Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fill In The Blanks

The Sanders victory in New Hampshire was astonishing, so much so that the response of the mainstream media has been to hide the actual numbers.  Sanders beat Clinton by over 20 points, but a simple graphic, showing that margin, is hard to come by.

No matter.  Everyone understands that, as the campaigns pivot from New Hampshire and head to South Carolina and Nevada and beyond, Clinton is counting on a firewall of black voters, reinforced by establishment Democrats, super delegates and the media, to deliver the votes that will take her to the Democratic convention and, eventually, to the nomination. To get through that firewall, the Sanders campaign has to fill in the blanks in two important ways.  It has to contrast Sanders and Clinton more clearly on some issues, and it has show how Sanders' take on those issues is relevant to black Americans.

The first critical issue is American policy in the Middle East and North Africa, where the obsessive pursuit of regime change in Iraq, Libya and Syria by hawks like Clinton has destabilized the region and sustained Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). While Sanders flirted with regime change in a Senate resolution on Libya, Clinton has pursued it relentlessly.  In the case of Libya, her tunnel-vision led to the death of an American ambassador and the entry of Daesh into Libya, forcing America to engage the terrorists on yet another front. As Obama knew in 2008 but, under the influence of Clinton as Secretary of State, soon forgot, terrorist gangs like Daesh thrive in failed states. In Syria, her push for regime change threatens to bring American forces into actual combat with long-time Assad supporters Russia and Iran.  Attempting to enforce a no-fly zone in Northern Syria where Russian warplanes have been flying for months and where Russia has surface to air batteries with a 400 kilometer range, would almost certainly lead to Russia shooting down an American plane.  Is removing Assad worth that risk? I think Sanders can make the case that it is not.

But can he make the case that avoiding that risk is relevant to black America?  Maybe.  If we really believe that "black lives matter."

I was drafted in 1963.  When we rolled through the gates of Fort Polk, Louisiana, I was the only white boy on the bus.  And I can guarantee you there was not one son of the 1 per cent on that bus. Not even one millionaire's son. It was the sons of black and poor white Americans, disproportionately from states like South Carolina, who fought the war in Vietnam.

There is a debate going on right now over whether to amend the Selective Service Act to include women if the draft is ever needed again or to abolish the Selective Service Act and the draft forever. The only way America will ever need another draft is if the war on Daesh expands so drastically that it can't be fought with a volunteer army, or if one of our hawkish adventures in regime change plunges America into war.

I had hoped to finish out my life without writing words like: "It is not enough to stop killing black kids and throwing them in jail."  But the economic and social repression of black Americans, the intentional destruction of black America that began in earnest with Ronald Reagan, continues to this day, in spite of the eight-year presidency of a bi-racial American who identifies himself as black.  If it is true that on every important economic measure black Americans are worse off now than when Barack Obama took office in 2008, are we to believe that it's because he doesn't care about black people?  Or is the simpler, more compelling truth that the forces of repression are so entrenched in the political establishment at every level that only a political revolution can improve the lives of all working Americans, including black Americans?

We have free public elementary schools and high schools that have been theoretically and legally desegregated since 1954.  Segregated housing is also against the law.  And yet, I sit on the white side of a river and directly across from me, on the black side of the river, there is a high school from which only a few graduates went on to college last year.  The lead in the water my family drinks is only 2 ppb, while the lead in the drinking water of the families on the black side of the river is 12 ppb. Unemployment on my side of the river is low, unemployment on the other side of the river is devastatingly high.  Is the quality of life on the other side of the river so low because the people there are black?  No.  It's because they are poor.

Free public colleges, if we can find a way to get poor kids into them and through them, might level the playing field.  When I went to college in the late Fifties, my tuition was $50 per semester, and every kid who graduated from a Texas high school could get in. I picked a Texas college as far from my hometown as I could get.  While I was in college, my circumstances were pretty much the same as everyone else's.  Where I came from didn't matter as much as who I was.  And do I care if Donald Trump's kids also get to go to a state college for free?  Caring about that would be as silly as scrapping Social Security and Medicare, because they cover Trump, too.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Zombiefying Of Hillary Clinton

I think it started even before her involvement with Goldwater.  Things stick in your subconscious when you're a kid.  There is a big difference between a childhood that turns you into a Goldwater fan and one that makes you a fan of Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society.

And then there was her experience as First Lady of Arkansas, not exactly a Progressive state.  Not even a liberal one for that matter.

As First Lady of the U.S., she took on the American Health Insurance industry.  Maybe that defeat turned her into a "pragmatist," meaning that she learned to settle for what corporate America would let her have, and developed a "fuck you I've got mine, Jack" attitude to go along with her pragmatism.  Bill's impeachment had to have made an impression.

After Kennedy, Kerry and Daschle stabbed her in the back, she compromised with Obama in 2008, giving up her campaign before the Democratic convention in return for the Secretary of State job and a place at the head of the line of candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016.  Had to be a bitter pill to swallow.

Here's how they make a zombie.  Drug them and bury them.  Dig them up, beat them and give them their zombie name.  Put them to work in the fields. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Is Jesse Jackson Still Relevant?

The party is over.  After a week of following the Bernie Sanders surge on Twitter, I feel like I'm waking up to a stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink this morning.

I have mixed emotions about the tie in Iowa.  He had a real chance to take her out and he couldn't do it.  In the last 35 years, no Democratic candidate who lost both Iowa and New Hampshire has won the nomination.  His failure was our failure, my "demographic's" failure.  More than the "older"women's vote, women over 30, the over-65 vote kept Hillary Clinton from going down.  And, going forward, she can count on people over 65 -- who are, of course, focused almost exclusively on Social Security and Medicare -- along with that "older" women's vote and, most importantly, the black vote.

I doubt Sanders can make significant inroads into the over-65 crowd.  If an old person isn't in the Sanders camp by now, they're not likely to cross over.  About the only thing he has to offer them is an increase in Social Security benefits, a proposal Clinton can easily adopt.  We are too focused on our own diminishing powers and failing health to support a vision of a better future for our kids and grandkids.  And, as far as world affairs goes, a trip to the grocery store is a big event in most old folks' lives. Single-payer?  The idea of expanding Medicare to cover everyone?  That's a keep off of my lawn issue for the old folks.  Write us off, Bernie.

What about the "older" women?  Women over 30? Corruption and single-payer might be issues that are relevant enough to their lives to swing their votes, as could Hillary's recklessness in the Middle East, if Sanders puts foreign policy and the Middle East back on the table.  He barely mentioned the Middle East, Syria, or Libya in Iowa.  He was probably relieved that she didn't.  His campaign has apparently decided to play defense on those issues.

And that brings us to the black vote and to South Carolina, where Bill Clinton famously stubbed his toe by managing to disrespect Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson in the same breath.  Will Bill even show his face in South Carolina?  Whether Bill does or not, Sanders is fighting an uphill battle there.  Black Americans have a strange "thing" for the Clintons and Sanders is not likely to throw street money around the way the Clintons will.  Single-payer, Clinton's Wall Street and corporate connections may be good issues for Sanders, and his long history of engagement with civil rights may help him, but what he really needs is a flame-thrower to test Clinton's black firewall, maybe even burn it down.

The Sanders campaign may be Jesse Jackson's last chance to restore his relevance to American politics.  If he endorses and campaigns for Sanders now, Jesse Jackson might put Bernie Sanders in the White House.  The problem is that Jesse -- like the rest of the over-65 crowd -- may be past all that now.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What? Me Worry?

I have a good friend who makes me smile from time to time.  I do worry about a few things, though.

I worry about Jesse Jackson's silence.  Is he laying low until Bernie Sanders clears Iowa?  Or is he really going to sit this one out?  Jesse could make a difference for Sanders in South Carolina.

I worry about the intelligence of Democratic voters who seem to be buying the Clinton dodge on her use of an unsecured personal PC for emails as Secretary of State.  She claims none of the emails that went through that PC were marked "classified."  That argument is pretty much the argument of a kid who shoots her parents and begs for mercy, because she's an orphan.  Having hidden her emails from anyone who could have classified them, she contends they weren't marked "classified."  Of course they weren't marked "classified."  Apparently, no one who might have had the judgement and good sense to mark them "classified" ever saw them.  Who did see them, we may never know.  The Republicans are already sending signals that they are going to push for charges and impeachment if she gets elected.  The thing is, when you think about the carelessness that landed her in this jam, she just seems so ordinary.

I worry about the intelligence of Democratic voters who believe that Hillary Clinton can take millions of dollars from Wall Street in campaign contributions and speaking fees without owing Wall Street anything.  Can she really take millions of dollars from Wall Street and see them for what they are?  I just doubt that.

And I worry that this really is the last hurrah, the last chance to stop the decline of America into an oligarchy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Is The Iowa Caucus Important?

I think it is. 

National political campaigns have to do a few things well.  They have to have an electable candidate and a clear message.  They have to raise money.  They have to have a media campaign.  They have to have a ground game that gets the vote out.  And they have to bring all of that together in a way that produces votes, whether they're caucus votes, primary votes or general election votes, in fifty states and five territories.

The Iowa caucus is the first test of the Sanders campaign do that.  At 5:45 PM CST today, the Des Moines Register will release it's annual pre-caucus poll, predicting how well Sanders is doing.  Depending on the results of the poll, the campaign will swing into high gear to defend their lead or to catch up to Clinton by Monday night.

And, on Monday night, the Sanders donors will get their first look at how well Sanders has used the 3 million individual contributions they have invested in him.  Specifically, has he come up with a message, a media campaign and a ground game that can turn out the millennial vote in Iowa?  A lot is riding on the answer to that question.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The One Per Cent At Work

Take a look at the 11:10 mark in this video.  That's when Hillary gives her take on who was to blame for the housing mortgage crisis and implicates homeowners in the meltdown.

This is the speech she claims she made to tell Wall Street to "cut it out." You judge for yourself.  I think it's less about what she says than about the cozy, collegiate atmosphere of the event.  Definitely the One Per Cent at work.

She probably thinks she gave them hell.  She has a habit of investing events with emotion and drama.  And that's probably the way she remembers them.  Troubling to say the least.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The One Per Cent At Work And Play

Who are these people?  Where did they come from?  Where are they going?

The Sad Obsession of Paul Krugman

Most of the time, I find myself scribbling here to maintain some semblance of sanity.  Anyone who has given any thought at all to the disaster known as American health insurance knows that a phased extension of Medicare is the right solution to this country's health insurance problem.

I suspect Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner and NYT columnist, knows that as well as anyone.  And yet, Mr. Krugman's sad obsession with the Council of Economic Advisers, a role that has escaped him time after time, has him coming down on the side of Hillary Clinton and the kludge known as the Affordable Care Act.

Now Mr. Krugman knows that the Affordable Care Act was written by the insurance industry.  And he knows that the so-called Public Option, which might have been a tiny step toward single-payer was intentionally torpedoed by Barack Obama, but he is so obsessed with the idea that Hillary Clinton might actually put him on her Council of Economic Advisers, maybe even give him the chair, that he will say anything to get the job.

Krugman is a rich and famous man, and it is silly to pity him.  But I do.

It will be interesting to see if Hillary comes through if she gets elected.  Most experienced whores know you should settle on the price before you go to the room.  Has Hillary agreed to the price, or is Krugman giving her a freebie?  That's a pretty desperate act.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


We have to weed the cowards out of law enforcement. 

When I think of the cowardly gunning down of kids by cops who should have been weeded out before they ever made it to the streets, I think of a couple of Texas Rangers who, in my mind, set the bar for courage and service that all cops should try to clear.  Here's their story, straight from the Ranger archives.

In January of 1987, Brent Albert Beeler, a parolee from Houston wanted for forgery, made his way to Horseshoe Bay, Texas. He kidnapped two-year-old Kara-Leigh Whitehead, daughter of local rancher Bill Whitehead and his wife Leigh, and their maid, 22-year-old Denise Johnson.

Beeler barricaded himself in a house, killed Johnson, and demanded $30,000 and a car to release Kara-Leigh Whitehead. Determined not to let Beeler escape with the child, Texas Rangers Stanley Guffey and John Aycock volunteered to hide in the back of a Lincoln Town Car with the rear seat removed.

When the car was delivered, Beeler placed the girl in the front seat and threw a briefcase with the money in the back. In so doing he spotted Guffey, who identified himself as a Texas Ranger and ordered Beeler to surrender. In the seconds it took Guffey to identify himself, Beeler fired a .44 Magnum revolver, fatally wounding Ranger Guffey. Guffey was able to fire one shot before collapsing, but it missed Beeler. Ranger Aycock returned fire through the car window, fatally wounding Beeler. He quickly pulled Kara-Leigh Whitehead to the rear of the car out of harm's way before leaving the vehicle to approach Beeler.

The Lesser Of Two Weevils

In his historical novel, The Fortune of War, the great British author, Patrick O'Brian, created an exchange between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin that featured a pun on the comparative sizes of two weevils.  After forcing Maturin to choose between a fat weevil and a lesser weevil, well, you get it.

And it looks like that's what we Democrats are up against this election.  Choosing a weevil.  We can pick the slick, fat, well-fed, well-oiled and famous weevil, or the less well-known old weevil, who has, perhaps, tied his own shoe strings together.  And the object of the exercise is to avoid the unthinkable, the November 2016 victory of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Now, you might suppose that in making this choice the Democratic Establishment would choose the weevil who polls tell us has the best chance of beating Trump or Cruz.  And, actually, that would be the lesser of the two weevils.  However, it is the greater weevil the Establishment supports, because the lesser weevil to us is the greater weevil to them.  Sanders is the one candidate for President that no Establishment, be it Republican or Democratic, can or will ever allow us to elect.  Not if they can help it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The December 19th Democratic Debate

Yet another debate that no one will watch, because Clinton crony Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled it opposite Saturday night football.

Unless the Sanders campaign is a carefully planned maneuver, aimed at positioning him for a third party run, he's wasting his time competing as a Democrat.  He is the one candidate the billionaires and corporations that run both parties can't afford to let the people elect.

But I'm a political junky, so I'll be watching the debate tonight and hoping, as usual, to hear things I'll never hear.

Russia has now deployed their S-400 air defense system -- with a range of 400 kilometers --  along with fighters to cover their tactical bombers in Syria.  I wonder if that gives Clinton pause.  I wonder if she has changed her mind about imposing a no-fly zone in Northern Syria, where the Russians have been flying for months.  What's at stake now is whether or not she is ready to extend MAD to Syria.  The question is no longer whether she would shoot down a Russian aircraft if they don't "cooperate" and they continue to fly in her no-fly zone, the question is what she will do when the Russians shoot down an American fighter that is attacking their bombers.

What bothers me about American foreign policy as exemplified by Clinton is that, when we’re outmaneuvered, as we were outmaneuvered by Russia’s upping their support for Assad, we don’t back off and find another way to play the hand. The Cuban Missile Crisis that led to the US pulling its missiles out of Turkey in return for the Russians pulling theirs out of Cuba is a case study in diplomacy that Clinton should study carefully if she wants to go on imagining that she's John Kennedy, standing toe to toe with the Russians.  No, Hillary.  And you weren't under fire at Tuzla, and bin Laden was Obama's crisis, not yours.  The worst crisis you ever faced was Benghazi. 

Hillary, you impugn your own integrity every time you take a dirty dollar from Wall Street.

Sixty percent of your contributors may be women, but what percent of the total bucks contributed to your campaign has come from those women?  How does the dollar value of the contributions from all of those women compare to the amount of money you've gotten from Wall Street?

We all know that Bernie Sanders is committed to finishing the work of FDR, LBJ and MLK.  What's your own plan for doing that, Hillary?  Or don't you think that's a good idea.

The first time I saw Hillary Clinton, Bill had just been elected, and she was defending her plan for health care reform in front of Congress.  I thought she was really something to see.  Now I think the story of Hillary Clinton has turned out to be just another bright and shining lie.