Monthly Archives: November 2017

TREATING ALCOHOLISM: NOTES FOR A PRIMER

Thanksgiving 2017. Kelley Kidd. A beloved friend is about to be involved in helping to provide professional guidance for a university program that educates and assists students who are alcoholics and/or drug addicts, one of a growing number of “centers for addiction recovery”, abbreviated CAR. Another friend will soon be the Judge of a Drug Court, one of an even faster growing number of “accountability courts” that try to assist persons accused of crime to recover from addiction. Such courts frequently include significant numbers of alcoholics and frequently also require intense participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.

 


 

WHAT WAS MISSING IN 2016 CAMPAIGN

November 16, 2016 KELLEY KIDD.

What the Democrats missed most in the 2016 political campaign was victory. It has been more than a year now since Trump was elected to be President and the Democrats failed again to win a majority in either the House of Representatives or Senate. They won a majority of votes cast in all three of those races, but the election left Republicans in charge of all three branches of the federal government and more than a majority of the 50 states. Losing is the worst thing about not winning. Duh. Everybody knows that.

I write to say why I believe Democrats lost and why I believe they will continue to lose if they continue to pursue the strategies of the 2016 campaign. Something was missing in this campaign that Democrats have had in the past but not so much recently. That something was empathy with the lives of most Americans. The party that once championed the economic and social needs of the “little guy” outspent the fat cat Trump campaign two to one. The themes of the Clinton campaign seemed to center on two themes: she is not Trump and wouldn’t it be great to have a girl be commander in chief and appoint liberals to the Supreme Court?

THE MEDIAN INCOME OF AMERICAN FAMILIES HAS NOT INCREASED SINCE 1999. The U.S. Census bureau said that. The same source shows that all of the increase in wealth since 1980 has gone to the richest American families,that the median family income kept up with the increase in national income for only a few years between 1993 and 1999. And that the cost of medical care and good education has been getting more and more difficult for most families to afford. Millions of Americans are homeless, one out of four children live in poverty, sales taxes and public user fees have increased while government services have declined for most of us. These are a few of the many appalling facts of life for most of us. Government has done nothing to change these facts in this century, and a Democrat has been the President for half of that time. None of this was a theme of the Clinton campaign.

THE FIRST THING IN POLITICS

November 5, 2016. Kelley Kidd

All my own favorite media are on the same page today. It is about the disunity in the Democratic Party. Book and newspaper and Facebook centerpieces are focused of aspects of the same dilemma: the Democrats are engaged in a civil war among themselves. It ain’t pretty.

The previews of Donna Brazile’s new book “Hacks” tell us that this former Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee is “throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus.” And the New York Times Sunday magazine’s front page story today is about the Democratic house divided against itself, and is entitled “Why Can’t Democrats Turn the Page?” A brilliant life-long Democrat from Baltimore posts on Facebook that the Dems have formed a circular firing squad, and that “Jon Snow is nowhere to be found while the white walkers have crashed through the walls”—references which those who follow T.V. dramas much better than I will recognize as a metaphor for current catastrophes brought on by external enemies who can’t be effectively opposed because of the infighting within.

So what is the conflict all about? And what Mr. Kidd have you to say about the way out? I feel transported to the turn of the 20th century where methinks I hear the voice of the greatest party organizer of his day. Mark Hanna was the chairman of the national committee of the Republican Party back at the turn of the century. He led the fund raising effort that got McKinley elected President, and the Vice-President on that ticket was Teddy Roosevelt. But those accomplishments are not what he is famous for today. Rather he uttered two famous lines that are still with our politics and business thinking today. And both those utterances are good leads for thinking about the present and future of American politics.

The business advice was really directed at labor organizers. He admonished them to organize only if doing so benefitted both the employer and the employee. Mark Hanna was a rich mine owner. McKinley was a union smasher and an imperialist who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Pacific Islanders while subjecting them to McKinley’s idea of the rule of Christ. Hanna and the men he led believed in small government in all things which benefitted anyone who was not within the circle of crony capitalists they were.

I mention that business advice to help the reader begin to evaluate Hanna’s other and much more famous thought, which I believe may hold a key to most of the history of recent American politics, including those portions of that history which may fairly be called the vicissitudes of the Democratic Party. “There are two important things in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember the second.” So said Mark Hanna.

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, has been arguing for several years that the corrupting influence of the super rich is behind much of what we usually perceive to be the divergent politics of Democrats and Republicans. Both parties are firmly in the clutches of the oligarchy (i.e., the super rich). He echoes Hanna and, by doing so he darkly predicts that the two parties are about to become irrelevancies. Instead we are going to be divided between the establishment, the flack catchers and spear carriers for the super rich, and the populists, those opposed to the power of the super rich. While he also divides the populists into two further camps, the largest theme is that of us poor against them rich.

The Republican candidate in 2016 was a billionaire who railed against the crony rich backing and alleged control of his rival, Hillary Clinton. Clinton was the nominee of the reputed party of the little man; he the candidate of the party of the fat cats. He won. And he spent about half the money she did. At times the party insiders of the Republican Party, who I assume could not be more establishment, worked against Trump while establishment insiders in the Democratic Party worked against Sanders. Sanders is now the most popular politician in these United States, but he ran without super pack aid or the support of the rich.

Hanna is usually right in these United States. Obama raised more fat cat money than either of his opponents. So did Bill Clinton. Both delivered an action menu that helped the super rich at the expense of the working class. Both won the support of liberals and working people by offering unfulfilled hopes. Hillary paid the price for the Podesta files and the truths they showed about Hillary’s allegiance to the oligarchs. She also suffered for the sins of her husband and the shortcomings of her predecessor. A lot of chickens came home to roost in November at places like Michigan and Wisconsin and the dying cities and towns of the American heartland. Neither party offered real solutions. Trump offered false hope, but Hillary offered only the dream of a woman breaking a glass ceiling. Not a bad thing at all, but understandably paltry to millions of working families whose prospects have not gotten brighter in several generations now.

Hanna knew his quips usually applied to both Dems and Republicans. But the Trump win and the Sanders popularity now reflect the possibility that the second important thing in politics may sometimes trump the first. Pun intended.

That brings me to the article that is front page in today’s New York Times, the one about the Democratic Party’s need to “turn the page” after the departure of Obama and the rise of authoritarian populism with Trump. This traditional banner carrier for the “liberal” media spent that article and its prominent spot in Democratic conversation on what I must suppose are those personalities and issues which the now traditional Neo-liberal Clinton-Obama-Pelosi-Schumer wing of the party believe to be important. Today’s N.Y.Times center foldout picture of Democratic politics does not contain two words which define the only real hopes of the party today. I don’t mean Chomsky or Hedges. Not even Frank or Reich. The words are Warren and Sanders! Evidently the Times is committed to the proposition that Mark Hanna got it right in 1900.


 

NEO-LIBERAL PROJECT AND THE DNC IN 2016 ELECTION

NOVEMBER 2017 Kelley Kidd.

Sometimes my research shows me whole worlds of reality I did not know anything about until, almost by accident, I stumble on them in the dark. Lately one such stumbling began when a friend unexpectedly used the term neo-liberal. I looked it up by rambling through a number of derogatory references until I found a writer and speaker who said he had been proud to be called by the name. Whenever I hear a new political label it is my custom to try to find somebody who created it or wear it proudly. I always hesitate to attach any such label to those who depreciate it.

Anyhow, the self-proclaimed neo-liberal writer claimed that the label was that of people who, like himself, aimed to reduce the role of the government in the economy and to expand the power and scope of “the market”. I thought at once of Adam Smith, the 18th century father of free enterprise economic thought, but the writer suggested his readers think of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Not being a neo-liberal myself, I took the writer’s advice. Since June of this year I have repeatedly run into the legacy of Bill Clinton with that label in mind. I confess to measuring both man and label by each other.

And I often see the former president in the same mental telescope in which I am gazing at his wife, the Democratic nominee in 2016 for the job he held during most of the last decade of the 20th century.

I was raised in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era. Almost all the officeholders of that era (in Georgia at least) were vocal advocates for what they called “free markets” and “small government, close to the people.” So they said. My experience of them was that they favored big government projects when they and their rich supporters would benefit, and that the closer their control of policy outcomes, the more they called that control that of “the people.” They were usually at least as involved in the kind of back room manipulation they sometimes accused their opponents of doing. So the Clinton takeover of the Democratic Party in 2016 was no surprise to me.

What is a refreshing surprise is that Donna Brazile is candid enough to admit that she was a part of such activity. Ms. Brazile’s honesty may go a long way towards making real reform of the Democratic Party possible.

The Neo-liberal project may owe its philosophy to Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, but its tactics are sure to include what we used to refer to as those of Gene Talmadge and the “populist” tradition of the Jim Crow era. When it suits the purposes of the Clinton style political operative, he too is as likely to engage in demagoguery as any “left wing radical” or “right wing Republican.” But unlike the radical and exactly like the Republican whose economic views he shares, the Neo-liberal operative has the backing of some very deep pockets and the tactics that big money politics brings. The Neo-liberal does not just outspend the democratic populist. He also buys the tools to power that democratic populist cannot afford. Sadly in 2016 the Democratic National Committee was one of those bought tools.