Mad October 2015

Tidskriftsomslag: Mad, #535, oktober 2015.

Grizelda Grizlingham

Bild: Teckning – från The Spectator – av Grizelda Grizlingham

IMAGE Inom Labour är Tony Blair numera näst intill hatad. Det är lite märkligt med tanke på att han är partiets mest framgångsrika premiärminister.

William Hague and Tony Blair

Han står idag i bjärt kontrast till sina efterföljare på partiledarposten. Vare sig Gordon Brown eller Ed Miliband lyckades leva upp till förväntningarna.

William Hague, tidigare partiledare (1997-2001) för Conservative Party, förklarar i The Telegraph hur det var att ha honom som huvudmotståndare och vad det var som gjorde Blair så framgångsrik.

Det är svårt att se den nyvalde partiledaren Jeremy Corbyn kommer att ta någon notis om Hagues lärdomar.

In late 1997, having rather rashly taken on the job of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I discussed with the new prime minister, Tony Blair, which of us had the most difficult job. “You have,” he said, without a moment’s doubt.

Blair was right. And that job was doubly more difficult because it was one pitched every day against him, the most formidable electoral opponent the Conservative Party has faced in its entire history. Before him, Labour had only twice since its foundation won a decisive majority; with him it did so three times in a row.

Although he is despised in Labour’s current leadership election, Blair was a Tory leader’s worst nightmare: appealing to the swing voter and reassuring to the Right-leaning, it was hard to find a square on the political chessboard on which he did not already sit. When people told me I did well at Prime Minister’s Questions, I knew I had to, since I had very little else going for me at all – I had to raise the morale of Conservatives each Wednesday to get them through the frustration and impotence of every other day of the week.

Blair courted business leaders and Right-wing newspapers, often to great effect. He was a Labour leader who loved being thought to be a secret Tory, a pro-European who was fanatical in support for the United States, a big spender who kept income taxes down, an Anglican who let it be known he wanted to be a Catholic and regularly read the Koran. He could be tough or soft or determined or flexible as necessary and shed tears if needed, seemingly at will. To the political law that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time he added Blair’s law – that you can make a very serious attempt at it.

This was the human election-winning machine against which some of us dashed ourselves, making the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a promising manoeuvre by comparison. Yet now, only eight years after he left the scene he dominated, his party’s election is conducted with scorn for the most successful leader they ever had.

Bild: Utrikesminister William Hague och Tony Blair 2010.  Foto från The Office of Tony Blair

VÄGVAL | Många utanför Labour förvånades över att en person som Jeremy Corbyn kunde väljas till partiledare i Stobritanniens näst största parti.

The Economist September 19th-25th 2015

Personer som inte ville att de traditionella partierna skulle ge exempelvis UKIP politisk legitimitet genom debattera med dem är ofta samma personer som nu tyckte det var bra att Labour nominerade en av de mest vänstervridna politiker partiet upplevt under sin historia.

”Det är alltid bra om olika åsikter får komma till uttryck.” Så hette det när flera av partiets parlamentariker nominerade Corbyn så att han kunde delta i partiledarvalet. Få trodde att han hade en chans att vinna.

Frågan många nu ställer sig är om det är bra att så lättvindigt släppa fram extremister i den politiska debatten. På The Economist är man tveksam.

Så här skriver tidskriften i en av sina ledare:

A 66-year-old socialist, Mr Corbyn has spent 32 years as one of the hardest of hardline left-wingers in the House of Commons and a serial rebel on the Labour backbenches. On September 12th he flattened three moderate rivals (see article) to become leader of Britain’s main opposition party. Labour MPs are stunned—and perhaps none more so than Mr Corbyn himself.

Two views are emerging of Labour’s new leader. The more sympathetic is that, whatever you think of his ideology, Mr Corbyn will at least enrich Britain by injecting fresh ideas into a stale debate. […] The other is that Mr Corbyn does not matter because he is unelectable and he cannot last. His significance will be to usher in a second successive Conservative government in the election of 2020—and perhaps a third in 2025.


To see where Mr Corbyn’s heart lies, you have only to look at the company he has kept. He admires the late Hugo Chávez for his legacy in Venezuela. No matter that chavismo has wrecked the economy and hollowed out democracy. He indulges Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian kleptocracy in Russia and blames NATO for provoking its invasion of Ukraine. He entertains Hamas, which has repeatedly used violence against Israel and admires Syriza, the radical left party that has governed Greece with almost unmatched incompetence. Yet he is stridently anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-NATO and quietly anti-European Union (apparently, it’s a free-market conspiracy—see article). He even scolded China’s Communist Party for its free-market excesses.

To argue that Mr Corbyn’s ideas will improve the quality of political discourse in Britain just because they are different is about as wise as Mr Corbyn’s refusal this week to sing the national anthem at a service to commemorate the Battle of Britain. Policies this flawed will crowd out debate, not enrich it.

Tidskriftsomslag: The Economist den 19-25 september 2015.

Cartoon The Spectator

Bild: The Spectator. Teckning av Nick Newman.

VAL 2016 | Koch Industries är USA:s näst största privata företag. Endast Cargill lär vara större.

Mother Jones July-August 2015

Parallellt med detta familjeföretag har bröderna Charles Koch och David Koch byggt upp ett politiskt imperium som bl.a. består av stiftelser, tankesmedjor och lobbyorganisationer.

En av de viktigaste, och mest inflytelserikaste av dessa organisationer är Americans for Prosperity. Organisationen förväntas spendera många miljoner kronor under kommande presidentvalskampanj.

De två andra bröderna, Bill och Fredrick, har dock aldrig delat sina bröders politiska intresse.

Däremot har striden om vem som skall leda företaget ibland tagit sig direkt groteska proportioner. Kochs mångåriga familjefejd får i emellanåt Lars Noréns pjäser att framstå som direkt harmoniska i jämförelse.

I Daniel Schulmans bok Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, beskriver författaren hur Charles och Davids politiska intressen blev ett slagträ i kampen om företaget.

Här nedan följer ett utdrag som publicerades i Mother Jones i augusti förra året.

Bill’s criticisms—intemperate as they could sometimes be—were not merely rooted in sibling rivalry. He and other shareholders had developed some legitimate worries about the company’s direction. Koch Industries had run afoul of agencies ranging from the Department of Energy to the Internal Revenue Service, and it even faced a criminal indictment for conspiring to rig a federal lottery for oil and gas leases.

Bill had also grown troubled by the increasing amounts of company money Charles diverted to his ”libertarian revolution causes”—causes Bill considered loony. ”No shareholders had any influence over how the company was being run, and large contributions and corporate assets were being used to further the political philosophy of one man,” Bill said later.

Charles’ philosophy had been deeply influenced by their father, whose experiences helping to modernize the USSR’s oil industry in the early 1930s turned him into a rabid anti-communist who saw signs of Soviet subversion everywhere. A staunch conservative and Barry Goldwater backer, Fred was among the John Birch Society’s national leaders; Charles joined in due time, and by the ’60s was among a group of influential Birchers who grew enamored with a colorful anti-government guru named Robert LeFevre, creator of a libertarian mecca called the Freedom School in Colorado’s Rampart mountain range. From here, Charles fell in with the fledgling libertarian movement, a volatile stew of anarchists, devotees of the ”Austrian school” of economics, and other radical thinkers who could agree on little besides an abiding disdain for government.

By late 1979, as tensions with Bill were escalating, Charles had become the libertarian movement’s primary sugar daddy. He had cofounded the Cato Institute as an incubator for libertarian ideas, bankrolled the magazine Libertarian Review, and backed the movement’s youth outreach arm, Students for a Libertarian Society. He had also convinced David to run as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate in the 1980 election (Bill had declined). David was able to pour unlimited funds into his own campaign, circumventing federal restrictions on political contributions.

Their father had loathed publicity, scrupulously guarding the family’s privacy. But, to Bill’s dismay, Charles and David’s activism was beginning to draw attention to the company and the family. Worse, at the very moment that the Energy Department was investigating Koch Industries for violating price controls on oil, David and his Libertarian Party running mate, Ed Clark, were on the campaign trail openly antagonizing the agency by calling for its eradication.


Just as Charles and David had elevated their father’s midsize Midwestern oil company into an international behemoth, they have carried the family’s political torch into the 21st century in a way that Fred Koch would find hard to comprehend. Fred’s John Birch Society, where Charles began his political education, has been relegated to the fringe. But as Charles and David’s influence reached new heights during the Obama era, so too did the strain of thinking popular among Fred and his allies, who saw socialism (and its evil twin, communism) lurking behind government’s every move.

After mounting an unprecedented political effort in 2012, and earning little more than a reputation as rapacious villains for their trouble, the brothers and their allies have regrouped for another battle. The advocacy group they founded, Americans for Prosperity, is expected to dump $125 million into the upcoming midterm elections—and the Kochs are gearing up for an even bigger and more expensive bout in 2016. Like their father, it’s not in their DNA to back down from what they believe is a just fight. Decades have gone by, and peace has still never come to Kansas.

Tidskriftsomslag: Mother Jones, augusti 2014.

VAL 2016 |  Bernie Sanders bygger en presidentvalskampanj från ingenting. Och det verkar lyckas. Han har börjat knappa in på Hillary Clinton.

Magazine Cover Time September 28 2015 - Bernie Sanders

I en tid när utmanare med budskap som utmanar konventionerna i respektive partier – Donlad Trump hos republikanerna och Sanders hos demokraterna – är det som entusiasmerar väljarna kan det vara en fördel att  strunta i vad politiska rådgivare brukar viska i örat på presidentkandidater.

“Let the other candidates worry about the horse race; Bernie Sanders is worried about forever. It is the opposite of everything we’ve come to expect from the political process–and this year, being an opposite is the secret to success”, skriver Sam Frizell i Time.

Frågan är bara om det kommer att hålla hela vägen även om han, mot förmodan, skulle lyckas besegra Clinton.

Dåligt organiserade kampanjer har en tendens att förr eller senare göra bort sig.

Kampanjstrateger har också påpekat att Clinton är betydligt bättre på att locka färgade medan Sanders inte lockar väljare hos minoritetsgrupper i någon större utsträckning.

The Internet has killed the kingmakers. Freshness beats incumbency, while the perception of sincerity beats all. There is no room for focus groups in the elevator to the top of the polls; America wants its candidates straight up and packing a kick. This is how a squinty-eyed New Yorker goes from shooting his cuffs and hawking condos to the head of the GOP pack. It’s how Bernie Sanders can join the Democratic Party in April and by August be battling for first place in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Without a single TV ad–or a single congressional endorsement–Sanders has exposed the weakness of the party’s Clintonian establishment while at the same time spotlighting its hunger for an ideological savior. Polls now indicate that if the nominating contests were held tomorrow, Sanders would edge out Clinton in Iowa and beat her in New Hampshire by 10 points. Nationally, he has cut Clinton’s lead from an impregnable 46 points to a crumbling 21 points in just two months.

But even those metrics don’t convey the extent of the Sanders phenomenon. At Clinton events, campaign staffers section off floor space before her speeches to make her crowds look densely packed. Sanders needs no barriers. His audiences are authentically huge–28,000 in Oregon, 11,000 in Arizona, 7,500 in Maine. His volunteer army, meanwhile, though mostly self-organized online, numbers more than 182,000 people spread out from rural Alaska to the Florida Keys, people who have asked the campaign how to improvise events, knock on doors and spread the gospel from campus quad to living room to farmer’s market.


Sanders is all rallying cry. When the Wall Street Journal attempted to tally the cost of his agenda–trillions in new government spending on health care, 90% tax rates on the superwealthy, free public college, a Scandinavian-style safety net–his defenders criticized the effort.


“Carter, Clinton and Obama all ran against the party,” Simon Rosenberg, Democratic strategist and veteran of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, observed of the last three Democrats to reach the Oval Office. “We don’t do coronations. It’s not our thing.”


The challenge Sanders faces is to build a campaign that can harness this energy effectively. His paid staff is growing rapidly, from four to nearly 40 in New Hampshire in just a month’s time. In Iowa, Sanders is quickly catching up to Clinton, with 54 paid staff to her 78 organizers. He’s set his sights on hiring in the Super Tuesday states.

He has volunteers eager to be involved in 47 states from Alabama to Michigan, where the campaign has no staff and no offices. In a largely unproven experiment, two staffers at the Burlington, Vt., headquarters are using conference calls, Internet chats, organizing parties and digital seminars to train hundreds of Sanders enthusiasts–who in turn are supposed to train other volunteers in rippling circles of self-sufficiency.


“The whole notion of self-organizing is a pipe dream,” says Marshall Ganz, a Harvard-based adviser to both the Dean and Obama campaigns. “One of the great values of the Internet is it’s a way to share information, but it’s not a substitute for relational structure and accountability.”


Clinton’s aides say they prepared for a strong challenger and they’re not changing course. The insurgent has been unable to break through with African-American voters, who could prove decisive in the later primaries. “Sanders may be rocking her with white progressives,” says Joe Trippi, a veteran Democratic strategist. “His problem is whether he can break Clinton’s domination of minorities. It’s a huge hurdle if it can’t be solved.” Clinton is still far ahead in nationwide polls, leading Sanders by around 20 percentage points. And her minions have begun to attack, sending out fact sheets that draw comparisons between Sanders and former Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chávez. “That is the kind of politics that I’m trying to change,” Sanders says of team Clinton’s attack.

Tidskrifsomslag: Time den 28 september 2015. Omslaget är den amerikanska upplagans.


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