Biden Schmiden

Will he?  Won’t he?

Who cares?

If recent reports are any indication, it looks like he will.  I must say this is a minor surprise to me, since I have this strange way of taking people at their word and he had said his heart was not in it.  What this indicates to me, then, is that there must have been a dramatic shift in thinking among the power brokers in the Democratic Establishment as to who they think will best take on the Republican nominee in the fall.

The thinking must be that if there is a dramatic shift in the Establishment’s wishes, then Hillary Clinton will take the hint and graciously tag out to her tag team partner Biden, who will then tag in and save the day.  The Establishment must be very nervous about Hillary Clinton and possibly view her as damaged goods, particularly in light of her impending Benghazi testimony on Thursday, despite the fact that would-have-been Speaker Kevin McCarthy famously gaffed and admitted that the Benghazi committee is nothing but a political witch-hunt.

If you’re Bernie Sanders, though, you welcome Biden to the race.  This is because Hillary Clinton is not about to take the hint and is not about to tag out.  Anybody who thinks otherwise has not been watching the same Hillary Clinton who has had designs on her own presidency since 1992, and who came within a hair’s width of the nomination in 2008.  Say what you will about Hillary Clinton— there is plenty to criticize legitimately— but she is not going to just graciously bow out in the face of diminishing Establishment confidence or Republican witch-hunting.  Indeed, I predict the pugnacious former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State is going to hand the congressional wing of the Republican clown car their proverbial behinds, to a man, on Thursday.  Furthermore, there is a wing of the electorate that is— rightly or wrongly— deeply invested in the First Woman President Dream, and they’re not going to just tag out to Biden either.

So that means a three-way race.  And that means Advantage Sanders.  Biden and Clinton will split the Establishment, pro-Corporate-Democrat, pro-Republican-Lite third-way politics wing of the Democratic Party, with Sanders as the standard bearer for progressives.

What does Biden have to offer progressives, really?  Whatever bona fides he’s had as the pro-union workin’ man’s candidate from Scranton he’s traded away carrying water for the current administration’s Trans Pacific Partnership fantasy.  (This is the fantasy that says that if we just try global corporate deregulation just one more time it will somehow create those attractive tech-savvy jobs that NAFTA and GATT and CAFTA were all supposed to create, but didn’t, and will avoid pitting our workers against workers in other countries working for pennies an hour which wasn’t supposed to happen, but did.)

Can Biden credibly say he’s the candidate that will heal race relations in this country, when he’s been heard using ethnic slurs?

What has the Obama-Biden administration done to reign in SuperPACs?  At least Hillary Clinton has a mediocre campaign finance reform plan.  The Obama-Biden administration does not have a campaign finance reform plan at all.  Bernie Sanders, by contrast, wants public funding for elections, which is the most proactive and robust plan of action to curb the influence of money in politics.  He also has forsworn SuperPAC money.  Is Biden going to do the same?  (That’s a rhetorical question.  Of course not.)

What has the Obama-Biden administration done to make college more affordable?  Is there a plan that could compete with Hillary Clinton’s complicated, mediocre plan to make college more affordable, much less with Bernie Sanders’s simple, bold plan?

Where has the Obama-Biden administration been on raising the minimum wage?  Sanders wants to raise it to $15 an hour.  Obama and Biden have had eight years to get there, but haven’t.

Bernie Sanders wants a single-payer health care plan.  Obamacare, which I suppose we can now call Obama-Bidencare, only got us so far, but there are still millions of people without affordable health insurance, because the fundamental premise behind Obama-Bidencare (which is really Hillarycare anyway)— force people to carry insurance like they carry car insurance— is essentially flawed, and always has been.  Obama and Biden don’t have the political will or latitude to take on the monumental lobbying interests that would stand to lose in a single-payer system.  Bernie Sanders does.

So, if it turns out to be the case, welcome to the race, Mr. Vice President.

For progressives, you will have a lot of explaining to do.

-Robert Gross

CNN Says Hillary Clinton Won the Debate, But….

CNN pundits— despite what their own on-line polling shows— have declared Hillary Clinton the winner.  Yeah, but:

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

-Robert Gross

UPDATE: A Bernie Sanders supporter just posted this on a Bernie Sanders facebook site:

CNN keeps deleting my comment off of their site. Please copy and paste this and post it all over their debate coverage.

Time Warner Inc owns CNN.
Time Warner Inc is Hillary’s 7th biggest financial supporter.
CNN is posting all over that Hillary won the debate.
CNN’s own polls show that 81% of their viewers think Bernie won.
CNN will not even post the results of their own poll.

If this isn’t some Orwellian 1984 shit, I don’t know what is. We need to show corporations that we’re not taking the manipulation anymore. ‪#‎Bernie2016‬ (My cousin has asked me to help. Please share:)

This is really disturbing to me— it is essentially a tacit admission that CNN knows that it is biased and doesn’t want that simple truth to get out.

Totally Random Thoughts: Debate Edition

Totally random thoughts about the debate.

* I spent the whole night wondering if anyone would call out Hillary Clinton on her alleged pro-green-energy position and her fighting-climate-change platform by pointing out how much money she’s taken from the fossil fuel industry.

* I very much respect Jim Webb’s service to this country.  But someone needs to tell him that not everything in the world is about the military.

* Hillary Clinton used the phrase “God-given” three times.  Dog whistle.  Yes, we get it.  Bernie’s a Jew, a minority religion.  And possibly an atheist.  But the point of a dog-whistle is to be *subtle*.

* Lincoln Chafee and Richard Dawkins could be brothers.

* If anybody remembers Admiral Jim Stockdale’s pitiful performance in the 1992 vice presidential debate, that’s how bad Jim Webb was.  Maybe they’re not teaching debate in Annapolis?

* Bernie Sanders scoring points off of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal by defending her instead of attacking her is one of the shrewdest pieces of political jujitsu I’ve seen in a long time.

* The candidate that whines the most about not having enough time/attention from the moderators is always the sure loser.  Jim Webb for the Loss again.

* That said, I really wanted to know if Jim Webb ever smoked pot.  I thought they were going to ask everyone.

* Nobody knows what Glass-Steagall is, policy wonks.  We do need to reinstate it.  But it’s not the homerun winning issue you think it is, Martin O’Malley.

* Whose idea was it to schedule this against Mets-Dodgers?  Another Debbie Wasserman Schultz conspiracy to keep people from watching in case Hillary falters?

* Lincoln Chafee went to the weaksauce “but everyone else was voting for it” excuse not once, but twice!  Twice!

* Anderson Cooper, you’re not Jon Stewart.  Please don’t try to be funny.

* Hillary Clinton scores some major points defending a woman’s right to choose.  People rose to their feet.  Then she deflated every bit of it by refusing to support across-the-board marijuana legalization.  The disappointment in the room was palpable.

* Why didn’t Hillary Clinton have to choose between “black lives matter” and “all lives matter”?

* Yeah, the grid thing.  2050.  An admirable goal, but the framing of the issue is a little heady and 2050 seems pretty remote.

* That said, O’Malley really hit home with me when he pointed out that nobody denigrated blacks, Latinos or religious minorities at this debate, unlike at the Republican Debate.

* Did anyone besides me notice that Hillary Clinton— the only woman Democrat running for president— got the question about Carly Fionrina— the only woman Republican running for president?

* Yeah, CNN tried to “gotcha” Bernie Sanders on that immigration vote question.  You don’t “gotcha” Bernie Sanders.  You just don’t.  And the fact that he voted against the so-called “guest worker program” because it would effectively turn immigrants into non-unionized super-cheap slave labor?  That actually matters.

* I really wish Mark Russell was still doing his thing on PBS.

-Robert Gross

Flip Floppin’ Away

In this presidential election season, on three major issues Hillary Clinton has flip-flopped in order to mimic the policy positions that have long been occupied by Bernie Sanders.

First, she flip-flopped and came out against the Keystone XL pipeline which she had previously supported.

She also has promised Black Lives Matter that she would end private prisons.  This, despite the fact that Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, two private prison corporations, are among Clinton’s campaign contributors.

But perhaps the biggest whopper is her stunning reversal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal which Bernie Sanders has consistently and staunchly opposed, but which, until this week, she publicly pushed 45 times between 2010 and 2013.

Flip-flopping is not a bad thing in and of itself.  We all remember how John Kerry was excoriated in the 2004 election for having made adjustments to policies, and how this redounded to the benefit of his opponent, President George W. Bush, who was given credit by the American people for “consistency” no matter how consistently his policies were wrongheaded and disastrous.  The American people like people who stick to their proverbial guns, even if those guns are deeply flawed.  This can be unfortunate.

But in this case, it is not unfortunate at all to observe that Hillary Clinton has been a flip-flopper.  If anything, it would be profoundly unfortunate not to notice.

Ask yourself this: do you actually want to stop the Keystone Pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and for-profit prisons?

If so, whom do you trust to do it?  Someone who discovered these issues in the last three weeks leading up to the first debate?  Or someone who has been there all along?

But it’s worse than that with Hillary Clinton.  Let’s say just for the sake of argument that she’s had a genuine change of heart on all these issues.

The problem is that she is still beholden to her campaign contributors.  Wall Street corporations desperately want the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Which candidate takes money from Wall Street corporations and their SuperPACS— Clinton or Sanders?  (That’s a rhetorical question, but in case you need it answered, Clinton has taken gazillions of dollars in corporate SuperPAC money while Sanders has not taken a nickel from a SuperPAC.)

The fossil fuel industry desperately wants the Keystone Pipeline.  Well, guess what.  Hillary Clinton has taken a crap ton of money from the fossil fuel industry too.

And, as noted, Hillary Clinton has taken money from the private prison industry.

Bernie Sanders hasn’t taken money from any of these interests.  So, even for the sake of argument accepting that Hillary Clinton’s changes of heart are genuine, she is still beholden to her campaign contributors.  Even if she wants to stop TPP, Keystone and private prisons, she won’t.

She can’t.

Possibly.

She’s hoping that you won’t see the lobbyist behind the curtain.  She’s hoping that with her relative name recognition advantage and the media blackout on Bernie Sanders that has occurred, that you, the voter, will believe (a) that she actually believes what she is saying and will keep these promises and (b) she thought of them first and has held these positions all along.

What this will test will be the degree to which mainstream and traditional media is still relevant.  If mainstream/traditional media is still relevant, then Hillary Clinton’s gambit will succeed.  However, if online journalism has anything to say about it, then Bernie Sanders will win the day.  Bernie Sanders is not only not blacked out online, but he’s easily, handily winning the online campaign by any metric.  On line, it is easy to fact check and to get the real story.  This very article has given you multiple links with which you can investigate on your own the background behind Hillary Clinton’s newfound positions on Keystone, TPP and private prisons.

So if you want real progressive positions and real progressive results, you have to ask yourself these things:

Who’s been there all along?

Who really means it?

Whom do I trust?

-Robert Gross

Sen. Sanders: Call for Independent Investigation of Doctors Without Borders Bombing

President Obama formally apologized Wednesday for the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan by the U.S. armed forces.

Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of the organization that treats war wounded regardless of nationality, was having none of it.  She said tersely that the message had been received, and that was that.

Why the cold shoulder?  Because the Obama administration has balked at the suggestion that an independent investigation should get to the bottom of how and why the hospital facility had been destroyed.  So far, the only investigations into the incident are being conducted by a U.S./Afghani government joint effort, by NATO, and by the U.S. Department of Defense, of which Doctors Without Borders and many international observers are deeply skeptical, as military/governmental investigations into military/governmental misdeeds tend to be little more than official whitewashing affairs.  Liu instead wants the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to conduct the investigation.  What is suspected, of course, is that the bombing took place at the direction of the Afghani government in an effort to intimidate Doctors Without Borders for having treated in the past— or for having currently treated at the time of the bombing— Taliban members.

Needless to say, an independent investigation should take place because the skeptics are right.  The misdeed took place with the knowledge and/or consent of some combination of NATO, the White House, the Afghani government, and the Department of Defense (i.e., the U.S. military writ large).  So they are patently unqualified to investigate themselves.  The bombing, by the way, was against international law and rules of war that say that you have to give hospitals warning before you bomb them so that noncombatant civilians can be cleared out first.  The strike killed 22, injured 37, and left 33 missing as of Wednesday.

Senator Bernie Sanders needs to come out and condemn the attack, and echo and amplify Dr. Liu’s call for an independent investigation.

Not because it would score him political points in the presidential race.  Of course not.  But rather, because it’s the right thing to do.  Period.  Full stop.

But, as it happens, it would actually score him political points in the presidential race too, if he did.

Right now, Sanders has enjoyed leads in Iowa and New Hampshire over rival Hillary Clinton for a number of weeks.  The very first national poll showing a slim Sanders lead over Clinton has also just been released.  Sanders recently broke more records with a crowd in Boston, with another attendance that looks like a ZIP code.  His trend lines are going up; Hillary Clinton’s trend lines are going down.

The reason for this is because of the perception that Bernie Sanders is the most— perhaps the only— honest person in Washington.  Going into the October 13 debate as the only candidate who has had the guts to stand up to administration whitewashing and call it out for what it is would only bolster those credentials.

He would not lose any support.  His base of support is already deeply skeptical of the degree to which President Obama is in bed with corporate cronies, Wall Street, and, not to say the least, the military-industrial complex.  To say that President Obama has been a disappointment to progressives on these fronts would be to understate to the nth degree.  Progressives would galvanize around Sanders all the more because it’s the right thing to do.  Progressives love organizations like Doctors Without Borders.  And, most importantly, this would win back whatever progressives have shied away from Sanders because of Sanders’s shaky record on gun control, which is Sanders’s one chunk of kryptonite with progressives.  With the recent Oregon shooting, a few progressives here and there have drifted toward Hillary Clinton because of her full-throated support for gun control, vis-a-vis Sanders’s disappointing past votes (such as his vote against the Brady Bill).

Furthermore, Sanders would gain support of independents by calling for an investigation of the current administration.  It would underscore his independence.  In the mind of the independent, the independent would identify with Sanders.  I’m an independent; look, he’s independent too.  He doesn’t identify as a Democrat, and he’s no administration lackey.  He’s calling out the administration on something that needs to be called out.  That’s true independence.

Sanders would also win over a few sane Republicans, because, after all, even the sane Republicans still have no love lost for the Obama administration.  Again, the independence shown by Sanders would curry favor with the sane Republican crowd who are beginning to realize they don’t have a dog in the race among the crazies that are actually running for the Republican nomination.

Finally, going into the October 13 debate, it would give Sanders an edge over Hillary Clinton in showing not only that he is the only candidate who has had the integrity to stand up to the administration— not over some triangulating calculus, but because the cause is just— it also would put some much-needed foreign policy bona fides on the table for Sanders.  It would show that Sanders is paying attention to our foreign misadventures in the middle east— foreign misadventures that one Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did precious little to bring to an end.  There is a widespread perception that Clinton owns Sanders on foreign policy because Sanders has never held an executive office in which foreign policy was relevant.  His only executive experience was being mayor of Burlington, Vermont.  So pointedly making an issue of this would beef up Sanders’s profile in the foreign policy department.

That all said, really, though, he should do it because it’s the right thing to do.  Period.  Full stop.

-Robert Gross

Clinton vs. Sanders on Gun Control? Bring it.

At first blush, you would think that Hillary Clinton would be your candidate if you want better gun control.  She has come out recently with a plan that would do two things: it would see greater executive action, and she claims that she would foment a national movement that will take on the NRA.  Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has in the past, cast some unfortunate votes in congress that cause progressives to question his commitment to full-throated gun control, such as his 1993 vote against the Brady Bill.

Nevertheless, Sanders rates a D-minus from the NRA and has consistently supported universal background checks.  But that’s not why Sanders is the candidate for you if you want better gun control laws.

The difference has less to do with gun control itself and more to do withand let us pause for emphasis here— the structural reasons why we cannot have sensible gun control laws in the first place.

In other words, it has everything to do with campaign finance reform.

Hillary Clinton’s two-prong approach is commendable, but structurally flawed.  First, she maintains that she will initiate executive actions to curb gun violence.  Well, guess what.  According to Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, President Obama has already issued 23-25 executive orders in his presidency in an attempt to curb gun violence.  How is that working out?

More interestingly, Hillary Clinton says she will use the bully pulpit of the presidency to foment a mass movement in this country that will take on the NRA.

Commendable.  Commendable wishful thinking.

The problem with Hillary Clinton’s plan is this.  You can march a million moms and dads on Washington— make that tens of millions of moms and dads on Washington.  You can phone bank members of congress and senators night and day until the proverbial cows come home.  You can speechify and speechify on the presidential podium until your voice goes hoarse.

But until congress is no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association, nothing.  Will.  Change.

As long as members of congress and Senators are afraid to be outspent— and if they don’t take that NRA money, they will be— they will continue to vote in lock step with the NRA and will continue to stymie any sensible gun reforms.

To change this, we need real campaign finance reform.  The only serious candidate talking about serious campaign finance reform is serious Bernie Sanders.  Not Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has a campaign finance reform plan, but it’s mediocre.  She says she will appoint Supreme Court Justices that will overturn Citizens United (though, unlike Sanders, she does not say that it will be a litmus test for appointment).  The other centerpiece of her plan is a cockeyed “multiplier” system in which a public fund will match small-donor donations multiplied to some degree (to what degree she does not say).  So if I give Bernie Sanders $25, and the multiplier is 3, then the matching fund will kick in $75 and Bernie Sanders gets $100.  The idea is that this will level the playing field between small-donor and big-donor contributions.

Obviously, of course, this is nonsense.  Whether Bernie Sanders gets $25 or $100 or $500 from the small donor, it’s still peanuts compared to what multi-national corporations are allowed to give to SuperPACs and what SuperPACs in turn are allowed to give to candidates.  Only one candidate in the race on the Democratic side has forsworn SuperPAC money, and that’s Bernie Sanders.  Hillary Clinton is awash in SuperPAC money.  Her rhetoric that she will make a particular difference in the way campaigns are financed rings particularly hollow.

Sanders by contrast has promised that Citizens United would be a litmus test for his Supreme Court justices to be appointed.  He has also repeatedly stated his support for public campaign financing with equal distribution of resources to candidates.  That way Candidate A cannot outspend Candidate B, and instead, the marketplace of ideas will determine the outcome rather than the, you know, literal marketplace.

With spending caps and public financing in place in a post-Citizens-United landscape— let’s bring it back to guns now— congress would then be free and clear to vote its conscience on gun control.  It would be free to reflect the actual will of the constituency rather than the will of a lobby to which it is beholden to fund its campaign advertising.

The corporate media, of course, hates Sanders’s proposal, because it would limit how much air time a candidate can buy from the corporate media.  This may have just a tad to do with the indifferent, or outright unfavorable, treatment Sanders routinely receives in the corporate media.

The case for Sanders on gun control is admittedly more complex than the case for Clinton.  Do I wish Sanders had voted for the Brady Bill?  Of course; history records that the Brady Bill was the right bill at the right time, though we have seen important provisions of it lapse, thanks to the muscle of the NRA.  However, Hillary’s plan of executive action— which has been ineffectual in the hands of Obama, who almost everyone believes is sincere and committed to gun control— and marshaling public sentiment— though one hesitates to see how public sentiment against guns could be more marshaled after Sandy Hook— has little chance to succeed because the plan does not attack the problem structurally.

Structural problems require structural solutions.  The candidate with the structural solution in this case is Bernie Sanders.

-Robert Gross

Stuff Happens

“Jeb!” is done.

Regarding the recent Oregon shooting, “Jeb!” summarized the situation succinctly: “stuff happens”.

“Jeb!” had heretofore been polling at a whopping 4% according to Pew Research.  Now he’ll be lucky to pull Scott Walker numbers.  (Scott had to leave the race when he was polling at a fraction that embarrassingly rounded down to zero.)

But in an odd way, I have finally gotten a long-standing wish on something.

For years, I have deeply suspected that at their core, gun advocates truly and sincerely do not care when people get shot up in a mass shooting.  It’s somebody else’s problem.  I have long suspected that gun advocates perform a perverse sort of callous calculus.  They know that it has become sort of inevitable that once a month a bunch of people are going to get shot up by some mentally ill person who shouldn’t have a gun.  But the odds are very slim that it will be them getting shot up, or anyone they know.  And in this calculus, they would rather have completely unregulated, unfettered access to guns because they love the guns more than they care about people getting shot up.

My longstanding wish has been to hear someone just admit that.

That’s because I’m weary of all the maudlin, crocodile tears that gun advocates always proffer up.  “Oh, it’s a tragedy, but…”  And “Oh, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, but…”  And “I know that our impulse is to try to do something about this, but….

Well, with “Jeb!” the “but” stops here.

Finally, at last, one politician has had the callous courage to concede what I’ve known all along.  The gun advocates simply do not care.  Their thoughts and prayers aren’t even with the families of the shootings.  For years they have pretended that they do care about the victims of shootings but we must take a principled stand for the Second Amendment.  That has always been the pretense.  Thankfully, “Jeb!” has shot down that pretense.  Thankfully, “Jeb!” has finally admitted what I’ve known all along.

The gun lovers simply don’t care when other people get shot up.

Stuff happens.

So “Jeb!” has really done us a great service in the national dialogue about sensible gun control.  At last we can challenge the gun lovers and ammosexuals when they claim that they really, truly care about people getting shot up all across the nation, but we must take a principled stand for the Second Amendment, and the Founding Fathers, and What If The Government Becomes Totalitarian Someday doomsday scenarios.  Thanks to “Jeb!” we can cut through all that bullcrap, and say, look.  One of your own summarized succinctly the actual emotional response that you guys experience when people get shot up.

Stuff happens.  That’s it.

So don’t come around here with your “thoughts and prayers” jazz.  It’s not “thoughts and prayers” anymore.  It’s “stuff happens.”

Transitioning a little here by way of contrast, there is a whole other presidential candidate that you should consider supporting.  His name is Bernie Sanders.  Here’s why.

If you really want the shootings to stop, you should support Bernie Sanders.  Now, this will sound a little bit like a Rube Goldberg puzzle, but it’s really true, if you’ll bear with me.

If you want sensible gun control laws, you have to get a bill through congress.

That can’t happen right now because congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA and the legalized bribery we euphemistically refer to as “lobbying.”

So we need to get the money out of politics.  We need robust campaign finance reform.

There is only one presidential candidate with a serious proposal for campaign finance reform.

That’s Bernie Sanders.

Hillary Clinton has a mediocre proposal for campaign finance reform that would multiply small donor contributions with a public fund.  That will do nothing to get the big money SuperPACs out of politics.  She takes SuperPAC money; Sanders does not.  Sanders, by contrast, wants public funding for elections and equal distribution of campaign finance among candidates, and the overturning of Citizens United as a litmus test for Supreme Court justices.  Sanders is the vastly superior candidate on the campaign finance reform front.

With campaign finance reform in place, the NRA would not own congress anymore, and then we might be able to pass some laws with some teeth that could mitigate against all these shootings.  Don’t tell me that gun control laws don’t work.  They work in every civilized, industrialized so-called First World country.  Except ours.

Stuff happens.  Let’s make Bernie Sanders happen.  Let’s make campaign finance reform happen.

And let’s make “Jeb!” dropping out of the race and slinking back to Florida in disgrace happen.

-Robert Gross

Hillary Danced the Whip

Twelve percent of the population were living in poverty, while Hillary danced the whip.

Republicans were pouring hate from their hearts like water from teapots, while Hillary danced the whip.

Dozens of millions of people went without health insurance, while Hillary danced the whip.

The corporate-controlled media smiled and sat at ease, pretending nothing was wrong, while Hillary danced the whip.

We are living in serious times. This is not a time for fluff and stuff. It is a time for gravity and solemnity. Thousands— not hundreds but thousands— die of gunshot wounds every year— not around the world, but in this country.  Meanwhile, right-wingers are spouting their hatred— not covertly as was once done in the klanklave, but publicly, in the open air.  I often hear folks talk about how far we’ve come in the realm of racism and social justice, but have we?  The Republicans all made horrible statements about people— yes— living people that bleed when stabbed and cry when they feel grief, and who has rebuked them?  It is a game, a dance, a puppet show.  Bring out the popcorn and beer, and watch Hillary dance the whip!

America is plagued by problems caused by a lack of campaign financial reform.  While the vast majority of us want guns regulated, as cars are regulated, whose drivers must be tested for competence and licensed, the NRA still rules the roost and how? Through legal bribery…


So two men yesterday, October 1, in two locations readied their guns while Hillary danced the whip.

Six corporations, thanks to Bill Clinton, own ALL the mass media in this country.  Free press has become a thing of the past, and now the media is in the palm of corporate America, and their is only one source of news for the people, the corporate source…


Is it any wonder, then, that  they had their cameras rolling while Hillary danced the whip?

It is time to stop dancing around the issues that face us and deal with them head-on.  It is time to stop living in denial, wake up and smell the excrement, and do something about it.  It is time for change.  In a country where the top 1% of the people own 90% of the wealth, where some 8.9 million people cannot find jobs (and yes, this speaks of those who are looking actively), where many cannot even get a standard physical, it is time for change.  I need not tell you here who the one candidate is that will bring us campaign reform, employment reform, and so on.  You all know by now that it is Bernie Sanders.  Hillary is owned by corporate America. She will not cross them.  Sanders takes money from no one…


And, as he decried the injustices committed daily in this country, Hillary danced the whip.

-Ken Downey

Sanders Surging; How Can This Be?

The mainstream punditocracy is accurately reporting (at last) that the Bernie Sanders surge and Hillary Clinton decline is real, is here to stay, and has gone national beyond just mere (!) leads in Iowa and New Hampshire for the good senator from Vermont.  Places like here, here and here are reporting that Clinton’s national lead over Sanders has shrunken to single digits, with her trend-lines going steadily downward while his trend-lines are steadily going upward.

What is amusing to me, though, is how stunned the punditocracy is over this.  Chuck Todd’s gobsmacked drooling jaw drooping on the NBC studio floor is not a pretty sight.  Establishment Democratic Party Operatives that were certain it was going to be Hillary and “Jeb!” are now scrambling for explanations (as both partisan outcomes are now anything but certain).  They were sure that Sanders’s rallies, which are attracting crowds in numbers that look like ZIP Codes, were just curiosities; readily dismissed as young people attracted to novelty and that this phenomenon would not translate into polling or, ultimately, into votes.  It still remains to be seen, of course, whether the phenomenon will translate into votes.  But it certainly appears to be showing up in the polling.

What is it that the pundits missed?

Three things, as far as I can see.

1. You don’t need SuperPAC money if you’re the most honest man in Washington.  Sanders has never had a scandal; the worst thing anyone has been able to dig up on the guy is that he wrote some bad erotica in the early 1970s.  Big deal.  He never pulls his punches, and he never leaves you guessing on where he stands on any particular issue.  For example, he has clearly and effectively stated his opposition to the Transpacific Partnership (TPP); Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has been anything but clear on TPP.

All the smarties in Washington said that one can’t run for president without a SuperPAC pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into one’s campaign coffers.  Yet, by eschewing SuperPAC money, Sanders has earned such a loyal following that his small-donation contributors are breaking records in contributions.  This loyalty is the result of something that is so refreshing that ordinary people are willing to back it to an unprecedented degree: and that something an honest candidate in Washington.  It defies political science and formulas and triangulations— indeed, it defies precisely the kind of triangulations for which the Clintons are so famous, but of which ordinary people are so weary.

2. The s-word doesn’t scare people as much as you thought it would.  Pundits were sure that the word “socialism” was going to scare people away from Sanders.  There are two reasons why this thinking was wrong.  First, because Sanders has been more-or-less effective in explaining that his prevailing political philosophy is democratic socialism— you know, like they have in Canada and many European countries— and that this is quite a different thing from Cold-War totalitarian-style Socialism.  Second, it’s just a label, and oddly enough, because the right has thrown that label so much at Obama, the American people have become quite tone-deaf to the right yelling “Socialist!  Socialist!” all the time.  Ironically, the more the right screams about Sanders’s socialism, the more they may be convincing the American public that their use of the word— which is in this case, for once, partially justified— is just more hyperbole.

When people listen to what Sanders has to say, they find they actually agree.  Almost all of Sanders’s viewpoints poll in the majority.  (The only stand he has taken that I can think of offhand that polls in the minority is his principled opposition to the death penalty, which does not bother me in the least since it is a position I happen to share.)  The punditocracy has sadly underestimated the ability of the American people to see beyond labels and to see instead the substance.

3. You underestimate how much people are tired of people like you, Establishment folks.  It is very easy to live in a punditocractic bubble and not be aware of the problems people are really facing.  To the pundits, “economic disparity” is a buzzword with which to lard pretty progressive-sounding speeches if you happen to be writing for Hillary Clinton.  But people are not convinced that the Wall-Street-cowtowing semi-progressive Democratic Party Establishment Operatives are actually feeling our pain when it comes to “economic disparity.”

The pundits scoff when it is pointed out that Sanders comes from a small (that means “relatively unimportant”) state.  But I bet Senator Sanders can actually name people he knows who are economically hurting back in Vermont.  When you come from a small state, and you represent that state, you rub elbows with ordinary people to a degree that people in the bubble do not.  Hillary Clinton by contrast represented New York State in the Senate, a state not only which is perceived as very large and very important, but also a state to which Hillary Clinton had no particular ties.  Progressives in the state thought it might be prestigious to be represented by a particularly smart former First Lady, and, as it happened, she faced a pretty weak opponent in one Rick Lazio. 

But people trust Sanders to feel their pain.  They don’t trust that Hillary Clinton feels their pain or knows anything about it.  It has been a long time since Hillary Clinton knew anything about economic suffering in small-state, small-town America; she has not had any use for Arkansas since 1992.  (Did it ever occur to her to run for Senate from Arkansas?  What would have been wrong with that— not prestigious enough?  Not Wall Street enough?)

So Hillary Clinton may still be just barely outdistancing Sanders by single digits, but you have to wonder, if given a choice, whose staff would you rather be on right now?  The team that is clearly running out of gas?  Or the team that looks like it has the wind at its sails and that looks like it’s still just warming up?

I cannot promise you that Senator Sanders will get the nomination.  But I will sit here and tell you this, Establishment Democratic Party Operatives.

It is going to be a horse race.

-Robert Gross

Sanders vs. Clinton on Climate Change

Mother Jones recently gave Hillary Clinton a mixed score-card on global warming.

While Clinton within the past 24 hours has finally— finally!— come out in opposition to the environmentally disastrous Keystone XL Pipeline (Bernie Sanders, her main rival for the Democratic nomination, has always been consistently against it), there are other areas of concern for environmental progressives.  From the article:

She promoted fracking abroad while secretary of state. Clinton encouraged developing countries to sign deals with American fossil fuel companies to extract their shale gas through fracking. This is consistent with Obama’s fondness for touting natural gas as a lower-carbon “bridge fuel” to help us move from coal to renewables. Mariah Blake of Mother Jones did a deep dive from last year that found, “Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the program actually serves.”

* * *

Her family’s charitable foundation takes lots of oil money. Big oil companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have given millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, as have Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations in the Middle East. Thursday brought the latest exposé on this issue from the International Business Times, which reports on donations from Pacific Rubiales, a Canadian oil company accused of human rights violations in Colombia. Pacific Rubiales’ founder, Frank Giustra, now sits on the Clinton Foundation’s board. IBT reports, “After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation—supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself—Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial US-Colombia trade pact. Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it ‘strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.'” A cynic would say oil companies are buying influence with the Clintons without being subject to campaign finance laws. A Clinton defender would point out that the foundation gives away this money, it isn’t going into Hillary Clinton’s pocket or her campaign account.

* * *

She has supported offshore oil drilling. In 2006, Clinton sided with Republicans and against climate hawks like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) by voting in favor of a bill opening new Gulf Coast areas to offshore oil drilling. Obama has opened up many areas for offshore oil drilling, and it’s possible Clinton would do the same.

* * *

What does the Bernie Sanders campaign have to say about climate change?

Here you go:

The United States must lead the world in tackling climate change, if we are to make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels, and towards energy efficiency and sustainability. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, and we need to greatly accelerate technological progress in wind and solar power generation.

Unless we take bold action to address climate change, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on this period in history and ask a very simple question: Where were they? Why didn’t the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, lead the international community in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage that the scientific community told us would surely come?

KEY ACTIONS

  • Introduced the gold standard for climate change legislation with Sen. Barbara Boxer to tax carbon and methane emissions.
  • Led the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Secured $3.2 billion in the economic stimulus package for grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in a program that has funded upgrades for more than 86,000 buildings and installed more than 9,500 solar energy systems.

Not enough?  I say it’s not nearly enough, as the Sanders campaign underplays the good senator’s record on his own web site, which is unfortunate.  As it happens, Sanders was rated the senate’s best Senator on climate change.

However, the article goes on to say:

So we know Sanders is dedicated to climate action and clean energy. Looking forward, though, it’s unclear how Sanders will differentiate his climate and energy proposals from Clinton’s. Clinton, like President Obama, firmly supports regulating carbon emissions domestically and getting strong international agreements to reduce emissions globally. 

To this I say au contraire.  You don’t have to look very far to find someone spelling out what an environmental disaster the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be, which Hillary Clinton has in the past supported, however unclear her position remains currently.

What is clear, though, is the choice.  You can support a candidate who has flip-flopped on Keystone XL and on TPP, coming out in favor of either, or against, depending on what is politically expedient at the moment, or you can support the senate’s environmental top dog.

Seems like a pretty clear choice to me.

-Robert Gross

UPDATE: Just as I finished writing this, this article appeared revealing that Hillary Clinton’s biggest bundlers are from the fossil fuel industry.