases are often offset by increases in federal subsidies, and some don't realize this when they get their premium bills. By any utilitarian calculation, the net benefits of having millions more people covered outweigh temporary spikes in premiums.


10. The Republicans Had an Alternative Health Insurance Plan: False. They presented a several page outline (Paul Ryan). The claim that they had an alternative plan is utterly untrue.


11. Obama is a socialist: False. Obama is a free-market enthusiast. Socialism, by definition, calls for the public ownership of the means of production. Such an idea has never even crossed Obama's mind in any serious way. That said, Obama believes that a rich nation should have a robust social safety net so that veterans, the poor, children, the ill, the disabled, and the temporary jobless are not abandoned by their own country. Republicans who don't know what socialism is confuse a robust welfare state, such as those in Europe, with socialism. Wrong again.

Also, Republicans snicker at the thought that Obama is a free-market enthusiast. They say he has no business experience. Well, one does not have to be a business person or entrepreneur to support free markets. The contrary view stems from the idolization of the private sector, rather than an appropriate and healthy respect for it. And, with Republicans, so it goes.


12. Muslims want Sharia law in the US: False. This was the subject of a Twitter debate I had recently with a Trump supporter. Muslims seek to live according to the basic requirements of Islam (mostly captured in Islam's "five pillars" -- Zakat, or giving to those in need; Salat, or daily prayer; Shahadah, or the declaration of the faith; the month-long fast during Ramadan; and the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca if circumstances permit). But American Muslims fully accept American pluralism, and they also accept the tradition of the wall of separation between "chuch and state" (which derives from some correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, not the Constitution, but that's a side point), between secular and religious obligations, and between American jurispurdence and Islamic law. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/sharia-myth-america_b_87696…


13. Obama and the Democrats are tax-and-spenders: False: The size of government has actually GROWN under the most recent Republican presidents and has tended to GROW under Republican presidents generally, especially George W. Bush. Republicans recite the mantra of "small government" but are pretty lousy at delivering it.

Republicans like to level this charge, but in fact they overspend and BORROW to pay for it in order to hide the tracks of their own fiscal irresponsibility. Medicare Part D, for example, given to us by George W. Bush, is a hugely expensive program that was a multi-billion dollar gift to the pharmaceutical industry. The program does something extraordinary: It prevents the government from using its unparalleled bargaining power to reduce drug costs. This is no more than an additional tax on the American people, brought to all of us by Obama's predecessor. Republicans like to hide and bury their tax increases in corporate give aways and debt spending, then charge the Democrats for being profligate.


14. The Iraq War Was Necessary to Stop the Terrorists: False. The Iraq war was based upon incredibly flawed logic, and some think an outright lie. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, yet Obama's predecessor led us to war with a country that, as far as 9/11 goes, was totally innocent. (Ask many Republicans, to this day, who attacked us on 9/11, and not a few will tell you it was Iraq.) Subsequently, the rationale for the war changed to "spreading democracy in the region," which was a rationale unsanctioned by the American people. The Iraq invasion and related conflicts have cost some $4 trillion when all the unit costs are considered (according to a Brown University study). As for the lives lost, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed or injured, some 3 million have been displaced in one way or another (some to Syria, where they were further displaced and traumatized), and tens of thousands of Americans have been killed or injured. It remains one of the worst moral stains on the history of the country, and many historians say it was the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. And many see a direct causal relationship between the Iraq war and the rise of ISIS/ISIL. Republican policies have not only not stopped the blaze of terrorism, they threw gasoline on it. We are more insecure now than when Osama bin Laden was alive. Nor have we failed to stop the Taliban, in Afghanistan, which is as much a presence now as it was in 2001. Republican policies of constant warfare on or in other states have utterly failed and have even had the reverse effect.


15. Climate Change is a Hoax: False. Human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change is an established scientific fact if ever there was one. The Republican Party is the world seat of climate change denial and deniers. Because of that denial the world and the country have missed opportunities to slow and reverse green house gas emissions, so now we are at the brink and facing an apocalyptic scenario for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, which includes the creation of new and vast deserts, the flooding of coastal cities and towns all over the world, famines, water shortages, pathogens released from melting ice and permafrost that have not been seen in thousands or even millions of years, and new wars. This is what denial of science and facts gets you -- death and chaos.


16. Evolution is a Hoax; The World Was Made in Six Days: False. There is absolutely no scientific basis to believe this claim, yet many still cling to it. There is no evidence that T-Rex ran around with Homo sapiens. That's "The Flintstones."


17. God Would Not Have Let Humans Alter the Climate: False. It's done. Enough said. Whatever God didn't want, that can't be it.


18. Democrats Are Weak Militarily: False. Democrat presidents and leaders have been incredibly robust in using American force around the world, and sometimes too robust, as far as some in the party reckon it. This is a canard. The Obama Administration has killed thousands of enemy combatants over the past seven years, to the point that his own left has worried about the overuse of force. Hillary Clinton is known as a hawk on both sides of the aisle.


19. Democrats Have Weakend America's Military: False. The force reductions in the military were planned, sanctioned and even championed by military leaders themselves, including the much-respected Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who led the way. The American military is more reliant on technology than in prior decades, and so needs less hardware and fewer troops to carry out military missions. And it no longer needs to fight the sort of wars contemplated between 1946 and 1989. It must also be remembered that the US military is by far the most powerful in the world, with the ability to project that power just about anywhere within hours or days. The notion that Democrats have weakened the military is a long-standing Republican myth. Another canard. Of course, war mongers never think the military is "big" enough. And so it goes.


20. Americans Should Have Access to All the Guns They Want: False. Also, crazy. The idea that there can be no rational limits on gun ownership suggests that second amendment rights need no regulation or limitation. But all rights need to be regulated. No rights are absolute. Not the right to assembly. Not the right to privacy. Not the right to your religious practices (poisonous snake handling in Appalachia is not sanctioned under law, nor is ritual human sacrifice). Not the right to free speech. No right. The NRA and the Republicans won't even limit the sale of guns to people on terrorist watch lists (see post-Orlando Massacre debate). This is not only bad policy, it suggests a form of mental illness, of irrationality, and even a form of idolatry as regards the second amendment.


21. The Republican Party is a Pluralist, Big Tent Party: False. VERY false. The Republican Party is virtually a white party. It has made noise about broadening its appeal but its policies and the statements of its leaders show that it is the refuge of racists, misogynists, xenophobes, bigots, fundamentalists, and nativists. In recent years it has alienated women, Arab-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, and, for many years, blacks. It valorizes "white blood" and white phenotypes (apparently), despite its public pronouncements to be welcoming to all Americans, and despite its frequent parade of the few darker-skinned people among its ranks (Armstrong Williams, Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas etc.). The fact is, people of color stay away from the GOP for good reason: their is a good deal of insensitivity and outright bigotry in its midst. Those that stay in know this to be true, unless they are completely out of touch with reality.


22. The Republican Party Can Govern: False. That may have been true once, but not any longer, at least not at the NATIONAL level. I actually pine for the Reagan and George H.W. Bush years when I think of today's GOP. For the past seven years the Republican Party has been, by its own admission, the party of obstruction, driven and led by its Tea Party insurgency, which, like a cancer, destroyed the party's capacity to govern, while increasing its capacity to obstruct -- and destroy itself. The Tea Party has no interest in governing. It is a conclave of revolutionaries, not governors.


23. Trump's Policies are Right for America: False. Donald Trump is the worst demagogue and most ignorant person to ever run for the presidency -- if in fact that is what he is actually doing (some think the whole thing is a show to advance his own brand). He is unfit for the office of the presidency, and has already made our country a laughingstock around the world, while at the same time raising real fears among our allies and encouraging our enemies with his bigoted and stupid remarks. He is an abomination. He is the  Republican's abomination, created after years of Republican hyperbole about the evil of government, foreigners, sexual morality, religion, and the market.


So there is the evidence to support my initial claim. Isn't this enough to make the case that this private organizaton called the Republican Party has actually become a danger to the country and to the world? Sounds over the top, I know. But here are the facts. Decide for yourself. You should know something, though: I was just getting warmed up.


(Posted June 17, 2016)



Normal Politics or Political Revolution?


by David E. McClean


The Democrats are faced with a radical choice in this presidential election cycle. It is, for many, a gut-wrenching and alarming choice. It is a choice that would not have to be confronted had one Senator Bernard Sanders not shocked us with his incredible success in capturing the attention of millions of Americans with his message of "political revolution."


We Americans tend to be pragmatic, and the notion of political revolution is received with not a little suspicion. But that Senator Sanders is using this expression with more than modest success tells us something about the present zeitgeist.


It tells us that, in the words of Bob Dylan, "the times, they are a-changin'." But what does that really mean in the context of this election cycle? It means that Americans have reached a tipping point, a saturation point, and that things that were thought implausible and unpragmatic have morphed into what seem like political necessities.


We Americans have witnessed the rise of the national security state and endure the psychic trauma caused by daily discussions of terrorism. We have witnessed the gun lobby control the debate on gun violence, even in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary and too many others. We have had to watch in amazement the Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, determine that money just is speech, with the "logical" result that, in a country that holds free speech sacroasanct, plutocrats and corporations have the right to drown out the voices of actual citizens who just happen to be less wealthy. Thus, the latter are disenfranchised in their own political community.

We have watched the yawning gap of inequality yawn wider still, to the point that real wages have been flat since the 1970s, while those whose incomes come not from wages but from capital gains and interest from investments have grown richer and richer every year, accumulating wealth to themselves and to the top of the economic pyramid with (to borrow a phrase from Ross Perot) "a great sucking sound."


We have watched every other major developed country, each of which is far less wealthy than the United States, assure health care for all their citizens and, in many cases, free college educations for all their young who are prepared for college-level work. We have watched police power (and this goes beyond police officers themselves) arrayed against communities of color, treating those communities as though they are not constituted by people with the rights of citizenship, but rather as strangers and interlopers.


We have watched trillions of dollars wasted on wars of choice, and that waste apologized for with doubletalk and prevarication and nativism and the sowing of constant fear. We have witnessed millions of people  swallowed up by a criminal justice system run amok, a system that has destroyed the lives of individuals, families and even communities for relatively minor offenses -- offenses of which the people who run the system know full well that they, their friends, and their family members are themselves guilty.


And now, because of the intense social pressures that bear down on average Americans, many more are resorting to hard drug use which, if it goes unchecked, will cost countless billions of dollars to address, not to mention countless thousands of broken lives. The heroin epidemic that has hit the long-dominant demographic of the country (and which hit minority communities first, with no major outcry as is now the case, let us note well), is one telling symptom of the social pressures and even nihilism that have been permitted to grow like a cancer throughout the land.


And we have watched American petroleum industry lobbyists, who have bought and utterly control our elected so-called representatives, slow our response to climate change to the point that we can no longer speak of prevention but must speak only of mitigation (the result of which will be massive dislocations and migrations in the coming years, with devastating consequences, especially among the weak and the poor). 


So, is it a time for politics as usual, for "pragmatism?" Or is it, instead, time for a political revolution?

    

(Posted February 13, 2016)



Bernie for President


by David E. McClean


For years I’ve watched this rather odd Democratic Socialist hold forth on talk shows, railing and roiling on the subject of corporations and lobbyists and plutocrats. Too far to the left, I thought. An old leftie like Sanders can never get very far beyond the borders of Vermont.


And then this odd, septuagenarian decided to run for President. Even then, with Hillary Clinton the presumed front-runner and nominee, Sanders was, so far as I could tell, but a foil for an inevitable coronation. He was no more, I thought, than the voice for a disheartened progressive base, a base that had no practical or pragmatic way to get what it wanted: reeling in Wall Street and corporate excesses, securing the social safety net, adding more protections for the environment, and attacking the incredible inequality that exists in this country. Bernie was peddling false hope, I thought. And indeed, some of his rhetoric seemed over the top.


But then I thought about 2008 and the financial crisis and the Great Recession that resulted, and the role that Wall Street played in it all – and one may include Fannie and Freddie in that, since they became integral to creating the real estate bubble that burst at that time. And then I thought about Citizens United, what that decision means for consolidating the interests of corporations and plutocrats at the expense of our democracy. I thought about Greg Smith’s book, Why I Left Goldman Sachs, and how that particular investment bank/bank, which called its clients "muppets," with its revolving door between its C-suite and Washington, assured, at least to itself, that what was good for Goldman Sachs was good for America. I thought about the chokehold that corporate lobbyists have on Congress, undermining the greater good in the interest of narrow ones. And I thought about the potential of the Occupy movement (it collapsed due to asphyxiation in its own fog of vagaries as regards policies), but which had the right ideas about the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few. And then I asked myself: Who is likely to change all this, while there is still time – if there is still time – and if any one person, sitting in the Oval Office, can in fact change it?

As much as I admire her and want to see a woman running the government, the answer to that question isn’t, Hillary. Among the candidates on either side of the aisle, only Bernie Sanders – with all his very un-foppish and avuncular presentation – has been warning us for years about inequality in this country, and it was Bernie Sanders who opposed what was perhaps the greatest foreign policy blunder in American History – the Iraq War, which has caused this country thousands of deaths, many thousands of wounded, and trillions in lost treasure, all to achieve nothing of note, save for more enemies – including ISIS (for it is hard to argue that ISIS would have emerged without the occupation (and destabilization) of Iraq). Yet, I thought, as did many, that Bernie Sanders isn’t pragmatic enough, that he is too much the old leftie to ever build the consensus that will be needed to return this country to the people to whom it belongs.


But given the array of destructive forces at work, perhaps it’s time for a New Pragmatism. The old pragmatism, rooted in assumptions about what can and cannot be done within an existing paradigm, isn't working. For it is the existing paradigm, business as usual, that is the problem. If we fail to change it, what the country might be in twenty years is unthinkable.


Bernie Sanders – this unlikely presidential candidate who speaks with a Brooklyn accent – has the right ideas, and the right level of commitment to forge the changes that we need. Looking past the undisciplined hair, the accent, the sometimes skewed eyeglasses, one sees real heart, real care for average Americans, for the poor, and for the future of the country – a country that is firmly in the grip of powerful corporate interests.


So I started to take Bernie seriously. Seeing the throngs that come out to his rallies, and the passion that they bring to them, it seemed that Bernie was indeed the real thing. I don’t know if he’ll get the nomination or, if he does, whether he can win the general election or, if he were to win it, whether he will be able to do all that is needed. But what I do know is that his message is the right one. And this time, given all that the country is facing and has faced over the past fifteen years, that’s all I need to know.


Go Bernie! Give 'em hell!

(Posted January 23, 2016)



Mass Incarceration: The Civil Rights and Moral Issue of Our Time

by David E. McClean
  
  
The civil rights and moral issue of our time is the mass incarceration of Americans, especially African Americans, which leads to the pointless and cruel breaking of souls, bodies, families, and communities. The Philosophers' Corner (and my blog, Polinitics.com) will dedicate itself to bringing this issue to its readers, until the problem is properly addressed by the citizenry and our governments (state and local).

If you are not aware of the depth and breadth of this problem, and how it began, watch the film The House I Live In, which you can stream from Amazon.
  
We have to keep the pressure on. Our governments are destroying lives and communities, and it is happening on our watch, and the inertia continues to build to keep the current prison-industrial complex in place. If we as citizens fail to do our duty now, we will be nothing less than complicit.  
  
And, indeed, we have a duty - - now.
  
If you have little sympathy for people on the other side of prison bars, or who think phrases such as "the prison-industrial complex" are hokum, watch The House I Live In. Addressing the problem of mass incarceration is not an attempt to end all penalties for crime. It does mean creating a system in which there is good sense rather than stupidity, and the dispensing of justice rather than mental and physical torture of people who really have no business in prison in the first place. And if you have no interests other than self-interest, you have just as much reason to know what is being done in our criminal justice system, because the chickens that are coming home to roost are or soon will be doing so at your expense. You can be sure of that. The bell of our broken and corrupt criminal justice system is not tolling only for those in "the system," it is tolling for thee.

 

(Posted September 24, 2013) 



A Unilateral Attack on Syria?

12 Reasons to Say "No"


by David E. McClean

 


Think like a man of action, act like a man of
thought. -- Henri Bergson

It is consoling, of course, to view ourselves as models of rectitude and even more so as misunderstood models of rectitude. But simple honesty compels us to see that we are as other nations are. The trouble with saying, "The only thing that the other side understands is force" is that you have to behave as if the only thing you understand is force. . . .  We are beginning to resemble extinct dinosaurs who suffered from too much armor and too little brain.  -- William Sloane Coffin

 

 

I will spare the reader a preamble, and get right to it:

1. Unintended consequences -- We cannot control Syria's response, and to think otherwise is arrogant (but not atypical). The idea of a limited strike is a fiction if you can't control the response.


2.
It is illegal, as UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon, has made clear.


3.
No Clear Measure for Success --There is no measure for assessing success, especially since the objectives are vague at best. The requirements for a "just war," according to the doctrine, include a proper assessment of the chances of success. But what is success if you have only vague or untenable objectives?

 
4. Americans may die, and American treasure will be poured out at a time the country can least afford the discretionary spending a "go it alone" attack would require, over a timeframe that is  unknown. 


5.
Innocent Syrian civilians will most certainly die, and that has to matter. Indeed, more may die than were killed in the chemical attacks -- the not unusual outcome of military belligerence.


6.
A false choice has been presented -- either attack unilaterally or do nothing. Of course, other options range from cutting a hard and unpalatable deal with the Russians, to massive increases in humanitarian aid, to the injection of multinational diplomatic teams determined to attain a political solution, including demilitarized zones -- or all of the preceding, combined. President Obama's uncharacteristically rash rhetoric has not allowed a serious exploration of these options, as Congress's and the State Department's time has been taken up with the task of a "war resolution" -- so-called. 


7.
The moral arguments for going in unilaterally are somewhat spurious, in that we allow conflagrations elsewhere in the world with almost no comment. The Central African Republic may be about to collapse into a failed state, with blood flowing in the streets. Are we ready to go in? How many Americans have even heard of the Central African Republic? On what is our selective concern about mass killings really based? This is not to suggest that we refrain from helping where and when we can. Yet questions can be raised about what appears to be an incoherent policy regarding humanitarian intervention. Sorry, but it appears that some lives matter more than others.


8.
Secretary Kerry's pleas sound very similar to Colin Powell's impassioned and misleading appeal at the UN prior to the Iraq invasion, which was equally infused with slippery slope arguments and hyperbolic rhetoric in an attempt to bend reality into the shape of a "national security threat." With all due respect to Secretary Kerry, we've seen this movie before, even though he claims to have seen it before, too.


9.
Multilateral Force Only -- We should continue to make the case to the international community for a multilateral force to address the problem on a long-term basis, not rush in rashly, alone, without any "end game" plan for the long-term -- other than magical thinking about Bashar al-Assad's response. If the banning of chemical weapons is in the interest of all countries, where are those countries now? Why is it that the hair of other world leaders is not on fire over the Syrian tragedy, as is Mr. Obama's and Secretary Kerry's?


10.
The United States' role as world cop needs to be rethought -- It is a dangerous role, perhaps anachronistic. There is no longer any reason that our very rich allies can't assume much more of the burden. This is not a libertarian argument or a call for international quietism; it is good sense.  


11.
An attack may plant seeds of future terrorist attacks against the US and its allies. Or are we back to believing (again, magical thinking) that no one dare?; and


12.
America must leave off its preference to use violence as a solution to problems, and learn to, instead, lead with moral authority rather than guns and bombs. If it does, others will surely follow. It is our bluster and eagerness to use force that makes our allies back away. They, too, have seen this movie before.


Posted: September 9, 2013

 

 

 

Iraq, Ten Years On

by David E. McClean

Consider, if you will, your own impending death. That’s right, dwell on the unthinkable for a moment. Imagine that, right now, you’re certain that within ten minutes you will be dead. Pick your circumstances. Perhaps you just fell on a rusty rod that pierced through your torso, and you are lying in a pool of your own blood, feeling the life leave your body. Or perhaps you were just in a car accident, and you have felt the jarring impact rip your organs from the tissue that holds them in place, and you know that the damage inside is just too great for you to make it.

How do you feel? No doubt, you are thinking about your loved ones, who will miss you terribly. You are feeling their anguish, their pain, their grief. You are thinking, as the clock ticks down, that there was so much left to do – so many places to have visited, so many people you could have met, so many friends you could have made, so much joy you could have experienced. And then you think of the simple moments – the moments on your back in the early summer grass, looking up at the clouds, puffy and white and still, as though they were hung there in the sky by the angels. You remember remembering – old loves from high school, and the day that you drew a perfect picture of a house on construction paper, way back in second grade. You remember the scents of your mother’s cooking, the sound of your father’s laugh, the feeling of a hot shower after a long and trying day. Children’s smiles – yes, you remember children’s smiles, and giggles, and the way they bounce from joy to joy, oblivious.

I can only imagine that as Iraqi men, women and children were dying in the streets and hospitals of Baghdad -- the victims of what we so adolescently called “Shock and Awe” -- the reflections I sketched for you, the thoughts that would go through your own mind as you lay dying, were very much the same thoughts that were going through the minds of innocent Iraqis as the bombs fell, as the broken glass rained down, as the shards flew into and through their bodies.

My country did this to them, ten years ago and for years thereafter, fueled by misguided rage and not a few lies, and a false image of itself as always good, always right, always virtuous. It’s hard to face up to horrendous errors. Just think about how hard it is to do so in your own life. But the truth will out, as they say – you will either carry around the bile of your sins, or you will have to face them and wrestle them to the ground, and hope there is mercy and forgiveness.

The invasion of Iraq is yet one more moral stain on this country. It gets to occupy a place in America’s history of blunders and sins – from the genocide of First Nations peoples, to the Atlantic slave trade, to Jim Crow, to Vietnam, and on and on. So far, at least in many important ways, America has survived these blunders and sins – but it is horribly marred by them. But then it is not hard to imagine that one day her luck will run out.

I don’t want to see that day. That’s why I write, and speak out, and try to draw upon the saner and more noble voices among us. But we are living through a less than sane age, and so I think that we are far away from the healing path we need to set our feet upon. Even to this day, sin’s apologists are out and about defending error with preposterous assertions and jingoistic proclamations. To the extent they are not met with the voices of patriots who remember what the American Experiment is all about, to that extent we hasten the day when the Experiment will come to a close.

T
o those who died for oil and adventurism and geopolitics: I hope that you will not have died in vain -- that your blood and bones will teach us from beyond the grave to be a more just nation. Unfortunately, given the current state of American political discourse, I am hopeful but not optimistic. I am sorry for that.


Posted March 21, 2013