Thursday, February 04, 2016

A little known fact about Ted Cruz - he was central to stealing the 2000 election for George Bush

I came across yet another interesting meme and it looks like this:


Until the day that I found this meme, I had read all of the statements in it somewhere before, except for the very last one. Huh? Cruz was the lawyer who helped to steal the election for George Bush? I remember seeing pictures of Bush in a motorcade on the way to the White House. I remember seeing the street lined with people who were not celebrating this new president. They were protesting. Estimates put that crowd to be somewhere around 10,000 people.

So, I didn't know that Ted Cruz went that far back in American history, and this fact is not widely publicized or mentioned in the current round of debates. Heck, in all the reading I've done so far on this election until now, no one has even mentioned this one interesting fact. I wanted to know more.

So I did a search and found this article on the same subject from the website of one of the oldest publications in the United States, The Nation. Note the publication date: July 28, 2015. The article is great and well worth the read. But what is really interesting is the network that Cruz was a part of that did the job. From the article:
Ted Cruz, a 29-year-old domestic-policy adviser on the Bush campaign at the time and a former law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, put together Bush’s legal team. One of his first calls was to John Roberts, whom Cruz knew from the close-knit network of former Rehnquist clerks, nicknamed the Cabal.
Rehnquist was a conservative judge nominated by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and was confirmed by the Senate before taking his seat on the bench in 1972. Note that Ted Cruz was part of a "Cabal" of former Rehnquist clerks that included John Roberts, now Chief Justice at the Supreme Court. Cruz was also central to the team that fought and fought hard to eliminate recounts and to close the polls on time. This despite the many long lines that people faced in that election to vote.

That same article recounts the events leading up to the determination that Bush had won the election. Thousands of people in Florida were disenfranchised from voting through administrative rulings and errors. Jeb Bush was governor at the time, took no responsibility for what happened and was more than happy to help his brother, but he would sure like to be president now. The number of people disenfranchised was far higher than the margin of error in the recounts that were actually done for the 2000 election. Most of them were African-American and it was estimated that 90% of them would have voted for Al Gore.

Further, the article documents a strenuous effort on the part of the Republican Party to avoid recounts, to limit the number of voters and even to keep the polls closed. If a poll managed to stay open even for an hour longer than normal, some Republicans became enraged. Republicans know that they tend to prevail when voter turnouts are lower. Every dirty trick they could think of was employed to reduce voter turnout since then. They call it, "preventing voter fraud".

Trump looks bad, but Cruz is like going from the pan to the fire. If the election is close, Cruz has helped to ensure that no Democrat will prevail if the battle goes to the Supreme Court. This is why it is so important to win, and win by a wide enough margin that there is no doubt as to the winner. This is why we need a candidate who will motivate the millenials, now the largest demographic of voters. At the moment, that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

We need to employ greater scrutiny to Ted Cruz's participation in the outcome of that fateful election in 2000, long before he has a chance to be nominated. More people need to know that one of the frontrunners of the GOP in this election gave us the Bush presidency that we are paying so dearly for now. Let it be known that Cruz is a measure of just how hard the GOP is willing to fight to win the White House. Let it also be known that the GOP would prefer that most people will go shopping before they ever set foot in a voting booth. Cruz epitomizes this mindset.

All of this begs the question, though. If Republicans are sure that they're policies align so well with the will of the people, why not encourage voting rather than discourage it?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The crybabies and quitters of this presidential election probably won't get you what you want

So Trump is unhappy about the way the media has been treating him in the wake of the Iowa Caucus. Sitting out one of the debates probably didn't help his cause. He says that they didn't give him any credit for financing his own campaign. He says that he'll keep running, but that he doesn't think it's worth it. Crocodile tears, I say.

Trump lost to Senator Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucus. Even Teddyboy is concerned about how the press is treating him. More pressing is a mounting resolve to have him disqualified since he was born in Canada. Mitch McConnell won't even consider a bill that would declare Cruz fit to run for president, something he was nice enough to do for John McCain. Sorry, It just doesn't work that way.

Then there is Marco Rubio. Rubio has complained in the past that he hates the Senate and he's been missing many votes. You know, like a quitter would. Some are even calling for his resignation if he won't do his job. If this guy hates the Senate, he's got no clue about being president.

Unfortunately, this last example isn't even a Republican. She's a Democrat and she's openly admitted that she believes that we'll never, ever have a single payer plan or a public option, or as Bernie Sanders put it, "Medicare for All".

She's turning tail on decades of work to make that dream a reality. Perhaps nearly $13 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry have made it crystal clear to her. It's just a little bit galling that someone with the vision to grow a family foundation that is capable of gathering $3 billion in funding over 40 years can have the audacity to say, "No, we can't". That person is Hilary Clinton.

These are the leaders of the Republican and Democratic campaigns for president. All of them have something to complain about and are showing signs that they're wavering. Or perhaps that they've bitten off more than they can chew. Maybe the only thing in it for them is personal gain.

All of them have a common theme among them. They're noticing without lack of irritation, that change is really, really hard. It's hard enough for one person to change years of behavior buried in years of mental justification for that behavior. It's much harder for a nation to notice the acute pain it is in and to respond with a determined willingness to change. Just summoning the will to change can be nerve wracking. Add to all that the people at the top who say it can't be done and it won't. Taking action and following through is what counts.

All of them are great examples of what could best be described as complacency. They are all expressing a bit of frustration with the incessant demands for change from the people they claim to want to serve. They are all upper class, well fed, flying first class or on private jets, vacations are something they can do on a whim and they're running for president. What a jarring experience it must be to actually have to work for change.

There is an interesting human behavior called target fixation. It's like this. You're riding a bike on the bike path on a sunny day in Newport Beach, California. Something or someone catches your eye, and without thinking, your hands point the bike in that direction at 15 miles per hour. You have a collision with someone and take a tumble into the soft sand on the beach. How fortunate.

This is what happens when we focus on the negative. When we focus on what we don't want, we tend to get it. Words like "don't", "can't" and "won't" fail to register in the brain. We don't want to act like that and we do it anyway. We are faced with options and can name everything we don't want. But we wind up getting what we don't want.

The alternative is to ask for what we want, without dilution, without attenuation, with unambiguous clarity. If we truly want change, that change must be rooted in a peaceful political revolution. There is only one candidate for president that talks of such a change. That candidate is Bernie Sanders. Far from complaining about how hard it is, or any hint of quitting, or even "No, we can't", Bernie is all over change. And he's been on it for more than 30 years. Same message, just a new day.

If we want that change, we must ask for it and do so in no uncertain terms. I'm doing my part. I will be at the caucus in Utah for the first time. I will be at the primary election. I will be there, in November, voting for who I think is the best candidate for the changes we need to see in in this country. I want Bernie Sanders for president.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Bernie goes from zip to 49% in Iowa in a year with help from the millenials

The Iowa Caucus is done and although Clinton did win, she won by a razor thin margin of 0.4% of the vote. The Iowa Caucus is the primary election for that state and operates very differently from the primary elections that are held in most other states.

Statistical analysis of the Iowa Caucus shows that it has about a 43% success rate of predicting who will win the Democratic nomination. That's not a great success rate, but the Iowa Caucus is one of the first elections this year, so it gets most of the media attention in every presidential primary race.

Bernie Sanders is calling it a victory and rightly so. Even if he lost the vote, it was by a thin margin and the votes he did win came from a hard-fought campaign starting with very little money and very little name recognition. He was the underdog going against a well known politician financed by billionaires and large corporations in addition to the ordinary people who made contributions to her campaign.

Common Dreams has noted that Sanders was polling 6% to 68% a year ago. Back then his prospects were thin and few people believed that he was a viable candidate. The most recent Quinnipiac University Poll showed Sanders ahead of Clinton 49% to 46%.

Notably, Clinton is not doing so well with the generational divide. According to The Hill, Sanders enjoys an overwhelming lead of support among people under 45, 60% versus 31% for Clinton. This would suggest by getting out the vote with younger voters, Sanders could reach the tipping point for the nomination. This entire election could turn on the millenials, people born between 1980 and 2000. Closer scrutiny of the numbers suggest that the core of his support across America is from the younger crowd.

This is what happened in 2008, too. Younger voters came out in droves to secure a victory for Barack Obama. We may very well be on track for a repeat performance by younger voters. Judging by the numbers in New Hampshire, I would think so.

Monday, February 01, 2016

How a Rolling Stone journalist and a Senator from Vermont are exposing the corruption in high finance

One of my favorite writers of late is Matt Taibbi. I admire him for his writing style, his ability to take complex financial crimes, like what we saw in the meltdown of 2008, and make them understandable. I also like the fact that he's been covering financial crimes and corruption for years and rely upon him as a source of information on the subject. He's written about the lack of prosecutions in the aftermath of the meltdown of 2008, the LIBOR scandal, and the endemic securities fraud on the part of the bankers that led up to the meltdown.

So it is a pleasant surprise to learn that Matt Taibbi has been working with Bernie Sanders to take on Wall Street. In 2013, they held and recorded a workshop together on the subject in Vermont. You can find that video here on YouTube. It is great to see two champions of economic justice working together, as journalist and Senator.

This isn't a recent connection. Matt didn't just see the rise of Bernie Sanders and start to support him and his work. Matt Taibbi has known Bernie Sanders for more than ten years. They have been collaborating together to better help the public understand the systemic economic corruption in this country and I have to say, they're doing a great job of it.

Last year, after Bernie Sanders made his announcement to run for president, Taibbi began writing articles at Rolling Stone to make the case for Sanders as president. Here's a good example from November of 2015. His praise of Sanders is authentic as someone who knows him and has worked with him.

Bernie has been working on the problem of financial corruption for longer than most people know. In this video from 2000, Bernie Sanders is questioning the Chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, Alan Greenspan. I was surprised to to learn that he was using the term, "Too Big To Fail" even then, before it came into popular use by 2008. Even then, he could see the potential for catastrophic collapse of the economy due to the concentration of power in the largest banks.

The beginning of corruption in this country starts with big money in politics. The big money is a way for the wealthy to buy protection from the government. Protection from who? The rest of us. In that workshop in Vermont, they pointed out that where Bush hired from Goldman Sachs, Obama hired from Citigroup. They clearly showed that while there were differences between the two major parties, they were essentially the same when it came to banking. Both parties benefit from the political contributions made by the biggest banks.

Sanders is the only candidate that I know of that speaks often and regularly about big money in politics. He has eschewed SuperPACs preferring instead, to finance his campaign from small contributions - millions of them - to build a grassroots campaign for president. Which means that if he's not spending a third of his time trying to get big money like the other guys, he must be busy doing something else. Like writing legislation to save the middle class.

Sanders and Taibbi have also pointed out that the first Bush president put hundreds of people in jail for the savings and loan scandal of the 80s. That was a much smaller event than the meltdown of 2008. Yet, there was only one prosecution for the crimes that led up to the collapse of the biggest banks in 2008. Sanders is in favor of the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to limit the size of the banks and regulate shadow banking. He wants to break up the big banks to reduce their influence on the economy. Clinton? Not so much. The Republicans? They aren't even on the map.

When I look at the candidates running for president, none of them are quite as candid as Sanders is about the state of the economy, the corruption in it and what to do about it. Knowing that Matt Taibbi and Sanders are working together further confirms in my mind that Sanders not only understands the economy better than the other candidates, but that he is willing to speak his mind about it, in no uncertain terms. That is what I expect in a president.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What is usurpation? Ask the lawyers behind the TPP

If there was any enthusiasm in Congress for the Trans Pacific Partnership last year, we're not seeing it this year. The Washington Post reported in December that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already made it clear that we're not likely to see a vote on it before the next president takes office. Apparently, many Senators are concerned about possible backlash from passage of one of the largest trade deals ever considered. It's interesting that not only do they seek to avoid voting on it just before the primaries. They want to push it back beyond the next election to next year.

From the same report we find that Obama has identified the TPP as central to his economic agenda. I find this ironic considering that most economists agree that there is little economic benefit to the deal. The consensus estimate is that the TPP, despite is enormous volume and breadth, will contribute about 0.13 percent of GDP per yer by 2025, once fully implemented. This is less than a rounding error. Such a small increase could easily be washed out by the noise in the economic data. I find it hard to believe that such a tiny bump could be central to any economic agenda, liberal, conservative or bipartisan.

In this article, Naked Capitalism seems to have identified the essence of the appeal of the TPP, despite rancorous and fierce opposition from conservatives and liberals alike. After reading the article at Naked Capitalism, I believe that best phrase to describe the appeal of the deal to the elites is "corporate usurpation". That is to say, the TPP will play a central role in putting corporations above the governments that serve the people in terms of hierarchy.

There is something else that they noticed over there at Naked Capitalism. The Investor State Dispute System (ISDS) provides an opportunity for businesses to challenge governments that enact laws or regulations that could threaten their future profits. We already have this in the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is a rather interesting miracle that the US has never had to pay any business anything under the ISDS provisions under NAFTA.

But as the folks at Naked Capitalism have noticed, corporations can challenge governments under the treaty, but governments cannot challenge corporations. Furthermore, the "just-us" system provided in the ISDS system under TPP has led some people to describe the TPP as NAFTA on steroids. ISDS complaints under TPP will be ruled by a panel of judges that are just lawyers. Public Citizen has shared the following observations on the ISDS provision of the TPP:
The tribunals are staffed by private lawyers who are not accountable to any electorate, system of legal precedent or meaningful conflict of interest rules. Their rulings cannot be appealed on the merits. Many ISDS lawyers rotate between roles – serving both as “judges” and suing governments for corporations, creating an inherent conflict of interest.
As if binding arbitration isn't enough in America, lawyers would like to create a cozy little bubble with boatloads of compensation and very little accountability in the TPP. Say, didn't I mention that the reason we got started with this ISDS stuff was because American industrialists wanted to exploit natural resources in other countries without fear of national appropriation? What kind of countries would they be? I thought ISDS was only for Banana Republics.

The TPP is just another Trojan horse for the usurpation of the power of the people. No one that I have read or followed has ever come up with a really good reason for the treaty (if you know of someone that has one, do tell). Even the White House is still harping on how many jobs it will create when the evidence is scant. They have said very little about the changes to intellectual property laws, how the internet will operate or the impact on labor laws around the world. So far the big deal for them is creating jobs.

But the people know that something is up, and it looks like corporate usurpation.

Friday, January 29, 2016

In defense of idealism

While I see people being critical of Bernie Sanders, I don't see them offering real alternatives. Worse, I don't see them offering improvements. For example, if you hear or read of people calling Sanders' Medicare for All plan, "pie in the sky" or "impossible", remember that those same people are quick to criticize rather than to offer helpful suggestions. No one ever said this would be easy. And Sanders is the first to say that he can't do it alone, that he will need help from all of us who support him and his vision for America.

On Vox, there is an article charging that Bernie's health care plan would cost twice as much as he claims it would. Kenneth Thorpe, the man who did the study, was happy to help Clinton and Obama in the past, but not so much with Sanders. Further reflection on the scene shows that while people are demanding details from Sanders, they're giving the other candidates a pass. Perhaps there is a very real concern that Sanders just might win.

If it's true that Sanders' health care plan would cost twice as much as claimed, it's important to ask why. There is at least one economist, Dean Baker, who is willing to point out why that is. Health care now takes 17% of GDP, a cost that is almost as big as the administration of the federal government alone. We pay twice as much as every other industrialized country and still have outcomes that are no better.

Only an industry almost completely bereft of any real domestic or international competition could accomplish that feat. Baker further points out that even if we don't get what we want, the kind of pressure Sanders would apply could force the health care industry to get real about insane drug and device prices, patent monopolies and their big money in politics. Sanders might even go so far as to point out that the American healthcare industry is very well protected from international competition. Just like Dean Baker has done.

So Sanders' plans are being dismissed as mamby-pamby pie in the sky dreams. He's an idealist. We get that. When John F. Kennedy proposed that America put a man on the moon by the end of the decade in a speech before Congress on May 25, 1961, was he considered an idealist? You bet. Did anyone dismiss him? Probably. Pie in the sky? Sure. But we got there and we put a flag on the moon.

When Franklin Roosevelt proposed The New Deal, did anyone think it was not possible? Sure. Did it get done? Yep. Idealist? To the hilt. How about the Women's Suffrage movement? Idealist, yet women still got the vote. The abolition of slavery? Goddamn right it was idealist. Our nation survived a brutal civil war to abolish slavery.

When the men and women of this country declared independence from the British Crown in 1776, was that idealist? Oh, yes. Few even thought it would be possible, but the men and women who believed in the ideal persevered and won out. And it wasn't just a political climate that people were worried about. They were worried about foreign boots on the ground. Yet somehow, they still prevailed.

A healthcare industry with no visible outside competition, that takes away 17% of GDP and uses a large portion of that money to influence Congress for laws that protect it is engaged in slavery of the American people. If we do not expose our health care industry to international competition, we can expect any health care plan for reform to be expensive. If we do not replace device and drug patents with upfront funding of medical research, we can expect to pay more for the drugs, devices and services we need. If we do not take big money out of politics, any change is going to be difficult and expensive.

Has anyone noticed that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the debates to make an explicit connection to the current political climate in Congress and the corrupting influence of big money in politics? That's something to consider while Clinton (just like every other Republican except Trump) goes to $1000 a plate fundraisers. Meanwhile, Sanders speaks at free events seeking only small donations while drawing tens of thousands of supporters to attend.

Considering their means of support, it would seem that Sanders is the only candidate who would prefer to run on the merits of the ideas he proposes rather than the money behind them. That's what idealism is all about.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just loves GMOs

It is fascinating to read just how much Bill Gates is getting involved in the world food business. He's not doing it through personal investments, though. He's doing it through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ostensibly, a non-profit. While it is probably true that his heart is in the right place to want to feed the world, numerous non-governmental agencies have already discredited the idea of feeding the world with GMO anything.

It is important to understand how Bill Gates operates. I watched how he operated as chairman and CEO of Microsoft. I watched through the 90s and the 2000s, how he worked to build up and extend the private monopoly that is Microsoft. I watch him and his partner, Steve Ballmer, as they did everything in their power to remove their personal enemy, Linux, from the market. It is fortunate that they failed to do that.

Through contracts, patents and copyrights, Bill Gates made it nearly impossible to buy a computer that didn't have Windows on it. He made sure that manufacturers like Dell and Hewlett-Packard paid a Windows tax on every computer sold, even if it didn't have Windows on it. Even now, it's very difficult for an ordinary consumer to walk into a brick and mortar store and buy a computer without anything on it. Shouldn't we be able to buy hardware without having to pay for Windows or Mac on it if we want it? Only the most discerning and well read consumers know where to go to get a clean box. Even then, we have to pay more for it.

Microsoft, at the behest of Gates, also attempted to use their patents to threaten Linux, a free operating system. They publicly asserted more than 200 patents against Linux, but failed to gain any credibility from the public with their wild claims. They even went on a "Be Very Afraid Tour" to cow developers into avoiding Linux development. It is fortunate then, that despite all of their efforts, Linux has bloomed into a dominant worldwide computing utility free for anyone to use, anywhere, for any purpose.

Let's turn now to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and their investments in Monsanto and Cargill. Both of those companies are all about monopoly power. Monsanto is more familiar to me. I know them for their seed patents and their Round-Up Ready soy and corn. I know them for their dominant market share in the seed market. I know them for their lawsuits when they sue farmers for using patented seeds without a license.

Our second president, Thomas Jefferson, would never stand for that. Jefferson was a farmer at heart and knew well the power of the seed. He also understood the freedom that comes with growing generation after generation of seeds. Monsanto and others like them, seek to end this freedom with their patents, for they want nothing but monopoly power.

So it seems fitting for Bill Gates to see something shiny and nice in Monsanto. But they will never really feed the world with their GM products. As long as there is money in their sights, their goals have more to do with extending monopoly power and growing the bottom line. This despite the fact that even the UN says that small scale organic farming is what will feed the world. This despite all the harm wrought on the environment due to Monsanto's flagship product, Round-Up with the active ingredient, glyphosphate. This despite the fact that people just want to see a label on their food to know if it is genetically modified. This despite the fact that one third of the food we already produce is wasted.

Mankind is not even remotely smart enough to anticipate all the problems associated with genetically modified crops. We've been growing organic food for thousands of years and there is no reason to stop now. We could just stick with and build upon what we already know about organic farming and teach that to the world. Then the world will feed itself. Without patented seeds.