Highlights from Theresa May’s address to Congressional Republicans

Theresa May’s address to Congressional Republicans:

“We must never cease”, Churchill said, “to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law, find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence”.

So it is my honour and my privilege to stand before you today in this great city of Philadelphia to proclaim them again, to join hands as we pick up that mantle of leadership once more, to renew our Special Relationship and to recommit ourselves to the responsibility of leadership in the modern world.

And it is my honour and privilege to do so at this time, as dawn breaks on a new era of American renewal.

For I speak to you not just as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but as a fellow Conservative who believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your Party. The value of liberty. The dignity of work. The principles of nationhood, family, economic prudence, patriotism – and putting power in the hands of the people.

[…]

New enemies of the West and our values – in particular in the form of Radical Islamists – have emerged.

And countries with little tradition of democracy, liberty and human rights – notably China and Russia – have grown more assertive in world affairs.

The rise of the Asian economies – China yes, but democratic allies like India too – is hugely welcome. Billions are being lifted out of poverty and new markets for our industries are opening up.

But these events – coming as they have at the same time as the financial crisis and its fall out, as well as a loss of confidence in the West following 9/11, the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sporadic terrorist attacks – have led many to fear that, in this century, we will experience the eclipse of the West.

But there is nothing inevitable about that. Other countries may grow stronger. Big, populous countries may grow richer. And as they do so, they may start to embrace more fully our values of democracy and liberty.

But even if they do not, our interests will remain. Our values will endure. And the need to defend them and project them will be as important as ever.

So we – our two countries together – have a joint responsibility to lead. Because when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for Britain and the world.

It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.

[…]

Because of these strong economic and commercial links – and our shared history and the strength of our relationship – I look forward to pursuing talks with the new Administration about a new UK/US Free Trade Agreement in the coming months. It will take detailed work, but we welcome your openness to those discussions and hope we can make progress so that the new, Global Britain that emerges after Brexit is even better equipped to take its place confidently in the world.

Such an agreement would see us taking that next step in the special relationship that exists between us. Cementing and affirming one of the greatest forces for progress this world has ever known.

Shared interests of the populist right and the progressive left

Jeremy Corbyn via the BBC on the relationship between the progressive left and populist right:

“They are political parasites feeding on people’s concerns and worsening conditions, blaming the most vulnerable for society’s ills instead of offering a way for taking back real control of our lives from the elites who serve their own interests.

“But unless progressive parties and movements break with a failed economic and political establishment, it is the siren voices of the populist far right who will fill that gap.”

The Labour leader said economic conditions had been exploited by the populist right.

“We know the gap between rich and poor is widening; we know living standards are stagnating or falling and insecurity is growing; we know that many people rightly feel left behind by the forces unleashed by globalisation, powerless in the face of deregulated corporate power,” he said.

Bernie Sanders via CBS This Morning:

“We will hold Mr. Trump accountable. We have all of the things he has said and we are going to say to Mr. Trump, if you have the courage to actually stand up to the big money and trust of the billionaire class, if you have the courage, in fact, to develop policies to improve lives for working people count us in,” Sanders said. “You want for increase the infrastructure and way equity for women, we are on your side.”
Two different countries, politicians, and messages, but same cautious view of the populist right.

 

WSJ: “China’s Dalian Wanda Group Faces Renewed U.S. Regulatory Scrutiny”

The Wall Street Journal reports of Chuck Schumer, New York Senator and House Minority Leader:

Mr. Schumer said the ability for Chinese companies to take a majority stake in U.S. assets, often backed by state officials and China’s sovereign-wealth funds, is unfair considering stateside companies are handicapped from doing similar deals in China. U.S. companies hoping to do business in China usually have to form a joint venture that often includes the sharing of intellectual property—an arrangement that Mr. Schumer called a “pay to play system.”

I was critical of the decision to go with Schumer as minority leader, but if he continues to take action like this, I would gladly retract that.

Mike Pence went to see Hamilton

From the New York Times:

As the play ended, the actor who played Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, acknowledged that Mr. Pence was in the audience, thanked him for attending and added, “We hope you will hear us out.”

I don’t support this – Mike Pence is a paying customer to a see a play, and he should be treated by the establishment as equally as possible. Even if the message is fairly innocuous, I don’t think this was a classy move to do without Mike Pence’s approval. However, with regards to:

When Mr. Pence entered the Richard Rodgers Theater in Manhattan, he was greeted with a mix of clapping and booing, according to theatergoers who posted on Twitter.

While I don’t support this treatment of the vice-president elect, I think this is a fair expression of the theater-goers First Amendment rights – if Mike Pence is free to express his anti-gay beliefs, which he is and he should be, he also must face the public, especially metropolitan, opposition to these views.

Donald Trump and the Paris Accord

Donald Trump has appeared to or has been characterized as pulling back on his promises to “build a wall”, “drain the swamp”, “lock her up”, and more. But if there’s any campaign promise I want him to pull back on, it’s not implementing the Paris Accord. From Democracy Now!:

As Democracy Now! broadcasts from the U.N. climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco, we report that nearly 200 nations have agreed on a proclamation that declares implementation of the Paris climate accord to be an “urgent duty.” This comes just over a week after the election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to pull the United states out of the Paris Agreement and has called climate change a Chinese-created hoax. Meanwhile, climate activists staged protests targeting corporate sponsors of the climate talks.

Even if there were a plausible case for skepticism in man-made global climate change, the gamble of potentially making large swaths of land uninhabitable and unarable is not worth the risk.

It should’ve been President Sanders

While the result of the presidential election is upsetting to me on grounds of many of my personal beliefs – namely, that anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat to humanity, that everyone should be allowed to live the life they want with whoever they love, that a country as wealthy as the United States should guarantee its citizens healthcare as a human right, among others – I’m pleased because it was a triumph for democracy.

The reason the Republicans won is that even though almost every establishment figure was wary of Trump, when the results of their primary came in, Republicans did the right thing for democracy and accepted it, however reluctantly or reservedly. Contrastingly, the Democrats impeded Sanders at every step of the way, preemptively blaming him for Clinton’s loss, threatening him, slandering him, and otherwise fudging their primary to the favor of Clinton. Is it any surprise then that it resulted in a candidate that no one wanted. Before you demonize me and profess your passion for Clinton, consider that Trump didn’t win so much as Clinton lost. Look at the voter turnout of 2008, 2012, and 2016, and you’ll see that it shows that Republicans had a typical showing, and that no Democrats came to the polls. Even if some people are passionate about Clinton, the Democratic primary still failed to pick a popular candidate because establishment politicians forced their candidate through with super delegates, manipulation of the media, and threats, and these people are the ones responsible for letting Trump win.

If Democrats continue to blame third-party candidates, “Bernie-bros”, the FBI, Russians, WikiLeaks, whoever, for the failing of their top-down chosen candidate to garner popular support, they’ll continue to lose elections. If Democrats continue to retort to Republicans concerns about terrorism and immigration with “that’s racist”, they’re not going to convince voters as much as they’re going to silence them, because even if it’s true it’s an unpersuasive argument. This will only distort the polls, fail to convince people, and the Democrats will continue to lose election. If the Democrats continue to garner “right side of history” support using identity politics, they’ll alienate rural and suburban people who vote on economic and foreign policy issues, and they’ll continue to lose elections. Before you label me or any Trump voter a racist, which is the type of moralizing blame-shifting that’s losing Democrats elections, consider that the Rust Belt and Bible Belt voters chose Obama, an anti-establishment populist Democratic, twice over a white conservative establishment figure. Those people aren’t white supremacists, they’re the backbone of our country, and if Democrats continue to treat democracy with contempt, it won’t matter that the Democrats automatically get 55 delegates from California, they’ll continue to lose elections.

I’m pleased with the result of the election despite being upset with the winner because Democrats deserved to lose for their blatant disregard for the will of the people, the only legitimate source of power.

Who needs jesters with kings like these?

Jill Stein posted this to her Facebook a couple days ago:

We need to begin having honest conversations about the oppressive tactics corporate comedians continue to do towards already-marginalized groups of people.

And had this to add on her campaign website:

Oliver’s staff actually called our campaign before the program to ask for clarification on Jill’s platform – especially on the main part of his rant, cancelling student debt.

Despite this stab at due diligence (of the sort comedians undertake) … Oliver got it woefully, intentionally wrong. Gosh, it was almost as if they weren’t interested in the truth. It’s almost as if they just wanted to do a hatchet job…

Of course Oliver isn’t interested in the truth: he’s interested in making people laugh and in keeping his job. His show is a little better than some of his competitors because HBO doesn’t have to answer to advertisers, but it is owned by a company that answers to advertisers and lobbies the government. Of course corporate media forwards the goals of corporate media: it’s impossible for any sufficiently large corporation to pursue goals outside of growth and profit, because every decision is scrutinized by understandably penny-conscious shareholders. Oliver is a consumer-facing, front-line product from a Time/Warner company, and he fits into some larger strategy they have for growth and profit. To expect otherwise from a comedy show is misguided.

And this is the real problem. These comedy shows, like The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, lampoon the news, and in doing so, replace the news for people that prefer to actually enjoy their television experience. I think the problems Stein should really be pointing out is that Oliver gets to market himself as news without needing to uphold journalistic standards, like supplements get to pose as medicine without upholding standards of safety and efficacy, and that the news has become so intolerable with the 24 hours news cycle that it’s difficult for me to believe anyone voluntary watches it (Their ratings must be falsely inflated by TVs in airports whose remote control has been misplaced.)

I’m considering voting for Stein come election day, Oliver’s piece made me laugh heartily, and it made no change to my convictions. When you decide to watch controversial, political, or lewd comedy, it’s just stupid to get offended when you, your ideology, or your identity is made fun. What did you expect? That only things you dislike would be mocked? To try to suppress this would be an affront to free speech, one of our most important freedoms. Not only is this stupid, but you cede power to the comedian when you do this, and you’ll often make the joke funnier for the target audience. If you want an example of how to handle being made fun of, and it’s uncomfortable for me to praise a group I have so many problems with, look no further than how the Mormon Church handled “The Book of Mormon”:

The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

Let me rephrase that for you Jill Stein:

Jon Oliver may attempt to entertain viewers for an 20 minutes or so, but the ideology of the Green Party is designed to benefit the general population of the United States, unlike the corporatist duopoly.

The U.S. and Russia fighting proxy war in Syria

From Military.com:

In a warning to Russia, the Pentagon said Tuesday that the U.S. maintains the right to self-defense against advanced anti-aircraft systems sent to Syria by Moscow.

“This is something that we take very, very seriously — the safety of our aircrews,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in response to reportsthat Russia sent highly mobile S-300 anti-air missile systems (known to NATO as the SA-23) to its naval facility in the northwestern Syrian port of Tartus over the weekend.

“Those aircrews have the inherent right to self-defense,” Cook said at a Pentagon news conference.

Hillary Clinton via The Intercept:

“They’re getting more sophisticated thanks to Russian imports. To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians,” she said. “So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”

From the Guardian, “are US-led airstrikes on Syrians as bad as Russia’s?”:

It only attributes deaths with clear evidence so not all are accounted for, but its records hold the Syrian government and affiliated militia responsible for 92,000 civilian deaths, Russian forces for 3,412, Syrian opposition fighters, excluding Isis, for 2,470, and Isis for 3,078. It attributes 768 to the international coalition.

George Monbiot on “the flight of reason”

In a powerfully argued essay, George Monbiot makes the case we should fly less to save the planet:

The prime minister has just announced that her cabinet will recommend where a new runway should be built. Then there will be a consultation on the decision. There is only one answer that doesn’t involve abandoning our climate change commitments and our moral scruples: nowhere. […]

Are we incapable of making such changes for the sake of others? If so, our ethics are weaker than those of 1791, when 300,000 British people, to dissociate themselves from slavery, stopped using sugar, reducing sales by one third. They understood the moral implications of an act that carried no ill intent, that seemed sweetly innocent.

The perceptual gulf between us and the distant and future victims of climate change is no wider than the ocean that lay between the people of Britain and the Caribbean. If we do not make the leap of imagination that connects our actions with their consequences, it is not because we can’t but because we won’t.

Naked Capitalism: “Wells Fargo Fake Accounts Hidden by Fake Whistleblowing”

Wells Fargo have been implicated in not only forging signatures to set up fake accounts for customers, but they’ve now been found to have fired whistleblowers for reporting it. Naked Capitalism via Richard Stallman:

Mind you, the CNN story didn’t establish that Wells Fargo had larded up the numbers by including internal dissenters it fired. But what it has found is far worse: the bank terminated employees who made use of formal whistleblower procedures to object to account fakery and other abuses, like forging signatures.

Not only does the story have multiple sources, most of whom let their names be published, but it also includes a source from Wells Fargo who confirms that the “can the whistleblowers” process was institutionalized. For instance, the Human Resources department gave the business units tips as to how to created trumped-up charges so as to cover for the real reason for the firings.

Why won’t anyone, including the CEO, be prosecuted? Wells Fargo have contributed $1,370,643 to political parties and has been significantly increasing their contributions year over year since 1990.

U.S. defense contractors say Russian threat is good business

Capitalism is great in certain domains, like consumer technology, commodity goods, transportation, and much more. But it’s terrible in others, when compassion or foresight beyond the quarter or even the human life span is needed, like with private prisons, climate change, and arms. Here’s The Intercept:

Retired Army Gen. Richard Cody, a vice president at L-3 Communications, the seventh largest U.S. defense contractor, explained to shareholders in December that the industry was faced with a historic opportunity. Following the end of the Cold War, Cody said, peace had “pretty much broken out all over the world,” with Russia in decline and NATO nations celebrating. “The Wall came down,” he said, and “all defense budgets went south.”

Did you think Lizard People was just a conspiracy theory? These military-industrial corporate thugs would stoke the fires for World War III, straightfacedly talk about the “history opportunity” to their investors, and non-ironically say they’re “just doing their job” and “if it wasn’t for me, it’d be someone else.” Capitalism doesn’t work as well here because it makes the category error of comparing the money in this industry against the value of a human life. I hope they’re ready to be scorned by the history books.

Closing federal private prisons over the next 5 years

From the Washington Post:

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. […] The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

This is a major victory of people over profit: it is just so dangerous to incentive corporations to treat prisoners like Candy Crush treats its customers, looking for “recidivism” like its “yearly active users”. There’s a long way to go, because this is just federal contracts, but I am so pleased to read this. The companies that run this racket had their stock price crash. Think about that: someone invested in a company because of their belief in the growth of the prison population.

Vote your conscience

If you’re a liberal and you oppose the TPP, this is the worst election cycle. If you vote for Hillary Clinton, you’ll likely be voting for TPP. If the issue is important enough to sway you away from the Democrats, you’re voting for Donald Trump, who apart from having some objectionable soundbites, is not at all liberal. Despite Bernie Sanders significant victories in changing the Democratic platform, Hillary Clinton is still at best a moderate corporatist verging on being indistinguishable from the moderate right. As evidence, consider what the Kochs think about this election:

Representatives of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who helped to bankroll the rise of the tea party, warned the brothers could sit out the presidential campaign entirely — or even back Hillary Clinton.

When I express these concerns to fellow liberals, there’s this narrative that leftists need to “bite the bullet” and vote for Clinton in fear of a Trump presidency. Here’s RMS’s take on this attitude:

As happens every four years, plutcratist democrats are saying that we have to vote for their Republican-in-Democrat’s-clothing or else a worse Republican will win.

If we listen to them, we will never get anything better than plutocratists.

I encourage everyone to vote as though everyone was going to vote the way you do. Vote for the candidate you want to win, not the candidate everyone tells you to vote for, for any reason, including “your vote for a third-party is a vote for the major party candidate you oppose” (which is simply false), “he/she is the worst because of [scandal]!” (mostly propaganda), and “I agree with you, but you have to be practical” (there’s nothing wrong with being idealistic).

“Paul Ryan” and the Trump fail

Paul Krugman on Paul Ryan:

Actually existing Ryan has always been a con man — someone playing the part of Serious, Honest Conservative, but never doing a very good job of it. His budgets were always fraudulent in obvious ways, full of trillion-dollar magic asterisks and spectacular evasions. But he has consistently been portrayed in news reports and analysis as an earnest policy wonk. Why?

Krugman thinks that the reason he’s portrayed as honest comes from within the Republican strategy, but I’d argue that more blame lies with the news agencies themselves. Corporate news are corporations too, and they want to policies that are equitable to them and their affiliates and subsidiaries. So they portray politicians that are sympathetic to them in similarly sympathetic light.

As much as I loathe Trump’s public lies, racism, sexism, and casual fascism, his sentiment towards the Republican establishment is well placed, and because of their years of deceiving the people with wedge issues, they deserve every bit of the mess he made of their primary and legitimacy.

John Doe’s Manifesto

The whistleblower behind the Panama Papers has released a manifesto under “John Doe.” It’s powerful. Read the whole thing, here’s the conclusion:

The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system—our system—the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese. The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake. But when it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. It signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.

Historians can easily recount how issues involving taxation and imbalances of power have led to revolutions in ages past. Then, military might was necessary to subjugate peoples, whereas now, curtailing information access is just as effective or more so, since the act is often invisible. Yet we live in a time of inexpensive, limitless digital storage and fast internet connections that transcend national boundaries. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots: from start to finish, inception to global media distribution, the next revolution will be digitized.

Or perhaps it has already begun.

Atlanta Mayor’s column ripping Sanders drafted by lobbyist

From stretching campaign finance rules, to stretching campaigning near voting booth rules, to clinching super delegates in states lost by well over double digits, the Clinton campaign has really been disappointing me. And now there’s this:

A few days before the Georgia primary, influential Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed published a column on CNN.com praising Hillary Clinton and ripping her opponent, Bernie Sanders. Reed attacked Sanders as being out of step with Democrats on gun policy, and accused him of elevating a “one-issue platform” that ignores the plight of the “single mother riding two buses to her second job.”

But emails released from Reed’s office indicate that the column, which pilloried Sanders as out of touch with the poor, was primarily written by a corporate lobbyist, and was edited by Correct the Record, one of several pro-Clinton Super PACs.

Clinton’s politics is more of the same, and right now is not bad for some people, especially the wealthy, moreso the politically wealthy. But her moral barometer is clearly broken, and her campaign is one the most unimaginative in modern Democratic history (which I don’t understand because she’s been planing this for decades!). The reason, in my opinion, for this level of desperation is that the Democratic establishment know that Sanders’ message is resonating with people, and that scares them, because $27 a person is a lot less than $2,700 (for people) or unlimited amounts (to SuperPACs).

What happens next will test the character for all of us

Elizabeth Warren via Facebook:

Donald Trump is now the leader of the Republican Party. It’s real – he is one step away from the White House. Here’s what else is real:

Trump has built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia. There’s more enthusiasm for him among leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls.

He incites supporters to violence, praises Putin, and, according to a columnist who recently interviewed him, is “cool with being called an authoritarian” and doesn’t mind associations with history’s worst dictators.

He attacks veterans like John McCain who were captured and puts our servicemembers at risk by cheerleading illegal torture. In a world with ISIS militants and leaders like North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un conducting nuclear tests, he surrounds himself with a foreign policy team that has been called a “collection of charlatans,” and puts out contradictory and nonsensical national security ideas one expert recently called “incoherent” and “truly bizarre.”

What happens next will test the character for all of us – Republican, Democrat, and Independent. It will determine whether we move forward as one nation or splinter at the hands of one man’s narcissism and divisiveness. I know which side I’m on, and I’m going to fight my heart out to make sure Donald Trump’s toxic stew of hatred and insecurity never reaches the White House.

Well said.

Obama’s offshore drilling proposal rests on research funded by fossil fuel industry

In order to justify expanding fossil fuel production, the Obama administration is citing the economic benefits of this activity. Unfortunately, according the International Business Times, these studies were funded by the same groups which stand to benefit from this expansion:

Buried in the BOEM report’s fine print, though, were footnotes shedding light on how the bureau came to its conclusions: it used studies from the same fossil fuel industry that could benefit from the expansion. Eight of the nine economic analyses cited by government regulators in their report were produced by authors or organizations with links to the fossil fuel industry — whichhasbeen lobbying the federal government on drilling issues in the lead-up to a decision.

This reminds me a great deal of the initial study that set off the anti-vaccination movement: the study was funded by a group to smear a competitor’s MMR vaccine in favor of the group’s M/M/R approach (giving each vaccine separately). The moral of both stories is: biased, namely corporate-funded, research is dangerous. If the studies are found to have any fault in favor of the oil lobby, the publishers and authors should be shamed and expelled with the same intensity as the author of the anti-vaccination “corrupt science”.

Take a stand against fossil fuels

Fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure are devastating our communities from coast to coast. Fracking wells are contaminating our air and water, oil spills are mucking up our waterways, and gas leaks are sickening our families.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) often battle each other, but they agree on one terrible point: both refuse to acknowledge the role fracking plays in climate change.

Send a message to the DNC and RNC leadership that enough is enough. They must include a ban on fracking in their party platforms, support keeping fossil fuels in the ground, vow to stop dirty energy projects, and support a quick and just transition to 100% renewable energy.

Sign the petition.

Stop the right-wing’s assault on America’s coastal national parks

A new Senate bill is threatening “Bundy-style” seizures of coastal national parks that would turn coastal marine management over to states, initiating a feeding frenzy of overfishing and development that could permanently destroy these pristine and environmentally delicate areas.

Sign the petition.