Saturday, April 30, 2016

Easily Offended

Senator Mike Lee cannot take a joke.

There was a "joking yet blunt attitude" taken by John Boehner and David M. Kennedy of Stanford University at an event hosted Wednesday by Stanford in Government and the Stanford Speakers Bureau. Asked his opinion of Ted Cruz, the former House Speaker responded "Lucifer in the flesh. I have Democrat friends and Republican friends, I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

Surely Boehner, who said also "you can call me boner, beaner, jackass, happy to answer to almost anything," was not being serious. Ted Cruz is not a female dog.

Still, Lee called in to the Mark Levin radio show Thursday evening and let loose as he raged

I hear John Boeher heaping praise on Bernie Sanders, heaping praise on Hillary Clinton, heaping praise on Donald Trump.

And yet for Ted Cruz? What's he call him? He calls him the devil! He calls him Satan, he calls him Lucifer. Why? The question is why? Why does he do this? Well, there's an answer. Ted Cruz actually challenges the system - the very same system that Donald Trump claims to rail against!

This is an insightful moment. First of all, I'm appalled that John Boehner would do this.
I have bit my tongue for years. I've held my tongue for years on John Boehner even when I disagreed with him. Because I respected him as a person and respected with his office enough to not call him out on it personally.

I expressed disagreement with his policies, but I've never ridiculed him personally. The fact that he has done this is appalling and he should be ashamed of himself and I demand that he apologize!

...This is a wake-up call for people who are supporting Donald Trump thinking that he's the guy who is going to rail against the establishment. He's NOT! He is the establishment. He's the golfing buddy - the texting buddy of John Boehner. The same guy who praises Hillary Clinton -- who praises Bernie Sanders. So if you're out there thinking that Donald Trump is somehow going to be the guy who takes down the establishment, think again because quite the opposite is true.  

Give that man some cheese with his whine!  Manchego and a passable Merlot will do. He will just hold his breath till he turns blue if Boehner doesn't apologize. He's a sensitive soul, that Mike Lee, at least when it comes to his friend and favorite presidential candidate, who led the government shutdown in 2013 over the Affordable Care Act. But the Utah Republican should realize, as the Atlantic's Molly Ball has written

Another criticism of Cruz is that his antics are disruptive and damaging to the Republican Party. The shutdown nearly led to a national default, terrifying the business community. It led to the lowest approval ratings for the GOP in decades. Even the Kochs came out against such tactics. Groups like the Chamber of Commerce generally support a conservative platform, but not at the price of government ceasing to function. “It’s not what he’s trying to accomplish or what he says he’s trying to accomplish that bothers people,” former McConnell chief of staff Josh Holmes told The Washington Post. “It’s that he’s consistently sacrificed the mutual goals of many for his personal enhancement.”

So maybe Boehner wasn't entirely joking. Bill Maher (video below from a different occasion), who prefers to consider the Texas senator "evil," explains "There’s a reason why everyone hates Ted Cruz. There’s a reason why the big question about Ted Cruz is always, 'When he shaves in the morning, how does he avoid spitting in the mirror?'”

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Gaming The System

Politico on Wednesday reported that Carly Fiorina told MSNBC

He has spent his life taking advantage of that system, and so has Hillary Clinton. So if you think that system isn't working for you, and it isn't working for the vast majority of Americans, as you point out, then don't vote for Donald Trump and don't vote for Hillary Clinton as well. And now you have a clear choice. You can vote Cruz/Fiorina or you can vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. And they are two sides of the same coin

There may be no one who knows more about making the system work for her than does Carly Fiorina.  In September, soon after the former business executive declared for President, the Daily Beast's Michael Daly explained that Fiorina's Hewlett-Packard took the lead in lobbying intensely for the Homeland Investment Act of 2004, part of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. "The purported aim of the legislation," Daly added

was to generate economic growth and therefore jobs at home by according corporations a one year “tax holiday” on billions in overseas profits they had stashed offshore.

The result was a $265 billion corporate giveaway.

The windfall was supposed to go toward research and development, and other job-creating endeavors.

Instead, almost all of it was put into stock buybacks as a way of funneling cash to stockholders, these prominently including CEOs.

Never mind that the bill prohibited such buybacks.

And all that talk about putting more Americans to work did not stop the corporations from cutting as many as 100,000 American jobs in the name of even greater profits.

Hewlett-Packard saved more than $4.3 billion and put more than $4 billion into stock buybacks. It laid off 14,500 workers.

To make it all even uglier, Hewlett-Packard lobbied for the Homeland Investment Act as a member of something called the Homeland Investment Coalition—this at a time when the “war on terror” was intensifying and the word “Homeland” made everyone think of national security.

The Department of Homeland Security had been founded in 2002. We had invaded Iraq in March 2003. And there was Fiorina sixteen months later, party to using “Homeland” to hustle the government out of billions with false promises of new jobs.

And there she was the following year, following the disastrous merger with Compaq she engineered, being asked to step down as HP CEO, with the incentive of $21 million plus $19 million in pension benefits and stock, quite a severance package for someone who would never consider working the system.
A few years later, Firorina felt her business experience qualified her challenge an incumbent United States Senator.  However, we learn from Politico

after her 2010 loss to Barbara Boxer, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive quickly dismantled her political machinery, moved across the country to Virginia and didn’t pay off all her debts to vendors and strategists for more than four years, even as she made sure to quickly reimburse herself $1.25 million she loaned the campaign.

Fiorina reportedly paid off her debts shortly before she announced for president in 2015. But "after she lost to Boxer, she moved to Virginia, notwithstanding approximately $500,000 in unpaid bills, including money owed to the widow of a consultant who died during the campaign."

She's a real sweetheart, not someone who would ever take advantage of the system like the scoundrels Trump and Clinton.

And have I mentioned how loathsome Carly Fiorina is?

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another Reason To Prefer Trump

Ted Cruz has come in for some criticism- all of it deserved- for selecting Carly Fiorina as the individual who would run with him were he to gain the Republican nomination for President.

One thing, however, which Carly Fiorina has mastered is the ability to fake sincerity. Donald Trump the previous day had claimed Hillary Clinton was exploiting her gender for political advantage. Fiorina seemed so earnest when promptly after her campaign rally with Cruz, she was asked about Trump's remarks by NBC News' Hallie Jackson and contended

You know, I think Donald Trump clearly has a problem with women. Clearly. I mean, the week we had a terrorist attack in Brussels, he attacked Heidi Cruz. So I think Hillary Clinton sometimes says to people vote for me because I'm a woman. I would never say to somebody vote for me because I'm a woman. I would say vote for me, vote for Ted, because you think we're qualified and principled. 

I'm offended, frankly, when Democrats talk about women's issues. Because we're the majority of the nation, and every issue that faces this nation is a woman's issue.

When in September Sean Hannity noted Fiorina "took great offense" at the suggestion that "people (are) claiming that you're just in this to run for vice-president," the candidate responded

Well, you know, it would be different, Sean, if all of the candidates were asked that same question with the same regularity, but they're not. I'm the person who's asked that question over and over again. And so one can only conclude that I'm getting asked that question because I'm a woman. which is disappointing because I don't sense that with voters at all.

Claiming that she would never, ever play the gender card would be at least a little more credible if she were asked about the vice-presidency only because she's a woman. However, noting also that earlier that day Fiorina had labeled "sexist" the charge that she was in the race to be vice-president, conservative partial-libertarian Matt Miller observed

Perhaps Fiorina missed all the times that Scott Walker dropped Marco Rubio’s name as his possible running mate.

Or maybe she missed this MSNBC segment, titled: “Is Rubio really running for vice president?” (is this a case of anti-Cuban bigotry?). What about the time CNN asked Ben Carson if he would consider running on a ticket led by Donald Trump (obviously a racist question)? Or how about this headline, “Bobby Jindal to announce he’s running for (vice) president” (anti-Indian American?).

I could go on — but what’s the point? Fiorina’s statement that “No one talks about the men being in to be veep” is provably false.

In fairness, it is less dishonest than Fiorina's repeated claim to have seen a Planned Parenthood video which no one else has seen.

That may be both the Achilles heel- or at least one of them- and the beauty of Carly Fiorina the politician. She will lie and swear to it and not blink even once.  She may be an awful executive, but as a liar she has few equals.

And have I mentioned how loathsome Carly Fiorina is?

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When A Gun Is Not A Gun

Jamelle Bouie has passed on a tweet from a Chris Geidner reading "You have got to be kidding but you aren't."

The head of the line officers' union in the Cleveland Police Department surely is serious when, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Eric Heisig, he

says the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the use of look-alike firearms.

Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, was criticized on a national scale for statements he made to the media in the weeks and months after two officers in his union were involved in Tamir's death.

The usually talkative Loomis issued a news release that said "we can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of this settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms.

"Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm," the release continues.

The release comes in the wake of the city's decision to settle a lawsuit brought by the family. The settlement, announced Monday, releases the city and officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, who were involved in the shooting, from all claims.

The officers- at least Loehmann, who never should have been hired- appear to be quite lucky given that

Loehmann shot Tamir outside Cudell Recreation Center on the city's West Side. He and Garmback were responding to reports of a "guy" with a gun, and both said they saw Tamir reaching into his waistband to grab a gun when Loehmann opened fire.

Tamir had an airsoft pistol in his waistband. The pistol had the orange safety tip removed. Neither officer was criminally charged.

Loomis has used Tamir's shooting to show that police often cannot tell the difference between real and replica firearms. He has stood by both officers following Tamir's shooting, saying their actions were justified.

This argument has not gone unanswered for, Heisig notes

Subodh Chandra, an attorney representing the Rice family, blasted Loomis' release in an emailed statement. He said that the comments "reflect all that is wrong with Cleveland's police division — he managed to (1) blame the victim, (2) equate the loss of the life of a 12-year-old child with the officers facing scrutiny, and (3) demand money from the victim's family and counsel."

It would be dereliction of duty for the head of the union not to defend the action of his members. except in extraordianry circumstances. Nonetheless, commenting "we have maintained from the outset this has been an absolute tragedy for the Rice family as well as our involved Officers and their families" does minimize the loss of life.

But the thrust of Chandra's criticism is that Loomis chose to "demand money from the victim's family and counsel."   It is not the responsiblity of the victim or even his attorney to subsidize a cause designated by Mr. Loomis- or any cause whatsoever.

Still, the union chief has a point.  A slide show accompanying the Plain Dealer article demonstrates how difficult it is to determine the difference between a real firearm and a fake one.  (In the picture below, one pistol is Loomis' service revolver and the other is a toy gun used in a robbery in Cleveland.)

The paper encourages readers to take the test. If you do, you'll probably notice that Chandra has let industry off easy. It is the attorney's responsibility to defend the family, not to advocate safe or effective social policy. However, in a presidential campaign which has included one candidate attacking another for being insufficiently appalled by mass shootings, no mention has been made of the issue raised by the head of the Patrolman's Association.  

Well over a year ago, a state representative in Ohio, Alicia Reese, introduced legislation which would require a fake gun to be easily distinguished from the real thing.  We couldn't expect the likes of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or John Kasich (though governor of Ohio) to speak up. We should, however, have expected Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to have done so and now that Steve Loomis- insensitivity notwithstanding- has done so, there is even less excuse.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Timeless Word Of God

In his important, though questionable, essay, Emmett Rensin writes

Suffice it to say, by the 1990s the better part of the working class wanted nothing to do with the word liberal. What remained of the American progressive elite was left to puzzle: What happened to our coalition?

Why did they abandon us?

What's the matter with Kansas?

The smug style arose to answer these questions. It provided an answer so simple and so emotionally satisfying that its success was perhaps inevitable: the theory that conservatism, and particularly the kind embraced by those out there in the country, was not a political ideology at all.

The trouble is that stupid hicks don't know what's good for them. They're getting conned by right-wingers and tent revivalists until they believe all the lies that've made them so wrong. They don't know any better. That's why they're voting against their own self-interest.

"Many forces" (especially The Daily Show), Rensin maintained, "advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid."

Slate's Jamelle Bouie takes Remsin on and argues "to suggest" that liberal smugness toward the working-class

is a prime mover in their alienation from the party is to ignore the actual dynamics at work. The driving reason working-class whites abandoned the Democratic Party is race. The New Deal coalition Rensin describes was devoured by its own contradictions, chiefly, the racism needed to secure white allegiance even as the party tried to appeal to blacks.

Pressed by those blacks, Democrats tried to make good on their commitments, and when they did, whites bolted. The Democratic Party’s alliance with nonwhites is what drove those whites away, not the sniffing of comedians on cable television. And,looking at the politics of the last seven years, it’s still keeping them away.

Remsin believes that the culture in which liberals wallow includes "The knowing that police reform, that abortion rights, that labor unions are important, but go no further: What is important, after all, is to signal that you know these things. "

It turns out, inconveniently for Remsin, that on at least one matter (oh, there are others) conservatives themselves simply know certain things. And it turns out, conveniently for Mr. Bouie, that he realized this well before Remsin's piece, when two years ago he recalled of the 1960s

In his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics, Jonathan Dudley notes that most evangelicals held far more liberal views at the time. “God does not regard the fetus as a soul no matter how far gestation has progressed,” wrote professor Bruce Waltke of Dallas Theological Seminary in a 1968 issue of Christianity Today on contraception and abortion, edited by Harold Lindsell, a then-famous champion of biblical “inerrancy.” His argument rested on the Hebrew Bible, “[A]ccording to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

This was't anyone from a United Church of Christ, or even United Presbyterian (now Presbyterian Church in the USA), seminary, but from the famed Southern Baptist Convention seminary in Dallas.

A few years later, Bouie adds, the SBC called

for “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

As most evangelicals will assert, the Bible is enduring, Jesus Christ immortal, and the word of God infallible. Evidently, they hadn't accurately discerned God's mind because

By 1982, however, the SBC—along with most American evangelicals—had switched gears entirely. During that year’s convention, delegates held that “human life begins at conception” and that they would work for “appropriate” legislation or a constitutional amendment to “prohibit abortions except to save the physical life of the mother.”

Bouie asked

What happened to cause this sea change in attitudes toward fetal life and abortion among evangelicals? In short, politics, and in particular, the successful coalition-building of Jerry Falwell, Paul Weyrich, and other Christian conservatives in the wake of Roe v. Wade. Conservative Catholics were quick to mobilize against the court’s ruling, but many Protestant evangelicals were relatively apathetic. At that point, “culture war” issues such as abortion, feminism, and homosexuality weren’t on their radar (hence Jimmy Carter’s successful appeal to them in the 1976 presidential election).

It took the organizational might of Falwell and his “Moral Majority”—as well as evangelical anti-abortion figures such as Francis Schaeffer—to galvanize evangelicals around other “culture war” issues such as feminism, homosexuality, and school prayer. This in turn led to alliances with largely Catholic organizations like the National Right to Life Committee.

Belief tends to follow behavior, and working in political alliance with Catholics—a significant shift from earlier periods of evangelical political activism—led conservative evangelicals to adopt “pro-life” positions on abortion. Likewise, there was a shift in evangelical media—via books, magazines, radio, and television—toward anti-abortion beliefs. In 1980 Falwell declared, “The Bible clearly states life begins at conception.” Four years later, notes Dudley, InterVarsity Press—an evangelical imprint—was forced to withdraw a book that restated the earlier consensus around abortion.

Christian cultural conservatives are informed by their belief that Scripture confirms life begins at conception and abortion is thus "murder" (by which they mean "killing"; accuracy optional). They just know life begins at conception. Unlike those "smug" liberals, however, it is insufficient to let it go at that. The belief must be memorialized (a long word used by smug liberals, no doubt) in law. They're not "stupid hicks"-  most aren't hicks, and being derogatory is primarily a right-wing trait, anyway.

They also aren't necessarily "stupid," with approximately as many stupid conservatives as stupid liberals, "stupid" not being synonymous with ill-informed (and certainly not terrorists, unlike the guy shown below).  But prior to the 1980s, those "tent revivalists" were unconvinced that God condemned all abortion. Fortunately for conservatives and GOP fundraisers, the word of God proved quite flexible.

"Ask most (white) evangelicals about the morality of abortion these days," Bouie summarized two years ago, "and you’re certain to hear about its absolute immorality in most, if not all, circumstances. But this is a recent innovation in the history of evangelical belief, a product of political forces as well as new theological insight." Lacking smugness, Bouie even now would be too polite to answer the question (posed as a charge by Rensin) as to whether politically conservative evangelicals are "getting conned by right-wingers and tent revivalists until they believe all the lies that've made them so wrong." We don't need Bouie's response.  History can answer that.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

On This, Sanders Misguided

"If this industry was treated like every other industry in America, we wouldn’t have the problems that we have today,”  Governor Daniel Malloy declared at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Hartford, Connecticut on Thursday. Similarly, the woman-of-honor charged "If anything else were killing 33,000 Americans a year, you can bet that we would be fully mobilized, doing everything possible to save lives.”

Their motive is unassailable, their cause righteous, their words even noble, and their strategy realistic. Unfortunately, they're wrong.  In an article written ten months ago, the Los Angeles Times' Melissa Healy reported

By contributing to obesity and, through that, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks appears to claim the lives of about 25,000 American adults yearly and is linked worldwide to the deaths of 180,000 each year, new research says.

Low- and middle-income countries are bearing the brunt of the death toll attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks, according to an assessment published Monday in the American Heart Assn.'s journal, Circulation. Each year, more than 3 in 4 of the world's deaths attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages occur in those poor and developing countries.

The researchers found the highest death rate due to consumption of such drinks in Mexico, but "The United States ranked second. In 2010, there were 125 deaths per million adults, or about 25,000 deaths total."

That sounds darn exceptional to me.  Fortunately, there are pockets of resistance, such as in Philadelphia, where newly-elected mayor James Kenney in March announced a proposal for, the Philadelphia Daily News wrote, "a three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks to bring in $432 million over five years to pay for: universal pre-K; community schools; and upgrades to parks and recreation centers. The tax would be collected at distributorships and would not include diet drink."

Not surprisingly, both the industry and the Teamsters have launced a campaign to defeat this eminently bold and sensible idea. More surprisingly, it has become an issue in the Democratic presidential campaign.  While the frontrunner declared herself "very supportive" of the measure, her opponent stated

My disagreement is how we proposed to fund it. I think that taxig soda is a regressive way to fund it. That tax burden will likely come down on low-income and working families, many of which are struggling right now to make ends meet....  At a time of massive income and wealth inequality,it should be the people on top who see an increase in their taxes, not low-income and working people.

A U.S. Senator should- notwithstanding the video below- understand that the City of Philadelphia, with a taxing ability far less than that of the federal government, is left having to fund what he recognizes as a worthy program. One can only hope that Sanders' opposition is prompted largely by the mayor's support of Clinton's presidential bid. Otherwise, he is suffering from a failure to understand the city's limited options.

The powerful forces in Philadelphia opposing the tax contend that it would raise consumer costs and reduce jobs. However, as this Daily Kos contributor- a Sanders supporter- recognizes

Doesn't that sound familiar, Bernie?

Doesn't that sound exactly like the arguments made by opponents to raising the minimum wage, to addressing income inequality, hell, even Obamacare?

That sounds right to you?

Although a soft drink tax does directly have a greater impact on the poor than the affluent, the impact of the beverage upon health also is regressive.   University of California- San Francisco health policy professor Laura Schmidt explains "I understand the idea that this is a regressive tax and I think the thing we all have to remember is that diabetes is a regressive disease- it doesn't just affect everybody evenly. It disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color." With efforts underway in other cities to tax sugary drinks, a New York Times columnist has tweeted "a tax on poison is a good thing."

A study published two years ago in JAMA Internal Medicine summarized

Randomized clinical trials and epidemiologic studies have shown that individuals who consume higher amounts of added sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemias,  hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Researchers studied only cardiovascular disease mortality and thus did not address other devastating effects of sugar upon human health. Nor were they considering the disproportionate impact upon poor people or blacks.

It would be ironic if in the name of not taxing such harmful items, ethnic minorities would be consigned to additional costs to their health and to their bottom line. Sugary drinks do not come cheap, and deterring their use might be economically advantageious for low-income individuals in the short term, as well as inarguably and overwhelmingly advantageous economically in the long-run.

Everybody gets some things wrong, and this is, for the foreseeable future, only a municipal issue. It is, however, one which Bernie Sanders- unless he has ulterior motives- gets very, very wrong.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Silly Hand-Wringing

If you're looking for the insider's inside look at Washington, there is no better place to start than the source Charlie Pierce has dubbed Tiger Beat on the Potomac.  In this case, Steven Shepard reports

Democrats have a message for Bernie Sanders: Shut it down before the July national convention in Philadelphia.

That’s according to The POLITICO Caucus — a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in 10 key battleground states — who worried a protracted post-primary clash for the nomination could hurt Hillary Clinton, the party’s likely nominee, in their states in the general election.

Half of Democratic insiders said Sanders, who trails in the delegate race by a wide margin, should end his campaign before the final primary on June 14 in the District of Columbia. Another 39 percent said the Vermont senator should continue campaigning through the D.C. primary, but end his campaign immediately after if he trails Clinton in pledged delegates — which is likely given Sanders’ current deficit of 277 pledged delegates after Clinton’s resounding victory in New York this week.

It's very generous for them to think of Sanders' welfare. Or it would be if they were, but instead

Only 1 in 10 Democratic insiders said Sanders should try to woo superdelegates to help him overtake Clinton on the convention floor in Philadelphia if he finishes the primary season trailing in pledged delegates, as campaign manager Jeff Weaver suggested Tuesday night in a televised interview.

“I think it would benefit the Democrats to have Bernie drop out sooner rather than later and ask his supporters to coalesce behind Hilary,” said a Wisconsin Democrat, who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously. “He stands no chance of winning the nomination at this point, and the Democrats can show a united front while the Republicans are so deeply fractured.”

The Vermont senator has run a campaign based almost entirely on issues. The major exception appears to be when he said that Clinton isn't qualified to be president- and that itself was predicated on campaign financing, Iraq, and trade.

“Bernie made his point,” added one Colorado Democrat. “It's time to bring the party back together. The longer he waits, the more damage he does. The question is whether or not he cares. The rest of us do.”

Cares about what? The party hasn't been rent asunder because the once-presumptive Democrtic nominee, the individual everyone expected to be crowned in Philadelphia, has faced a primary challenger.  It has made Mrs. Clinton a better candidate, having forced her to the left on economic issues, persuading her even to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which she previously had praised), a "trade" deal so bad the Administration has resorted to bribery to squelch criticism.

Politico's Shepard continues

A Nevada Democrat suggested the Sanders camp should focus on “doing what’s necessary for a Democratic victory in November,” but said Weaver “made a fool of himself by declaring on MSNBC that Bernie would take the campaign to the convention even if they were behind in delegates and popular vote.”

That Nevada Democrat seems to have forgotten that neither Sanders, nor his campaign or his supporters, made those rules.  Superdelegates were created in part to block the nomination of someone outside the Party establishment, such as the independently-minded Sanders. If the underdog rolls over and plays dead, there will be no reason to reconsider the undemocratic system of superdelegates. It will simply go on, there to assist a future establishment favorite who is behind in pledged delegates entering the convention.

Weaver could have denied his candidate would take the campaign to the convention. He might have as well declared "we're not in it to win it."  If the Senator takes the campaign beyond the convention, refusing to endorse Clinton promptly after she is nominated, there may be some damage done. But not until then, and that won't happen.

"Some insiders," Politico notes, "suggested a graceful exit could help Sanders — the independent junior Vermont senator — become a major player in Democratic politics in the years to come."  As someone who will be 75 this autumn, the Vermont Senator is not likely to be a "major player" the next quarter-century.

Assuming Bernard Sanders is not nominated, his contribution will have been to have moved the Party closer to its roots, one focused on the interests of Americans aside from their racial, gender, or sexual-preference status.  If his campaign has an impact on campaign financing, trade, and fair pay for workers, the concern claimed by Democratic candidates for the middle class in the post -Carter/Clinton/Obama era will be genuine.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Worse Still, She's A New York Mets Fan

There are more important issues than Kelly Ripa's quarrel with ABC, and more important persons than Kelly Ripa. However, in the wake of Ripa's sudden departure from "Live with Kelly and Michael" for a few days after she was suddenly told that Michael Strahan was being reassigned, Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams believes the female host (photo from Reuters/Danny Moloshok) "leaving the show is as feminist as it gets."

Ripa is "not some petulant amateur," Williams contends, but "a 45 year old adult we’re talking about here, a person with a lengthy and proven television track record."   And given there is no male equivalent of "diva," Williams correctly points out that Ripa should not be accused of "classic diva-like behavior" and "having a diva-like fit of pique."

Still, if you're told immediately before broadcast on a Tuesday of a major decision, then on Wednesday call in "sick" without explanation and remain out of work for a few days, there seems no more adequate description than "petulant."

Taking a stand is so much easier when one has a bank acccount which reflects an annual salary of $20 million, presumably earned because of her value to the network. The popularity of the celebrity Williams calls "America's sweetheart" allows her the uncommon luxury of taking a few unscheduled days off unannounced.

Somewhere in Oklahoma today there is an unmarried woman working three jobs, two of them at minimum wage.  In Minnesota, a married woman leaves her husband, drastically reducing the income available to take care of herself and her children, because she is being physically abused by her husband.   In Pennsylvania, a woman is offered a very lucrative job requiring additional time from home, but remains working as a teacher, a social worker, or a speech therapist so she can spend more time at home with her children.... or to volunteer in a fire house, nursing home, or church.

Workers throughout this nation are given little or no warning when their co-worker is transferred by the company, as Strahan has been.  Rumor has it that a worker can be summarily dismissed, sometimes for no more reason than she is no longer needed by the employer.  Some of them are an ethnic minority, some not, but none of them protected by "white privilege." Most of them do not have a full-time job requiring only four days of work a week, as has Ms. Ripa.

She may be an unmarried woman in Oklahoma working three jobs, two of them at minimum wate. Perhaps it's in Minnesota, where the unmarried woman leaves her husband,drastically reducing the income available to take care of herself and her children, because she is being physically abused. Or maybe in Pennsylvania, where a woman is offered a very lucrative job requiring additional time from home, but remains a teacher, a social worker, or a speech therapist so she can spend more time at home with her children- or volunteering in a fire house, nursing home, or church.

We can be certain that Ms. Ripa- unlike so many of other women- will land on her feet. She will not have to wait anxiously at her mailbox for a workmen's compensation, or unemployment compensation, check. Her current employer will be patient with her, and she will be quickly hired somewhere if she chooses to leave the corporation.

There are countless courageous deeds- frequently selfless- committed everyday by feminists and other women.  They often are heroic actions taken by very vulnerable women. Inform Ms. Williams: Kelly Ripa does not qualify.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Bathroom Bill A One-Off

On April 9, I slammed Bruce Springsteen (his house in Beverly Hills, below) who had announced that he had cancelled the concert his E Street Band was due to hold in North Carolina. The legislature had passed HB 2, which rescinded a recently-passed ordinance in Charlotte extending some rights to transgendered individuals. In addition, it rendered invalid ordinances granting rights to LGBT persons in other municipalities.

I noted that Springsteen was due to perform on April 12 in the capital of a state whose governor, a major candidate for President, had less than two months earlier enacted legislation which effectively defunded Planned Parenthood.   Cancelling that appearance, as unlikely as it would be, would strike a blow in support of women's health.

Health care would have been a great place to start or to demonstrate that outrage is not selective. Vox's Emmett Rensin, writing a piece in which he argued that the land is beset with smug liberalism, remarks

The rubes noticed that liberal Democrats, distressed by the notion that Indiana would allow bakeries to practice open discrimination against LGBTQ couples, threatened boycotts against the state, mobilizing the considerable economic power that comes with an alliance of New York and Hollywood and Silicon Valley to punish retrograde Gov. Mike Pence, but had no such passion when the same governor of the same state joined 21others in refusing the Medicaid expansion. No doubt good liberals objected to that move too. But I've yet to see a boycott threat about it.

And he won't, either.  Nor would he if Springsteen, soon to embark on a European tour, had anything planned in Indianapolis. But be comforted his concert in Columbus, Ohio was a smash hit:

Rethinking or retooling an album once it is released is far less likely than regretting it.

Though few artists would regret releasing an album such as Bruce Springsteen’s fifth release, 1980's “The River,” whose 20-song double album raised eyebrows for its length and sprawling themes, the Boss revisited the entire album, song-for-song, in Value City Arena on Tuesday night. The tour supports “The Ties That Bind: The River Collection,” a multi-CD reissue....

When he performed romantic songs such as “Drive All Night,” which testified maybe a bit too long, and “I Wanna Marry You,” he sounded like the familiar romantic of his earliest days. When he rocked out in tunes such as “Cadillac Ranch” and others, he sounded like the party boy of old.

He's the party boy of the new age, too, willing to put it on the line to protest a bad law in North Carolina while worse atrocities go on elsewhere.   At some point, Hollywood and Rumson, NJ may hear the cries of poor people without health care or of women who need STD testing, HIV testing, reliable contraception, and cancer prevention and treatment, but don't bet your $429 on it.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Most Blacks Voted For Clinton. Period.

The nomineee for this week's Whine of the Week goes to the

influential group of Democrats is piling on Bernie Sanders for portraying Hillary Clinton's Southern victories as a product of a conservative region that is out of step with the rest of the country’s thinking.

When asked about his delegate deficit against Clinton, Sanders has on several recent occasions tried to explain away her lead as the result of wide margins of victory in deep red Southern states that rarely vote for Democrats in general elections. Those dismissals have irritated Southern Democratic Party leaders who insist their region is a growth opportunity for the national party, especially in the age of Donald Trump. And some are acutely sensitive to the racial dimension of Sanders’ remarks, since Clinton’s victories in the Deep South have been powered by her landslide margins among African-American voters.

Sanders was asked by Dana Bash a standard, worthless question in the debate in Brooklyn, "Do you vow to take this fight to Philadelphia no matter what?"  He should have complemented "That is the most conservative part of this great country" with "and the voters there rejected our more aggressive approach to income inequality, the role of big money in politics, and endless wars." Instead, he added "But you know what? We're out of the Deep South now. And we're moving up."

This is, at worst, a minor slight. Nevertheless, Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti continues,

In a stern, roughly 800-word letter sent Wednesday via post to Sanders’ Burlington, Vermont, headquarters, a high-profile group that includes the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi expresses its concern about his characterizations of the South, which they contend “minimize the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party”: African-Americans.

Perhaps the group would have preferred Sanders acknowledge "we lost in the south because of black voters."  It is unlikely, however, that its members would have defended Sanders for his forthrightness as his political career and (ironically) credibility went up in flames.

It is an impressive letter. The group threads the needle between implying that the south actually is fairly liberal and noting that southern Democrats need national Democrats to be supportive in their effort to surmount GOP opposition to expanding Medicaid, improving infrastructure and increasing education spending.  The portrait painted is a contradictory one, but the contradictions are effectively explained away.

Nonetheless, the group is exposed when it argues

In contrast, Hillary Clinton has spent her entire career trying to help people all across the South. She saw a region full of families and children of every color, and instead of diminishing them, she worked to build them up. She is committed to a long-term strategy of rebuilding our state Democratic parties, to assist candidates up and down the ballot, and to serve as a voice for the voiceless.

She saw also "super-predators" we need to bring to heel."The signatories support Clinton's candidacy, which probably sparked the letter.  The group includes a former South Carolina governor, former DNC chairperson, and the chairpersons of five southern states, which over the past few decades entered the 20th century. Still, one of them is Mississippi, whose voters decided earlier this year to keep flying over its statehouse in Jackson this flag (photo by Encyclopaedia Brittanica/UIG/Getty via MSNBC via MSNBC):

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Minor Flaw

For the good of the country, we should only hope that Michael Lind is prescient when he writes

Whatever becomes of his bid for the presidency, Mr. Trump exposed the gap between what orthodox conservative Republicans offer and what today’s dominant Republican voters actually want — middle-class entitlements plus crackdowns on illegal immigrants, Muslims, foreign trade rivals and free-riding allies. Other candidates less flawed than Mr. Trump and more acceptable to the Republican establishment, like Ted Cruz, are likely to bring Republican policy positions and Republican voter preferences more closely into alignment, by moving somewhat to the left on middle-class entitlements and somewhat to the right on immigration and trade.

Skepticism of "free" trade is usually considered on the left, but Lind views it as "right." No matter, because as Steve M. explains here, Lind (regrettably) probably has it all wrong. Unfortunately, he is accurate when he emphasizes the centrality of identity politics in the Democratic Party and, more arguably, that the youthful supporters of Bernie Sanders will grow up and remain "socially liberal, but with new concerns about government spending, now that they were paying taxes and mortgages."

"Socially liberal" (which should be culturally liberal) typically includes support for illegal immigrants (or as required, the "undocumented").  And so Lind, arguing that Mrs. Clinton has dragged Sanders to the left on criminal justice and immigration, remarks "Having told Ezra Klein of Vox last July that open borders is 'a Koch brothers proposal” that 'would make everybody in America poorer,' Mr. Sanders recently criticized Mrs. Clinton for opposing drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants in 2007. "

It is pushed by the Koch brothers, but never mind. Perhaps Hillary Clinton opposed drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants sometime in 2007 but not when it counted, at least to her campaign.  Consider the following transcript from the Democratic presidential debate held- appropriately- on Mischief Night, October 40, 2007. The mischief, fairly, was brought by Senator Chris Dodd, aided by moderator Tim Russert:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzerhas proposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. You told the Nashua, N.H., editorial board it makes a lot of sense. Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver’s license?

MRS. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.

We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It’s probability. So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum.

I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform. ...

After an exchange between Mr. Russert and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Mrs. Clinton jumped in:

MRS. CLINTON: I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed——

MR. DODD: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do it.

MRS. CLINTON: No, I didn’t, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving?

MR. DODD: Well, that’s a legitimate issue. But driver’s license goes too far, in my view.

MRS. CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification if somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker——

MR. DODD: There’s ways of dealing with that.

MRS. CLINTON: Well, but——

MR. DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.

MRS. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses — one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is an ordinary driver’s license and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road.

MR. DODD: That’s a bureaucratic nightmare.

MRS. CLINTON: So it’s not the full privilege.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor’s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license? You told the Nashua, N.H., paper it made a lot of sense.


MR. RUSSERT: Do you support his plan?

MRS. CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.

Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform  

As Russert pointed out, Clinton initially was in favor of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. In this debate alone, however, she defended the decision to grant them, then equivocated on her support, then opposed it, supported it, finally defending it while saying it is not "the best thing."

If Mrs. Clinton had done this in a general election, it would have made John Kerry's infamous "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" an example of resolve worthy of Winston Churchill.

Before that debate, Hillary Clinton was the prohibitive favorite to be the Party's presidential nominee; after it, she still was the favorite but her armor had been pierced and doubts crept in. Conventional belief notwithstanding, Clinton's indecision in debate played as great a role in her failure to capture the Democratic nomination as Kerry's remark had played in his loss in the general election four years earlier.

Lind accurately notes "on the social and racial issues that are important to today’s Democratic base, it is Mr. Sanders, not Mrs. Clinton, who has had to modify his message," though it is far less his views than emphasis.    The contention that Clinton opposed drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants is arguable, but Micheal Lind has identified the Democrats' priorities, simultaneously responsible for much of the Party's strength at the national level and weakness at the state level.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Belligerent, Newly Defined

Genghis Khan has returned. This time, however, he is a she, ethnically European rather than ethnically Asian, and wants to massacre Palestinians rather than Chinese.

And she goes by the name "Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Ben Norton of Salon condemns Hillary Clinton's "Fighting oppression,inequality and injustice on Passover," posted in "a right-wing pro-Israel website."  She

told the Biblical story of Exodus and stressed that lessons should be drawn from it for today.

With hawkish right-wing rhetoric, Clinton steadfastly defended the Israeli government. She conflated the Jewish religion with the state of Israel and condemned critics of the government as anti-Semitic.

Clinton's piece referred to "anti-Semitic" or "Semitic" exactly zero (0) times.

It didn't stop there, however, as Norton accused Clinton of "doing what can only be described as 'goysplaining' — or, as a non-Jew, condescendingly accusing a Jew of betraying his own people for criticizing Israel."

Norton can be excused for not fully explaining what "goysplaining is," a term of which even the Urban Dictionary is unaware.  It does, though, sound bad, as is intended. He cannot, however, be easily excused for claiming Clinton was "condescendingly accusing a Jew of betraying his own people for criticizing Israel."  She spent virtually the entire article emphasizing her own support for Jews and for Israel, stopping only to issue what Norton apparently believes was a blistering attack:

Protecting allies and partners like Israel is one of the most solemn duties of any Commander-in-Chief. Yet others in this race suggest we must remain “neutral” in order to negotiate. But Israel’s safety is simply non-negotiable. And it would be a grave mistake for the United States to cede the mantle of leadership in the peace process to anyone else. For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader, and be ready and able to block any international effort to isolate or attack Israel.

That is what for Norton constitutes condescendingly accusing a Jew of betraying his own people.  Yet Clinton therein criticizes not Bernie Sanders personally but his position on Israel. Sanders has argued the USA should adopt "an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people." The reference an even-handed role is similar to Donald Trump's stance; hence the reference to "others in this race."

The Vermont senator has not stated whether he would oppose an international effort to "isolate or attack Israel," which is a more significant issue, given that neutrality or "an even-handed role" between the two sides is rather abstract. It's not clear, moreover, how a President Sanders would respond to a move made against Israel by the United Nations, the European Union, or any other force, the international effort his rival pledges to block.

"For the security of Israel and the world," the former Secretary of State emphasized, "we need America to remain a respected global leader, and be ready and able to block any international effort to isolate or attack Israel."  This, Norton maintains she "belligerently" added, thereby giving a new and expanded meaning to the word "belligerent,"  which now includes defending the notion of Israel's security and the USA's role as a global leader.

For some reason, Norton finds relevant the Jewish scholars who have stated "there is no evidence whatsoever that the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt," which is an arguable notion.  He makes it no better when, in a generous mood, he contends the "likely fictitious" Exodus "story may have religious and symbolic significance."

Fiddle faddle.  Theological scholar Richard Elliot Friedman, who with a skeptic's eye believes there was a limited departure from Egypt at the time, explains

My rabbi used to tell me as a child that even if we could prove that biblical events were not true, the Bible still contained great lessons.

Over time, though, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. History matters. 

History does matter.   And it is the history not only of the Israeli occupation or even of the Holocaust. It includes centuries of violence, officially sanctioned or otherwise, of Muslims against Jews.  It includes, additionally, Israeli support of the Palestinian economy and its decision not to pursue regime change in Gaza when nearly in its grasp, despite the threat Hamas poses to its existence.

Israel is not always right, as Hillary Clinton no doubt is aware. However, her perspective is far less clouded than those of her critics who couldn't be less interested in even-handedness.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Giving Us Another Chance

In her closing statement at the Democratic debate in Brooklyn, Hillary Clinton asked

for your support again in the primary on Tuesday to continue that work together, to take what we did in New York and to take those New York values to the White House, and put them to work on behalf of all of our people, to knock down the barriers that stand in the way.

You know, of course we have economic barriers. I’ve been fighting against those trying to even the odds most of my adult life. But we also have racial barriers, gender barriers, homophobic barriers, disability barriers.

There was nothing new there, and that's what makes this statement significant. Commenting on the analysis in the Atlantic by David A. Graham of the debate, Atlantic Senior Editor for Politics Yoni Applebaum wrote

It’s an argument aimed at the heart of the contemporary Democratic Party. Sanders has consistently stressed the primacy of economic questions—solve those, he argues, and other forms of discrimination will diminish. But Clinton has stressed the persistence of other prejudices, and called for addressing them directly, as she did tonight. Young voters—even young minority voters—tend to think Sanders has the better of the argument. But older voters disagree, and Sanders can’t win without them.

It is an argument aimed at the heart of the contemporary Democratic Party because that Party is a collection of interests- ethnic minorities, disabled persons, gay people, public sector union members, unmarried women.  They're very worthy interests and constitute the dreaded "special interests" no more than do other Americans.

It comes as no surprise to voters that while Senator Sanders has not ignored the interests of people who are disabled, gay, female, or of minority status, he has tried to draw attention to the economic concerns and interests of all individuals, whether or not they identify with any of these groups.Bernie Sanders would not be able to draw attention exclusively to the status of the 99% as the 99% if he wished, which he most assuredly does not, and never has, from his days as a civil rights activist through his tenure in the United States Congress and his campaign for President.

In a myriad of ways, Democrats at the state and national level have been trying to level the playing field for the individuals disadvantaged by gender, sexual preference, disability, race, or employment status (the last, to a declining degree).   Sanders has not asked any of these individuals,or the ones who care about them, to forego their identity or their efforts to gain the rights or benefits they need.

Still, a  little balance is in order. Those groups (except for the latter) and their allies have successfully chipped away at discrimination and other barriers preventing full participation in American life. There is, however, one group which has been stymied, and in fact has lost ground.  That is, as variously described, the poor and middle class, the 99%, even the 99.9%. It has been largely ignored by the Democratic Party and pummeled by the Republican Party.   Usually, with age comes wisdom. Not in this case, in which young people have noticed what their elders haven't.

In 2007-2008 John Edwards suggested the quaint notion of "two Americas." Voters didn't much care, with their attention diverted to two bright, shiny objects, one becoming a president who hasn't met a job-killing trade deal he doesn't like.  The other has returned, and we know where her focus is not.

In his new book, Listen, Liberal, or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People, Thomas Frank described the "entrepreneurs first" doctrine dominating the "innovation economy" which has taken hold in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts.He lamented (from excerpt in Salon)

The answer is that I’ve got the wrong liberalism. The kind of liberalism that has dominated Massachusetts for the last few decades isn’t the stuff of Franklin Roosevelt or the United Auto Workers; it’s the Route 128/suburban-professionals variety. (Senator Elizabeth Warren is the great exception to this rule.) Professional-class liberals aren’t really alarmed by oversized rewards for society’s winners. On the contrary, this seems natural to them — because they are society’s winners. The liberalism of professionals just does not extend to matters of inequality; this is the area where soft hearts abruptly turn hard. 

Franks points out "When you press Democrats on their uninspiring deeds — their lousy free trade deals, for example, or their flaccid response to Wall Street misbehavior — when you press them on any of these things, they automatically reply that this is the best anyone could have done" (photo below from Salon, which credits the AP and two photographers). However, it was not the best we could have done eight years ago, and Bernie Sanders is around to remind us it's not the best we can do now.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Still Obama's Woman

Bernie Sanders is up against it.

In the debate in Brooklyn, the Vermont senator told Mrs. Clinton "I know you keep referring to Barack Obama all night here, but you in Syria, you in Syria talked about a no-fly zone, which the president certainly does not support, nor do I support....

Advocating a sort of 'donut' reform to Social Security, Sanders argued in a smilar vein, noting Obama "called for lifting the cap, which is now higher- it's at 118- and starting at 250 and going on up."

Throughout the campaign, the guy Brooklyn, NY by way of Burlington, Vermont is facing a steep uphill battle to convince voters that he is the one to build on the successes of the Obama presidency and extend the Obama legacy.

Clinton, arguably, embraced the President even more in this debate than she had previously in the campaing.   "Starting in 2009," she maintained,

as your Secretary of State, I worked with President Obama to bring China and India to the table for the very first time, to get a commitment out of them that they would begin to address their own greenhouse gas emissions.

I continued to work on that throughout the four years as Secretary of State,and I was very proud that President Obama and America led the way to the agreement that was finally reached in Paris with 195 nations committing to take steps to actually make a difference in climate change.

Continuing the theme, she later contended

Well, let's talk about the global environmental crisis. Starting in 2009 as your Secretary of State, I worked with President Obama to bring China and India to the table for the very first time, to get a commitment out of them that they would begin to address their own greenhouse gas emissions.

I continued to work on that throughout the four years as Secretary of State, and I was very proud that President Obama and America led the way to the agreement that was finally reached in Paris with 195 nations committing to take steps to actually make a difference in climate change.

A few days later, Barack rose a man from death.

Of course, her admiration for the President wouldn't stop Clinton from throwing Obama overboard when convenient.  Suddenly, she was merely a bit player. Confronted about the apparently failed Libyan policy, the former Secretary of State charged "And what we did was to try to provide support for our European and Arab allies and partners. The decision was the president’s."

Still, the predominant impression conveyed to Democratic voters of the four years of the Obama-Clinton presidency was that of a loyal servant to a very successful leader on the world stage.   It's a powerful message, given that the incumbent's approval rating among members of his own Party is approximately 81.3 (graph below from the Huffington Post; final figures from current month).   Clinton is clearly distrusted by Americans, but in the matter of devotion to the President, Sanders simply cannot compete.

Clinton's support for Obama and service in his Administration are daunting obstacles in Sanders' way. Considering the pivotal nature of the African-American vote in the Democratic race and the President's popularity among blacks, they may ultimately prove the primary reason(s) for the failure of the Senator to overcome the (former) Secretary of State.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Benefits Which Should Not Be Negotiable

"The irony," William Conrad dramatically and weekly asserted some 45 years ago: "Richard Kimble is innocent."  However, the irony of the summary of last night's Democratic debate (transcript here and here) by David A. Graham is that he applauded Bernie Sanders' performance while neglecting to mention the most significant point the Senator made. Graham believes

Sanders’s problem is that though he delivered a sparkling performance and out-debated Clinton at nearly every turn, it’s not enough. He trails Clinton in popular votes and pledged delegates, to say nothing of superdelegates. The tied national polls he cites are meaningless, since there’s no national primary. Sanders needs a knock-out—though even that probably wouldn’t give him the nomination—and tonight, he won the bout on points.

If Sanders "delivered a sparkling performance"- a highly debatable notion- it was never so important as when he directly confronted the former Secretary of State on Social Security funding.

Wolf Blitzer asked Secretary Clinton "Are you prepared to lift the cap on taxable income, which currently stands at $118,500? Yes or no, would you lift the cap?" (shades of Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations).

During her decades in government or politics, Hillary Clinton has learned a lot, enough to know not to respond to that question but instead to what came immediately before: "Senator Sanders has challenged you to give a clear answer when it comes to extending the life of Social Security and expanding benefits."

That one was easy.  Clinton asserted "it's time that we provide more benefits for widows, divorcees, for caregivers, for women who deserve more from" Social Security.   (No one ever has opposed the "widows and orphans" fund of yore.)   "Extending the life of Social Security" was even easier, simple even for Republicans, who speak of a desire to "preserve and protect Social Security," a threat which should prompt the elderly, the near-elderly, and individuals who want to be elderly to hold on to their wallets.

Clinton recognizes a softball when she get one and stated "we are going to protect Social Security." Moreover, four times- four times!- she assured the audience she would extend the Social Security system: "in addition to extending the Trust Fund, which I am absolutely determined to do"; " "we're having a discussion about" how "to extend the Social Security Trust Fund"; "we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund"; and "we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund" (the latter a nod to the value of repetition).

If not paying close attention- as with myself at first- one might not realize "extending" the Social Security Trust Fund is at best meaningless, at worst what any conservative pol would applaud. Without a Social Security Trust Fund, there can be no benefits. How to make sure it endures is at issue: cutting benefits or removing the cap on taxation.

The Vermont senator knows.  After all this (virtually all; before the last "we are going to extend" blah, blah, blah), Sanders honed in with "Maybe I'm a little bit confused. Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift he cap on taxable income and expand Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits."

After Clinton began "I am," Sanders (a little like Stevenson, himself) interjected "yes or no?"  In an answer which should reverberate throughout the remaining Democratic primaries (though probably won't), Clinton replied "I have said yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination..."

The audience responded with a smattering of knowing boos, after which Clinton continued "or combination of ways" and after more boos started to change the subject.

It's a pity the exchange did not continue, given that it revealed a fundamental difference of opinon. Heretofore, Secretary Clinton had relatively successfully- if disingenuously- navigated the waters separating her centrist perspective with the increasing realization that the economic needs of people go beyond their racial, gender, or sexual preference status. Yet here she was, unmasked as yet another pol who will not commit herself, and is not committed, to maintaining earned benefits as they must be for the elderly.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Clinton Playing Defense

"The prevent defense," the saying goes, "prevents you from winning."

Extremely popular among fans, the cliche is astoundingly invalid. The prevent defense virtually assures that team a victory though often allowing an inconsequential field goal or touchdown, it is unpopular with fans as well as gamblers.

In New York State, Hillary Clinton has been placing her confidence in the prevent defense. USA Today reported Wednesday

Hillary Clinton is keeping a lid on Bernie Sanders’ appeal in New York — by touting her Senate record upstate and pounding him on the gun issue in the Big Apple.....

Sanders has also fared best in states where the population is less diverse, so the demographics upstate, which is whiter than New York City and surrounding areas, could favor him as well.

But Clinton campaign aides believe her efforts as a New York senator for eight years, promoting economic development in communities like Buffalo, will offset Sanders’ potential advantage.

Touting her effort in the Senate to help upstate New York, criticizing Sanders' record on gun control, even knocking her opponent's recent interview in the (New York) Daily News does not represent an aggressive, no-holds barred campaign, but rather one reflecting her early (now diminished), big lead in the state.

Skeptical of this notion, one might argue that on the issues (except- arguably- gun safety), Sanders is more in tune with the Democratic primary electorate and that stressing policy would be foolhardy.

But not on everything. Just in time for the New York primary, the Sanders campaign has hired Simone Zimmerman as its Jewish outreach coordinator. According to The Jerusalem Post

During the 2014 Gaza war, Zimmerman was one of the leaders of a group of young Jews that held regular protest vigils outside the offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reading the names of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the conflict.

It's hard to argue with non-violent protest of the deaths of thousands of civilians killed in war. Moreover, the BDS movement has gained steam, especially in ecclesiastical circles and has become, distressingly, arguably mainstream. Therefore, it is barely eye-opening that Zimmerman

opposes Israel’s occupation, wants Hillel to allow participation by groups that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, is against Jewish federation funding for Israeli projects in the West Bank and wrote favorably of the efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-BDS group, to get “international corporations to stop profiting off human rights abuses.”

However, we learn that she has gone a little off the rails, for

“The hypocrisy of expecting feel-good social justice projects to offset millennials’ deep outrage at the grave injustices committed by the Jewish state is almost too much to bear,” wrote Zimmerman, who is in her mid-20s. “No public relations trick can save Israel’s image. The problem isn’t with the hasbara [public relations]. The problem is nearly 50 years of occupation. The problem is rampant racism in Israeli society. The problem is attacks on human rights defenders by extremists and by the state. The problem is a Jewish establishment that ignores or justifies all of this.”

Like many people- especially activists- nowadays, Zimmerman (from Instituto Manquehue, of her from 2/11) is unaware that sometimes accuracy is no defense and, in this case, should not be. Fortunately, she since has deleted from the profanity from her Facebok entry “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole. Fuck you, Bibi.”

(Sarcasm ahead) Heck of a good hire.  Nothing says pluralism and tolerance better than hiring someone who tars the Israeli people with an accusation of "racism." Michelle Goldberg (a Clinton supporter) recognizes that support for Israel as a Jewish state is significantly less among young voters than among the older generations. Nonetheless

The question, to me, is not whether it’s OK as a matter of principal to called Netanyahu an asshole—he most assuredly is. It’s whether a Democratic candidate for president can afford to be associated with that sentiment. Whatever your views about god and Zionism, to answer yes is to take a leap of faith.

Ultimately, a Democratic (or Republican) candidate for President cannot afford to be associated with that sentiment.  Ultimately will not be far off if Mrs. Clinton jumps on this.

Victory in a state primary, unlike victory in a football game, is a mere aim, not the goal. Playing defense and failing to exploit (or at least criticize) the remarkable addition of Simone Zimmerman to her rival's staff would  be curiously cautious prior to a contest in a state home (still) to far more Jews than anywhere in the USA. Call it Hillary Clinton's inexplicable entry in a year in which the other Party's leading candidate is unfailingly inexplicable.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...