The Crisis Watch group published a briefing on the Colombian civil war between the ELN, an insurgency group that is fed up with the government only serving elitist interests, and the the state of Colombia. Crisis Watch provided several "neutral" recommendations to all actors involved. Some of these included telling the ELN and the Colombian government to enter into ceasefire agreement, for both sides to continue the ELN peace talks, and the government to take the same approach as the former administration in dealing with the ELN. This, however, seems unlikely due to the nature of the new administration under Duque. Why would the ELN decide look to enter continue peace talks with an administration that is reportedly making greater and harsher demands of the guerilla group. Perhaps the ELN could be pushed to make concessions and hash out an agreement with the new administration due to the threat of renewed conflict and their weakened position. That said, I think the ELN will need a victory. While they may have to resort to drug trafficking, I believe the ELN will justify this action by blaming (and rightfully so) the repressive actions of the state.
Thus, already unstable negotiations will come to a halt and the situation will likely deteriorate unless the government grants amnesty to prisoners that have been captured by the state. While unlikely under the new administration, President-elect Duque would be smart to strike a deal with granting amnesty because it would allow the government to establish a peace accord in Havana and and legitimize the party among the people. However, we cannot expect the President-elect to do anything short of wage a new war against the insurgency group. This is perhaps the worst news for civil society actors and organizations in the region as their soft power will most likely be unable to bridge the two warring factions.
Neoliberalism has been used to describe the contemporary and recent political history both in the U.S. and abroad. Neoliberalism has crossed party lines in unique ways and has been enmeshed in every fabric of American society since in the 1960s and the election of Richard Nixon. As an ideology and policy model, neoliberalism refers to a style of 20th and 21st century politics that has transgressed back to 18th and 19th century liberalism focused on lasaiz-fare economics. However, neoliberalism encompasses social and political qualities that transform society in significant ways that are not outlined solely in economic definition above. For the purpose of this paper, Pain: A Political History by Keith Wailoo, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link” by Robert Procter, and “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain” by Patrick Keefe will be contextualized in broader themes of neoliberalism such as competition, individualism, and the monetization of many aspects of society.
Pain by Wailoo looks at the ways pain has become an effective political issue over the last century. Wailoo gives insight into the rise of the welfare state and entitlement programs today with the ending of the world wars and copious soldiers who carried pain home from war and needed support from the state. Veterans became a political opportunity for presidents to shape pain to their political advantage. Wailoo begins in the Eisenhower era and continues through the Clinton and well into the Obama years discussing theories surrounding pain and how the right and left positioned themselves to extract votes from their respective bases, but simultaneously made pain a highly divisive issue that would dictate American politics.
Procter and Keefe capture the historical corruption in industry and corporate greed that has killed millions. Procter assess the corrupt history of tobacco companies and their squelching of scholarly and public knowledge that uncovered the link between smoking and lung cancer. Similarly, Keefe discusses the opioid epidemic and how Purdue Pharma engineered an empire that would produce, review, and advertise opioids across the nation and now the globe.
Each of these three scholars unveils the neoliberal ideology in an indirect manner. Wailoo highlights individualism, a pillar of neoliberalism, when he quotes Republican representative Mike Rogers saying, “Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You can’t make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak.’ And so what we have decided to do today is abandon the very principles of America and say . . . we’re going to punish the 85 percent of Americans who have earned healthcare benefits . . . to cover the 15 percent that don’t have it. Rogers said this in response to the Affordable Care Act, affirming the traditional conservative but contemporary neoliberal narrative that tells people to pull themselves up by their boot straps and take care of themselves. Wailoo presents this individualist ideology in the context of healthcare and the broader idea of pain, but healthcare and pain management policy are just one of many fields that are affected by this neoliberal framework. Wailoo consistently addresses this theme throughout, and identifies pain treatment from conservative and liberal perspectives. Breaking down this construction of pain even further, it is evident that the ways politicians and society have decided to define and construct institutional solutions to remedy group pain is rooted in whether or not one feels compelled or responsible for others. In other words, whether they share values of individualism or collectivism.
Proctor’s analysis of pain felt by cigarette smokers due to addiction and lung cancer aims to assess the corruption in the tobacco industry. Further, proctor unearths the core concept in neoliberal ideology that qualifies everything, even the life of person, under monetary standards. As publications came out about the harm of smoking and revealed the link between smoking and lung cancer, tobacco companies engaged in a frontal attack on the science community by funding propaganda to tell people otherwise. This tactic proved effective and has since been used by other denial campaigns such as the fossil fuel industry and right-wing media aiming to protect their interests at the expense of the environment. All this said, neoliberal ideology has played a role in shaping corporate greed and exploitation. First, tobacco corporate exploitation of the public and denial campaign was done to keep the money coming in. Tobacco companies began competing against the science community to convince the public that cigarettes were not harmful. Competition was always a foundation of Americanism due to capitalism, but has been emphasized in the neoliberal era.
In a more substantive manner, Proctor assess the fatalities of tobacco companies’ corruption by monetizing the lives of the people in the U.S. Proctor found that the value of a life to a cigarette manufacturer is $10,000. By monetizing the life of an individual, Proctor has identified the neoliberal mindset that drives every decision tobacco companies make. Tobacco companies no longer see death or harm to a society as a fault of their own, they only reflect on the profit they make when someone smokes. Large corporations in this neoliberal ideology are no longer able to see humans. They see capital. Keefe identified the same horrifying truth behind Purdue Pharma and the opioid crisis: the fact that corporations become enshrined in an ideology and market based system that teaches them to squelch competition and get rich at the expense of others, and shift blame to the consumers. Keefe highlights this last point while quoting a psychiatrist from the University of Washington saying, “Our product isn’t dangerous – its people who are dangerous.”  He explains how Purdue concluded that it was not the corporation’s fault that users of opioids overdosed or became addicted. Rather that onus rests with the consumers, Purdue argued.
Corporate desire to elevate themselves at any cost, even the lives of others, was present before the onset of neoliberalism, but has been exacerbated since. The rise of an ideology and policy framework that places blame on the individual while adding a dollar value to each of their lives has created large corporate monsters from tobacco, fossil fuel, and the opioid industry. Only a neoliberal system which produces actors built on competition, individualism, and monetization will create an outcome where corporations wield the power and the will to kill.
 Keith Wailoo, Pain: A Political History (John Hopkins University Press: John Hopkins, 2014),
 Robert N. Proctor, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll,” Tobacco Control, no. 21 (2012): 90, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050338.
 Patrick R. Keefe, “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain,” The New Yorker, October 30, 2017.
 Wailoo, Pain, 210.
Patrick R. Keefe, “Empire of Pain,” October 30, 2017.
 Robert N. Proctor, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link,” no. 21 (2012): 90.
 Keefe, “Empire of Pain,” 35.
Colorblindness is a complex aspect of contemporary structural racism today. In my piece on colorblindness, I argue race, specifically racism, is fundamentally intertwined with capitalism and that both work together to elevate the wealthy at the expense of the poor. You can read my piece below:
Sustainability and Green Radical movements are both worldviews that recognize the environmental issues facing us today and the fact that humans are at the center of this negative impact on nature. What is abundant in Dryzek’s study of the different worldviews is that their blueprint for protecting the environment, represents the central value structure of each discourse. For example, the sustainability world view positions the environment at the feet of humans, while the Green Radical worldview does not. Sustainability as a solution is committed to the western, capitalist principles of development at all costs, but wants to ‘sustain’ the environment by promoting a cause that can achieve it all. Green Radicalists see capitalism and its ideals of incessant consumption and production as a problem that can only be fixed by overthrowing the system itself. It becomes a question of whether we work with the system or destroy it to build our own.
The sustainability worldview is broken into sustainable development and ecological modernization. While both intentionally fit the neoliberal framework, focusing on progress and economic development, they are also attempting to change the systems of production so that we can ‘have it all’. Moreover, sustainable development revolves around the idea that we can still grow if we solve environmental issues in a multifaced approach, much like democracy, that promotes many values in a competitive and cooperative manner. The problem with this is twofold. We must first make sustainable resources desirable to corporate interests, by intitally making them economically more efficient and then finding a way to incorporate the oil and automobile industry in this transition seeing as they have an immense amount of political power. This effort was made clear by Obama where he presents the efficient models of clean energy and how they were used to reduce emissions throughout his presidency (Obama, 2017). Then, even if we can produce less, emit less, and become more sustainable, because of our consumer habits inherent in a capitalist styled economy, we will continue to harm the earth when consuming what developing countries are producing.
This multifaced attempt to promote sustainable economic growth through international and grassroots organization, while de-emphasizing national government is encouraging in that it decentralizes power, reducing the strength and validity behind realist political thought while promoting traditional liberal political theory. The fact that this discourse incorporates decentralization makes it better than ecological modernization by giving people more access and focused less on experts and elites setting up the so called sustainable economy. I believe this would be beneficial to many international issues of power facing us today by moving from a zero sum to a positive sum foreign policy. From an environmental perspective, however, sustainable development still submits to market capitalism and its relentless need for growth and therefore will not be successful.
Though this model of sustainable development promotes the notion of having it all, scientific evidence tells us this may not be possible. Scientific reports from the IPCC show that the threat of an environmental catastrophe is eminent. Continued growth means more emissions, meaning higher global temperatures, rising sea levels, increases in the number of natural disasters, huge displacements of refugees and economic ruin. Even if we were to turn to a sustainable economy, this would take time that we may not have. The transition to sustainable resources such as solar or wind would require continued reliance on emissions simply just for infrastructure development and implementation. To tackle the environmental problems facing the globe, an approach along the lines of green radicalism seems more prepared. Green radicalism is able to detach from capitalist imprisonment through a polycentric approach. While Green Radicalism as a worldview encompasses the discourse of Green Consciousness and Green Politics, together, they may be best fit to tackle the dilemma of protecting the environment while overthrowing and rebuilding the political and cultural structures that I believe are most fit for society.
Through the implementation of what Dryzek calls Eco-theology (though I will call it Eco-spirituality) and bioregionalism, a greater appreciation and connection can be made between humans and nature, molding our cultural identity to one that coincides with the environment rather than battling it. On a political front, green politics can transform institutions from the inside out, promoting a decentralized style of governance rather than government, while grassroots organizing can mobilize from the ground up through what may look like “radicalized democratic pragmatism”. (Dryzek, 229) This democratic mobilization can barrow from activist, grassroots agendas laid out by democratic pragmatists such as: alternative dispute resolution, policy dialogue, citizens’ juries, and town meetings. Furthermore, the implementation of worker cooperatives, where employees own and democratically make decisions about the company’s future would help to derail capitalism at its core through infusing corporate markets with more efficient, better run businesses for the people. These worker coops have proven to increase the happiness of workers, increase the efficiency by which they work, and increase the overall productivity of the business. This is simply because the people are given the power to take control of their destiny, because it is theirs and not a wealthy elitist CEO’s business. If you change the value structure in societal culture, then mobilize on the ground to support political action within these capitalist market economies that are headed by corporate interest, the liberal capitalist political economy can be uprooted and overthrown. From there, local initiative and community action could build a greener socialist alternative that incorporates the principles of self-governance.
In light of the recent election, it becomes abundantly clear that the election was not won by the current president-elect, but lost by the over qualified, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The reasons are many and have been the talking points for political scientists across the world. Before moving to the future of the Democratic party, it is important to address one claim made across many academic fields. That the polls were wrong. The polls operated well within the margin of error across the board, and the reason many were so surprised by the results were because of the NYT and Five Thirty Eight chance of winning predictions that were made leading up to the election. The NYT model had HRC at 85% while 538 had her around 75% chance of winning. These, however, do not show what polls do. They incorporate aspects like the current economy, approval rating of the standing president, and political experts imposing their opinion to create these predictions rather than numbers reflected by data.
In terms of the future, the Democratic party is facing an uphill battle if it plans on sticking to its establishment mindset that was successful in recent decades. Bernie said it throughout the primaries, and still to this day, that it is imperative we shift the focus of the Democratic party away from its elitist foundation. The future of politics revolves around this notion of income inequality. Whichever party is able to solve it will be the dominant party for decades to come. It will now be the job of the Democratic party to harness these votes by severing the ties to corporate wealth, wall street, billionaire interests and devoting it to Economic Populism in order to represent the masses while eroding the divisive qualities that have driven a wedge between numerous minority groups. In Sander's words, it is time for the Democratic party to represent the working class. This is not only in the best interest of the people who make up the 99% but also the interest of the Democratic party. With progressives such as Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, and Robert Reich, we can move the party left. That being said, none of this will happen without the continued energy of protest and resistance to politics that are tied to money, blinded by corporate media, and divide the peoples that are in a common struggle. Progressives across the board: LGBTQ, Environmentalists, Racial Minorities, and Women must all take on each other's issues to strengthen and mend the division within the progressive left as Amol Mehra pointed out in Progressives, Unite. Lets use the Democratic party as our vehicle for justice across the board because we are inherently equal and if anyone deserves any right then we all deserve every one of our rights. Economic populism will be the uniting political shift that allows diverse groups to pull in the same direction and fight for one another.
In reading a piece in the Council of Foreign Relations and from the Boston Globe on terror today, one thing stuck out to me, the idea of mundane terrorism. This type of terrorism defined in the article as mundane is the home-grown inspired type of terror. This makes it more difficult for law enforcement to detect and prevent. When assessing mundane terrorism, it is important to understand that terrorist cells are most often social groups that attract societies social outcasts. So when looking at home-grown inspired terrorism and how to prevent it, i think we can see our immigration plans directly affecting terrorists cells around the world. In other words, the closer we are to countries in the middle east that occupy many of the terrorist groups, the closer we will be to their political leaders and their way of life. This will directly correlate to our ability to understand and prevent mundane terrorism growing in countries in the middle east. The solution then resides in creating a more interconnected and diplomatically effective world for the US to be apart of. One expedient way to create better diplomatic, political and social ties with countries is through creating a progressive immigration plan where we take more refugees and allow an easier path to citizenship.
A recent article in the Economy section of The New York Times took a look at the case for larger and smaller governments. In his argument, which is well drawn out and explains both sides, the author debunks the typical conservative argument and talks about the difference between the consumption tax and the income tax. The tax system in the US is an income tax where a certain percentage of each persons income is given to the government in order to pay for public things we all benefit form. The consumption tax is based off of what consumers buy. The consumption tax is there for applied to what a person buys, so the more you consume, the more you are taxed.
Both systems can be progressive or regressive depending on how they are set up, however, the consumption tax was inherently a conservative idea. It was originally conservative because in its rudimentary form it targets the poor and the rich equally. For example, if you put a consumption tax on all cars, then you are taking the same from low-income individuals as you would from high-income individuals. Therefore a policy is made progressive when it is FAIR. That is, taking more from the wealthy because they have more. My proposal is the implementation of a progressive consumption tax alongside our curernt income tax.
A progressive consumption tax is tricky because it would not be beneficial to tax basic needs such as food, housing, or even clothes. In order to make the consumption tax progressive it would look to target accessories that are only consumed by the welathiest of individuals. For instance, you would not add consumption taxes to the entire automobile industry, but adding heavy consumption taxes to Ferraris. If you were to include this with our current income tax system we would begin to see more means for redistrubtion to low income individuals. We would begin to see a taxation system that is able to more proportionately target the 1% in ways that are not achieved through he current income tax system in the US.
The argument for much needed reform surrounding income inequality in the US, as well as the rest of the world, is stronger than ever. With 1% of people in the world having 35.6% of all of the private wealth, it is abundantly clear that there is a growing dilemma, and many people have proposed solutions. This is all well and good in telling us what we can do to curb inequality and what works best, but solely answering the questions of what and how, does not capture the entire picture.
Why should we be concerned with battling the rise of income inequality? Why becomes ones kryptonite in an argument for the disadvantaged in the world. This is because we are often only able to fall back on the moral argument. The argument that says that its just not right. That people don't deserve to live in poverty, that people deserve enough food on the table and a house over their head.
Unfortunately, in politics, the moral or ethical argument does not always carry the weight it should. Now one can complain about this, or one can find the answer to why. Why should the rich and the poor, the well off and the disadvantaged, strive for more income equality?
On the contrary to popular thought, more equal societies tend to generate better lives. Depression rates are higher among developed countries, such as the U.S. The developed world uproots the very reality from which we came. Society was founded off of community, off of a TRIBE. The Native Americans understood that together we are stronger than any one could ever be alone. The Native Americans grasped the true nature of what it means to be vulnerable, to depend on others, and the strength that living like this creates. The developed world has created a bourgeoisie where white picket fences part the very ground we live on, isolating us from our neighbors, our community. The rich and the well off do not need other people because there is nothing too much for them to handle. In other words, when everything is laid in front of you, no collective community effort is needed to deal with adversity. The developed world does not need a tribe. In the end, this alienates them from the rest of society and raises depression rates, creates a dysfunctional society, and social exclusion. Do you think it is a coincidence that the increased gap in income inequality positively correlates to the rise in terrorist activity, and possibly the most powerful terrorist cell we have yet to see in ISIS? This increase in terrorist participation is because society continues to socially exclude people from society. Or how about the fact that cop killings look like the ones from Compton that were first televised? Cops used to patrol and protect their neighbor hoods. Now the destroy and ravage our communities. What about the inflamed racism in the U.S, deemed as backlash against the Obama administration? The division in this country due to the growing disparity in income inequality is destroying and dividing our social beings and the social structures we understand as community and society. This growing gap is negatively affecting everyone rich and poor, because it is eroding our TRIBE.
Addressing income inequality then becomes about mental health and social adhesion to create a better, happier and safer place to live in. It is not just morally right, but beneficial to everyone. The rich, the poor and everyone in between.
Hillary Clinton. A women, a mother, a wife, a politician, a fighter. So many qualities define a women who has been in the trenches fighting for equality, making grass root change from before she met Bill and is now running for president to continue her movement. Her diligent, incremental, pragmatic effects on the world, on this country haven't gone unnoticed. In fact, the Republican's incessant attacks on her only show the envy and fear have for her, women that can create so much change. Her efforts have been blindsided by what is becoming quite the uphill battle with all the attacks she is facing. So this piece is to defend her. To defend a women who's progressive acts are undeniable.
It all begins with Benghazi. We can start out here by explaining that Republican house majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has come out and said that the republican party directly created a committee to take down Hillary by inflating Benghazi rumors and creating ongoing investigations. What began as original discontent with Obama as president and the republican's belief that he is soft when it comes to foreign policy has lead to an attack on Clinton that has been and will continue to be proven wrong.
Next, the email scandal was derived from the Benghazi attacks to pull Hillary down in the media. It is important to understand that John Kerry is actually the first Secretary of State to NOT have a private email used for political matters. So why expose all of Hillary's emails? Because they want to take her down. By they I mean the republican party and the elites that the Bernie or Bust groups seem to think she is cuddled up tight with. Yes Hillary was not as careful as she should have been, yes she has put herself in a situation where she can be attacked, but by no means is she corrupt.
Lastly, the DNC wikileaks were not her fault. She already saw to it that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was released from the convention and that she would step down heading the DNC, and there is nothing showing her looking for help in the nomination process or abusing the system.
Hillary has an unprecedented track record, standing up for children by: being a Staff attorney for Children's Defense Fund, Co-founding Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and led a task force that reformed Arkansas's education system.
She improved healthcare in here years by: being Instrumental in the passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses, Successfully sought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the National Institutes of Health, and Worked to investigate reports of an illness that affected veterans of the Gulf War (now recognized as Gulf War Syndrome)
Furthermore, she built a political resume: Served on five Senate committees:
-Committee on Budget (2001–2002)
-Committee on Armed Services (2003–2009)
-Committee on Environment and Public Works (2001–2009)
-Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (2001–2009)
-Special Committee on Aging.
It is clear that Hillary has been a grass roots activists. So it comes down to the resume behind a lifetime dedicated towards bettering the world, and the task forces generated by the republican party to halt her efforts. What will you choose?
Make sure you take part in the poll below!
In a text message on Friday afternoon, Hillary announced Tim Kaine as VP for the White House. Looks like those who voted in the latest poles were wrong!
1. What should we look for in a VP pick?
2. What does this VP pick reflect in Hillary and her Campaign?
3. What will happen next with Warren and Sanders?
1. Vice Presidents are often inconsequential when it comes to having an actual impact. It wasn't until Joe Biden that the VP actually had much of an impact on the president and his decision making. Typically, VPs are used for the votes they would generates in swing states or in other ways. So, in assessing a VP choice we should assess where they are from, their race, and their views. Overall determining what these contribute to the nominee.
2. This is a safe VP pick for Hillary Clinton. In other words, Tim Kaine reflects Clintons desire for a solid running mate with extensive experience in both domestic and foreign affairs, as well as a successful political career after serving as mayor and governor of Virginia, which most importantly, is a key state in coming election that will help Clinton's chances. On paper, Kaine is great! However, he doesn't generate any specific buzz, exciting progressive democrats or bring in more minority votes like picking Tom Perez or Julian Castro might. That being said, this is a smart and calculated move by Hillary for two reasons: She wants to add security and trust to her ticket (something that has hurt her along the road to the white house), and she wants to use the powerful capabilities of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in other ways.
3. Sanders and Warren's political drive, popularity, and progressive intentions will be better served in other ways. Warren will remain in the Senate so that she can work up to the Senate committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs where she has more control over legislation being passed, while Sanders will be appointed secretary of labor.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or to the right and make sure to vote in the most recent poll on the VP pick.