April 15, 2016

It's Not About Qualifications, It's About Judgement

This dust-up about Sanders and Clinton barking back at each other over the issue of who's qualified is a media-derived controversy.  I know how it started and I don't really care about it or who said what. They're both eminently qualified to run for president and hold the office.  But the real question is - who's judgement do you trust?  And of course, I trust Bernie Sanders' judgement much, much more than Hillary Clinton's.  But let's take a deeper dive into that, because it's not good enough to just make the broad assertion.  It should be backed up with facts, cases, evidence, incidents, and whatever it takes to make such an assertion.  I am prepared to do that - "..it's what I live for..."...

Hawkish Foreign Policy

I've heard the Hillary apologists say they're so sick of hearing about her vote on the war in Iraq back in 2003.  Yeah, so am I.  But ya know - it was a big, big decision, and it not only caused a "Yuuuuge" problem, but it set the stage for making the Middle East even more conflict-ridden than it already was.  Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders were both in Congress at the time (Bernie was in the House of Representatives while Hillary was in the Senate), and they both heard the same evidence as presented by the Cheney Administration.  While Hillary followed the 'Establishment' line and voted in favor of the use of force, Bernie voted against giving George Bush a green light to forge more conflict.

To her credit, Hillary has admitted that vote was wrong and apologized for the error in judgement.  But, that's exactly what it was - an error in judgement as she towed the establishment line.  The real question is - did she learn from that event?  Some would argue that the answer to that question is 'No', as her proclivity for hawkish foreign policy has persisted for years thereafter, manifesting in her posturing for regime change in Libya, Sirya, and Honduras.

Yes, Hillary has gotten around the globe quite a bit, both as First Lady and Secretary of State.  She has probably met every head of state and knows them all by first name.  But when it comes to choosing whose judgement I trust in the Oval, it's not even close.

Trade Policy

Bernie Sanders has been out in front as opposition to all of the so-called "Free Trade" agreements which have largely been to blame for the loss of jobs in our country.  Hillary referred to the TPP as ".. the gold standard..."  of trade deals, until she finally came out against it having battled with Sanders in the Primaries.  Translation - Hillary towed the 'Establishment' line until she was up against Bernie's Progressive position, and then she took Bernie's position.

Economic Policy

This topic is broad, but I'll focus on just one element - Minimum Wage.  While Bernie has been fighting for a $15 minimum wage, Hillary has been fighting for just a $12 minimum wage.  However, when both New York and California came out with their $15 minimum wage laws, Hillary stood right there an owned it.

Social Issues

Again, a multitude of issues which can be addressed, but for the sake of brevity, just one - Gay Marriage.  Until 2013, Hillary Clinton was against Gay Marriage and supported both DOMA and Don't Ask / Don't Tell.  She's on record sounding just like a Republican saying that she believed marriage was between ONE Man and ONE Woman.  But just like Barack Obama, and to her credit, she evolved.  Why did she change her position?  You got it - she was towing the 'establishment' line by being against gay marriage, until the country (and the 'establishment') evolved.

Bernie Sanders has ALWAYS fought for gay rights.  Period.


Issue - Keystone XL Pipeline.  It was only recently that Hillary Clinton came out against this.  Why?  Could it be she was towing the 'Establishment' line until she was forced to adopt Bernie's Progressive position?

Issue - Fracking.  Hillary: For, Bernie: Against.

Health Care

Hillary tried and failed to reform Health Care back in the 90's under her husband's presidency.  Now that Barack Obama has shepherded in reform (The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare"), she is only on board with enhancing it incrementally rather than reforming the reform with a Single-Payer ("Medicare-For-All") Health Care plan.  She criticized his plan as unrealistic, but the truth is - Hillary's Health Care reforms are just as unrealistic as long as Republicans have ANY power in Washington.  In the process, she (and her surrogates - read "Chelsea") have been playing the fear card by saying that Sanders' plan will take away people's existing health coverage.

Campaign Finance

I saved the best for last because this is the biggest reason I trust Bernie Sanders' judgement so much more than Hillary Clinton's.  I'm sure by now you've heard eons about Hillary's 6-figure speeches to Goldman Sachs, and her Super PACs which have taken in tens of millions of dollars.  And I'm sure you've heard about Bernie's ump-teen millions of contributors, the average donation being $27.  Being the political junkie that I am, even I'm tired of hearing it from both candidates.  But, just because I'm tired of hearing it, doesn't make it any less important.

In all my years of following politics, the phrase I've found as the most consequential is this - "Follow the money".  It will tell you all you need to know.  It will explain with clarity and distinction exactly why politicians vote, say, and do what they do.  With only a few, rare exceptions, and especially given the corrosiveness of our Democracy from "Citizens United" and its predecessors, just about every politician in Washington is corrupted by what is essentially legalized bribery.  Hillary Clinton is not one of those exceptions.  Neither is Barack Obama.  Bernie Sanders is.

Hillary can claim .. ".. I went to Wall Street and told them to cut it out...", but I'm not buying that.


I've only scratched the surface here as there are hundreds of issues that separate these two candidates for the Democratic nomination.  In conclusion I want to paraphrase Jimmy Dore from "The Young Turks" as he was wrapping up analysis following the last Democratic Debate.  I apologize I can't quote his words exactly because it was in video and I'm recalling it from memory, but his point was great.  Some years ago, the elections came down to a Republican who was in the pocket of big business and hawkish on foreign policy as a tool of the Military-Industrial-Complex, versus a Democrat who was a supporter of worker's rights, dove-ish on foreign policy, and a check on business' overreach.  However, in this primary, those same attributes define a Democrat versus an Independent.

March 18, 2016

Why Do I Despise Republicans?

If you're a friend of mine on Facebook, or read any of my blog entries over the years, you already know that I utterly and completely despise Republicans.  I'm constantly 'sharing' or re-posting articles and video clips which highlight their corruption, hypocrisy, and deceit.  But every once-in-a-while it's helpful to summarize and consolidate all these reasons (and frankly, I enjoy compiling these kinds of lists).

Now, all of the Conservatives are going to say that these happen on both sides and try to purport a false equivalence.  It's true that there is some corruption, hypocrisy and deceit on the Democratic side, but it's not even close.  Almost every politician takes large donations from big business lobbyists and are in some way beholden to their corporate overlords.  But there are distinct differences in positions between the donkeys and elephants.

So - here's why I despise Republicans.  Or should I say - this is what Republicans stand for...
  • "Trickle-down"/Supply-side economics.  (i.e. Lowering taxes on the wealthy under the auspices of "creating jobs" with the illusion/con that it's a benefit to the Middle Class.  It isn't.)
  • Reducing services to the poor and middle class.  Since we've reduced the revenues into the Treasury from lowering taxes, that's resulted in massive deficits.  So, the only option is to cut government spending to reduce those deficits.  Republicans have relentlessly demonized "Government Spending" as a result.  And where do we cut government spending?  Do we pull back on the tens of millions of dollars of subsidies to large, highly-profitable corporations?  Noooooo.... we have to cut Food Stamps and social programs (a small fraction of the Federal budget).
  • Corporate welfare.  Why ARE we still giving tens of millions of dollars to large, highly-profitable corporations?  Any wonder who keeps voting for (or against repeal of) this?
  • Raising the Social Security retirement age to "Save" it.  This is one of the Republican's favorite talking points... Social Security is going to go broke in 30 or 40 years, so we have to trim the benefits in order to make sure it's still around for our younger generations by the time they need it.  Bullshit.  All we need to do to "save" or "reform" Social Security is to raise the premium cap.
  • Deregulation.  This is another of the Republicans' favorite talking points... They think government regulations are hampering business' ability to make profit, and God-forbid anything get in the way of business' ability to make a profit!  And they sell it under the auspices (i.e. con job) of "creating jobs".  This could not be any further from the truth - business' profits are way up, particularly over the last 7 years since the Recession of 2008.  AND, regulations (a.k.a. "Compliance") is a huge industry which has CREATED many, many jobs.  Oh, and about those pesky regulations?  They're just there to protect us FROM greedy, profit-hungry business.
  • Denying and ignoring climate change to kowtow to the Fossil Fuel industry.  The science on Climate Change is definitive and the impact from it is literally catastrophic.  The resolution is clear and undeniable - we (as a planet) need to transition away from Fossil Fuels and towards clean, renewable energy sources.  But, what to do if you're a politician who's heavily funded by the Fossil Fuel industry?
  • Stoking conflict in other countries to appease the Military-Industrial-Complex.  Defense Contractors need to generate profits, and the best way for that to happen is to sell more guns, bombs, planes, and all of the goods and services related to war.  Ever wonder why some politicians are so "Hawkish" on Foreign Policy?  Ever wonder why we were lied into war in Iraq?  Could there be a corollary that Halliburton made out like a bandit with no-bid contracts, $750 toilet seats, and $100 laundry loads?
  • Restricting voter access in order to combat "voter fraud".  So much for the right to vote - Republicans have made a Cottage Industry out of suppressing voting access with requirements for photo ID's, reduction/elimination of early voting, restrictions on provisional voting, purging of voting rolls, placement of voting machines which intentionally perpetuate long lines in traditionally Democratic districts, and a plethora of tactics.  Republicans don't want an informed electorate and they know they benefit from low voter turnout.
  • Gerrymandering districts to retain a majority in the House of Representatives.  It's both sad and pathetic that Constituents don't pick their Representatives, Representatives pick their Constituents. 
  • Denying women the right to choose what they do with their own bodies.  Republicans are so religiously over-zealous about abortion that they'll do anything they can to subvert the Constitutional right to privacy (and abortion), ironically while railing on "Big Government".
  • Denying gay people the right to marry whom they choose.  Yes, nothing expresses our patriotism and Americanism better than denying a minority their civil rights.  In fact, Republicans go so far to practice this discrimination, they even package it as "Fighting for Religious Liberty".  Yes, "Religious Liberty" means an ultra-religious, Christian, homophobic baker shouldn't be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
  • Completely unrestricted control of firearms.  No sense in regulating guns - let everyone have them... Children, mentally unstable, ex-cons, etc.  The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  So, of course, the answer to all of the gun violence problems in our country is.... more guns!
  • Privatization of Government Services.  Suuure.. Let's turn Medicare into a voucher system and Social Security into Private Investment accounts (i.e. let Wall St. collect more fees for bad advice, and have your Social Security nest egg be at the risk of the Stock Market).
  • Obstructing the Democratic President at every opportunity.  He's not just a Democrat - he's black!  Have to oppose everything he purports, even if it's our own ideas regurgitated, and even though it means complete gridlock in Washington and engaging in hostage politics such as shutting down the government. 
  • Believing that illegal immigrants are the problem in our country.  The scheming/conniving Republicans continue to hold this shiny object over the heads of the ignorant Republicans - that all of our country's problems relate back to those illegals.  We just have to build a wall all along our Southern border (and make Mexico pay for it).
  • Minimum wage - don't raise it, or eliminate it entirely.  If business' had to pay their workers higher wages, that would cut into their profits.  And God-forbid anything cut into business' profits.  So, Republicans would like to eliminate the minimum wage altogether and pay their workers the lowest wages possible.
  • Anti-union.  If workers have collective bargaining power, business' would have to pay their workers higher wages (see "Minimum wage").
  • "Flat Tax" rate.  This is another favorite Republican talking point.  They sell it under the auspices (i.e. con job) of "fairness" by saying if we ALL paid the same tax rate, it would be fair for everyone.  In reality, and nearly all economists agree, a "flat tax" rate would mean the wealthy pay significantly less taxes, and the poor and Middle Class pay significantly more taxes.  Bottom line - a flat tax scheme means an even steeper shift of wealth towards the wealthy.

February 25, 2016

A Perspective - What is "Democratic Socialism"?

For as long as I can remember the term "Socialism" has been demonized as something very, very bad. People somehow relate it to Germany or the USSR from the 30's, 40's or 50's and how could we be like Stalin or Mussolini?

And even if Socialism WAS a bad thing, that's NOT what Bernie Sanders has characterized himself as.  He has always characterized himself as a "DEMOCRATIC Socialist", and there's a "Yuuuuge" difference.  So let's examine this...

My first premise is that our country, along with virtually all others, is currently run by a combination of BOTH Capitalism AND Socialism.  They coexist together; side by side.  Some industries are appropriate to be run in a Capitalism model, and some industries are more appropriate to be run in a Socialism model.

Socialism simply means that the government collects taxes and uses that money to provide services to the people.  These are much-needed services that cannot be delivered via the private, profit-seeking model, including police, fire fighters, teachers (public schools) national defense, and infrastructure (roads and bridges), etc.  They also include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and a myriad of domestic programs which help people at all rungs of the economic ladder.  You can't advertise these services on television and expect people to buy them online or at the big brick-and-mortar stores.  There's also a fundamental concept that rich people could afford to buy their way into these products and services, where poor people cannot, therefore it's incumbent upon us to help make them widely available.  Otherwise, only the rich would benefit, and the poor could never take advantage.

Most other industries are run under the private, capitalism model.  Theoretically, these industries have fair competition which sparks research and creativity to develop the best-in-class product or service and they thrive based on their sales/revenues.  For most of these industries, we all pretty-much agree; there's no controversy.  The contention arises when we take a step back and think about some industries which are now operating under the model of Capitalism (i.e. FOR-PROFIT) and maybe SHOULD be operating under the Socialism model.  So, let's take a look at some of those....


Health Care

Even after the changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act, and even though the right-wing continues to parrot talking points about "Obamacare" being a government takeover of health care, the reality is that our health care system today (post "Obamacare") is STILL based on the PRIVATE health insurance model.  "Obamacare" essentially added a bunch more rules to attempt to cover a larger base and reign in the insurance provider's abuses.  It's debatable whether "Obamacare" actually controlled costs, and then of course there's a litany of right-wing claims, most of which are without merit or evidence.

The bottom line, however, is that as long as the private health insurance model persists, our system is such that some people are profiting off of other people's sickness.  In my humble opinion, that is downright immoral.  In addition it drives an incentive to actually make more people sick (cha-ching).  Moreover, with profit (i.e. greed) built into the system, along with marketing, promotion, administration and all of the other expenses associated with running a business, there's no way the costs are going to be reduced.

So Bernie Sanders is absolutely right - the only way to deliver health care to EVERYONE and bring costs down, is to implement a "Single-Payer" (i.e. "Medicare-for-All") health care delivery system, much like EVERY OTHER INDUSTRIALIZED NATION.  To characterize this goal as "unrealistic" is to have a defeatist attitude - "Hey, the Republicans won't go for it, so we might as well not even try".  Really?  Is that how we should lay out our agenda?  Shoot for incremental change because we think real change is unattainable?  And who's to say that "incremental" change is even attainable?  Republicans are always talking about "repealing and replacing Obamacare" - well, just maybe, 'Medicare-For-All' IS the best replacement?



If you haven't seen Michael Moore's new film - "Where To Invade Next?" - make it your business to see this documentary as soon as you can.  It's a game-changer.  One thing I learned is that in (I think it was) Slovenia, where the educational system is considered best-in-class, private schools are against the law.  Since the children of the rich people are attending the same schools as the children of the poor people, all of the schools are considered equal and high-quality.  It's in the rich people's interest to make sure all of the schools are up to par.  Hence all children, rich or poor, receive the same high-quality education and it doesn't matter which school they attend.

Both Democratic candidates see the necessity to open the doors wider for people to attend higher education, which is more and more prohibitive these days due to the rising costs.  And if higher education is too expensive for poor people, then only rich people can take advantage and poor people continue to be disadvantaged with little or no opportunity to rise into affluence.

So, when you hear Republicans talk about private schools, "charter" schools, or voucher programs, that's really code for "I'm rich and I want MY kids to get a better education then those poor kids so they have more and better opportunities..."


Penal System

The privatization of prisons is wrong on so many levels.  Not only is it utterly immoral for some people to profit from other people's incarceration, but it drives an incentive to send more people to prison and for longer terms.  That leads to more government spending on prisons (even though they're "private"), more lives ruined needlessly (usually poor minorities), more restrictive laws in our society (victim-less drug crimes with unduly harsh sentences), and more burdens in our society when these 'convicts' get out of prison and can't land good-paying jobs (which in turn leads to more crime).  Furthermore, putting prisoners to work for little-or-no pay is akin to slavery.

And to maximize profits, these private prisons need to keep costs down of course.  That alone should give you an idea of the conditions within.  Again, another plug for Michael Moore's film - there's a segment on the prison system in Norway - it highlights the humane treatment of prisoners which leads to a lower rate of recidivism. And of course, private prisons are outlawed.

Here's a short segment from Democracy Now! which explains why private prisons are a really bad idea:  https://www.freespeech.org/video/prisons-profit-under-kasich-ohio-becomes-laboratory-privatizing-public-jails


These are a few of the industries which many believe should be socialized instead of capitalized. That's not to say that Capitalism is bad - it has its place in most industries.  But even in some of those industries, socialism exists for large corporations in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, risk, etc.  Look at some companies like Walmart - they pay their workers such low wages that even full-time employees live in poverty and require government assistance.

Bottom line - "Democratic Socialism" isn't a knock on Capitalism.  It's just an acknowledgement that Socialism has its place and Capitalism has its place as well.  And in today's society, they need to be shuffled around a bit.