Posts Tagged ‘Sanders’

In America, the Rich are Never Wrong

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... I was great, but my mic was lousy

Donald Trump … I was great, but my mic was lousy

Here’s a delayed look at the week that was. (I couldn’t let that televised national embarrassment Monday night go by without somehow acknowledging it. Besides, it ties in neatly with the rest of the menu.)

Monday night, 86 million people turned on their TVs to watch a rich, white man who inherited a fortune bragging about rooting for the collapse of the home mortgage market in 2008 and how “smart” he is to avoid paying taxes. The man also happens to be running for president of the United States as the Republican Party nominee.

During the debate, the nominee also body-shamed a former beauty queen and displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about such things as economics and world affairs. He did sniffle and interrupt his female opponent a lot.

This was white privilege on display in all its arrogance. Donald Trump has got his – well, his daddy gave him a lot to start with – and now he wants to get more of ours. When the debate was over, Trump said if people thought he did lousy it was because somebody turned his microphone sound down too low. Because, in Donald Trump’s world, the rich are never wrong.

Speaking of the rich never being wrong, last week also marked the fifth anniversary of the Occupy Movement in America. It arose seemingly out of nowhere with thousands of Americans of all ages, colors, genders, creeds, etc., setting up camp or just sitting down — and staying — in large numbers in places where people don’t usually set up camp or squat, if you will, for more than a couple of hours at most. Bank doorways. Parks. The middle of Wall Street.

Five years later, the Occupy Movement is, at least physically speaking, a mere memory, a blip in the history of protest movements in the United States. To some, it is a might-have-been movement that missed its moment. To others, it was merely a forbearer of things to come. It was often criticized (by me included) as having no central theme. What was its point?

Today, it’s clear what the point was and remains: America is divided into two groups of people — the haves (like Trump) and the rest.

The haves are the one percent — the individuals and corporations — who control enormous amounts of wealth and want more. The rest, the 99 percent, is us, trying to figure out how things got so out of whack. Wall Street was and still is the symbol of this unfair, obscene distribution of wealth, hence the occupation of the financial district. But as the remaining Occupiers marked their fifth anniversary, it was obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the presidential campaign for the past year that the movement’s message did not disappear in the fog of tear gas, Mace and flash-bang grenades that dispersed many Occupiers in cities across America.

Sen. Bernie Sanders made income disparity the central part of his vigorous campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. It resonated so strongly that, even in defeating Sanders, Hillary Clinton (who is also very wealthy, but not Trump-like) agreed to include it in the party’s platform as she accepted the nomination. Her challenge as president will be to live up to her words and stand up to Wall Street.

If anyone doubted that this is necessary and that the culture of greed still prevails among the one percent, two recent hearings in Congress, of all places, should have put that to rest.

One involved a bank, Wells Fargo, whose employees, under pressure to meet aggressive demands to increase profits, created 2 million phony accounts in customers’ names to collect $2.4 million in unauthorized fees on them.

The other hearing involved a pharmaceutical company, Mylan Inc., which holds 90 percent of the market share on EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector, which reverses deadly allergic reactions. Since 2007, the company has raised the price 15 times. EpiPens went from roughly $50 each for a pack of two to $608. Millions of children rely on EpiPens’ life-saving qualities. Many parents are having trouble affording them.

Banks and pharmaceutical companies have been among the chief miscreants in the “get it any way you can” philosophy that dominates corporate America and Wall Street. Even when corporations are found guilty of egregious, illegal, unethical behavior, the persons responsible for creating the atmosphere of unyielding greed seem to never face any repercussions. The rich are never wrong.

Thousands of Wells Fargo employees were fired, either for setting up the phony accounts or for refusing to set up the accounts.The company was fined $185 million by federal authorities and agreed to pay restitution to its customers, but that won’t break the bank. CEO John Stumpf apologized to Congress, sort of, while ignoring many strong suggestions that he resign and that he should be arrested. But this time, the company’s directors went against common practice by making Stumpf give up $41 million in benefits and forgo salary while an investigation proceeds. They also made the executive responsible for running the scam retire without any severance pay. So maybe the Occupy message is starting to get through.

Meanwhile, the Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, tried to convince Congress that she was doing the world a favor with her blackmail pricing. Showing no apparent understanding of the fears faced by those who rely on her product, she told Congress her company was compassionate and had worked hard to educate the public about the dangers of allergic reactions. Bresch said the company only makes $50 in profit per pen, which is probably a low estimate, but still sounds pretty good, considering it costs only a few bucks to produce.

Bresch was paid $2.4 million in 2007 and $18,931,068 in 2015. She rounded it off to $18 million when asked at a congressional hearing, prompting one congressman to note that it must be easy to ignore $931,068 in annual salary when one reaches a certain level of pay.

And isn’t that the point? It has all been too easy for corporations to boost their bottom lines and top executives’ astronomical pay because no one at the top has been made to pay the price for the pain inflicted upon millions of Americans by illegal, unethical, money-grabbing tactics. Bankers don’t go to jail in this country. Drug company executives don’t go to jail in this country. Insurance executives don’t go to jail in this country. Wall Street brokers don’t go to jail in this country.

In this country, a billionaire who doesn’t pay his employees, stiffs his creditors, brags about not paying taxes, routinely degrades women, espouses racist policies, sets up a phony university, gives voice to hatred and violence, promulgates a fiction that his president wasn’t born in this country, insults military heroes, is ignorant of the Constitution, and lies as naturally as he breathes gets to run for president as the candidate for what is now a sorry excuse for a major political party.

And apparently, to a sizable portion of the 99 percent, this is OK, because he’s rich. And not black. Or a woman. Which may explain why Trump and the rest of his ilk continue to act as if the rich are never wrong.

… and so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

It’s Only Fair to Say: It Has to be Hillary

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton ... the only rational choice

Hillary Clinton … the only rational choice

Among the many unpleasant things this presidential campaign has unearthed (festering racism, arrogant ignorance, ugly nativism, cowardly politics …) is the phony fairness theory. Or, the false equivalence doctrine.

It’s the belief that: 1) the news media has an obligation to present information about both major presidential candidates fairly and equitably, without value judgments and 2) anytime anyone writes a critical piece about one candidate, it’s a “hit job” if the opposition is not also criticized in some way.

Obvious caveat: The fairness theory does not apply to Fox News. although its viewers are the loudest in demanding it of others.

Second obvious caveat: The fairness theory does not apply to the hundreds of social media propaganda sites posing as news outlets.

The misguided notion that the press has to be “fair” by being non-judgmental and showing appropriate respect for both candidates is what led to the rise of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. While Fox News was skewering Hillary Clinton daily with unproven charges and innuendo, the mainstream media were reporting on those innuendos while treating her opponent as if he were someone who had any clue about how to be president — despite his own statements to the contrary every day.

On and on and on it went, with only a rare few having the guts to say, “That’s racist,” or “That’s stupid,” or “That’s offensive,” or “That’s sexist,” or “That’s a lie.” And so here we are, with Trump still doing the same things day after day and the mainstream media desperately playing catch-up on calling Trump a dangerous bigot and a possible threat to national security.

All except Matt Lauer, of course, who froze up in that NBC-TV debate the other night, letting Trump ramble and lie without calling him out, while grilling Clinton about her e-mails that have dominated Fox News but — to be fair — have resulted in no official charges against her for anything.

I don’t know Lauer, but it sure seemed that he was more comfortable being aggressive with a well-spoken, accomplished, educated woman than with a schoolyard bully. Just saying.

At any rate, back to fairness. The Fairness Doctrine was instituted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required the holders of broadcast licenses (radio and TV stations) to present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable, and balanced manner. The idea was that, since they held licenses to use the airwaves, they had an obligation to fairly inform the public.

It was killed in 1987 In Ronald Reagan’s administration. It never applied to print media. It no longer exists. And it never meant that reporters or editors or columnists were supposed to ignore the truth in the interest of “fairness.” You don’t just get to say anything — true or not — just because we have to be fair. That would not be in the public interest. Challenging candidates to prove their statements is in the public interest.

Interestingly, the notion of fairness keeps coming up with regards to press coverage of Clinton, both ways. She has been called the favorite candidate of the mainstream media, who are supposedly doing all they can to ignore her shortcomings while repeatedly excoriating Trump, so as to get her elected. She has also been called the favorite target of the media, who are said to carry a longstanding resentment against her for treating them as a necessary evil at best. In a way, this could be considered fair and balanced treatment.

I’ve had readers comment on my articles saying that it’s not fair to just criticize Republicans for giving us Trump, when the Democrats gave us Clinton, who allegedly stole the nomination. I must be a Clinton-lover, they say. Be fair.

First off, it’s dangerous to make assumptions off one article, whoever the author. Second, we are way beyond that point, people. It’s two months to Election Day. Just as Republicans will have to figure out what they stand for after this election, Democrats will have their day of reckoning with the Bernie Sanders supporters and others who are not fans of Clinton (including me). That’s all to the good and grist for future columns.

But right now, we need to focus on the issue at hand: Donald Trump, is the most dangerously ill-prepared candidate to ever run for president representing a major party. (Please don’t distract me with third party arguments at this point. Aleppo.) Hillary Clinton is one of the most-qualified persons to ever run for president and she is a woman. I submit those as pertinent facts. I don’t have to like Hillary to vote for her; I just have to accept that she is by far the better choice. In fact, the only rational choice.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

And So it Went: Two dysfunctional political families trying to survive

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

 

Hillary and Donald ... heads of the families

    Hillary and Donald
  … heads of the families

By Bob Gaydos

The week began with Donald Trump making inane remarks about always wanting a Purple Heart and arguing with a crying baby. It ended with the Olympics opening to a samba beat in corruption-plagued Brazil. But something else has been rattling around in my brain and I finally figured it out.

For the past decade, the two subjects I have written about more than any others are politics and addiction. While each has its own niche and relevance in the world, I always knew there would come a time when the two merged seamlessly into one. I just didn’t think it would take the most tawdry, depressing, insulting, downright embarrassing presidential campaign in my lifetime for it to happen.

But here we are, my fellow Americans, three months away from having to choose between two of the most disliked candidates in our nation’s history to be the most powerful person on the planet. In 12-step program language: We have become powerless over our political process and our lives are becoming increasingly unmanageable.

At first, I thought this was just a problem for Republicans, many of whom are faced with trying to figure out how to detach from their utterly unmanageable presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Al-Anon, a 12-step program for families and friends of alcoholics, talks of trying to detach from the alcoholic or addict with love. Love the addict, hate the disease, is the rationale.

However, the group’s members also acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary — for self-preservation — to “detach with an ax.” A few members of the Republican family have done so with Trump and more are in the process of getting up the courage to do so.

More on this in a bit.

What finally alerted me to the dual dysfunction of our presidential campaign — my moment of political clarity, if you will — was the FBI deciding not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, for her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

But they cleared her, you say.  Yes, they did. No crime was committed, they say. But they also said she and her staff were incredibly careless and she showed poor judgment in creating this system, which could have compromised classified information. The FBI and State Department both said it did not, but what struck me was Clinton’s need to ignore established — secure — protocol and install a system over which she, at least theoretically, had total control.

This, I recalled, was not new behavior for Clinton. Her political campaigns — for the U.S. Senate in New York and for president — are famous for her efforts to strictly control and limit all interactions with the news media as well as to carefully manage her public appearances. Not too much mingling.

It’s almost as if, when she feels she is in total control of the situation, she feels comfortable, but if she is not, well, who knows what might happen? There is no trust

Why would any intelligent, capable, successful woman have trust issues?

How about a husband who was a serial philanderer? A successful, charming husband who cheated and lied and paid no serious consequences for his actions, no less. This could prompt some controlling, seemingly arrogant, behavior in anyone who opted not to detach, with love or an ax.

Hillary stayed with Bill and today she is the center of attention. He remains visible and is still respected by many, but obviously is no longer a threat to her peace of mind. He may simply have aged out of the erratic behavior. That happens a lot in dysfunctional families. The “non-problem” spouse no longer has to devote all her energies to making things appear to be normal at home; she really is running things.

So when the “kids” in the Democratic family – the Bernie Sanders progressives — started demanding that things have to change at home, she was able to at least listen. Whether she is able, or willing, to make those changes, however, remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen if she can let down those protective walls and show voters a more human side. To continue the arms-length behavior only breeds distrust among people she’s also asking to like her well enough to give her their vote. It’s foolishly self-defeating behavior for a politician.

If Hillary can recognize that shortcoming and if she can grasp that, as head of the family now, she can let up on some of those reins of control and trust others to help her make decisions, and if she can learn to trust herself in non-choreographed situations, life in the Democratic household will be much more serene. Her life will be more serene.

If she cannot, Bill will still be around, but those Sanders kids are likely to leave home, even if it’s a beautiful, white mansion in Washington, D.C.

For Republicans, the situation is starkly different. Daddy Donald has gone off the rails. He listens to no one, says whatever comes into his mind, insults his allies and attacks anyone who isn’t nice (deferential?) to him. His addiction is the constant need for praise. Where is the next applause line coming from? His erratic behavior is not confined to the home either, but rather is out there for the whole world to see. His buddies in the bar love his one-liners. They think he’s a genius. “Hey, Donnie, you oughta go into politics.”

For the family back at home, it is beyond embarrassing.

As  Al-Anon teaches, those who stay with the addicted individual too long can wind up even sicker than the addict. Today’s Republican Party offers ample evidence of that as party leaders on the one hand condemn whatever bigoted, misogynistic, hateful, utterly stupid thing Trump has said that day and on the other hand continue to support him as head of the family. Shhh, don’t make daddy mad.

Rehab is out of the question. Trump listens to no one. The only healthy way out is to remove the addict from the house, or, as appears to be the situation here, to leave him and set up a new house.

That takes courage and, so far, few Republican leaders — indeed few of the rank-and-file — have shown any willingness to do this. Denial is a killer. Inevitably, the detachment must happen if the family is to survive. How much more suffering the Republican family must endure is up to them.

… And so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

And So It Went: Hillary Makes History in Philly, a Farewell to Art in Pine Bush

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

        Undaunted by the oppressive heat and the inability of the Mets and Yankees to hit with runners in scoring position, I press on with the second installment of “And So it Went,” my take on the week that was:

  • Philadelphia. Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, the general, Khizr Khan,
    hillary in philly

    Hillary Clinton

    Barack Obama. Etc. Etc. Etc. Emotion, drama, unity, inclusiveness, humor, compassion, wit, hope, soaring rhetoric, applause, standing ovations. Wow, we’re so much better than they are. … Debbie does e-mails. Putin does e-mails. Who cares about e-mails? The first black president — a Democrat — hands the baton to the first woman-president-to-be — also a Democrat. Huzzah! Hillary! Hillary! C’mon, Bernie fans, cheer! … At least she’s better than Trump.

  • Touching moments. Philadelphia: Bernie Sanders wiping away tears as his brother, also wiping away tears, places the senator’s name in nomination as a Democratic candidate for president of the United States. Cleveland: Ivanka Trump, champion of equal pay, introducing her father as Republican candidate for president; Donald patting his daughter’s behind. (Do we really need to say more?)
  • Meanwhile, back in Pine Bush. This small hamlet in Orange County somehow manages to have two groups promoting local artists, but not enough support to keep
    Tom Bolger

      Tom Bolger

     one, top-notch art gallery in business. Tom Bolger, owner of the Crawford Fine Art Gallery, held a farewell reception last week at which all his favorites artists came to drink some wine, nibble on hors d’oeuvres, commiserate about his closing the gallery and take their works home. Bolger said he was disappointed, but kind of relieved to finally be able to move on. He’s opening a new gallery in nearby Cragsmoor, where he lives. Everyone said that sounded great and wished him luck. If any arts group is looking for a good location for a gallery, there’s one available on Main Street. If you need a landmark, it’s next door to where the barbershop used to be. 

  • Zephyr Teachout. That’s the name of, I hope, my next representative in Congress. Zephyr Teachout. I love just saying it. Someone put a sign up on my road with her name on it. It’s not far from a couple of Trump signs to give you an idea of the neighborhood. A progressive Democrat in the Sanders mold, Teachout was more Zephyr Overreach in 2014 when she challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary. Running for an open seat in Congress is much more realistic and doable. Reach out for Teachout. She can use that slogan if she wants.
  • The Corpse Flower (gag!) blooms in the Bronx. The  Amorphophallus titanum, is described by the New York Botanical Garden as “a horticultural jewel 10 years in the making. Each day of careful tending and feeding has led up to this moment: a brief yet glorious window in which the enormous plant (up to eight feet high) will unfurl, displaying the striking red interior and uncanny scent to which it owes its name.” That “uncanny” scent is universally described as the smell of death. The Botanical Garden held special hours over the weekend for anyone wishing to experience the short-lived bloom first-hand. Thanks anyway, folks, but up here in Pine Bush we have guys who call themselves farmers who spread something that smells like death on their land a lot more regularly than every 10 years. Smell all you want, and it’s free.
  • “Where to Invade Next,” Michael Moore’s latest movie features the writer/actor/director “invading” various countries to claim their best ideas and bring them back to the United States. From Germany, he expropriated the idea of requiring every student to get an hour instruction each day on the history of their country’s actions in World War II. The knowledge of the mass extermination of Jews, gypsies, gays and others in “work camps” is never to be forgotten by young Germans so as not to be repeated, or denied. As fate would have it last week, Pope Francis visited one of the most notorious of those camps, Auschwitz, also to remind the world of what man has done to his fellow man. … It made me think that all Americans would benefit from requiring even a little bit of this kind of regular, honest education in American schools about how Native Americans were (and still are) treated and the unvarnished truth about slavery.
  • Which brings me to Bill O’Reilly. The chief buffoon at Fox News replied to First Lady Michelle Obama’s moving speech at the Democratic Convention, which included her waking up in a house that slaves helped to build, by saying that, while “slavery is an abomination,’’ the slaves who helped build the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings.” He defended these statements by saying they were factual. Yes, but the vital factual point, Bill, is that they were slaves and had no choice. They were property, to be maintained like any machine so as to be in good working order. Kind of like those well-dressed, well-fed, well-paid blondes working at Fox News who had to say Yassa to Massa Roger if they wanted to keep their jobs.
  • Trump is entitled to intelligence briefings. Isn’t that an oxymoron? She’s way better than Trump.

… And so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

16 years … Still Waiting for Hillary

Monday, April 18th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Back in 2000, I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, a daily newspaper based in Middletown, N.Y., Daniel Patrick Moynihan was getting ready to retire from an illustrious career in the United States Senate and Hillary Clinton was packing her bags to move out of the White House.

My activity was part of a well-established routine. Moynihan’s was the logical culmination of a long career in public service to the state of New York. Clinton’s, in a way, was both. Her bag-packing was part of a well-established career plan and the culmination of eight adventurous  years as First Lady. And, the story goes, it had nothing to do with any questionable behavior on her husband’s part.

It turned out the Clintons, in looking for a place to live when Bill’s final term as president ended, had found a cozy, little 11-room château in Westchester County, in New York. It was perfect for the ex-prez and the soon-to-be-junior senator from the state of New York. That was the next step in the well-established plan. Fulfilling the residency requirement.

The fact that neither Clinton had ever lived in New York was never a major problem in Hillary’s senate campaign since New Yorkers had famously welcomed that carpetbagger Bobby Kennedy when he decided he would like to be United States senator from New York before running for president. Now, I saw and heard Bobby Kennedy and trust me, Hillary Clinton never was and never will be a Bobby Kennedy. Nevertheless, the Clintons were warmly welcomed in New York and Hillary was accepted as a candidate for the United States Senate. Her credentials as soon-to-be-former First Lady were enough.

Funny, in many ways that hasn’t changed in 16 years. Her campaign for president today relies to a large extent on a hurry-up resume that sounds a whole lot better than it really is. It’s not for nothing that the words “entitled” and “inevitability” are frequently attached to Clinton’s name.

In any event, there I was, pounding out editorials on a daily basis, there went Pat, as he was called, holding farewell audiences with newspaper editorial boards, and here came Hillary. Except that she never came. If you think elephants have long memories, beware of editorial writers who feel snubbed.

As part of her introduction to New York, Clinton conducted what was called a listening tour. She would travel across the state, she said, to find out what was important to people in the state she knew next-to-nothing about, but which she longed to represent in the United States Senate.

A routine element of most political campaigns is meeting with editorial boards of newspapers, to hear what’s on their minds, to get out the candidate’s message and maybe get an endorsement. In 2000, I had numerous telephone conversations with a woman in Clinton’s campaign who politely assured me, every single time, that “Mrs. Clinton definitely wants to meet with The Record. We’re just figuring out the scheduling.” Or words to that effect.

They’re apparently still figuring it out.

In a major break from the paper’s liberal tradition, The Record wound up endorsing Clinton’s Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, whom she soundly trounced in the election. (Lazio replaced Rudy Giuliani, who withdrew because of marital problems and prostate cancer.) The editorial board’s thinking was that: 1.) Lazio took the time show up; 2.) he answered all our questions apparently as honestly as possible and; 3.) as a member of Congress already, he knew he state’s issues and was capable of handling the job.

Then there was 4.) If Hillary was too important to meet with The Record, how could we be sure she would have the best interests of the residents of the Hudson Valley and Catskills in her consciousness. After all, we were the largest circulation newspaper in the region.

I can already hear the cries of “sour grapes” and that’s OK, because this is not about 2000. It’s about 2016 and the still overwhelming impression in much of the news media that Hillary Clinton regards having to answer questions and explain herself as a major insult, never mind inconvenience. You can be sure her meeting with our editorial board, had it occurred, would have been respectful, but not fawning. Indeed, if her crack staff was as good as advertised in doing its homework, I would not be surprised if they discovered a piece in the New York Post in 1990, in which a former gubernatorial candidate, Pierre Rinfret, called us the “most rude, obnoxious” group he had ever encountered. Or words to that effect.

That’s because Rinfret had no idea what he was talking about and was constantly asked to explain or clarify his remarks.

Hillary Clinton, in my experience, does not like being asked to explain herself. She appears to want to be accepted as is simply because she is. Has she changed sides on an issue? Don’t ask.

A major talking point among her supporters in this presidential campaign is that she knows how to get things done. (The implication being that Bernie Sanders, with a lifetime in government and public service, does not.)

Well, as First Lady, she totally blew Bill’s attempt at universal health care. She supported his tough anti-crime bill, which she now take pains to point out was signed by him, not her. Welfare reform? Same thing. As secretary of state, she helped Barack Obama make Libya a mess, but again, he made the decisions, she reminds us, not she. That Pacific trade bill, Madame Secretary? Barack’s baby.

Which brings me back to New York state, where I still live and write, though not on a daily basis any more. Hillary Clinton served one six-year-term as senator and two years of a second term. Then she quit to run for president because, well, there was a timetable to honor. (Obama messed it up. Now Bernie’s trying to do the same.) But, unless I was in a blackout for eight years, I cannot think of a single major “thing” she “got done” for New Yorkers in that time.

And to this date, I’m not aware that she has ever set foot in Middletown.

 rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

In a Fog of Fiction, Sanders Offers Truth

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Thank god for Bernie Sanders.

You can make that an uppercase God if you prefer. Or keep it lowercase. You can take that sentiment ecumenically, evangelically, spiritually, atheistically, or any manner of religiously. But know this, wherever you place your faith, you must take that sentiment seriously.

Bernie Sanders is the saving grace in what has to be the most embarrassing, humiliating, disheartening and frightening presidential campaign, possibly in our nation’s history.

Quite simply, Sanders is the only candidate in either party who is genuine. When he speaks, I believe him. Millions believe him, because he has no hidden agenda, he is beholden to no one, he has a long history of caring and working for people to whom life has not been kind and for challenging those who have always wanted more than their fair share. A mensch.

In comparison, the Republican campaign has featured a collection of liars, misfits, religious zealots, bigots, charlatans, incompetents and people who cannot spell, much less demonstrate, compassion. It has culminated in Donald Trump, one of the most dangerous, embarrassing figures to emerge in American politics. He is a fascist, racist, misogynist, bully, lawyer, buffoon, and con man. A reality TV show star with no idea how government works, but plenty of experience in driving businesses into bankruptcy. He is probably a certifiable narcissist. And apparently, there is no one in his life who has the guts to say any of this to his face.

His candidacy has allowed all the ugly elements in American society, many of whom reside in the Republican Party, to feel free to voice their hate publicly, to assault and threaten those they fear or those who disagree with them, and, incredibly, to believe that their candidate has any respect for them and their needs. Trump, who makes it up as he goes along, has admitted his supporters come from the least-informed element of society. His campaign, in fact, represents the culmination of decades of cynical posturing by and catering to this element, and now appears to be the demise of, the Republican Party as a responsible political party. It is long overdue.

Not one of the Republican candidates — still standing or fallen by the wayside — can hold a candle to Sanders and not one of them deserves a vote to be president of the United States of America. They are, in toto, a disgrace.

However, the real challenge to Sanders comes not from the Republicans, but from within his own party. The Democratic establishment long ago decided that Hillary Clinton should be its candidate for president this time and has done everything within its power to try to make that happen. This includes setting up a ridiculously limited and unattainable schedule of debates and lining up hundreds of superdelegates to announce their support for her even before a primary was held. This was undoubtedly done to try to overcome Clinton’s well-known handicaps: 1) The fact that she is a lousy campaigner; 2) The reality that a lot of people don’t trust her; and 3) The Clinton history of being very cozy with the people responsible for nearly ruining the nation’s economy.

Forget that, her supporters say. She gets things done. What it is she’s gotten done is never mentioned.

Still, the fact is she leads Sanders in delegates won in the primaries so far and, even with her faults, she is still head and shoulders above any of the Republicans in the race.  This means, however much I respect and prefer Sanders as a presidential candidate, if Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee, I personally have to vote for her against any Republican. It also means I cannot write in a vote for Sanders or anyone else as a protest, because I honestly fear that taking votes away from a Democratic candidate could lead to something as disastrous as a Trump presidency or a Ted Cruz presidency or anyone-else-the-Republican-Party-settles-on presidency. I fear what will happen to this country if a Republican wins the presidency this year and I think the only way to get that message across to a party that has been in denial for decades is to thoroughly defeat it in November. Then let it figure out where to go from there.

It’s not a total sellout. Mitigating my vote for Clinton would be the fact that she actually knows how government works and, as president, she would have a working, viable, responsible political party behind her, a party still on working terms with compassion and science and equality and still dedicated to governing, not merely winning. And that party would have a Bernie Sanders and an Elizabeth Warren and plenty of others in Congress reminding a President Clinton of the promises she made during her campaign to convince all those young, disaffected voters that she could deliver what Bernie Sanders was promising.

Thankfully, though, this campaign is far from over. There are many primaries in northern and western and big states where Sanders has considerable support and could easily win enough delegates to capture the nomination. Bill Clinton did it. Barack Obama did it. Bernie Sanders can do it.

But he’s got another major challenge to overcome in addition to that from within his own party. That is the disrespect shown him by much of the major news media. Despite the tens of thousands who have attended his rallies and donated to his no-Pacs campaign, many news organizations have treated him as an afterthought and a Clinton campaign for president as a foregone conclusion.

That same media also gave Trump free rein to spew his vile hatred and nonsense for months before finally wising up to him. (And it’s not just Fox News that was guilty of this.) The media will have some soul-searching to do after this campaign as well.

So, I look forward to Sanders winning some big states (Hello, California!). And I expect Trump to continue to behave as Frank Bruni put it in the New York Times recently — like an addict who only wants more and more and more attention and will do or say anything to get it. That was my impression of Trump a while back, but Bruni beat me to it in putting it in writing. I agree wholeheartedly with him.

Indeed, I think of Trump as the guy sitting next to you in a bar who turns to you and says, “Hold my beer. Watch this.” He then proceeds to wreck the joint and bloody every person in the place. He exits with a triumphant grin, claiming it was the other guy’s fault.

Clinton, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar, much less drinking beer. She would be found sipping wine or martinis in an Upper East Side penthouse with some Wall Street types who are funding her campaign. They’re talking about how to get the vote of the common folk.

Sanders? He walks into a bar and says, “Hey, let me buy you a beer. Let’s sit down. What can I do for you?”

If I were a drinking man, that’s the guy I would want in the White House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Iowa Caucus Eccentricities: Heads I Win, Bernie, Tails You Lose

Friday, February 5th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Three questions in the wake of whatever it was that just happened in Iowa:

  • Can anyone – preferably a Democrat – tell me what Hillary Clinton stands for? In other words, what is her message?
  • Why do mainstream media assume there’s no way Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, never mind the presidency?
  • Since when does winning an election, or caucus or whatever else you may call it depend on the flip of a coin?

Let’s start with Hillary. As far as I can tell, after 16 years (at least) of running for president, the only message I still hear is that Hillary should be president because she’s been around, she wants it and it’s her turn. She’s been patient through Bill’s years in the White House and she’s been running ever since they had to vacate (penniless, I believe she initially claimed).

Yes, she took time to serve as senator from New York, but that really was necessary to fill out the resume for a presidential run. Being secretary of state was a bittersweet consolation prize for losing the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, who apparently never got the memo that it was Hillary’s turn to run. It certainly topped off her resume.

Yet all I hear is that she’s really smart, has a lot of experience, knows a lot of stuff and will do a good job of running things. Now, that’s clearly more than can be said of pretty much all of the Republican presidential candidates, but she’s not running against any of them yet.

What is she going to do as president? What is she going to change about a system with which Americans of all political persuasions are disenchanted, to say the least? Maybe it’s me, but all I hear is that she’ll do a good job, even a better job, of managing what Obama leaves behind.

 A lot of the major media seem to have bought into this message. That was pretty much the essence of the New York Times editorial endorsing Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Iowa primary. Hillary has the experience to carry on the way we have been carrying on.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the New York Times, and other establishment media that support her candidacy, a lot of Americans don’t seem to want to carry on the way we’ve been carrying on. That’s undoubtedly why a lot of young people, not thrilled with the future being crafted for them, have flocked to the Sanders candidacy

In fact, it seems to be why a lot of people have flocked to a host of Republican candidates who are anything but establishment figures. The fact that virtually all of them aren’t qualified to be president is another matter.

For what it’s worth, I think Obama has done a pretty good job cleaning up the mess left by Bush/Cheney. He’s done this in the face of non-stop resistance from Republicans from his first day in office. There’s no reason to believe that Clinton, no favorite of congressional Republicans, will have any easier time of it in that regard. Furthermore, her ties to the banking industry and corporate America (through Bill and the Clinton Foundation), cast serious doubt on any claim she might make that she is different from Republicans. (Her claim the other night that she is not part of the Democratic Establishment is laughable.)

And, as I recall, she couldn’t get her healthcare plan through a Democratic Congress in Bill’s first term. How does that make her a manager who “gets things done”? It’s a claim that much of major media have apparently accepted as fact because she and her supporters keep saying it: Why Hillary? Because she’s a manager.

Sanders, by contrast, is an “eccentric” senator with “unruly” hair, as he was characterized in an Associated Press story the morning after the Iowa caucus. This was supposedly a straight news story reporting on the outcome of the caucus. There were no adjectives attached to Clinton’s name implying some not-so-subtle judgment. Where were the editors?

Again, maybe it’s just me, but when someone writing in Iowa describes Sanders, with a lifetime in public service, as “eccentric,” I can’t help but wonder if it’s code for 74-year-old Jew who still speaks with the accent of his native Brooklyn. New Yorkers are pretty good at cracking codes.

As for that Iowa vote, what a joke. Clinton claimed victory after edging Sanders by less than three-tenths of a point. Democrats don’t even vote privately in Iowa. They stand in opposite corners and try to convince others to join them. The biggest group gets the delegates from that district. When there’s a tie, they split the delegates — two for you, two for you. But when there’s an odd number of delegate at stake, the odd vote is awarded by flipping a coin. Clinton won six out of six flips — go figure — so she got a couple more delegates than Sanders. Smashing victory.

Even here, major media (NPR even) felt it necessary to weigh in after the fact to educate us that Clinton didn’t win Iowa on coin flips. Rather, they spelled out the entire ridiculously and unnecessarily complicated system by which Iowa Democrats award convention delegates. Seems there’s county delegates and state delegates and who-the-heck cares delegates and formulas for calculating percentage of delegates. It’s a system set up by the establishment to try to control the votes, so that candidates like Bernie Sanders, from Brooklyn via Vermont, can’t win.

But he did. The “virtual tie” was a statement for Sanders against the establishment — Democratic Party and major media.

My humble recommendations:

  • For Clinton: Figure out what you really stand for and tell us. If you think you have to be a shill for banks and corporations in order to be effective as president, tell us why. At least it would be honest.
  • For the major media: Listen and report the facts. Ask questions about real issues. Stop with the horse-race reporting based on polls. Do your job.
  • Iowa Democrats: Have a simple vote, privately, for convention delegates. No coin flips. In case of ties, split the baby, as Solomon said. In this case, it works.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Hillary and a Bunch of GOP Wanna-bes

Friday, June 20th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In recent months, thanks mainly to the Republican Party’s simple-minded policy of anything President Obama does or says we don’t like, I have been lulled into a state of who-gives-a-rat’s-patootie about politics. Really. What’s the point? He says shoot; they say war-monger. He says don’t shoot; they say coward. Hot? Cold. Higher minimum wage? Lower taxes on the rich.

Leave it to the Associated Press, apparently committed to the mission of tracking the stuff no one else cares about, to remind me that Americans have another presidential election coming up soon. Well, not really soon. It’s actually nearly two-and-a-half years from now, but, the AP tells me, there’s no time like the present to catch up on the “movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates.”

More than a dozen? I was flabbergasted. I could think of two Democrats:

  • Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, former senator from New York and former first lady is the odds-on favorite this far in advance of the vote to become the nation’s first woman president. She has the money, the machine, the name, etc. Although some people do hate her.
  • Vice President Joe Biden, who may make a token run against Clinton, but is more likely to step aside as, say, president of the University of Delaware or assume an advisory role in a new Clinton administration.

But the AP tells me there are two other Democratic possibilities:

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. No way. First of all, there is a Cuomo family tradition of not running for president. Second of all, Cuomo served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Bill Clinton’s presidency and so is unlikely to challenge the Clintons. Plus, he’s got time on his side and is a shoo-in for re-election as governor.
  • Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. O’Malley? Who? Maryland? Get real.

Why not Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who at least have national name recognition and ardent supporters? Next!

It’s on the Republican side, though, that I had real trouble grappling with what the AP tells me is reality. My political sensibilities were shocked into a state of numbness as I read the list of possible GOP presidential candidates. Could this possibly be the best the party of Lincoln had to offer? Would any of these men be competent to carry Ike’s golf clubs? I went through the list:

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The supposed “moderate” Republican. His staff shut down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a Democratic politician who wouldn’t support Christie. Everywhere he goes, he has to defend himself against charges of being a bully. Tries to act like a reasonable politician, until you disagree with him. Two-faced. “I Am Not a Bully” does not resonate the same way as “I Like Ike.”
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s between him and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (see below) for dumbest on the list. Renounced his Canadian citizenship to make sure he could run for president, even though he didn’t have to. Canadian citizenship may have been the best thing about him. Led the campaign to shut down the federal government. He doesn’t believe in science or education or government, etc. Thus, a tea party darling. Some Republicans hate him.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Again? Didn’t he demonstrate his intellectual shortcomings in the last campaign? Not big on science, education, health care. He likes to create lots of low-paying (minimum wage or less) jobs to brag about his state’s employment rate and visits other states to poach businesses. What is wrong with Texas?
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Another flameout from last time around. A president named “Bobby?” I don’t think so. Louisianans are among poorest, least educated, unhealthy people in country. He loves the oil industry (hello, Gulf of Mexico residents).
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Actually supported immigration reform until tea party robots attacked him. Now he doesn’t talk about it. Gutsy. Like Jindal, he messed up a big opportunity to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union. Coming up small in big moments is not a desirable trait in a president.
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Again? Another loser from the GOP’s 2012 primary circus. He’s making Christmas movies. He criticized his own party. He’s a religious super-conservative. Why is he even on this list?
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Okay, daddy was a Libertarian and son says he’s not. But he is. Which means there is no consistency. You will love him on some issues, hate him on others. Thinks employers have right to do pretty much anything with employees; opposes use of drones by government. He’s a favorite among tea partiers, for now. Wait until they ask him about penalizing people for smoking marijuana. Plagiarized other people’s words for his newspaper column. Unbending views are not a useful philosophy for governing, especially for the less-fortunate.
  • Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney’s losing running mate for the GOP in 2012. Authored draconian budget cuts in House of Representatives that hurt, yes, the poorest and least fortunate, but did negotiate compromise deal. A favorite of the Wall Street crowd that wrecked the economy. Sometimes irritates tea partiers, but that doesn’t take much. Presidential timber? Plywood.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Hates unions. Is in midst of a scandal about government staff doing campaign work for him. In the Mitt Romney mode of good-looking and seemingly articulate, but had to survive a recall vote.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He’s a Bush. Two is enough. He believes in a sensible immigration policy, which means most Republicans will hate him. He’s on the list because he’s a Bush. We made that mistake already.

So that’s my take on the list of possible presidents, for now. You’ll notice no women on the Republican side. Some of the GOP names will, one hopes drop by the wayside between now and 2015. My even more fervent hope is that some more credible GOP candidates of substance will appear to challenge Clinton.

Maybe the AP can compile a list of those possibilities instead of following all these losers for two years.

 

 

Who Says Corporations are People?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos
While most of the country was going about the business of welcoming the new year and hoping it would be more rewarding than the departing one, an event was taking place in a sparsely populated state in the middle of the country that could have a profound effect on the future political landscape of America.

What? Oh God, no. Not the Iowa caucuses. What a joke that is. Every four years, about 100,000 mostly older, mostly white, mostly conservative, almost certainly evangelical Christians pay their dues, eat a bunch of free food and vote for a Republican who hasn’t got a chance in hell of ever being elected president of the United States. They call it democracy in action. Except for TV news channels, the rest of the country ignores the process, never mind trying to understand it.

No, the big political news was made farther west and north, in an even less-populated state — Montana. In a decision it released late Friday, when no one was paying attention, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the state’s century-old law banning direct corporate spending on political candidates or parties was still valid, despite the 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said corporations have the same rights as individual citizens when it comes to making contributions to candidates.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, control of the political process –candidates, legislation, regulation, entire agendas — by major corporations is the chief problem with the political system in the United States today. Whoever raises the most cash almost always wins and that cash always comes with strings and muzzles attached. Unlimited corporate contributions also inevitably lead to negative, sometimes downright nasty, political advertising because candidates don’t have to affix their names to the ads. They are paid for by corporations and fueled by anonymous sponsors.

Ask Newt Gingrich, who asked his fellow Republican candidates to play nice in Iowa, what he thinks about the nasty ads attacking him paid for by groups that support Mitt Romney. Newt simply called Mitt a liar directly.

Romney, of course, has famously said that “corporations are people, too.” Funny about that. The Montana court ruled 5-2 against that view and perhaps the most powerful argument against the corporations-are-people argument came from one of the dissenting judges.

Justice James C. Nelson, one of my new heroes, dissented because he does not think the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission allows for states to exempt themselves from it. But he left no doubt where he stood on the matter of equal rights for corporations:

“Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people — human beings — to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government.

“Worse still, while corporations and human beings have many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.”

Montana’s long opposition to corporate spending in politics stems from a time when copper and coal industries dominated the sparsely populated state, using their vast resources to buy elections. The case involved a corporate alliance that did massive fundraising based on the lure of no one ever knowing who donated to their cause. It’s what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about today — the vast disparity in control of the political system and government with the richest 1 percent of the population dominating the agenda.

Montana gets it. The hope is that other states will follow suit. The immediate hoped-for effect is that the American Traditions Partnership will appeal the ruling, saying that the federal court’s ruling applies to state laws as well. That would set up a test case in the
U.S. Supreme Court.

One senator isn’t waiting for that to happen. With this year’s campaign spending by “non-political” groups sure to approach $1 billion, Vermont’s independent Bernard Sanders has introduced the Saving American Democracy Act. It would set up a process for a constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United ruling. The amendment would make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights, that they cannot contribute to election campaigns, that they are subject to regulation and that Congress and the state can regulate election campaign spending. The New York City Council voted Wednesday to support the amendment. The Working Families Party is circulating a petition on the issue. Other groups are planning protests for Jan. 21, the second anniversary of the Citizens United ruling.

Overturning the ruling will not be a quick or easy process, but it has to start somewhere. Big Sky country sound like a perfect place.