Observations from the Democratic Debate

A few observations from last night’s debate. First, there was a very telling moment when Hillary Clinton said (and I paraphrase) that her plan would be to fix the problems in the country from within the existing system. As we know, Bernie comes from a point of view that there is far too much corruption in the system (campaign financing, health care debacle, economic disintegration of the middle and working classes) to fix it properly from within. In his view, we must make significant changes to the system that IS, his “political revolution.”

I think he might make that position clearer through the analogy of fixing a car (the car being the country, moving forward). Hillary wants to fix the car with parts that are known to be broken, while Bernie is calling for new parts. What is the evidence that the parts are broken? The economic disintegration of the middle and working classes is the evidence that the government is not and has not been working for ALL of us for quite a long time. The influence of billionaires on the political process is evidence as well.

I often quote Albert Einstein who once said that “problems can not be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” Hillary (and the rest of Washington’s establishment) is content with that same level of awareness and, as a result, no progress is ever made in terms of solving our problems.

Second, we should take notice that Hillary makes many assertions that she will stand up to Wall Street, that she will strive to fix the broken health care system, that she will work to make college more affordable for our young people. But talk is cheap. She has been a figure in the public eye since the 1990’s and has had ample opportunity to actually achieve some results. I don’t see any major legislation with her name attached to it. I only see a series of political scandals following her family.

Third, I am beginning to think that the Washington establishment looks on the country as if from the walls of the Bastille, and we are the rabble attempting to break in. Their thinking is that if they throw us a bone, we’ll quiet down and they can get back to pillaging our economy from within. Hillary is a liberal, probably a moderate, doubtfully a progressive. But most significantly, she is as establishment as establishment gets, she is another broken part on the car.

Back in the 60’s, we used to say, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” She is part of the problem and her assertions that she is better qualified to lead us because of her “insider” experience of Washington, only confirms this.

Lastly, a point of difference between Hillary and Bernie with which Bernie has been hitting home, has to do with the money that Hillary has been taking in speakers fees and in contributions from Wall Street. One point he could be making is this, not only has Goldman Sachs contributed heavily to Hillary’s campaign, they are also one of Ted Cruz’s largest contributors. Think about that. If Goldman Sachs believed that Hillary was the best candidate to run our government, that same belief would exclude Ted Cruz, a very different candidate from Ms. Clinton. If they believed that Ted was the man, Hillary would not merit their contributions. The only way to understand this is that Goldman Sachs does not care who wins the election. They only care that they own a piece of that candidate. Taking large sums of money from institutions that are playing both sides against the middle, strikes me as a form of political prostitution. There is something inherently evil in this.



The DNC is Determined to Play Right Into Trump’s Hand

By early this morning, the Iowa Democratic Committee had  announced that they had already lost the vote tallies for 90 precincts. Once again, scandal and the name Clinton go hand in hand.

You know, as much of a clown as he is, Trump has managed to get two things right on the money. First, he has enough of a finger on the pulse of our country to know that the rabble (that’s us) has finally had it with establishment politics in Washington. Secondly, when he announced his candidacy, he said he wanted to run against Hilary because she would be easier to beat.

The truth is that the Republicans will wage an ad war that amounts to at least a trial on circumstantial evidence. From White Water and the corruption of the Arkansas governor’s office, to covering up and hushing Bill’s transgressions, Monica Lewinsky, Vince Foster, her botched attempt at health care reform as first lady, Benghazi, the emails and what looks like a State Department run like a yard sale, she is a huge target which the Republicans will use to hammer home the facts that no one likes her or trusts her. The strange thing too, is that Americans will vote for a nut-job (Trump) preferentially to someone they don’t trust.



Ted Cruz’s Plan for Your Health

It was very interesting to hear Ted Cruz tip his hand last night in an instance of classic Washington double-speak. We’re going to let you hear one thing while we are actually saying something entirely different. He said that he would repeal “every last word” of Obamacare and would replace it with his plan, which had three main points.

First, “we should allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. That’ll create a true 50-state national marketplace while we drive down the cost of low-cost catastrophic health insurance.” – From that, I would take it that he wants to create even larger corporate health insurance providers who will focus on providing catastrophic health insurance (what we used to call major medical) for those instances when you have to go to the hospital. That would allow any other form of health insurance, for say, doctor visits, to continue to climb through the roof while mega-corporations put other insurers out of business. The net result would be the exact opposite of what anyone would call “health care.”

Second, “we should expand health savings accounts so people can save in a tax-advantaged way for more routine health care needs.” I have had HSA health insurance and it is a bust. The HSA account is linked to a very high deductible type of plan which essentially insures that you will pay every minor health care bill entirely out of pocket. The notion that this account can build over time to provide some manner of nest egg of tax-protected health care fund, is nonsense. Your employer contribution is capped, so any contribution you make is after taxes anyway and it is minimized by the cost of the health insurance you still need.

Third, “we should work to delink health insurance from your employment, so if you lose your job, your health insurance goes with you.” In other words, at the end of the day, all of this will be on you. We will remove the responsibility from employers to provide health care coverage, thus increasing their bottom line. Tell me Ted, if you lose your job and your health insurance goes with you, how the hell are you going to pay for it?
Folks, there is a very interesting point to bear in mind here. It has to do with language. Language can be very precise, when we want it to be. The Republicans and Hilary Clinton continue to talk about health “insurance.” You don’t need health “insurance,” you need health “care.” They are two very different animals.

Health “insurance” is that plastic card in your wallet which promises to bail you out should your health “care” costs get too high. It is a gamble. You are gambling that you will need that coverage and the health insurance company is gambling that you won’t (and now, your government is requiring that you play the game!). And the insurance companies are hedging their bets by setting higher and higher deductibles and out of pocket costs and capping benefits.

So, what we are seeing all over the country now are people who have health insurance but can not afford to go to the doctor. Where does the money go? If you don’t go to your doctor, your doctor does not get paid. The money stays in the insurance company’s coffers, which get richer and richer. Then, the insurance company puts more and more money into lobbyists to make sure that the system stays exactly the same.

The point on which we need to focus is that what we need is health “care.” If we can cut out the middle man which is the insurance company and can negotiate at a federal level with big-medicine and big-pharmaceuticals, the way every other industrialized country in the world does, the cost of our care can come down while the quality of our care remains high. It has been demonstrated time and again, all over the world.

A single payer system is the only way that the middle and working class people of this country can escape the burden of the rising cost of health insurance and can put more of their hard earned money back into the economy, to jump start it. Cruz, the Republicans, Clinton and Establishment Politicians in Washington have become too accustomed to having their own pockets lined by lobbyists for institutions which would drive the entire nation further into debt, with little to nothing to show for it.



Tick, Tick

It is rapidly heading for February and the general election is just nine months away. In case you haven’t noticed, the Republican party does not seem to have a viable candidate. Trump is and has been a joke from day one. Cruz is so despised by his own party that old guard Republicans have stated that they would support Trump preferentially to him. Lindsey Graham stated that the party would do better picking a name out of the phone book than Ted Cruz. Folks, this ain’t good. And, while I am backing a candidate from another party, I believe whole heartedly that we need two good candidates, that we need two parties with viable ideas and candidates so that the voters can sort out the best course for the country. Trump, Cruz and the implosion of the Republican party may be great for the Democrats, but it is very bad news for America.


Playing Both Sides Against the Middle

An interesting consideration. As we all know, most political candidates these days rely on Super PACs to enhance their funding and to do a lot of dirty work on the campaign trail that can be held at a safe distance from the candidate him or herself. And, it is certainly the case that a tremendous amount of campaign funding comes from extremely wealthy individuals and corporations which want to hold some degree of influence over the candidate once they become elected.

This past week, we came to know that Senator Ted Cruz was “loaned” a million dollars from Goldman Sachs. Oddly enough, Goldman Sachs is one of Hillary Clinton’s top contributors. In fact, when you look at where Goldman Sachs has been spending its campaign donation money, you’ll see that it has been fairly evenly split between Republican and Democratic candidates.

How should we see that? Is it the case that Goldman Sachs (which we are using in this example, but you could insert your favorite campaign contributor here) has a political ideology that is both conservative and liberal simultaneously? Probably not. I think it might be fairer to say that Goldman Sachs does not care who wins an election. They care only that they have “stock” in that candidate and can expect to reap dividends in return.

These candidates, whether at a Senatorial, House or Presidential level, are auspiciously “representatives.” But whom do they represent? Many of you know that I am supporting Bernie Sanders. Part of my rationale is that Sanders represents us and does not take campaign contributions from big corporations or donors like the Koch Brothers. This is part of the homework we must all do for ourselves.




Battle Lines Being Drawn

Thanks, Bill Moyers. Hillary’s owners (big Medicine, big Banks, big Media) have called the tune and now she must dance, this time through her surrogate, Chelsea. But, in what is rapidly turning into Hillary’s “Groundhog Day,” every distortion of Sanders’ record by the Clinton campaign is coming back to bite her. Hillary’s “ship of state” is turning into the Titanic.



This is Going to Get Ugly

We all need to acknowledge that in this hyper-charged political climate, much of what we are seeing and hearing in the media, whether it be in print, on television or certainly on the internet, is simply not true. And it is very difficult at times to ascertain where the lies are and how densely they have been woven into a tapestry of half-truths. That being said, if the allegations in the article below are true, Hillary is done. The story of the Benghazi hearings and her “damn emails,” “has legs” and won’t go away. I watched the Benghazi hearings live and she flat out lied about what she knew and what she had done. Each successive release of information from her emails bears that out. At this point, they have found over thirteen hundred emails which contained classified information sent over an insecure server and seven which were labeled as top secret. Beyond that, a fax was sent which was labeled “top secret,” and then the label was removed in order to send the fax over an insecure line. That, as they say, is a federal offense. But, more damning are the continuing peccadilloes of her husband. If it is true that he has maintained a friendship with a convicted billionaire pedophile since the early 2000s and has visited said billionaire’s private island repeatedly for trysts with underage girls, the vileness of his actions will keep Hillary out of the White House. Bernie may elect to tip-toe around the issue, but you can bet that Trump and Ann Coulter will not. This is going to get ugly.



Hard to Watch the Grand Old Party Die

Tonight I realize that to many, I am looking at the world through my own tainted glasses. How could I (or any of us) not? But here is what I see. Until a few months ago, I was always a Republican, politically.   I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 60’s and 70’s. So, the kind of Republican I have always been was a moderate one. I believe in fiscal conservatism, a strong military to protect our country and its people from outside threats, but on social issues I am more centrist, more of a “live and let live” kind of person. I don’t understand what motivates gay folks, but I have no problem with them getting married either. I am not religious, but I figure anyone else is entitled to their religion as long as they don’t try to beat me on the head with it. I believe in science and education and teaching our kids to be as smart as possible, because they are the future.

This was the core of Republican thought, as I grew up with it. But, like Bob Dole and George Bush (the elder), I look at today’s Republican party and don’t see a place for me in it. It has become a party of radical conservatism, protective of ignorance in all forms, which has moved so far to the extreme end of the scale that a fascist (Trump) and reality deniers (Carson and Cruz with their 6000 year old planet) are deemed fit to lead. Did Unions go too far? Sure, but without them you and I would be shopping at the company store, living without any kind of retirement income, and working for slave wages under slave conditions (Trump has repeatedly said that we need to do away with minimum wage altogether, so we can compete with China – there is your return to slave labor, looming on the horizon).

Am I playing favorites here and denying the mega-rich owners of the mill their right to become richer? I probably am. They can stand it. I have to look at the folks who do the sweating and slaving, the living and dying in this land and ask, what is best for them? The whole country rides on the backs of the middle and working classes. Folks like you and me. It always has. And those backs are buckling under the weight. Yet, it is the Republican right which calls for legislation that does not ease that pressure, but instead just lets the rich get richer.

Are there lobbyists influencing politics on behalf of the democrats? Absolutely! Look at Hillary’s biggest donors – they come from Wall Street and big-media, both institutions which pour millions of dollars into lobbyists to sway political legislation in Washington. Both sides are completely corrupt and completely guilty. The system today is absolutely broken.

But things were different in the 1970’s. Republicans and Democrats could still find consensus and work together to pass legislation to help our economy. Those days are gone. There is zero cooperation in Washington so there is nothing being done, even when the issues are cut and dried.

Again, the issue du jour has become who can and can not possess a firearm.  There are many folks in America who want to have guns, some for sport, some for self-defense. Unfortunately, many of those people feel the need to have guns because they have bought into the fear mongering that is coming from that same radical right. That is a separate issue.

We can all agree that some people in this country should not have access to guns, either because they are known, habitual criminals, or because they are mentally unfit to act responsibly with a gun. If we can agree to that notion, we can surely agree that there should be a way to do all that we can to keep guns from those folks, without impinging on the rights of honest, responsible citizens to have them. It can’t get much simpler than that.

Yet, if Obama had tried to get this legislation passed through a bipartisan Congress or Senate, it would fail just because the Republicans are committed to making sure that anything coming from Obama must fail, whether or not it has merit and benefits the population (if Obama was a Republican, the Democrats would undoubtedly do the same). Trump is already campaigning on the notion that he will repeal such legislation, day one. So, if we can see what needs to be done, can agree on what needs to be done, and can put it into action in such a way that it does not harm those citizens who should not be harmed by it, what are we to do when the government, OUR representatives in Washington, refuse to act upon OUR desires?

At some point, sanity and doing what is best to keep Americans safe from criminals and nut cases, must trump partisan politics. I do not see where the President had a hell of a lot of choice. As I have come to see it, part of the problem is that our political system has become a kind of religion. And one of the hallmarks of religion, any religion, is that the leaders have to be able to convince the followers that theirs is the true way. It is an elaborate house of cards. Someone once commented that there have been about 3000 gods so far, but yours is the only one that is real. Every one else’s is just a silly bit of make believe, but yours, yours is the real deal.

You see where I’m coming from. In a country where the cult of personality has taken over politics and political lines between parties are drawn so clearly that each party is driven by a religious fervor, each party knows that if they are ever shown to be full of shit, the whole house will come tumbling down around them. Like any religion, the political parties must not budge, must not admit any flaw, must never acknowledge that perhaps, just perhaps, they were wrong about something. The biggest fear the Republican party has in this particular issue is that the legislation put forward by a Democratic president just might work. And then, everyone will ask, “what was all the fuss about?” And they might just wonder what the real issues are that we need to deal with.


Republican Response to Obama’s Executive Order

I’m becoming increasingly bored with the Republicans (I’m an ex-Republican) and their bat-shit crazy proclamations. If they had bothered to check out what the proposed legislation intends, they’d find that it calls for background checks for on-line purchases and at gun shows and more funding for law enforcement and for mental health care providers. If you are an honest, law-abiding citizen with no history of mental health problems, you will still ace the background check and get your coveted piece. If you side with law enforcement, you should be glad that they are getting additional funding to fight the bad guys.

If we have an increased ability to monitor the truly stone crazy people running around out there, we might just keep some ordinance out of their hands. What the hell can possibly be wrong with any of this? Nowhere in the legislation does it call for people to turn in their guns or to stop selling them. It may mean that to sell them you’ll have to go through an intermediary which could perform the background check, but then I’m sure you would never want to sell your gun to someone who might turn around and use it on your own family.

Can we, just for one bleepin’ minute, stop being led around by the nose by people who want to take our attention away from real issues in this country? Issues like why the rich keep getting richer while the rest of us slowly starve? Issues like why big-oil, big-pharmaceuticals and big-media hand pick the candidates for office and give the rest of us a vote that isn’t worth anything because we have no real choice or say in the matter? Issues like how Walmart has come to be the nation’s #1 employer and not GM.

The Republican party has carefully studied the role of reality TV in our lives and has figured out that half the blasted populace can be conned into believing candidates whose sole qualifications for the job are that they starred in a TV show or believe that the earth is only 6000 years old. And you want these sons-of-bitches to have their hands on our nuclear arsenal? Get real, get an education, pay attention to what is going on (with your own eyes and ears) and grow the hell up. This is pathetic.