On Andrew Sullivan: obsessive narcissism collides with a denied Conservatism Utopianism. Old Socialist eventually loses patience!

The second paragraph of Mr. Sullivan’s latest Political Encyclical is remarkable in that it demonstrates with absolute certainty his obsessive narcissism:

I know, I know. That word — as it has been reverse engineered by the modern GOP — no longer means in America what it once meant across the West, and I should probably stop pretending otherwise. I’m told repeatedly, and understandably, that my support for the long Anglo-American tradition of conservative political thought is quixotic, perverse, and largely counterproductive. Pragmatism, moderation, incrementalism, reform: These might be conservative virtues in principle, but in practice, the American right junked them years ago. I’m told I should admit that, in the current American context, I’m a de facto, Obama-loving leftist. To cheer the collapse of the brutal repeal of Obamacare has not an inkling of conservatism about it.

How many times dose Mr. Sullivan utter the word ‘I’ in the above paragraph? Seven times, in this short paragraph. His self-obsession renders him morally/politically/existentially myopic.  His ‘I’  stands between him and the world made up of superfluous  ‘others’, those persons and events are subject to his evaluation. Does he refer to others except by way of himself? A writer who is engaged with a world made up of other significant thinkers and political/moral actors must look to others as intellectual  and moral reference points, as he does later in this first portion of his political commentary, yet the reader is struck by his focus on himself as sole arbiter.

Mr. Sullivan then moves to four exemplary Conservative thinker/actors:

So let me explain a little why I found this past week so encouraging. It represented, in my view, the triumph of reality over ideology. And conservatism — from Burke and Hume to Hayek and Oakeshott — has always been, at its core, a critique of ideology in favor of reality. The world is as it is, the conservative argues.

The examples of Conservative thinkers who favor ‘reality over ideology’ are Burke, who was saved by a 30,000 Pound bailout by the Crown, and then voted against the Poor Law. Hume , who with Smith endeavored to write a ‘Science of Man’ , in the Enlightenment Tradition-how was he a political Conservative?  Hayek, who believed in voting rights for men over 45 years, and that The Market was the only viable form of knowledge. And Oakeshott who believed that the lower orders, and their political parties and leaders  were only worthy of his withering contempt.

Then there is this:

Any attempt to drastically overhaul it, to impose a utopian vision onto a messy, evolving human landscape will not just fail, it will likely make things worse. To pretend that the present exists for no good reason — and can be repealed or transformed in an instant — is a formula for ruin. The leftist vision of perfect “social justice” is therefore as illusory and as pernicious as the reactionary’s dream of restoring a mythical past. And the great virtue of America’s deeply conservative Constitution is that it throws so many obstacles in the way of radical, ideological change — to the left or right — that it limits the harm that humans can do to themselves in moments of passion or certainty or in search of ideological perfection.

Mr. Sullivan’s long associations with Thatcherism, Neo-Conservatism and an etiolated form of Neo-Liberalism prove without doubt that he is politically addicted to the most pernicious forms of Utopianism, while he attacks ‘The Left’ as prima facae guilty of its own version . This act of political misdirection is the standard trope for Conservative Ideologues. All of this garnished by reference to the ‘deeply conservative Constitution’ .

This is simply the introductory material for Mr. Sullivan to review the Health Care question from a ‘Conservative’ view point, in sum, a potted history of that Conservative position.

And morally, American culture had already dispensed with the cruelty of allowing our fellow citizens to suffer and die because of a lack of resources. Ronald Reagan was in some ways the first to concede this. In 1986, he signed the law that made it illegal for hospitals to turn away the very sick if they could not pay for treatment. Once that core concession was made by the icon of the conservative movement — that the sick should always be treated in extremis — the logic of universal coverage was unstoppable.

The reader with an historical memory longer that the political revelation of Reaganism just has to marvel, again, at Mr. Sullivan’s political/historical ignorance. And morally, American culture had already dispensed with the cruelty of allowing our fellow citizens to suffer and die because of a lack of resources. Ronald Reagan was in some ways the first to concede this. The links that follow demonstrate that the ‘Conservative’ who led the way on Health Care was Richard Nixon. First a comparison of the ACA with the Nixon Plan titled:

‘Nixoncare vs. Obamacare: U-M team compares the rhetoric & reality of two health plans’

President Richard Nixon’s National Health Strategy (1971)

  • All employers required to provide basic health insurance, including a range of specific coverage requirements
  • Employees required to share the cost of insurance, up to a cap
  • Insurance companies can only vary benefit packages to an extent
  • Special insurance programs at reasonable rates for self-employed and others
  • Replace most of Medicaid for poor families with a completely federal plan open to any family below a certain income level; cost-sharing rises with income.

Nixon’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (1974)

  • All employers must insure all full-time employees, with employee cost-sharing up to a cap, and federal subsidies to aid employers.
  • Replace Medicaid with a plan open to anyone not eligible for employee health insurance or Medicare, as well as those who can’t afford their coverage


And then a news item with the headline:

‘Recalling the Nixon-Kennedy health plan’

Ted Kennedy, whom Nixon assumed would be his rival in the next election, made universal health care his signature issue. Kennedy proposed a single-payer, tax-based system. Nixon strongly opposed that on the grounds that it was un-American and would put all health care “under the heavy hand of the federal government.”

Instead, Nixon proposed a plan that required employers to buy private health insurance for their employees and gave subsidies to those who could not afford insurance. Nixon argued that this market-based approach would build on the strengths of the private system.

“Government has a great role to play, he said, “but we must always make sure that our doctors will be working for their patients and not for the federal government.”


Mr. Sullivan continues to exercise his ability to extemporize on his self-given themes of Nihilist Republicans who were opposed to the stolid, yet virtuous ‘Long Game’ of Obama. The last two paragraphs of Sullivan’s kowtowing to Obama’s ‘Conservatism’ are a model of what political ass kissing, not to speak of ideological propinquity, and resort to a cartoon reference can produce.

Obama, in fact, was the conservative in all this — nudging and amending, shaping and finessing as American society evolved — while the GOP flamed out in a reactionary dead end. But Obama’s conservatism has nonetheless brought about an epochal, defining achievement for American liberalism: a robust American consensus in favor of universal health insurance. Yes, he could.

It is hard to overstate the salience of this victory in Obama’s long, long game — and perhaps we are still too close to events to see it as clearly as we should. But here it is: a testament to the skills and vision and tenacity of our greatest living president, whose political shadow completely eclipses the monstrous, ridiculous fool who succeeded him. Like the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, we’ve seen this story many times before in the last eight and a half years. And we also know the ending.


There are two more subjects to cover in this weekly Sullivan Political Free Association, but at this point in my reading, I must confess, I’ve run out of patience with Andy Divine!

Old Socialist




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At The Financial Times: Mr. Jonathan Fenby’s Macron Press Release. Old Socialist comments

Headline: Emmanuel Macron lays claim to the mantle of de Gaulle

Sub-headline : Like the general, the French president aspires to rule above conventional politics

As always the headline and sub-headline at The Financial Times,  are the all important rhetorical/political framing for its Neo-Liberal Apologetics, Mr. Jonathan Fenby’s  Macron Press Release being its latest example. It will not disappoint the regular readers of this newspaper! His essay makes all the requisite historical comparisons with de Gaulle: the commonality between both leaders is in the exercise of megalomania, with the proviso that de Gaulle had an actual record as War Hero, and political leader. While Macron’s particular politics are defined by the exercise of the arrogance of a political arriviste. The proof of that statement, the idea and practice of a Jupiterian Politics.  Note, that one of the cornerstones of Neo-Liberal political fraudulence is the idea/construct that the Left/Right divide cannot just reach some consensus, a modus vivendi,  but can be subject to a  political/economic emancipation. The Civic dimension is consigned to the scrapheap of the Neo-Liberal Counter-Revolution: The Free Market determines the whole of the human aspiration and endeavor!  

Absent from this celebration of the arrival of Neo-Liberalism à la française is the record of spoiled ballots and abstentions- for a full report on the unaddressed questions of Fenby’s unsurprising hosannas to Macron, read this enlightening report from CNN’s  on the French vote (Updated May 8 2017):

Headline: A record number of French voters cast their ballots for nobody

(CNN) Emmanuel Macron’s triumph over Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election has been hailed as a landslide victory for the centrist candidate and a widespread rejection of his rival’s far-right platform.

But Macron’s mandate may not be as overwhelming as it seems. A record number of French voters were so dismayed by their options that they either skipped the election or cast their ballots for no one at all.
The so-called “ballot blanc,” or white ballot, has a long history as a protest vote in France, going all the way back to the French Revolution. This time around, nearly 9% of voters cast blank or spoiled ballots — the highest ever since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958.
For now, the votes, which are counted towards the turnout, are largely symbolic. But there is a movement underway for the blank ballots to count as a share of the overall election vote. According to a recent Ifop poll, 40% of French voters said they would cast a blank vote if it were recognized under French law.

In the graph that CNN provides,  that I cannot reproduce here*,  the percent of both  ‘white’ and ‘spoiled ballots’ stands at 33.4%. Nothing like a mandate for ‘reform’ !  Except to the editors and writers of The Financial Times.

Old Socialist


(Graph added July 22, 2017 9:13 AM PDT)



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My reply: @Sedro

@Sedro @personal view


You are not the Bodhisattva, who walked outside the palace wall to experience the real world! You are like the editors of this publication who can’t comprehend the rise of ‘The Rebellion Against the Elites’ once the Party Line of this newspaper. The reasons for the rise of political parties like Podemos, and a once ascendant and unbowed Syriza, is a conundrum that doesn’t register in your political/moral imagination. Sanders,Corbyn, Le Pen, and the vile American Political Monster Trump, and his capos McConnell and Ryan are the players, who remain strategically off stage in your Seattle Idealism. Yours is the world of benevolent Capital and caffeine fueled hipsters and copious self-congratulation, allied to an insufferable smugness.  But the potential for the rise of  popular discontent- you haven’t been in Seattle long enough to have experienced The Battle in Seattle of 1999?


The 173 miles that separates Seattle from Portland is such a short distance, south down the Interstate 5. How is that relevant to your Seattle Idealism? The motto of Portland is ‘Keep Portland Weird‘. Is the Portland contagion containable?

@Sedro comment: http://on.ft.com/2tnaJrY

My reply: http://on.ft.com/2uGCAa8



Thank you for your comment.

‘I saw the damage done by the black clad anarchist thugs. Many were arrested and their profiles were similar – drop outs with no education, no employment because they were were unemployable, almost all petty criminals.’ 

Why would the Black Block target the WTO, the G-20 or the IMF and other such organizations, that proclaim the good tidings of Neo-Liberalism? While The Great Unwashed riot in the streets of their chosen cities, or as you frame it: ‘black clad anarchist thugs’…’drop outs with no education’…’unemployable’…’almost all petty criminals’ , in sum its the future your looking at, as ‘an enfeebled’ America’s condition reaches its many plateaus of an ever increasing political crisis.

Your boosterism reads like Babbitt, or even like the rhetoric of that notorious porcine political revolutionary Newt Gingrich. The Stock Market is doing just fine,thank you!  after its thieves were bailed out, with that extra little something, quantitative easing. Yes Keynesianism worked, in an emergency. The Why of the rise of Populism remains outside your ken, while prosperity for the 99% is unrealized. Are you not even acquainted with the work of Piketty and his critics? And your latest reply is, to say the least, patronizing. Your reference to East Germany is just maladroit Old School Red Baiting!







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At The Atlantic: The New Cold War claims another victim. American Writer comments

The badly bruised and battered ego of Hillary Clinton has nurtured a thousand flowers of New Cold War Paranoia:

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) most recently accused Russia of engaging in warfare.

“I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles,” Coleman said during a hearing this week at the House Homeland Security Committee.

She lambasted Trump for his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking a panel of experts and former officials what message Trump’s “borderline dismissive attitude” toward Moscow’s cyberattack sends to the Kremlin and other nations.

“I actually think that their engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare, and I think that’s why the American people should be concerned about it,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

“This past election, our country was attacked. We were attacked by Russia,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). “I see this as an opportunity for everyone on this committee, Republicans and Democrats, to not look in the rearview window but to look forward and do everything we can to make sure that our country never again allows a foreign adversary to attack us.”


More of the same:

Well before the White House or U.S. intelligence agencies publicly blamed the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, two members of Congress did. Back in September, Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement accusing Russian intelligence agencies of hacking Democratic Party institutions. “Americans will not stand for any foreign government trying to influence our election,” they declared. “We hope all Americans will stand together and reject the Russian effort.”


The American indignation over ‘Russian interference’ in an election stands in relief to the historically demonstrated interference led by The Monroe Doctrine of 1823, till the present moment of how many fronts of ‘The War on Terror’ ? Call it the exercise of  hubris and hypocrisy wedded to an unapologetic imperialism: the world encircled in American military bases aided by American NGO’s, which finance political movements that seek to annul any challenge to U.S. power and its rapacious corporatism. We only need look at Chile and the rise of Pinochet, as the economic/political model of the American Way: murderous Coup followed by the Chicago Boys!

Chomsky is right, we are laughed at by a world schooled by the hard lessons of the past and present, of an utterly corrupt  hegemon weeping crocodile tears.

American Writer



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martin.sandbu@ft.com on the gifts of Globalization & bad actor Trump! Almost Marx comments

In answer to Mr. Sandbu’s fulsome praise for ‘Globalization’ framed in a kind of political moralizing, because that framing is all important to the production of usable propaganda:

Headline: An enfeebled America stands alone

Sub-headline: Economic change has affected other countries, but they have managed globalisation

Gerald Suttles, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Chicago and adjunct professor of sociology at Indiana University, offers some valuable  insights on globalization, in an American context, and the Post War Welfare States of Europe with some adjustments to the particulars of each state. His book is titled Front Page Economics (From pages 6&7)

Globalization stands in direct conflict with the social contract and rhetoric worked out during Roosevelt ,Truman, and Eisenhower years. With globalization the industrial contract ( “workplace socialism” it was called at its best ) ends. Labor and capital have no fixed location and the nation becomes a legal rather than a moral community. Patriotism becomes empty rhetoric. That is quite a moral and conceptual leap  to be spliced onto  a rhetoric of understandings and reassurance in which the nation, community, and the community were almost coterminous. Yet, even the critics of the current globalization are in favor of it in principle if  not in practice (James 2001; Soros 1998; and Stiglitz 2002)


The reader just might offer this, that Globalization and an utterly failed Neo-Liberalism are the twin manifestations of the post war economic doldrums, exacerbated by American Imperial war making in Vietnam,  and the popularity of the Mont Pelerin Philosopher Kings, and their vulgar pamphleteer ally Ayn Rand.

Although Mr. Sandbu does off some insights on the economic condition of the age, following the 2008 Market Crash, that approximates or simply rehearses the complaints of the unconvinced: The Great Unwashed. But simply acts as historical backdrop to kowtowing to the ersatz Utopianism of Globalization/Neo-Liberalism.

Mr. Sandbu’s praise of the TPP,  as America’s missed opportunity is to put it mildly shallow, but self-serving as propaganda must be. Who wrote the TPP? Not American legislators who could read the document , yet could not take notes, and were barred from discussing its contents with their constituencies. Secret Laws? And what of the ‘Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or investment court system (ICS)’ that is an outright attack on not just Law, but on the very notion of State Sovereignty, not to speak of Democracy itself. The imperatives of Capital is a Law above all else! The practice of Arbitration, in the world remade by Neo-Liberalism, is to blunt and even usurp the force of Law not enhance its power. Globalization/Neo-Liberalism is, in sum, an attack on the Republican Tradition of the ‘West’ as told in J.G.A. Pocock’s The Machiavellian Moment. 

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or investment court system (ICS) is a system through which individual companies can sue countries for alleged discriminatory practices. ISDS is an instrument of public international law and provisions are contained in a number of bilateral investment treaties, in certain international trade treaties, such as NAFTA (chapter 11), and the proposed TPP (chapters 9 and 28) and CETA (sections 3 and 4) agreements. ISDS is also found in international investment agreements, such as the Energy Charter Treaty. If an investor from one country (the “home state”) invests in another country (the “host state”), both of which have agreed to ISDS, and the host state violates the rights granted to the investor under public international law, then that investor may bring the matter before an arbitral tribunal.

ISDS is in the mutual interest of the host country and foreign investors, as it protects foreign investors and enforces their property rights, thus encouraging them to invest in the host country.[1] In the absence of ISDS, foreign investors would be less likely to invest in a given country, because of the uncertain status of their property rights and due to the tendency of countries to discriminate against foreign firms.[1][2]

While ISDS is often associated with international arbitration under the rules of ICSID (the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank), it often takes place under the auspices of international arbitral tribunals governed by different rules or institutions, such as the London Court of International Arbitration, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre or the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.


This reader can only pronounce Mr. Sandbu’s political intervention as more of the same, from The Financial Times as defender of ‘Free Markets’ by any means necessary, with Trump as the featured villain in this episodic Populist Melodrama.

Almost Marx





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On the failure of the McConnell & Ryan congressional leadership. Political Observer comments

Where have McConnell and Ryan been? They have had ample time to come up with an alternative to the Heritage Foundation Health Care! Where was a Working Group on Health Care ‘Reform’ , made up of Senate and House Republicans, and their Think Tank allies, that could have produced a Free Market alternative, to the present Free Market version of ‘Obama Care’? The answer to that question is obvious, if viewed historically, The Tea Party mentality that governs the current Republican Party is nihilist in outlook and practice: Sen. Richard Lugar was one of the  last Conservative Republicans who believed in governance as the ‘art of the possible’ was defeated by a Tea Party candidate in 2012.

Could it be this give away to the Insurance Companies, Obama Care, has only one viable political alternative, Single Payer? Was the politically addled Mr. George F. Will prescient? 2018 is just around the political corner. Will the Clinton Wing of the Party miss this opportunity at self-reform, or cling to Hillary-as-Victim narrative?: Hillary as victim of the Comey/Putin/Assange Cabal? Or make way for the New Dealers Warren and Sanders? Or will it take a loss in 2020 to see a tear stained end to Clintonism? Another pressing question, when will Trump utter his infamous tag line ‘Your Fired’ to both McConnell and Ryan? Stay tuned!

Political Observer



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At The Financial Times: Theresa May in trouble? A story in Headlines & Sub-headlines, as told by Would-be Journalist

Its Monday July 17, 2017 at before 7 AM  PDT, here is a screen capture of an e-mail I received from The Financial Times:


All of these ‘News Stories’ published on July 16, 2017, in order of appearance:

Headline: Theresa May gains Conservative support to sack ministers

Sub-headline: Backbenchers urge prime minister to bring discipline to feuding cabinet



Headline: Philip Hammond accuses cabinet Brexiters of leaking against him

Sub-headline: Hardliners working to obstruct business-friendly Brexit strategy, says chancellor


Headline: Theresa May’s new Downing Street team emerges

Sub-headline: In the prime minister’s office, officials are clawing their way to the summer break


The Tory penchant for ‘Referendums’ has been catastrophic to the political careers of both Cameron and May, to state the obvious. The fate of Britain’s membership in the E.U. left in the hands of The Great Unwashed! Where was ‘Political Fixer’ Lynton Crosby?  May now faces a rebellion within her Cabinet as reported in The Financial Times: with each of these ‘Referendums’ the position and power of Corbyn grew exponentially. This newspaper has been active in promoting the Neo-Liberal Agendas of both Tory and New Labour, but with the rise of Corbyn, within Labour, May is the only hope for the survival of that Neo-Liberalism. Yet Gideon Rachman offers more of the same, posed as a question worthy of consideration, as antidote to the Brexit, this of July 17, 2017.

Headline: The democratic case for stopping Brexit

Sub-headline: The question is whether the British public would support a second referendum



Would-be Journalist



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