Trump’s not a fascist. Biden’s not a socialist. Do the exercise …

Professor Jason Stanley recently wrote an article, “America is now in fascism’s legal phase”, for The Guardian where he argues that rhetoric and policy are laying the legal platform for a fascist United States.  Professor Stanley argues that the conservative portion of the American political spectrum is securing pathways to minority rule.  Racism, for example, is a mechanism used by the Right for securing minority rule.  By racializing democracy and creating a bogeyman from a volatile race environment, the Right can then hold up a figure like Donald Trump as the man who can save you from this environment.

Describing Donald Trump with such labels is nothing new, especially by those with political left leanings or who simply loathe his personality.  I have seen on mainstream and social media references to Mr Trump as being a “fascist” or a “Nazi”.  “Dictator” and “nationalist” are a couple other terms that have floated to the media surface.

My question is, why do we focus on these political prisms i.e., nationalism, fascism, Nazism, etc., versus where the energy itself is moving?  Aren’t assertions of nationalism, fascism, socialism, Nazism, etc., used by political factions to divert political energy and behavior either away from the party making the assertions or toward a party’s opponents?

These prisms are used to shed negative light on political opponents in most cases with the high probability that the audience will not subject these prisms to a definition check, or worse, they will rely on another to provide the definitions.

Let’s take a look at some definitions and I will leave it up to you to determine how any politician, on the Left or on the Right, fits into these definitions.

Fascism– A form of government characterized by dictatorship, belligerent nationalism and racism, and militarism.  Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Racism-The practice of racial discrimination, segregation. Source: Webster’s New Dictionary.

Belligerent-at war, of war, warlike. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Government-An agency of the State.  A mechanism by which sovereign power expresses its will. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.

Dictatorship-One in whom supreme authority in any line is invested. One who rules autocratically, and who prescribes for others authoritatively, and offers oppressively. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.   

Autocracy-The name of an unlimited monarchical government.  A government at the will of one man (called an “autocrat”), unchecked by constitutional restrictions or limitations. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.    

Nationalism-Devotion to one’s nation. Patriotism. The advocacy of national independence. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Militarism-A policy of aggressive military preparedness. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Communism-A system of social organization. Any theory of social organization involving common ownership of agents of production of industry. A system by which the state controls the means of production and the distribution and consumption of industrial products. Source: Black’s Law Dictionary.

Socialism-A theory or system of ownership of the means of production and distribution by society rather than by individuals. Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Both the Right and the Left including their supportive media throw around these terms without defining them.  Your exercise, should you choose to accept it, is to identify specific, documented actions by Mr Trump that would put him in the fascist box.  Then, do the same thing for the current president, Joe Biden.

And I emphasize specific, documented action.  Not what Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity claims that Trump or Biden did, but the regulation or executive order issued that makes either one fascist, communist, nationalist, etc.

If you exercise the necessary rigor in answering the above questions, your next questions should be, “Why did I hold these beliefs?”  “How did my household benefit from holding these beliefs?”  “How do I avoid falling into the narrative trap again?”  

As for Professor Stanley’s assertion that America is in fascism’s legal phase, I would argue that it is not there yet.  Before a fascist legal phase is arrived at, the United States government will have to spin and transmit a clear narrative that a sole figure, a dictator, is necessary to solve America’s domestic and global problems.  Political support for a dictator will need to be rubber stamped by the national legislature and legislation published. This legislation would codify the new narrative; tell the story of how the fascist faction won the political day; and order executive and independent agencies to implement public policy supporting a new form of government.

Only then would American fascism be in a legal phase.

As long as the democratic institutions of an executive, national legislature, and federal court system exists, it will be hard to sell the majority of Americans that they are in fascism’s legal phase.  If this is the case, then Americans should ask Nancy Pelosi why she and her fellow Democrats are wasting time with a January 6th witch hunt versus amending the Constitution and passing legislation ordering all federal agencies to clean their houses of any remnants of Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler.

Alton Drew

3 July 2022

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The Framers eradicated democracy 246 years ago …

Mr Biden’s party has initiated a crucible, the January 6th hearings, putting the Republican Party, specifically Donald Trump and his cabal, on trial for attacking “democracy.”  It is an irony worth a brief digress.  Over the past twenty years, Democrats have taken issue with America’s “institutions of democracy.” 

Progressives took issue when the Electoral College gave George W. Bush a victory over Albert Gore in November 2000.  In 2016, the Electoral College handed Donald J. Trump a victory over Hillary Clinton.  Progressive Democrats have been calling for the dismantling of the Electoral College, referring to it as “archaic” and “anti-democratic” because it handed victories to candidates that did not earn the popular vote.

In 2020, Donald Trump challenged the results of the election and even asked his vice-president, Mike Pence, to decertify the electoral ballot count.  Mr Trump also went to court in a number of states to challenge and overturn election results.  A mob rush on the Capitol Building during the certification of Electoral College votes only buttressed the Democrats’ argument that Mr Trump was more interested in tyrannical rule than the protection of democracy.

The thing is, America is not a democracy.  One man, one vote was never the intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution.  The framers never meant for direct election by electorate-taxpayers of the chief executive. Symbolic, in-direct participation in the process, okay.  Direct participation, hell no, and smartly so.

Why do I say, “smartly so”?  Direct democracy is tyrannical. I find nothing attractive in masses of people having sway over my personal, household decisions because of “majority rule.”  Also, why deceive voters into believing that their individual vote matters when campaigns financed by a numerical minority of wealthy donors and campaigns run by an educated and disconnected political class.

And besides, the majority of electorate-taxpayers hardly read and know little to nothing of America’s political history.  Subject to media persuasion and unread on their political environment, I would rather immigrants newly minted as US citizens be the sole entrants in a voting booth.  At least they would have a fresh understanding of their adopted political system.  

No portion of the process for electing a president outside of the Electoral College is democratic.  The masses choose a slate of electors and that is the extent of their participation.  This is not ancient Greece.  If there is anything those white boys from 1776 were right about is that you don’t want a bunch of rambunctious, over emotional, pain and suffering types having direct participation in the process.

There was no attack on democracy because the election process for president does not allow for democracy.  Democracy does not exist.  If anyone attacked democracy it was the Constitution’s framers.  They denied the masses democracy 246 years ago.  

Alton Drew

13 June 2022    

A side note: Why the issue of colonial status in the United States Virgin Islands is a non-issue …

For years the Virgin Islands of the United States has struggled with the issue of whether it should remain an unincorporated territory, become a state, or go the route of an independent sovereign nation.  The territory is nowhere near self-governance, not even a recipient of all the constitutional rights guaranteed to citizens living on the mainland. 

Going its own way by shedding its colonial status requires a process that goes deeper than a constitutional convention or ballot referendum.  Besides the issue of creating a national identity that not only includes ancestral Virgin Islanders (those who can directly trace their ancestry to a grandparent born and living in the old Danish West Indies on 31 March 1917) and native Virgin Islanders like myself who were born in the territory but have no lineage to March 1917, there is the political economic issue that undergirds the definition of colony. 

Getting clarity on the definition is important because clarity will guide you to the primary stakeholders whose buttons have to be pushed.  In my opinion, the button-pushing has focused heavily on 80% of the USVI population of African descent who are being treated as second- or third-class citizens by the world’s best-known democracy, and for this painful reason the status of the USVI has to be resolved.  Status has become another civil rights issue on steroids.

Let’s look at “colony.”  According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a colony is a group of settlers in a distant land that is under the jurisdiction of their native land.  It is territory ruled over by a distant state with a community of the same nationality or pursuits.  As a territory, a colony is part of a country or empire that does not have full status.

What is missing from this definition is the economic aspect of colonization.  If you take the classic case of the original thirteen British colonies in North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, we had transplanted Brits that extracted natural resources and sent those resources to Great Britain for further processing and packaging where part of the finished product was sold back to the colonists.  This was the basic crux of the relationship.  We had landowners in North America trading with investors and manufacturers in Great Britain, trading on a platform of cheap land and free labor in the form of African slaves.

But when it was time to press for independence, the philosophy and narrative came from the landowners in the colonies.  The philosophy and narrative were created by a wealth class that stood to benefit from reallocating Great Britain’s monopoly on taxes from the monarch to American government.

Fast forward to the 21st century Caribbean.  I believe that if the USVI is going to move from its unincorporated status, that move will have to be initiated by the group that has the most to lose or gain economically from a change in status.  That group is not the 80% of the population that descended from African slaves.  The groups calling the shots on removing colonial status will be the owners of USVI tourism assets and financial institutions and the investors on the US mainland and in Europe. 

Should these groups see economic benefits and political influence stemming from a change in status being greater than the current political economy status, that is when the non-black wealth class will agitate for that change in status.

In the meantime, change in status is a non-issue for the majority of Virgin Islanders.  They have no control over the political economy and will settle for now with the current level of American citizenship.

Alton Drew

20 May 2022

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Filing public comments does not mean you are setting the narrative….

Twenty years ago, while serving on the staff of a local government consumer service regulatory agency, the director at the time called me into his office to discuss a consumer survey the agency was crafting.  He said to me, “Alton, we are putting together a survey that will have an impact on our future careers.  The consumers do not know what to think. We are going to make them think what we think.”

He shared with me a regulatory reality that through his words he was able to yank forward from my mental backburner.  I was shocked at the brazenness but in no way shocked by its truth.  As a consumer or a trader for that matter, if you expect to have any impact on the decision making of a policy maker, you will have to be more aggressive in your actions.  Voting or writing comments on a proposed rulemaking won’t get you very far in terms of impact.

As a communications tool, public comments serve as a barometer or temperature gauge for an elected official.  They may at best incorporate into the announcements that accompany their rulings some of the energy they glean from public comments, but a policy maker’s decision on a rule has already been made before your shouting is heard. 

Regulatory agencies are mostly reactionary and a significant portion of the rules they make are in reaction to an event or to the needs of the industry they regulate.  Industry takes a 24/7 interest in the actions of government and participate in active narrative making through direct lobbying and comments in the media.  They leverage these tools and advantages every day.

But even industry’s influence has its limits.  Industry exists to do the bidding of government.  The government grants industry charters and licenses to serve a public convenience and necessity.  We tend to think “public convenience and necessity” as meaning doing beautiful things for society.  This is not necessarily the case.

Providing services that make society look and feel better are tactics that support government’s primary goal: the validation of its existence and expansion. This is the box that industry is in and its attempts to influence government via lobbying are merely ways of giving itself a little more elbow room. 

In the end, industry works for government, carrying out government’s philosophy, narrative, policies, and laws.

Allowing public comments is merely a tactic that nurtures the façade of democracy.  By allowing the public to file comments, government provides a release valve for the public through which to vent.  It is a small upfront price to head off the potential loss of political power. 

In my years serving on the staffs of two regulatory agencies and as a board member of another, I can say that public comments never swayed any recommendations or decisions that I made.  If you want to sway a decision maker’s thinking, you will have to learn the political pressure points and lobby to the decision maker’s interests.  

Alton Drew

9 May 2022

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The trader should remember that democracy is a temporary portal. Political power is permanent …

Democracy is a tool that administrations and legislatures use to distract and amuse the mass citizenry.  The illusion of freedom generated by a right to choose political leaders has worked in keeping the barbarians from knocking down the gates over the past 246 years in America as demonstrated by political power passing peacefully from one administration to the next.  Stability in the transition of political power helps the United States stand out among most other nations.

But when democracy starts seeping into market discussions, we can end up with market disruptions.  Democracy means too many voices in the kitchen opining on how the cake batter should be mixed.  The paper wealth created over the last fifty years combined with progressive left politics has the mass electorate believing that they should take lead in managing the economy, at least via their rhetoric.  And they hope their rhetoric can influence elected officials and policy makers to craft policy that favors political spheres versus economic and financial spheres.

I say “political spheres” because democracy is a schizophrenic notion.  The supposed “big tent” means a variety of demands that tug administrations and legislatures in different directions on social and political issues. 

Whereas 250 years ago the English monarchy had the reins of the political economy concentrated in his hands, today “political” has been separated from “economic” and relative stability is found more in the economic and financial sphere.  No matter the goods and services traded, profit is the prevailing, bottom-line standard.

In their pursuit of votes, the schizophrenic political class attacks the low hanging fruit of economic and financial profit, describing profit as the problem that only legislation and regulation can address.  The factions within the schizophrenic political class then vie for the vote asserting that only their faction can best address the evils of profit.

Democracy is disruptive to trade in the above way. To counter the schizophrenia, the trading class has to execute political power.  The shenanigans of democracy have to be quelled by a faction within the political class who acknowledge the dangers of overactive democracy.

The trading class should finance the political action committees (note, political action committees not democracy action committees) that can identify and finance candidates that understand the dilemma democracy introduces into markets.

Democracy is a marketing campaign and marketing campaigns change.  Political power is permanent.

Alton Drew

27 April 2022

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Decentralized finance: Is it time to return to the Articles of Confederation?

A decentralized payment system and the money that runs on top of it requires a public administration that is more people-based than the system of public administration Americans have today. 

Since 2007, Americans have been witnessing an exponential shift in the structure of the political economy where large private and public corporations (government) have been experimenting with ways to streamline employee functions while loading more operational and quasi-management functions unto individual employees.

Meanwhile, these corporations, particularly large corporations, have become bigger and executive power increasingly centralized.  In the larger political economy, we have seen centralization in the banking system not only with the advent and growth in importance of the Federal Reserve System but also in the Executive Office of the President where over the past 245 years the power of decision has moved from the common person to the Congress to the executive branch.

I believe there is a battle of two major narratives occurring over the issue of how best to manage society; to manage human beings.  The first narrative, as espoused by increased centralization, is that society is best managed through two major funnels, corporations and large government.  In a democratic-corporate system, resources are extracted, managed, processed, and delivered by private corporations chartered by government pursuant to an agreement that private corporations will encourage taxable, transactional activity and in return keep profits as income.

Private corporations maintain their oligopoly by persuading government that this form is the most efficient at managing resources while contributing to maintaining the peace.  By employing labor and selling to labor the very fruits of their work i.e., goods and services, the corporate model sells the aspirational narrative of moving ahead and creating a stable quality of life in return for your allegiance to the corporation in the form of hard work.

The second narrative is that humans are best managed when they manage themselves.  While the democratic-corporate model conjures up “The Truman Show”, the voluntarist-self sufficiency model argues that people do much better when they manage their own resources and capital and enter into relationships or strategic partnerships on a volunteer basis, particular when such relationships serve their self-interests.

Whereas in a democratic-corporate system humans are connected by and transact in a government-central bank authorized and issued money, distinct monies are issued by the individual in a voluntarist-self sufficiency model where the demand and supply for such distinct, individual money is determined by a market that recognizes the unique knowledge and data held by the individual or the individual household issuing the money.

The democratic-corporate model is a coerced federation model while the voluntarist-self sufficiency model is a confederation model.  It is a model made up of allies and one that operates better in a decentralized financial system where the emphasis, again, is based on individual value.

As I allude to in the title, an appropriate public administration structure for a voluntarist-self sufficient society may be one governed by an articles of confederation.  If you read the Articles of Confederation agreed to by the Congress in November 1777, you see a document where the majority of government power laid in the hands of a limited congress that left in the hands of a very limited executive the day-to-day administration of interstate infrastructure.  States were independent sovereigns and allies in the interstate administration of commerce and trade.  The independence of the states was stressed throughout the Articles.

Can we, as individuals, enter into our own “articles of confederation” with each other?

Can we re-visit this model and do some work to bring it up to speed with a society that, while digitally connected, at the same time enjoys a technology that allows each individual to generate their own value and thus issue an individual money that reflects that energy?

Alton Drew

6 April 2022

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A quick thought: Quieted by a 50-50 Senate split …

“A 50-50 split in the Senate with a reduced Democratic majority in the House not only puts the GOP back into their familiar position as “obstructionist”, but gives Biden-Harris some cover to not present as progressive an agenda as the Far Left would like to see. Centrist and center-right senators like Angus King, Susan Collins, Rand Paul, and Joe Manchin will take more of the spotlight.

Mitch McConnell will still play the “parliamentarian” role, using Senate rules to delay floor debates, filibuster, or, if he is lucky, table certain items.

The last thing Kamala Harris will want, as president of the Senate, is the optics of having to do a yay or nay on any progressive legislation. She’d rather Collins, Paul, and Company head off any controversial bills before they hit the floor for a vote. She can’t afford to enter the 2024 presidential race inaccurately labeled a progressive.

Commodity, currency, and energy traders may get over their initial nervousness about the volatility a liberal Congress may introduce when they realize that the “adults” are finally in charge … 

What does the narrative of fair trade with China mean?

This morning I watched the Fox Business Network‘s Mornings with Maria.  They have been featuring news clips of an interview that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had with host Maria Bartiromo where he criticizes China’s trade policy toward the United States and warns Americans of the Chinese intent to steal American intellectual property and Americans’ personal information.  The United States has been making it clear for years that it is unhappy with what it describes as an imbalance in trade between the two nations.

China has a potentially large consumer market, its emergence stymied in part to its current status as a creditor nation where it finances other nations, including the United States versus living off of the dead aid provided by western nations as part of their policy of noblesse oblige toward emerging, lesser developed countries.  In addition, given its growing economic power, it is easily in a position to influence economic affairs in southeast Asia.  As a provider of inexpensive telecommunications equipment it has been able to enter Europe’s telecommunications market providing competition for American made telecommunications products.

But at the heart of the American narrative may be the fear that the Anglo-American world view or philosophy is being challenged by an alternative Chinese view that, if not held under control, will replace the Anglo view thus making the current American narrative on political economy i.e. the greatness of the republican form of government combined with a free market, less attractive for leadership in other nations to use the American model for governing their domestic and foreign trade affairs.

Pompeo and other American leaders have been using the media to signal to Americans that China’s actions are a threat to the American economy thus a threat to the American way of life.  I can see the broad strokes.  For example, if China continues to lock the US out of additional trading opportunities in China and can price the US out of European and other Asian technology and manufacturing markets, America’s wealth and trade influence would shrink and the US would be forced to become more self-reliant.  America, facing a challenged supply chain, would see shortages and increasing prices for goods and services thus the threat to the American way of life.

Pompeo also describes China’s activity as a threat to American democracy.  That threat I don’t buy into and I see it more as a jingoistic ploy than anything else.  Democracy refers to a citizen’s ability to participate in the process whereby political leaders are selected.  Pompeo has yet to state his case in a cogent manner.  He has insinuated that China has deployed an influence campaign targeting voters and elected officials alike but has provided no specifics.

In addition, the terms fairness and balance are continuously uttered, likely part of the jingoism campaign, as Americans tend to conflate fairness and balance with democracy.  A fair and balanced trade relationship between two countries has nothing to do with how the leaders in each respective country are chosen.  Americans should be asking themselves and their leaders why connecting these points creates such a sound political narrative that US electorate would have no other choice but to support any legal initiatives or actions that promote escalated tensions.

And the legal actions and initiatives are being turned up.  The Justice Department recently told PBS News that 60% of its trade cases are against China and that its actions against China are more in line with stopping illegal activity versus expressing an intellectual bias.

I see law as the codification of an originating philosophy transmitted via a narrative and  refined by politics and policy.  What is missing here is the jurisprudence.  For the citizen to properly understand the government’s legal actions against China trade policy, the focus has to come off of messages that conflate democracy, fairness, and balance, and look for the philosophy that is being promoted.  Conflation promoted by government officials should open up the citizens’ minds to questions about the mismatch between the politics, the policy, and the messaging.

Getting to the why is critical.