Category: Uncategorized

GOP Control of Congress May Be the Great the Opportunity for the Democrats

George S LedyardFrom the Article:
“In the past year, 7 in 10 low-income families experienced at least one civil legal problem, according to a recent University of Chicago NORC survey done for the Legal Services Corporation. Such problems include foreclosures, domestic violence (getting a restraining order, for example), custody disputes, debt repayment or neglectful landlords. The elderly, rural residents and veterans — all core components of the Republican base — are especially well-represented in this population.”
It’s not only Medicaid that’s in danger from the GOP cuts being proposed. Legal Aid is in danger as well.
What is interesting about these budget cuts is the way they reveal a real fault line that runs through the Republican base. It turns out that while socially the base may be very “Republican” i.e. anti-foreigner & Anti-immigration, anti-LGBT & anti-gay marriage, hard core Christian & anti-Muslim, and bigoted against people of color, those very same people, often without realizing it, are very Democratic in their economic / policy attitudes.
The hard core Red States in the heartland are some of the largest recipients of Federal aid in the form social safety net support (often known as welfare). As was the case with so-called Obamacare, often these people, who are not the most sophisticated folks, don’t even understand the details of the support they get. When the find out what’s involved with cutting these GOP vilified programs they are often horrified.
In the case of Obamacare the GOP seven year propaganda effort had the majority of Americans convinced that program was the cause of all of their health care ills. But now that the GOP repeal and replace effort has people looking at the details, it turns out that almost every single element of what they say should be essential in their health care coverage was a part of he ACA and they simply didn’t understand that fact.
The nation’s poor have been relying on Federal assistance in myriad ways. Legal assistance is just another program that benefits low income people who no other means of navigating the legal environment in which all of us live. When faced with losing this support due to GOP budget cuts, the poor and working class folks who have relied on them are not happy.
In most cases these programs exist because Democrats created them and pushed them through the legislative process, sometimes with moderate GOP support and sometimes with no GOP support at all. Now that the GOP is in control of Congress and the Presidency all of these programs are in danger of being either eliminated or drastically cut. And it is the core voter base that is waking up to the fact that they’ve elected leaders who are ideologically committed to destroying the safety net upon which they depend.
This points out  a glaring reality. The Democrats have been and continue to be the political party that has consistently, since the Great Depression, championed the programs that provide a floor to poverty. Programs designed to keep our poor and working class citizens from sinking below the waves and drowning in poverty. And they have been doing an abysmal job of reminding people of that fact.
Why is it that the GOP has such a strong base of support precisely among the folks that depend on these essentially Democratic programs for their survival? One must arrive at he conclusion that, in its championing of the rights of our vulnerable minorities, women’s rights, workers rights, civil rights for minorities, LGBT rights, and diversity as a positive value, the Democrats have done a very poor job of reminding the American public that the programs upon which our nations poor and working class depend for survival, are Democratic programs.
The GOP has mastered the art of playing upon the social biases of the American heartland to convince them to vote against their own economic interests. As long as power seemed to lie in some part with the Democrats, the GOP could blame all sorts of issues on those terrible Liberals in Washington. But now, the GOP is in the position of having to own the whole thing. They control the whole government. And that is starting to wake people up. Voters in the heartland are starting to look at the proposed cuts in the GOP budget & health care bills on an item by item basis.
GOP legislators trying to create the ACA replacement are finding that, in order to keep the elements of health care coverage that the voters feel are essential, they are ending up with something that looks suspiciously like Obamacare 2.0. This is revealing a major fault line in the GOP between those who hesitate to risk losing the support of their base by seriously damaging their economic survival and the hard core ideologues who put their radical libertarian philosophy ahead of the welfare of their constituents.
It is clear that the Democratic Party must figure out how to craft a message that makes this clear to the poor and working class folks who seem to have not understood or have forgotten just what it is that the party does for them. We need to get back to the old Democratic party alliance with organized labor, develop programs designed to deal with the widening wealth / income divide, think forward by working out programs designed to help the work force transition to the jobs of the future as the robotics revolution  destroys traditional work models.
But more importantly, the Democrats need a better understanding of how to sell their program. They need a “ministry of propaganda” that understands the current  neuroscience of how voters make their decisions, how to craft a message the resonates. We  clearly are the party which has the agenda that benefits the poor and working classes economically coupled with an idealistic civil rights agenda of diversity that appeals to the educated liberal elites.
How we develop a sophisticated messaging program to “sell” that fact will determine the survival of the party in the future. The GOP control of the entire legislative process is going to create the opportunity to create a huge backlash against the GOP programs which are now transparently for the benefit of the richest oligarchs at he expense of the common man. But the Democrats have to craft the message and hammer it home. They also need some candidates that are inspiring and charismatic that can get the voters excited about the Dem agenda.
Article on the Threat to Legal Aid in the GOP Budget

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Clinton and Sanders: The big difference (Opinion) – CNN.com

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs wrote this piece about the difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It does a lot to explain how the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while they may have championed progressive social issues, have avoided dealing with our wealth inequality issues in order to keep the support of the big money Wall Street interests. In return, Wall Street interests have provided the financial support they needed to get and stay in office. Hillary Clinton would be a continuation of this very same policy.

To the great surprise of the Party establishment, Bernie Sanders has managed to mount a serious challenge to the Clinton campaign and has done so via massive participation of small contributors rather than the Super Pacs on which Clinton largely relies. This signals a serious revolt occurring in the Democratic Party. Large numbers of Democratic grassroots supporters are demanding real change. Large numbers of first time participants and independents are also flocking to the Sanders Camp, all supporters that Hillary Clinton will require to win against any Republican candidate.

While the Party establishment has engineered the primary process to favor their favored candidate, their dilemma is how to bring the Sanders supporters into the fold in their battle against the GOP in the general election. It is not by any means a given that Bernie’s supporters, motivated by a strong desire to see social and economic change in our country will turn out for Clinton.

Tuesday night’s primary results underscore that Americans want more than a continuation of the game that Bill Clinton played 25 years ago, says Jeffrey Sachs.

Source: Clinton and Sanders: The big difference (Opinion) – CNN.com

Rhetoric and the Bernie Sanders Revolution – from the “Daily News Bin”

Rhetoric and the Bernie Sanders Revolution – from the “Daily News Bin”

I read this stuff and just wonder what some folks are thinking. The idea that Bernie’s “hype” is somehow different than any other candidates “hype” is ridiculous. Criticizing a candidate’s stump speeches for being formulaic and simplistic  is completely unrealistic and a professional commentator should know better.

Campaign speeches do two things. First, and most obvious, is to define the candidate relative to his or her opponents and generate enthusiasm for the candidate. This isn’t in any way an intellectual exercise, it is entirely emotional. It is about outlining what the candidate stands for in broad strokes, not about the details. Can you imagine what an analytical, fact based speech would look like? Well, we’ve already seen that… Remember Ross Perot with his charts and graphs? No, I didn’t think you did, because it was as exciting as watching paint dry.

In actuality, Bernie Sanders has been more specific about exactly what his plan is than any other candidate. Typically candidates try not to be too specific because it just opens them up to attacks from their opponents. The idea is to be as vague as possible about the hows and inspiring about the generalities. Certainly that was the Clinton campaign’s intention initially. Only because the Sanders campaign was so specific about his agenda has Clinton’s people had to talk more about the specifics.

If one wishes to see what Bernie Sanders proposes, just go to his website Bernie Sanders Campaign This is not secret information but details like this do not belong in a stump speech… That would put people to sleep. Speeches are to people’s hearts not minds. They are all about why you should love me, why you should be scared of the other folks. No candidate doesn’t used this strategy.

Additionally, trying to pin down any candidate in the minute details of how they will actualize their agendas is also unrealistic. Sure, like Hillary Clinton, there will be areas on which they are real experts. No one in the 2016 is going to stand up to Clinton on foreign affairs. But the President of the United States is really a high level manager and big picture thinker. He or she is not the person who has to work out the details of how to do something. They hire experts for that. What they do is outlines the direction, they work out the big picture agenda and then find specialist who can help them work out legislative proposals to send to Congress. Even then, it isn’t the President who typically writes the actual legislation any more than the President actually votes on it. That’s the job of Congress. The President sets the direction and then, as leader of his or her Party, gets the Party members in Congress to make these proposals happen.

Bernie Sanders has been very specific about the initiatives his administration would take. More so than any other candidate… But his current team is about getting him elected. His eventual Cabinet will not be the same people for the most part. It’s a different set of skills. When so-called pundits sit back and take shots at the candidates with criticisms that are just unrealistic and actually distort an understanding of he real process, they reveal once again that it is about generating readership or viewership rather than doing reporting that enhances an understanding of the real issues. This article is one such report.

Here is the original article.

Why are some of us immune to the Bernie hype and not others? Here’s a philosophical examination.

Source: Rhetoric and the Bernie Sanders Revolution – Daily News Bin

Socialism | Definition of Socialism by Merriam-Webster

Just to be clear… Bernie Sanders is NOT a Socialist. Bernie Sanders is a candidate who advocates for a mixed capitalist economy in which certain services are considered existing “for the public good” and therefore should not be controlled by privatized, for profit entities. Things like Health Care, Education, our Corrections System, etc. should be seen as a “public good” and should be operated as such, not for profit. So, they should be publicly funded. That’s what Bernie Sanders advocates. Not any kind of wild radicalism there…

Nowhere does he call for the end of private property. Nowhere is he advocating the nationalization of Ford Motor Company or any of the other major “means of production”. He’s fine with private industry but does feel strongly that they require government regulation to keep them on the straight and narrow given the inherent tension between what is best for the country and what is best for their stock holders. So, they get to do what is best for their stock holders, as long as it doesn’t against the public good. Now how radical is that?

socialism

Full Definition of socialism

  1. 1:  any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

  2. 2a :  a system of society or group living in which there is no private propertyb :  a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

  3. 3:  a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Source: Socialism | Definition of Socialism by Merriam-Webster

I am on the Kill List. This is what it feels like to be hunted by drones | Voices | The Independent

Drone strikes in Pakistan and the War on Terror

If you really want to understand why the war on terror isn’t “winnable” in anything like the way we are conducting this war, read this article.

I am in the strange position of knowing that I am on the ‘Kill List’. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again. Four times missiles have been fired at me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be alive.

Source: I am on the Kill List. This is what it feels like to be hunted by drones | Voices | The Independent

What is Democratic Socialism, American-Style? | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Now that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is generating lots of media attention, the word “socialism” is in the news. But few Americans know what it is or what Sanders means when he describes himself as a “democratic socialist.”

Source: What is Democratic Socialism, American-Style? | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Obama can appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court if the Senate does nothing – The Washington Post

This from the New York times. If the President did bypass the Senate and appoint Garland, the Right would almost certainly sue. So, the question would end up being the Supreme Court charged with deciding whether the President could appoint a justice to that same court if the Senate refused to participate.

Through inaction, the Senate is waiving its constitutional duty to act on nominations.

Source: Obama can appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court if the Senate does nothing – The Washington Post

History – the Lessons No one Learns

The Right maintains that President Obama is somehow responsible for the creation of ISIS, that pulling our troops out of Iraq was a mistake. Somehow, we reduced troop strength in the country “too soon”. Ostensibly, the same thing applies to Afghanistan where the Taliban seems to be slowly reasserting itself.

Frankly, this “illogic” completely ignores any of the lessons one might derive from a knowledge of history, a mistake that governments make over and over. Hubris prevents them from learning anything from history. They always seem to assume that they know better, are more competent, stronger, more committed than those that have gone before.

Vietnam presents a perfect lesson that people are ignoring in pursuit of their agendas. Vietnam was a colony of France, known as French Indo-China. The Vietnamese resisted French colonization… the Viet Minh fought them until the beginning of WWII when the Japanese invaded in 1940. So, then, the Vietnamese proceeded to fight the Japanese, many under the impression that their alliance with the Western powers against Japan might result in independence after Japan’s defeat in 1945.

After WWII ended, the colonial powers attempted to maintain their empires, despite the fact that the battle against the Japanese had created resistance movements with nationalist aspirations throughout their empires.
So, with US support, the French battled with the Viet Minh lead by Ho Cho Minh which had turned its organization to fighting for independence against the French once again. A little known fact is that the US actually offered France two nuclear bombs to use against the Viet Minh but, to their credit, they refused the offer.

Vietnam, Dien Bien PhuIn 1954 the French were decisively defeated at the battle of Dien Bien Phu by General Giap’s Viet Minh forces and Vietnam was “temporarily” partitioned by the Geneva accords. . The war then transitioned into a war of reunification. The Viet Minh transitioned into the Viet Cong in the South.

Vietnam Monk
By Malcolm Browne, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12293356

Supporting a corrupt and unpopular Catholic leader in the overwhelmingly Buddhist South (President Diem), the US is increasingly drawn into the conflict directly. President Kennedy, looking for an “easy” victory to show he was tough on Communism (after the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs) commits advisers in increasing numbers. In 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which didn’t really happen,  provided Congress with the excuse to put in combat troops.

By 1968 we have half a million troops in the country.that the war is going well, that victory is just around the corner and the American public is completely unaware of what is really happening in the country. The Viet Cong initiated the Tet Offensive in 1968. They simultaneously mounted offensive actions in every major urban area in Vietnam, their forces actually made it into the American embassy in Saigon and the Ambassador was forced to flee to save himself.

Tet Offensive Saigon 1968
https://www.flickr.com/photos/13476480@N07/

This was certainly not the action of an enemy that was near defeat. The shock waves went through the American public, a serious anti-war movement began to coalesce, Nixon escalated the war, bombed the North, mined Hai Phong Harbor, etc.

As America became increasingly war weary, the new policy became “Vietnamization” where we supposedly would pass the war off to the Vietnamese themselves and we would provide support. As everyone is aware, on April 30th 1975 North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and the war was over. After winning every major battle we fought in the country for over a decade we lost the war itself.

Why does any of this matter? What it should do, is point out that in the modern world, invading and occupying other countries has become an untenable strategy. The Vietnamese never stopped resisting French occupation starting in the late 1800’s until 1954. US arrogance caused us to belive that we would be “different” and we stepped right into the same mess that had defeated the French.

Plain of Jars Laos
http://www.the5thestate.asia/2011/11/cia-end-of-innocents.html

We dropped more explosives on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia than had been dropped in all of WWII, yet the end result was defeat. One million Vietnamese were killed in the conflict with the US. The vast majority were killed by air strikes, which meant that the US killed most of them. So, in order to gain independence, the Vietnamese fought us for over ten years, and despite losing every major military engagement with the US, sustaining a million killed, and far more wounded, they never gave up, their resolve to expel the foreigners never wavered.

Does any of this sound familiar? Perhaps one might reflect that the Afghans lost a million or so people just fighting the Russians. Despite that fact, they never cease the struggle and Russia with drew in defeat. So, what did we do? We invaded that same country, a country with the nickname “graveyard of empires”. Doesn’t anyone read history any more? The results have been very similar for us. Close to 100,000 Afghan dead in fighting and 350,000 dead as an indirect consequence of the fighting all since 2001. Yet, as we have withdrawn, the opposition simply reasserts itself. It seems that the only way to keep control of the country is to maintain overwhelming force in an occupation role. And the enemy shows no sign of wavering.

Iraq War
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJsNG7UeIhY

 

Iraq War TankHow about Iraq? We used a bogus red herring, weapons of mass destruction, to justify going in (sound like the Gulf of Tonkin fake incident?) We have now invaded the country twice. We installed an unpopular leader to run the country (like Diem?) that has failed to unify the country. We have killed at least a quarter million Iraqis and with countless more casualties (over a million). The strategy has been to pass the war off to the Iraqis themselves (sound like Vietnamization?) and the results have been just about as bad as in Vietnam. This is all so predictable… yet we fail every time to look at the lessons provided by our past experience.

Captured Iraqis, Iraq War
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capture_in_Khorramshahr.jpg

So, the Right would say that we have pulled out “too soon”, that Obama is responsible for the rise of ISIS. What does “too soon:” mean? This has been the longest war in US history. The narrative that says that we could have prevailed if we had just stayed longer, just committed more troops, just bombed some additional targets is bogus at best. We used everyone of those rationales in Vietnam and they refused to stop fighting. They NEVER gave up despite everything we did. Family in mourningWho thinks that the Afghans, the Iraqis, the Syrians or the Libyans are somehow different? Are they less committed to ridding their countries of foreigners? Do they resent our interference any less? Do we actually think that, after killing hundreds of thousands, supposedly to free them from Saddam, they are going to view us as friends?

The President has made the only decisions he reasonably could make and that has been to withdraw our troops. The governments of both Afghanistan and Iraq both requested that we do so. It’s their country right? These wars are unwinnable in the sense that we can successfully achieve an end that we would like. We destabilized the entire middle east when we invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam. There is simply no way to put the Genie back in the bottle. President Obama is criticized for his “incremental” approach to the conflict.

But it is a fact that there is simply no way we are going to engineer any outcome that is satisfactory to our interests. Pretending that we can apply strategies that have failed in the past in other circumstances to make it all right is delusional. One of the definitions of insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over expecting different results. Right-wing bellicosity may play well with an electorate baffled and frightened by events in the region, but not a one of them has proposed any solutions that are viable and are not just a repeat of disproved and failed strategies of the past.

Iraq War Caulaties
REUTERS/Chris Helgren

 

 

The Panama Papers – The Tip of the Iceberg

Panama Papers

The Panama Papers – It’s a Family Affair!

One of the amazing (sic) revelations coming out of the continuous release of more information from the so-called “Panama Papers” is just how many rich and powerful people have family members who own multiple shell companies registered via Mossack – Fonseca. We have wives, fathers and mothers, cousins, in-laws, and so on. It’s amazing how many close relations of these public figures are business people themselves… Often the wife of a huge multi national CEO might actually “own” more companies than her husband does. Isn’t that amazing! Business skills clearly run in families.

It is particularly heartening to see how the leaders of current and former “Communist” powers are now investing in the future of Capitalism by parking their “investments” in companies in the West.

Speaking of the West, it has been noted that a dearth of major Western leaders has been revealed so far. Could it be that our business and political leadership is more honest, less hypocritical, more willing to pay their fair share than the leaders of other countries? Or, more likely, could it be that since our elites own virtually all of the major media, including the publications whose journalists have been working through the leaked documents, they might actually be filtering the information in such a way that these very elites are sheltered from public censure? Could it be?

The Chinese leadership has had it the easiest. They have simply shut down any and all mention of the Panama Papers, criticism of officials or their families, etc. Since Putin has control over most Russian media, he has turned his spin doctors loose using a tried and true strategy, it’s all a plot by the West and the CIA to discredit him and weaken the “Rodina”.

But, it’s harder for the elites in the West. They have to try to at least pretend that we are democracies, that we have freedom of the press, free access to information, etc. It’s not quite in their power to completely shut down the revelations. So it’s all about being selective… filtering out what would be damaging or embarrassing for our prominent elites while leaking enough information about totalitarian leaders, leaders of developing countries (where we simply expect such things), sprinkled with a few leaders from the West (Iceland of all places) to make things seem even handed.

If, like me, you are old enough to remember the leaking of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971, you will remember that it took some time for people to work through the massive stack of volumes that comprised the secret history of our involvement in Vietnam (much of which put the lie to the conventional wisdom of the time). The damage the leak did caused Nixon to set up the “plumbers” (to stop leaks). They attempted to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, the analyst who leaked the papers, and eventually the same folks were caught burgling the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate complex. So, in a sense, the Pentagon Papers changed the world.
The Panama Papers have the potential to blow the lid off the way in which the moneyed elites hide their wealth from the tax man and from the citizens that they have ripped off. The critical point to understand is that these documents came from just one small company in Panama, one of many that do this sort of shady work. What else is out there to be discovered? Clearly what we have seen is the tip of the iceberg. It’s going to be interesting to see what’s next.

 

Bernie’s Army Is Running for Congress

Sander Democrats are moving the party in a populist direction.

Source: Bernie’s Army Is Running for Congress

Bernie Sanders Democrat Progressive
It isn’t enough to send Bernie Sanders to Washington as President if we also do not give him a supportive Congress. Four to eight years of Congressional gridlock with the Right fighting a continuous holding action against the changes we so desperately need to be addressing? We can’t afford that.

If you can see your way to contributing, ActBlue is raising funds that will be split evenly between the candidates who have endorsed Bernie Sanders. Lte’s send a “team Sanders” to Washington!
ActBlue Congressional Progressives Campaign