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Friday, September 2, 2016

THE REAL REASON SINGLE PAYER IS INEVITABLE




                                                                                         
                                                                               



                                                                                 
A recent Associated Press article by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar outlined a number of problems with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that “are leading some to wonder whether “Obamacare” will go down as a failed experiment.” Paradoxically, news that Obamacare is in crisis should be encouraging for anyone who understands the economics of health care.  Until people heavily invested in defending it against unfair attacks see that it won’t work, they won’t understand the need to demand a health care system that will.

While it’s a shame that the number of uninsured will rise before the problem can be fixed, that is the inevitable cost of dismissing the only real solution to rising health care costs and decreasing access:  a single payer system. Robert Reich recently argued this, but he missed the main point. He was right that Obamacare has led to decreased competition as insurance companies consolidated and took over state markets, but this is not what will kill it.  The real reason was evident before the debate on health insurance reform began. It’s called the “death spiral” of health care costs.

The death spiral is simple to explain. The more health care costs rise, the fewer people can afford it. This leads insurers to increase premiums and deductibles in order to maintain profits, leading in turn to fewer people buying insurance, and the cycle repeats. A 2005 study published in American Family Physician projected that the average individual would pay 100% of her income for health care at then-current rates of inflation! This trend started before Obamacare. It was built into the system. It is the reason 45 million Americans were underinsured in 2008. It was the inescapable consequence of a system of private insurance.

Of course, no one will pay all of their income for medical insurance. Very few would pay half of that. However, that’s exactly what the AFP study predicted that would have been the average cost in 2015. That hasn’t happened, but it isn’t because Obamacare has decreased the rate of health care cost inflation. The relative stability of health care costs over the last few years started before ACA’s main provisions took effect, and the rate of inflation has picked up again, worse than before.

ACA manages to mask some of the astronomical cost of medical insurance by providing billions of tax dollars to prevent large premium subsidies for a significant segment of the market.  According to the AP article cited above, over 80% of Healthcare.gov customers get subsidies of about 70% of their premiums. That’s tax money going straight into private pockets for a “service” that adds nothing of value to the provision of health care. Obamacare was, more than anything else, a bailout of a failing Wall-Street owned medical insurance industry. The question is, at what point are Americans going to catch on and realize that pouring all that money into the system just to maintain shareholder profits is a fool’s game?

Obamacare only delays the day of reckoning for a system that is pricing itself out of existence.  If the ACA had not passed, it would be on the verge of collapse now. As it is, insurers are dropping out of exchanges due to unanticipated costs of meeting the standards of ACA that are hurting the bottom line, despite large rate increases as the major provisions of Obamacare kicked in. Rates for individual insurance outside the plan continue to rise by double digits. It’s so bad that the largest provider in Tennessee is requesting increases averaging 62%. In part because of uncontrolled costs, the ACA has also left 29 million uninsured. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that number is not expected to change much even if states currently resisting Medicaid expansion join the program.

There are many other major problems with Obamacare, almost all of which arise from the fact that it is insurance-based. For instance, subsidies still leave a 40 year old man earning $25,000 per year liable for up to $5000 in copays and deductibles. Such costs deter many from seeking needed care.  Those trying to minimize premiums, especially young, healthy adults, often opt for high-deductible plans that could leave them responsible for the first $10,000 in bills and a share of anything over that. In case of catastrophic illness or injury, almost anyone can end up bankrupt. Medical expenses are estimated to be the cause of 60% of bankruptcies. Single payer health insurance thus amounts to bankruptcy insurance as well. That is just one of many benefits of such systems, in addition to the fact that they can provide universal health care at a fraction of the cost of our current non-system.

It’s time to face the facts. Obamacare may have been the best that Democrats could produce, but it is not even close to a solution to the problem of rising costs and declining access to health care. There is no excuse for claiming that single payer is not possible, as Clinton has. To say this is an admission that it is impossible to address the corrupting influence of money in politics. That is not acceptable in a nation that claims to be a democracy. The vast majority of Democrats favor single payer. It’s time they stand up and demand it. Waiting until a Congress awash in Wall Street money to do it on its own is never going to work. We can wait for the system to collapse of its own dead weight, or we can work to make our members of Congress force a real debate on health care reform.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

THE ROAD TO WWIII IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS





                                                                                




While Americans are justly concerned about the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria, they must be careful whose narrative they accept before deciding what we should do about it. Both sides have been responsible for civilian deaths and torture, but we are only being told one side of the story, and a distorted one at that. Though readily apparent to anyone who wants to look at the facts, the American role in the violence is never clearly spelled out. For instance, famous "humanitarian" Nicholas Kristof has been on the bandwagon arguing for US military intervention. It’s only right that the plight of Syrians he is highlighting should be put in proper perspective.

In his latest article, Kristof makes an emotionally powerful appeal for Obama to take in Syrian refugees. However, in doing so he compares the violence in Syria with the Nazi attempt to conquer the Western world. The truth is that the Syrian conflict, though often called a “civil war,” is actually a case of a sovereign nation defending itself against an invasion of foreign terrorists sponsored by the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies.

The US government claims the right to topple the government of Syria for its own purposes, regardless of the effect on the civilian population. The claim of “humanitarian intervention” is unjustified either by the facts or international law. The effort is being led by a known al Qaeda affiliate, a fact not well concealed by claims about a mythical “moderate rebel” faction. It makes no sense to blame the resulting carnage on a government that is defending its sovereignty against a ruthless and brutal enemy.

Kristof’s implied comparison of Assad to Hitler might be written off as a bad analogy, except that, almost as an afterthought, he chides Obama for not doing “more to end the slaughter.” Since taking in more refugees would do nothing to ease the conflict, he must be referring to his previous arguments for a no-fly zone (here and here).

“Establishing a no-fly zone” means attacking the Syrian military. That’s an act of war. Since neither we nor any NATO ally has been attacked by Syria, it would constitute another illegal war of aggression, much like Iraq. Vietnam might be a better comparison, since both involve baiting the targeted country, as the US did in the Gulf of Tonkin. There, as in Iraq, we went to war based on lies. Or perhaps Libya is the closest comparison, since the NATO attack on the Libyan people and government forces started with a no-fly zone. Although that war used the legal fig leaf of a UN resolution, a Syrian no-fly zone would not. Having been fooled into supporting one illegal NATO war, Russia and China will not support such a resolution again.  If NATO acts unilaterally, it will be even more blatantly illegal than the attack on Libya. The results would be at least as disastrous.

A major difference between Vietnam and Syria is that Russia has combat troops in Syria. An attack could be construed as an attack against Russia, which is legally in the country at the request of the Syrian government. The US recently threatened to do just that when the Syrian Army bombed separatist Kurdish forces, with which US Special Forces were illegally embedded.

Clinton and other neocons seem unconcerned with the possibility of sparking a war with a nuclear-armed power. They are calling for a no-fly zone or even more aggressive actions. Trump would be under intense pressure to abandon his no-regime-change position and do the same. No one in the foreign policy establishment appears willing or able to question the groupthink under which it is operating.

Few in Congress seem to understand that most of the official statements coming from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community reflect a distorted, one-sided view of the conflict that ignores the facts, international law and common sense. It’s our job to educate them and demand that the government attack the real roots of the terror in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Washington itself.

Friday, July 15, 2016

THE WAR COMES HOME IN DALLAS





                                                     



 
In the endless discussion about the murder of five Dallas law enforcement officers, the most basic issue is being ignored. The shooting was not just a symptom of racism. While obviously a factor in events that day, racism and racial violence have always been present. However, expressing it by mass murder has not. This phenomenon may be related to the fact that mass shootings in general are becoming more common.  It is a measure of the extent to which violence has been normalized that few are seriously questioning why.
While many people think they have easy explanations for mass shootings, behavioral scientists have not been able to find evidence for a specific cause. Though some form of mental disturbance can be assumed, that does not explain the fact that these acts are increasing. The rising rate suggests sociological factors are involved. There is reason to think that a major one may be the militarization of US society in general.  These acts of mass violence, like combat and unlike most acts of individual violence, are impersonal in the sense that they are not typically directed toward specific identified individuals. This difference may help explain why mass killings are increasing while the rate of violent crime in general is falling.  In other words, it isn’t violence in general that is rising but indiscriminate, mass violence. Just like war.

It’s hard to deny that we are a militarized society. Police departments around the country have been given DOD weapons under a program justified by the “War on Terror.” At the same time, use and misuse of heavily armed SWAT teams has exploded, despite the drop in violent crime. Neither of these trends has been seriously challenged by government or the citizens it is supposed to represent. Black Lives Matter is dramatizing the racist police violence that has always been part of the African-American experience, even if new videos of police murders were not going viral every other week until now. Peaceful protests of these murders and other outrages are often treated as terrorist events, with paramilitary police conducting using intimidation, mass arrests and martial law in a preemptive fashion. It is hardly any wonder that citizens are perceived as the enemy by many officers. It is predictable that unstable individuals will see all law enforcement officers in the same way.

Think about it. Americans under the age of 18 cannot remember a time when the US was not at war. While the ostensible goal is to eliminate terror, it is obvious that terror has only increased. The millions of Americans who haven’t yet realized that the “War on Terror” is self-defeating seem to accept that endless war is inevitable. That should not be surprising, since most of us who are old enough to know better seem to have forgotten there was a time when it was assumed that wars would eventually end. Instead of growing anger at America’s increasingly belligerent foreign policy and all the misery it is creating, we passively accept the glorification of the US military. Professional sports and the corporate media constantly praise the military its members. Our children are being aggressively recruited before they are old enough to understand the risks of what they are agreeing to.  How can they know what they are volunteering for, when the media covers almost nothing about the reality of how the US military operates around the world, to say nothing about what the real aims of US foreign policy are?

The US has led or supported disastrous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria while supporting a fascist government at war with its own people in Ukraine, backing a right wing Israeli government staging a brutal and illegal occupation opposed by a significant number of its citizens, and constantly agitating against Russia and Iran. No thinking person can believe that there is a logical end game planned except in the delusional minds of those Wall Street interests bent on global corporate domination, and they are not saying what that is.

Despite the chaos, destruction and cost in lives and treasure of US foreign policy, and even in the face of attempts at “political revolution” by both liberals and conservatives, there is little organized protest against the war industry and all it represents. Myopically focused on their personal circumstances, most Americans do not stop to think about what their government is doing to others around the world in their name.  How can we demand justice for Americans when we are so willing to deny it to people in other nations with no say in the decisions that are destroying their lives? Even if that were possible, we could have justice in the US when the national resources are so heavily invested in the destruction business.

War is considered normal in the US. There is little objection to a proposed war by members of whichever party occupies the White House at the time. When a Democrat is in office, almost no party regulars find reason to object to any war.  Although only defensive wars are legal, Americans largely got behind a “preemptive” war in Iraq. Even after that proved a disaster, they failed to protest the next wars, because American troops were not involved in large numbers.  Once the majority of the American public accepted that war was normal, the alarm over the escalating War of Terror and associated increasing abridgement of civil rights by Presidents of both parties was muted and soon, largely forgotten.  What politicians and the corporate media ignore are non-issues.

This blasé acceptance of violence on a global scale cannot help but have consequences for the individual American psyche. How much more true is that for veterans who have seen the reality of war? Most, motivated by economic desperation or misguided patriotism, have no idea what they have signed up for until they are “in the shit.” Killing, or seeing a close comrade killed in front of you, does horrific damage to the soul of normal humans. They cannot heal if they return to a society that has no real appreciation for their sacrifices, doesn’t care to ask if what they gave up their freedoms and risked their lives for was worth sacrificing for, and is largely ignorant of what they went through to “defend their freedoms.”

Reports of Micah Johnson’s military record focus only on his alleged sexual misconduct. Nothing is said about what he experienced in Afghanistan. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. He was clearly unstable, though he might be forgiven for seeing the violence against fellow African-Americans an issue of Black vs White or cop vs civilian in his mind. He was trained to think that way his whole life. If we really want to do something about the epidemic of random violence, we have to start thinking about our own willingness to divide humanity into “us” vs “them.” Once we realize it is only “us,” our duty is clear.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

THE REVOLUTION MUST TRANSCEND PARTISANSHIP




                                                                                         





In order to sustain the momentum that Sanders has built for a political revolution, we have to continue to attract new people to the cause, regardless of the outcome of the primary and general elections.  Should Sanders win, this will occur naturally as Clinton supporters grudgingly fall in behind him like the faithful party members they are. If he loses and Hillary goes on to win the general election, it will be much more difficult to convince Clintonites to join the effort. They are, after all, pretty much by definition willing to settle for whatever the party can give them. How else could they enthusiastically support someone who represents everything the other half of the party is revolting against?

They are also very angry that Sanders continues to use his campaign to criticize the party, which they see as irresponsible since it boosts chances of a Trump victory. As usual, supporters of the Democratic status quo want to blame those who refuse to go along for the results of their complacency.

It’s obvious that the division between Sanders supporters and Clinton backers is growing, even while the Democratic establishment is demanding that the party come together to prevent a Trump presidency. Clinton supporters are alarmed and angry that Bernie’s legions do not bow down defeated, or at least be grateful for a symbolic place at the table in July. After all, they would line up behind Sanders if he had beaten all odds and prevailed despite the systemic disadvantages he faced.  They cannot understand how any Democrat could consider not voting for anyone with a D after her name if it meant keeping a Republican out of the White House.

Given this simplistic view of politics, Clintonites conclude that Sanders supporters are just being unreasonable. They attribute the anger they are seeing to youthful naïveté, misogyny, or the fact that Sanders continues to express anger at the Democratic status quo. Only the latter argument has any serious basis, but only a blind partisan would argue that criticizing what the party has become is a bad thing. In fact, their failure to acknowledge the validity of Sanders’ critique is the real source of his supporters’ anger.

If Clinton’s advocates cannot be made to understand the central importance of Sanders’ challenge to the corruption of the system, we must look elsewhere to build a movement that continues when the Sanders campaign ends.  Should she prevail in November, it may actually be easier to recruit Trump followers to the cause than her supporters. Not being blinded by the corporate media spin on Wall Street’s darling, Trump’s fans may be more amenable than Clinton supporters to the idea of working together on issues on which most Americans agree.  Trump and Sanders supporters already have in common that they both reject the Duopoly leadership. Both are increasingly aware that Duopoly politicians are subservient to interests other than our own. Given the positions Trump has taken, it is clear that his supporters are not as ideological as progressives typically assume Republicans to be. If we can learn to stop thinking in partisan terms, we can find common cause on many issues. In addition to mutual contempt for the Duopoly establishment, there is widespread nonpartisan agreement many critical issues that Trump and Sanders support and on which Clinton’s record is at odds with public opinion.

It’s time to abandon the assumption that politics is a battle between fundamentally opposing forces of the right, represented by Republicans, and a left represented by Democrats.  This simplistic dichotomy is so deeply engrained in Clinton supporters that they cannot comprehend why Sanders and his supporters are challenging what the Democratic Party has become. Their identification with the party brand is so strong that many question whether an independent progressive like Sanders is a “real Democrat,” but fail to ask themselves how they define the term. They assume that any politician who calls herself one is, regardless of how much her neoliberal and neoconservative record resembles that of a typical Republican. For many such Democrats, the choice is not which candidate best represents them but whether that candidate can prevent the dreaded outcome of a Republican in the White House.  They consider themselves on “the left” simply by virtue of party membership.

In contrast, Trump supporters do not identify with the Republican Party, even if most are members. Among them are many who might be persuaded to consider the Sanders message, if their candidate does not win and they face four to eight years of Clinton. Sure, some are just attracted by racism and many by his willingness to say whatever foolish thought crosses his mind, but many Trump enthusiasts like some of the good ideas he claims to support. Many of his positions echo those of Sanders: opposing free trade, ending policies of regime change, mandating a living wage, restoring civil liberties, having a more balanced relationship with Israel and most importantly, campaign finance reform.  A great many people are impressed by the fact that Trump’s campaign is largely self-funded. True or not, they see this as evidence that he is not beholden to special interests. Those who think these issues are important are people who may be able to understand that “making America great again” has nothing to do with making it whiter and everything to do with ending corruption of government by special interests.

The average Trump booster may even be more ready for political revolution than some Sanders supporters. All of them firmly reject the Republican establishment, while many Sanders supporters are ready to vote for Clinton she wins the nomination, despite the fact that she stands for everything Sanders is fighting against. Those of us dedicated to bringing about political revolution know that it begins with challenging the corruption of the system. That starts by refusing to vote for any politician who is the clear choice of the same interests that back both Duopoly parties. Maverick status is another thing that Trump and Sanders share. If we stick to issues and not personalities, there is a chance that we can overcome the suspiciousness that the corporate media and politicians have deliberately created between us and work together toward the common goal of establishing representative government in the US.

It is the opposition to being led by politicians who put the interest of the economic elite over those of average Americans that should bind people from across the political spectrum in this common cause. When 80% of Americans have expressed opposition to Citizens United, it seems obvious that we should be able to work together to do something about it. That is exactly what the Sanders revolution is all about. If we want politicians to represent us, we have to stop applying ideological labels to ideas that can lead to solutions to problems that affect us all.  “Conservative” and “liberal” should be relative terms, not absolutes. If we don’t allow others define what we are supposed to believe, we can find that consensus necessary for true representative government.  If we can make it that far, we can then decide through the democratic process what kind of country we want to be.

Friday, May 13, 2016

BEYOND BERNIE: THE EVOLUTION OF A REVOLUTION





                                   


Those of us on the left know that what Sanders calls a "revolution" is only the first step in the transformation necessary to produce a just society. Some of us labor under the delusion that if we are patient, some day Americans will rise up and overthrow the system that oppresses us. Even more unreasonably, some think this can somehow be done without dirtying our hands in electoral politics. Others argue that it can only be done by building a third party to challenge the corporate Duopoly. While creating an alternative to the Duopoly will play a role in the ultimate transformation of American politics, it will take many years to realize. We simply do not have the luxury of time. The reality is that global climate change sets an upper limit on how long we have to act. Until we begin electing candidates who will stand up to the Wall Street-dominated fossil fuels industry, we are living with a sword hanging over our heads. When "liberal" Americans seem prepared to select the darling of Wall Street to represent them in the presidential election, there is too much groundwork to be done to create a viable third party before it is too late.

Clinton's success despite her high unfavorability ratings shows how far we have to go to educate the public about the need for revolution and what that will entail. We must begin with the system as it is, meet the people where they are at, and hope that by speaking to them in their language, we can lead them to question the assumptions that keep them captive of a system designed to favor the interests of the powerful. That means elections matter, even if one victory does not in itself constitute a "revolution." They provide platforms from which to educate and organize those who have not given up altogether on rescuing the US and the world from the dire circumstances we have allowed it to fall into. Sanders has shown how this can be done without depending on the very interests who control the system to get this opportunity.

The question remains as to whether the Sanders candidacy will advance the cause of a real revolution, or impede it.  If his supporters simply cave in and support Clinton, they will show that they are unwilling to challenge the practice of fear-based “strategic” voting promoted by the Democratic leadership. The grip on power of the party elite depends on successfully convincing us that voting for corporate Democrats is the only alternative to Republican rule. It is not. If their jobs depended on it, these power brokers would have to give us candidates who actually represent the People’s will.  If the majority of Democrats continue to accept the lesser of two evils logic, they have no reason to expect that the party’s steady drift to the right will ever end. If they refuse to vote for the anointed candidate of the limousine liberals, we have a chance to force change.

A lot of people have been saying since the beginning of the Democratic primary campaign that Sanders would end up doing more harm than good to the cause of fundamentally changing the system of American politics. Assuming that he would lose in the end, they pointed out that his ultimate endorsement of Clinton would serve simply to shore up a party that can no longer generate excitement among even its most faithful members because its chosen candidates are unwilling to challenge the moneyed interests that he is targeting.  The naysayer’s argument was that, like past insurgent candidates for the Democratic nomination, he would serve as a sheepherder for the Duopoly party claiming to represent “the People” by encouraging his disappointed supporters to rally round the choice of the Establishment. While this is a distinct possibility, those committed to a real revolution need to understand that we cannot succeed without learning to recognize and capitalize on every opportunity.

Whether or not Sanders wins the nomination, his amazing run presents such an opening, one we may not get again. While he can help advance the cause beyond the convention, let’s remember that he has told us endlessly that the outcome of the struggle is in our hands. We have to be prepared to respond to the very real possibility that Sanders himself will abdicate leadership in the movement he has begun, even while encouraging him to stay the course. We have to help him fight for every vote to continue getting his message out during the campaign and at the convention. We must also encourage him to set his sights higher than simply making the case for progressive policies before a convention run by politicians whose primary interest is maintaining power and who believe that can only be done by kowtowing to the corporate elite.  Words must be followed by action.

Ralph Nader recently argued that if Sanders were to lose at convention, he could still keep his word to endorse Clinton, while challenging her corporate vision. There is nothing to stop him from continuing his assault on neoliberalism and corruption that is the root cause of America’s malaise. While justifying his ongoing efforts as a way to rally his troops to defeat Trump, he can continue to barnstorm in favor of the Democrats. The key is that rather than promoting the failed policies of Clintonism, he can argue for those Democratic values that people want to believe the party represents. This will prepare us for continuing to fight for them if Clinton is elected, rather than abandoning the fight as Obama supporters did after 2008, with predictable results.


A true political revolution must be based on addressing the corruption upon which the current system is built. Sanders has gotten the ball rolling, focusing our attention on the fact that the entire progressive movement depends on dealing with this problem. With our encouragement, he can keep the movement going forward. Even without his cooperation, we can proceed on our own. He has provided us a glimpse of our collective power. We have to use it, organizing around the issue of corruption and highlighting how the consequences play out in a Clinton presidency, as they no doubt will if her policies are consistent with her atrocious record of neoliberalism, neoconservatism and generally favoring the interests of Wall Street over Main Street. 

A true political revolution must be based on addressing the corruption upon which the current system is built. Sanders has gotten the ball rolling, focusing our attention on the fact that the entire progressive movement depends on dealing with this problem. With our encouragement, he can keep the movement going forward. Even without his cooperation, we can proceed on our own. He has provided us a glimpse of our collective power. We have to use it, organizing around the issue of corruption and highlighting how the consequences play out in a Clinton presidency, as they no doubt will if her policies are consistent with her atrocious record of neoliberalism, neoconservatism and generally favoring the interests of Wall Street over Main Street.  

If we can get average Americans to set their sights that high, they might be able to glimpse the more fundamental changes that will be required to reshape the US economy and society into something that will enable future generations to not only survive, but thrive.



Friday, May 6, 2016

THE BATTERED DEMOCRAT SYNDROME: UNDERSTANDING CLINTON SUPPORTERS





                                        




                                                                                                                                                                           

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have often lost patience with long-time friends support Clinton. I have been impatient and said disrespectful things that I regret. I don’t want to make excuses for my behavior, but in my defense I have to say that it is very frustrating that so few of them seem to be willing to take a look at why “Bernie bros” are so adamant in their support of Sanders. It seems obvious to us that we have an historic opportunity to decisively reject the assumption that a person can only be elected President if they are backed by powerful economic players. How could anyone choose Wall Street’s golden girl over a champion of campaign finance reform and all the progressive battles we will never win until it is achieved? To paraphrase the unofficial motto of the first Clinton’s campaign: “It’s the corruption, stupid!

That’s not meant to be personal, of course. It’s just that the seemingly willful blindness of Clinton supporters is maddening to those of us who recognize the need for a real political revolution to end control of the political process by the narrow economic elite she represents. However, the idea that they are willing to stay with a candidate who has done nothing but abuse them and sweet talk them with broken promises should inspire pity, not wrath. Their passion for Clinton may be irrational, but isn’t that the nature of love? It is not helpful to lash out at them for seeing the best in her, even when what they see is not there. That is, after all, a common feature in the battered spouse syndrome. Democrats who support Clinton show all the signs of this depressingly common condition.

We Sanders supporters are not helping our case by lashing out at the very people we should be trying to reach. We need to take a deep breath, remember that these are people we care about, and realize that self-destructive behaviors are common in people who have been abused. We may be surprised that they are not acting like the people we thought they were, but these are our friends!  We have been through so much with them over the years that we cannot abandon them when they most need understanding. It is no doubt this emotional bond that makes us so angry when we see them debase themselves by asking for more abuse from the Democratic Party. We are only angry at them because we care.

Despite a long history of abusive relationships with past Democratic politicians, those who have fallen victim to Clinton’s wiles fail to recognize that the party they have sworn not to forsake is not what they thought it was. Like victims of other forms of abuse, they seem to be attracted to those very characteristics which prevent a healthy relationship. While the dysfunctional nature of the relationship is obvious to those of us who can view the situation objectively, to the star-crossed hopefuls who desperately want to believe that they have found true love, the party can do no wrong. Every time they think they have found someone who understands them and who shares their interests, they find out too late (if ever) that they are understood all too well, and have fallen for another politician who will exploit their weakness for their own purposes.

Clinton supporters are often quite intelligent people. Knowing this, their friends have to wonder why they tolerate the abuse they have suffered from the Democratic Party without complaint. The answer isn’t complicated. They are so blinded by the love for the one they are in bed with that they accept any excuse for her actions that allows them to cling to the fantasy that they are cared for. Confronted with bald faced lies, they would rather accept ridiculous excuses than face the truth that the person they have chosen has no respect for them. The fact that a number of these lies are over such trivial matters that they suggest a compulsion doesn’t even seem to cause them concern.

Oh sure, such people can be nice. Not to accuse Clinton specifically, but let’s admit it: Everyone knows that psychopaths can be the most charming people in the world. For instance, the fact that she makes a show of supporting the rights of women and children in public doesn’t necessarily mean she is compassionate. If this were a deeply held value, would she not care as much for women and children in Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Syrian or any nation targeted by her neocon friends? Her capacity for violence is well known, and at times she does not even bother to hide the pleasure it brings her. It doesn’t cost her a thing to say nice things about people to get votes, but those who are taken in are not seeing the glaring inconsistencies in her behavior.

I don’t want people to get the idea that I am exaggerating my concerns about my Clinton-loving friends for effect. For the most part, the abuse has been subtle but all the signs are there. Let’s face it:  If they haven’t learned from the mistakes they have made in past relationships, they aren’t going to see this one coming. They are likely to deny it when it gets worse, and the suffering she inflicts gets more serious. Just look at how many of them still moon over Bill, after all his transgressions. He wasn’t just a liar and a cheater. He put our finances at risk with NAFTA and banking regulation, destroyed the party’s already shaky reputation for favoring diplomacy over war by introducing “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo, and did a lot of other disgraceful things that Clintonites have forgiven or forgotten, if they were ever acknowledged.

Although she now repudiates her support of her husband’s crime bills, opposition to gay marriage, welfare “reforms” and claims to have never supported NAFTA, Hillary is on record as having promoted all of it. She is also opposed to reinstating an updated version of Glass-Steagall that Bill eliminated, obfuscating the issue by pretending that Sanders doesn’t understand the role of the shadow finance industry. Doubling down on her claim to have opposed NAFTA from the beginning instead of only during the 2008 campaign, she now wants us to trust her claim that she opposes the TPP, which she played a key role in negotiating.

I am trying to be understanding, but like many Americans, I am dismayed at the fact that anyone who considers herself a progressive would choose a business-as-usual “pragmatist” like Clinton over someone with a long record of supporting real solutions to the problems threatening the US middle class.  Anyone who looks at the record of past failed relationships with Democratic politicians objectively can see the problem is in falling in love with the false image they present to us, even when all the clues are there.

We don’t have to “settle.” We deserve better.  Despite our past mistakes in choosing who to trust, we do not deserve to be treated this way. The only reason anyone accepts this is that they don’t want to face the shame of being played for a fool. The truth is that most of us have been there at some point in our lives. We need to let those stuck in this mental prison know they are not alone. It is not being “realistic” to accept that they cannot do better. Now that we actually have a choice, we need to take it. Let’s recognize that ever since Bill strayed off on the Third Way, Democrats have lost their sense of identity. They must find the will to deal with the endemic corruption of electoral politics that the Democratic establishment has embraced.  At the risk of idealizing Sanders as “Mr. Right,” the choice seems clear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE IMPECCABLE LOGIC OF BERNIE OR BUST



                                                                       

                                  

                                                                           

Now that Clinton has virtually sewed up the Democratic nomination, it’s time for Sanders supporters to reassess their commitment to the political revolution he represents. There seems little doubt that those who have not yet voted will cast their ballots for him when they have the chance. The issue is what they will do in November. It is a sure thing that the revolution will not continue if Bernie’s backers line up behind with Clinton. Will they submit to the politics of fear, hold their noses and vote for the representative of all that they stand against, as Clinton and her smug supporters assume?  Or will they hold their ground, choosing to risk a Trump presidency to make the point that there is a line that progressives will not cross? That is the question at the heart of the Bernie or Bust strategy.

It has been argued that Bernie or Bust was a way to influence how Democrats voted in the primaries. The idea was that if voters leaning toward Clinton understood the depth of disgust toward the darling of Wall Street, they would realize that she could actually lose by Sanders supporters withholding their support. The hope was that many of those who preferred Sanders’ stands on the issues would quit rationalizing their support of Clinton on the false premise that she was more electable, which polls have consistently indicated is not the case.  That argument is now moot, however. So, is there still a place for the Bernie or Bust strategy, or was it always just about appealing to the fears of Democratic rank-and-file?  For anyone who understands just how desperately we need a political revolution, the only possible answer is a resounding “yes.”

It is positively mind-blowing to many Sanders supporters that a majority of Democrats nationwide have up until now cast their votes for a candidate backed by Wall Street who has  a record of unrivaled militarism, claims that universal health care is economically unsound despite all the proof to the contrary, who lies even about trivial things (and then about lying about them), backs free trade except when running for President, calls her Democratic opponent a liar and his supports naïve, then insists that he is destroying the Democrat’s chance to beat Trump. There are no rational grounds to argue that she is any kind of progressive, even in the absolutely broadest sense of the term.  Those serious about political “revolution” can hardly support her just when they have the chance to make clear the depth of their conviction that they can no longer accept the status quo.

What Clinton supporters do not seem to realize is that this election is not just about what we are going to accomplish in the next four years. It is about how to reverse the 25-year slide to the right the US has undergone since the last Clinton gave us the “third way,” which many refer to as “Republican lite.” Blind Democratic loyalists do not seem to realize that the party has not failed because “conservative” ideas have become more popular, but because those who profess progressive ideals are unwilling to demand that politicians fight for real political solutions, or even discuss them. The Democratic strategy for negotiations always starts with the assumption that nothing is “politically possible” if it challenges the interests of the economic elite who finance the campaigns of candidates of both Duopoly parties. This reflexive attitude is a direct result of Bill Clinton’s capitulation to the corrupting influence of money in politics, the fight against which is at the heart of the Sanders campaign.

It started when Bill Clinton supported NAFTA, welfare “reform,” banking deregulation, “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo, three strikes, discriminatory drug crime sentencing and other policies favored by the conservatives and corporate donors he was courting. He has never been held responsible for doing what no Republican would have been able to. Like Hillary, he was granted immunity from all his reprehensible actions because he was unjustly accused of others. The time for excuses is over.

The American economy has been devastated by the actions of Clinton’s Wall Street patrons, who not only remain unpunished but continue to direct economic policy. Economic inequality rivals that of the Gilded Age. College debt is economically handicapping a generation. Health care costs remain out of control and tens of millions remain uninsured despite the added cost to taxpayers of Obamacare. We are engaged in what appears to be endless war, with Clinton promising to double down in Syria, Libya and anywhere else where the interests of her corporate backers in the military industrial complex are threatened. Most critically, we are entering a period when climate instability threatens the existence of human civilization and possibly the survival of mankind.

It seems unlikely that Clinton will have the courage to challenge the Wall Street-dominated fossil fuel industries when she has collected millions from bundlers and individuals working in the fossil fuel industry and from SuperPacs funded by large industry donations. While Sanders has received contributions from individuals in the industry, he has not only refused to take any money from fossil fuels corporations, but has sponsored in each of the last three Congresses constitutional amendments that would ban corporate campaign contributions. He has also explicitly come out against fracking, which Clinton has long supported. While Clinton called the phony “war on terror” her number one national security priority, Sanders correctly identified it as global climate change.

Climate change will determine how much time we have to deal with the consequences of corporate control of the US government. As Bill McKibbin and others have been warning with increasing urgency, time is running out to act. There is nothing in Clinton’s record to suggest that she will stand up to those who have put her in power. Even when she claims to oppose a corporate power grab like TPP or NAFTA, she only does so when she is in the spotlight of a presidential campaign and in doing so, lies about her record of past support. How can we trust her when the survival of the planet is at stake?

“Incrementalism” has proven itself over the years to be two steps backward for every one forward. Clintonism has been the path that has led to this point. We cannot wait four years or more to let the Democratic Party know that we are not going to tolerate the corruption of the system that has led nearly 40% of Americans to give up on voting. If we are ever going to force our government to act in our own interests, we must refuse to vote for candidates who make excuses for not even trying, calling it “pragmatism.” The only reason that single payer health care, ending a self-defeating “war” on terror, regulating the banking and finance industry and creating an economy that works for everyone are “not politically possible” is that average Americans and their elected officials accept the corruption of money in politics as normal, when it should be unacceptable.

Now is the time for the real revolution to begin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BERNIE’S LAST SHOT





                                                     




Most people, myself included, predicted that if Sanders didn't win New York he would be pretty much out of the race. Admittedly, the math doesn't look good. Even if you disregard the highly debatable assumption that the superdelegates who have endorsed Clinton would defy the will of the voters in the event that Bernie pulled off a miracle, he will have to win a remarkably high percentage of Democratic votes in the remaining primaries to enter the convention with even a slim lead. There is a way that he could do that, however: Clinton-leaning Democratic voters in the remaining races could choose to vote for the candidate who best represents their views. 

How many Clinton voters have you heard say "I love Sanders' positions on the issues, BUT"?" These reluctant "supporters" have been voting for her in large numbers only because they believe that she is the most viable candidate in the general election or that she is the one who could get the most done, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. What if a significant proportion of them decided to stop rationalizing their decision to voting against their preferred candidate? While I am not aware of any poll data to back this up, I suspect this would give Sanders the edge he needs to bring in the kind of numbers that would make superdelegates think twice about defying the will of the voters.

None of the earlier arguments about why Sanders still has a chance have changed, even if the odds have dropped because of his unexpectedly sound defeat in New York. He still has the advantage of momentum. It's true that this has momentarily stalled, but one loss does not a trend make. He has still won seven out of the last eight races and is the favorite in the upcoming primaries. While Clinton's more fanatical supporters seem blind to the fact, superdelegates will surely have to recognize that the better Sanders is known, the better his poll numbers, while the more familiar voters become with Clinton's record (as opposed to her resume) the lower her favorability ratings. That's not what delegates endorsing her want to see when their own political futures depend on backing the winning horse.

In terms of electability come November, Sanders has won about as many swing states as Clinton, but may have a better chance in the general. He outperforms her with independents and continues to outpoll her in head to head polls against Trump and other potential Republican nominees. Add to this the fact that 25 percent of Sanders supporters say they will not vote for her, and there could be harm to the party's down ticket prospects as well since many young voters will likely not show up at all. Ignoring the anger at politics-as-usual, Clinton supporters have been demanding that Sanders supporters bend to the party will, hold their noses and vote for yet another corporatist candidate. Since they sincerely believe that it is only logical to vote for whatever politician has a D after his or her name, even those who say they won't vote for Sanders because they are upset at some of his supporters would be unlikely to withhold their votes for him should he be nominated.

Viability in the general election is by far the most important issue superdelegates should be concerned with, since that is what determines their reward for supporting a candidate. If enough Democrats decide that they are tired of voting for candidates who won't make a serious effort (if any) to fight on basic issues like single payer, a $15 minimum wage, ending destructive free trade policies, addressing global climate change, winding down endless wars or seriously taking on Wall Street, their reward will be even greater: They will have an advocate who will keep the spotlight onto the corruption of the political process that has led the party to the brink of selecting a candidate who epitomizes neoliberal and neoconservative values that are antithetical to traditional Democratic positions. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

SYRIA: OBAMA’S BAY OF PIGS



         
                                                                                  





No one is going to get rich reading tea leaves to predict the outcome of the US-backed terrorist invasion of Syria. There are so many confusing events that it’s difficult to keep track of trends that might indicate which way the war on Assad (and the majority of Syrians) is going. That’s why few people have noticed certain positive developments that may indicate that Obama is seeking a way out with what is left of America’s honor. Whether this will lead to a stand down of US efforts at regime change will depend on whether Obama is willing to risk yet another confrontation with influential neocons who are still intent on crippling Iranian influence in the region through destabilizing the Syrian government.

The most recent round of peace talks are not likely to be the sham that previous ones were. Despite Kerry’s tough talk of a Plan B, the US has dropped demands that Assad step down as a precondition to a deal. The alternative to a negotiated resolution, recently leaked to the Wall Street Journal, would involve escalating the conflict by providing more dangerous weapons to the jihadist “rebels.” However, the plan is most likely being presented as the only credible alternative to capitulation to Russian demands in Geneva.  Knowing how man-portable air defense systems (Manpads) could be used by the terrorists in the wake of a collapse of the Syrian government, supplying them to the al Qaeda-affiliated anti-Assad forces would be lunacy. It would make little sense for Obama to give in to Saudi demands to do so at this point, when he has resisted the temptation for five years.

Erdogan may be starting to see the futility of further attempts to take down Assad. The most recent evidence of this is a series of high level Turkish visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran. While Turkey and Iran have common economic interests and a mutual desire to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state, it is hard to imagine that they could make much progress on working together as long as Turkey is pursuing a foreign policy course that is an existential threat to Iran’s status as a regional power. There are other compelling reasons for Erdogan to try to make nice with the Sauds, but it is unlikely that he will be able to thaw relations at the same time he is negotiating with their nemesis. Unless, that is, they are also discussing letting go of the goal of toppling Assad.

There are also clues that the Obama administration US efforts are being stepped up to curb further Saudi aid to terrorist “rebels.” The barrage of criticism that the Saudis are taking in the US media is unprecedented and most likely orchestrated. It is also somewhat risky, in that it highlights the cynicism of US “humanitarian interventions” against targeted dictators while it is allied with the most brutal, repressive regime in the region. From Biden pointing out that it is the chief financial sponsor of terrorists in the region to recent critical reports on the generally politically correct Frontline and 60 Minutes to Obama’s announcement that the government is about to make a decision after two years on declassifying the 28 pages of a report said to implicate high level government officials in financing the 9/11 attack, the heat is clearly being turned on these feckless “allies.”

Cynics who charged that this was only a ruse to buy time to regroup for a renewed attack on Syrian forces seem to be ignoring evidence that the situation has changed since the earlier attempts to “negotiate” a US-dictated solution in Geneva. Realists in the Obama administration seem to be serious this time. Kerry was forced into agreeing to talks by the timely intervention of Russia.  He had no real choice.  Had the offensive continued unchecked, Assad’s forces would have routed ISIS and Putin would have been able to dictate terms.  This is what forced Kerry to agree to peace talks despite having to bargain from a weak position.

In addition, Erdogan’s panicked response to the prospect of new peace talks suggests that he believes that the Americans are looking for resolution. Having responded to advances by the Russian and Syrian militaries and Kurdish defense forces by stepping up threats, he doubled down once talks were announced, at one point declaring that an invasion was not off the table although when directly confronted with Russian accusations, he denied any such intent. The Turkish military was reported to be against such an ill-advised action, but troop buildups along the border had convinced many that he was serious.

The Turkish call for invasion was echoed by Saudi Arabia, which offered to take part in a joint campaign if it was led by the US.  This was obviously just bluster. After all, the threat of invasion was the result of Erdogan’s frustration at US unwillingness to prioritize defeating Assad or to abandon its alliance with Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS. There was no way that the US was going to support an invasion that would risk WWIII by targeting both the Kurdish YPG and Assad, backed by Russia and Iran.

Nonetheless, at this point many analysts still assumed that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were merely following orders from Washington. Others saw Erdogan’s increasingly rash actions as desperate attempts to salvage the standing of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amidst an economy in decline at least partly because of Russian sanctions. Rumor had it that he even had reason to worry about an impending military coup. Although the Turkish military denied it and analysts generally dismissed the idea, had he tried to order his generals to carry out a full-scale invasion in defiance of US wishes, a coup would have been much more likely.

When the US proceeded to resume peace talks on Syria while Turkey and Saudi Arabia talked war, it became clear that the actions of the three nations were not coordinated. Saudi Arabia and Turkey had become isolated on the global stage.  Obama had established that he was not going to allow the tail to wag the dog, and that he was going to act in what he considered US interests. There is a reason that Obama is no longer making Assad’s departure a precondition for negotiations. It would not have changed anything unless the US had been allowed to pick his successor. The only way that was going to happen was through direct military force, which Obama has clearly been trying to avoid. He was willing to use al Qaeda associated “rebels” as proxy fighters as he did in Libya, but the goal was not so much regime change as destabilizing and ultimately balkanizing the country, a goal which has largely been achieved. The strategy of dividing a nation into smaller political entities to weaken it is the essence of the Oded Yinon plan for establishing a Greater Israel. The idea was to use this tactic against any neighboring nation that resisted Israeli hegemony.

It is important to understand this point. Given the incestuous relationship between Israel and US neocons, it is not surprising to see the Yinon strategy being used in areas in which the US has chosen to intervene. In Iraq Biden is renewing calls for the weak federal system he first proposed in 2014. It is an idea that has been partially realized with the increasingly autonomous status of the KRG, the Iraqi Kurdistan government.  The divisions left in the wake of the Libya “debacle” are another example of the same idea, only much messier. Libya was not considered a failure by fans of this strategy. They did not care so much about the chaos they left as about the fact that there was no longer a strong central government to resist NATO plans for Libya and the region. In fact, in a chilling prelude to the assault on Syria, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen enthusiastically referred to the Libyan experience as “a teaching moment.”

Despite mixed signals from the Obama administration since the cessation of hostilities for the latest round of peace talks, there is reason to believe that the President is serious about cutting his losses in Syria. As detailed in the recent Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg, he was never enthusiastic about attacking Syrian forces directly in the aftermath of the false flag sarin attack on Ghouta in 2013. He dragged his feet on acting despite his harsh rhetoric, allowing saner voices to be heard. In the Atlantic article, Obama criticized all the major players in the continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria; the Saudis, Erdogan, Netanyahu and the neocons who wrote the “playbook” he says he is pressured to follow. Their game plan essentially calls for the use of US military force against any nation that stands in the way of a global corporate empire nominally led by America and its allies.  The fact that Obama is so open about these politically incorrect opinions at this point suggests that he may be trying to prepare us for a shift in official US policy.

The always-doubtful argument that intervention in Syria is motivated by humanitarian concerns is wearing increasingly thin. Obama regards giving in to Clinton’s pressure to attack Libya as the “greatest mistake of (his) presidency.”  If Obama wants out, Erdogan has few options but to go along. The Saudis, increasingly on the defensive in the US propaganda wars, are no doubt aware that they cannot challenge US will on their own, even if their neocon allies remain on their side. If Obama tries to push a diplomatic solution that leaves Assad in power and the “freedom fighting” al Qaeda types stranded, the still-powerful neocons are sure to push back. If he fails to act according to his realist principles, a Clinton presidency could be disastrous because she is still pushing for a no-fly zone, which would require a direct US assault on Syria’s air defenses.

That’s why this is Obama’s Bay of Pigs moment. He can do the right thing and try to limit the damage that American imperialists can do on his watch, or he can submit to the pressure of an out-of-control military industrial complex for a senseless and entirely avoidable war.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A ROLLING STONE GATHERS MOSS-JANN WENNER ENDORSES CLINTON






                                                               
                                                                           



I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the latest issue of Rolling Stone: The front page article was an editorial by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner endorsing Hillary Clinton. Seriously. The magazine that inspired young Americans when they took to the streets for change in the 60s now calls for the election of a politician who epitomizes the Establishment. What does it say about our hopes of saving the US and the world from a hostile corporate takeover when the publisher who brought the world Hunter Thompson’s gonzo journalism can’t understand why the US needs a political revolution, or what Sanders means when he talks about it?

God help us when the magazine that introduced most of us to Matt Taibbi is now calling for the election of Goldman Sachs’ BFF. This is perhaps the strongest evidence yet of the deflated ambition that Clinton support by rank-and-file Democrats represents. Ignoring the obvious conflicts of interest inherent in Wall Street financing of her candidacy, Wenner relies on fully discredited arguments to support her campaign against someone whose whole purpose for running is to challenge the corruption of a political system that is breaking down. Does he seriously believe that she will “get things done” by working for incremental change within the same corrupt system that has led America and the world to the brink of existential crisis?

His most forceful argument regards climate change, an issue his young readers take much more seriously than those of their elders who back Clinton because of her putative support for less politically divisive issues such as the rights of women and children (she presumably favors puppies as well).  It should be noted that despite the serious decline in Rolling Stone’s political reporting since the departure of Taibbi as a staff writer, it has managed to do a pretty good job covering the facts about global climate change. Where it has fallen woefully short is in its analysis of the politics of doing something about it.

Rolling Stone articles have praised Obama’s largely symbolic challenges to the fossil fuel industry in areas where it is weakest, but have failed to call him out on the fact that he consistently avoids talking about the reality of what it will take to deal with climate change.  Is that what he means when he says that Clinton will carry on his legacy? Sanders has called it our most important national security issue, while Clinton has consistently supported the expansion of fracking and wars to control fossil fuel sources in the Mideast. Despite this, the editorial argues that Clinton can do more to address climate change with an incremental approach than Sanders can do by demanding a serious response to what Wenner acknowledges is a planet-threatening emergency. Has his advanced age rendered him too senile to see the obvious contradiction?

Wenner’s makes a couple of more or less original arguments in his editorial, both of which are equally fallacious:

First, he accuses Sanders of substituting anger for a real plan, while making virtually no mention of Sanders’ detailed plans for dealing with the economy, tackling global climate change, reducing income inequality, improving health care and education and regulating Wall Street. Is it any wonder that Sanders is angry about the Democratic establishment’s unwillingness to tackle any of these problems effectively? The fact that Wenner cites Obamacare as a key “victory” shows that like many other Democrats, he has become so preoccupied with defending his party’s timidity against Republican stupidity that he fails to see that both have contributed to the imperiled state of the American middle class. Every other nation has a system of universal health care, yet Clinton claims it cannot be done here. If she is right, it is because Democratic acceptance of the corrupt status quo makes it impossible.

Second, he compares Sanders to Nader as a “spoiler.” Not only does this perpetuate the myth that Nader cost Gore the 2000 election, but it ignores the obvious distinction between running in the general election when it might cause a more viable candidate to lose and running in a primary, where it is to everyone’s benefit that voters choose who shall represent them. Having muddled that point, he cites the devastating McGovern loss in 1968, in asserting that no matter how dire the circumstances, “America chooses its presidents from the middle” This is obviously false. It depends on how badly change is needed and how ready the country is for change. Has he forgotten that Roosevelt was considered a radical at one time? Given that Hillary’s supporters seem blithely unaware of the steady rightward drift of the party since Bill introduced the “third way,” they might be inclined to agree.

Wenner’s endorsement dismisses all concerns about Clinton’s veracity as if they are too silly to merit rebuttal. This is typical of her supporters, who refuse to honestly examine her record for evidence of how it reflects on her character. Given the distortions of the corporate media about various false accusations in the past, it is perhaps understandable that he admirers overlook the fact that she lied about having illegally established a private email server for government business, but shouldn’t it raise questions when she is caught lying about things for no apparent reason than to glorify herself, in Trump fashion? I have yet to see a Clinton supporter try to justify her claim that she landed under fire in Bosnia in 2008, when video shows she was welcomed by a ceremony rather than snipers. She also claims to have spoken out against the Iraq War before Obama and to have been broke when she left the White House, among other demonstrably false statements.

Speaking of lies, her claim to have opposed NAFTA has also been debunked (by CBS, no less!). Not only does Wenner ignore this, but he justifies his support for her in part by describing as disingenuous Sanders’ argument that free trade policies were not responsible for the decline of the US auto industry. He fails to mention that while there may be other factors in that example, there is absolutely no doubt that free trade agreements that she has consistently supported have devastated American manufacturing. And to add to her list of “disingenuous” claims, she now claims to oppose TPP, an agreement she was instrumental in negotiating.

There is no sense repeating rebuttals to the claims of Clinton’s superior electability and her ability to work with a hostile Congress when those who don’t know refuse to listen. Let’s leave it at this: Wenner is channeling Ronald Reagan in arguing that while young people tend to have idealistic expectations, when they mature they become conservative. That is only a natural conclusion to those who have benefited from the system as it is and don’t want to admit that they have compromised all the values they held when a better world seemed possible. Like other baby boomers that support Clinton, Wenner seems to have grown too old to appreciate the dismal future facing our grandchildren.  He should be ashamed to risk leaving them to it when we have a chance to spark a real revolution by electing someone willing to lead the fight to save the US and the world from the forces that Clinton represents.

RIP, Rolling Stone. We hardly knew ya…apparently.

Friday, March 11, 2016

IF YOU LIKE TRUMP, YOU'LL LOVE BERNIE


                                                                                     




                                                                                         
         



Sanders supporters are understandably excited by his surprise victory in Michigan, but few take for granted that he will continue to build momentum for the nomination. The corporate media and the DNC seem determined as ever to continue promoting the myth that Clinton will be the inevitable Democratic candidate for president. Despite the fact that her positions are largely out of step with the Democratic mainstream, the rationalizations for voting for her remain persuasive for a large proportion of the party faithful.  Bernie will need to take advantage of every opportunity to tap into that segment of the electorate hungry for change.  While it may seem counterintuitive, Trump supporters may provide the margin he needs for victory.

The consensus opinion on the left is that Trump’s appeal is based on his racist positions on immigration and his Islamophobia, both of which attract the most extreme right wingers who disproportionately support Trump. However, James Robertson offers a persuasive argument that that is not the case. He concludes that Trump’s base is composed of a wide spectrum of conservative voters who are tired of being taken for granted by the lies of the corporate politicians who comprise the establishment of the Republican Party. His powerful argument explains why Trump continues to build support despite his wildly inconsistent views, many of which contradict conservative dogma.

If Robertson’s thesis is correct, it suggests that Sanders and his supporters have a unique opportunity to forge an alliance between left and right. With the right approach, they could unite moderate dissidents across the political spectrum around issues of common concern. While the idea will strike many as far-fetched, it has also been suggested by at least one conservative blogger who makes a strong argument for it.  In addition, as Sanders pointed out in the FOX debate, he was reelected by a nearly 3:1 margin in 2012 in the most rural state in the union. While Vermont is exceptionally liberal for a rural, largely white population, it still has a significant proportion of conservatives.

While it remains to be seen how many conservatives would be willing to register Democratic in the primaries in order to vote for Sanders over Clinton, there is no doubt this is a demographic that Sanders would want on his side in the general election. The more successful a primary effort to sway conservatives who are developing doubts about Trump, the stronger will be the argument that Sanders is the best candidate to prevail in the general election, despite the assumption by many that his self-identification as a “socialist” will doom him.

It would be naïve to think this will be an easy task. The corporate media remains a powerful force to reckon with. However, the more that Sanders and Trump defy its predictions the clearer it will be that Americans will need to tune out the echo chamber and learn to think for themselves. Should they face off in the general election, they will present the clearest choice of what kind of nation we want to be since the “Second Revolution” in 1800, when Jefferson defeated Adams on the promise that ours would not be a government that dictated to the people, but one that responded to the popular will.

Our goal as Americans should not be to assure that one or the other of the Duopoly parties wins, but to elect a president who can best address our common problems. We are at risk of leaving the next generation of Americans to be the first to have a lower standard of living than their parents. Fortunately, the media is performing at least one useful function that could help us change the tide by electing a champion of the People: It is informing the Trump supporters about why it would be so dangerous to elect a megalomaniac with no experience in politics and little understanding of how to do anything but appeal to the anger of his base. It is up to us to make them understand that they have an alternative in an independent who shares their anger at the corrupt Duopoly establishment.

The key is to do what Sanders supporters have largely failed to do in trying to convince Clinton supporters to adopt their point of view, which is to treat their differences of opinion with respect.  That is not as hard as it seems. We are used to having these discussions with others who consider themselves liberals and many of us have been shocked at the anger that greets any criticism of the anointed heir to the Obama presidency. It really shouldn’t be surprising that normally rational people get upset when people who agree on goals agree acknowledge what seems obvious to them: we cannot continue to accept the choice of corporate politicians in the DNC and expect to ever achieve the goals of the progressive agenda.  There is a simple reason that we need a political revolution, but for some reason the message is not sinking in with many of the Democratic Party faithful in the baby boomer generation. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, “It’s the corruption, stupid!” That is a non-ideological message progressives should be able to sell to conservatives.

It’s easier to be patient when you go into a discussion expecting disagreement, as long as you do not fall into the trap of expecting the other person to be convinced on the spot. It’s a matter of planting the seeds and letting them mature in an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to both Trump’s extremism and Clinton’s cynical corporatism. Only the most dedicated Clintonite would argue that it is naively idealistic to worry about it the corruption of the system. It is certainly not an attitude we are likely to get from Trump supporters. We can expect wide agreement on this fundamental issue from conservatives who have recognized that politicians claiming to represent them are lying.

We are witnessing the fracturing of the façade of the Duopoly in the face of its glaring hypocrisy. The success of Sanders and Trump in their respective races has challenged the complacency of the corporate core of both major parties. This is a moment of historic opportunity to not only unify the left around a progressive agenda, but to gain support for it from many self-identified conservatives. Doubters should remember that there is historical precedent for this. Roosevelt was elected after a period of Republican dominance that led to the Great Depression. It was that economic pain that led Americans to challenge the simplistic beliefs they had bought into by Republican corporatists during the relative prosperity of the 20s. In the midst of our ongoing Great Recession, we should be able to do the same. Stripped of ideological rhetoric, Sanders’ platform is a common sense approach to getting America back on its feet.

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