Why the Rush to Judgeship?

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell promised that the vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court bench, would happen later this week.  This, despite a “thorough” FBI investigation which spoke to neither Kavanaugh nor Dr. Ford, and which failed to speak to eight witnesses provided by the Ford camp, another twenty from Debbie Ramirez and a further twenty or so who knew Kavanaugh and his cronies, and had valuable information which they tried unsuccessfully to share with the FBI. Essentially, the FBI investigation did little more than confirm that some of the known witnesses, a number of whom never did have relevant information, said what we thought they said.  It smacks of a whitewash, from start to end.

So, to many, the investigation is far from finished, but to McConnell, the time to vote is right now.  We should all be asking ourselves, “Why the rush?”  On the one hand, it might be suggested that McConnell fears that the midterms will flip enough of the Senate seats that the Republicans may not be able to muster enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh.  But the reality is that even if the Republicans lost in November, the sitting Senators would not leave office until January.  That would leave ample time for a vote.

No, McConnell wants that vote right here, right now, for an altogether different reason.  This October, on the Supreme Court docket is a case numbered 17-646, Gamble vs. US, and a five to four vote in a conservative led Supreme Court decision, is all that is needed to make Trump’s claim that he could “shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any voters” more than a distasteful threat. 

At the heart of Gamble vs. US is the desire to overturn a portion of the double jeopardy law known as “separate sovereigns.”  Briefly, the double jeopardy law says that a person can not be tried twice for the same offense.  Whether initially acquitted, sentenced or pardoned, that person should be free from further prosecution.  Where this often comes into play is when a person is on trial for a crime that is an offense at both a state and a federal level (separate sovereigns).  Gamble was tried and found guilty of a felonious gun possession, by both the state of Alabama and the federal government, sentenced by both, and has been arguing that his sentencing twice for the same crime is a violation of his protection under double jeopardy laws. 

In numerous writings, Kavanaugh has already come out in favor of expanding the power of the executive branch, and the legitimate concern here is that he would cast the deciding vote to overturn this section of the law.  So, why should we be concerned?

If the separate sovereigns clause is overturned, it would extend to the executive branch, for now the Trump administration, the ability to pardon criminality at a federal level and leave the state unable to prosecute under the double jeopardy statutes.  Right now, the state of New York is suing the Trump Foundation for campaign finance law violations, for using a charitable organization to settle legal claims against his businesses, for personal spending through a charity and for using the charitable Foundation’s funds to curry political favor.  New York State has also turned over its evidence to the IRS, that at a federal level, they may also seek to prosecute Trump and his family.  Abolishing separate sovereigns would give Trump the ability to pardon his children and possibly himself at the federal level, and leave the state unable to prosecute him.

How else might this play out?  Manafort and Cohen are in the process of working deals with the Mueller investigation, giving their testimony to avoid further prosecution and prison time.  A Trump pardon could make both of them free men, and prevent them from further prosecution, thus rendering Mueller’s deal, worthless.  At that point, what is their incentive to give testimony against Trump?  It has also been reported that Russian oligarch money has wended its way into more than just the Trump presidential campaign.  Evidence is strong that Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham also received large sums of money in their campaign war-chests from Russian donors possibly tied to the Kremlin.  The promise of a pardon from Trump would not only keep these three out of prison, but would also incentivize them to vote against impeachment, should Mueller’s investigation come to that.

In the end, our biggest worry should be that the members of our federal government are positioning themselves to be, if not above the law, immune to it.  When a member of our government, be it at the executive, legislative or judicial branch, commits a crime, the “placeness” of where that crime was committed is what allows our state and local attorneys general to launch investigations and to prosecute.  They are our voices against a corrupt government.  They are our watch dogs.  Removing the separate sovereigns clause has the distinct potential to render those dogs toothless. 

The Trump administration has insisted that immigrants are the enemy from without and that journalists are the enemy from within, two positions right out of the Nazi playbook.  Now, this same administration is positioning itself to pay no penalty for corruption, because that presidential pardon covers all sins.  In time, we should be able to change this administration at the ballot box.  But as long as the conservative right maintains that 5-4 swing vote advantage on the Supreme Court, the decisions they make now will enable corrupt politicians for decades to come.  So, ask yourselves again, “why does McConnell need this vote, right now?”




So, Who Is The Mole in the White House?

Since the publication last week of the Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, speculation has been rampant about who may have written it.  Reports are that Trump is becoming even more unhinged as he sees his little empire of sycophants crumbling around him.  He has demanded that the NYT reveal the author of the piece, so that he or she may be  both prosecuted and persecuted as a traitor.  And laughingly, the White House has not been able to whittle down the list of prospective suspects beyond anyone outside of Trump’s immediate family.

So, who did author the Op-Ed?  Initial speculation was that it was none other than Mike Pence, due in large part to the use of the word, “loadstar,” which he has used routinely and which is otherwise not common in the vernacular.  Of course, if you wanted to make it look like someone in particular had written the piece, if you wanted to “frame” someone for the job, what better way to do so than to use a word or phrase associated commonly with that person?  Pence, of course, has vehemently denied writing the piece.  But you know what?  If you think about it, he also has the most to gain.

Pence wants to be President in order to further his own far-right (far-out) religious agenda and to create a Christian Sharia state.  But as vice-president, the odds are actually stacked against him.  We often think of the VP as the natural successor to the President, once the President’s term (or the President) has expired.  But it is far more likely that the VP will vanish into obscurity, largely because American politics is prone to pendulum swings from one political position to its opposite.  It seems that Americans can certainly get more than enough of a “good thing.”  If we take a minute to look at  it historically, you will see that Pence’s best shot, by far, is to become President without being elected, try to straighten out the ship of state’s course, and then win a re-election on his own merits.

Herbert Hoover presided over the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.  For obvious reasons, he wasn’t going to get re-elected or be succeeded by his VP (Charles Curtis).  FDR became the president and was succeeded by his fourth VP, Harry Truman, on FDR’s death, 82 days after the election.  Truman served out that term, showed himself a competent administrator, and then was re-elected.  But by 1953, the nation had tired of the Korean War and the firing of Douglas MacArthur, and had swung back to the Republicans and Dwight Eisenhower.  Truman’s VP, Alben Barkley, never ascended to the presidency.

Eisenhower served two terms, setting up his VP, Richard Nixon, for his shot, but Nixon lost out to the swinging pendulum as it moved toward the left and JFK.  Lyndon Johnson, with a well earned reputation for shady politicking, succeeded Kennedy on Kennedy’s death.  With the country still reeling from the Kennedy assassination, LBJ was elected to the presidency in 1964 for his first and only term.  His VP, Hubert Humphrey, never became President, as the national pendulum swung back to the Republicans, Nixon, and his promise to end the war in Viet Nam.

Of course, Nixon was later forced to resign in disgrace on the heels of Watergate, paving the way for his own VP, Gerald Ford, to become President and incur the wrath of the nation.  Ford could not get re-elected as Jimmy Carter won in 1976.  His VP, Walter Mondale, went down with Carter’s sinking ship as the economy plummeted, and Carter was replaced with Ronald Reagan in 1980. 

Reagan’s VP, the lone outlier on this list, was the first George Bush, and he managed to win the election for President in 1988, serving through 1992.  But by then, the country was ready to swing in a new direction and Bush’s VP, the spelling challenged Dan Quayle, was soon relegated to a “Jeopardy” answer.  Bill Clinton becomes president in 1993 and lasts for two terms, but the scandals of his tenure and the meaning of “is” doomed the inventor of the internet, Al Gore, to the loss of his own chance to play President. 

You can see how the pattern develops.  George Bush MKII takes over from Clinton and eight years later, Dick Cheney has shot his wad and alienated every voter with a pulse.  In a startling display of acumen (almost worthy of a President), he has the smarts not to even run.  Barack Obama spends eight years trying to convince us that he is a liberal, while furthering an establishment agenda remarkably similar to that of the Republicans, and Joe Biden watches his chance to become President vanish when the entire Democratic Party is sold for pennies on the dollar to the Clintons, who run the family business right into the ground.

Now, we have Trump, the Friday the 13th of all administrations.  And Mike Pence is no doubt, looking at history and seeing that his own chance, slim at best from the start, is assuredly slipping away.  As the nation waits for “Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” to shoot Trump with a tranquilizer and cart him away to a suitable zoological institution, Pence must realize that his only chance to become President is to negotiate a particularly difficult trifecta.  First, he has to get Trump out of office before his term expires, so that Pence can become President without benefit of clergy or an actual vote.  Second, he has to do so in such a way that he can position himself as savior of the country and of his own party, earning at least a short-term measure of good will on the part of the electorate, heading into the 2020 elections.  Then, betting the farm on the very real possibility that the Democrats will continue to disenfranchise their own base by ignoring the Progressive Movement and the will of the people, a carefully managed 2020 campaign of attack ads will keep enough voters at home for the Republican faithful to eek out a victory, declare it a mandate, and move full throttle forward in a return to the 1950’s. 

So, did Pence write the Op-Ed?  How the hell should I know?  He will continue to deny it right up until his coronation.  It is possible that he did, and it is possible that someone even higher up than Pence or Trump was behind it, moving pieces on the chess board to keep extending the game and force the kind of stalemate which guarantees business as usual.  But one thing we have seen out of this administration is that none of them ever seem to exercise the good sense to keep their own mouth’s shut.  Stay tuned, for time will tell.  In the end, the great irony is that Mike Pence could play the role of Judas to Trump’s own delusion that he is the return of the Christ.


Two Un-Asked Questions on the Immigration Scandal

It is altogether fitting and proper that the key concern with the Trump administration’s immigration policy is the separation of children from their families.  As it pertains to what is a misdemeanor crime, that policy is unconscionable and utterly despicable on every level.  And, while the buck must stop at Trump’s desk, this administration is busily trying to pass it both upward and leftward, simultaneously.  Meanwhile, an ineffectual Congress has failed to bring this sorry chapter in American history to a close, and must shoulder much of the blame for enabling Trump, themselves.

Lost in the finger pointing, twitter storming, xenophobic fascist ranting of Trump and his minions, are two key questions which have thus far gone un-asked by the media and by the American people.  The questions are simple; the answers could speak volumes about the nation we are becoming and the future we might have to endure.

A few days ago, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her function as Trump’s Press Secretary, conducted a press conference in which she was repeatedly asked to explain the policy of removing illegal immigrant children from their parents.  She never managed to give a plausible explanation, and confused the actual law with administration policy.  At one point, still referring to their policy as law, she stated that “it is very biblical to enforce the law.”  Coming on the heels of Jeff Sessions’ citing of the bible and Romans 13, “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes” (a verse that has previously been used as a defense for slavery), the first of our questions should have immediately been asked by the assembled press.

That question is simply, this:  In a nation established on many principles, one of which is a strict separation of church and state, how can any policy of our government be justified by an interpretation of bible doctrine? 

The bible has no more place in the workings of our government than your daily horoscope or the fortune cookie from your lunch.  Ultimately, basing our system of government on the bible or any other manner of religious text, amounts to the abrogation of the single most important of our rights, the third article of the Bill of Rights:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That third article is at once the one that establishes our individual freedom to practice a religious faith, or to not practice one at all.  Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Druid or atheist, all are equal and all are free to practice their religion free from interference by the government.  It is, in equal parts, a freedom of religion (ours) and a freedom from religion (yours).  For that reason, for the sake of living in a nation where all of us are created and treated equally, religion must be kept out of the running of our government.  This is an issue which should be of the utmost importance to atheist and believer alike.  Once a nation adopts a state sponsored religion, all others are subject to  censure (think Iran) and those people “not of the faith” become blasphemers. 

What is the current administration really doing by citing the bible as justification of their policies?  They are passing the buck, upward.  That buck which should stop at Trump’s desk is now laid at the feet of God.  “God says that this should be so.”  Folks, this is the first rung on the ladder leading to a Christian form of Sharia law.  It is the process by which the necessary humanity of our law is pushed aside and our lawmakers are absolved of all responsibility or culpability for inhumane practices and policies.  It is also well worth noting that the areas of bible doctrine most frequently quoted come from the Old Testament, the “thou shalt nots” which routinely strip civil liberties from those governed.

The second question, which has yet to be pressed upon the administration, is one which, when answered thoughtfully, would reframe our understanding of the underlying implications of this malign policy.  Why are we vilifying and turning away these immigrants at this point in time?

The Trump administration has repeatedly stated that these immigrants bring with them criminal behavior, and more importantly, take jobs away from American workers.  Neither of these allegations holds any water.

A 2016 article from the Migration Policy Institute (link below), indicates that of the 11 million people living in this country illegally, some 820,000 of them possess a criminal record, but only 300,000 of them have a felony conviction and 390,000 were serious misdemeanants whose crimes merited modest jail time or community service.  In terms of percentages, 7.5% of the illegals in this country have some manner of criminal record, 2.7% have a felony conviction and 3.5% have a misdemeanor with jail time.  By comparison, about 8.6% of the American adult population has a felony conviction.  All things considered, your illegal immigrant neighbor is somewhat more likely to raise the quality of behavior in your neighborhood, not lower it.

That leaves us with the jobs which illegal immigrants are scamming from honest, hard-working Americans.  What jobs are those?  Operating under the assumption that these illegal immigrants are coming into this country without papers and are not on the social security rolls, the jobs that they are taking are predominantly “under the table,” working as restaurant help, picking fruits and vegetables, serving as day laborers, and usually, working for less than minimum wage.  What American wants those jobs?  What American could afford to live on those jobs?

When we frame the question, “Why is illegal immigration a problem, right now?,” we should look backward and ask, “Has it been a problem, before?”  During the 1950’s, ’60’s and ’70’s, it was not perceived as a problem.  Back then, the average American household did quite well on a single wage-earner’s income, bought a house, fed a family, paid its bills and sent kids to college.  Immigrant laborers brought down the costs of our fruit and vegetables, and our dinners out.  But illegal immigration was perceived as a problem in the 1930’s, during the depression and dustbowl era, when millions of American citizens had no jobs and were struggling just to make ends meet for their next meal.  When American workers had to pick cotton, fruit and vegetables because there were no other jobs, and were willing to do so for starvation wages, then those immigrant workers became unwanted competition.  And here we are today, where families with two wage earners are having a hard time paying their bills, are renting because they can’t afford to buy, or are watching their homes being foreclosed upon as their savings erode.  Truth be told, if we take the long view of the American standard of living (despite the assurances of this and prior administrations), it has been in a reasonably steady decline for the past forty years.  If our leaders were to reverse this trend by bringing meaningful jobs to this country and putting us back on top of the heap as an industrial superpower, the concerns about migrant labor would vanish overnight.

As much as I hate to do so, I have to quote Bill Clinton on this one; “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Of course, Clinton did his own part to wreck that same economy, send our jobs overseas and, in his own way, pin the blame on the immigrant.  This is not  a problem owned solely by Trump; his is just the most malicious approach to it.   

The problem is that the trend in our nation toward a service economy based on crappier and crappier, low paying jobs, is not one which is likely to be reversed, any time soon.  The stranglehold on wealth in this country which sees it moving inexorably to the top, based on fossil fuels, big pharma, health care, armaments, war and the variants of the insurance industries, is only tightening.  American jobs are not coming home from overseas.  And now we can add to that shortlist, the physical management of human beings.  Under Clinton, we saw the advent of the privatized prison system, one in which many of our leaders (including Attorney General Jeff Sessions) are reputedly invested.  There is a lot of money to be made in the incarceration business.  And right now, there are people and corporations making large sums of money separating children from their parents in policy maneuvers which strive to make felonious that which were previously misdemeanor crimes.

It is up to us to demand of our journalists, our fourth estate which purportedly is there to keep us informed and hold our leaders accountable, that they ask the questions that really matter, the ones that point to the underlying truths about the workings of our government and the influence over same that wealthy corporations, individuals and institutions hold.  Too often, those journalists are striving for the sensational, because it sells papers (and more importantly, advertising).  But it is in the nitty-gritty details that we find the mechanisms shaping our own future.  What will that future be?  One where justice is meted out based on a 2000 year old text?  One of detention camps, work camps and xenophobia run amuck?  That decision is still ours, if we have the fortitude to make it.



Bill Clinton on illegal immigration:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swtDFqaXy6Y


Looking Back and Looking Forward

This is an opinion piece.  Make of it what you will.  Know that I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking this through.  That does not mean that I am right, only that I have thought about it.  I’d ask that you do the same.  As with many of my articles, I write because I would hope to draw attention to how we, the citizen voters of the United States, are constantly under threat of being manipulated in our emotions, our thinking and ultimately, our voting.  The good news is that fewer and fewer of us are falling for it.  The bad news is that it is the others who do most of the voting.

I’d like to take a short look back at the 2016 election and then look ahead to the election in 2020.  It is my belief that we can see the 2020 election taking shape, very clearly, today.  I’ll start with one simple premise:

Consent Can Be Manufactured

When someone, or some institution wants your approval or your “go ahead” to something which you would otherwise oppose, a strategy to gain that approval is to create a situation, or the illusion of one, whereby granting that approval is the only viable option to you.  In the case of an election cycle, the trick is to manufacture a crisis which your opponent’s policies would only exacerbate.  This is what we saw in the 2016 election.

While Donald Trump may be a fool in many regards, you can be sure that his handlers are not.  It is my belief that from a point very early on in the primaries, the Trump campaign believed it would be running against Bernie Sanders in the general election. 

If you recall, when Trump announced his candidacy (in a throng of people the majority of whom had been hired to be there), he was asked against whom he wanted to run.  Without hesitation, he said, “Hillary, because she is the easiest one to beat.”  The strategy for beating Hillary was a simple one and already hashed out; drag out her dirty laundry and hang it on the line for all of America to see.  The emails, the Pay-to-Play Clinton Foundation, her miserable tenure as Secretary of State, her do-nothing tenure as Senator, her war-mongering foreign policy, the string of bodies piled up behind her, the theft of recovery money bound for Haiti, the Uranium One deal, and her louse of a husband, were more than sufficient to keep her on the defensive and to paint her as not just a poor candidate, but a genuinely dislikable human being.  Hers was a candidacy doomed from the outset.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders was consistently outdrawing Clinton and outpolling Trump by double digits.  If the election was to be held there and then, Sanders would have trounced Trump, and Trump’s people knew it.  So, how do you win over those voters whose conscience told them to vote for Sanders?  Or, failing that, how do you discourage them and keep them home on election night?  You create a crisis, one which your opponent can not address while remaining true to his or her own principles.

In the US, we have a lot of crises right now from which to choose.  A crumbling economy, meaningless, low paying jobs where once we had careers, exploding health care costs, a generation crippled by college loan debt, military bombing campaigns in seven different nations, the threat of nuclear war with a psychotic despot in North Korea; the Trump campaign could have chosen any of these.  Instead, they chose illegal immigration.

“They are not our friends, believe me,” he said, “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people.”  This was a strategy straight out of Hitler’s Germany.  Point the finger of blame at outsiders who can not defend themselves and paint your opponent as someone too weak to deal with this impending crisis. 

Sanders, a Democratic Socialist whose platform was based on helping all of us in the 99%, including immigrants to this country, legal or not, could not stand up in support of the inhumanity of Trump’s border wall.  Indeed, such a creation is an abhorrence to the character of a man such as Bernie Sanders.  Simultaneously, the last thing the Trump campaign wanted was to go toe to toe with Sanders on any matter of domestic policy.  But, the Progressives tend to be weak in their ability to define a foreign policy, and so the die was cast to make this election about “Making America Great Again,” and starting by getting rid of those filthy immigrant rapists, drug dealers and murderers.  It was a classic instance of manufacturing consent.

Of course, the Republicans did not ultimately need to implement that strategy (though they are now saddled with it), as the Democrats threw the election from within.

That was 2016.  Now to look at 2020.

At the pace we are going, by 2020 America will be trillions of dollars deeper in debt, the Trump tax-break will have gone largely bust for the middle and working classes, the rich will be considerably richer, and Mueller will still be gathering evidence.  Even Trump’s core supporters may have to admit that he is utterly clueless as President, and the stink of corruption from Washington will hang like a haze over most of America.  A Progressive candidate will arise on the left, possibly Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard or Nina Turner.  The voters who watched the DNC rig the 2016 election and deny their candidate the chance to run, will sense that their time has finally come.

And a crisis will strike us, just after the nomination of the Democratic candidate.  They won’t be able to use the illegal immigrant card twice, because to do so would be to admit that they hadn’t “solved” the crisis in the four previous years (they will also be busy recruiting hispanic voters).  Instead, the crisis will probably evolve with the threat of a shooting war, most likely in the middle east.  North Korea is a candidate, but in truth, we really don’t want to shoot it out with their psychotic despot (he’s likely to shoot back).  Instead, we’ll be forced to deliver some democracy and create some business opportunities in Syria or Iran, or possibly somewhere in East Africa.   

The seeds are already being sown.  Nikki Haley has attempted to make the case to the UN Security Council that the Iranians are supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, though right now the UN remains skeptical.  The Syrians recently shot down an Israeli Air Force Jet.  The Israelis returned the favor, targeting what they claim was a delivery of Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah in Damascus.  Syria’s Assad has called Israel’s airstrikes a “declaration of war.”  A US airstrike in Syria, earlier this week, apparently killed a number of Russian military contractors.  Our government is referring to them as mercenaries.  We can be sure that the Russians will refer to them as civilians.  The Saudis are continuing their air war on Yemen and the human toll due to airstrikes and starvation is appalling. 

This is a kettle being systematically and strategically brought to a boil.  Over the next two years, we will witness that same kettle being dropped to a simmer (evidence of the success of Trump’s foreign policy) and raised again to that boil (evidence of the “threat to our way of life” posed by terrorist elements or Muslim extremists in the sector), all in preparation for ratcheting up the heat in 2020 when it is time to boil it over, point to the Progressives and demand to know how their foreign policy is going to deal with this.  If the Progressives do not have the answer, voters will begrudgingly cast their ballots for a continuation of the Republican regime (because they will do what has to be done to keep us safe), or stay home entirely, sit on their hands, and once again let about a quarter of the electorate choose the next administration.

And just why are we in Syria right now, anyway?  Are we making the world safe for democracy?  Are we coming to the aid of an oppressed people?  Are we containing Russian aggression?  Are we getting in line to seize their natural resources and route Saudi oil to the Bosphorus?  Or are we simply creating the kind of boogeyman we can build up and knock down at will, in order to manufacture voter’s consent in the face of a Trumped up threat to American interests and on the surmise that a liberal or Progressive candidate lacks the foreign policy skill set to decisively manage that impending crisis?

Whatever the reason and however diabolical (or not) the plot, the most important takeaway from this for Progressive candidates is that they must project a clearly defined foreign policy, one on which they can campaign well in advance of the election, and one which will spell out their willingness to take the lead in negotiating peace, or, if unavoidable, be decisive in committing to military intervention to end such a crisis.  It needs to take up sides, to name our friends as well as our enemies, and to demonstrate to the American voters that we will “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”  Once the citizens of our country have been reassured, the Progressive candidate will be able to return the conversation to the domestic policy failures of the Conservatives, and drum these swine out of Washington.

Progressives, are you listening?


A Grassroots Movement is Just That

As the Trump administration drifts farther into inanity, if not insanity, focus is beginning to shift to the Democrats and their inability to formulate a platform which reaches out to energize what is left of their base.  2018 will be on us in a heartbeat and 2020 shortly thereafter.  To date, the DNC has refused to budge from the same neo-liberal agenda which cost them the last election, and has put up a front runner in Kamala Harris, who has given us no reason to see her as anything more than a Clinton clone.  Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are not even mentioned as possible candidates by the DNC, fresh off their “win” in the Florida fraud case, where the DNC lawyers stated that the DNC had every right to rig the election, and to choose their nominee in a smoke filled back room, with no regard to the expressed desires of their voting base.

As many have realized, there is only one figure in the Democratic party who stands above the rest in the big three areas of  name recognition, popularity and favorability.  Of course, that is Bernie Sanders, who is still fighting tirelessly in the Senate, when he is not fighting tirelessly on the road.  He is standing up to Trump and fighting for all of us in the 99%, still working to get us a single payer healthcare system, to reign in the corporate oligarchy that is the United States government, to spread the tax burden equitably between the 1% and the rest of us, and getting people involved in the political process. 

Our involvement in the political process is the only thing that will change the system, yet many Americans believe that the deck is stacked too heavily against us for change ever to happen.  “What good is a grassroots movement,” they reason, “when the corporations own the government?”  Not so fast.  If you want to make changes to your government, you need to understand the mechanism of that change a little better and to start seeing things in context.


The map above reflects the results of the 2016 presidential election on a county by county basis.  Red areas went to Trump and Blue areas to Clinton.  The darker the shade, the more heavily that area went to the designated candidate. 

We know by now that Clinton won the popular vote by some 2.2 million votes.  That is utterly immaterial.  She lost the county by county vote by a huge margin, with Trump winning some 84% of the counties across the country.  This is very significant, because it is this county by county voting that shapes the awarding of delegates in the Electoral College, which Trump won in a landslide.  Bear that in mind a minute.

It has been published elsewhere that if “Did Not Vote” was the name of a candidate, “Did Not Vote” would be our current president.  Forty-seven percent of all eligible voters, stayed home.  So, Clinton, Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, split 53% of the electorate.  No one had a majority.  None had so much as 30%.  There is an enormous, untapped resource of voters out there, waiting for a candidate in whom they can believe.  For many, that was and is Bernie Sanders, and the polling before and after the election shows unequivocally that Sanders would have defeated Trump by some eighteen percent.  Why?

The reason Bernie Sanders would have done so well is that his campaign appealed to voters everywhere, across all demographics of American society (except the aforementioned 1%).  He might not have won the city centers as convincingly as Clinton, but he would have won on a county by county basis, and that would have flipped the electoral college.

This is where the rest of us come in.  If we want to make changes in our government, it begins at home.  It truly is a grassroots revolution.  We can’t worry about what is happening in Washington D.C., or in other states.  We have to shape the opinions in our own counties, among our friends and neighbors, and GET OUT THE VOTE.  We are talking about defeating another candidate who will have little more than 25% of the electorate behind him or behind her.  We could have (easily) as much as 43% of the electorate behind a Progressive candidate.  Forty-three percent of all registered voters are Independents, the majority of whom found the neo-liberal Clinton much too far to the right to be acceptable.  Add to that 43%, the 13% of the electorate (nearly 50% of the Democratic party) who voted for Sanders in the primaries, and we would have a political juggernaut. 

Keep the faith.  Keep fighting the fight.  Arm yourselves with the kind of knowledge that will help you speak convincingly to your friends, to your neighbors, and to help them see just where and when it is that they have been voting against their own interests.  If we can turn out the vote, with an eye toward changing the color of the county by county map, we can relegate one of the two major parties to third party status.  We can change the government.  We can change the world.  We can grant ourselves a future.  And it all begins at home.

For more on the breakdown of votes in the 2016 election:  http://brilliantmaps.com/2016-county-election-map/


Feeling Sorry for Donald Trump

It has been a busy week for Donald Trump, and the wheels look to be coming off the wagon.  With the firing of Steve Bannon, the resignation of Carl Icahn, and now the resignation en masse of the entire Council on the Arts & Humanities, the Trump administration is running out of eyes to blacken.  Add those names to the growing list of fired or resigned cabinet members, and we see in just how much disarray this administration really is.  Since taking office in January, he has already fired or seen skedaddle Michael Flynn (National Security adviser), Derek Harvey (Middle East adviser for National Security Council), James Comey (FBI Director), Reince Priebus (Chief of Staff), Walter Shaub (Office of Government Ethics Director), Anthony Scaramucci (Communications Director – the second such of this administration), and Sean Spicer (Press Secretary).

In a way, you have to feel sorry for the guy.  And I do, I truly do.  Don’t get me wrong, as a human being, the Trump we have come to know is a detestable, boorish, creep.  He has earned that on his own merits.  His knowledge of the workings of the world and of the historical context in which it needs to be understood, are almost invariably wrong.  He can’t seem to be bothered with half-truths; he has launched himself headlong into absolute irrationality.  For most of us, we have to scratch our heads and ask, “How could anyone think that?”

And that is the important question.  That is where our lesson needs to be learned.  The next time it is suggested that we have to elect an extremely wealthy “businessman” to the Presidency, “because he will understand the economy,”  we should ride that messenger out of town, on a rail, tarred and feathered.  In our history, we have elected eight men to the office of the Presidency who came to us from the world of business.  Of the eight, only two will be remembered favorably, and only one of them for the actions taken while he was in office. 

It would take three hundred or more pages to accurately dissect the administrations of these men, so I’ll have to paraphrase it here, running the highlight reel.  The first was Warren G. Harding (#29), who died in office after just two years and left us most notably with the Teapot Dome Scandal, wherein his administration had leased Navy petroleum reserves to private oil companies, without a competitive bidding process.  In other words, his administration was turning a buck by selling off that which they managed but did not own, a prime example of early venture capitalism.

Harding was followed by Calvin Coolidge (#30), who proclaimed that “The business of America is business,” when the rest of the country was operating under the vague notion that the business of America was supposed to be freedom and government of and by the people.  Coolidge oversaw the deregulation of large corporate interests as government shifted to working for the corporation, and put in place the policies that would lead to the Stock Market Crash in 1929.

Herbert Hoover (Hoobert Heever) (#31) inherited Coolidge’s America and managed to shepherd the country from the 1929 Crash, straight into the Great Depression.  He will never be remembered as anything but an abject failure as an administrator.

Harry Truman (#33) became president on the death of Franklin Roosevelt and proved to be a very able administrator indeed.  Nicknamed “Hydromatic Harry (a shiftless son-of-a-bitch)” while in office, he has none-the-less come to be regarded as one of our better Presidents, implementing the Marshall Plan for the restoration of Europe (which made the United States the world’s #1 industrial power), the creation of NATO and the founding of the UN, and negotiating the early stages of the Cold War between the Russians, Chinese and ourselves.  It is important to note that as a “businessman,” Truman was a small-businessman, the owner of a haberdashery.

Jimmy Carter (#39) will also be remembered well, but not for his time in office.  Carter is a fine human being who has sought to lead by example, well into his nineties.  But his administration was a disaster of epic proportions, including staggering double digit inflation, the botched Iranian hostage rescue and a cabinet of ill-informed people, particularly in terms of foreign policy, who bungled our reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and furthered the decline of our global position throughout the middle east (the Camp David Accords notwithstanding).  His business?  We all remember that Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer, not an oil man or a real estate mogul.

G.H.W Bush (#41) came to us as big oil money and a “thousand points of light,” but managed to steer us into NAFTA, the first Gulf War (which, to his credit, was superbly prosecuted), and an economic recession with a recovery so weak that we elected a hillbilly to the office in his place. 

Of course, GW Bush (#43), scion of GHW Bush, the elder, led us into Afghanistan, the second Iraq War and the “global war on terror,” while surrounding himself with the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Haliburton.  We continue to dig out from that morass, today.

And now we have Trump (#45), born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his daddy’s fortune in his hip pocket.  The ultimate “businessman.” Real estate tycoon, steak salesman, casino mogul, beauty pageant impresario, and TV game show host.  Sounds legit.  But here we are, barely eight months into his four year hitch, and the rats are fleeing the sinking ship while he continues to drill holes into it to let the water out.

And I feel sorry for the guy. 

I feel sorry for Trump in the same way that I feel sorry for all these other richer-than-you-could-ever-imagine schnooks (popularly referred to as the 1%).  You see, in his life, Trump has never needed to be right.  When you have that kind of money, you can do anything you want, think anything you want, believe any cockamamie idea that comes down the pike, and you’ll still come out fine.  Fortune Magazine ran an article on him in 2015 which demonstrated that the man who is worth an estimated $5 billion would have been worth as much as $13 billion if he had just put his money in an index fund and sat on it ( http://fortune.com/2015/08/20/donald-trump-index-funds/ ).  In other words, his bungled business ventures have cost him almost $8 billion, but he is too damn rich to even notice.

By contrast, look at a small businessman like Harry Truman.  Anyone who has ever owned or managed a small business can tell you that they can’t afford to be wrong.  One error in judgement, one bad investment, one failed advertising campaign, can set a small business back or even force it under. 

While Americans applaud the brashness and financial devil-may-care attitude of the fabulously wealthy (politicians or celebs, is there a difference?), what we consistently see from these people is that they operate on a set of misapprehensions that would confound anyone with a decent, twelfth grade education.  By all means, plop these folks down in a reality TV show, so we can kick back, point at the screen and have a laugh at their expense.  But don’t expect these people to make decisions on your health care, on your civil liberties, or give them the keys to the nuclear arsenal. 

In the end, I feel sorry for Donald Trump, not as a president with an administration destined for the shredder, but as a failed human being.  Boor, loudmouth, creep, however you wish to think of him, Donald Trump, in my estimation, is a stupid person, stupid in the sense of possessing a profound ignorance about damn near everything.  In an alternate universe, he might be an eighth grade dropout, panhandling on a street in a major city, unable to read a classified ad and find even minimum wage work.  He might be someone convinced that the moon landing was faked, that the sun orbits the earth, or that the planet is just 6000 years old. 

Instead, he is someone in a finely tailored suit, with a much younger, very attractive wife, a perpetual “whatever!” expression and the might of the world’s most powerful military behind him.  But none of that fixes stupid.  He clings to the belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax, that there is some manner of equivalency between nazis and the decent people who stood up to them in Charlottesville, that our own LGBTQ community poses a threat to our military, that immigrants are destroying our country and its economy, and that we can bomb our enemies into democracy and friendship.  I am saddened by his ignorance, not just for the sake of our country, but for the sake of a man who will live out the rest of his life, wallowing in money and never comprehending all of the things which can not be bought.  One appellation for Trump would be to call him a “cynic,” a person who believes that people are motivated by self-interest alone, and not by a sense of honor or for other unselfish reasons.   Or as Oscar Wilde defined, a cynic “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  Today, we are paying the price for Trump and seeing that there is indeed no value in him.  He has become pathetic.


How Do We Implement Real Change?

This morning, as I was making lunches for my two boys to take to school, I turned on the radio to NPR’s Morning Edition, just in time to hear the host proclaim that with her win in Puerto Rico, Hillary was within thirty pledged delegates of winning the nomination.  I switched the radio off again and made a mental note to never donate to Public Radio or Television again.  Of course, the report is absolutely incorrect and reflects the same stance that the main stream media has taken since the outset of the primary process, where Super Delegates who have not yet voted have been counted in Clinton’s favor and added to her delegate totals.

Like many of us, I used to have a much higher opinion of NPR.  But, after their federal funding was cut, they had to look elsewhere for their operating capital and wound up in bed with the likes of the Koch Brothers and other big money interests.  NPR has joined the establishment, has become main stream media and must now be tossed into the same bucket as CNN, MSNBC and FOX.  When what we think is conditioned by what we have learned, it stands to reason that if what we have learned is wrong, what we will think will be wrong, too.  The report on Clinton’s delegate count was wrong, and has been wrong on every main stream media source.  For those of us who follow the political process closely, it is easy to see the error.  But what other reports, on other issues, have been equally wrong, equally biased?  And how are those reports shaping the way we think about our world?

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with my neighbor on a wide range of topics, one of which was our current political madness.  She is a senior citizen and a Democrat (Clinton’s demographic), and asked me if I knew of anyone who was supporting Clinton.  I do not.  Neither does she.  But she also had no knowledge of the extent of election rigging that has plagued this primary season.  She was unaware of the exit polling which has accurately reflected each and every Republican primary, while being wildly off in the Democratic elections.  She was equally unaware of the lack of ballots, closing of polling places, purging of voter polls and mysterious changes in registration status which have become a hallmark of every Democratic contest, while being unheard of among the Republicans. 

As someone who is not a consumer of the social media powered world of internet journalism, my neighbor remains reliant on the main stream media as the dominant source of her information.  She can change channels, but if they are all pushing the same lie, and it is not something she can verify on her own, what real option does she have but to accept it as the truth?

What this should make us realize is that if we want real change, it is going to be a much harder climb than just electing an anti-establishment candidate.  If any one thing has been made abundantly clear in this election cycle, it is that the overwhelming majority of Americans are fed up with politics as usual.  We do want change.  We want a change in our leadership because it is the only way that we will ever realize a change in our individual lives, our individual chances to make our own world better.  We want a government that comes together to do the bidding of the people who put them there. 

Contrary to the caricatures emanating from the far right, the only Americans who are looking for handouts continue to be the rich, who want to hold on to more of their soft earned money.  Real Americans want to work.  Give us the chance and we are the hardest working people on the planet.  And the reason for that is that philosophically, we still believe that through our own labors, we can make our lives better and make a better life for our children.  But we have witnessed our government sell our jobs overseas through decades of miserable trade agreements.  We have witnessed our status as industrial giant collapse into a service economy where once highly skilled workers now compete for minimum wage jobs stocking shelves.  This was not our doing.  The blame lies squarely with the government and their handlers, and there is equal blame to taint both parties.

So here we are, early in June and with three significant contenders for the presidency, each of whom wants to be perceived as the anti-establishment instrument of change.  Trump shouts, “Look at me!  I have no political baggage, am fabulously wealthy and make great deals because everything I touch, turns to gold.”  Ironically enough, that did not work out too well for King Midas, either.  In Trump, we have someone who is fabulously wealthy, though seemingly in spite of himself.  His record of failed businesses, bankruptcies, shady “deals,” and now lawsuits against Trump U. show him to be far less accomplished than he would have us believe. 

Clinton hangs her anti-establishment banner on her status as a woman and somehow equates becoming the first female president of the country with representing an anti-establishment posture.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  As a hawkish neo-con, her voting record, actions as Secretary of State, and the very positions on foreign policy that she espouses in her stump speeches and interviews, show her to be the poster child for establishment politics.  The reality that she is heavily funded by Wall Street, Big Pharma, and the Health Insurance industry, and does not want anyone to know what she has to say to any of those concerns, should tell us all that we need to know about her establishment allegiances.

The historically high unfavorable ratings for Clinton and Trump demonstrate that while Americans want change, Americans do not want either of those options.  The third candidate is, of course, Bernie Sanders, the only truly anti-establishment figure among the three.  His message of combatting the effects of income inequality, guaranteeing health care for all Americans and of making education attainable for all of our young people, has struck a chord with voters across this country.  And his anti-establishment stance has been well vetted; as the popular meme circulating on social media states, you can name any mistake our government has made in the past thirty years and there is a video on YouTube of Bernie Sanders, trying to stop it.  Sometimes lost in the discourse is his insistence on more and more Americans becoming involved in the political process.  Indeed, that may be the single most effective tool in bringing about meaningful change in this country.

On the one hand, there you have it.  If you want a candidate whose focus will be on bringing about a meaningful change in the direction of this country, Bernie Sanders is the one.  But do not think for a moment that that alone will solve our problems.  Whatever Sanders will accomplish, he will do so by going up against big monied interests.  His foes will be found within the ranks of a government corrupted by lobbyists and the favors big money can buy.  But they will also be found without, in the form of the main stream media and the bias through which it will inform America.

If we want real change in this country, in the end, we will have to be the instruments of that change.  The Revolution will not just be a political one; rather it will necessitate social changes and a rethinking of how we go about the day to day business of being Americans.  It is goingt o push each of us out of our comfort zones.  Just as in the French Revolution, we will have to at least metaphorically separate the snakes in our government and wealthy, ruling class from their heads.  As the saying goes, kill the head and the body dies.  In this case, the head is money.

Once we recognize just who our real enemies are, the course of action becomes clearer.  As Sanders has repeatedly said, we need to get the influence of big money out of politics.  We also need to take the influence of the main stream media, big money’s mouthpiece, out of our lives.  We need to stop the spread of disinformation, so that it does not become what we have learned and thus the basis for all of our future decision making.   In short, we have to develop a deeper understanding and cultivate a greater participation in our political process.  We have work to take money out of the pockets of those institutions that use money to manipulate us, our voices and our votes.  And, we have to make ourselves smarter, so that it is that much harder to fool us.

Want to make a start?  Here are a number of things each of us can do, right now, to start the ball rolling.

Cancel Your Cable – Cable packages, even at their most basic level, come with bundles of stations, and your monthly premium goes in large part toward paying their fees.  If people would cancel their cable subscriptions, it would hit the main stream media where it hurts, right in their wallet.  Today, most of your favorite programming can be had by a significantly lower subscription rate through NetFlix, Hulu, and other providers.

Donate a Portion of Your Cable Savings – Once you have cut the cord with cable, seek out the news and information services which earn your trust through fair, honest, unbiased reporting and support them with a donation.  I have become a big fan of The Young Turks and would invite you to look them up.  But do your own legwork, find your own sources and share what you find with the rest of us.

Stay Connected Through Social Media – When you find a group of like minded souls on your social media pages, stay connected with them, and get to know them well enough that any one from the group can respectfully question another’s assertions.  Before we can hold the establishment’s feet to the fire, we have to be able to take the heat ourselves.

Get Involved With Your PTA – The disconnect from the political process begins early, when young people are not taught about government and its workings.  Just as being fed the wrong information leads you to think in the wrong terms, being fed no information leads you to not think for yourself at all.  It is long overdue for young people to once again  take courses in Civics and Ethics.  Our government should not be unassailable because it is not understandable.  Additionally, Critical Thinking is infinitely more important than Common Core Math.  Insist that your children’s schools focus on Critical Thinking skills.  If we teach our kids how to think, and to think critically, we won’t have to worry so much about others telling them what to think.

Reading Comprehension – There is no more important skill that anyone learns in school or in life than reading comprehension.  If you can read and understand the subtlety of what is written, what lies between the lines, you can teach yourself anything.  Everything that humanity has ever learned is written down.  It is there for all of us.  Remember Trump’s comment on how much he “loves the uneducated?”  Call it a Freudian slip, but what he said in that moment is exactly the basis for how politicians (and other snake oil salesmen) have always worked.  The more we know, the more complex and nuanced our understanding of what they are saying to us is, the more transparent they become.  And while you are at it, read to and with your kids.  Engage them in discussion of what they have heard or read to sharpen their own skills and to introduce them to the world of adult thought.

Buy American – This is easier said than done at a time when a visit to a Home Depot, Wall Mart or Lowe’s will not turn up more than a small handful of items made in this country.  But if we want to put the hurt on those corporations that have sent American jobs overseas, we need to stop buying their products.  One solution, particularly in terms of household goods and furnishings, is to buy second hand.  Thrift shops are everywhere and often present you with the chance to buy a gently used item which was made in America, to higher standards.  Though it is used, it will most likely outlive the new item made somewhere in the third world, and at a fraction of the cost.

Buy Local – A portion of every purchase you make is a cost to offset shipping that item from somewhere else in the world.  Transportation costs ultimately put money in the pocket of big oil, one of the largest lobbyists to Washington.  Buying local means less use of oil, less carbon emissions into the atmosphere and most importantly, it builds community.  In an earlier article, http://johnqsviews.com/universal-health-care-and-renewable-energy-will-save-our-economy, we looked at the personal economy, your individual economy, and viewed it as a pie of assets, against which slices are cut to pay for your expenses.  Here, in the abridged version, as your costs for essential expenses (housing, energy, health care, food and education) rise, those wedges of the pie get larger and of necessity, the wedges of your non-essential expenses must get smaller.  If the balance shifts too far, you no longer have the money for non-essential expenses.  But it is those non-essentials that are often the source of income for someone else’s pie.  This is why the recession moves like a wave through a community.  Make a concerted effort to buy locally sourced goods and you will move your assets into the pie of someone else in the community, who in turn will move it along and to some degree, back to you.  Strengthen the economy of your community from the ground up and your community will have less need of DC politics.

These are just a few examples of things we can do to strengthen our communities, our numbers and our effectiveness as we work to take back our country from our own government and the ruling class.  Have other ideas?  Drop a line with a comment and we will keep this ball rolling.

America, you’ve overslept.  It is time to wake up and get on with your education.  It is time for all of us to open our eyes to what is going on around us, to how we are being manipulated, how we are being taught what to think, so we fall right into line.  As the saying goes, there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.  It is always right for us to question authority, and any time an individual or an institution which would set itself up as an authority is unwilling or unable to answer our questions, we must consider them to be either deceitful or incompetent.  Neither is fit to lead us. 

For now, I would leave you with the most important question, the one you must ask of any authority figure: Whom does it serve?  If you are presented with information or a rationale on which someone wants you to make a decision or entrust them with doing so, you must ask, “Who benefits from me believing this and acting upon that belief?”  It is akin to following the money and will usually lead you to the truth they would rather you not consider.  Sanders was asking that question when our country was deciding to go to war in Iraq.  Think for a moment where we would be if the rest of us had been doing the same.


Those Who Do Not Learn From History…

Today, a little perspective.  There is an old adage that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  Now, in 2016, the citizens of the United States are locked in the process of of making choices which will have an immediate impact on their future, but need to look to history for illustrations of how those decisions have impacted earlier civilizations.

In the past three thousand years, there have been quite a number of important civilizations distributed across this planet.  For “civilization,” we should think, experiment in societal living.  Civilizations coalesce from groups of people who either choose or are coerced into living by a particular set of rules or within a particular social structure.  If the rules and the structure can serve to hold the group of people together, a civilization is born, and it grows up, matures, ages and, in time, fades away or is forcibly replaced by another.  Coming from a culture whose roots owe more to European history, we tend to focus on five of these great Civilizations: the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, British Empire and the Americans.

Each of these civilizations was replaced, in turn, by another.  In the ancient world, guided by ancient technology and of necessity, the slower spread of global change, the first three of these civilizations overlapped to one degree or another, before the Romans emerged as the dominant civilization of the ancient world.  After the fall of Rome, which most scholars date to about 476 A.D., the European world slipped into the Dark Ages and did not emerge from them until the Renaissance of the 1300’s.  It would be another almost 300 years before the British Empire became the dominant civilization of its time.

For a moment, let’s look at the Roman Empire and its parallels to our own, American Civilization.  The question becomes two-fold.  What did the Romans give us (what did they do best?) and why did their civilization collapse?

Well, what did the Romans give us?  Architecture!  Uh, no, that would be the Greeks.  Mathematics!  No, that would be the Arabs and the Greeks again.  Literature!  Again, we really trace our literary roots to the Greeks and Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle.  Religion!  Afraid not.  The Romans lifted their mythology directly from the Greeks and replaced it toward the end of their Civilization with Christianity, lifted directly from the Jews.

So, why should we remember the Romans?  What did they do better than anyone else of their era?  The answer, in three little letters, is WAR.  The Romans were the greatest, most sophisticated and technologically advanced war machine of their time.  They spread out across the Mediterranean, the northern tier of Africa, into the Middle East and Turkey, northward through Europe and into the British Isles, overpowering and enslaving everything in their path.  And directly on the heels of that war machine came Roman commerce.  Think of a great civilization like a beating heart.  Raw materials and treasure from the conquered world flowed back to the heart, were transformed into goods and wealth, and a portion of them flowed back out again to the far reaches of the empire.  In short, war made possible the opening of business opportunities for the Romans, and those business opportunities enriched the Roman civilization and made the wealthy aristocracy greedier for more, thus promoting more war. 

It became an all consuming fire which was unsustainable as the resources of the empire were spread increasingly thin.  So, why did the Roman Civilization fall?  Here are seven key reasons:

Crumbling Economy – The Romans reliance on constant war had stretched their internal finances to the breaking point.  When the expansion into Europe and Eurasia ground to a halt, the treasure making its way back to Rome dried up.  As a result, the government levied oppressive and disproportionate taxes on the citizenry, which only served to widen the economic gap between the rich and the poor.  The rich, of course, had the wherewithal to try to escape the tax-man, by moving out of Rome into the further ends of the empire, or through their ability to shape the laws of the land through the Senate which they controlled.

Division of Wealth – Increasingly, there developed a wide gap between the wealthy and the lower echelons of society.  The wealthy families owned the land and controlled the government, while the merchant class and slave laborers were tasked with the responsibility of being the craftsmen of the empire and the people who kept the wheels of commerce rolling.  All of the knowledge of how day to day things were done fell to the merchant class and, when the economy of Rome collapsed, the merchant class disappeared.  With them, that knowledge was lost, so much so that at the start of the Renaissance, some 900 years later, people lived among the ruins of the Roman empire, with no idea how any of it had been built.

Crumbling Infrastructure – The constant expansion of the Roman empire necessitated a tremendous investment in infrastructure.  Initially, the building of this vast network of roads, bridges, buildings and aqueducts fell to the merchant class and the engineers within that group.  In time though, slave laborers from the further reaches of the Empire were brought in as a cheaper maintenance crew.  As the infrastructure aged  and crumbled, the people tasked with maintaining it lacked the real knowledge of how to do so and it became a self-perpetuating downward spiral.  In recent years, archaeologists have come to believe that part of the fall of the Roman Empire could be attributed to poisoning of the people by lead in the drinking water supply, as lead joints were used to hold the aqueducts together.

Division Into Two Partisan Camps – As the Roman empire expanded, Emperor Diocletian effectively divided the Empire into two halves, Western (Europe) and Eastern (the Middle East and Eurasia).  Each half had its own, localized government, and the two found that they were incapable of working together to support the greater Empire.  The eastern half, based in Constantinople, which did not come to the aid of the western half when they were attacked by the Vandals and Goths, actually survived the collapse of the Empire and carried on for almost another 1000 years before being subsumed by the Ottoman Turks in the 1400s.

Military Overspending – A civilization dependent upon war for its growth needs to maintain that war machine.  The Romans directed the greater portion of their treasure toward the outer fringes of the Empire and the maintenance of that machine.  But building walls and fortifications and equipping troops can only go so far in terms of creating a viable internal economy.  At a certain point, a military organization on constant “watch” becomes the end of the line for the civilization’s finances, without a feedback loop to grow the economy at home.

Government Corruption – As the empire grew in size, it became increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible to govern, and the emperors and the Senate became ever more corrupt in their efforts to “get while the getting’s good.”  They robbed the coffers of its treasure and set themselves against each other, resulting in a civil war in which the Empire saw no less than 20 emperors in a span of just 75 years.

Rise of Christianity – Today, we portray the Christian religion as an inherently benevolent institution, but during the time of the Romans, it was the interloper.  It was the new way of thinking which would supplant the old, replacing traditional values which had supported the civilization for so long.  In the case of the Romans, monotheistic Christianity came to replace polytheistic traditional Roman culture, where the emperor was assumed to be, himself, divine.  This shift away from the emperor as the exponent of the divine will, allowed many Romans the opportunity to view their leaders in a new light and to see them for the corrupt institution that they had become.  Christianity, in the case of Rome, became a focusing element for the oppressed and disenfranchised, and the focus of what we would today call a “grassroots” opposition.

I hope that many of you are already seeing the parallels between the ancient Romans and ourselves.  The political discourse in this year’s election cycle is frighteningly on point in describing the United States as a civilization poised to go the way of Rome.  Yes, there was a time when the Unites States provided the world with tremendous advances in science and in art, and exemplified a culture of personal freedom which was the envy of the world, so much so that vast waves of immigration to this country resulted.

Today though, ask anyone around the world what it is that the Americans do best and they will tell you, WAR.  The United States is the most powerful war machine in the history of the world.  In truth, Americans have always been very good at waging war; it seems to be in our DNA.  But it wasn’t until the Second World War that we truly embraced the idea that we could reshape our world, to our advantage, through the use of our military. 

This coming December 7th will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which committed us to full participation in the Second World War.  In that time, we have changed from a country loathe to enter into war into one quick to seize upon the opportunities war provides.  In recent years, former Secretary of State Clinton has even gone on record to say that the war in Iraq, one based on the coercion of the American people by lies about Saddam Hussein’s ownership of weapons of mass destruction and his harboring of terrorist cells, should now be viewed as a “business opportunity.”  Is this the Pax Americana?   

And at home, what has been the result?

Crumbling Economy – our military involvement in Iraq alone has cost this country more than 1.1 trillion dollars, despite Dick Cheney’s assurances that it would cost about 80 billion.  Saddled with this debt and coupled with a generation of economic expansion which has seen huge numbers of jobs sent overseas to the far-flung reaches of our own influence, our economy has been in a tailspin for some fifteen years. 

Division of Wealth – In the United States, the top 1% of the population controls more money than the bottom 90% of the populace.  The bottom 80% only controls about 7% of the wealth.  The gap in monetary holdings between the top 10% and the middle class is a difference of over 1000% and the top 1% own over 1000% more than the top 10%.  The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.  The middle (merchant) class is gradually disappearing.  And, until the surprising rise of populist political figure Bernie Sanders, the rich have chosen the politicians and the policies on which our government is run.  Also, like Ancient Rome, the wealthy, through their control of governmental legislation, have been able to rig the tax system to their favor, putting a greater onus on the middle classes to foot the bills of the country, and widening the gulf between rich and poor in the process.

Crumbling Infrastructure – One side effect of the crumbling economy has been the loss of jobs or the decline of income of millions of tax-paying Americans.  With less paid in taxes at a federal, state or local level, there is less money in the coffers to maintain the infrastructure of the country.  American cities are crumbling and, like ancient Rome, we are witnessing crises such as the lead water poisoning of Flint, Michigan.  Coincidence?

Division Into Two Partisan Camps – The Obama administration has been characterized by the further divisions between the Republicans and the Democrats, to such an extent that each is capable of blocking the efforts of the other to get anything in Washington done.  As a result, we have a political divide in this country in which neither side is willing to compromise with the other, a state of stasis is created and nothing changes.  Of course, it could be argued that for the individuals in government and the wealthiest Americans who profit under the current system, everything for them is just hunky-dory.  Who needs to change that?

Military Overspending – Like the Romans, our civilization has become one which is dependent upon the use of our military as a mechanism for spreading our business interests around the globe.  As such, that military must be maintained and upgraded at all times, at considerable expense.  Yearly, the United Sates spends some $597.5 billion on the military, four times the amount of the next closest nation (China, at some $145 billion).  Also, like the Romans, it could be argued that this expenditure is unsustainable, or certainly that it redirects money away from other areas where the nation could more widely spend it (health care, infrastructure, poverty, education, etc.).

Government Corruption – Perhaps the single most important issue of this campaign season, has focused on the corruption within our government.  In recent years, all of our politicians have been held up to the same standard, viewed in the same light, and this is because they have essentially been interchangeable parts in a  machine that runs in the same way, no matter who comprises its mechanism.  The wealthy individuals, corporations and institutions, like Wall Street, which have chosen, supported, and bank-rolled our candidates for so long, have seen to that.  This year, we have seen that institutions like Goldman Sachs have backed both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, two very different politicians with different agendas.  Why?  The simple explanation is that Goldman Sachs stands to benefit in the same way from either of them.  They have no care as to who becomes our President, only that their own interests are protected.  Corruption, ultimately is about either power or money, and in America, they are one and the same. In years past, we have had the choice of two candidates who have each belonged to the same establishment, with the net result of their terms that their wealthy supporters have continued to prosper while the rest of us have settled into a steady decline.  This year, a candidate of the people, Bernie Sanders, has emerged as a new paradigm against which the establishment must be viewed.  And to the majority of working Americans, the establishment is not looking too good.

Rise of Christianity – Unlike the Romans, where Christianity was the new model, for us it represents the traditional values.  However, what we have seen in recent years in this country among a subset of the voters, is a shift away from the modern form of our Christianity toward an embracing of a more hard-line, arch conservative Christianity.  In identifying this group, of course, we mean to indicate the far-right wing of the Republican party, and their intention to recalibrate our culture along a much more constrained line of acceptable behavior.  To say that they represent traditional values, one really must look as far back as the Puritans.  Christianity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries was considerably more enlightened.  There is though, a flip side to this coin.  What the rise of Christianity may have meant to the demise of the civilization of ancient Rome, is best expressed in the form of the cultural revolution to which it gave rise.  Today, we are witnessing a large group of people within our own society who have chosen to embrace a new model of belief, a cultural revolution centered in the needs of the middle and working classes, and moving away from the established power structures enforced by the wealthy elite.  It remains to be seen if this cultural revolution is also unstoppable.

I believe that you can see that there are powerful points of comparison between the cultures of Ancient Rome and the American experiment in democracy.  All of us need to be concerned that continuing along the same path that we have been for more than forty years, will result in a better than average chance that our civilization will collapse under the same weight that crushed the Romans.  As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  We should all accept that changes are necessary to the continued existence of our culture.  Interestingly, though changes do not require that we put the wealthy aristocrats to the sword (though it may come to that).  The wealthy power brokers just need to understand that they need to protect their long-term interests by fixing their chronic short-sightedness.

At the outset of this article, I referenced the British Empire as another of the major civilizations.  Well, what happened to them?  They took a different path.  Like the Romans, the British were with most powerful military force of their day and, like the Romans, they colonized the known world.  As the saying goes, “The sun never set on the British Empire.”  But, unlike the Romans, they came to see the writing on the wall. 

They saw that continual military expansion was unsustainable and they asked themselves the question of what was really important to their continued growth.  The answer was that it was commerce on a large scale among nations which shared some core common values.  So, the British, unlike the French, Belgians, Spanish or Russians, made plans to work their way out of the job of holding so much territory through military force.  They were noted for bringing local people into government and teaching them a means by which a nation could be sustained.  Money was invested in building trade routes  and solidifying partnerships with other countries. 

Were they incorruptible angels?  Of course not.  But when you look to the geopolitical map of the world and see the places which were colonized by the British, they tend to have the more stable government institutions and the better relationships with global economic partners.  Perhaps there is something to be learned from history here as well.


Vive la Revolution!

America is at war. 

When Bernie Sanders began his presidential campaign as a relatively unknown senator from rural Vermont, he outlined a platform of providing health care as a right, a commitment to higher education for our young people, a refusal to sweep aside issues of civil rights and injustice for an oppressed African-American community, and a determination to get big money out of our political process.  From the outset, he took pains to tell us that he could not do this alone.  He told us to expect that forces would align against such a cause.  Consequently, he stressed that what we needed in this country was a political revolution.  Well, it is here and it is not going away.

In the aftermath of yet another fraud besmirched primary, this time in New York, the Clinton campaign has issued a series of condescending petitions to the Sanders supporters, couched in vague threats of the possibility of a Trump or Cruz presidency, and have required of those supporters that it is time they get in line behind Secretary Clinton.  What they have failed to grasp all along is that their candidate stands as the personification of all that this revolution is set to confront.

On the surface, this has every appearance of a class war, pitting the millionaire and billionaire classes against the middle and working classes.  It is a revolution setting the haves against the have nots with the presumptive nominee imploring all of us to just have a slice of the corporate cake.  But there is a deeper distinction.  This revolution is really one of money vs. morality.  Now, morality is always an issue in American elections.  But this year, morality is not defined as the thou shalt nots of denying abortion rights or denying LGBT rights.  Instead, it is the morality of thou shalt provide health care to all Americans, thou shalt pay workers a living wage, thou shalt pay women on an equal footing with men, thou shalt heal the divide between races in this country and treat all of us as equal under the law, and thou shalt provide a level playing field of opportunity for all of us.  You can trim the fat with thou shalt not.  Thou shalt is going to cost you.

Europeans love to refer to Americans as puritanical for our seeming obsession with righteousness and sexual morality.  Yet, it is the clarity of our world view, born of that refusal to submit to a perceived injustice, that defines the American psyche.  We each have our line in the sand and once crossed, the fight is on.  That line has been crossed.  This is our Revolution and we mean to have it out.

The Sanders campaign is an altogether humanitarian endeavor.  It stresses the undeniable morality that it is a human right for all, regardless of economic status, to be provided with the best health care of which we are capable, that it is a civil right that none of us should live in fear of the police or of a government which would treat any group as natural resources for a privatized, corporate prison system, and that equality under the law should also mean an economic equality between men and women.  Similarly, it finds a moral imperative in saying that if we are to lift people in this country from poverty, we must provide meaningful opportunities for education and a living wage.  And it shouts that there is no moral defense for sending our young people to fight and die in a senseless war for what our opponent deems a “business opportunity.”

But Corporate America and Wall Street pull the strings of their store bought functionaries, who proclaim, “The cost!  Think about the cost!”


Greedy, god-damned soulless bastards.  How do you sleep?  How do you balance the scales of children dying of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan with something so ultimately unimportant as money?  How do you console the husband or wife of a soldier lost to an IED in Iraq while congratulating yourself on the new business opportunity presented by a war ravaged nation?  How do you justify your twenty million dollar salary when your employees require food stamps just to survive on the wages you pay?  Our adversaries in this revolution are the Cynics of Oscar Wilde, the people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Our opponents try to paint this revolution as a seventeen year cicada, a noisy occurrence in an otherwise tranquil summer.  It is not.  For this revolution understands that it is as old as our country itself.  The same people who stood up to the British Empire in 1776, who risked tearing the very country asunder in the Civil War in order to do what they knew to be right, and who landed on the beaches at Normandy to bring a new breath of freedom to a fallen Europe, are the people who today are grimly set to take back their government, their country and their children’s future. 

And Money asks, “What if we gave you more money?  What if we gave you enough money to make you forget how much you’ve been screwed and just look the other way?”

Not this time.  The rallying cry of this revolution is not me, us.  We know what we must do.  If it is within our power to change this country at the ballot box, to cut out the cancer  that has destroyed our economy and enslaved the middle and working classes from within, we will do so.  If we have to take our country by force, we may find that we are prepared to do that as well.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC have gravely underestimated this Revolution.  They have convinced themselves that we would never allow a loudmouthed, bigoted fear-mongering, ne’er-do-well game show host to assume the Presidency.  Yes, we know who Trump is.  We also recognize a corporate shill and a corrupt, venal, political panderer when we see one.  Trump, for all his faults, is happy in his own skin.  Somehow, to many of us, that is less distasteful than someone who would have us believe that she is what she is not.

Americans have a mottled history.  We are not always the guys in the white hats.  But we have enough examples of times when we got it right, to be able to define that quality and to know that we can do it.  The Baby Boomers who today are in their fifties, sixties and seventies received that legacy from their parents, the greatest generation.  And so it is that the Baby Boomers should well know just how lucky they were to be born when and where they were.  They had the chance to grow up with this emerging industrial giant and to reap the benefits of being an American in an age when America dominated the entire world.  The same can not be said for the young people today, facing a bleak future in a Wal-Mart driven economy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that, “it is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  In our hearts, we all know what is the right thing.  Some of us just don’t want to have to pay for it.  Some of us don’t want to have to spend their money to help others in need.  Some of us have chosen to put their own interests above those of our country, our children and the generations to come.  And so some of us would cast our votes for a candidate whose policies and allegiances have fortified the walls of the Bastille, to keep the rabble separated from the explosive gunpowder within.  You know who you are.  You are cowards.

There is a strange parallel between the political climate today and the climate of 1776.  In the first American Revolution, we rose up against the British and George III under the cry of “taxation without representation.”  Think about that a minute.  The colonies were being exploited for their resources and treasure by a wealthy elite who provided the colonials with no opportunity to represent themselves and their own interests in the legal halls of government.  Today, Wall Street and Corporate America write the legislation which their lackeys in government pass into law, affording the wealthiest among us the opportunity to exploit the resources and economy of a middle and working class who are being systematically denied a voice in government through a rigged election process and corrupt campaign financing.

And the DNC and Clinton campaigns wonder why we choose not to attend the coronation.  To us, she is just another George III. 

As it did in 1776, so has this new American Revolution risen from the countryside and a mix of tradespeople, laborers, the newly adult and the philosophically mature but idealistic, thinkers all.  We have drawn the line in the sand and those who would own us have crossed it.  There is no going back.  If the DNC and Clinton campaigns persist in their boldfaced rigging of this election, we will dismantle the Democratic party brick by golden brick.  It is only fitting that we will convene once again in Philadelphia.

Vive la Revolution!


Thoughts on the Brooklyn Democratic Debate

Now that the dust has settled on the ninth Democratic debate, the distinctions between the candidates have become clearer than at any point previously in this election cycle.  On the surface, that can only be an aide in helping each of us to make our decisions.  But those same distinctions are what in all probability will fracture the party, perhaps irreparably. 

In the interest of transparency (and to anyone who has not read any of this site’s earlier articles), I am a Bernie Sanders supporter.  In good conscience, I can not vote for Hillary Clinton to be our next President.  From my vantage point, there is far too much baggage and not enough “there” there.  That being said, and while I truly believe that Bernie Sanders is a once in a lifetime candidate, he too is not above criticism and his campaign will only do better if he shores up a few weak areas and learns to strike while the iron is hot.  His performance on Thursday evening was strong and on point, but he might be the first to admit that he let Hillary off the hook, and that might yet cost him the state.

All campaigns, even those run with the least amount of negativity, share a basic duality.  The candidate must present his or her platform in the most positive of lights, while demonstrating the failings of the opponent or the opponent’s platform.  The balancing act that this becomes is what allows the voter to see a candidate as positive or negative in their campaign style. 

In this case, both candidates have taken shots at each other.  But, on the whole, it would be my contention that Bernie Sanders has focused to a greater extent on the benefits to the country his programs would bring, and on Hillary’s shortcomings to a lesser extent.  Where he has taken his shots, he has chosen his target carefully.  By this time, we all realize that it is within Hillary’s own power to set her record straight; yet she chooses not to do so.  We are all left to make a decision to wonder why or to dismiss her silence as unimportant.

On the other side of the dais, the general lack of enthusiasm evinced by her supporters for her agenda of incremental progress has led Hillary to go more into an attack mode, whether she is focusing on Bernie’s voting record on guns or his health care or college tuition proposals.  Clearly, it is her intent to disqualify Bernie in the eyes of the voters, and, to her detriment, she has opted to cling to a line of half truths in the hope that the voters will look no further than the cheering section of the debate for their answers.  Her campaign has really become one of asking us to settle for pragmatism, for incrementalism, when what most of us crave is the outcome of progressivism.  She has an uphill battle on that front, and as a strategy now attempts to rally voters in dismissing as whimsy her opponent’s idealism.

On to the critique.

Simply stated, Bernie needs to spell it out.  In the debate Thursday as in each of the prior debates, he has missed the opportunity to silence his critics (Hillary and the Republicans) when they assert that his plans are unworkable.  At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, there were three areas where he could have done a much better job of drawing distinctions between his proposals and the characterizations of them by Mrs. Clinton.

Health Care

First, to say that universal health care is some manner of pipe dream is ludicrous.  The rest of the industrialized world has implemented it, and with demonstrably better outcomes than our own health care system while at a fraction of the cost.  To allow Hillary to make that same tired allegation is to continue to allow her to cast shade on Bernie’s entire campaign. 

This is the distinction he needs to be making:  the fundamental difference between the candidates’ approach to health care involves the status of the insurer as a for-profit or not-for-profit entity.  When Hillary asserts that she wants to build upon Obamacare and its reliance on private health insurance companies, while reaching toward 100% coverage of American citizens, she is stating unequivocally that she wants us to continue to pay more in rising insurance rates to for-profit corporations, while expecting lesser coverage, greater deductibles and out of pocket expenses, higher co-pays and increased costs for pharmaceutical products.  We have already been experiencing that reality for decades and it is not working.

Bernie’s program follows more closely the models used in Europe where the health care is either provided directly through the government via taxation or through private insurance companies who provide health insurance on a not-for-profit basis (Germany is an example of this).  Those same companies also provide auto and homeowners’ insurance, and make their profit there.  By taking the profit margin out of the equation, you are left with the true cost of providing the service, and it is on that number that Americans would be taxed to pay for their health care.  Because taking the staggering profit margin out of necessity lowers the actual cost of health care or health insurance, the premiums could substantially decrease.  If the money is coming out of income taxes and you have no job, you have no income to tax.  The health care would come to you at no cost.  Yes, the rest of us are picking up the tab, but we are still saving between one half and two thirds on what we are now paying.  One of Bernie’s core positions is that we, as a nation, need to do what we know to be morally right.  How can we morally and ethically justify turning a profit off the misfortune and misery of other people who are in dire need of medical attention?

Free College Tuition

This is a no-brainer (pardon the pun) as well.  In a prior article, (http://johnqsviews.com/putting-some-perspective-on-income-inequality) I broke down one way in which a tax on the wealthiest fifteen people in America could provide free tuition to over eight million college students each year.  While that was an exercise in basic mathematics, and not intended as a justification for levying a huge tax on just fifteen people, the simple point of it is that there is an unspeakably large amount of money stashed in the pockets of the top 1% to 10% of our nation’s earners, which could be taxed in a line more consistent with tax rates as recent as the 1980’s (50% on the highest income bracket, up from the 28-29% the top earners actually pay today) and which would send all American college students to school, tuition free. 

Similarly, the argument that smarter, more capable young Americans make for a smarter, more capable workforce, is undeniable.  The question remains; whom does it serve to have less intelligent, less capable citizens?  I will argue in another article that there is a segment of our society that wants exactly that.


Again, I fear that Bernie missed the boat here.  Hillary’s actions as Secretary of State to promote fracking on a global scale (with American technology courtesy of Halliburton, no doubt), and her incrementalist approach to coping with the reality of climate change, make her an easy and open target for the Sanders campaign.  They only half-heartedly took the shot.  Yes, climate change is real (google recent articles on the impact of the shrinking ice sheet in Greenland).  Yes, we are still pumping too much carbon onto the atmosphere.  And yes, the United States remains one of the leading contributors to those same carbon emissions. 

These are all compelling reasons for immediate (as in yesterday) change.  But in making that argument, you are asking the majority of Americans to make a choice now to benefit their future, somewhere down the line.  And Americans, by and large I am sorry to say, do not think like that.  We are an immediate gratification culture.  So, how is it going to benefit us right now to get off the fossil fuel bus? 

We can look at that answer in terms of our economy at home and our foreign policy.  At home, a switch to clean, renewable energy is not just a boon to the environment and an effort to counter the effects of climate change, the process of developing the technology creates new jobs and also benefits all of our industrial facilities  by removing one of the key sources of pollution which factories must minimize (at substantial cost) in order to comply with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.  In our foreign policy, we continue to deal with an unstable middle east and with the posturing of Vladimir Putin in Russia.  The economies of each of those parts of the world are propped up on fossil fuels.  If we cut dramatically our use of oil and natural gas, we cut the demand for the product on the global market and its value falls.  In a case such as ISIS, take away their income, and you diminish their abilities to pay their own fighters or cause problems for us.  Money is the head of the snake.  Kill the head and the body dies.

How to pay for it?  Stop sending our young people to fight senseless wars in the middle east and trim the Pentagon’s budget by 10%.  That would be a great start.

But there is not enough time in a debate format to explain this!

True enough.  But this is an opportunity for Bernie to look Hillary in the eye and ask her to put her money where her mouth is.  We saw repeatedly in the debate on Thursday that she could not answer simple yes or no questions.  She was asked three times whether or not she would release her transcripts and would not answer.  She was asked three times whether or not she would remove the cap on Social Security taxation and would not answer that either.  If, for example, she wanted to make the claim that Bernie’s health care proposal could not be paid for, he could ask her, “Would you be willing to cede me the time right here, right now, to explain just how it could?”  If she said, “yes,” Bernie has a platform to make his pitch and explain it to a nation-wide audience.  If she said, “no,” Bernie has the freedom to look puzzled and ask, “What are you afraid of?”  Any other response from Hillary would simply demonstrate that she knows her allegations are insupportable.

Other Observations

There are a few other areas where Bernie could make his point more forcefully.  First, he has often pointed toward Hillary’s vote on the war in Iraq as evidence of her poor judgement.  But it isn’t just the case that she voted for the war; she argued for the war.  That argument is all a matter of public record and can be found on YouTube, any day of the week.  Hillary wants to call into question whether or not Bernie is even a Democrat.  Yet, at every opportunity to do so, she has argued for the use of military force and turned the State Department into a global wholesaler of arms and armaments.  Folks, she is a war hawk.  If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck and hops in bed with Wall Street, Big-Pharma and now, the NRA, it’s a Republican.

In the first or second debate, Bernie famously made the comment that he was sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s “damn emails.”  He has not raised them as an issue again (though they won’t go away, will they?).  In a similar vein, he can now say to Hillary, “We don’t need to see those transcripts.  We know what is in them.” 

After all, we do know what is in them.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, Hillary received $675,000  from Goldman Sachs for three speeches.  If she had said anything to them that they did not want to hear in the first or even the second speech, she never would have been able to give a third.  She has been telling them exactly what they want to hear and has more importantly been acting in their best interests for decades.  From Goldwater Girl to Goldman Girl, Hillary is not the girl she wants us to believe she is. 

Her contention is that no one can point to a political position or piece of legislation she has endorsed which exemplify her favoritism toward Wall Street.  I would allow for “perhaps,” though Bill Moyer’s interview of Elizabeth Warren demonstrates otherwise.  But this is a two-way street.  We also can not point to a political position or piece of legislation she has endorsed which run counter to the vested interests of Wall Street, either.  It is like fixing a basketball game; you can pay the player to miss the shot or just not take it.  The result is the same.

Now, as she moves into late April against an opponent she thought would have been gone by February, Hillary is feeling nervous.  Her lifetime in politics has been defined by political expediency.  If there was anything in those speeches which would solidify her base going into these big primary states, she would release them in a heartbeat.  There isn’t.  What is in those transcripts would much more likely destroy her remaining support and end her campaign.  You know it, I know it, and the rest of the country knows it.  However, some of us remain content to cover our ears and yell, “Waaaahhhh!”

A related and much more telling point, and again, one on which Bernie failed to capitalize, is the contempt in which she holds all of the voters.  In this I refer to her recent speech in Colorado, where a “white noise” machine was employed to prohibit news people from hearing that speech as they stood across the street from the tent under which she gave it. 

When we look at the mistake that the Goldman Sachs speeches were, just in terms of the bad publicity they have provided her, we focus on her unwillingness to make available to the prospective voters, just what she is promising to Wall Street.  It is a cover up worthy of Richard Nixon.  But, instead of learning from this mistake, she replicates it, thumbing her nose at all of the little people in the process.  Twice now, she has looked us in the eye and asked for our support, but clearly does not trust us to give it if we knew the content and context of what she is promising to her wealthy friends and to Wall Street.  Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice….  Americans have learned to tolerate and even rationalize being lied to.  But we hate being held in contempt by someone who positions him or herself as out of our class.  This missed opportunity by Bernie could well have been the final dagger in Hillary’s campaign.

The Strain is Showing

To give Hillary her due, she remains a very capable politician.  In my view, she was well prepared, polished in her rehearsed statements, forceful and monopolized the time element of the debate, always running well over her allotted time and into Bernie’s.  One knock on her though, has always been that she does not exude any real human warmth.  Whether she is actually a rather shy individual or, frankly, cold hearted, it can come off the same way on camera. 

What is troubling is the way she clings to and reiterates half truths or flat out lies, despite them having previously been disproven.  Her claims that Vermont was a chief exporter of guns used in violent crimes in New York are not just laughable, they made her look that much more desperate to find something wrong with her opponent.  Her claims that Bernie had cast votes for the removal of Gaddafi when he had actually cast a vote in favor of democracy in Libya reflect a legalistic parsing of words with which many of us are all too familiar from the last Clinton administration.  Similarly, her claim that she has always fought for the $15 minimum wage was a lie, plain and simple.  In earlier debates, she argued for $12 an hour, which we would reach by 2020.  This one isn’t even close.  At times, I’d like to hear Bernie turn to her and in that flat, unemotional way that John Wayne always did, say to her, “That’s a lie.”  And just leave it at that.  Her reaction would speak volumes.

What the Debate Tells Us About Us

For all the criticism of Hillary, we must acknowledge that she is a highly intelligent person, with a deep understanding of the campaign process.  As an establishment candidate, she has the full support of an enormous political machine, and they do not miss much.  I have to believe that they have researched the voters in the same way a trial lawyer researches the jury pool.  They know how the majority of us think.  And the truth is, to the majority of us, facts don’t really matter.  The overwhelming majority of Americans will not take the time to fact check what a politician says.  The closest they will come is to tune into a main stream media outlet for verification.  So, if you can buy the support of the main stream media…….

Similarly, truth is less important than posture.  We have seen that first hand in the success of the Trump campaign.  The most recent fact check on Trump suggests that he only ever tells the truth by accident.  It doesn’t matter.  He exudes confidence and out-hollers his opponents.  This is the by product of a reality TV watching culture.  The most outrageous characters are the most entertaining and who doesn’t want to be entertained?  Hillary’s clinging to baseless allegations and twistings of reality, couched in carefully scripted anthemic moments (and punctuated with Bill’s infamous thumb capped fist poke) are orchestrated “high points” without any real substance.  Supporters cheer because the moment is structured to elicit a cheer, not because there is anything worth cheering about. 

The Fallout

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, the distinctions between the candidates are clearer now than they have ever been.  In the end, we have a nuanced politician running against a humanitarian.  Hillary would have us believe that the world is a very complex place where a certain equilibrium is only achieved through a willingness to play all sides against the other.  Shifting loyalties and priorities are the norm and we have to put on our big-girl pants and own up to that reality.  Bernie is trying to show us that there  is another way, one in which we take our stand on what is defensible as morally right.  It approaches complex problems (like Israel and the Palestinians) from the simpler perspective of recognizing the equality and working to meet the needs of all, even if that means we have to acknowledge our own previous shortcomings.  In doing so, we risk that forgiveness will not be granted us.  But we also create the possibility of starting with a clean slate and building upon a solid foundation.

Now, it is all over but the voting.  We will soon see just who supports whom.  Bernie’s supporters are well defined in much the same way that his message is clear and unequivocal.  They have consistently been represented primarily as people under the age of 45, heavily stacked with younger voters, from the true progressives of the Democratic party and Independents, many of whom are prepared to make their stand on issues of civil rights, the environment, and ending corporate domination of the American political system.  Polling of late also suggests that many minority voters who had supported Hillary’s campaign are moving toward Bernie’s, possibly in response to a greater understanding of the evil of Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill and the economic struggles they have faced in the wake of a series of terrible trade agreements for which Secretary Clinton has inevitably advocated.  Women too, are moving toward Bernie’s campaign.  While the desire for our first female president remains strong, examples like Elizabeth Warren have demonstrated that Hillary is not the best choice.  In the end, Hillary is a willing political foot-soldier, not a commander in chief.

In Hillary’s camp, I believe that her supporters are often as nuanced as her own brand of politics.  On the one hand, if you are willing to consider that taking millions from Wall Street and from large corporations just might cause a candidate to not rock those boats, if you are able to see that she is indefensibly hiding from the voters her transcripts and her white noise protected speeches to the American aristocracy, and if you can accept that her policies bear a stronger resemblance to Richard Nixon than to JFK, you should come to terms with the reality that she is not a trustworthy liberal.  She is a war hawking moderate Republican.  So, why would you continue to support her?  Why would you continue to vote against your best interests?  It is my belief that many of her supporters are actually ex-Republicans for whom their own party has drifted too far to the right, and Hillary represents exactly their best interests.  They are also a more middle aged group who have reached the pinnacle of their own economic ladder and fear both being toppled from above and being undermined from below.  In her incremental pragmatism, they seek a kind of stasis, a respite from a storm which will not blow over.  Just give us four more years of the same.

The Moment of Truth

Yet to be written is just how history will view this moment, for an historical moment it is.  This contentious primary season has been rife with allegations and evidence of election rigging, all of which has pointed to a corrupt DNC with an agenda that does not reflect the espoused will of the voters.  As the calendar works its way toward the convention in Philadelphia, the tension between the two camps and their supporters is rising.  This is a campaign pitting not Bernie against Hillary, but people against money.  Right now, money has the inside track.

If it is close, and if money wins, the people will have two choices: surrender the ideals which have simmered in their hearts since the late 1960’s, or walk their talk.  As the saying goes, when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.  Money made the mistake of leaving too many of us with nothing and we have nothing to lose by walking. 

Whatever else may happen, we need to find ourselves on the right side of history.  There are ideals which make us American and upon which we have taken our stand time and again.  When we know what is right, we have to do what is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  It is up to us.  We can have the country that embraces the idealism of Lady Liberty in new York Harbor, or we can sell our souls for a key to the executive washroom.  In my lifetime, the chance to make a real change in the direction of our country has never been so close at hand.  If we blow it now, the institutions of wealth and power will work to ensure that we never get this chance again. 

So what is it to be?  Will we sign a lease on four more years of establishment politics, corporate greed and a widening class war in America?  Or will we take the road less traveled and make the difference?  One might leave us with a sense of investment in the familiar, but it leads to our moral bankruptcy.