Visit Me In Estonia

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Disclaimer: The thoughts and views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Democrats for Progress or its members.

DDWhen I’m not searching for apartments in Estonia, a very high tech, all-wired small country of 1.3 million, many of whom speak English, my designated expatriate move (health care is universal; the cost of living and average income matches my social security check; Estonia embodies the old and new and abounds in natural beauty and historic buildings of old Europe), or when I am not looking at the great photo essays online in China Daily, or following the political tensions in Africa, the commodity prices in South America, or China’s progress in building out its ambitious trillion dollar, trans-Asian infra-structure project (connecting 60 countries in Europe and Asia, it includes new rails and port facilities–why does this behemoth project never arise in America’s discussions of trade, policy, and global advantage?), for the last ten years, I write comments daily for the New York Times online.

Apartment for rent, interior in Tallinn,, Estonia.

Apartment for rent, interior in Tallinn, Estonia.

Big deal. The Times receives comments from 60,000 readers every month; their half-life is 24 hours. But as is true for many American institutions, inside stories emerge. The open secret of the Times is that its subscribers are readers and thinkers, people with independent criteria that doesn’t include celebrity status. They love writing as a craft and love writing which is clear and honest. If you are good, you get read. Readers take notice.

The other secret of Times comment writing, perhaps the finest daily record of what the public thinks and how it views the issues of the day, is the comment stays on the site, next to the columns and stories. The small composition invites comparisons and even comments in response.

I mention this because I have decided the best way to challenge the frontal assaults of the social benefits our political economy has produced for working families is to focus on policy and put personality to the side. Yet some personal battles will be necessary; some reactionaries will need to be called out and exposed as frauds.

But mainly the next four years will be about a policy fight. Some days on the Times, my comments attract half a million (500,000) readers. (According to the algorithms for views.)  It’s a good place to start.

Below are edited versions of three of my Times comments this week. One takes on David Brooks, two take on Ross Douthat; conservatives who write Time’s columns. They are called out on policy flaws and misrepresentations.

(Answering David Brooks.) “You lie!” Your phrase, “between the alt-right and alt-left” is dishonest. It slips in a false equivalency of extremes between the right and left. The “alt-right” are white nationalists/supremacists, xenophobes and misogynists who seek to limit rights by color, national origin, and gender; they endorse violence and speak in threats to force compliance with constitutional violations.

The alt-right has a core belief in the inequality of people. They believe freedom is denied to whites when equality and opportunities of merit are enforced for all Americans. There is no “alt-left;” David, a term you invented to normalize a false equivalency. The left did not smash car windows, vandalize buildings, or write racial graffiti on private property after the election (all done by supporters of the candidate who won!). Expanding health coverage to single payer (already in use and working well!) cannot be compared to the demand that women abrogate the right to control their bodies!

I am disgusted by the loss of a moral compass and an honest sense of logic missing in your argument. Have you not the moral strength to make a conscience choice? Have you not the vision to see your argument undercuts its own credibility by its false comparisons? Have you not the strength to attack the present danger of America’s oldest social ills, inequality, racism, xenophobia, sexism (the systems—not their biases!). Have you not the ability to be honest and clear? Deflections like yours lead us nowhere!


(Answering Ross Douthat.) The real question the Right denies as it heckles Democrats and says “follow us” is are Democrats willing to become racists/xenophobes/misogynists, duplicating and adapting the President-elect’s winning strategy–now being revised as good sales craft, intuitive connections to workers–when the verbal, visual, and policy clues and cues of the campaign were the sturm and drang of an absolutism in which power would be given free rein by emotional appeals to violate the constitution and to put limits on freedom in the name of safety and law and order as justice and fairness is being denied to millions.

Will Democrats embrace the worst of America’s historic social ills–the new forms and strategies of racism and random government-sanctioned, expanding violence, the willingness to imprison women as Indiana did for abortions, the clutch of fear and spending public money for private benefit (the Carrier ransom), a reverse socialism for the wealthy and repression of the poor to which we are all expected to contribute and support without complaint.

The honest question before Democrats is when will Democrats stop relying on the John Podestas and run winning campaigns as seen in CA and NC, an indication of the party’s wide base, especially when the popular vote is viewed.

Disengaged from partisanship, will Democrats work to build state organizations that are effective in local elections, identify clear growth strategies, make all Americans feel safe despite appeals to fear and persistent scapegoating by the right, and become human shields to protect the historic benefits the political economy provides to the working class?

That answer better be yes!

Note to Ross: fighting racism, et al. is not a “cultural war.” It is the oldest fight within America’s political economy, embraced when its settlements were colonies. It poured forth to the West, entrenched in urban areas and created privilege and wealth through its restrictions and conscious applications in hiring, housing, education, and limits on by race, gender, heritage, and religion on opportunities by merit.

To call America’s oldest fight for freedom and inclusive prosperity a “cultural war” is disingenuous–the kind of shibboleth that Chief Justice Roger Taney (the Dred Scott decision writer who felt white supremacy was ordained by God and supported by law and history) would be proud: it skirts the main issue, denies its poison, and dwells in myth.

The fact is billionaires are now openly being put in charge of administering the government. None of them have a record of wins for the middle class–all of them are steeped in the privilege America grants to the white and powerful.

Objective merit is being replaced again. Daily, the President-elect is installing the subjective maladies of recycled American myths and privilege and anger that veils violence and hate. The only real result will be death and pain–and more money for the rich.