Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and is a Senior Editor for The Globalist. Follow him @BillHumphreyMA on twitter.

March 15, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 173

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Republicans de-funding infectious disease prevention, why Democrats are very bad at taking credit for achievements, and Bill’s experience signing up for health insurance on the individual exchange in Massachusetts. People: Bill, Rachel, and Jonathan. Produced: March 13th, 2017.

Episode 173 (49 min):
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Organize according to your ability

I know there’s much debate on the left about the value of engaging in electoral politics. All year I argued we should variously specialize. Before the November election, my contention was that electoral and non-electoral organizing both have value, and that some of us are good at one versus the other.

Immediately in the days after the November 2016 election results, my initial reaction was to wonder if there was even any point to me or anyone continuing to think about future elections. That initial reaction was based on a consideration of the sheer amount of defensive non-electoral work that will be required to protect people.

However, it remains true both that some of us are better at non-electoral versus electoral politics (and vice versa) and that we cannot afford (as well) to assume that was the “last” election or that in crisis we can all put all future elections out of mind. If we get to the next election and didn’t do anything to try to clamber out of this hole … well, defensive triage isn’t a permanent fix.

The vast majority of time, energy, and effort should be put into non-electoral organizing for defensive triage to protect people. But those of us whose core competency is more in the electoral realm should be furiously preparing electoral brakes on this freefall.

While we need a national shift on messaging, platform, etc, we need state and local candidates in 2017 and 2018 who can shield people against abusive Feds.

Consider, too: Conservatives have hijacked and perfected a system of state-level obstruction, rights violations, and disturbing ballot referenda. Counter-consider: All of these tools are available to advance the social and democratic rights – or protect them against Federal Trump. Liberals have been very hesitant to use the tools original Progressive Movement set up in most states because Conservatives abuse them. At this point, that ship has sailed. Within the electoral politics realm, if you are not using every tool you can to shield people, quit.

On the electoral politics side, we should be using every single legislative race and every referendum to force head-on ideological debates. Conservatives use local races and ballot campaigns to question people’s humanity and promote new incendiary “values” to the public. The electoral left should similarly be actively using local races and ballot campaigns to sell voters on our (non-abusive) positions.

So, the debate on electoral versus non-electoral politics is a false choice. We need to fire on all cylinders, “From each according to his ability” and so on. As a side note on resources: 2016 was the year of the establishments lighting tons of money on fire and losing to smarter cheap oppositions.

Some of us are good at non-electoral work. Others of us are probably better at amplifying it and – hopefully – backing it up in government. Be careful of potential co-opters of this energy. But if you or someone you know from the grassroots wants to run, make it happen. I wouldn’t presume to know how to teach/train people on most non-electoral organizing, but I can help you on how to be a candidate.

Every single election, no matter how small, can be made into an affirmative campaign for a value non-electoral organizers are working on. If you’re not working on defensive triage right now, as discussed above, you can be building networks daily to win races that affect people.

Adapted from a series of tweets I posted in mid-November 2016.

Wall Street for Trump

Wall Street is so publicly overjoyed, on the record and in the numbers, with the Trump reign of terror so far — and still Democrats are going out of their way to make excuses and defenses of Wall Street and to object to any criticism or push for very deep regulation (let alone dismantling). If they’re not paying you to do it, ask yourself why you want to shield them.

It’s a sector that has long since outgrown its investment money-raising purposes relative to the real economy and has disappeared down a rabbit hole of hypercapitalism divorced from any real function or good practice. That’s not even a socialist perspective or anything. That’s just backed up by decades of data and research. It has become a massive useless casino that distorts our economic and political governance.

It should be shoved back into a little box until it is so small that it can only do what it’s supposed to do: raise private money for real investments in the material economy. Not whatever this monopoly money bullshit is wherein the politicians are purchased, the pensions are purloined, the small-dollar investors are taken advantage of, and the massively wealthy shareholder supermajority in the country diverts loans into profits, instead of into projects.

Hungary’s Orban government will put asylum-seekers in shipping containers

The latest on far-right Orbanism rising in Hungary…

UN News Centre: “Hungarian law that could detain all asylum-seekers violates country’s legal obligations”

The United Nations refugee agency voiced deep concerned at a new law voted today by the Hungarian Parliament that could lead to mandatory detention of all asylum-seekers, including many children – for the entire length of the asylum procedure – and warned that it would have a terrible impact on people who have already suffered greatly.

In practice, it means that every asylum-seeker, including children, would be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor wire fence at the border for extended periods of time,” Cécile Pouilly, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the media today at a news briefing at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).

“The new law violates Hungary’s obligations under international and European Union (EU) laws, and will have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who had already greatly suffered,” she added.

 

Previously

Border fence politics comes to the EU (in Hungary)
AP: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence”
Austrian chancellor suggests Viktor Orban is a Nazi

Logo of the right-wing "Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance" ruling party of Hungary.

Logo of the right-wing “Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance” ruling party of Hungary.

Op-Ed | Trump: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

The subtitle of the 1964 classic Stanley Kubrick nuclear war farce “Dr. Strangelove” is “or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

While that subtitle is part of the film’s satire – nuclear weapons are indeed very serious and frightening and cannot be brushed aside – there is something to be said for knowing when to keep a level head about the problem.

Many of my fellow Democrats have expressed that they might prefer the equally conservative but more mainstream Vice President Mike Pence to Donald Trump, due solely to the president’s authority to launch U.S. nuclear weapons.

To me, the risk of a nuclear war still remains fairly small, while the Pence agenda – in concert with Paul Ryan – remains a very high risk with huge ramifications as well.

So, how have I found a way to “stop worrying and love the bomb” or at least relegate it to a lower-tier fear?

Regarding Russia

A recent public remark by President Trump and a glance back toward Ronald Reagan, his predecessor in the Oval Office as a television aficionado turned conservative tribune.

At a recent press conference, rambling well past an hour, Trump said that the best way to show his independence from Russia would be to fire missiles at a Russian Navy submarine off the U.S. coast – but that he would not do so, of course.

By way of explanation or proof, Trump uttered the incredible (and accurate) phrase:

I’ve been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.

By this remark, Trump meant that launching a (nuclear) World War III by attacking Russia directly would end poorly for everyone, which is why he could not even consider it.

Nuclear holocaust

Back in 1983, President Reagan and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were given an advanced screening of the made-for-TV sensation, “The Day After.” That film, which rocked the nation, depicted exactly the scenario Trump described, in as horrifying terms as possible.

Ronald Reagan, in his diary and memoirs, said that he began shifting the country’s nuclear war policies in response to the film, which had made him “depressed.”

It is almost certain that Trump himself has seen the film as well – probably at the time – considering his voracious consumption of television.

True, Trump is known for his uncontrolled and impulsive remarks. True, he clearly did not hesitate to authorize smaller, ill-conceived military actions such as the recent failed raid in Yemen.

But it is probably reasonable to believe him when he says that he would not be starting World War III because a “nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”

The real threat

Trump and his agenda are absolutely a threat, but most of that threat is a very real and already very present one. The damage will be less instantaneous and less visible than a nuclear war, but it is exceptionally much more likely.

Vice President Pence shares that agenda and a record to back it up. But he won’t generate the matching level of opposition that both men deserve, and so I don’t prefer him to Trump.

And at any rate, as “Dr. Strangelove” shows – after all the arguing is over, the other outcome is over pretty quick.

Originally published at The Globalist.

March 8, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 172

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: What the heck is going on in Syria these days? Who is Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka and which wing of Hungarian politics does he come from? People: Bill and Nate. Produced: March 6th, 2017.

Episode 172 (52 min):
AFD 172

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Op-Ed | (Non-) Nuclear Trump: The Ahmadinejad of the West?

This past weekend, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abruptly launched an English-language Twitter account and released a video, in English, of himself announcing the account.

It was an unlikely development from someone who was nearly toppled from office by street protests in 2009 organized via Twitter – especially given the U.S. government’s request at the time for the company to ensure smooth operations of the service.

But on the other hand, Ahmadinejad has likely felt muzzled since leaving office in 2013 due to term limits. His relationship to the state had deteriorated anyway in his second term between the protests and the sanctions on the country.

Supreme Leader Khamanei also recently suggested that it would be bad for the country if Ahmadinejad were to seek a new term in 2017.

Trump and Ahmadinejad

Twitter, as demonstrated by the new U.S. President, Donald Trump, allows totally unfettered messaging to supporters and the media, without interference by anyone.

Perhaps the former Iranian president decided to follow suit.

In February 2017, Ahmadinejad sent a lengthy letter to Trump, officially objecting to the Muslim ban, which affected Iran, but also offering advice and personal experience on leadership – from one “human to another human.”

He noted that Trump’s election had been an upset:

It can be inferred from the political and media atmosphere in the US that the result of the election has been (in spite of) the status quo, and beyond the will and prediction of the governing body and the main system behind the scene of the U.S. political stage.

Like Ahmadinejad in 2005, Donald Trump was elected as the hardliner candidate. Both rose to win an upset victory from the back of the pack, running on a conservative but populist and nationalist message.

Similar loose talk

In Ahmadinejad’s case, his policy pronouncements and speeches were not the final word in policy, subject to the Supreme Leader’s support ultimately.

To some degree, that appears to be the case with Trump as well, surprisingly. (Sometimes, someone like Steve Bannon sticks an order in front of him and Trump signs it without reading it.)

What is certainly true for both men, of course, is that their off-the-cuff remarks or deliberated provocations still terrify half of their respective home countries and most of the countries around the world.

For all his loose talk about nuclear weapons, it was always a bit difficult to tell whether Ahmadinejad was really perpetually hovering over the launch buttons on the country’s (non-nuclear) arsenal or just blustering. Trump keeps everyone guessing in much the same way.

Would he or wouldn’t he?

At a recent press conference Trump said unprompted that the best way to show his independence from Russia would be to fire missiles at a Russian Navy submarine off the U.S. coast – but reiterated that he obviously would not do so.

Change a few nouns and it would be Ahmadinejad threatening to reduce Strait of Hormuz sea traffic – including U.S. vessels – to smoking wreckage.

Trump also added, as justification for his restraint:

I’ve been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.

A hidden restraint?

That attitude, too, is familiar to fair-minded Iran observers. Throughout Iran’s controversial nuclear energy program development, Iran’s leaders have been very careful to point out that they believe nuclear weapons are immoral and proscribed, and that the program is peaceful.

Ahmadinejad, himself, was a staunch defender of the civilian nuclear program on the grounds of sovereignty and anti-colonialism, but he also called nuclear weapons “illegal” and immoral and supported global non-proliferation.

Typically, Iran’s leaders point specifically to the Iran-Iraq War and Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons on young Iranian soldiers as a reason Iran does not want WMDs. They also sometimes cite religious reasons for a ban.

At one point, in 2008, the Supreme Leader even indirectly urged Ahmadinejad to dial back his over-enthusiastic rhetoric on the nuclear issue, which (unlike in the United States) is not really under presidential authority anyway.

One must hope along similar lines, therefore, that when the White House under Trump “considers all options” in situations such as North Korea’s recurring threats, it is not seriously contemplating the literal nuclear option.

Originally published at The Globalist.