Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The apparent death of neoliberalism, a democratic socialist and the dumbest idea in the world

I had the good fortune to get some reading in today and I'd like to share with you what I found. First, I would like to treat you to this article in Forbes, about "the dumbest idea in the world". Steve Denning has written a very good analysis of how we got here, to this place of unbelievably bad inequality (video). To Denning, it comes down to stockholder share value:
What is this strange idea? In the 1970s, the largest enterprises—the publicly owned corporations—began adopting a notion that even Jack Welch has called “the dumbest idea in the world.” In an effort to offset declining performance and profits due to increased competition, these companies embraced the notion that the very purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value as reflected in the current stock price. The focus of these firms turned inward towards singlemindedly extracting value for the company’s shareholders, ahead of delivering value to customers. Executives were compensated in stock so that they would focus on the goal of increasing the stock price.
Denning's article points out that in the late 1970s, there was a divergence between productivity and wages. For some reason, wages stopped rising with productivity. Denning believes that this focus on share prices of corporations trading in securities markets around the world, but particularly in America, has been the "smoking gun" that is killing the middle class. Enterprise had started to forget their mission to create customers, not bankrupt them.

I find his article interesting for a number of reasons. The article details very nicely and accurately what has happened in the last century of the American economy. His article brings together a nice collection of facts and figures, as well as changes in how American businesses worked, as well. Better, much of what he says corresponds well with the writings of an economist who happened to see the collapse of the housing bubble far in advance of the economic crisis that arose from it.

That economist is Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic Policy Research. In his book, "The End of Loser Liberalism" (free PDF download), he traces out essentially the same history as Denning. However, where they really differ is on motivation. While Denning pins the blame squarely the misguided desire to elevate stock value above all else, Baker pins the blame on the simple struggle between labor and capital. The takeaway from Baker's book is that the rules have been rewritten to favor capital over labor at the expense of the economy in general.

Baker and and Denning are in good company with another economist, Thomas Piketty. In his book, Capital in the 21st Century, Piketty shows that over long periods of time, capital tends to outperform labor. In this context, we can see that the struggle between capital and labor is easily won by capital, particularly without adequate restraint. While Baker notes in his book the central elements of the struggle and what can be done to strike a balance between the two, Piketty simply says for at least the last 200 years, capital has won that struggle.

And now, as we see the the aftermath of a serious decline in the fortunes of the middle class, we are coming to a point where the wealthiest people in the world can no longer be supported at the current rate of wealth transfer from poor to rich. It is simply unsustainable. The economy grows when the money in that economy circulates among the greatest number of people, not the other way around.

At this juncture, we see Bernie Sanders welcomed with open arms by a middle class weary of the deceits put upon them by neoliberal politicians like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and every Republican president that has held the White House since Kennedy. At least Eisenhower could see what was coming and fought hard for the middle class. We've been sold on the idea that if we let rich people have more of the money they take from our labor, that we'd see a better standard of living.

But that's not what happened, and you can say all the nice things you want about Ronald Reagan, but he didn't just get the ball rolling, he sent it plunging down the north slope of Mount Everest and skied down the other side. Maybe he had good intentions, maybe not. I say for him and many others like him, "Sincere delusion is the cloak of avarice." Sincerely deluded people believe in lies, and they use those delusions, a sort of denial, as justification for their avarice.

Denning, Baker and Piketty all recognize that this system of economics only works if you're already at the top. They all recognize that a change is necessary. But they also recognize that an enormous amount of effort will be required to make the changes needed to make capitalism work for all of us. Capitalism used to work for all of us, once. Anybody older than 60 knows this. Anybody younger than 60 has never seen it really work for everyone.

Bernie Sanders is 74 years old. He can remember an economy that worked for everyone. He came along at the right time to set the stage for the change we need. Not only has he energized a massive voting block capable of putting him in the White House (under the right conditions), he has motivated 12,000 people (at last count) to consider running for office.

Jordon Chariton at MSNBC correctly notes that what Sanders has started (and he is just getting started) is far bigger than getting into the White House, and I believe he's right. I think that the White House, as a goal, is ancillary to the thrust of the Sanders campaign. Even if he loses the Democratic nomination, millions of people will be watching and listening where he points to and who he talks about. He will have greater power whether he wins or loses. If he wins, he's in the White House and he will not just "take what we can get" from the Republicans like Bill and Hillary Clinton did in the 1990s. He will honestly fight to implement a progressive legislative agenda from the White House, or not.

Even if he remains in the Senate, he can focus millions of eyes and the brains behind them, to hold Clinton accountable at every attempt to go "moderate" (a nice name for neoliberal). He can spend a long, long time still in the Senate. Strom Thurmond lived to be 100 while a Senator. Sanders could probably match that.

Sanders will be at the convention. He will get a prime time speaking slot. He will have an impact on the platform, like it or not. He may run as an independent, Green Party or Democrat. Who knows? He wrote yet another great article imploring the Democrats to wake up. He plays a long game, so I think the following meme will give us a fair indication of what to expect in the coming years:

Bernie or Bust.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

We're here because the Democratic elites believe we have nowhere else to go

Hardly a day goes by that I fail to read an article about some galling thing done by the elite Democratic Party bosses. Voter suppression, flipping registration, cutting polling places, taking money for voter purges and changing the rules at the convention in Nevada without a legitimate vote. I could go on and on, but it should be noted that these are desperate times for a party give no voice to the truly liberal among us.

Then I find myself corresponding with someone else about the perceived arrogance of the Democratic Party. I said, "The Impunity Party" might be a better name for them.

Then we saw how Bernie Sanders submitted more than 40 names for standing committee appointments. DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz appointed three of them. She also appointed two men who were vehemently opposed to Bernie Sanders. She appointed them to plum positions as chairmen to two important committees, just to twist the knife.

This long string of abuses can only be performed by a political party that believes it can act with impunity. Clearly there is no long term thinking in their actions. We know now after the primaries, that Bernie Sanders gathered at least 12 million votes. We also know that a growing fraction of them will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. At last count it was something close to 45% of those voters who now refuse to vote for Hillary. I am one of them. I will not vote for the candidate of impunity.

Notice how Hillary's attempts to reach out to Sanders supporters is very likely to fail. Why? "He brings a lot of passion, but hasn't gotten me to move on any policies." Sanders carries the vote with young people by wide margins because they know that she's really a neoliberal, someone who calls herself a liberal, but acts more like a Republican. Don't believe me?

Check out this article at Common Dreams. Here we see the true narrative of the Democratic Party. Once the defender of the working class, defender of the New Deal, the Democratic Party has become addicted to big money in politics. Once hooked on that big money, ideology and any sense of fairness seems to have left the Democratic Party. But this year, this election, its all about making history, it's all about electing the first woman president of the United States. Character doesn't matter as long as Hillary Clinton is immortalized as the first American woman president. Listening to their campaign, it would seem that sexism isn't cool, but if you support Hillary Clinton, that's OK.

Neoliberalism gave us the crime bill of 1994. It gave us the Telecommunications Act of 1996. it gave us the repeal of Glass-Steagall. It traded political support from the working class for the support of the financial class. It gave us NAFTA and a host of other "free trade" agreements that have injured the working class, stagnated wages and enriched an already wealthy cohort willing to make more donations to keep big money in politics.

True liberals are now awake to this change. That's why 1.5 million people have shown up to the rallies hosted by Bernie Sanders. That's why Sanders is polling 43% of Democrats and 70% of independents, potentially the largest voting block ever assembled in America.

The Democratic elite seem to think they've got this all locked up. They seem to believe that we have nowhere else to go. But we do.

Imagine a scenario where Bernie Sanders, having failed to acquire the nomination, walks off to run as an independent with 12 million votes. There is a very real possibility that as an independent, he could win the election in November. He could even run on the Green Party ticket and could still win. Consider that a majority of voters elected to opt out of the European Union in the UK, the "Brexit", something that no one else believed was possible, this year. No one believed that could happen. Well, it's entirely possible that we will have a choice of something other than the lesser of two evils when we go to the polls in November.

Whether Bernie wins the nomination by indictment of Hillary, running as an independent or 3rd party, however he might win, it's a truly terrifying prospect for the people who fund "the establishment". That's why all of the "irregularities" have favored Clinton. That's why Bernie is the only one flipping counties in California after it became clear that the provisional ballots must be counted for election officials to save face. That's why the press has been so breathlessly aggressive in anointing Hillary as "the presumptive nominee". "The Establishment" would so dearly love to avoid any chance that Bernie could win.

But with 30% of Americans identifying as Democrat and 26% identifying as Republican, both parties have conveniently left out 43% of Americans who can't bring themselves to identify with either one. That kind of disconnect is the best way to explain why "the presumptive nominee" for both parties have historically low approval ratings. They both have the lowest net favorable ratings in history as pointed out by Gallup:
"For his part, Sanders continues to argue that he is the better choice to face Trump in the fall. Sanders' net favorable rating among the American public is now at +9, better than either Clinton's (-17) or Trump's (-31). However, it is likely that if Sanders were to become the Democratic nominee and in turn face much more intense media scrutiny and attacks from Trump and other Republicans, his favorable rating would become less positive."
The spread between Sanders and Clinton is 26 points? And she's still the nominee? I doubt very much that everything after the word "However" would even come to pass. There is simply very little negative to work with when attacking Bernie Sanders.

Even if Clinton or Trump should become president, Sanders has sparked a movement of people to get into politics. At last count, more than 12,000 people have signed up to run for office after hearing Bernie Sanders' call for people to get involved in politics. I signed up myself. You can, too, if you want to.

Bernie Sanders is just one man. Imagine 12,000 like him, running for office, taking no big money contributions and winning a few. Even if 1% make it to office, there will be a discernible change in politics. That could make for a very interesting mid-term election in 2018.

More immediately, we also see that Real Clear Politics is now maintaining a 4-way polling average between Clinton, Trump, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Gary Johnson in particular is polling at historical highs for 3rd party candidates around 10% in at least one poll. Jill Stein is moving up fast, as well. We could very well see one or both of them in the November debates. All they have to do is hit 15% in 5 nationwide polls.

Stein is similar in many respects to Bernie Sanders in terms of policy positions. For many people who are Bernie or Bust, Stein could see a very significant bump in the polls if Sanders should somehow concede the election to Clinton. And she would have no compunction about bringing up Hillary's history during a nationwide debate.

Liberals do have somewhere to go besides the Democratic Party. As some have said, "I'm leaving the Democratic Party, and I'm taking the kids". After this election, that is what many, many people will do if Sanders does not get the nomination. Heck, I think they will leave even if he does.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Serious interest in third parties is taking root

For the past few days, I have been thinking about what happened in Nevada and sort of debating someone on Twitter about the Sanders Campaign. I can see it in their words, this sort of smugness. "Look, he knew the rules going in." As if somehow, Clinton supporters are playing fair. But as this article by John Larits so carefully documents, they are not.

What happened in Nevada is that decisions were made without a quorum, without discussion and rules were adopted without a proper vote. They changed the rules without authority at the Nevada Democratic Convention to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning there. I got started thinking about this issue because of another article I read that seems to be making the rounds.

That article is a very personal account about how one delegate in Iowa shared her own story after reading about the 64 delegates who were de-certified at the Nevada Democratic Convention. That same woman was de-certified prior to entry for an Iowa Democratic Convention based on the fact that she's a registered Republican. She is a lifelong Democrat who, while signing in to the convention, finds that she's registered as a Republican. This issue was never brought up at any other party events she attended, but at the state convention, she's nailed? She is certain that someone has messed with her registration just prior to the convention in Iowa. And she's not the only one. I've read other stories like that from people in other states, too.

Contrast this with the GOP. We never heard any stories about people having to correct their registration records after being denied entry to their state convention. Where there were closed primaries, we heard zero, and I mean absolutely no stories of people finding out that they were registered as Democrat at the polling place. GOP voters simply did not have to vote by provisional ballots due to their registration status. Curiously, it hardly even dawns on Clinton supporters that although these conditions worked great to stymie the Sanders campaign, those same conditions can do wonders for GOP candidates for president and Congress.

This may be evidence of election fraud, but it's evidence of something far worse. It's evidence of a political party that has become disconnected from the base. Delegates are people who pay close attention to the motions of their party. They show up an important party functions and participate in votes on the direction of the party in the future. These are people who are loyal to the party, and yet they are being turned away for supporting Bernie Sanders. What happened in Nevada, and probably a few other states, is an attempt to manufacture consent for Clinton as the nominee.

From the national perspective, I see that both major parties are selecting awful candidates for the nominees, often over intense protests. Even if Trump didn't win the nomination, and there's still a chance he won't, the GOP is looking at someone like Cruz, Kasich or Rubio as the nominee. For the Democrats, we have a choice between Hillary Clinton, someone who is under active criminal investigation and Bernie Sanders, someone with no evidence of scandal. Yet the party bosses would dearly love for the rest of rest to get in line and vote for her.

But there is now clear evidence in the polls of a disconnect between the two dominant parties and the people. 43% of Americans identify as independent voters. In a recent Gallup poll, 26% of voters identified as GOP, while 30% identified as Democrat. That is a yawning disconnect between the majority of the people and the two major parties.

What we see happening in each major party is one act of desperation after another to cling to the power they have now. But now we see that Real Clear Politics is maintaining averages of 4-way polls between Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein from the Green Party and Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party. Johnson is averaging 7%. Stein is at 4.9%.

We could be seeing third party candidates rise to the national debates for president. According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, in order for a candidate to be considered eligible for that debate, he or she "must have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination." Both Stein and Johnson have been rising rapidly in the polls. It is entirely probable that one or both of them will get on the stage for a debate with Trump and Clinton.

The first debate isn't going to happen until September, so there is time for a great deal of movement between now and then. The FBI could finally get their act together and refer Hillary Clinton for indictment for violations of the Espionage Act or even on corruption charges for her pay-to-play family foundation. Then Bernie could be the nominee. Bernie could run as an independent and walk away with a good chunk of votes that Hillary needs to beat Trump. Trump could be replaced by someone else at the GOP convention. Bernie could run on the Green Party ticket.

The point is, the two dominant parties are running out of gas. They have reached the last chance Texaco and they're losing the confidence of the voters, so much so, that third parties are gaining traction. This election season could very well spell the eventual demise of both the GOP and the Democratic Party as the power brokers in American politics. For many Americans, that might be how they spell relief.

The mood in social media is undeniable. The people know when they've been played. I've had enough interactions with Clinton supporters to see their smugness, and am only quietly outraged when I see it. How does anyone even justify a vote for someone who is under criminal investigation? How does someone justify a vote for Clinton out of fear for Donald Trump, a man who is starting to look more and more like controlled opposition?

The mainstream media is feeding us a reason every day to vote for Hillary because Trump is so dangerous. If Trump is so dangerous, could someone please explain to me why the wheels are falling off of his campaign? Does he even have a campaign?

Americans can see this for what it is. Bread and circuses. But through it all, I see Bernie still standing at the end. Even if he doesn't win, he got the ball rolling. Now its up to us to roll it over the Democrats and Republicans to remind them they still work for the rest of us. It doesn't matter to me how Bernie eventually runs. I will still vote for him however he appears on the ballot.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The terms of debate do not include profanity, at least, not for me

I enjoy political discourse on the internet, and to those of you who have seen me on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, this is no secret. I've had many debates and expect to continue those debates. In any debate, I follow a simple set of rules for the debate. I've enumerated them here in the recent past. There, I point out a few strategies that I employ to do my part to keep the debate fair and clean.

I got a great response to that post and one person in particular, who shall remain nameless, expressed gratitude for my discipline to not go on offense. She indicated that when she gets angry, she uses profanity and obscenities to make her point. I can empathize, as on more than a few occasions, I've been tempted to go there. But I don't. Here, I want to share with you why I don't go there.

In the distant past, I tried my hand at standup comedy. I recorded many events on audio, and even did one video. You can find that video here. One thing you'll notice about that video is that there is no profanity, obscenity or vulgarity. I have a supreme reluctance to engage in that kind of talk under any circumstances. This is true of me especially on stage as a speaker or comedian.

To get to that place of doing standup comedy, I took a class from a comedian. I had been taking improvisation classes for years and later in those years, he was offering standup comedy classes. So I paid the fees and started to attend. I learned many very interesting lessons, but the one lesson I learned that I never forgot comes from a discussion about f-bombs and the s-word.

What I learned is that profanity is a crutch for comedians. It is a tool that can be used to shock people into laughing. Comedians who make a habit of using profanity tend to find it hard to get on the Tonight Show, so my teacher advised against it. I had a natural reluctance to be profane, so I had no problem with it.

I carry that same lesson into my philosophy about debate. Profanity doesn't make the point in debate. Yes, there are studies that show that people who use profanity tend to be more intelligent, but to me, profanity is not a sign of intelligence. It is a sign of weakness. Yes, if I hit my thumb with a hammer, I may use the f-bomb as an exclamation. I may even use it in company with people who are comfortable with the term. I did construction for 10 years, so I'm no stranger to it. But I don't use it offensively. Profanity is deeply offensive and you can never take it back. It can in some cases destroy relationships.

There is another aspect to this point about profanity that I'd like to share with you. Profanity is deeply disrespectful and eviscerates peace in the mind body and soul. For some people, a great deal of time must pass before they can regain a peaceful state after exposure to profanity. When introduced into debate, profanity reduces debate to a pissing match. Lots of crude language with little imagination or useful ideas.

All of us want peace. We engage in debate over politics, religion and science because no one has a corner on great ideas. We talk together because we know that working together, we can solve problems together better than alone. Profanity is a huge barrier to working together. People who use profanity intend to win an argument. I don't believe there is any such thing as winning an argument, especially with profanity.

When I engage in debate, I only hope to promote peace with what I believe to be better ideas and holding people accountable when they act poorly. I don't engage in debate to win it, for this would leave no peace in the mind of the loser. I engage in debate to promote peace.

I know that to have peace, I must be peaceful. There is no place for profanity in a peaceful mind. So when I use my words in print, on the internet, between myself and anyone in my life, I follow one simple principle. Err on the side of peace.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The symptoms of an election where the corrupting influence of money is ignored

What I like about Bernie Sanders is that he has clearly identified the primary issue: the corrupting influence of money in politics. By eschewing big money donors, Sanders has, in many respects, made himself dependent upon the people alone. This is the single most important reason I like Bernie.

If he who pays the piper calls the tune, I know that millions of Americans are calling the tune. They are not asking for a special favor for one person, one company or even one industry. They are not asking for free stuff. They are simply asking for a better distribution of tax dollars so that everyone benefits. They are asking for a system of government that is more concerned with the general welfare of the citizens rather than just top 0.05%.

The way I look at it is like this. When people pay money to a politician, expecting something in return, they are asking for law or public policy which has a predictable effect. In other words, they can predict who will benefit from the change in policy. I read somewhere, a long time ago, that a good law is one where we cannot predict which specific individuals will benefit from the law.

A special interest, making a contribution to a candidate in or seeking a position of power, is seeking a change in policy that will benefit that interest and that interest alone. If that contribution is large enough, it can be a corrupting influence because now the person pulling the levers is only interested in benefiting the person that paid him rather than the merits of the change in public policy as requested.

But what happens when millions of people make a contribution to a candidate, asking for changes in public policy that benefit the broader population rather than a special interest? You get people like Bernie Sanders. Notice that Sanders does not promote special interest legislation. He's not making speeches for enormous sums of money for one particular industry. His speeches are public, not private. By keeping his speeches public, he is maintaining transparency between himself and his constituents.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton has made many private speeches to very wealthy contributors, each for an enormous sum of money. Seriously, is any speech worth $200,000 or more? Only if you expect something in return. That kind of money has a corrupting influence on politicians. We know it, Bernie knows it and yet, the press is rather silent on the issue, and I mean the mainstream media.

I know, that's a long digression to get to the point, but we'll get there. Hillary is under investigation by the FBI, but there are people who are hedging on what kind of investigation that could be. I've said that it's a criminal investigation only to be criticized for doing so. The FBI didn't say it's a criminal investigation, but some will say only the person they're investigating knows if it's a criminal investigation. They say that the FBI will let you know if you're under criminal investigation.

Well, Hillary isn't saying one way or another. She will neither confirm nor deny that she has been contacted by the FBI. Only she knows and if she's not definite about it, then we know she can't say with certainty that she's not under criminal investigation without lying. Yet she still presses on for the Democratic nomination. There was a time in America, where even the smell of an investigation would force normal people to drop out and wait until the smoke clears. Hillary is willing to put the Democratic Party in peril by pursuing her campaign while under investigation by the FBI.

I read in the news that Bryan Pagliano gave testimony for this investigation. He invoked his rights under the 5th Amendment 125 times. The 5th amendment says that no person shall be compelled to testify against himself. No person shall be forced to make statements that could be used against him in a court of law. 125 times. Why is this important?

Bryan Pagliano is the man who set up and managed Hillary's personal email server. At first he set it up without encryption, then he set it for encrypted communications. He moved it from Hillary's home to a hosting provider in a secured building. If there was classified information on that server, and there's a pretty good chance there was, he and Hillary are toast. If you want to learn more about it, have a read here of 24,000 words of details. Also note that no one can seem to find any trace of communications between Pagliano and Hillary Clinton that is from the time that she was Secretary of State.

Pagliano was hired by Hillary Clinton to set up the email server for her, with a private domain, that she used during her time as Secretary of State for all of her email correspondence. All of it. Now he's invoking the 5th Amendment in response to questions in deposition for a lawsuit over records requested by Judicial Watch. This is a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. It is not a criminal case, yet he's invoking the 5th amendment.

I can't think of a better clue that shows that the FBI is engaged in a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton and her private email server. If the man who set up her server is pleading the 5th Amendment, and he didn't even write the emails sent through that server, he knows something that most of us do not. He's been counseled by lawyers on how to respond. He had an index card with a carefully worded statement that was written by lawyers.

Bernie Sanders has none of this going on. Why not? Because he doesn't take money from or represent special interests. He just wants to make the country a better place for all of us. He does not represent a few lucky people sitting on private monopolies and piles of money who make large contributions to politicians with the expressed interest of increasing the size of that pile of money.

What I love about Bernie is that he's not conceding anything. He's still holding rallies, still raising money and still campaigning. He's doing what I would expect of someone who will keep going until the last delegate vote is cast at the convention. He has taken the steps needed to be above the corrupting influence of money and that sets him apart from many, many other politicians, including Hillary Clinton.

The corrupting influence of money should be the central issue of this campaign season, but it's not. Not if you read and watch what the mainstream media is presenting to us. Instead, we're being treated to newsreels about how dangerous Donald Trump will be for the country. The mainstream media is already trying to pivot to the general election, demonizing Trump (believe me, demonizing him is justified), but failing to focus on the issue at hand, the corrupting influence of money in politics.

Even Trump calls her "Crooked Hillary", though he hardly has hands clean enough to do so. But he's willing to do it. His campaign is basically broke, he's not even self-financing his campaign. I'd say he's quietly setting his campaign on fire and that's going to make for an incendiary Republican National Convention. There is a real controversy about the existence of any campaign at all. Seems mighty convenient for Hillary, doesn't it?

Every time I hear or see the press talking about how terrible Trump is or could be as president, I just roll my eyes. They are totally playing to Hillary's favor. Yet, there is a chance that Hillary could be referred for indictment by the FBI. Will that happen before or after the convention? Who wants to find out? I would rather find out with Sanders as the Democratic nominee, wouldn't you?

Don't mind the mainstream media. They'd rather have us forget all of this and line up behind Hillary.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The hidden Clinton bias in mainstream reporting works mostly by omission

To Bernie Sanders supporters, this article will come as no surprise. Dear Berners, I will not be offended if you roll your eyes on this one. But for others, especially Clinton supporters, take heed what is happening. If you think you can get Bernie Sanders supporters to line up behind your cherished Hillary Clinton, read this and think again.

The corrupting influence of money is what Hillary Clinton represents to us, the men and women who stand by Bernie Sanders. Take note now, that the mainstream media is complicit in this corruption by failing to report certain relevant facts about this election, another facet of what we see and oppose in Hillary Clinton.

I happened upon this article from the Washington Post, Rep. Chaka Fattah convicted in racketeering case, byline dated 2016-06-21. From the looks of it, it's just another case of a high-level politician finding a way sell access for money and going to the big house for doing so. But as I read through the article, I kept thinking to myself that I'd seen that name before. Fattah, Fattah...Where did I see it?

I don't remember where I saw his name before, but I know where to look. Here, Wikipedia has a fine list of Superdelegates with their declared voting intentions. They don't vote until July 25th, but the mainstream media has been polling them day and night for their intentions, so they can only declare what they plan to do. Fattah is a superdelegate who has openly stated that he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. Isn't it nice to know that a convict will be voting for Hillary Clinton?

Perhaps the Washington Post didn't feel that that connection was a relevant aspect of the story. Neither did Politico. Neither did CNN. Not even NPR felt compelled to point that out. And I'm shocked, shocked, shocked! that FOX News failed to note that connection. I only have so much time to survey the field, but I suspect that if you go to any mainstream media site, you will not find a single major source of news reporting that Chakah Fattah is a Clinton supporting superdelegate who just happens to be going to prison soon.

I find Fattah's conviction ironic in the sense that he supports someone who has a well documented history of corruption. The irony goes deeper when I read those articles reporting his conviction to learn that he had been sold out by peers and subordinates who got also caught. They were able to get leniency for ratting out their friend for a lighter sentence, with what is known as a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a sort of a bribe to get perps to talk, yet another form of corruption.

I wrote this article not give you a survey of the bias in the media, but to show you how subtle the bias is in mainstream media. I believe that the vast majority of that bias in this primary season is by acts of omission. Bernie has been filling stadiums for his rallies, but did the mainstream media give any of them live coverage? They'd rather cover an empty chair at a Trump rally. When Sanders is still flipping counties in California as they count the remaining ballots, the press focuses on how dangerous Trump is. They dismiss any possibility that Clinton will be indicted for her private email server for espionage or racketeering, while focusing on the mounting pressure for Sanders to drop out. Who exactly wants Sanders to drop out and make nice?

You have to dig a little deeper to get to media sources that make the connection between the convict, Chakka Fattah, and his superdelegate status and his plans to vote for Clinton. You'd have to go to places like the Washington Free Beacon, and The Blaze (Associated Press), which wrote about the same story and referenced the former source, the Washington Free Beacon. Yet, every other organization that carried the story dropped the connection of Fattah as a Clinton-supporting superdelegate. They might be forgiven, except that the headline the Beacon ran with was as follows:

"Clinton Superdelegate Chaka Fattah Found Guilty on Corruption Charges"

It is now clear that most mainstream news organizations felt compelled to report the story to keep up with competing media sources. Yet they could not bring themselves to mention that all too important connection to Clinton's army of superdelegates. Curiously, all of those superdelegates who are known to be planning to vote for Clinton made their decision long before the first primary elections were held.

It is also well known that most of the top media organizations have made significant contributions to SuperPACs and PACs that support Hillary Clinton. This is the power of money in politics. Mainstream media is personified by Hillary Clinton and 90% of mainstream media is controlled by 6 parent corporations. They own a virtual monopoly, and if they have interlocking directorates where board members sit on multiple boards of directors for those 6 companies, then they have a monopoly.

For Bernie Sanders supporters, the overarching issue is to get the corrupting influence of money out of politics. This is why the fact that Chakkah Fattah is a superdelegate who supports Hillary Clinton is relevant to the story of his conviction. But mainstream media would like for us to believe that the corrupting influence of money is not the most important issue. To them, what is important is electing Clinton to defeat the evil Mr. Trump and electing Hillary Clinton as the first woman president in American history.

To know the story of American politics, we only need to follow the money. To restore our democracy, one person, one vote, we need to remove the money from politics. To make that narrative a mainstream media narrative, we must become the media. That's why I sit here most days writing about it and sharing about it. That's why I make time every day to share stories about people who support Bernie Sanders and Sanders himself. I support Bernie Sanders because he has made himself dependent upon the people and the people alone. Remember, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

If Donald Trump is controlled opposition, Clinton couldn't have picked a better opponent

So many months ago, I noticed something interesting about Donald Trump. He just doesn't fit as a man to run for president. He's a billionaire and could pretty much do whatever he wants. Even in the last speech I saw him give, he said, "I didn't have to do this, but I wanted to give back to a country that has been so great for me and my family." He openly admits in his victory speech that he doesn't have to run for president.

After reviewing his policy positions and statements, often in agreement with Bernie Sanders, I just found it so odd that he's running for president. So I wrote, The quandary that is Donald J. Trump, my first article to seriously question his quest for the White House. I wrote that article back in September of 2015. Even then, I was able to find one sitting Congressman who was suspicious:
For example, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), has this to say about Trump:
"I think there's a small possibility that this gentleman is a phantom candidate," Curbelo said, as quoted by The Miami Herald. "Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons' foundation. He has contributed to Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious."
I wrote about the same issue in, "A thought experiment about Trump: When the jackass becomes the joker for the GOP", predicting that, after nearly destroying the GOP, Trump would carefully set his campaign on fire, just to not make it look like he's throwing the election to Hillary. A look at the recent campaign filings show that he's being clobbered by Clinton in fundraising. He plays well to the voter base, but I doubt establishment donors are very happy with him.

His campaign is going broke. He's not raising money for Congress let alone president. The press is becoming quite unrelenting in their criticism of Trump and they glorify Clinton, warts and all. Check out this screenshot I took this morning while searching for news on Trump:

And then there's this: A libertarian candidate is polling very well by historical standards in a 3-way race between Trump, Clinton and Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president. Real Clear Politics has him polling at 9% nationally. He's doing what Richard Boddie did to B-1 Bob Dornana in the 1990s. He is splitting the conservative vote for the Republican Party. That is a huge chunk of the voter base that Trump needs to win.

And of course, Trump continues to put his foot in his mouth and pull the trigger. There are times when he's coherent and even presidential. But I keep thinking that he's an entertainer as well as a businessman. It is hard to be good at so many things, and it's very hard to be a politician running for president. If he's a serious candidate for president, I don't see how he can have enough hours in a day to run his business, be an entertainer (well, he's not hosting reality TV much anymore, unless we're talking about his campaign) and campaigning.

With the exception of Bernie Sanders, I see this entire election as sort of a farce. The press is making Trump out to be this sort of enemy that we're all supposed to oppose, but we're only supposed to do it behind Hillary Clinton. The propaganda news rolls of WWII come to mind here. I guess the sinker for me is this: Bill Clinton and Donald Trump talked politics about 3 weeks before Trump announced his candidacy. Question is, did Bill Clinton encourage him to run?

I believe that suspicion is brewing among the elite Republicans, too. Delegates are starting to line up opposition to Trump at the convention. More than a few delegates don't see him as a viable candidate for this election and I suspect that he may be replaced at the last minute to avoid a complete disaster for their party. Perhaps their "Anybody but Trump" campaign is a clue. After watching Trump out the Republican base as misogynistic, racist and homophobic as well as xenophobic, I can't help but have a quiet laugh to myself that he's played the GOP so well and so, so hard.

This isn't to say that Democrats are going to walk right into the White House. There is still Bernie Sanders preparing for a contested convention. He has not conceded and, as I hope, he may not have to. If Trump is truly controlled opposition, we'll know it if the GOP manages to change the nominee at their convention. They could bring out someone who could beat Clinton and that would be that.

I don't think it's impossible for the GOP to do this. John Kasich and Marco Rubio actually polled fairly well against Clinton, certainly better than Trump. If they do that, Democrats may need Sanders to run, after all.

Monday, June 20, 2016

What's all this business about election fraud?

There's been a lot of discussion lately about election fraud. I find it odd then, that most of the discussions center on the Democratic primary elections. Doesn't it seem strange that almost all of the discussion centers around people who attempted to vote in the Democratic primaries and just happen to fit the demographics that would be most likely to vote for Bernie Sanders?

Remarkably, despite very intense opposition from Republican elites, there were few if any claims of election fraud concerning anyone who tried to vote for Donald Trump. Perhaps that's because for those voters, their vote actually counted. They were not denied at the polls. They did not register Republican and suddenly find that on election day, they were registered as a Democrat.

I've been quietly surveying and assessing the landscape concerning this issue. From all of the reading I've done on the issue so far, the one takeaway is this: for Republicans, there is no litigation. For Democrats there is litigation. It would seem ironic then, that the country that purports to export democracy, to encourage other nations to embrace democracy, is fouled by claims of election fraud in 2016.

There is a lawsuit in process now that was filed by Election Justice USA (EJUSA). They have accumulated evidence to show that tens of thousands of people were denied the right to vote, despite following proper registration procedures, in the Democratic primary in New York. After reading some of the details, I find it hard to believe that so much effort has been put into disenfranchising voters. Of course the lawsuit is still in process, but the evidence provided by EJUSA seems rather damning at this point. Counterpunch has a good summary of the details here:

CounterPunch has obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed by EJUSA in New York City and the accompanying Exhibits. Together with the databases and emerging story, they paint a picture of a Democratic machine every bit as corrupt as the Tammany bosses of the 1920’s and 1930’s who opposed Franklin Delano Roosevelt at every turn.
Exhibit I of the lawsuit includes these summary facts of the 716 entry EJUSA database:
* 97 respondents “clearly misunderstood New York’s registration deadlines”
* 619 respondents who did understand the deadlines represented nearly every New York County
* 401 respondents registered from 2012-2016 and legally should not have been subject to voter roll purging
* 303 registered during the current campaign in either 2015 or 2016 and before the relevant deadlines
* 140 of the 619 were switched, without knowledge or consent, to no longer registered
* 289 of the 619 had been switched, without knowledge or consent, to independent
* 79 of the 619 had been switched, without knowledge or consent, to a different party
* 27 of the 619 were simply unlisted at their polling site even though properly registered and active
The Counterpunch article notes similarities between this election and another election in the same state in 1932 with Franklin D. Roosevelt in contention for the election then. Numerous memes and articles can be found in social media comparing Bernie Sanders to FDR.

I think it should be remembered at this point, that the conditions that have so far given Hillary Clinton a lead in delegates are the same conditions that will help Republicans to win the election in November. The voter purges were permitted by laws enacted by Republicans. The cuts in polling places in Arizona were permitted by a Supreme Court ruling that gutted an essential section of the Voting Rights Act.

I'm not totally convinced of #exitpollgate and their arguments that the exit polls matched results more closely where there is a paper trail than where there was not. But if verified evidence of election fraud turns up, I could see it coming. I've written several articles covering the topic on this blog, and this one comes to mind, "The tip of the iceberg in election fraud is probably floating in Ohio".

The bottom line is that any attempts on the part of Clinton supporters to suppress the voters who support Bernie Sanders will eventually backfire. Democrats always do well in elections where voter turnout is high. Liberal Democrats tend to do very well when the voter turnout is high. Note that at Real Clear Politics, the total vote count in the primaries, 28 million for Democrats, 21 million votes for Republicans. Whoever prevails at the Democratic Convention in July will very likely win in November. And yes, it will be a contested convention. Sanders has not conceded and I think it's possible that he won't have to.

A great many voters feel that voter suppression is rampant in order to bolster support for Hillary Clinton. The evidence already available would seem to support that impression. Any efforts to suppress the vote in the primaries could only backfire. First, voters who think they have been disenfranchised will be likely to find an alternative means to express themselves, probably in ways not anticipated, and I don't think they're going to vote for Clinton. If the only objective is to get Clinton nominated, then they have lost the forest for the trees.

There is more to this election than just nominating Clinton and getting her elected as the first woman president. I know, sexism is cool only if you support Hillary Clinton. There is more to this election than defeating Donald Trump. Even if he doesn't overtly set his campaign on fire, he's not going to do well based on the votes so far.

The point of this election is to lead the country in the direction that the people want. If the votes of Bernie's supporters are suppressed, they will not be heard. What I believe will happen then, along with Matt Taibbi, is that Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie. Not having heard the people, elite Democrats will not know how to attract their votes. Hillary may win, but I don't expect Democrats to gain any ground in Congress or in Statehouses. They may even lose ground with Hillary on the ticket. I believe the opposite will happen if Sanders were the nominee.

Sanders has won 14 elections in his political career. I have a feeling he's got a plan and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. But I don't expect the Democratic leadership to help.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

An army of Sanders supporters are lining up on that hill yonder to run for office

I just finished watching a video by Bernie Sanders. It was a live stream of a speech given by him a couple of days ago and in it Bernie nails all of the usual talking points. What is significant about this video is that he is now encouraging thousands of people to run for office.

According to the Bern Report, nearly 6700 people have signed up so far, and I am sure there will be more. A million people marching on Philly might be nice (there will be a march, we just don't know how big yet), but a million men and women who follow the same principles as Bernie who find a way into public office would be amazing. What could happen to our government if a million people ran for public office following one simple principle: no big money contributions? Why, they would, as Larry Lessig says, "be dependent on the people alone".

Even 6700 people who decide to run for public office would be a great start on a peaceful revolution. They could run for a seat on the local school board, water district, city council, statehouses, and even Congress. God knows there are plenty of places to sit in government.

I think we could throw in state Democratic Party organizations, too. We need new blood in state level political organizations to help rewrite the rules so that what happened to Bernie never happens again to people like him. Heck, even in New Jersey, a big wig got up to make a nice speech about Bernie and he was doffed in less than an hour by the state Democratic Party committee. I guess party unity isn't that important because they could do without our votes. But with enough Sanders supporters running for office and in political party leadership roles, perhaps in a few short years, we could get a Brand New Congress.

Local and state level offices are the low hanging fruit of change. Even local initiatives can bring about positive change. I noticed this last year when I wrote about the fair state of Colorado. Many small towns in Colorado have had to put up with poor service from major internet service providers for many years. When a few small towns decided to build their own networks, the legislature passed a law making it harder for towns to build their own networks. That law left an out for small towns, any town in Colorado, really. Any town could opt-out by local referendum.

In the last two years, more than 50 towns and counties in Colorado have been able to opt out by referendum. For most them, the vote in favor of opting out was overwhelming, some as high as 90% or better. Well, the big telecoms were not happy with that, so they tried to get a new bill passed to make it even harder for small towns to assert local control over their internet access, but that bill so far, has failed. Yes, they will try to use their money to sway the legislature, but now the cat is out of the bag. People in Colorado have figured out how to get the power to roll their own, um, networks.

With hundreds and maybe even thousands of Berniecrats running for office around the nation, from the school board to Congress, it would be overwhelming for establishment types to hold their power. The press would not be able to keep them down, though they could try, and they will try. But I've seen the enthusiasm and dead set determination of Sanders supporters to get their man into office, fair and square.

It is time to bring a long and slow chapter of suffering for the American people to a close. But it must be the American people to put a stop to the pay-for-play politics we have now. It will take an army of Berniecrats to overwhelm the establishment both in the government at all levels, and in the media. Just as this government was formed to be of the people, by the people for the people, we must become the media and make it work for us. Social media can make much of that happen.

In 2008, we saw how social media helped bring the news of Barack Obama to the nation and how Obama used the internet to organize and channel his support to win the election. The jury is still out on this election. Sanders has not conceded the primaries and plans to be at the convention in July with an undeniable army of supporters on the internet in tow.

We must continue that work, but not just with Bernie. We must show our support in social media for new politicians who want to play fair, and who will accept no big money contributions, for they will need every bit of support we can lend them.

Establishment press organizations will have none of this talk of revolution. Power concedes nothing without demand. The kind of power we're fighting will need to see a lot of people making demands before that power is willing to concede.

Bernie is right. This revolution goes far beyond getting him into the White House. Changes in power never start from the top down, it always comes from the bottom up. We need an army of thousands of people willing to run for local and state office, an army of people that will take no big money for their campaigns. We need people who run for office based on the merits of their policy positions, not the size of their campaign fund. Who knows, maybe democratic socialism will seem like the norm in the United States in less than a decade, you know, like Finland, Norway and Denmark.

So, while we're waiting for the convention, here, watch another video featuring Bernie. I never get tired of this stuff. It's like a continual affirmation of a vision of a government that represents all of us.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The primaries are not over. Not even close. #feelthebern!

John Laurits is normally a poet and fiction writer, but lately, he's been doing the math for the Democratic primaries. He's shown us that although it looks like Clinton has a 385 delegate lead among pledged delegates, he's demonstrated that we really only need 193 delegates to take the lead. That's because every delegate remaining that is added to the Sanders column must be taken from the Clinton column. Read about the the details in his article The Math of the Convention. If you're looking for hope, you will find it there. The math doesn't lie.

If you've taken refuge in your bed with your tablet to watch Tayo the Little Bus, come on out. There is work to do. There are still 29 states that have not certified their results due to "irregularities". There are still 16 state Democratic conventions to do. It's also worth noting that 5 million votes were mailed in California alone and the counting process is not complete. The final numbers will be certified by July 8th. Yes, dear reader, the race has tightened somewhat as the votes are counted, but it's not over.

And there are superdelegates to lobby. Bernie is going to the convention, no ifs, ands or buts. Those who are #stillsanders want to see him there, bringing the fight for the people to the convention.

Just as an aside, you gotta read this article on Naked Capitalism. I know, it's about Trump, but its a great analysis of one his speeches. Trump is actually starting to look and act like a candidate for president. In this speech, for the most part, he actually keeps his feet out of his mouth. Naked Capitalism compares the language of the "victory speeches" by both Clinton and Trump. We see very interesting and real differences between them of course, but what I really like about Trump (no, this is not an endorsement, just a review of his speech), is how overt he is about calling the Democratic primaries rigged. And he invites Sanders supporters with open arms, something Hillary can't bring herself to do.

He goes on to talk about how corrupt the Clintons are and how they've built a cottage industry selling access and favors. Hey, how else can we explain the way Chelsea Clinton earns $600k at NBC for a job that normally pays much less? Hey, Chelsea, want a position on the board of directors at a company owned by noted investor, Barry Diller? Ka-ching! $300k. Don't worry, she's donated much of that money to a good cause at the Clinton Foundation.

Trump seems to be more serious than he let on at the beginning. At first, I thought he just liked to be bombastic and flippant. But since he's won the GOP nomination, he's really toned it down. Yes, he still puts his foot in his mouth from time to time, but that last speech was a real turnaround from the way he's done speeches before. He has a laser focus on Hillary's weaknesses, namely the corruption of her and her political network.

Remember how the Democratic National Committee was supposed to be a neutral party to ensure that anyone who wanted to run as a Democrat for president would have a fair shot at it? There really are people old enough to remember. Unfortunately, some people at the DNC have had trouble remembering what they stood for. So, the DNC might be letting Debbie Wasserman Schultz go. That might be the fallout from an email snatched and released by some dude who calls himself "Guccifer".

What's in that email? Well, it's dated from early 2015 and shows, rather conclusively, that the DNC and Hillary Clinton were already planning on Hillary to be the nominee. That might explain all the "irregularities" at many of the primary elections across the land. They really just wanted to stay on track and needed to subvert the will of the people to do it.

Remember how 126,000 people were dropped from the voter rolls by "accident" just before the New York primaries? Well, guess what? The New York City Board of Elections just decided to put them back. You know, so that they can vote for Hillary Clinton in November.

This primary election season is far from over. Bernie will be at the convention with more delegates than before (he's still flipping counties in California), and there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of people there in support of Bernie. Some are calling for a million to march in Philly. Remember, whatever the press is doing, it's doing it to take the focus away from Bernie and to put it on Trump, a mass shooting, or some terrorist event, anything to keep you off of Bernie.

If you're #stillsanders, keep your eyes on the ball. It's still rolling.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The press may want us to forget about Bernie, but trust and integrity are still important

There is a lot going on right now. There was a mass shooting in Florida. Votes are still being counted in California and Bernie is still flipping counties. And the media would really, really like us to forget that Bernie Sanders is still running for president. They would like us to forget that trust and integrity are really an issue for Hillary Clinton while people support Bernie Sanders because they trust him for his integrity. Trust and integrity still matter for Hillary, and as I'll show below, these are issues that won't go away.

Ars Technica reports on June 14th, how the opposition files on Donald Trump were hacked by foreign hackers at the Democratic National Committee. The article is notable for it's detail and one of the points of interest is that foreign hackers have used changing and persistent attacks to maintain a presence on government and political campaign computer systems.

That opposition file has since been released by someone known as Guccifer 2.0, putting everything that the Democrats were planning to throw at Trump during their campaign against him, out in the open for all to see. It's hard to say that is a major blow to anyone since Trump seems to be doing a fine job of limiting the effectiveness of his campaign all by himself.

According to Ars Technica, multiple groups have hacked and maintained a persistent presence on computers systems in the Democratic National Committee. Russian hacking groups are known for their prowess and their ability to use social engineering to dupe employees and even executives into clicking on links or opening attachments in emails sent to them. From there, malicious code runs to monitor the use of the system and to gather credentials, files and other information that could prove useful later on. All without detection.

I think it's important to remember that this is the Democratic National Committee, an organization with the resources to hire experienced engineers for managing their data systems, and the security of the same. They didn't just hire one person, they hired a team of experienced engineers to manage their IT systems.

Hillary Clinton operated her own email server in her own home. This is distinct from just using her own private email account with a third party email provider like Yahoo, Gmail or even Microsoft. She hired Bryan Pagliano to set up a private email server in her home and a private domain to be used to accept that email. Considering the mounting threat of foreign espionage, that is a heavy load for just one man.

Think about it. One man cannot know everything there is to know about email security and certainly, cannot be enough to monitor all of the action on that server to ensure that it was secure. For at least three months, it was transmitting email communications without encrypted connections, and from what I've read so far, encryption was not used to protect even the content of the messages.

We also know that one man who called himself Guccifer, claimed to have hacked her email server and has managed to pull information from it. Given that groups and agencies skilled in espionage were likely to hear about her mail server, the odds are strong that someone found the server, hacked it and installed persistent backdoors to monitor it, all without detection by the one man who managed or hosted that server.

If there was any classified information on that server at all, it has very likely been compromised.

Hillary has said she made a mistake and would really, really like the rest of us to give her a pass on it. You know, so that she can go on and become the first woman president of the United States. It's not about public service, it's all about her making history, right?

By the way, it's also important to know that neither the Department of State, nor anyone else for that matter, has managed to find any communication between Bryan Pagliano and Hillary Clinton. They are unable to find the relevant PST file, the file that Microsoft Outlook uses to store emails. Not even SMS messages can be found. Seems like Pagliano could see a bad moon rising and decided to clean house before anyone showed up. Can we trust him? Probably not.

So lets assume for the moment, that there is no referral for indictment however likely it may be, and that Loretta Lynch, eyeing her own career prospects, declines to pursue indictment even if a referral were made, at least until after Hillary wins the election. There is still a long running civil suit under the Freedom of Information and the Federal Records Act being pursued by Judicial Watch. They have the attorneys, and the experience with filing requests under the FOIA to know what to ask for and what to do when their requests are denied, or at least, not answered in a timely manner. That's how we learned about Hillary's private email in the first place.

Hillary never told anyone about it. She just told people that she was using a private email address. Even the department of State didn't quite realize what was happening until they tried to respond to FOIA requests from Judicial Watch and others, for Hillary's emails. To respond, disclosure officers at the agency discovered that she never activated an email address provided to her, and that her emails weren't where they were expecting to find them, on an agency server.

Hillary did everything she could to avoid having her emails being subjected to scrutiny through Sunshine laws like FOIA. She waited more than a year to turn over "all of her work related emails", having deleted the rest (and we don't know for sure what she deleted). Her IT guy scoured and deleted all communications between them during his tenure while she was at the State Department.

Here's what is so intriguing about the civil FOIA suit. Hillary's aids are being called to testify. She herself might be called to testify. And there is no politically encumbered Attorney General to hold things up. Even if she is never indicted, she is going to have to answer as to why she even built the private server in the first place. The general impression I get from the media as to her motivations come down to two reasons: keep her emails out of the reach of FOIA and to keep a record of her work so she can write her memoirs.

At the very least, we have a trust issue and we have an insubordination issue. If she can't follow rules and regulations concerning her conduct with email, that's insubordination. If she's not willing to follow the rules, can she be trusted? We don't know for sure if investigators have recovered from backup everything she deleted. If we can't find anything from Pagliano, who knows what else is missing?

Clinton's attitude exudes that of one who thinks that a different set of rules applies to her. I along with millions of other people happen to agree. The latest poll I could find on trust issues with Hillary shows that, according to the Washington Post, "In a brand new Washington Post-ABC News national poll, just 37 percent of people believe Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy while 57 percent say they don't think she is." That was back in March. I guess mainstream media doesn't want to do those kinds of polls lately. Maybe they don't think such polls matter. They certainly don't think exit polls mater, or they wouldn't have cancelled them for elections on June 7th.

So whatever people tell me about Hillary Clinton and why they think I should vote for her, I've got this list in the back of my mind. She had her own private email server while Secretary of State. What was she hiding? What emails were deleted? She reneged on her promise to debate Bernie Sanders before the elections on June 7th. She's flip-flopped on many core issues and she takes big money from corporate interests. He who pays the piper calls the tune. To me, she lacks the integrity and honesty to be president.

A vote for someone I don't want is a wasted vote. And if all you want me to do is to join you in defeating Trump by voting for Hillary, I have to wonder why Trump is running in the first place. That's why I'm Bernie or Bust all the way. I simply want my vote to count for someone I want to see in the White House. I want someone I trust for president and that's Bernie Sanders.

Monday, June 13, 2016

How to deal fairly with Clinton supporters when you'd much rather spend your time supporting Bernie Sanders

I'm a Bernie Sanders supporter. I have been probably for more than a year, though I can't pin down the exact date that I made the decision to support him. I have never liked Hillary Clinton and certainly found no reason to favor anyone in the GOP clown car.

But I find that with my posts on my blog and the posts that I share on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, there are Hillary Clinton supporters who seem to think that I should just throw in the towel and cast my lot with a presidential candidate who is the subject of an active criminal investigation. They will say directly or by implication that a vote for anyone else, especially Bernie Sanders, is a vote for Trump. That's the guilt trip they try to lay on me, yet there is nothing implied or explicit in any of my statements to support their conclusion.

I have suffered some supremely vitriolic attacks from Hillary Clinton supporters. But you won't see me calling him names and writing like a sailor. No, that's not my style. I have been there, done that, and just couldn't sleep on the nights when I've done so. I don't like the dark side, and suggest that you should stay away from it, too.

Upon reflection of the current state of politics, the extreme polarization of the body electorate, and the high stakes in this election, I would like to share with you some of the responses I've used to deal with people politely referred to as "trolls", and even some very enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporters who sincerely believe that Hillary is a better candidate in all respects than Bernie Sanders.

I want to share this with you because I believe that we must keep calm and support Bernie Sanders. I also want you to know that Bernie is a man of peace. He does not fight dirty and does not go to the dark side like some of us may have done in debate. He knows, as some of us do, that to have peace, one must be peaceful.

Respond with the facts.
Always respond with facts when presented with information with which you disagree. Find sources that clearly and concisely contradict statements made by Hillary supporters and do so, politely. Remember, there is a chance that they may decide to change their mind based on the facts presented.

Before responding in anger, respond with facts. I've often found that a few well placed links will often quell their anger. For example, here is my favorite link about Hillary's email scandal. It's a blog post written by a person who admired and supported Hillary Clinton. He was sincerely worried about email issue and wrote a very nice, thoughtful analysis of the question, "will Hillary Clinton be indicted for her handling of email communications during her tenure as Secretary of State?"

I politely point out that there is an ongoing criminal investigation and that I wonder aloud how my opponent can support such a candidate. But here is the point about responding with facts and links. Every time I post a response with that link, it becomes indexed by the search engines. Every link to that article brings it up in the rankings. That means more people are going to see it on the first page of their searches. I know this and my opponent, if he or she is savvy enough, knows this, too.

In this struggle, the mainstream media has betrayed us, so we must become the media. We must build our own repository of sources and use them often to build and reinforce an alternative narrative, one that is not supported by the mainstream media, but by the people who deserve to be heard.

Ask Questions.
Sometimes, the best response is not an answer but a question. I usually like to pose philosophical questions like, "How is it that you can support a candidate that is under criminal investigation?" "After my review of the evidence to support claims of election rigging, I found that it seems to belie the strength of Hillary's campaign. Wouldn't you agree?" "Why would there be any lawsuits over the election at all if you sincerely believe that the election is being carried out in a manner that is above any suspicion?" "How would you feel if this were happening to Hillary instead of Bernie?"

The point of using questions is to refute the notion that I should support Hillary without asking any questions about her character. I don't care if you think that she'd make a great executive who understands how government should be administered. If she doesn't have the courage to run her official business through a government mail server, or the courage to even ask if she could use her own private email server for all government business, she has no business being president. Wouldn't you agree?

Asking questions requires all readers, including opponents to use logic. Hillary's campaign, in many respects defies logic, at least to me. Our job is to show that by asking pointed questions in debate, even when the debate is heated. Stay calm, ask questions. Stay logical.

Be polite, very polite
Even for the most vitriolic Hillary supporters, be very polite. For those supporters prone to profanity, vulgarity and other similar offenses, their domain and their weapon is anger. If they can bring you to the boiling point, they've won. Don't let it happen. Before you type an angry message, wait, let the feeling pass and begin to think coherently about how you would like to respond.

Consider that your opponent sincerely believes that Hillary is a better candidate. Our job in any debate is to counter their statements very politely with facts. If they're angry or even vitriolic, let them be. But respond politely with facts or clear philosophical responses to show why Bernie is the better candidate. We're not here to preach to choir. We're here to educate the public about the virtues of our candidate and the cause of our peaceful revolution.

We cannot bring new adherents or converts around while inciting anger. We can only do so by promoting peace and we do that by living the example. If you want peace, you must, above all else, be peaceful.

Don't hate people, just express your dislike for the things they do
Hate is one of the many facets of the dark side. I've seen evidence of Hillary Clinton supporters wanting us to vote for Hillary Clinton even if we hate her. They seem to encourage hate, hate of Trump, hate of this or that, but they will also encourage us to vote for Hillary even if we hate her.

I don't hate anyone, even Hillary Clinton. I don't know her personally and have no idea how she treats people on a personal level. I do recognize her for being a human being. I think that whatever she chooses to do, she sincerely believes she is doing the right thing. Whatever she chooses to do, her choices may not be right for the rest of us. So I express a dislike for what she does, not for who she is. Hillary can't help being who she is, but she can make better choices that serve the rest of us. When I see her doing that, I may be more inclined to support her.

With Bernie, I sincerely believe he is doing the right thing. He's run 14 successful campaigns for office and he knows what he's doing. He's 74 years old and has seen political winds blow every which way and has still managed to stay in office. I know that in this campaign he is walking a fine line, he has not conceded and he has remained true to his principles. I have never seen him express hate for anyone, ever.

Whatever he does in private is his business and his alone. But what he does in public life, seems in every respect, to be in the public interest, for the public good. He seems to be erring on the side of peace. This is what I want in a candidate for president. This is the character I want to see in the White House.

Respond with logic
Always respond with logic. Hate and anger are not logical responses. They are instinctual responses and they always have fear behind them or underneath them. They are purely emotional responses.

I know from my own experience with hate and anger, that I am not logical when I'm in that place. So avoid those places because they limit my capacity for a logical response. There is a logical response to everything. The point of using logic is to keep the discussion sane and to appeal to the public good.

By responding with logic, we can better see the weaknesses in the arguments of an opponent promoting a weak candidate for president. By responding with logic, we can better point out those weaknesses while promoting the strengths of our candidate.

Don't worry about changing any minds.
Hillary Clinton supporters, at least those whom I have encountered so far, are dead set with Hilary. Don't worry about changing their minds. Just set the record straight and remember the peanut gallery, the people who happen upon your debate in their search for the truth when they use a search engine. Remember the other people you know who might be reading your words on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit and wherever else you might frequent.

A position consistently held over a long period of time will bring more enlightenment than angry or hateful screeds. The strength of the arguments in favor of Bernie Sanders must be presented factually, politely and succinctly, without regard to the outcome. As TS Eliot has noted, "For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

Say what you need to say and move on. Everything we say is permanent on the internet. Someone will read it and since we're all adults in this debate, we should leave it to the reader to form his or her own opinions. After I type these words, I let it be.

So be calm and support Bernie Sanders. Respond to hate and anger, and even name calling, with calm recitation of the relevant facts. Be peaceful in all interactions and err on the side of peace. For that is the only way this revolution will be won.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The real losers of the debate that never was

Today, I had an interesting debate with someone about the "Clinton machine", described in the meme below:

During that debate I had on Google+, I pointed out that the term "machine" was a metaphor to describe an entity that does not have empathy for others. I went on to suggest that in the act of failing to honor an agreement to have one more debate before the California primary, Hillary Clinton committed an act totally lacking of any empathy for Bernie Sanders supporters.

Looking back on those words, it also occurs to me that Sanders wasn't the only loser when both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump declined to debate Sanders. The loss on the Sanders side was obvious - he lost a huge opportunity for free face time on TV and to allow viewers to compare him side by side with his opponents.

But I suspect the loss was even greater for the presumptive Democratic nominee, since her act of declining to debate Sanders has only diminished any real chance of uniting the party behind her if she should secure the nomination. She could have used that chance to appeal to Sanders supporters and did not. 

More to the point, by declining, she also lost another chance to establish positive rapport with Sanders supporters. Rapport is what builds empathy between people. Clinton could have used the debate to demonstrate that she has empathy for Sanders supporters, but didn't think that she needed to. She made a political calculation not to debate based on guidance from her team. By declining to engage in debate with Sanders, she is saying, in so many words, that she has no empathy for Sanders supporters. Is it any wonder so many people are Bernie or Bust?

At a rally, a candidate reinforces his support by appealing to the wishes and desires of his supporters. At any rally, a candidate is only preaching to the choir. In a debate, candidates are not just appealing to their supporters. Candidates can use the debate as an opportunity to sway the supporters of their opponents. They can also show where there is strong agreement between the candidates while showing what more they can bring to the table.

Donald Trump also seemed interested in debating Sanders but did not. Afterwards, he made varying excuses, but the consensus of the social media I have read says that he didn't have the courage to debate Sanders. The same consensus was reached about Clinton. Yet, both of them profess a superior position in the election and receive an enormous amount of free support in the media not offered to Sanders.

Candidates who are confident in their position, status and polling, should have no problem debating, anytime, anywhere. Even Clinton herself chided Obama on the same point in the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008, on camera. Yet here she is, in a superior position in the race for the nomination, and, having agreed to a debate months ago, backed out. That is a sign of weakness, not strength, and most assuredly contributed to the destruction of any chance she might have of uniting the party behind her later.

By declining to debate Sanders, both Trump and Clinton denied themselves an opportunity to appeal to the supporters of Bernie Sanders, all in an effort to deny him coverage and opportunity for him to show how he compares to either Clinton or Trump at this late stage of the nomination. Both Trump and Clinton have shown a lack of empathy for Sanders and his supporters and by doing so, imply that they don't need the votes of Sanders supporters to win the election in November.

Both of them essentially said, "screw you" to Sanders and his supporters and will not see their votes in November as retaliation. For a candidate to win the election, he or she must appeal to more than their base, more than their party. That candidate must appeal to the independent voters, now comprising some 43-45% of the voters, depending on who's counting. That same 45% is bigger than the voter contingent for either one of the major parties.

The numbers for each party, 26% for Republicans and 29% for Democrats, suggest that both parties are not really engaged with the American public. As American institutions, such low party identification rates suggests that both parties have failed the people they purport to serve. 

It has been suggested by numerous pundits that with the Trump and Sanders campaigns, we are bearing witness to the end of both major parties. Both Trump and Sanders are outsiders and could not have come as far as they did without help from the political duopoly held and defended by the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. Both campaigns suggest very clearly, that a rapid change is about to occur, despite any resistance from the oligarchy that now rules.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that I've seen so far to show true empathy for the rest of us. Noam Chomsky puts it this way:
Well, Bernie Sanders is an extremely interesting phenomenon. He’s a decent, honest person. That’s pretty unusual in the political system. Maybe there are two of them in the world, you know. But he’s considered radical and extremist, which is a pretty interesting characterization, because he’s basically a mainstream New Deal Democrat. His positions would not have surprised President Eisenhower, who said, in fact, that anyone who does not accept New Deal programs doesn’t belong in the American political system. That’s now considered very radical.
That return to the new Deal appears to be what Hillary Clinton is fighting and that why I'm still supporting Bernie Sanders.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Trump, Clinton and Kabuki theater

Hillary Clinton seems to be someone who is obsessed with being the first woman elected as president of the United States. (Isn't that sexist?) She's been planning this for years and has even worked out a way to pay for it at the last Democratic National Convention in 2015. From that effort, she got more than 400 superdelegates to side with her long before even the first vote was cast.

In my correspondence and conversations with friends on and offline, I find myself being asked to forgive her for her mistakes, even potential crimes, just to vote for someone that is not Donald Trump. I am being asked to vote out of fear. But my intuition suggests that voting for someone out of fear is not the right thing to do. Call it target fixation or the law of attraction, it is now clear to me that our fears are being exploited by people who want Hilary in the White House.

Someone once said that we should not be basing our vote on fear, but rather, something we want. That someone went on to say that every time we vote out of fear of something we don't want, we tend to get that, anyway. That someone was Dr. Jill Stein, presidential candidate for the Green Party and her comments prove this point rather well. Dr. Stein has also pointed out that what we see as a source of fear for Trump, we already see in Hillary Clinton. From an interview with Democracy Now:
So, let me say first off, this is a problem that could be fixed with the stroke of a pen, this electoral system that tells you to vote against what you’re afraid of and not for what you believe. And, you know, what we’ve seen over the years, this strategy has a track record: This politics of fear has actually delivered everything we were afraid of. All the reasons you were told you had to vote for the lesser evil—because you didn’t want the massive Wall Street bailouts, the offshoring of our jobs, the meltdown of the climate, the endless expanding wars, the attack on immigrants—all that, we’ve gotten by the droves, because we allowed ourselves to be silenced. 
Trump says very scary things—deporting immigrants, massive militarism and, you know, ignoring the climate. Well, Hillary, unfortunately, has a track record for doing all of those things. Hillary has supported the deportations of immigrants, opposed the refugees—women and children coming from Honduras, whose refugee crisis she was very much responsible for by giving a thumbs-up to this corporate coup in Honduras that has created the violence from which those refugees are fleeing. She basically said, "No, bar the gates, send them back." You know, so we see these draconian things that Donald Trump is talking about, we actually see Hillary Clinton doing.
What Dr. Stein has observed is that our country is caught up in target fixation, over and over again. When we focus on what we don't want, we tend to get it. This is also true when we focus on what we want. That's why we see so many people saying Bernie or Bust. I count myself among them. We want Bernie Sanders for president, not Hillary, not Trump.

A few days ago we saw Obama deliver a half-hearted statement endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. Then Biden endorsed Clinton. Then Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed Clinton. Shortly after that, Obama, Biden, Clinton and Warren all launched attacks against Trump. This all seems so contrived, it's as if the leaders of our country are deliberately trying to get us focused on Trump as the adversary rather than to focus on what we want.

None of these people are adversaries. I believe that in the end, they all want to go to bed at night knowing they did the right thing. But this is politics, and this alignment might be believable except for one thing. Three weeks before Trump announced his candidacy, he had a talk with Bill Clinton by phone. We don't know exactly what they talked about, but we do know they talked politics. What did they say that prompted Trump to run for president?

Now I have to ask myself, do we really need to fear Trump as president? What about all those nasty things he's said?

I might find those things he's said believable except that he's an entertainer and an actor as well as a businessman. Don't believe me? Check out his extensive listing on the Internet Movie Database. I don't know about you, but I'd say we've all been played the fool for believing that Trump is the antagonist that he is portrayed to be.

Do we really have a reason to fear Trump? I think more than a few people have noticed that he actually shares a fair number of policy positions with Bernie Sanders. Neither one of them are establishment candidates, so to some, his views may seem unconventional, just like Bernie Sanders. Have a look at a list of areas where we can find agreement between the two. Here is a very detailed analysis from Vox, a well respected source of fact-checked articles. Here's a nice bullet list from the Atlantic with some additional analysis:

  • Both oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
  • Both support maintaining or expanding current levels of Social Security benefits.
  • Both support some upper-income tax hikes.
  • Both lament the pernicious role of money in politics (this is why, as Stan herself notes, Trump likes to falsely claim he’s funding his own campaign).
  • Both opposed the Iraq war (Stan herself notes that Trump “would have left Saddam Hussein in power”) and believe the money spent on it could have been put to better use domestically.
  • Both have been known to worry that increased immigration could depress working-class wages.
  • Both have supported single-payer health care.
  • Both have flip-flopped on gun control.

So when the establishment press calls Trump a racist or misogynist, do you believe them after seeing how much he's in agreement with Sanders and his credits as an actor? We don't hear much about the similarities between Trump and Sanders in the press because as far as the mainstream media is concerned, Hillary Clinton is the protagonist and Trump is the evildoer, the one desperately needed to distract us from Sanders. "Please, please, please, vote for Hillary out of your fear of Trump. It's our only hope." That's the story in this political theater.

I see Trump as a necessary element to get us all distracted from the awful record of Hillary Clinton. To get us to vote for her, despite the awful taste in our mouth. To get us to forget about her emails (yes, you do need to worry about them dear Hillary supporters), the pay for play transactions through her family foundation, and her inconsistent policy positions.

I also see Trump as a businessman and an actor. He runs casinos and is probably not that bad at playing poker. Here he is, giving poker lessons. Could it be that he's been giving us a poker face all along? I don't think he's the only one. I think Hillary has been giving us that, too. She's been bluffing with a poor hand for a long, long time. Perhaps we should call her bluff by voting for Sanders and if not Sanders, then Dr. Stein.

If you want to catch the ball, you have to keep your eyes on the ball. Vote for who you want, not against someone else. You might get what you want for a change.