Repugs, Dumbs, and Dumbers: a rant

Repugs, Dumbs, and Dumbers: American politicians

If you have half a brain and half a conscience you know that most Republican politicians promote repugnant policies that increase inequality, bankrupt the economy, destroy the environment, and promote militarism. They lie, distort and resort to racism, xenophobia, dirty tricks and criminal activity.  They put children in cages. They antagonize our allies and cozy up to Putin. Still, tens of millions of Americans have been brainwashed to vote for them.

The mainstream Dems are far from perfect on policy — they’re often too hawkish and too compromised by corporate money — but they’re far better than the Repugs. Unfortunately, the Dems are usually dumb. Bill Clinton was dumb enough to ruin his presidency by having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, by getting caught, and by lying about it.  He also unnecessarily sold out — on NAFTA and on dismantling Glass-Stegall and welfare programs — thereby causing Nader and progressives to oppose him.

Hillary was so dumb she forgot to campaign in the swing states.

Obama had the chance to prosecute the Bush administration war criminals and the Wall Street crooks. Instead, he wanted to “look forward.” He should have looked forward to Trump. He prosecuted the whistle blowers, not the war criminals. He compromised early and often. He was a great orator and was much beloved by the people, who, in 2008 were disgusted with Republican criminality and stupidity. But Obama didn’t fight and didn’t lead. He allowed the Repugs to set the narrative and to Swift Boat both him and Hillary.

Here’s a particularly outrageous example of Obama’s dumb choices.  As reported in Politico (Biden: McConnell stopped Obama from calling out Russians), three weeks before the 2016 election, Obama and Biden wanted to inform the American people about Russian interference in the election. But they allowed Mitch McConnell to veto the announcement.

Biden said he and former President Barack Obama worried that without a united front of bipartisanship, speaking out before the election would undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions in a way that would play into the Russians’ larger ambitions. (source)

This is the same Joe Biden who, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was holding hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, decided against allowing women other than Anita Hill to offer testimony about Thomas’s sexual harassment.

Why don’t Democrats fight?

Republicans in Congress had opposed virtually every policy position of President Obama. The Senate threatened filibusters on numerous bills. In March of 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court; the Senate, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, refused to hold hearings on the nomination. Yet three weeks before the 2016 election, Obama and Biden still wanted to be bipartisan and still deferred to Mitch McConnell?!

There are dozens of similar inexplicable cowardice or excessive moderation on the part of Obama. See this petition.

If Obama is a closet conservative, then some of his choices make sense. But from a purely political, strategic point of view, many of his choices were just dumb and naive.

As for Nader and Stein, their stubbornness, and that of their supporters, led to the election of Bush and Trump. They did not help the progressive cause at all. They’re now laughingstocks.

I might even include Bernie Sanders among the Dumb group. He unnecessarily calls himself a “Democratic Socialist” when, in fact, he’s really a social democrat.

Let’s hope the Dems stop being dumb. For now, they’re all that’s left to save us from the Repugs.

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Why Some Women Still Vote Republican and What Can be Done About It

by Valerie Tarico

Cross-posted from ValerieTarico.com

Republican women 2Lists of crazy comments about women by Republican men have been an internet staple for years. If the party agenda were to alienate as many females as possible, they should be doing quite well.

Worse yet, from an impact standpoint, the policy priorities of Republican electeds match their expressed attitudes. Equal pay? Contraception? Abortion? Paid family leave? Childcare support? Forget it.

And then there’s behavior.

As Leonard Pitts Jr. put it, here is where we stand:

After supporting senatorial candidate Roy Moore (a credibly accused child molester) President Donald Trump (a confessed perpetrator of sexual assault) has nominated to the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh (a credibly accused attempted rapist) who would, if confirmed, serve alongside Clarence Thomas (a credibly accused sexual harasser).

The Grand Old Party isn’t much of a party for women; it’s more like a frat party—a power-drunk letch-fest. The Grand Old Boys Party.

One might think by now that Republican and woman would be a contradiction in terms. Granted, college-educated women are trickling away from the GOP; that should be no surprise. The head scratcher is that any stay. WTF. Before you decide that all female Republicans must be brainless or bad, and therefore hopeless, consider the following:

Dominance Hierarchies—Left-leaning activists often want to upend traditional power structures, but all of our nearest animal ancestors and many other social species are hierarchical—most often with dominant males at the top. Hierarchy is adaptive for them, and the preferences that create it are rooted deep in evolutionary biology. There’s reason to believe that we humans carry some of the same instinctive social dynamics. That is not to say we have no alternatives, either as individuals or as societies. One of the awesome things about our capacity for higher-order reasoning is that we don’t have to live according to instinct. But it should come as no surprise that some not-brainless women find traditional power structures efficient, familiar, comforting, or otherwise attractive.

Religion—There’s a reason that devout religionists are fundamentally conservative. Religion takes instinct and transmogrifies it into immutable rules and rituals. What may have started out as a biologically-based inclination or simply a practical part of life at a given time and place (like gender roles in the Ancient Near East 2500 years ago) gets locked in as self-perpetuating, inflexible dogma.

Religious ideologies can arouse powerful moral emotions in believers so that protecting traditional religiously-sanctioned social structures feels good and righteous. For religious women, this can make ideas like gender equality and reproductive freedom feel wrong. As is clear from stories of those who have left conservative religious communities, no other force in our society so strongly organizes women against women. Even if you think that religions are mind viruses—essentially socially-transmitted infections, some worse than others—(as I do), one can still concede that bad kinds of infections can happen to people who are otherwise decent and healthy.

Tribal Identities—None of us are as independent in forming our political opinions as we like to think. Our sense of reality is socially constructed, and one of the most powerful forces shaping our beliefs is the kinds of reactions we get from people around us. Secularists point out that religious belief is geographically distributed—that most born-again Christians have simply acceded to the beliefs of their childhood communities and if they had been born in India would most likely be Hindu or Muslim. But once we belong to a tribe, no matter how we got there, the worldview of the tribe feels right and righteous.

The same is true of political tribes. About 7 in 10 teens say their political views are “about the same” as their parents. A similar percent say they follow the same religion as their parents. These two facts are not independent. As testimonies of former Christians show, when people change their religion, their politics often change too. Whether this is primarily because their internal world gets reconfigured or because their external world gets reconfigured, we don’t yet know.

Information Silos—One of the ways that tribes maintain separate identities is by regulating information flow—by sanctioning some written texts but not others, elevating some authorities but not others, promoting some information channels (literally) and encouraging insiders to associate with insiders. The Christian New Testament puts it this way: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” But even without the encouragement, we tend to gravitate toward people who think like us and reinforce our existing biases and points of view.

The end result in an age that offers thousands of media channels, some of which adapt content to our individual likes and dislikes, is that Republican women on the whole are living in a very different narrative universe than the one Democratic women are living in. The Donald Trump they voted for is not the Donald Trump you voted against. The Brett Kavanaugh they think they support as a Supreme Court Justice is not the teenage sexual assailant or slippery ideologue you think should be no-where near the nation’s high court.

Left-Wing Excesses—Republicans aren’t the only ones who live in intellectually-gated communities. One of the accusations hurled against progressives is that we like every kind of diversity except diversity of thought. When we isolate ourselves from people who don’t think like us, the stories we tell ourselves about class, race, gender, immigration, the environment—and hated Republican ideologues—become more and more streamlined, less nuanced, and—if we are honest—less reflective of the complicated realities that govern our lives. The robes of our heroes get bleached; those of our opponents get blackened—until we find ourselves in a satisfying world of saints and epic villains. Small wonder, with the narrative world split like this, that there are conservatives who play up our excesses, and middling folks who can’t see past them.

Multifaceted Political Priorities—Even setting aside these factors, identity isn’t as neat and clean as our intersectional grid of oppressed and oppressor identities would have us believe. Yes, women have been subject to men for millennia, with our subjugation sanctified by religion and culture. And yes, women who adhere to this worldview are disproportionately Republican. But even for women who have unshackled from conservative culture and religion—who prefer real gender equality—there is no reason to think that gender issues should dominate their political agenda.

I spend much of my time writing about how Abrahamic religion denigrates women, turning us into literal chattel. I feel so strongly about reproductive autonomy that I once wrote an article titled, “Why I’m pro-abortion and not just pro-choice.” But I think that climate change is the core moral issue of our time; and if I had to choose between a political candidate who would do something about climate and one who would protect abortion rights, I would choose the former. I’m grateful that I haven’t faced this choice. But we need to recognize that women who vote Republican may have to make equally tough choices when their values are in conflict. I need to grant them the same complicated individuality that I grant myself.

So, Simply Accept This Ridiculous State of Affairs?

No. That is not what I’m saying. The Republican Party has become a haven for sexists to the point that hostility toward women predicted Trump support better than authoritarianism and as well as racism.  Some things need challenging, and this is one of them.

People do change, less than we previously thought—and we don’t fully understand the process—but they do. Also, a meaningful shift in policy priorities or candidate preferences may not require much change at all. Because we all contain a myriad of values and priorities, sometimes it’s just a matter of what grabs our emotions or is front of mind. Remember, it’s not always a matter of winning someone over to your point of view or your tribe. Shifts in priorities within the Republican Party are consequential. So, it’s worth doing what we can.

Be appealing. When you encounter a Republican woman online or in real life, imagine that you might end up neighbors or co-workers—or even (radical thought) friends. Comport yourself as if this were the case. Listen, be respectful of what there is to respect, show your own humanity, challenge selectively and carefully within a context of relatedness. You’re never going to complicate the perspective of someone who you don’t like and who doesn’t like you, and a steady diet of disagreement is a formula for dislike. Marital therapists say that we need five positive points of contact for every negative. Even Evangelicals—who are bound by their religion to be constantly on the make—have figured this out and have cultivated expertise in what they call “relational apologetics” and “friendship missionaries.” And who knows? Sometimes even missionaries learn a thing or two.

Challenge the power of religion in society. The gloves come off when it comes to institutions, and to my mind the corrosive power of religion in modern life signals that it’s time to stop genuflecting and start fighting back. As the Catholic pedophilia cover-ups, the political “Moral Majority,” and the emergence of ISIS demonstrate, religion doesn’t deserve the free pass it has gotten for so long.

Because the Church claims to be a fount of truth and goodness, one of the most powerful ways to fight back is to expose the complicated realities that belie these claims. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has long published a “Black Collar Crime Blotter” as part of their monthly newsletter. They also fight in court to prevent aggressive religions from imposing their theologies on the rest of us.

The ACLU has dedicated staff working on the problem of Catholic hospitals, which are more than 90 percent funded by public dollars and patient fees but deny patients the full range of care based on religious theologies. Support their work. Advocate to end the tax-free status of religious institutions, which allows them to rely on public services they didn’t help to fund. Support survivor groups and lawsuits against religious institutions and leaders that engage in bad behavior. The wealth of the Catholic Church, one of the world’s richest real-estate owners, has given them particular undue political influence.  Some of that wealth should be going as restitution to address the harms they have done.

Inoculate your children against fundamentalisms. Your children will be voting sooner than you think. More importantly, they are going to face the challenge of living well in our complicated world. But as they come of age conservative fundamentalists will be targeting them for conversion, offering a simplistic set of answers to life’s big questions. (See Katherine Stewart’s book, The Good News Club, or related articles.) To understand our world, your kids will need to understand how religion works and how science works and why only one of them helps us to understand and solve real world problems. Don’t assume that raising them in a free-thinking or liberal religious mindset is enough. Even good people can fall for bad ideas—and for girls, traditional religious ideas can lead them to loathe their own curiosity and independence, or to support institutions that do.

Create space for flexible men. Right now the left is telling white males that there is no place for them in our aspirational future. You’ve had your turn on top, we say, as if one man were interchangeable with another—as if the son of an unemployed Appalachian coal miner were somehow one of a kind with the coal baron who employed his grandfather. As if he were, consequently, more privileged than the daughter of an Indian doctor with a Harvard degree, and more worthy of our compassion. Roles for men are changing and, yes, some have reacted by retrenching into contempt and arrogance and attempts to reassert old race, class, and gender privilege. But what alternative are we offering them? We’ve spent almost two generations now telling young women that they don’t need to abide by traditional gender roles; that they can be anything they want. But young men haven’t gotten the same message. A lot of young men are trapped in traditional roles, with the culture at large saying those roles are obsolete. Trapped animals fight to the death; those that have other options often take them.

What might it mean to invite both women and men into a flexible future in which they can picture themselves with dignity, respect, and opportunity?

Capture territory. The Right gained a lot of power in the last 30 years by being intractable and irrational, by acting as if the world were black and white. Anyone who’s not for us is against us. At first, the Gingrich strategy of hyper-partisan obstructionism caught sensible people off guard. Think of Barack Obama patiently trying to court Republican support for what had been their own version of healthcare reform. Later, many of us on the Left decided we had to fight fire with fire. We amped up our own rhetoric and intransigence and built communications outlets that—even if they couldn’t out-crazy Breitbart or Infowars or Fox—at least created a counterweight. But the middle couldn’t hold, and that has left some people feeling politically homeless despite the fact that they consistently vote for—or even fund—one side of the aisle.

This leaves a lot of territory—policy priorities, constituencies, and rhetoric—wide open. Who, for example, puts the interests of the middle class above both rich and poor? Who speaks for people who both believe that capitalism improves lives and also believe in market failures—or that greed is destructive? How about those who believe that polities should manage immigration while also believing that our current system is cruel and unjust? How about those who value a social safety net and also worry about national debt? Our rhetoric has become so incendiary that someone espousing these positions is likely to be seen by each side as a member of the other. That’s a problem. It’s also an opportunity, because  family-friendly, woman-friendly economic policies can cross the aisle.

Support bridge builders. If Republican women are going to walk away from fraternity island and settle in somewhere else, they need bridges to walk on, and that takes bridge builders. Some people are trying to play that role, and they need your support or engagement. Van Jones and his work at Rebuild the Dream comes to mind as a smart example. Several smaller start-ups are explicitly working on helping people figure out left-right communications (especially the listening part).

We can write off Republican women if we choose. We can walk away with an incredulous WTF, a shrug, or a sigh of hopelessness. I’ve done this many times. Persisting in an attempt to reach out, either collectively or individually, can be harder than fighting the good fight. It’s viscerally less righteous, and it doesn’t always work. The only thing guaranteed is that we can’t make a difference if we don’t try.

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Freedom Foundation protest coverage by the Bellevue Reporter

On September 28, hundreds of people protested the annual dinner of the Freedom Foundation in Bellevue, where the guest speaker was renowned racist Dinesh D’Souza. The Bellevue Reporter print edition had an excellent piece about the protest, including content critical of D’Souza and Trump.

Freedom Foundation protest coverage by Bellevue Reporter

Oddly, though, the Bellevue Reporter website doesn’t, as of the time of this writing, have a link to the article, and an Internet search doesn’t reveal it.

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On Saving Social Security

The government is now referring to our Social Security checks as a “Federal Benefit Payment.” This isn’t a benefit. It is our money paid out of our earned income! Not only did we all contribute to Social Security but our employers did too. It totaled 15% of our income before taxes.

If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that’s close to $180,000 invested in Social Security. [This assumes you only worked 40 years prior to retiring; most people work substantially longer.]

If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social security ($375/month, including both you and your employers contributions) at a meager 1% interest rate compounded monthly, after 40 years of working you’d have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved!

This is your personal investment. Upon retirement, if you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $39,318 per year, or $3,277 per month.

That’s almost three times more than today’s average Social Security benefit of $1,230 per month, according to the Social Security Administration. (Google it – it’s a fact).

And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years (until you’re 98 if you retire at age 65)! I can only imagine how much better most average-income people could live in retirement if our government had just invested our money in low-risk interest-earning accounts.

Instead, the folks in Washington pulled off a bigger “Ponzi scheme” than Bernie Madoff ever did. They took our money and used it elsewhere. They forgot (oh yes, they knew) that it was OUR money they were taking. They didn’t have a referendum to ask us if we wanted to lend the money to them. And they didn’t pay interest on the debt they assumed. And recently they’ve told us that the money won’t support us for very much longer.

But is it our fault they misused our investments? And now, to add insult to injury, they’re calling it a “benefit”, as if we never worked to earn every penny of it.

Just because they borrowed the money doesn’t mean that our investments were a charity!

Let’s take a stand. We have earned our right to Social Security and Medicare. Demand that our legislators bring some sense into our government.

Find a way to keep Social Security and Medicare going for the sake of that 92% of our population who need it.

Then call it what it is: Our Earned Retirement Income.

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Here come the anti-I1631 ads from the oil companies

The Western States Petroleum Association sent me a glossy attack ad about the carbon tax initiative:

Anti-I-1631 ad from the Western States Petroleum Association

Inside the fold, it warns of higher prices.

Just this morning I got email from the YesOn1631 group saying:

Big oil is trying to buy this election.

Chevron has contributed $500,000.
Tesoro has contributed $4,362,827.
BP has contributed $6,443,709.
Phillips 66 has contributed $7,201,187.

More than $20 million has been contributed to spread LIES about Initiative 1631. They are just going to keep digging into their deep pockets to keep us down — we have to fight back.

It is noteworthy that while BP is one of the companies donating to the anti-I-1631 effort, Royal Dutch Shell decided not to get involved, according to the Seattle Times. “Shell, which operates the state’s second largest refinery, in Anacortes, has opted to sit on the sidelines of what has emerged as one of the most expensive initiative battles in Washington history. If approved, Initiative 1631 could serve as a model for other states.” But the oil companies now at least acknowledge that climate change is a real problem caused by burning of fossil fuel.

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Should a progressive vote for Adam Smith or for Sarah Smith in the 9th CD?

I’m on the fence about whether to vote for Adam Smith or Sarah Smith for Congress this year.

In short, Adam Smith has more experience, will have more power if elected,  has a decent but mixed voting record, and has moved left as his district has become more progressive. Sarah Smith would more strongly work to rein in military spending and to enact progressive change.  Sarah, however, has no experience in elected office. Moreover, she is a dues paying member of the Democratic Socialists — a party that is significantly to the left of where I’m comfortable.

Adam Smith is a 21 year old veteran of Congress, where he is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee.

His voting record is mixed.  He voted to approve the invasion of Iraq, for the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and against an amendment to restrict the NSA from collecting phone records of Americans even in the absense of suspected crimes.    He voted against the Protect America Act of 2007 but for the 2001 Patriot Act and for extending the George W. Bush administrations warrantless wiretapping program. (source)

Earlier this month, Smith spoke at the Defense News Conference in Arlington, VA, and said that the defense budget is unsustainable (source: Democratic control of House could mean more ‘rational’ defense budget).

An expert or military official testifies at hearings and “scares the hell out of us by saying there’s this huge massive threat … We are hopelessly outgunned, outmanned, everything is falling apart we’re all going to die, basically,” Smith said. “All part of an effort to get us to spend a massive amount of money on any one of a thousand different things.”

Smith said Democrats will look at how they can, within a reasonable budget, manage risk while also prioritizing other factors that make a country “safe, secure and prosperous” like paying down debt and fixing infrastructure.

“The biggest problem I feel that we’ve had is, because we get this ‘Oh my God we have to cover everything [mindset],’ we wind up covering nothing well and that leaves the men and women who serve us in a position where they are not properly trained, properly equipped to meet all the missions we want them to meet,” he said. “It’s a complete impossibility to meet all the missions that we dream up.”

Smith’s congressional district used to be further south, encompassing the Lewis-McChord military bases near Olympia.  Now it has moved north to include areas of Seattle and south-eastern suburbs.  These areas are more liberal, and Smith has moved to the left to accommodate his changed district.

He is the chair of the political action committee of the centrist New Democratic Coalition, but he recently joined the Progressive Caucus.

I’ve attended many of Adam Smith’s town halls and debates. He speaks forcefully and eloquently for progressive taxation, environmentalism, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and various other progressive concerns. He strongly opposes Trump.

I heard Adam and Sarah debate last month at an event in Bellevue. Sarah spoke well and seems qualified, despite her lack of political experience.

In the primary, Adam Smith led with 48.4% of the votes. Progressive Democrat Sarah Smith (26.9%) edged out Republican Doug Basler (24.7%).  This is an indication of how strongly Democratic the district is, and, perhaps, of the coming blue wave in November.

A large number of Democratic organizations and politicians, as well as womens’,  environmental, and labor groups have endorsed Adam Smith.  See this list.  The Washington State Progressive Caucus endorsed Sarah Smith, as did Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, The Stranger, and various incarnations of Our Revolution.

Adam Smith is taking no chances and is actively campaigning.

Sarah Smith, who has no experience in elected office, calls herself a democratic socialist. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez call themselves democratic socialists as well. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sarah Smith.

Sarah Smith is a Justice Democrat and a dues paying member of the Democratic Socialists. Here are some quotations from this interview in The Stranger:

Justice Democrats are Democrats who have pledged not to take corporate money.

If you look at the Democratic Socialists of America platform, it’s really not far off from the Washington State Democratic Party platform. But one of the key differences is Democratic Socialists believe in both a social and an economic democracy, not just a social democracy.

I’m not sure what that means, but the website of the Democratic Socialists of America, says, in What is Democratic Socialism?:

Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.

Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.

Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.

This is further to the left than most progressives, because it does propose social ownership of wealth (worker control).  Democratic socialism is socialism.

As I say write in Socialism, even democratic socialism, is quite different from progressivism, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are probably incorrect to call themselves democratic socialists. They are, in fact, social democrats (i.e., New Deal liberals). They are OK with private corporations, provided they’re adequately taxed, regulated, and balanced by an activist government. Think Denmark and Norway, not Venezuela.

I emailed Sarah Smith to ask her whether she’s really a Democratic Socialist. I haven’t heard from her yet. I presume she is a real socialist.

As reported in this article in the Bellevue Reporter:

Her specific criticisms of Rep. Smith have largely consisted of his willingness to take campaign donations from big corporations — especially firms in the defense industry — and several of his foreign-policy related votes, such as his vote for the invasion of Iraq in 2001 and a more recent vote against an amendment that would have banned the U.S. from selling cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Smith has vigorously contested the narrative that he’s a faux-progressive. While he has said that his vote for the Iraq war was a mistake, Smith points to his sponsorship of a bill that would ban mandatory detention for undocumented immigrants and another that would nationalize health insurance across the country.

Rep. Smith also notes his early endorsement of the successful $15 minimum wage ballot initiative in SeaTac, and his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as evidence of both his lefty credentials and ability to bring home the bacon for his district. His endorsement list reads like a who’s who of regional progressive heavyweights and influential interest groups, such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and a slew of assorted labor unions and Democratic organizations.

Yesterday I got a text message from one of Adam Smith’s campaign aides asking me whether I wanted to volunteer for his campaign. I responded that I’m leaning towards voting for Sarah Smith because she would be more likely to vote against Pentagon waste, corruption and war-mongering. The aide asked me if I would want to speak to Adam Smith. I didn’t respond, but an hour later I got a phone call from Adam Smith.

Adam (who knows me from town hall events, debates, and my writing) said that if the Democrats take over control of the House, he will be chair of the House Committee on Armed Services, where he will have a lot of power to enact reform. If Sarah Smith wins, she will have much less power, though she can vote against military budgets.

I quoted to him from a sheet “Adam Smith on the Issues” that was distributed to the 41st LD Democrats yesterday.  In the section on National Security, it says:

As the highest-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Adam knows that having a strong military is paramount to out national security. He is committed to ensuring that the men and women serving in the military have the resources that they need to respond to threats quickly and effectively. [So far, this sounds quite pro-military.]  At the same time, Adam recognizes that any military resources devoted to dealing with the range of global threats must be paired with strong civil and diplomatic efforts. Adam is also dedicated to ensuring that all veterans get the care they need and deserve, from health services to job opportunities once they leave the service.

The section of Adam Smith’s website on National Security says similar things.

I told Adam that the blurb makes no mention of the tremendous waste, secrecy and fraud in the military budget, or about the destruction wrought by military adventurism.

Adam acknowledged that the budget is too high (“unsustainable”).   He still believes that soldiers should have the resources they need to respond to threats, but thinks that the military is spread too thin and needs to be more selective about threats it engages.  He says this year, finally, if all things go well, the military budget will be audited. (He has said that at several town halls and debates.) He also suggested that he’d edit the blurb on National Security.

He said he spoke two weeks ago at the Defense News Conference (where he apparently spoke for 20 minutes with a Defense News reporter at a fireside chat) and also at the Reagan Defense Forum (page removed). He told them that the defense budget is too high. Republicans then pounced on his words to say that if Democrats gain control of the House, the military budget would be threatened.

He wanted to make clear that he is not in favor of drastic (e.g., 50%) cuts in the military budget, as some people propose. There are real threats: ISIS, for example, and Yemen. And we don’t want China blocking shipping traffic in the South China Sea. Of course, we don’t need a 350 destroyer (?) navy to defend against that, he said.

He also pointed to the threat of Russia invading Estonia and Ukraine.

When I suggested that the U.S. and NATO should not have surrounded and threatened Russia, he agreed. He mentioned the late University of Washington professor Brewster Denny, who said the U.S. made a mistake by antagonizing Russia, leading to the rise of Putin.

I said that the U.S. created many of the threats we’re facing (e.g., anti-Americanism in the Middle East, the mujahedin in Afghanistan — I should have added Sadaam Hussein and radical Iran) by our meddling in foreign affairs, he agreed.  And I pointed to Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and the U.S. backing of Israel.

He said he works with progressives including Barbara Lee and Jim McGovern on military issues.

He said that there’s one thing he agrees with Donald Trump on: it’s better if the U.S, has peaceful, cooperative relations with Russia.  But, he said, Trump’s reasons are wrong: he’s in Putin’s pocket. I agreed with him about Trump’s reasons being and wrong and said that it’s a shame that Fox News and the GOP are now the ones attacking the Deep State, even if they’re doing so for the wrong reasons. He said that Trump is attacking the FBI more than the Pentagon. We agreed that things are a disastrous mess in D.C.

I am still on the fence and expect, in any case, that Adam Smith will win easily.

 

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