WHAT IS NEOLIBERALISM?

June 5 , 2017 Kelley Kidd. Not long ago a friend asked another of Facebook to explain the term
“neoliberal”. The asker is 70 years old with a lifetime of interest in politics and public policy. He is bright and has shown excellent judgment for over 40 years, held positions of leadership in civic life, and has a degree or so in sociology. So I take his question to be excellent anecdotal evidence that the term “neoliberal” has no widespread use among most contemporary Americans, and I am sure I never heard it until recently. I decided to undertake a little research on this subject. What I found was that the term appears mostly in the rhetoric of a number of commentators that are widely regarded as leftist or radical, and the expression has not been applied as a compliment.

 

I have found one who is “proud” of having been called a neoliberal. James Kirchik, writing an op-ed piece in the L.A. TIMES informs his readers only a few days ago that he was greeted at a college campus speaking engagement “by a left-wing student group denouncing me as a ‘white Zionist neoliberal’.” His reaction was “Guilty as charged”. He then goes on to give a coherent explanation of the term as follows: “Broadly understood neoliberalism describes a set of policies generally aimed at reducing the role of the state in the economy. Neoliberals embrace free trade, capital and labor mobility, privatization, and fiscally solvent welfare systems. Think Bill Clinton in the U.S. or Tony Blair in the U.K.”

Now I think I got it! Thank you Mr. Kirchik. I am recalling Bill and Hillary Clinton’s failed effort to expand medical insurance coverage by creating a Rube Golbfarb machine to protect insurance company profits instead of expanding Medicare; I am also remembering the Affordable Care Act for the same reason. Remember Bill Clinton shouting that his proposals will end welfare as we know it, and his gleeful brag that “the era of big government is over”. Bill had his NAFTA and Hillary was a strong proponent of Obama’s proposed Pacific Trade Pact—both of which were kept out of the public scrutiny during the run up to voting in Congress, and both of which put international businesses in position to fleece taxpayers if government interfered with corporate profits. Recall the enthusiasm with which both Blair and Clinton backed the Bush-led invasions in the Persian Gulf, invasions which did nothing for ordinary people but were mighty helpful to Big Oil corporations.

Neoliberals want to bring everybody under the big tent that is owned and controlled by the investors of the world; the neocons want to do the same, but prefer to seat all the dark folks and gays in the back rows! An ancient radical named Bill Farmer once explained to me that the Republicans were controlled by the big commodity folks and the military-industrial complex, while the Democrats were run by the owners of the big consumer goods corporations; I now think he was talking about “neo” types as this scenario defines them. No wonder the Chomsky followers and Sanders supporters are down on neoliberalism as they see it! Oh, by the way, I have not yet come up with a good justification for conflating “white” or “Zionist” with neoliberalism, but I will give both those matters more attention in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

THE BIG PICTURE OF AMERICAN POLITICS: Part 1

OCTOBER 2016. Guest blog by Kelley Kidd. With only a short time left before the 2016 presidential election I am as enthralled with the process as I have ever been since I watched Harry Truman battle to keep his job in 1948. Presidential elections tend to focus my energy on the big questions of public life, or at least on those I happen to believe are the big questions. I suspect that at the heart of American politics the big questions remain the same in each election. Perhaps the main issues of American life are not now dramatically different from those of other moments and even other nations, although particular occasions and appearances vary over time.

From my point of view one of the most cogent descriptions of the big picture came from a corporate executive last year. That description came in the context of the only game in Baltimore Oriole history which was played without any fans in the ball park. A few days before a young man named Freddy Gray had died in custody after having been arrested for running away from being watched by several policemen. To many Baltimoreans it appeared that for African-American men fleeing from policemen had become a capital crime! Rage led to violence. For the first time since the Rodney King incident in the 1990s an American city was wracked with a several nights of street violence. The word riot was used by more than a few commentators. A scheduled Oriole game was played, but the ball park seats were empty. The executive who ordered the gates closed to fans explained that the park closure was intended to protect the safety of fans. Anyone might have expected that executive to bemoan the loss to Orioles fans and to have harsh words for the rioters. Instead we got a long tweet in response to a radio broadcaster’s complaints about those “rioters”:

“I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful nonviolent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLJ, Gandhi, Mandela and all the great opposition leaders throughout history always preached that precept. I also believe in a democracy it is critical that due process and the completion of any investigation must precede any judgment against any accused police member. That said, my greatest source of personal concern is focused neither on the single night’s property damage or upon the acts, but upon the four decade long period in which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the US to China and others, plunged tens of millions of good hard working Americans into economic devastation and then followed that action y diminishing every American’s civil rights protection in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living at the butt end of an ever more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.”

The executive was John Angelos, the son of the wealthy owner of the Oriole franchise. That same young man made these statements long before the rise of the Trump phenomenon with its emphasis on denouncing the movement of American jobs abroad and its calling for closing our borders, lowering taxes on the very wealthy and corporations to induce the latter to retain employment in the US, and its repetition of the Nixonian call for “law and order’. The greatest issues of our times seem to be linked in concern for both the rise of a police state and the decline of the economic fortunes of the many at the hands of the few. How these issues are linked seems to divide us; that they are linked appears to be a notion that transcends the usual political and economic roles of the very rich. Neither Trump nor Angelos are crowd pleasers with large numbers of us , but they are talking about the same issues.

OPPORTUNITY FOR PEACE IN THE HOLY LAND

May 31, 2017. KELLEY KIDD. From time to time I believe I see an opportunity for Israel to make peace with its neighbors. This seems to me to be such a time. Netanyahu has a chummy relationship with the President. Trump’s daughter is married to a man who is practically a member of the family of the Prime Minister, and she is her father’s best asset right now. The sheiks of Araby and the potentates of the Persian Gulf are waiting in line for Trump’s blessing. Iran has a new and relatively moderate government that is on a flexible leash with trade prospects holding the other end of the leash. No intifada in sight. Time for Israel’s government to seek peace and to do so from a position of strength. The only question is whether Netanyahu can climb out of his tower of belligerence long enough to take some initiative for peace. Ben-Gurion used to quote the Talmud for the proposition that it is better to make a bad peace than to win a good war. Maybe Ben-Gurion had few opportunities to live up to that idea, but Bibi has one now. Please God.

RECONSIDERING DRUG COURT

May

May 31, 2017. Jacob ben Abraham. An acquaintance recently hailed me on my way to court, where my usual work involves representing poor folks accused of crimes. The acquaintance had been waiting outside the office of a private attorney whose work also involves frequent representation of more affluent accused persons. Was I in favor of recreating the Drug Court of Bulloch County, which had operated for a decade before lapsing with the retirement of the judge who had started it? I only had a moment to respond at that time because I was due to be in court to represent several drug offenders. I promised a more complete response when I could take the time to reflect. After some reflection I decided to try to put my thoughts about this subject into writing. I have long agreed with Flannery O’Conner that “I don’t really know what I think until I see what I say.” Since my experience deeply informs my opinion on such matters, I here use my alias Jacob ben Abraham to protect my anonymity as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. As you will see I think well enough of my experience and my conclusions to believe I should publish the result in the Journal of Public Law.

ACCOUNTABILITY COURTS IN GENERAL AND THE LOCAL DRUG COURT IN PARTICULAR.


 

EARLY REFLECTIONS ON AN ERA OF MISPLACED MANHOOD

Memorial Day 2017. KELLEY KIDD. This is my first posting since before the Trump inauguration on January 20. On the inauguration day I travelled from South Georgia through the capitol on the way to a memorial service for a friend in Baltimore. I hit the D.C. boundary about an hour before the swearing in of the new president, and was moving up the highway during the speech.

Now you would think that nothing in that speech could surprise me. I am 74 years old and have been studying politics since my civics course in the eighth grade. Sixty six years of watching American politicians, including some very colorful presidential candidates and presidents. But I admit I was taken off guard by this speech by a man whose utterances and books I have followed since TIME TO GET TOUGH came out in 2012. Even earlier I had seen a few of his performance as the demanding chief executive who fired almost everybody as the regular entertainment of his TV show. But I am accustomed to presidential speeches which sound presidential, that is the speaker uses “we” and “us” language that purports to embrace the people he now has the task of leading. This was very different. It damned government and politicians and past presidents and foreign nations and cities and everyone except the idealized suffering real Americans the speaker purported to embody in his own person. His tone was not presidential, but monarchical. The future and the present were being transformed by his will, and only he had the ability, the vision and the power to transform. It was the kind of authoritarian that any dictator would appreciate, and only those who needed a dictator would enjoy. It was chilling. My mind kept turning to memories of drill sergeants and school yard bullies. Misplaced manhood and testosterone poisoning were recurring phrases in my thoughts. This was a man asserting the invincibility of his manhood, the potency of his sexual prowess, the dominance of his masculine determination and will.

After the speech I drove into Baltimore, where I was met almost immediately by beggars approaching cars as they slowed for the downtown traffic lights. After the bleak description of the country Trump had given, the presence of these sad desperate people seemed to fit. As a former resident of downtown Baltimore for two decades I was not a bit surprised by beggars. That night I watched Trump lead of his celebration balls by dancing to “I Did It My Way”. Before I retired I turned off the lights in my room at a luxury hotel. Across the street homeless people tried to bed down in the doorways of shops. I knew that these homeless folks would have to move on before the shopkeepers arrived in the morning. And I knew that in four more years there would be more such forlorn echoes of the futility of tyrants suffering from misplaced manhood.

The next morning I drove back through D.C. as the crowds were gathering to respond to Trump’s coronation. Unlike the relatively modest traffic of the day before, the morning after saw huge throngs of buses filled with people. A tide was beginning to rise, led by and mostly composed of women. I had not slept but now I was not afraid or despondent. On Mother’s Day 2017 we had survived more than 100 days of truly insanely insensitive power posturing by the president and his allies. The proposals of the new administration matched the militarism and opulence of the President’s selections for cabinet. But women had begun to stand up to him. Sally Yates and Maxine Waters had led the opposition. Unconstitutional orders had been nixed by courts and off season elections had begun to show that the American people were already tired of the Trump bullying of the poor and the stranger. January 20 just might be the beginning of the end of the same era it symbolizes.


 

AN ERA OF MISPLACED MANHOOD

Memorial Day. 2017. KELLEY KIDD. I have posted nothing since January 20, the day I went to Baltimore to a memorial for a friend who had just died from cancer or, more importantly for me, to visit with a sister of the friend who had died. It was inauguration day and my return the next day took me along the same highway through the nation’s capitol. Although my attention on those days was largely on Baltimore, my experiences with events in D.C. have led me to reflection more than to the sort of clarity that leads me to write.

The trip put me travelling through the nation’s capital on the inaugural day during the hour before the swearing in of the new president. So I was nearing Baltimore as he delivered what most Americans had hoped would be a successful effort to heal some of the wounds of the political campaign. The traffic was moderately heavy and moved well. Then the speech! It took me by surprise. After hearing many Trump speeches and reading several of his books, I was still unprepared for the belligerence of it, the attack that blamed all other elected officials for mistakes he alone could correct, and the no-holds-barred contempt for every nation other than his own. That night the enormously narcissistic tone of this inaugural was continued as the new President led off the dancing at two of three inaugural balls with dancing to “I Did It My Way.”

I attended the memorial service for my friend that evening. It was a backyard tribute to a woman whose kindness had once played a role in saving my life, a quiet recognition that the humble contributions of her life had been vital to those who received.Most of the recipients and mourners had been other women. Early the next morning I drove back through the Capitol on the way home to Georgia.

IS TRUMP A GOLDWATER REPUBLICAN?

January 16, 2017. By Kelley Kidd

I have sometimes heard Trump referred to as a Goldwater conservative, a reference to the Republicans who nominated and campaigned for Arizona’s sometimes very controversial Senator. Barry Goldwater was a frequently brusque ideologue who won the Republican nomination for President in 1964, then lost by a landslide to Lynden Johnson.

Barry was serving in the Senate during the summer of 1959 when many of his senatorial colleagues were running for President. I was there as a flunkie of sorts in the office of Richard Russell, the senior Senator from Georgia. Mesmerized by the lyrical conservative prose of Barry’s writings about political and social issues, I studied him carefully and remember him well. He would be angered today to hear anyone characterize Donald Trump as a “Goldwater conservative”.

Barry could be orally foolish. Witness his famous announcement that extremism in the defense of liberty was no vice. He could be dead wrong, as he was when he argued that common law tradition forbid the government to require public accommodations to be open to people regardless of race; actually common law traditions required innkeepers and hotel owners to serve anyone who offered payment for service. But I have always believed he was a decent man who worked hard to take positions he believed to be moral and just.

Barry Goldwater hated tyrants, especially Russian ones. He showed respect, even deference, towards women and the parents of American servicemen. He would have been outraged at Trump’s groping, his taunting of John McCain’s captivity as a POW, his insulting and bigoted pretense that the President was not an American, his smearing of the gold star parents of an American military hero, his outrageous attacks on the voting system as rigged, his constant whining that the media which has created his prominence is singling him out for unfair criticism, and his ostentatious display of wealth. Barry had the word gold in his name and a gold eagle pin to proclaim his patriotism. He despised the sort of special privilege that Trump claims for the super rich and the hubris that leads Trump to taunt others with sexual innuendoes. He would have been horrified by evidence that any foreign government had tried to influence our election, and he would have vehemently attacked Trump for his contempt for NATO. No, Trump is not anything like Barry Goldwater. Those who say otherwise are ignorant or deluded.

A REFLECTION ON CHRISTMAS

January, 2017. Jacob ben Abraham.

I am not a Christian. So this most special of holidays in America is not celebrated by me for the usual religious sentiments. Although I do observe the holiday with positive feelings, my attitude carries no personal belief in Jesus as God or as the child of a virgin mother or as the redeemer of the world. Nevertheless I celebrate over the birth of the baby Jesus. It is a season for remembering that the birth of an infant is holy. Because the story of Jesus birth is a story about the story of a child born in a manger, an implication is that poverty is no obstacle to holiness. Because the story is about the birth of a Jewish baby, another implication is that Jewishness s no obstacle to holiness. Because the story is about the birth of s Jewish baby a territory (the West Bank) that many UN resolutions claim is forbidden by law to Jewish settlers (Israeli occupied West Bank), another implication is that the holiness of this birth is not diminished by any legal or allegedly moral restrictions on where Jews (i.e. Zionists) should live.

It would be a wonderful thing if we could all see that our choicelessness at birth prefigures our true moral and spiritual value, that the particular ethnic and political and religious identities of our parents do not and cannot alter the fundamental fact of our intrinsic worth—infinite and holy. Not because the religion says so. Or the law. Or the politics of the time in which we are born. Were Jesus to be born today he would be holy because every baby is holy. You were a baby and you are holy too.