July 18, 2018

Which elite sectors could unite to stop nuclear WWIII?

Just when you thought the fever pitch of suicidal militarism could not get any worse after the Kim Jong-un summit, the psychos have gotten even more delirious after the Putin summit. It's no exaggeration to say that every aspect of American society is now at grave risk.

The question is: who can stop it?

Certainly not "the people," who never approve of these ruinous wars that we've had after WWII (the last we won). They are too unorganized at present anyway -- utterly fragmented -- and so have little leverage to wield.

That leaves the elite sectors of society, who act collectively in their sector's material interests. We must then identify which ones stand the least to gain from WWIII, and therefore the most to lose, since the downside is infinite for all sectors (nuclear annihilation of the US).

In the anti-war coalition: finance, entertainment, agriculture. Out: military, manufacturing, intel agencies, news media. Maybe: tech, energy.

* * *

We'll begin examining the Republican sectors, which are material: military, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy. They are mostly pro-war, but there's a chance to peel off agriculture.

The military is out for obvious reasons, and so is manufacturing, since so much of what's left in the US manufacturing sector is war-oriented, and the remainder would be commandeered for such purposes in wartime, being handsomely compensated for their troubles.

There is one Republican sector that is squarely against war, and that is agriculture. Whatever rise in production they would get from feeding a surge in troops would not be a drop in the bucket of their overall business. And that's assuming we had a massive number of boots on the ground -- if fighting were done by drone operators in America, there wouldn't be an increase in food procurement at all.

It would also destroy a potential export market for our crops, not that we send that much to Russia at present, but probably more than we would be sending to US troops deployed over there. Net loss.

And although disrupting Russian society would impair their agricultural output, if they hit us on our own land -- unlike the regional, not global, superpowers we have fought before -- our own agricultural output would get disrupted.

Even assuming their farms suffered while ours did not, our farms would not benefit for long from the boost to prices caused by the drop in global supply. That happened after WWI, when Europe's farms were ravaged while ours were not. US agribusiness went on a leveraged buy-out binge of farmland, assuming that prices would stay elevated because Europe would take so long to recover their farmlands. Unfortunately it only took a few years, and the ag sector back here was devastated for most of the 1920s, crippled by the debt it took on to fuel its M&A, and with no way to pay it off after prices fell back to normal upon Europe's recovery.

Back during the Progressive and New Deal eras, the GOP did not have the South, where the military sector is concentrated, but they did have the Plains states, where agriculture is concentrated (today they have both). In those two eras, the GOP was the isolationist party, and the Dems the interventionists. During the 1976 vice presidential debate, Bob Dole, a Republican from farm state Kansas, griped: "I figured up the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it'd be about one point six million Americans - enough to fill the city of Detroit."

Today, the lone proponents of anti-interventionism among the GOP elites are the much maligned Koch brothers network. They're the ones who anti-war libertarians like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie are working on behalf of in Washington. And they are in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Energy also has little to gain from WWIII against Russia, for the same reasons as agriculture (both do natural resource extraction and sell non-industrial commodities, which would not get sucked into wartime production). Look at how long we've been militarily occupying Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, and Afghanistan -- where there's no oil, where we are not wiping out local energy supplies in order to create an artificial market for our own coal, etc. The same would hold for Russia -- nothing to gain, certainly beyond a horizon of a few years.

However, the oil sector is far more likely than other commodity producers to want to wage war against its sectoral rivals overseas (Iran, Iraq), if it cannot co-opt them as client states (Saudi Arabia). And Russia is a major oil and natural gas producer, so they certainly would be in our energy sector's cross-hairs. I put energy into the "maybe" column.

* * *

Now we'll move onto the Democrat sectors, which are informational: finance, tech, media / entertainment, and intel. These are mostly anti-war, with intel and the news sub-sector of the media being exceptions.

The intel agencies are out for obvious reasons, and so are their news media partners. At this point, the two are so intertwined as to form a single propaganda nexus, with a typical panel on MSNBC being at least 50% spooks. Whereas the military and arms manufacturers have the material side of warmongering covered, the intel and news media have the informational side of warmongering covered.

The entertainment industry has nothing to gain from war, and only foreign box office revenues to lose. They are not surprisingly the most outspoken anti-war sector of the elites.

The parts of the tech industry that are like entertainment are equally uninvolved in promoting war. Netflix is entertainment mediated by the internet, and does not rely on news programming in its content. Plus it operates Netflix in Russia, along with most of the world, and would only stand to lose that revenue stream if war broke out.

Amazon is a retailer and service provider mediated by the internet, which could not help out in a war effort. If anything, their international business from Russia would be harmed.

Ditto for Google, who make money from digital ads and monetizing user information -- including users from Russia, who view ads placed in Russia.

Recently both Amazon and Google folded to Russia's demands that they end cloud services for the Telegram app, created by two Russians, which Russia's intel agency FSB was trying to get access to, for monitoring terrorists (and whatever other intel purposes). They do too much business there to take an ideological stand against their host government.

Apple is an electronics manufacturer, so they could get commandeered into the war effort, though it seems unlikely since so much of their stuff is made in China. And the company would not want to jeopardize such a large market for the iPhone, when sales are already saturating for new models.

Facebook makes its money like Google does, but unlike Google for internet searches, it is not the dominant firm in Russian social network sites (that would be VKontakte). Facebook wouldn't gain anything, but they wouldn't lose anything either. And given the pressure they come under here for their role in Russiagate, they are more likely to bend to the warmongering side, albeit on the informational side, joining the propaganda nexus. They're already doing that, genuflecting before Congress about a handful of ads from Russian troll farms that nobody saw before the 2016 election.

That leaves the senior sector of the Democrat side -- finance. War disrupts commerce, financially ruins the home nation from the massive debt it takes on to pay for the war effort (with no spoils won to pay it off, in our war-losing era after WWII), and financially ruins the foreign country, whom our own finance sector may be making loans to or investing in, which they will no longer recoup let alone make a profit on. Our soaring debt, if not rapidly paid off, will lead to either a default or rampant inflation to pay it off -- both scenarios blowing up the assets of the financial institutions.

And they have plenty to lose: JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs were the #2 and #3 investment banks operating in Russia as of April last year. This April, after harsh sanctions imposed by the GOP government on firms doing business with Russia or its oligarchs, global banks have been exiting the Russian financial services market, and any market tied to an oligarch. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup had been advising on the IPO of an Italian company, Octo, whose controlling shareholder is a Russian oligarch targeted by the sanctions (Vekselberg). Whatever fees and commission they were planning on collecting -- poof, up in a puff of smoke because of the anti-Russia hysteria.

In reaction to these sanctions, Russia has liquidated its holdings of US treasuries, from roughly $100 billion to $15 billion, sending the yields skyrocketing on our government bonds for two months straight. As the current decade-long stock market bubble stands ready to pop before election 2020, the last thing the finance sector wants is for the bond market bubble to get popped first -- that is supposed to be a relative safe haven, for investors to pour into when the riskier stocks get blown up. If the safe haven gets destroyed first, it'll wipe out the riskier market by transitivity.

For similar reasons, it was the party of finance who crafted the Iran nuclear deal, so they could earn returns on investment in a large and fairly prosperous nation, which had been closed off to investment by militaristic sanctions for decades. With the finance party out of power, that deal has been scrapped by the return of the militarist party.

* * *

This analysis suggests that the Democrats would be the ideal party to house the anti-war coalition. However, it would have to muzzle or more likely kick out some of its current key members -- the intel agencies and the news media, although not the entertainment media, and perhaps Facebook. These are junior partners to the senior partner of Wall Street banks, so it's do-able. They would have to take in agriculture from the other party to fill the void, perhaps with energy too.

It's also possible that in the lead-up to our Second Civil War, the parallels will be the Democrats going defunct just like the Whigs did (opposition party), to be replaced by a whole new major party (Republicans then, something else now).

When the opposition Whigs morphed into the ascendant Republicans to dethrone the formerly dominant Jacksonian Democrats, they kept most of their old members, but they kicked out those who were too sympathetic to the rival party on the major issue of the day -- slavery, for which the Know-Nothing faction of Whigs felt too much sympathy.

Today, that would take the form of the opposition Democrats morphing into an ascendant anti-war party to dethrone the militarist Reaganite GOP -- but having to kick out its faction that sympathizes too much with ever-rising military spending and interventionism, namely the propaganda nexus of the intel agencies and news media. Let the Republicans have them, and let the anti-war agribusinesses join the Democrats or their successor party.

July 16, 2018

Kavanaugh ruled in favor of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino to bust union of card dealers

Top priority for those seeking to derail, or at least damage, the Kavanaugh confirmation process. You can get the word out without citing this tip-off post -- just say you were investigating any connection that Trump had with Kavanaugh, and discovered what was public record.

This case allows a way to attack the nominee for his record of union-busting, and specifically favoring a Trump company in doing so. Since nobody cares about social-cultural issues in this climate of populist re-alignment, the opposition to Chamber of Commerce puppet Kavanaugh must be populist, not socially liberalist.

While searching for Kavanaugh's opinions on immigration for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, I stumbled upon a case that turned out to have nothing to do with immigration, despite containing the search term "immigrants", but which is noteworthy for who one of the parties was -- Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, one of Trump's two Atlantic City fiascos.

Citation: Trump Plaza Associates v. NLRB, 679 F.3d 822 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

Full text here.

Although his colleague Henderson wrote up the opinion, Kavanaugh joined the rest of the three-person panel in deciding in favor of Trump Plaza Associates, who were petitioning to void a highly successful union election among the card dealers in 2007, which the National Labor Relations Board had upheld.

The Circuit Court did tell the NLRB to re-consider their legal reasoning for their approval of the election, rather than say flat-out that it was so obvious to the Circuit Court that the election process was compromised, that the NLRB shouldn't even bother trying to re-approve the election with a different argument.

Still, the Circuit Court could have simply said they concur with the NLRB's approval of the election, though not with their argument for the approval, so let it be known that the higher court's narrower or more precedent-focused reasoning for approving the union election will be the standard.

But the Circuit Court did not really approve of the election, and wanted some rationalization for shooting it down, despite the complaints from the company being totally specious. Typical of courts in the post-New Deal era, they defer way more toward management than to the NLRB.

Vacating the NLRB's approval of the election set the process back by years, and that would be all that was necessary to kill the union drive for good, since Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino closed in 2014, just two years after the Circuit Court's decision. Even by 2013, Trump Plaza Associates announced they wanted to sell the property to another casino company, jeopardizing the union drive while the property's future ownership was up in the air.

This case presents not only the usual opportunities for pro-labor politicians to hammer a conservative judge for granting the most flimsy legal appeal by corporations trying to block a union drive, as long as it serves the larger agenda to further dismantle the New Deal and weaken labor regulations.

This time, though, there's a unique opportunity to muddy the waters with a "conflict of interest" narrative. Kavanaugh helped a Trump company refuse to negotiate a contract with an elected labor union, scoring a legal and financial victory for the billionaire. Now that this billionaire occupies the White House and is able to elevate judges, he picks for the Supreme Court the very one who helped him out big-league just six years earlier.

It's obviously not a quid pro quo, since nobody including Trump thought he'd be president back in 2012. But it still looks corrupt, to pick -- of all the judges out there -- the one who's recently done great legal and financial things for you personally.

Best case, Kavanaugh gets blocked, and the assault on anti-union judges means his replacement has to be at least moderate on labor issues, rather than a full Koch Brothers shill for big business.

Worst case, Kavanaugh gets his seat on the highest court, but he gets tainted, and so does Trump, for the process appearing so personally motivated rather than merely politically motivated. It makes the selection of justices appear even seedier than already believed, after the GOP cockblocked Obama from getting to nominate Scalia's replacement.

That level of blocking only happened in the lead-up to the Civil War, and when the shoe was on the other foot after the Lincoln coalition dethroned the Jackson coalition, the new dominant party packed the court -- increasing or decreasing the number of justices depending on which party would be doing the nominating, and adjusting the boundaries of the circuits to minimize the regions controlled by their rival party.

The more appalling the selection process during this peak of partisan polarization, the more the new dominant coalition under Bernie will be able to adjust the make-up of the Supreme Court in order to get their programs through, against old-guard Reaganite obstruction.

July 12, 2018

Trade war doesn't exist, theatrics only, Trumpers & neolibs will lose narrative battle to Sandernistas

From a post by Zero Hedge, a handy reminder by Goldman Sachs, who are interested in the reality rather than just the theatrics behind trade policy announcements, that so far the trade war does not exist. Compare the proposed tariffs (in gray) vs. implemented tariffs (in red) from their chart:

That was as of mid-June, and on July 6, the tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports at a 25% rate did go into effect. That means the spot with red slashes is now fully colored in, at the bottom-right corner of the chart.

Within the total level of proposed tariffs, about 10% is reality and 90% is BS (roughly $800 billion proposed vs. roughly $80 implemented). And that composition has shifted far more toward BS since late March / April, when the reality was more like 20-30% of the total (eye-balling their chart).

So the whole narrative about the "trade war" is fake news. Yet both the Trumpers and anti-Trumpers are pretending it is real. Why?

Trumpers want to claim that he is fulfilling campaign promises, looking out for the American worker instead of only the rich, and in general taking on the Establishment orthodoxy.

Anti-Trumpers want to claim that he is destabilizing the status quo, which had been glorious until he got elected, so that his unorthodox policies will harm rather than help the American worker and American industry.

Since the trade war doesn't exist, there is no tangible benefit to American workers who might have seen their factories return as a result of a real trade war. That real war would target American corporations who have closed down their American factories and sent them to cheap labor colonies instead, for lazy employers to earn higher profits for free. That is what Trump promised over and over again -- a big fat 35% tariff on "every car, truck, and part" that came across the US-Mexican border, to change Ford's behavior of closing down plants in America and moving them to Mexico.

Without any tangible benefits or harms so far, what is the upside vs. downside for both sides in the narrative battle? That depends on the near-term performance of the US and/or global economy. If things were only going to get better, Trumpers would attribute that success in part to waging the trade war, while if things only go downhill from here during Trump's term, the anti-Trumpers will blame the downturn in part on the trade war.

We are at the top of the longest expansion we've seen, more or less ever. The Tech Bubble 2.0 is going to pop during Trump's term, and it will not matter whether that's at the end of this year, early 2019, mid-2019, late 2019, or early 2020. The whole house of cards is going to come crashing down, as central banks raise interest rates and debt becomes too expensive to service, triggering defaults and bankruptcies; and as central banks start to shed rather than take on more assets like government bonds, so that they will no longer be the asset price-supporter of last resort.

Worse than the usual recession, we are seeing stagnant growth with rising inflation -- stagflation -- indicating not just the end of a single business cycle, but of an entire cycle of cycles, or cohesive period in economic history. The stagflation of the late '70s signaled the end of the New Deal period (in all countries, not just the US, and in communist as well as capitalist economies). With today's stagflation, we are now nearing the end of the neoliberal period.

That's going to be one hell of a collapse. And with it, the anti-Trumpers will cry "I told ya so" about the non-existent trade war. They want to preserve the cultural sanctity of free market fundamentalism -- as well as its material reality for the elites. So in their telling, it will not be neoliberalism that killed neoliberalism, but rather the most wonderful economy in world history, which Reagan began and which Obama was the last to preside faithfully and respectfully over, was brought crashing down by Trump's disrespect for the global order and his desecration of free trade.

And that's where the anti-Trumpers' reach will exceed their grasp. Their narrative will rely on the economy before Trump's non-existent trade war having been the greatest we've ever known, the pinnacle of human civilization, tracing a long glorious path back to Reagan. But by now, the populist genie has been let out of the bottle, and most Americans not only don't believe that story, they believe the opposite is true, and they're mad as hell that no one among the elites seems to be doing anything to steer us back toward our golden age of the mid-20th century.

Of course, the kneejerk Trumpers will have no leg to stand on either. They claimed the trade war was real -- well, if it had been truly going on, and the result was a total collapse, then trade wars are bad, and the person and the whole movement that supported them are discredited, and they are disqualified from leading the way out of the collapse.

That's the opening for the Bernie revolution -- like the Trumpers, they've been saying how rotten the system has been for a long time, particularly on trade and de-industrialization. But unlike the Trumpers, they didn't just jump on some bandwagon and ride it wherever it went -- even if it meant hyping up a non-existent trade war, to protect Dear Leader's reputation and to score theatrical-only points rather than deliver tangible benefits. The Sandernistas will not be the target of blame, since they had no part in either waging the non-existent trade war itself, or in hyping it up through the media.

Their message will be that they are not merely using populist rhetoric to defend American corporate interests -- the only real goal of the Trump admin's trade policies (e.g., protecting intellectual property, in which the working class has no stake, but white-collar IT professionals and stockholders do). They are not beholden to the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, so they will make good on Trump's 2016 campaign rhetoric that failed to materialize, since the GOP is controlled by the very interests that Trump sought to upset. The Bernie people will target Ford, Carrier, Nabisco, and the rest of them, rather than just lashing out at China or Mexico, who are only the recipients of stolen goods rather than the American corporate thieves themselves.

The Bernie revolution will focus on punishing American corporations for their anti-labor policies back to Reagan, including the off-shoring of manufacturing plants, and re-regulating them until those plants come back here, including real, not proposed, tariffs that hurt the off-shorers. That will provide a genuine economic recovery, since manufacturing is real productive activity, not just some speculative bubble funded by central banks so that rich people can jerk each other off with free money, "investing" in each other's airhead vanity projects instead of hiring the bottom 90% to do real work at prosperous wages (indirectly stimulating demand).

There is thus no future in either defending neoliberalism or Trump's reliance on theatrics (after getting cockblocked by his party's economic sectors). The only thing to figure out for populists is where you're going to fit into the emerging Bernie bloc of politics, and how you can negotiate with its other members. In the meantime, call out how phony the dead-enders are on both sides, and why there needs to be a complete overhaul rather than just serving as cheerleaders for either faction of dead-enders.

July 10, 2018

SCOTUS during Reaganism is socially / culturally liberal, deregulatory, authoritarian

Another opening on the Supreme Court, another ritualistic battle between liberals and conservatives, who both keep pretending that the GOP elites are actually conservative on social and cultural issues, when they are in fact small-l libertarian (socially liberal, economically conservative). They have been that way all throughout the Reagan era, and will continue to be during this final twilight phase under Trump.

The liberal freak-out always proves to be a false panic about Christian theocracy, just as much as the cultural conservative gloat-fest always proves to be a false hope for the same.

The primary goal of the Reagan coalition has been to undo the New Deal / Great Society regulations on business, as well as that era's checks on institutions of armed authority. This reflects the interests of the sectors that control the GOP -- material ones like energy, agriculture, and law enforcement -- whose interests were sacrificed during the New Deal era in favor of workers, blacks, and the accused. They have used their status as the dominant coalition to carry out this agenda in the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches, all of which they rapidly captured in the 1980s.

The sectors that formed the dominant coalition of the New Deal era -- finance and the military -- were not weakened by strengthening labor unions or giving more civic participation to blacks. Checks on military authority would have harmed a key member of their coalition, so the government in all three branches tended to shy away from constraining the military, provided that sector wielded authority primarily in foreign affairs. That allowed the non-military members of the coalition to crack down on domestic armed authorities like the police, who were more Republican-leaning (especially with Nixon's focus on law-and-order).

On social and cultural issues, the Democrat coalition of the New Deal / Great Society was moderate to conservative, reflecting both the mixture of sectors in their coalition -- liberal financiers, but conservative military leaders -- as well as their electoral base of the working class, who are more conservative on such issues than the socially permissive elites. That applied to Supreme Court decisions as well as executive and legislative measures taken to censor profanity, gore, pornography, etc., from popular culture during the Midcentury.

With the dismantling of the populist New Deal by the neoliberal Reagan revolution, the Republican-led government has pushed liberal causes in the social and cultural domains -- flag burning, abortion, pornography, sodomy, gay marriage, and so on. I'm leaving out a detailed survey of the cases themselves, which I may take up in another post, and looking at the sociological big picture here.

Advocating for free market fundamentalism leaves nothing sacred, nothing out-of-bounds, and shifting toward an electoral base of upwardly mobile aspiring elites means assuring them that their liberal priorities on social issues will remain safe. Social conservatism is for those proles who vote Democrat, not for yuppies who vote Republican.

Occasionally the GOP legislature does try to throw some breadcrumbs to the social conservatives in its base, but that's where the Reaganite Supreme Court steps in to remind everyone that the main priorities are deregulating the material sectors of the economy, including law enforcement, and doing whatever it takes to help Republicans win elections when their goals are so deeply unpopular. All that those socially conservative breadcrumbs would do is alienate yuppie swing voters, who are a crucial bloc of the party's slim electoral base.

This function of the Court will remain so even with the appointments by Trump, whose list came straight from the Federalist Society -- a gatekeeper for career-climbing Republican lawyers, founded at the dawn of the Reagan revolution in 1982.

At the same time, as a disjunctive, end-of-an-era president, Trump may end up appointing someone who will switch sides under the upcoming populist re-alignment, after the Bernie revolution dethrones the Reaganites. That would be akin to the disjunctive Hoover, at the end of the pro-business Republican era of the early 20th C, appointing Owen Roberts in 1930. He began pro-business, but after several years of the Supreme Court striking down New Deal legislation, he decided to join the pro-New Deal side in 1937, to prevent FDR from packing the court instead to get his programs upheld. That was "the switch in time that saved nine".

Roberts only received the nomination because Hoover's first pick, John Parker, was rejected by the GOP Senate for his anti-union views (upholding "yellow-dog contracts," whereby workers agree not to join a union as a condition of getting hired). Not a good look in the middle of the Great Depression.

It's still possible that Trump will get another pick, choose a deregulatory business cuck in the middle of the imminent deep recession, and the Senate will be spooked enough to reject him and require someone with a populist streak. (Roberts was famous for investigating the Teapot Dome scandal of the GOP Harding administration.) That will be especially true if one of the liberals, Ginsburg or Breyer, kicks the bucket or retires. Trump and the GOP Senate may be forced to replace a Clinton appointment with someone who splits the difference -- socially and culturally conservative, but pro-labor and pro-regulation.

When Kennedy retired, I argued for making populism, rather than social liberalism, the basis of opposition to whichever Federalist Society guy Trump ended up selecting.

Of course, it's also possible that the upcoming re-alignment will be more like the Civil War than the New Deal, given the soaring levels of partisan polarization (like the Civil War, unlike the New Deal). That might lead the Bernie revolution to re-shape the Court by re-jiggering the circuit boundaries, and adding or subtracting justices, just as the Lincoln coalition did to dethrone the Jacksonian Democrats:

Between 1862 and 1869, Congress thus re-arranged the federal circuits to curb southern influence, added a tenth Justice to uphold Union war policies, and reduced the size of the Court to thwart an antagonistic president. Taken together, these measures constituted a mostly partisan attempt to shape the structure and personnel of the Supreme Court: the first Court-packing plan.

July 9, 2018

The "nation of immigrants" narrative after Reagan's sanctification of cheap labor

Part 1 reviewed the lack of July 4th speeches devoted to the "nation of immigrants" creation myth, for presidents of the New Deal and Great Society era. Part 2 examined how the "nation of immigrants" narrative served to sanctify the cheap labor policies that the ruling elites were shifting toward, as they dismantled the New Deal. Part 3 reviewed the birth of the "nation of immigrants" propaganda campaign during the neoliberal era, beginning in 1976, but really taking off into outer space under Reagan, who was already preaching it in 1980.

And yet, not all presidents of the Reaganite era have evangelized with the same fervor about the unbounded wonders of mass immigration. They hyped it up the most at first, giving the policy shift a good oomph to get it moving. Reagan had to go so over-the-top because he was the trailblazer of the post-New Deal order. Once the new system had scored its first major scalp on the issue -- the 1986 amnesty of illegal immigrants -- the newly dominant Reaganites figured that when they sold the narrative going forward, they didn't have to do so with such gusto as the pioneer.

George H.W. Bush did not mention immigration in his July 4th speeches, a notable exception for the era. He always had a problem with "the vision thing," so perhaps he simply felt out of his element trying to rationalize the major shift away from the closed borders of the New Deal and Great Society period, and toward the open borders of the cheap labor system he was overseeing. In his July 4th addresses, he stuck to banal concrete images like backyard cook-outs and fireworks, along with hyping up the military bubble, especially after the Gulf War.

Clinton made two immigration-boosting speeches for July 4th, at the start and end of his eight years. The first address, from 1993, was short on schmaltz compared to Reagan's storytelling:

Here, people from every continent and every country come, believing that they can build a new life for themselves and a better future for their children. America embodies the idea that a nation can be built by the people of every other nation and still be a beacon of hope and inspiration to the world and still prove that out of all that diversity can become a deeper strength and unity founded on the ideals that we celebrate on the Fourth of July.

His final July 4th speech, in 2000, was just as sentimental and overwrought as a typical Reagan address on immigration, but with one New Democrat flourish -- that Ellis Islanders were not only coming here for reasons of greed and ambition, but that they were pushed out by intolerance in their home country.

At least that's a legitimate push-factor, which Reagan never pretended to point to, since everyone knows that the Ellis Islanders were not fleeing persecution or tyranny, just severing all social and cultural ties in order to make more money in America. I'm guessing Clinton is referring to intolerance toward Jews, part of his constituency but not of Reagan's. I mean that in the sense of the sectors of society that control the Democrats (finance, info-tech, media), rather than Jews as a voter demographic.

Just behind me on Ellis Island, the ancestors of more than 100 million United States citizens took their first steps on America's soil. They're the forebears of the immigrants who took the oath of citizenship today. Pulled by the vision of liberty and opportunity, often pushed by forces of intolerance and hopelessness, they came and brought with them their skills, their knowledge, and their hearts.

George W. Bush made frequent reference in his July 4th speeches to the idea that America is a melting pot of races and cultures that makes us stronger, but he didn't hammer on immigration and open borders per se as the mechanism that delivered such outcomes. Again with the Bushes and the vision thing. Like his father, most of his July 4th addresses were about cook-outs and pointless wars in Iraq (and now including Afghanistan).

But by 2008, one of his neo-con speech writers finally got him to tell a historical tale about immigration being our nation's foundation, so that's why we need to keep our borders open today. He echoes Clinton's message about ethnic persecution being a push-factor, although now focusing not on Jews from 19th-century Eastern Europe, but minorities within third-world countries. Delivered at Monticello for naturalization ceremonies of recent immigrants, his address was larded up with Reagan-level sentimentality:

We also honor Jefferson's legacy by welcoming newcomers to our land. And that is what we're here to celebrate today.

Throughout our history, the words of the Declaration have inspired immigrants from around the world to set sail to our shores. These immigrants have helped transform 13 small Colonies into a great and growing nation of more than 300 [million] people. They've made America a melting pot of cultures from all across the world. They've made diversity one of the great strengths of our democracy. And all of us here today are here to honor and pay tribute to that great notion of America.

Those of you taking the oath of citizenship at this ceremony hail from 30 different nations. You represent many different ethnicities and races and religions. But you all have one thing in common, and that is a shared love of freedom. This love of liberty is what binds our Nation together, and this is the love that makes us all Americans.

One man with special appreciation for liberty is Mya Soe from Burma. As a member of the Shan ethnic group, Mya faced discrimination and oppression at the hands of Burma's military junta. When he tried to reach local villagers—when he tried to teach local villagers how to read and write the Shan language, the regime interrogated him and harassed him. In 2000, he left a life of fear for a life of freedom. He now works as a painter in the Charlottesville community. Today we welcome this brave immigrant as a citizen-to-be of the United States of America.

I'm sure there are other stories like Mya's among you. But we must remember that the desire for freedom burns inside every man and woman and child. More than two centuries ago, this desire of freedom was—had inspired the subjects of a mighty empire to declare themselves free and independent citizens of a new nation. Today that same desire for freedom has inspired 72 immigrants from around the world to become citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America.

He gave similar remarks in his radio address.

Obama's July 4th speeches were usually generic and not focused on our national creation or immigration. They all boiled down to: yay troops, cook-outs amirite folks, and now for some live music by indie pop homosexuals or aspirational capitalist rappers.

He did, however, give two immigration-cheerleading speeches around the time of Gang of Eight amnesty bill, similar to Reagan ramping up his Ellis Island worship around July 4th of 1986, ahead of a massive amnesty. Obama's addition to the narrative is to make a meta- comment about how we've told this story so many times, we don't even know what we're talking about anymore. And of course a shout-out to Silicon Valley's Tech Bubble 2.0, brought to you by immigrants or their children.

From his 2012 address:

With this ceremony today and ceremonies like it across our country, we affirm another truth: Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe. We say it so often, we sometimes forget what it means: We are a nation of immigrants. Unless you are one of the first Americans, a Native American, we are all descended from folks who came from someplace else, whether they arrived on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, whether they came through Ellis Island or crossed the Rio Grande.

Immigrants signed their names to our Declaration and helped win our independence. Immigrants helped lay the railroads and build our cities, calloused hand by calloused hand. Immigrants took up arms to preserve our Union, to defeat fascism, and to win a cold war. Immigrants and their descendants helped pioneer new industries and fuel our Information Age, from Google to the iPhone. So the story of immigrants in America isn't a story of "them," it's a story of "us." It's who we are. And now all of you get to write the next chapter.

He said much the same thing in his 2014 address, only now using Independence Day to overtly call for more cheap foreigners to replace our own creative-class professionals:

And that's why, if we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest from beyond our shores, we're going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken, and pass commonsense immigration reform.

Trump hasn't made such a July 4th speech yet, and let's hope he never does.

* * *

The "nation of immigrants" narrative has abated in intensity since the Reagan years proper, as the major policy change has been achieved. It's no longer the New Deal era when immigration was falling. By now the labor-intensive sectors that control the GOP have gotten their hordes of cheap labor, at home and abroad, so why bother continuing to invest so much pomp and circumstance into the revision of the national creation myth?

Plus, the feel-good tone of immigrants coming to our country to take part in the American dream no longer resonates with a population that believes the American dream is dead, at least for now, and has been for some time. We're back to Dickensian levels of inequality, crowdedness, rootlessness, and families that are broken, delayed, or never formed.

If the audience were to dwell on it, they'd realize that all this has happened after the New Deal got dismantled, not when it was still strong. People remember the 1960s directly or from The Wonder Years. They would blame the neoliberal Reagan system for destroying their country, and then where would the Establishment be with their feel-good narrative about the American dream?

The people would also connect the dots between soaring levels of immigration and the stagnating or deteriorating standard of living -- more workers and tenants to compete against in the labor and housing markets -- in addition to the palpable sense of alienation anytime they tried to go out in public in what no longer feels like their own country.

As a disjunctive president, Trump tries to have the national creation myth both ways. He does not sermonize about "a nation of immigrants," but he does repeatedly say we need boatloads of cheap labor foreigners to come in and do the factory and farm work that you American citizens are just too lazy to do, or for which you're demanding too high of a wage. Foxconn and farmers only hire immigrants.

The trailblazer of the next era will have to come out directly against the exploitation of foreigners as cheap labor, whether through off-shoring or hauling them in here. That's the crucial first step toward ending this ridiculous "nation of immigrants" creation myth -- de-sanctifying it by pointing out how it's just a self-serving story to boost the material interests of the ruling class.

It would not be like pissing on a crucifix -- by now we all sense that the American dream is dead, for now, and we don't feel reverence upon thinking about the billions of foreigners who might join us in our economic stagnation and communal deterioration. Seething ethnic tensions, not just with the majority group but between all the minority groups, would only worsen our collapse.

The message should be that we just can't afford to take in any more -- there's no healthy American dream for them to take part in right now anyway, and even if there were, hauling in millions of cheap laborers is part of what destroyed the American dream in the first place, along with the rest of the cost-cutting Reaganite program.

Struggling Americans need higher wages and benefits, and lower housing prices, which means less competition from billions of other would-be workers and tenants in this country. We need to pit the elite sectors against each other for our benefit, not allow ourselves to accept ever greater competition with the workers and tenants of the entire world.

Restoring the American dream means closing the borders to those who would only intensify the race to the bottom in our labor and housing markets. We must reverse the open-borders policy of Reaganism, and return to the closed-borders order of the New Deal.

July 8, 2018

The Reaganite birth of the "nation of immigrants" propaganda campaign

Part 1 reviewed the New Deal / Great Society period's lack of presidential Independence Day speeches that incorporate immigration into our national creation myth.

Part 2 examined how, as the New Deal was being dismantled, the new "nation of immigrants" myth rationalized and sanctified the shift among the elites from tolerating expensive labor to demanding cheap labor, especially in labor-intensive sectors.

In this third post, we'll look at the record of presidential Independence Day speeches once the New Deal / Great Society framework was being rejected. Suddenly, their speeches go over the top in re-writing the message of "a nation of immigrants, from start to finish" into America's creation myth.

This will cover the disjunctive phase of the New Deal, starting in 1976, and go through the two terms of Reagan, who was the central figure in both spreading the "nation of immigrants" propaganda campaign and calling for boatloads more immigrants. And he got his wish, now that the zeitgeist had gone over to cheap labor, unlike the New Deal's requirement of expensive labor.

A final post will look at the followers of Reagan in the neoliberal era.

* * *

Ford held off on the "nation of immigrants" myth until July of 1976, when he was being challenged by Jimmy Carter, who was running on an anti-New Deal platform. In his main national address at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, he only mentioned immigration in passing. He said that in the fight against despotism abroad, FDR and America were "reinforced by millions and millions of immigrants who had joined the American adventure".

But he also spoke aboard a Navy ship in New York Harbor, where he played up Ellis Island. Completing the open borders trifecta, he spoke at Monticello's naturalization ceremony, where he really laid it on thick. The whole long speech is on the "nation of immigrants" myth. Some excerpts:

Just as Jefferson did in designing Monticello, [the founding patriots] wanted to build in this beautiful land a home for equal freedom and opportunity, a haven of safety and happiness, not for themselves alone, but for all who would come to us through centuries...

There was already talk about further immigration, proposing it should be selective and restrictive, but this was swept aside by the greatest mass movement of people in all human history...

Such transfusions of traditions and cultures, as well as of blood, have made America unique among nations and Americans a new kind of people. There is little the world has that is not native to the United States today...

That [American] heritage is rooted now, not in England alone -- as indebted as we are for the Magna Carta and the common law -- not in Europe alone, or in Africa alone, or Asia, or on the islands of the sea. The American adventure draws from the best of all of mankind's long sojourn here on Earth and now reaches out into the solar system.

In 1980 Carter, the anti-New Deal Democrat competing against an even fiercer anti-New Deal Republican, went a step further and lumped everyone who came here after the Indians into the same category of immigrants. There are no longer pioneering founders and later bandwagon jumper-on-ers, only "immigrants" -- some arriving earlier, some arriving later, but all playing the exact same role of assimilating into America. Where did the "America" that we're assimilating into, come from -- who knows? From his July 4th address to a town meeting in California:

And we remember in times of pressure that this is a country of immigrants, it's a country of refugees, who have come here for religious freedom or for personal freedom or for a better chance in life. And unless there are some native Indians here, every family represented came here earlier as immigrants, maybe 2 years ago, maybe 200 years ago. But we've never been weakened because we opened our arms to receive those who have been persecuted and in danger. This is a difficult thing for us to assimilate when we get here and enjoy all the advantages of full American citizenship and wealth and freedom, to say, "Let's keep it the way it is." I'm glad that folks didn't feel that way when my folks got ready to come over here a long time ago.

In California there was naturally an agri-cuck in the Q&A demanding cheap foreign labor for his farm. He had the gall to chastise the president for the INS chasing away some of his illegal laborers. His only concern was that other immigrants, from Vietnam, go on welfare and won't provide his farm with slave labor. Carter agrees to that framing -- bad immigration is welfare, good immigration is endless cheap labor -- and only disagrees about the Vietnamese, saying they belong to the cheap labor group.

Carter made similar remarks at a California fundraiser, since rich people want cheap labor more than societal cohesion, although not in his address to the NAACP. Reminder: black people don't care about immigrants, and feel that the line about immigrants who "bust their ass" is a dog-whistle from the greedy white man about replacing the lazy black man with the ass-busting brown man.

Reagan, the trailblazer of dismantling the New Deal, was also the trailblazer for re-writing our national creation myth into "a nation of immigrants". Even before he became president, on Labor Day of 1980 he held a campaign rally near New York Harbor, where he sang praises to the Ellis Islanders and their provision of cheap labor that made America so rich, all while acting humble instead of uppity.

Reminder: they didn't call them "Paddy wagons" for no reason. Italian anarchists literally blew up Wall Street, killing dozens of innocent pedestrians, in 1920. An anchor baby to Polish parents assassinated President McKinley, and an Italian immigrant nearly assassinated FDR. The Rosenbergs and other children to Jewish immigrants sold our nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. But none of that history of hostile anti-assimilation makes it into Reagan's treacle -- his whole purpose is to glorify foreigners who will work for nothing and just keep their head down and their mouth shut (dog-whistle: unlike the unions and the blacks).

Anyone who apologizes for Reagan's 1986 amnesty of illegal immigrants, suggesting that he didn't really know what he was getting into, or was misled by bad-faith Democrats, is either clueless or lying. He had been re-writing our national creation myth and sanctifying cheap-labor immigration since he was first campaigning for president.

His first "nation of immigrants" speech for July 4th was his radio address in 1982:

Thanks to the faith and fortitude of our ancestors, freedom has flowered on our shores and has brought a legacy of liberty and opportunity to wave after wave of immigrants from every quarter of the globe.

In his national address for July 4th, 1983, he goes even farther out on a limb for immigrants who are recent arrivals, and from non-European countries. Evidently, they are as good or better than us natives -- no moochers, no low-status bums -- probably because they bust their ass more than we do:

We're a melting pot. And our body and spirit have never been stronger or richer, thanks to hundreds of thousands of new heroes -- the brave men, women, and children who risked death to escape their communist prisons in Asia and Cuba. They arrived less than 10 years ago. Most were not able to speak a word of English. But with their courage and faith, they brought unbounded determination to work, produce, succeed, and excel. Now, more and more of them are becoming leaders in their communities -- small businessowners, hard-working taxpayers, even valedictorians in their high school graduating class. We can be proud and thankful that they're joining us today in parades and ball games and backyard barbecues as young members of an old family.

Although his national address on July 4th of 1984 did not rehearse the narrative in such great detail, he still managed to squeeze in the topic of recent immigrants getting their citizenship:

And in a courthouse somewhere, some of the newest Americans, the most recent immigrants to our country, will take the oath of citizenship.

Maybe today, someone will put his hand on the shoulder of one of those new citizens and say, "Welcome," and not just as a courtesy, but to say welcome to a great land, a place of unlimited possibilities. Welcome to the American family.

Reagan's worst year by far was 1986, when he was preparing to sign a massive amnesty for illegal immigrants. To preempt criticism of this flagrantly anti-American policy, he went into overdrive sanctifying mass immigration, including a major push around Independence Day.

On July 2, he issued Presidential Proclamation 5510 -- National Immigrants Day. It is filled with the standard exaltation of the flood of cheap labor from immigrants who bust their ass.

But here's a new line -- that it took courage, rather than greed, for them to abandon their friends, families, cultures, and civilizations back home, in their quest for more money in America. It shows how opposed Reaganism is to social or cultural conservatism: they valorize massive social-cultural disruption, among both the sending and receiving nations of immigration, just because it'll boost corporate profits in the adoptive economy.

For more than three centuries, a human tide of men, women, and children have become new Americans. They have brought to us strength and moral fiber developed in civilizations centuries old, but fired anew by the dream of a better life in America. They have brought to us in this young country the treasure of a hundred ancient cultures. Their dreams gave them the courage to strike out for themselves, to leave behind familiar scenes, to part with friends and relatives, and to start a new life in a new land. The record of their success in every field of human endeavor is one of our proudest boasts. They have helped to make us the great Nation we are today.

He emphasized this idea again in his national address on July 4th itself:

Last night when we rededicated Miss Liberty and relit her torch, we reflected on all the millions who came here in search of the dream of freedom inaugurated in Independence Hall. We reflected, too, on their courage in coming great distances and settling in a foreign land and then passing on to their children and their children's children the hope symbolized in this statue here just behind us: the hope that is America. It is a hope that someday every people and every nation of the world will know the blessings of liberty.

The ambitious immigrants will not be passing on the social network of friends, neighbors, kin, or most of the key elements of their national or regional culture back home. But hey, at least the immigrants' kids might make a little more money in America than back in the old country.

The re-dedication he refers to was the centennial anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. It had been restored from 1984-'86, as part of the campaign to bring back Ellis Island levels of immigration, and the Gilded Age crushing of the working class broadly. From his July 3rd remarks on lighting the torch:

While we applaud those immigrants who stand out, whose contributions are easily discerned, we know that America's heroes are also those whose names are remembered by only a few. Many of them passed through this harbor, went by this lady, looked up at her torch, which we light tonight in their honor.

They were the men and women who labored all their lives so that their children would be well fed, clothed, and educated, the families that went through great hardship yet kept their honor, their dignity, and their faith in God. They passed on to their children those values, values that define civilization and are the prerequisites of human progress. They worked in our factories, on ships and railroads, in stores, and on road construction crews. They were teachers, lumberjacks, seamstresses, and journalists. They came from every land.

What was it that tied these profoundly different people together? What was it that made them not a gathering of individuals, but a nation? That bond that held them together, as it holds us together tonight, that bond that has stood every test and travail, is found deep in our national consciousness: an abiding love of liberty. For love of liberty, our forebears -- colonists, few in number and with little to defend themselves -- fought a war for independence with what was then the world's most powerful empire. For love of liberty, those who came before us tamed a vast wilderness and braved hardships which, at times, were beyond the limits of human endurance. For love of liberty, a bloody and heart-wrenching civil war was fought. And for love of liberty, Americans championed and still champion, even in times of peril, the cause of human freedom in far-off lands.

He doesn't bother trying to establish that their home countries were gripped by tyranny, or that they were fleeing religious persecution, since everyone knows that never happened with the Ellis Islanders. They abandoned their home countries just to make more money in the more prosperous American economy. That's what Reagan spends all his time underscoring -- they busted their ass, kept their head down, and in return they got paid better than back home. The disruption to the old country, and the new, was worth it.

In separate remarks from that night, he equates the opportunistic Ellis Islanders with the original settlers, like Carter did, while once again praising people for severing all social and cultural ties just so they can join the bigger-paycheck cult in an alien land:

And which of us does not think of other grandfathers and grandmothers, from so many places around the globe, for whom this statue was the first glimpse of America? ...

And that is why tonight we celebrate this mother of exiles who lifts her light beside the golden door...

Well, the truth is, she's everybody's gal. We sometimes forget that even those who came here first to settle the new land were also strangers...

Call it mysticism if you will, I have always believed there was some divine providence that placed this great land here between the two great oceans, to be found by a special kind of people from every corner of the world, who had a special love for freedom and a special courage that enabled them to leave their own land, leave their friends and their countrymen, and come to this new and strange land to build a New World of peace and freedom and hope.

He reiterated these themes in both a message and a radio address around Independence Day.

So, just in case anyone was confused about who did the most to re-write our national creation myth, on the high holy day of civic nationalism, now you know it was Reagan. And you know in what context it was done -- opening up the floodgates of immigration like it's the laissez-faire Dickensian era all over again -- a policy totally unthinkable, and unworkable, back during the New Deal, with its emphasis on pro-social regulations and labor that was expensive rather than cheap.

July 7, 2018

Intermission: early 2010s medley of 100+ song clips

Here's a helpful aid to get a feel for the zeitgeist of the early 2010s, the most recent manic phase during the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, following a restless warm-up phase during the late 2000s, and preceding the current vulnerable refractory phase of the late 2010s.

Even the folk bands were high-energy, and the singer-songwriters upbeat instead of morose.

You've probably heard most of these since they came out, whether on the radio, over the speakers in retail stores, or other places where you couldn't avoid them. But it's striking to realize how concentrated they were into just a handful of years, just like new wave, psychedelic, girl power, or any other phase that we tend to assume lasted much longer than it really did.

This compilation of 15-second clips is a little heavy on the techno-y dance music, which was fairly big, but skimps on the funky-groovy songs that distinguished it from the late 2000s or late 2010s ("Treasure," "One More Night," etc.). Overall, a good encapsulation of the period's high energy.

July 6, 2018

The corporate elitist function of the "nation of immigrants" propaganda

In the last post we saw that the New Deal and Great Society presidents never used the occasion of Independence Day to sanctify immigration as a core element of our national creation myth, whether during its birth or its maturation. And they certainly did not use July 4th to call for a return to the Ellis Island period of mass immigration and its resulting Dickensian working and living conditions, as millions upon millions overwhelmed the labor and housing markets.

The major theme of the New Deal period was the pride and dignity of the working class. It would have been blasphemy to praise the Social Darwinism of the last period of mass immigration. Not until the elites began to worship the false idol of cost-cutting -- especially slashing the price of labor -- did our presidents sermonize about America being "a nation of immigrants" back to its origin, shamelessly equivocating between the founding settlers and the hordes of cheap labor brought in over 100 years later.

As far as the New Deal / Great Society leaders were concerned, immigration may have happened sometime in the past -- but that was then, and this is now, so let's not even mention it, let alone dwell on it. Just speaking the wrong words would have been a black magic spell that opened a portal through which the Social Darwinist devil would enter our glorious Midcentury world and corrupt it back into a Gilded Age hell all over again.

The shift in rhetoric during the mid-1970s accompanied the shift in policy toward opening the floodgates of immigration, allowing greedy and lazy employers in labor-intensive sectors to enjoy a higher rate of return on investment without having to "build a better mousetrap". It was not so much the end of the post-WWII expansion and the oil-driven recession of 1973-'75, since the economy would recover from that.

Rather, the lasting change was the increasingly globally interconnected market -- not only for goods and services, but for labor. To remain globally competitive, American employers in labor-intensive sectors wanted access to cheap labor in poor countries, whether that meant dismantling their factories in the US and rebuilding them in China, Mexico, and India -- or if the worksite could not be off-shored, such as a farm or a "small business" (fast food joint, retail outlet, construction, landscaping, domestic help, etc.), then bringing in the cheap labor here as immigrants.

To rationalize this betrayal of the American working class, and indeed to shield it from any criticism by elevating immigration into sacrosanct status, the elites needed a whole new creation myth of the American nation. In the new telling, we've always been a nation of immigrants who bust their ass all day long rather than go on the gubmint dole, humble and grateful to receive whatever table scraps our superiors are generous enough to hand out at the end of a long hard day of work.

This inverts the New Deal July 4th narrative of the lowly citizens uniting as a group in order to put constraints on their rulers, to assert and defend their inalienable rights, including the pursuit of happiness. And the presidents of that era were keen to emphasize material prosperity, not just freedom from monarchical rule.

Now, we're supposed to just let our elites do whatever they want, since they know what's best for us and only have our -- not their -- pursuit of happiness in mind. They are allowed to organize into interest groups, while we are supposed to stay fragmented -- interacting with our families at most, but not with our fellow lowly members in order to put checks and balances on the power of our elites.

The neoliberal creation myth valorizes slavery, in which the common people are humble and deferential, whereas the populist creation myth valorized freedom, in which the commoners were proud and became confrontational if mistreated.

The new myth dovetailed with the policy of open borders and the need to culturally assimilate them into the mainstream, since the coming waves of immigrants were only allowed in as latter-day slaves. See, you and they are not such different groups of people after all -- both of you are slaves who embody spiritual richness despite material poverty. That's the way it always has been, and that's the way it always will be -- various descendants of immigrants toiling away for breadcrumbs, attaining higher moral status through being humble and deferential to their masters.

But the last thing that one group of slaves needs is a whole 'nother group of slaves to have to compete against. In fact, the new national creation myth rationalizes the policy choice of the elites to replace African-Americans with Asian and Hispanic immigrants. The valorization of "immigrants who bust their ass" is always a dog-whistle for, and sometimes overtly contrasted with, the picture of lazy blacks reliant on welfare, and who once upon a time got so uppity that they rebelled against the slave owners.

Proud blacks resent being replaced by immigrants, so the new creation myth is never preached in front of black audiences like the NAACP. This proves that the motivation for the policy, and the narrative, is not the cultural replacement of European-Americans, since black people are not so turned off by that idea, yet are viscerally turned off by the immigration idea. In pandering for black votes or donations, you can make fun of how bad white people are, but that must always be in contrast to black people as the superior group -- not Hispanic or Asian immigrants.

Rather, the motivation is purely economic -- to replace expensive American labor with cheap foreign labor. African-Americans understand that just as intuitively as white Americans do, and when they hear politicians or activists talking up immigrants as a group who "bust their ass," they know that their own ethnic group is being slammed as lazy and dependent on welfare. They know the message is really, "Why Hispanics or Asians should replace blacks as the non-white ethnic group in America".

That open-borders message does not make black people think more highly of the white elites who preach it, as though what mattered most to blacks were multiculturalism. Instead it only makes them take a dim view of the white elites, who are not-so-secretly saying they want to throw the blacks overboard and replace them with Hispanics and Asians for reasons of cost efficiency.

Mass immigration has never co-existed with economic populism and civil rights. The Gilded Age had open borders, grinding poverty and inequality, and Jim Crow laws. The New Deal had closed borders, prosperity and equality, and the Civil Rights movement. With the return of the Gilded Age under neoliberalism in the Reagan era, we once more have open borders, a falling standard of living for common people and soaring ill-gotten wealth for the top, and a steady erosion of civil liberties, disproportionately hitting African-Americans.

Any populist on the left who advocates for mass immigration, or who even valorizes immigrants as hard-working folks who bust their ass for little recognition, is only doing the bidding of the exploitative employer class and those who would like to just replace the black population already. Left populists may not want to bash immigrants as people, but they cannot advocate for open borders, cannot elevate immigrants over native citizens (a dog-whistle against "lazy welfare-sponging blacks"), and cannot feed the national creation myth about "a nation of immigrants".

They should follow their New Deal heroes and keep the borders closed on class grounds -- not wanting to swell the supply of labor or the demand for housing, which would lower the standard of living for most people while enriching the elites for free. Narratively, emphasize the birth of our nation with the Founding Fathers, and its maturation with the Lincoln era that ended slavery, industrialized the economy, and built major infrastructure like the Transcontinental Railroad. Simply don't remark on the ethnic and national origins of who built the country, since everyone already knows. And don't remark on the waves of immigration during the later Ellis Island period.

The message should be that after the Civil War, we are all Americans, not we are all immigrants.

In the next and final post, we'll examine the presidential July 4th speeches of the neoliberal period, and see just how intensely they began to re-write our national creation myth, with Reagan by far the charge-leading worst offender.

"A nation of immigrants" is Reaganite / neoliberal propaganda, absent during New Deal / Great Society

I didn't want to spoil the mood on July 4th itself, but now that it's over, it's time to take a cold hard look at the origin and purpose of the propaganda we hear more and more of on Independence Day -- that the founding of our nation was built on immigration, and so more immigration we must have today.

As a side note, nobody falls for the not-at-all subtle equivocation of using "immigrants" to refer both to the settlers who built this nation from the ground up while at war with the Indians and the British, and the much later waves who saw what a prosperous and peaceful society had been created and wanted to enjoy its fruits without having contributed to its cultivation.

Everybody understands that "immigrants" really means the ones who came after a society had been built -- we don't refer to the Iroquois Federation as "a nation of immigrants" just because they originally came from outside the Americas, in Asia, as though to suggest they had no greater claim to eastern America than the European settlers did. They built up a whole society out of nothing before we got here, so they were no longer immigrants. When we built up a whole society that displaced theirs, we were no longer immigrants.

At any rate, you might think that this "nation of immigrants" canard belongs to the liberals, what with their reliance on non-whites and immigrants for electoral success. You'd think the conservatives would emphasize the ethnic Us vs. Them distinction more strongly, as well as the reverence for tradition -- and only some ethnic groups contributed to the traditions of Americana.

That may be true, yet on a partisan level, it has been the Republicans rather than the Democrats who have pushed this propaganda the most forcefully, and mostly during the transition away from the New Deal period and into the Reaganite period. The Democrats who do push this narrative are not driving the trend but jumping on the Republican bandwagon during a period of GOP dominance in the Reagan era.

We might try to resolve this paradox by pointing out that the Reaganites are not conservative on social or cultural issues, only on economic issues, and that they are more libertarian -- socially liberal, economically conservative. But then you'd expect the Democrats of the New Deal and Great Society period to have floated this narrative, since they too were socially and culturally liberal. Yet they did not, because they were economically liberal -- and wide open borders means more competition in the labor market, which drives down wages, screwing over the working class and handing over free money to lazy employers.

It is this unique combination that has unleashed the "nation of immigrants" propaganda, as well as its policy of open borders -- culturally liberal, to admit alien cultures for more than just a visit, and economically conservative, to seek any means possible for driving down wages so that lazy and greedy employers don't have to earn their higher profit margins (e.g., by "building a better mousetrap").

Anyone who supports economic populism must never deploy this propaganda, especially the culturally liberal populists who are more susceptible to its multi-culti feel-goodiness. Their heroes of the New Deal and Great Society never used it -- not that they bashed immigrants, but they avoided playing into the hands of exploitative employers, who would've been only too happy for the populist left to preach the false gospel of wage-crushing open borders.

Strategically, if voters wanted a Democrat who supports open borders, they'd go with the neoliberals who have a wonderful track record. Populist primary challengers on the left must run on a platform that distinguishes them from the neoliberal Establishment, and open borders ain't it.

The rest of this post will look at the New Deal / Great Society period, while a second post will cover the neoliberal / Reaganite period.

* * *

To review the history, I looked at what previous presidents said during the Independence Day period (the first week of July, since they sometimes gave remarks a little before or after July 4th itself). I used UCSB's American Presidency Project.

Beginning with the founder of the New Deal period, FDR gave no July 4th speeches during any of his four terms that mentioned our nation's founding in the context of later waves of immigration, let alone to motivate current policies on immigration. In fact, he spoke at Monticello for his 1936 speech, where naturalization ceremonies take place -- and yet his remarks made no reference to America being a "nation of immigrants," or that "we all used to be immigrants," etc. His messages referred to the Founding Fathers and the Civil War, or WWII for current events, but not immigration.

In 1947, Truman gave a speech a few days after July 4th in which he urged the government to admit European refugees in the wake of WWII. He does refer to the diverse groups of people that America has assimilated, but he is only using this to motivate a policy of letting in handfuls of European refugees, which he explicitly says will be OK because they're so ethnically similar to existing Americans:

In the light of the vast numbers of people of all countries that we have usefully assimilated into our national life, it is clear that we could readily absorb the relatively small number of these displaced persons who would be admitted. We should not forget that our Nation was founded by immigrants many of whom fled oppression and persecution. We have thrived on the energy and diversity of many peoples. It is a source of our strength that we number among our people all the major religions, races and national origins.

Most of the individuals in the displaced persons centers already have strong roots in this country--by kinship, religion or national origin. Their occupational background clearly indicates that they can quickly become useful members of our American communities. Their kinsmen, already in the United States, have been vital factors in farm and workshop for generations. They have made lasting contributions to our arts and sciences and political life. They have been numbered among our honored dead on every battlefield of war.

The conclusion that he's only referring to open borders in the past, not the present, is made clearer in his remarks on July 4th itself, in the context of international cooperation in the post-WWII world (my emphasis):

It is now the duty of all nations to converge their policies toward common goals of peace. Of course, we cannot expect all nations, with different histories, institutions, and economic conditions, to agree at once upon common ideals and policies. But it is not too much to expect that all nations should create, each within its own borders, the requisites for the growth of worldwide harmony.

Eisenhower never referred to immigration in any of his July 4th speeches.

Kennedy did not either, even though his political clan was an Ellis Island Irish family.

Johnson ignored the topic as well, despite hailing from the border state of Texas.

Nixon, like Truman, did refer to our history of immigration, although -- also like Truman -- not to motivate a policy of bringing back mass immigration. As far as he lets on, immigration was a thing of the past. In a speech from 1972:

More than any other nation of any area, America has truly been the home of the free and the haven of the weak and oppressed from other parts of the world. And the catalyst of American values has transformed the weak and the oppressed into part of a strong and a just people.

In a related speech on preparing for the Bicentennial, he goes into greater detail on our history of immigration and assimilation, although again it is not to argue for more immigration. The context is seeking post-WWII cooperation among nations, and wanting international visitors -- not immigrants -- to see what their co-ethnics have done for this society, on the occasion of its Bicentennial (and then they go back):

First, because America is and always has been a nation of nations. Patriots from France and Prussia and Poland helped us win our Revolution. Strong men and women of every color and creed from every continent helped to build our farms, our industry, our cities.

The blood of all peoples runs in our veins, the cultures of all peoples contribute to our culture, and, to a certain extent, the hopes of all peoples are bound up with our own hopes for the continuing success of the American experiment.

Our Bicentennial Era is a time for America to say to the nations of the world: "You helped to make us what we are. Come and see what wonders your countrymen have worked in this new country of ours. Come and let us say thank you. Come and join in our celebration of a proud past. Come and share our dreams of a brighter future."

Generally speaking, the only mention of foreigners or foreign countries during the New Deal and Great Society period was to present the communist and fascist countries as a dictatorial foil to the American nation celebrating its independence and tradition of liberty. Or in a positive tone, to refer to those suffering under not-so-free governments for whom the ideas and actions embodied in the Declaration of Independence could act as a role model -- at a distance.

This was a period of growing prosperity and narrowing inequality, all the way back to the Great Depression, which was more of a decapitation of the undeservedly rich -- who had borrowed massive sums to gamble on the stock market during the Roaring Twenties -- than an evisceration of the working class. Trying to sanctify immigration by incorporating it into our national creation myth, and the story of its evolution, would only have reminded people of the Dickensian working and living conditions that mass immigration leads inexorably towards -- totally opposed to the zeitgeist of The Wonder Years.

It would not be until the New Deal and Great Society came under attack, in the wake of the mid-1970s recession, that presidents would start to use the occasion of Independence Day to sanctify immigration, in order to call for literal boatloads more of it. The elites were going to pursue a program of cheap labor, and that required all the neo-Dickensian immigrants that the bureaucracy could possibly process. Just proclaiming that the days of prosperity are over, would not make a good rationalization. Instead, cheap labor had to be protected by cultural sanctification, against which any argument would be an unforgivable taboo.

June 28, 2018

Fight SCOTUS pick on populist grounds, ignore abortion; and SCOTUS picks of disjunctive presidents

Liberal commentators are already working themselves into a hysteria at the Supreme Court vacancy that they fear will go to someone who will overturn Roe v. Wade -- as if anyone really gives a shit at this point.

It doesn't animate conservatives that much anymore, since it's been around forever and they assume that even with more conservatives on the Court, abortion will remain legal, albeit with greater or lesser regulations depending on the state. Liberal voters mostly assume the same thing, after so many false panics during the Reagan era, every time a Republican got to nominate a new justice.

By this point, the culture war is tiresome and irrelevant -- we're moving into a new era defined by populism and anti-globalization, not airy-fairy crap in the social-cultural domain.

Therefore, any fighting against the next Heritage Foundation pick should focus on the nominee's position on populist issues. That was Trump's secret recipe for winning as a Republican at the end of the Reaganite era, when too many voters had grown weary of corporate elitism. If he's not going to deliver much on populism through the executive branch, he should at least do something on that score in judiciary appointments.

If he nominates justices who attack populism, that represents a betrayal of his crucial swing voters from 2016. If he is held to account, then we get a populist-friendly justice, and all's well. If he breaks with populism in his nomination, then it will be out there undeniably for all those Rust Belt voters to see -- both when judging him and the whole GOP in the mid-terms and the 2020 presidential election.

Already in Trump's term, the Court has dealt strong blows to labor unions -- not exactly the best way to keep working-class Obama voters happy for switching their vote to you so that you wouldn't go down in flames like McCain and Romney.

These are the issues that should be dissected when the nomination is made -- not because the Court is going to immediately revisit their decisions thus far into Trump's term, but because the next appointment could last for decades down the line.

They are all the more pressing since the already-weak bubble economy for most people is going to go POP even for the 1% before Trump's term is up. In that deep recessionary context, it will be all the more crucial for the bottom 99% to be able to rely on the new justice to have their back.

* * *

The upcoming SCOTUS confirmation battles will be primarily defined by Trump's status as a disjunctive president, serving in the dominant party of his era at the internally dysfunctional end of that era (GOP during the Reagan era).

The disjunctive phase almost always has the dominant party controlling both the White House and Congress, so that any conflict cannot stem from a partisan mismatch between executive and legislative branches.

Conflict will only be due to the fracturing of the dominant coalition at the end of its lifespan, typically due to the president trying to transform the dominant party's vision, which the legislature wants no part of, as they've spent their entire careers building and enhancing that vision. We see that every time Trump threatens to impose tariffs that never get implemented, or threatens to withdraw troops from some pointless occupation that ends up with only more troops.

With both the White House and Congress being held by the same dominant party, shouldn't the appointments go off without a hitch? Not necessarily.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter never had a SCOTUS opening, so we'll never know exactly what would've happened. But given what a clusterfuck his term was, we can guess that it wouldn't have gone well. He campaigned against the New Deal and Great Society that his party founded, and as an evangelical conservative. So maybe he appoints a pro-life justice only five years after Roe v. Wade, and it gets scuttled by the liberal wing of his own party in Congress, forcing him to nominate a pro-choice justice instead. The many lapses in government funding ("shutdowns") during his term centered around public funding for abortion (via Medicaid), so it was certainly bound to come up during any SCOTUS confirmation hearings.

In 1930, at the end of the Progressive Republican era, Hoover did get one of his nominees rejected by his own party that controlled Congress, albeit by just one vote. John Parker was protested by labor groups for favoring "yellow dog contracts," whereby a worker had to agree not to join a union as part of his hiring contract. That stance would've cut clearly against the Progressive GOP's promise to favor both labor and business, rather than business over labor -- an especially damning stance during the Great Depression. Hoover had to nominate a more populist justice, and chose an attorney who had worked on the investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal, Owen Roberts, who sailed through -- as did Hoover's other two nominations.

In 1860-'61, at the end of the Jacksonian era and just before the Civil War, Buchanan failed to confirm a nominee for a vacancy that opened up in June of 1860, the year Lincoln would be elected. He nominated Jeremiah Black during the lame duck session of 1861, but the Senate agreed -- by one vote -- to take no action. The spot got filled by Lincoln instead. Buchanan had chosen a wishy-washy northern Democrat like himself, which even his own party controlling the Senate did not feel comfortable accepting. Lincoln's successful appointment was an outright abolitionist. Earlier in his term, Buchanan did successfully appoint a justice, although narrowly.

In 1828, at the end of the Jeffersonian era, John Quincy Adams saw his first (and only successful) appointment die after two years in office -- and only slightly more than a month ahead of the presidential election, where he lost to Jackson. During the lame duck session, he tried to appoint a replacement for his own previous pick, yet his own party who controlled Congress decided to postpone action, and it got filled by Jackson instead. That reflected the fragmentation of the Democratic-Republican party at the end of the era: the Jacksonian faction blocked John Crittenden, who was a proto-Whig and anti-Jacksonian, so that president-elect Jackson could have a pick of his own. That choice, John McLean, began as pro-Jackson but evolved away toward the Whig party anyway.

In 1800, at the end of the early Federalist era, John Adams faced the resignation of the chief justice after having just lost his bid for re-election to Jefferson. During the lame duck session, Adams decided to nominate the first chief justice, John Jay. The Senate, controlled by his party, did agree to that choice -- but Jay declined, choosing to retire from politics altogether. Adams did successfully nominate his Secretary of State John Marshall to that vacancy during the lame duck session, and Marshall did choose to serve, not wanting the president-elect Jefferson to fill it with an anti-Federalist. (Adams had earlier appointed two justices successfully.)

Adams is thus the only disjunctive president whose failed appointment was not due to his own party in Congress blocking him, but to the nominee himself declining, and the only disjunctive president whose successful follow-up nomination after the failure was not bending to the shifting political winds. Quite the opposite, Marshall was a thorn in the side of the Jeffersonians for their entire era of dominance.

I attribute Adams' unusual status in this regard to the fact that there was not a strong party system during his time (the First Party System began with Jefferson), so he's not the best example of a disjunctive president. The founder of his era, George Washington, was a Federalist but ran and served as a non-partisan figure in order to calm tensions during the infancy of the nation.

At any rate, we see that Trump, like other disjunctive presidents, will face some kind of difficulty in nominating at least one of his would-be justices. He could pick someone a little too old-school for this phase of trying to transform the system, and have to go with someone who is more palatable to the evolving populist re-alignment.

It's the job of the Democrats and any not-so-corporate Republicans to make sure the populist principles he campaigned on are respected in his nominations to the Court. With previous disjunctive presidents, it was often only by one vote that the dominant party in the Senate decided not to go with someone so wedded to the old vision. There's no reason that can't happen again, especially comparing Trump to Hoover -- it could be over the same issue of labor unions for a supposedly progressive Republican, as an overly long economic expansion comes crashing down on the working class.

June 26, 2018

In populist re-alignment of Dems, would-be Speaker & Boomer Reaganite dethroned by Millennial Bernie babe

Joe Crowley lost the Democrat primary by double digits to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York's 14th Congressional district, a shocking defeat for the neoliberal Establishment of the party. The 20-year incumbent, head of the local political machine, chair of the House Democratic Caucus in Washington, and supposedly the next Speaker of the House if they took back that chamber in November, got a decisive heave-ho from voters.

Taking his place is a 28 year-old who had never even competed for office before, and who ran her ragtag operation on small donations. She triumphed by offering a populist / socialist platform that, in the Bernie era, is beginning to sweep away the neoliberalism-lite option that had been the opposition party's only path to victory during the Reagan era, already in its twilight phase under Trump.

On a personal level, she comes across as a normal, wholesome, authentic human being, rather than the typical politician who is a manufactured brown-nosing degenerate. She is warm, nurturing, soothing, and feminine -- as though she is only reluctantly wading into cut-throat politics out of last-resort maternal instinct, like a mama bear who sees her cubs being threatened. Totally unlike the over-weening ambition of the typical "woman in politics" during the neoliberal era, who are self-absorbed strivers without a nurturing bone in their sociopathic bodies -- Hillary Clinton, Nikki Haley, etc.

Thus, the Bernie movement is not winning elections by running caricatures of their old hardcore base -- who has bluest hair, who has the craziest eyes, who has the most bitter cat-lady voice, the most wine-mommy set of "interests". They're appealing to normal people who don't binge-watch MSNBC, as they have more urgent material concerns than "The Pentagon should nuke North Korea to prevent Trump from normalizing Kim Jong-un," or whatever Rachel Maddow, and her panel packed with spooks and Feds, is psychotically ranting about this week to her freak-faced audience of Clinton cultists.

The upset victory for Ocasio-Cortez marks the further erosion of power held by the Me Generation -- the Silents and the Boomers -- as Gen X-ers and Millennials reject individualism for collectivism, and reject laissez-faire for regulating chaos. The upwards-failing Boomers have seized too much of society's resources for themselves, while the downwardly mobile Millennials have never had anything of their own to begin with.

The Boomers represented the initial stage of the over-production of elites, where a handful of aspiring elites could be the first in their family to get credentialed at college, and through sheer hyper-competitiveness, push out the socially harmonious Greatest Generation above them. By this late stage, aspiring elites are so over-produced that not even a fraction of them will actually attain elite status, no matter how hyper-competitive they have acted for their whole lives.

Unlike Boomer aspiring elites who faced the Greatest Generation incumbents, Millennial aspiring elites are trying to push out an incumbent generation that has always been hostile, defensive, and status-striving. The longer that the Boomers continue to clog the arteries of basic social mobility over the lifespan, the more that the Millennials will figure that it's too late for minor measures like statins, but time for radical open-heart surgery to clear out the plaque directly.

That means Ocasio-Cortez is not like David Brat, the neophyte Republican who primaried a senior-ranking Congressman, Eric Cantor, in 2014. Brat was not a re-aligner, but a standard libertarian of the Reaganite era, just like Cantor, but who promised a harder line on immigration, which is a common promise among GOP Congressmen.

Ocasio-Cortez ran on an anti-Reaganite platform, unlike the vast majority of Democrats who have enjoyed incumbency during the Reagan era. And extending Medicare to cover everybody, along with the other Bernie-style policies, is not a widespread view at the moment among elected Democrats. She is a re-aligner within her party (and in fact she belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America).

If anything, the comparison would be to Trump, who also ran and won on an orthodoxy-shifting platform. But Trump is completely alone among his party, who, as the founders of the Reaganite system, have the most invested in keeping it humming along. There is no broader shift within the GOP toward economic protectionism, anti-interventionism, and leaving the social safety net in place. They do not exist at even the candidate level, let alone primary winner or elected official.

In contrast, tonight's winning Bernie candidate joins many others thus far into the 2018 primaries, and many more in the coming years -- not to mention a handful of currently serving Democrats. As in New York, Pennsylvania saw several Bernie-approved or outright socialist candidates win their primaries in safe Democrat districts. There are scores more who will at least compete in races, whether or not they win.

So unlike Trump, who is utterly isolated in his party regarding his unorthodox policies, the Bernie people all have each other, and their numbers keep growing. Trump will not be a re-aligning figure, lacking anyone else to join his coalition, whereas Bernie or someone like that will have no trouble steering the society in a new direction, as they will have a great big support network of fellow travelers -- including some incumbents who choose to re-align themselves rather than get driven out of office.

"Great Men" do not shape history except to the extent that they are leading a broad and cohesive group. Trump, in his anti-Reaganite stances, is leading absolutely no one else within the GOP, and will not shape history. That role will belong to whoever becomes the leader of the upcoming Bernie revolution.