South Carolina’s Big Misunderstanding

I just saw a disturbing story on CBS News. They did a survey to find out which issues are most important to South Carolina’s voters. They listed four concerns, and they counted income inequality and the economy/jobs as two different issues. The economy and jobs was at the top of the list with 43%, and income inequality was at the bottom with 10%. (Healthcare was second with 23% and terrorism third with 20%.) According to this story, respondents defined a good economy as one where they can get good job for themselves and their neighbor, and they defined income inequality as a liberal issue having to do with whether one person earns the same salary as another. This is not at all what Sanders is talking about. Income inequality has everything to do with the economy and jobs.

When most of the wealth is at the top the economy doesn’t work. The wealthy have so much money they couldn’t spend it even if they wanted to, so they invest it, meaning that it doesn’t circulate. When corporations are so large that they account for the majority of the productivity and sales, they leave no room for local business and job creation. And when they are so powerful that they can move overseas to save costs, they no longer offer anything of value to the community. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal has been saying that the stock market likes the idea of breaking up big banks. Big banks are not good for the banking business and they are not good for communities.

The fact that the CBS survey separated economy/jobs from income inequality makes you wonder whether the voters made this mistake on their own, or they had help.  Hopefully it’s possible to clear this up before super Tuesday–and to find out if the other states have similar surveys in circulation.

Nevada’s Deep State

The mystery of the Nevada Democratic Caucus has been cleared up. ((Arun Gupta, A Corporate Democratic Party is Hostile Ground for Bernie Sanders. Telesur, Feb. 25, 2016. Available: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/A-Corporate-Democratic-Party-Is-Hostile-Ground-for-Sanders-20160224-0029.html)) Caucus votes were delivered to Hillary Clinton by the casino owners, the Democratic Party, and the Culinary Workers Union, which was supposed to be neutral.

Unionized Black and Hispanic workers at six major Las Vegas casinos backed Clinton with the help and encouragement of their union leaders, their bosses, and Harry Reid. The colluding casinos were Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, MGM, Rio, the Winn and New York-New York.

Harry Reid not only pushed CWU local 226 into helping with the effort, he also pressured casino owners to give their workers paid time off so they could caucus. And to make it really easy to vote for Clinton, the Democratic Party set up caucuses at the casinos and extended the noon starting deadline by an hour or more to assure a large casino turnout.

And it gets weirder. Members of the SEIU have been working for four years for a $15 an hour wage but during the caucuses many of them ended up telling lies for the $12-an-hour lady. The pro-Clinton Service Employees International Union passed out fliers portraying Clinton as a supporter of a $15-an-hour wage.

The media would like us to believe Nevada changed everything for the Democratic contenders, but as usual it’s just playing a part in the magic show. Hillary’s Nevada Victory was all smoke and mirrors.

Can Bernie Sanders Revive the U.S. Economy? and Other Questions

I think it’s time to talk about the relationship between the election and the conversation.  Elections are really more of an anti-conversation, but this one has become part of our conversation.  It’s necessary, but thankfully it’s a temporary part.  However, balancing the long view of the conversation with the immediate concerns of an election requires conscious effort.  The South Carolina Town Hall taught me something about how this might be done.

Bernie Sanders was given a loaded question.  He was asked if he held any principle that he wouldn’t be willing to violate in order to win the election.  His answer demonstrated that the question was based on a misunderstanding of the candidate.  Sanders said that the only thing that really scares him is the thought of disappointing the people who support him.

My response to Senator Sanders would be to say that the voters have a responsibility as well.  If they can’t recognize the importance of such an answer, our fate will be decided, especially considering the amount of misleading information out there.

I would say to the voters that if you chose not to caucus in Nevada or if you have decided not to vote in your own primary, maybe out of discouragement over the super-delegate situation, you’re making a mistake. There’s no room for cynicism in any election, least of all this one.  Sanders is the only winning candidate but it’s in the interests of those he’s fighting to make you think otherwise.  That’s why the odds are against him and against us.  But fighting against impossible odds for a good cause is never foolish. It’s heroic. Always has been, always will be.

Watch this video on Bloomberg Business. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-02-24/can-bernie-sanders-revive-the-u-s-economy

The Valiant David Brock

When David Brock criticizes Bernie for being too hard on Hillary it almost sounds like he wants to give her a handicap. He might be right—if not for Donald Trump Hillary Clinton would be out of the running by now—however Brock’s criticism of Sanders is nonsense and I think everyone knows it. About his claim that criticism will weaken Hillary in the general election, maybe we should just do away with the primary elections and carry her around on a pillow.

After Nevada

The reality is that the contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is no contest at all. Unfortunately, a sufficient number of people are still voting based on the unreality presented by the media. One solution is to try to reach those people, but how? The Internet is a great tool, but not everyone has the time or inclination to do extensive research. Consider the many Youtube videos by South Carolinian bloggers.  And the polls say Clinton is still leading in that state.

Don’t worry too much though. People aren’t giving up on Sanders after the Nevada Caucus. In spite of what the media tells you the delegate counts are just about even. It’s the superdelegates that have to be dealt with. ((Sam Frizell, Super PAC begins populist push to support Bernie Sanders, Time, February 21, 2016. Available: http://time.com/4231656/bernie-sanders-super-pac-superdelegate-progressive-kick/)) If you want to know their names you can find them at http://superdelegatedemocracy.com/#  In Arizona, Raúl Grijalva is alone in supporting Sanders.  Those supporting Clinton are: Ruben Gallego; Luis Heredia; Ann Kirkpatrick; Kyrsten Sinema; and Carolyn Warner.  You can sign the petition here demanding that the superdelegates do what’s right: ((<link href=‘https://actionnetwork.org/css/style-embed.css’)) And if you haven’t done so already, you could volunteer in the Sanders campaign’s state of the art organization. Volunteering has never been so easy. If you’re interested, please go to berniesanders.com.

But in spite of everything people are doing the political process will be an uphill battle. For that reason, we also need to make sure that President Obama cooperates with the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s emails and the more recent investigation of the Clinton Foundation. At the beginning of the campaign, Senator Sanders took the approach of waiting for the FBI to complete its investigation into her email account. Unfortunately the FBI can’t convene a grand jury without Obama’s cooperation. ((Charles Lipson, Hillary Clinton’s Coming Legal Crisis. Real Clear Politics, January 13, 2015. Available: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/01/13/hillary_clintons_coming_legal_crisis_129293.html)) ((Boston Herald staff, Editorial: the Clinton Family Values, The Boston Herald, Feb. 15, 2016. Available: http://www.bostonherald.com/opinion/editorials/2016/02/editorial_the_clinton_family_values)) ((Report: US State Department subpoenaed documents from Clinton Foundation, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 12, 2016. Available: http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Report-US-State-Department-subpoenaed-documents-from-Clinton-Foundation-444684))

The fact that the seriousness of these investigations hasn’t been made public is exactly what makes them so dangerous. By all measures Bernie Sanders has a better chance of beating the Republican candidates in the general election, while Clinton’s reckless past and brazen calculation that she can get away with it represents a potential general election disaster for the Democratic Party.  Now that’s scary.  It seems Donald Trump has re-tweeted support from supremacist groups: ((http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/21/politics/donald-trump-predicts-hillary-clinton-highest-turnout/index.html))

Religion and Politics

When someone asked Pope Francis if a good Catholic could vote for a man who wants to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, he answered that a person who wants to build walls rather than bridges is not a Christian. Trump was outraged at this statement. However he claims he wasn’t mad at the pope. He was mad at the Mexicans for telling the pope lies about him.

Some might doubt my impartiality on this issue for the reason that I’m not only a supporter of Bernie Sanders, I’ve argued for the importance of dialogue with the pope. However this touches on an issue that I was having problems with before the presidential race began. I’ll list the main points in no particular order.

1. There is nothing more confusing to an observer than a secular system in which politicians are expected to prove themselves to religious voters.

2. Politicians insist the pope has no right to comment on their behavior in office, even Catholic politicians.

3. Religion has had an enormous influence in America’s secular system.

4. Politicians who claim to be religious also claim autonomy from religious authority.

5. It seems that politicians violate the principle of the separation of church and state when they use their religion to win votes.

6. The behavior that was said to be un-Christian was the plan to build a wall to keep out migrants. Trump defended this plan on grounds that the pope was unaware of its importance. However its importance hinges on the unproven assumption that migrants are dangerous and therefore not deserving of our help.

7. Even if we accept the claim that the pope has no authority in politics and that his role is limited to spiritual matters, wouldn’t the definition of Christian behavior fall within his purview?

The Southern Firewall

Remember after New Hampshire when the Clinton campaign was talking about its firewall in South Carolina? I assumed it was a reference to black voters. I was wrong. The Clinton ‘firewall’ in the South is part of the general Clinton milieu—a milieu that is becoming so all-pervasive that it deserves its own name. I propose to call it, the ‘too-clever-for-its-own-good-milieu’.

First characteristic of the Clinton milieu: a willingness to be loose with the truth.

The flap over that picture of Bernie Sanders doing civil rights work in the 60s is a good example. Last fall the question was raised about whether that really was Bernie Sanders in the picture. The Clinton campaign grabbed ahold of that doubt and held on to it like a life-preserver until the evidence ripped it to shreds. In the meantime they brought Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) forward to say how he’d never met Bernie Sanders in the 60s, and also how he did meet the Clintons. This in spite of the fact that no one has disputed Bernie Sanders’ involvement in civil rights during this time and no one has ever claimed that the Clintons were involved in civil rights work in the 60s. This ploy met its demise when the photographer who took that picture, Danny Lyon, came forward with additional pictures from the University of Chicago archives and was able to prove that it really was Sanders in the picture, ((Veterans For Bernie, 1016, New Pictures Emerge of Bernie Sanders’ Civil Rights Activism. Available: http://vetsforbernie.org/2016/02/yes-bernie-sanders-protested-for-civil-rights/)) after which John Lewis was forced to ‘clarify’ his previous comments.

Second characteristic of the Clinton milieu: strategic connections that if known would not be quite so useful, and therefore are kept hidden.

Lewis’s casting of doubt on Sanders occurred during the press conference where the Congressional Black Caucus PAC announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. What the press failed to explain was that the Congressional Black Caucus PAC (CBC PAC) is not the same thing as the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). This is why it was necessary for Rep. Ellison, a member of the CBC who supports Senator Sanders, to release a statement saying that the CBC had not endorsed Hillary Clinton. So what is the PAC exactly? Concerning this confusion, Amy Goodman quotes Lee Fang: in a Democracy Now video, ((Democracy Now, Who Endorsed Hillary Clinton, the Congressional Black Caucus or its PAC Filled With Lobbyists? Feb. 12, 2016. Available: http://www.democracynow.org/2016/2/12/who_endorsed_hillary_clinton_the_congressional))

“Members of the CBC PAC board include Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former [Rep. Albert] Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist who represents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the maker of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, who lobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.

“And a significant percentage of the $7,000 raised this cycle by the CBC PAC […] was donated by white lobbyists, including Vic Fazio, who represents Philip Morris and served for years as a lobbyist to Corrections Corporation of America, and David Adams, a former Clinton aide who now lobbies for Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America.”

Of course the CBC PAC’s chair, Rep. Gregory Meeks insists that this money does not affect any of the votes cast by the CBC members who are on the board of the PAC. Who doesn’t say that? Apparently we have a veritable miracle going on here—a whole political system in which large amounts of money have no corrupting influence at all.

But that’s not all. There is also the question of the South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman’s ties to the Clinton camp. Jaimie Harrison is a principle at the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by Tony and John Podesta—the same John Podesta who is chairman of Hillary Cllnton’s presidential campaign. Furthermore, he was already a principle at the Podesta Group when he became chairman of the South Caroline Democratic Party. It’s not surprising that his analysis of the presidential race favors Clinton.((Kelly Ridell, S.C. Democratic Chairman’s Ties to Hillary Clinton’s Camp Raise Fairness Questions, Washington Times, Feb. 11, 2016. Available: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/feb/11/jamie-harrison-south-carolina-democratic-party-cha/))

If the Washington Post is correct that Hillary still has a lead in South Carolina, and unless South Carolina’s voters are all part of the elite, I think the majority of them are going to have a bad case of buyer’s remorse come next year.

In Search of the Citizen

Today the Washington Post is counseling us about how we should speak of the dead. ((Steven Petrow, Now is not the time to Publicly Flog Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, The Washington Post, Feb. 15, 2016. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/now-is-not-the-time-to-publicly-flog-supreme-court-justice-antonin-scalia/2016/02/15/2612b376-d3f1-11e5-be55-2cc3c1e4b76b_story.html)) Apparently, columnist Steven Petrow objects to the criticism of Justice Antonin Scalia that came out so soon after his death. His reason is revealing. He ends his plea by saying,

“Indeed, none of us are custodians of our legacies; in the end, it’s our own words and actions that will speak for us or against us. In the case of Scalia, his words and actions proved to be one and the same. History will be the judge of all that —and so will many individuals, once we’ve laid him to rest.”

That he can chock this up to a question of Scalia’s legacy tells me everything I need to know about him. In this light, it’s not surprising that he focused on the justice’s red-flag issues like same-sex marriage, LGBT equality, affirmative action and abortion, in other words partisan politics, while failing to mention Scalia’s biggest accomplishment—the whitewashing of corruption and the oh-so important midwifery services he performed at the birth of corruption’s bastard child, global oligarchy. Either Petrow doesn’t know the difference between partisan politics and treason or he fancies himself one of the elite and expects to benefit accordingly.

Here’s a news flash Steven Petrow—the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was a slap in the face of every citizen of the United States.  I personally see this presidential election as very possibly our last chance to escape the fate that the Court had in mind for us. I am never free of the anxiety that the oligarchs might win this election and complete the coup that it has begun.

Back when Citizen’s United was first decided it was an outrage. Now it’s unfortunately just one outrage of many. Month after month I get emails from people who are supposed to be rolling back this decision. They continue to ask me for more money even as I watch our leaders cow tow to the little twits in robes who did this to us. Apparently no one has considered the fact that the remaining justices will remain free to work their magic, constitutional amendment or no. What is your solution to this problem? To puff them up by stroking their dead partner in crime? Ha!

This is not about the dead, Steven Petrow! This is about the here and now. Here and now we are patiently pursuing the only course open to us—the election of a candidate who can make a difference. If we are not allowed to identify the problem we’re trying to address, we may as well not bother. So don’t presume to counsel me about respect. The proper focus of respect in a democratic society is the citizen, and that’s true even for a justice of the Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia, RIP, RIH

I think what’s needed here is a life-saving dose of reality, without which the glowing tributes (streams of rancid filth) dedicated to deceased Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia will surely carry us all away in a stinky flood. This is the man whose ethics the Los Angeles Times questioned back in 2004 ((David G. Savage and Richard A. Serrano, Scalia was Cheney Hunt Trip Guest; ethics concern grows. Los Angeles Times, Feb. 5, 2004. Available: http://articles.latimes.com/2004/feb/05/nation/na-ducks5)) when he was an official guest of Vice President Dick Cheney at secluded private hunting camp in California. It was a timely criticism on the part of the L.A. Times. Three weeks earlier the Supreme Court had decided to hear the case of Cheney’s bid to keep secret the details of his energy policy task force. Furthermore, the ranch was owned by an oil industry businessman.

As a result of this trip, experts in legal ethics questioned whether Scalia should have anything to do with this case. As New York University law professor Stephen Gillers put it, “It is not just a trip with a litigant. It’s a trip at the expense of the litigant. This is an easy case for stepping aside.”

If you want to split hairs, I suppose you could say ‘the litigant’ didn’t actually foot the bill. The taxpayer did. The Vice President and the the Supreme Court justice flew together from Washington on a small government jet that served as Air Force Two, and ‘were accompanied by a second, backup Air Force jet that carried staff and security aides to the vice president’. After landing in California, ‘two military Black Hawk helicopters were brought in and hovered nearby as Cheney and Scalia (and I presume the staff and security aides) were whisked away in a heavily guarded motorcade’ to the private hunting camp.

Cheney’s aides defended the Vice President’s right to travel to vacation spots on government jets and to take along guests at no cost. Well of course they did, however the rules governing the behavior of judges are not nearly so…accommodating. “Federal law says that ‘any Justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned’.”

When questioned about this trip Scalia said he didn’t see a problem. In a written response to the Times, he insisted that his impartiality could not reasonably be questioned and he refused to withdraw from the case.

If you find yourself thinking of Hillary Clinton and her amazing talent for maintaining her integrity in the face of large speaking fees and super PACs, you’re not alone, but it seems the Supreme Court was developing its corruption rationale long before HRC’s second presidential run.

And of course, the culmination of this effort is Citizen’s United. ((Zephyr Teachout, Antonin Scalia’s Bad Law, Bad History: How the Supreme Court Legalized Corruption. Salon, September 20, 2014. Available: http://www.salon.com/2014/09/20/antonin_scalias_bad_law_bad_history_how_the_supreme_court_legalized_corruption/))One of the many danger signs leading up to the Citizens United decision was the 1993 case of Sun Diamond Growers’ gifts to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. During the attempt to bring Espy to justice, the Supreme Court consistently held that the government had to prove that the gift was given for a particular official act. This made it nearly impossible to prove a violation of the gratuities act for any gift given before a official action. Although this case illustrated the need for clear rules, the Court concluded that a clear rule would lead to ‘absurdities’. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court, found it incomprehensible that the statute could criminalize ‘a complimentary lunch for the Secretary of Agriculture’ given by Sun Diamond, if he had matters before him that affected their work. Never mind that this particular repast was somewhat more than a free lunch—unless we’re talking about a lunch that cost $6,000.

“Scalia outright rejected the argument that the statute criminalized the ‘buying of favor or generalized goodwill from an official who either has been, is, or may at some unknown unspecified later time, be in a position to act favorably to the giver’s interests…

“He rejected the claim that it criminalized presents ‘motivated, at least in part, by the recipient’s capacity to exercise governmental power or influence in the donor’s favor.”

Read as political theory, this suggests that using money to influence power through gifts is both inevitable and not troubling. This was an obvious setup for the Court’s decision in Citizens United.

In the Citizens United ruling, a case which was already before the Court was broadened at the request of the justices from a decision about a movie critical of Hillary Clinton to a decision about the constitutional legitimacy of limits on corporate election spending. In other words, the Supreme Court launched a premeditated attack on our republic.

According this exert from “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United” as quoted in Salon, “This opinion comprehensively redefined corruption, and in so doing, redefined the rules governing political life in the United States.” Corruption now means only ‘quid pro quo corruption’ where there are ‘direct example of votes being exchanged for expenditures.

Here we can see more clearly the relevance of the arguments between Senator Sanders and Hillary Clinton about what is expected of a candidate or official who takes money from corporate entities. Her response has consistently been that corporate largess hasn’t changed any of her votes to which Sanders answers that these corporations don’t make donations for the fun of it. And in fact, Elizabeth Warren’s research has revealed that Hillary Clinton has changed votes after receiving gifts from her courtiers.((Glenn Kessler, Elizabeth Warren’s Critique of Hillary Clinton’s 2001 Bankruptcy Vote. The Washington Post, February 9, 2016. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/02/09/elizabeth-warrens-critique-of-hillary-clintons-2001-bankruptcy-vote/))

We should take comfort in knowing that Justice Antonin Scalia came to the same end as the poor and the downtrodden, his wealth and power notwithstanding. I’ll be damned if I’ll give him a hero’s farewell.

Justice Antonin Scalia is dead, may he rot in Hell.

This represents my own opinion.  I don’t speak for any of the candidates mentioned here or in any other post on this website. 

Sanders Was Right About North Korea

The most substantial criticism the Clinton campaign has been able to come up with against Bernie Sanders is his lack of foreign policy experience. However, it would seem that this criticism is no longer credible. During New Hampshire’s debate, Sanders stated his opinion that North Korea represents the greatest threat to U.S. national security. He said this although he knew official U.S. policy identified Russia and Iran as the greatest threat.

Reuters reported Monday that the North Koreans launched ‘an object’ into space.((Ju-Min Park and Louis Charbonneau, North Korean Rocket Puts Object Into Space, Angers neighbors, U.S.Reuters, Feb 8, 2016. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-satellite-idUSKCN0VG00H)) Wednesday the New York Times reported that North Korea’s nuclear effort is the United States’ top national security threat. ((Mark Landler, North Korea Nuclear Threat Cited by James Clapper, Intelligence Chief, New York Times, Feb 9, 2016. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/world/asia/north-korea-nuclear-effort-seen-as-a-top-threat-to-the-us.html?_r=1))