4 Reasons Sanders Can Win The General Election

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By Jedediah Purdy
Huffington Post (2/9/16)

The New Hampshire primaries, which Bernie Sanders is winning by seventeen points at the time of writing, are the first test of the Clinton campaign’s signature attack on Sanders: that he can’t win the general election, so a vote for him is a vote for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Sanders’s large victory suggests that the Clinton strategy didn’t work, at least not yet.

But are the Clintons right? Could Sanders win the general election?

Over the weekend, Paul Krugman continued his New York Timescampaign against Sanders in a column (on his New York Timesblog) citing a Vox article that quoted six academics expressing doubts about Sanders’s prospects in a general election. It was part of Krugman’s larger crusade to convince readers that voting for Sanders would be an irresponsible capitulation to the heart in a season when the head should be in charge.

I was one of those six “experts.” I said that it’s hard to realign a party ideologically in a single election: It took 16 years for the New Right to go from Barry Goldwater’s loss in 1964 to Ronald Reagan’s win in 1980. And I still think that. But I think there are some very sensible reasons weighing on the pro-Sanders side of the equation.

Here they are.

1. Energy and turnout:
Sanders inevitably gets compared to Obama ’08, and the Iowa Democratic caucus turnout (a bit lower than in 2008) suggested he may not have quite the same wave going yet; but the relevant comparator is obviously not Obama ’08 but Clinton ’16, and there’s a straightforward case that Sanders’s supporters would continue to be more on fire and mobilized in the general than hers. He certainly seems to be winning the enthusiasm race in the primaries. Also, it is possible, though a wild card, that Sanders might energize some of the formerly Democratic working-class voters who haven’t gone Republican, but have just stopped voting.

2. The more they know him…:
It’s been easy to say that Iowa and NH are welcoming states for Sanders, but they didn’t look that way a year ago. He’s come from way, way behind in both, and was almost universally regarded as a token candidate until sometime in the late fall. So, where voters have actually thought about the campaign, he’s done extraordinarily well.

Skeptics tend to say there are two limits to this expansion of Sanders’s appeal: ideological and demographic. Let’s take them in turn.

3. Ideological:
Yes, some 50 percent of voters say they wouldn’t vote for a socialist; but a lot of those are people who haven’t thought about the word since the 1970s. We should take this profession of hostility even less seriously than pundits have taken the large share of young voters who say they like socialism, the Iowa Dems who say they identify as socialist, etc.

The term “socialist” is a wide-open one now, on account of a whole generation growing up with no memory of the Cold War, and on account of the Republicans’ degrading it in attacks on Obama as a “socialist.” You can bet that somewhere between half and three-quarters of those “I’d-never” voters are people who mean, “I’d never vote for that Obama!” Others may come to a different opinion when they realize Sanders is basically an FDR Democrat. And they may come to realize, now that the country increasingly admits that inequality and insecurity are very serious problems and that our eagerness for intervention abroad has been a disaster, they are ready for an FDR Democrat again.

4. Demographic:
The race question is an untested canard against Sanders at this point. Nearly everyone who has voted for him is white — they’re in Iowa and New Hampshire! Voters elsewhere aren’t paying much attention yet. There’s more than a little condescension in the common assumption that non-white voters are loyal to the Clintons, or to political machines that are wired into the Clinton apparatus. Recently, South Carolina numbers showed Sanders gaining ground faster among black voters than whites. We’ll just have to see.

It’s clear that Sanders’s proposals on the racial aspects of criminal justice, education, infrastructure and health care, to name a few, would mean a great deal for many black voters (who disproportionately lack wealth and live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty). These agenda items both continue the tradition of Dr. King’s democratic socialism and coincide with the positions of groups like the NAACP and North Carolina’s black-led, interracial Moral Mondays movement. If we agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the interests and priorities of black voters, not myths about them, are where we should start our analysis, Sanders seems awfully well positioned to get a hearing. The same goes for Latinos, who are heavily represented in the service unions and new labor efforts, like the Fight for 15, which have more interests and ideals in common with Sanders than with Clinton.

An afterthought on my suggestion that the 16 years between Goldwater’s loss (1964) and Reagan’s win (1980) suggests a one-cycle realignment is a tall order: That was a time of more stable party loyalties and a Democratic party that was more mainstream. The fact that the Republicans have gone far to the right while public sentiment has gone into flux but opened up to “socialist” ideas suggests an unusually fluid set of possibilities.

Finally, we should take seriously that this is a strange year, and remember that the events that have us asking about Sanders’s viability in the general were big surprises. The smart money, so-called, didn’t expect us to come to this point. So some epistemic humility and openness to further democratic surprise are in order!

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It’s Not Just Water That’s Poisoning Our Kids; It’s Also Our Poisoned Democracy

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Environmentalism and democracy demand: transparency, accountability and stewardship.

By Raffi Cavoukian
The Guardian (2/8/16)

What in the water is going on in North America?

In Flint, Michigan, people were unknowingly forced to drink lead-contaminated water for months after Governor Rick Snyder’s administration decided to save money by changing families’ water source from treated Detroit municipal water to the polluted Flint River. The river water contained a variety of biological and other contaminants which, when inappropriately treated with chlorine, apparently caused lead to leach from the ageing city pipes and into the drinking water.

More than 100,000 Flint residents have now been subjected to lead poisoning, a very serious developmental hazard for children; documents emerging from the state government indicate that Snyder and senior members of his administration were apprised of the problems with the water and residents’ complaints but dismissed them for months as children were being poisoned. Film-maker Michael Moore has called for Snyder’s arrest and prosecution; others have called for his immediate resignation.

But the people of Flint are not alone.

Poisoning the land & water

A town in Canada’s west coast province of British Columbia is outraged at provincial environment minister Mary Polak, who granted a new facility a 50-year permit to dump up to 100,000 tonnes of toxic soils per year on the watershed of Shawnigan Lake, a drinking water source for a lakeside community of 12,000. (The hazardous chemicals allowed on the permit include dioxins, furans, styrene and chlorinated hydrocarbons.) For over three years, the town’s folk have adamantly opposed the permit. Yet the trucks keep hauling in the poison.

Minister Polak ignored the caution of nine independent scientists and awarded the toxics permit.

Why would a Minister of Environment impose a contamination threat on a town’s water supply? How can people’s basic right to clean water be ignored?

Democracy, it seems, has been failed dismally by those sworn to uphold it.

A July 2015 meeting at Shawnigan Lake drew 450 townsfolk; Polak didn’t show up. In fact, she has not once set foot in the community she has endangered. Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Andrew Weaver called her misconduct a “profound and persistent dereliction of duty”.

There are calls for the minister’s resignation and, if she won’t do her sworn duty to protect watershed gems like Shawnigan Lake, she must step down.

Surprisingly, not one member of the BC Liberal government has called the toxic dump permit into question: premier Christy Clark has been silent on this public health issue affecting 12,000 people and so has the minister of health.

Why we weep

In the words of Sonia Furstenau, Shawnigan Lake area director: “I weep because each day we lose more faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect us. A company being allowed by our government to dump contaminated soil in our watershed is an affront to democracy. And it is a threat to our survival as a community.”

In Flint and in Shawnigan Lake, we have a failure of democracy, of values and of conscience.

In the US, part of the problem is that democracy has collapsed into oligarchy. “The game is rigged,” says Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren. Former president Jimmy Carter agrees. Maybe that is why presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has gained huge support campaigning for a revolution in US politics. He urges Americans to take back their country from the few billionaires whose undue power and influence has grown to control the mainstream media and even the US Congress.

In Canada, at least, the secretive and undemocratic Stephen Harper era is finally over, and the new Justin Trudeau regime has much to undo. Environmental protection suffered under Harper’s gag order on scientists and his slashing of government agency budgets. In sharp contrast, Trudeau’s vow to pursue “sunny ways” and run responsible government is a breath of fresh air.

British Columbia’s provincial government, however, seems out of touch with the times. People are fed up with corporate lobbyists and tax breaks for the rich; they resent balanced budgets at the expense of teachers and much-needed social programs. What’s needed is a people’s government, one that respects its social and environmental duties.

A water scandal at Shawnigan Lake can be a litmus test for BC voters. We have an opportunity to say no to an abusive government, and to say yes to a lakeside town protecting its water supply and way of life.

The young children of Flint and Shawnigan Lake are part of the same family. They are humans in their formative years, most vulnerable to the minutest presence of environmental toxins. They deserve priority protection from harms that can have lifelong consequences.

Compassion is the hallmark of an enlightened society, and governors and premiers have a duty to put children first. Cabinet ministers and agency directors are sworn to uphold the mandates of their offices.

Local, regional and federal governments must show that they understand what environmental sustainability and democracy demand: transparency, accountability and stewardship. There’s no other way forward. We, the people, will remain vigilant. We will stand for our rights. We will not be denied.

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Suing Families Of Slain Black Youths Is Brutal Racial Capitalism At Its Most Grotesque

By Steven W. Thrasher
The Guardian (2/11/16)

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for a Cleveland police officer to shoot 12-year-old Tamir Rice less than two seconds after arriving on-scene in 2014 and handcuff his sister when she tried to help him, nor for his mother to be left homeless in 2015 as she waited months for an investigation. It wasn’t enough for Cleveland to actually blame the little boy for his own death, or to present multiple reports which found his killing to be “reasonable”.

On Wednesday, in a letter submitted by the city’s Director of Law Barbara Langhenry, the City of Cleveland actually sued Tamir’s family for $500, which it claims is “past due – owing for emergency medical services rendered as the decedent’s last dying expense”, according to Cleveland Scene.

In the creditor’s claim, the line item expenses coldly break down to $450 for “Advance Ambulance Life Support” – dispatched after Cleveland officers “waited minutes to give first aid” to the boy one of them had shot – and another $50 for “mileage”.

In the coming days, we will likely hear that the city had no choice but to sue the Rice estate, that Cleveland is justified by the very economic and faux moral argument which scoundrels unleash in such scenarios (and which David Graeber tears apart in Debt: The First 5,000 Years): that “one has to pay one’s debts”.

Racial capitalism at it’s worst

But make no mistake: viewing Tamir as a debtor to a society which killed him is racial capitalism at its worst, which Nancy Leong calls “the process of deriving social or economic value from the racial identity of another person”.

It is the second such grotesque lawsuit against a dead black boy in less than a week by a party charged with his death. Just a few days ago, Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo sued the estate of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier for $10m. According to CNN, the lawsuit alleges that “LeGrier’s actions had forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier’s life, and to accidentally take the innocent life of [bystander] Bettie Jones,” which “has caused, and will continue to cause, Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma”.

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(Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2016. Open source and free to use with link to www.thedailycall.org )

This again is vulgar racial capitalism: an attempt to extract as much value as possible from black lives, even by those which abuse or terminate them.

In between news of both of these lawsuits, the United States federal government announced that it is suing the city of Ferguson, which attorney General Loretta Lynch said came about after “painstaking negotiations [that] lasted more than 26 weeks as we sought to remedy literally years of systematic deficiencies”. Racial capitalism was at work here, too, as Ferguson shamefully had paid its bills for years by arresting and fining black people and even throwing them in (supposedly unconstitutional) debtors’ prisons. When Ferguson’s “city council rejected the consent decree approved by their own negotiators”, Lynch said, the federal government had no choice but to sue them to comply.

At least this last lawsuit is filed in the name of justice for black people and, according to the Washington Post, the odds are in the feds’ favor: Since the beating of Rodney King in 1991, the Justice Department has launched 67 civil rights investigations against local police forces, and it won all but one of them.

But it is depressing that when something terrible happens to black people, our lives can be reduced to the clinical scale of dollar amounts and court filings.

“The records which slavers have left are remarkable for one thing,” historian Toby Green writes in The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300 – 1589: “their extremely narrow economic focus.” In describing the cold, quantitative and monetary records those in the slave trade left of the human beings they owned, trafficked and sold, Green writes : “Those documents reveal a mindset uninterested in the world beyond the narrow perimeters of profit and survival.”

When the historians of the future look at Cleveland’s lawsuit against a dead black child or a Chicago cop’s lawsuit against a dead teenager, will they, too, think that – when it comes to black lives mattering – we have a mindset “uninterested in the world beyond the narrow perimeters of profit and survival”? That our records render meaningless the lives of the black humans to mere dollars?

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TTIP Enters New And Dangerous Stage As Democracy Is Secretly Dismantled

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It comes to something when one has to rely on Wikileaks, whistleblowers and alternative news outlets to find out what is happening behind the closed doors of politicians, who can only be seen as corrupt in every sense of the word.

By Graham Vanbergen
True Publica (1/26/16)

TTIP negotiations continue in the shadows in both America and the EU and they enter a new and dangerous stage as existing legal barriers that would inhibit certain types of (harmful) trade are dismantled in favour of a new set of rules termed ‘regulatory cooperation’. It sounds collaborative, it is, but just not in the public interest.

What this really means is that decades of regulations passed by governments, legislated upon for public interest and safety reasons are being swept aside. These new regulations that the public and journalists are barred from being a party to include the demolition of environmental protections, safety at work regulations, food safety and other laws designed to protect and defend public safety.

Any new regulations that EU states would want to impose in future are now facing considerable barriers and hurdles that could take years to negotiate and the system is clearly being designed to be onerous and just plain difficult to favour corporate interests above public interest.

Corporate Observatory, whose raison d’être is exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU has recently published its latest report “Dangerous Regulatory Duet” which exposes how a new framework being implemented under regulatory cooperation through TTIP will allow bureaucrats and big business to attack the public interest.

Destroying safeguards

The report highlights some examples of how big business and the governments of America and the EU have conspired to destroy these safeguards. Here are some excerpts from this lengthly and enlightening report:

Recently, the European Court of Justice struck down the so-called Safe Harbour agreement, which was concocted under what is termed “regulatory cooperation”. The Court argued that the agreement did not safeguard citizens’ rights to data privacy.

In 2004, big US financial institutions managed to secure an agreement that would allow them to operate in the EU while being monitored by US supervisory authorities. As a consequence, when the financial crisis reached its peak in 2008, it was revealed that neither US nor EU financial authorities had any idea what assets the US insurance giant AIG had on its books. The collapse of this corporation marked a key drama in the crisis, and led to a bailout of 186 billion dollars.

A proposal on ‘electroscrap’ chemical waste was watered down in 2002. It can be argued that the precautionary principle was sidelined in this case, as the final version made it impossible for member states to adopt a ban even when a substance is deemed dangerous.

A proposal to move faster on ozone-depleting substances was struck down in 2000.

The EU’s ban on testing cosmetics on animals, ready to adopt in 1993, was delayed for 15 years thanks to ‘regulatory cooperation’.

EU climate policy has also been targeted. The EU’s 2013 proposal that airlines should pay for emissions was immediately attacked and effectively stopped by the US. Although the idea of ‘pricing carbon’ in this way was never a promising solution, the affair shows that ‘regulatory cooperation’ can also be dangerous for climate policies.

Ambitious proposals may not even be tabled by the Commission if they go against the interests of US corporations. Certain Commissioners and their civil servants have more clout, especially those working on trade and industrial policy. Conversely, those parts of the Commission entrusted with for example environmental matters are weakened.

The European Parliament is disempowered, will have a harder time being heard by the Commission, and will have less influence over the implementation phase of rulemaking. The power of bureaucrats in the EU institutions is boosted, and they are allowed to make crucial decisions on existing and future regulation.

Last but by no means least, ‘regulatory cooperation’ can lead to decisions that sidestep cornerstones of existing EU legislative acts, and even the Treaty on European Union.

These are just a few of the issues being raised not just by Corporate Observatory but by pressure groups, petitions and activists, none of whom are being recognised as more representative of the people of Europe who are unanimously agreed on one thing – TTIP is a bad thing for the people of Europe.

Sidestepping the ballot box

This agreement undoubtedly has profound implications for hard won democratic rights all over continental Europe [And here in the United States. Daily Call Editor]. It comes to something when one has to rely on Wikileaks, whistleblowers and alternative news outlets to find out what is happening behind the closed doors of politicians, who can only be seen as corrupt in every sense of the word.

This treaty is unlikely to be passed in 2016 but after decades of work by the American administration and the unelected bureaucrats of the European Commission it has already raised some very serious questions by the public about where the power of the world really lies today. Cleary, that is no longer at the ballot box but in boardrooms.

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Milwaukee Dem Debate Rigged, Just Like The Establishment State Party

By Puddytat
Daily Kos (2/12/16)

I LIVE in the Milwaukee area, so you’d think I could manage to wrangle a ticket to tonight’s [2/11] debate, right? Wrong! The closest I could come was the chance of “winning” a ticket via the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s donation request email. I entered for my change of winning the ONE ticket they offered. Never heard from them. I guess I lost. Maybe I should have donated a pile of money to boost my odds.

The debate was held at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. You think UWM students could get a ticket? Wrong! They had to register for a lottery and then only 25 tickets were handed out to the lucky “winners”.

So….who WAS in the audience? Beats me. Certainly not activists or ordinary citizens. I suspect they were State Party loyalists and hangers-on. Martha Lanning, chair of the Wis Dems, like other members of the establishment, has already endorsed HRC. Otherwise, it was 25 lucky UWM students and 1 lucky winner of the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s email donation contest.

The game was rigged, my friends. Just like the rest of our Democracy has been.

Felling the Bern at home rather than sitting at the Debate.

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Time For Chelsea Clinton’s Easy Ride To Come To An End


Why is the press treating a wealthy, well-connected 35-year-old political operative like she’s still a little White House kid?

When precisely did Chelsea Clinton complete her transition from a White House kid whom journalists agreed to treat as off-limits to a public figure deserving of the full scrutiny of the press corps?

The unsettling answer to the question appears to be, “Not yet.” The soon-to-be 36-year-old occupies the status of an American princess—Diana on the Potomac, if you will. The press covers her, of course, attempting to ask her substantive questions, but mostly she exists to grace the covers of magazines—Fast Company and Elle most recently—and be treated to lighter-than-air puff pieces.

Few object to the cone of deference the press places over the actual children who reside in the White House, or their parents’ attempts to construct a privacy zone around them. Even after White House kids are no longer minors and move on to college, as Chelsea did in 1997, most reporters and editors resist covering them as news in themselves. Unless a White House kid breaks the law, takes measures to make their private profile public, or otherwise becomes “newsworthy” (is injured in an accident, is stalked, etc.), the press basically turns a blind eye.

But at some point—early adulthood—the general immunity from critical coverage needs to end. The threshold for newsworthiness recedes, and the children of presidents become more like the siblings, cousins, uncles and parents of presidents. In other words, if one of President Barack Obama’s daughters got busted for drunk driving, few would expect saturation coverage from the press. But, say, had Obama’s Boston aunt gotten arrested for drunk driving before she died in 2014, there would have been no reason for the press to turn a blind eye. Chelsea Clinton should be treated no more royally than the Nixon daughters, Susan Ford, Amy Carter, the Gore children, or the Bush and Reagan progeny.

Big money

The coverage threshold falls lower still if a grown-up White House kid expands her own public profile, as Chelsea Clinton most definitely has. She has maintained a role as adviser and advocate inside the Clinton family’s political dynasty since leaving Stanford University. In late 2011, she crossed over to the dark and often invasive art of journalism, working at NBC News as a special correspondent ($600,000/year) until August 2014 [Check out that salary for a beginning “correspondent”. I worked in journalism almost 20 years and I can assure you Chelsea’s paycheck was completely out of bounds. — DC Editor]. Today, Chelsea serves as vice chair of the politically controversial Clinton Foundation, which has raised $2 billion since 2001. She’s a board member at Barry Diller’s IAC (paid a reported $300,000 a year, plus stock awards). She charges $65,000 per speech. Last fall, she published a book on “empowerment” for kids. She’s powerful. She exercises influence. She’s all grown up, soon to be the mother of two. If she isn’t newsworthy, nobody is.

As is her right, Chelsea picks and chooses how to respond to the press. Had you lived through the White House sex scandals as she did, you might not have affection for the press, either. For years, when approached by reporters asking questions, she would politely demur. In 2007, while stumping for her mother’s presidential campaign, shaking hands with voters and posting for photos, Chelsea spun her advocacy from the softest cotton—with no message exceeding the “vote for my mom, she’s the best” variety. She worked hard, traveling thousands of highway miles, visiting more than 100 campuses and dialing up to 60 names a day in support of the Clinton campaign.

But she refused to talk to the press, famously brushing off a fourth-grader from Scholastic News at a campaign event who asked her an innocuous political question.

“I’m sorry,” Chelsea said. “I don’t talk to the press and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you’re cute.”

Warning calls from Clinton Command & Control HQ

As Vanity Fair reported, in early 2008 the Clinton campaign placed “warning calls” to David Shuster, then at MSNBC, the day after he asked her a couple of questions (that went unanswered) at a campaign event. Chelsea, age 27, was off-limits, the campaign said.

As the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign gathered steam, Chelsea agreed to sit for interviews with the press, but most of them were of the softball variety with Fusion, Ellen DeGeneres and Extra. But whenever the questions turn probing, Chelsea tends to shut down. At a April 2015 Council on Foreign Relations forum in New York, ABC News anchor Juju Chang asked her to respond to the news stories that criticized the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising methods. “Not surprisingly, Chelsea punted,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove about the session. Instead, she discussed all the good work the foundation does. Grove continued, “Needless to say, I was thwarted in my efforts to ask Chelsea a follow-up question as she left the building after patiently greeting a receiving line of admirers.”

A similar thing happened last fall on the Today show after Savannah Guthrie asked Chelsea how she felt about poll results in which respondents linked Hillary Clinton to the words “dishonest,” “untrustworthy” and “liar.” Chelsea retreated into the realm of the non-answer. “I’m not a pundit, I’m a daughter,” she said, and spoke instead of how proud she was to have Hillary as her mother.

Perhaps Chelsea avoids serious talks with the press because she’s smart enough to know that words betray her when she speaks extemporaneously, as she did in the middle of January when a young voter asked her how to mobilize young American’s for the Clinton campaign. Chelsea dug a hole, jumped into it, and dug deeper to attack Bernie Sanders as someone who wants to “dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare and private insurance.”

Mostly False

Such Democrats as former Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod were appalled by Chelsea’s reckless charge. PolitiFact rated Chelsea’s comment as “Mostly False“ as it “makes it sound like Sanders’ plan would leave many people uninsured, which is antithetical to the goal of Sanders’ proposal: universal health care.”

Sharp rebukes came almost immediately from With All Due Respect’s John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Halperin repeatedly pronounced himself “stunned” by the attack. Heilemann called the jab “historic,” continuing to say that it was “disingenuous” and “just a lie” that Sanders seeks to strip health care from people. The duo relit the fire the following day, as Halperin declared himself perplexed by the “lack of interest that most of the news world had to her remarks.” He added, “As far as we could tell, very few of our media colleagues were as blown away by Chelsea’s rhetoric as we were.” Heilemann responded that the show “got a lot of blowback” for having ripped Chelsea’s comments the previous day, and attributed the media complacency to the “muscle memory” acquired by the media over the years that instructs them to instinctively treat White House kids as off-limits no matter how old they are.

“There’s little doubt that today, what some in the Clinton orbit call the ‘invisible hand of Chelsea’ shapes almost every significant decision her parents make,” wrote POLITICO’s Kenneth P. Vogel last April in a feature story about the political scion. The time for treating her as a fragile kid has long passed. Nor does she occupy some ceremonial function as international goodwill ambassador that places her beyond reproach. She’s an educated (Stanford, Columbia, Oxford), mature, wealthy, campaign surrogate and a well-connected ex-journalist who knows the score. “I had very much led a deliberately private life for a long time, and now I’m attempting to lead a purposely public life,” as she told CNN in 2013.

Chelsea Clinton deserves no special treatment from the press, and from what I can tell, she no longer expects it. “I’m really grateful I grew up in a house in which media literacy was a survival skill,” she said upon becoming an NBC News correspondent in 2011. Nobody put it better than Halperin last month when he said, “The notion of laying off her seems ridiculous. Fair coverage, but not no coverage.”

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The Great American Stickup: “It Was the Economy, Stupid”— How Bill Clinton’s Neoliberalism Caused The 2008 Crash


Bill Clinton’s role was decisive in turning Ronald Reagan’s obsession with an unfettered free market into law.

By Robert Scheer
Truthdig (9/16/10)

Book Excerpt: The Great American Stickup  Chapter 1 Part II

Since the collapse happened on the watch of President George W. Bush at the end of two full terms in office, many in the Democratic Party were only too eager to blame his administration. Yet while Bush did nothing to remedy the problem, and his response was to simply reward the culprits, the roots of this disaster go back much further, to the free-market propaganda of the Reagan years and, most damagingly, to the bipartisan deregulation of the banking industry undertaken with the full support of “liberal” President Clinton. Yes, Clinton. And if this debacle needs a name, it should most properly be called “the Clinton bubble,” as difficult as it may be to accept for those of us who voted for him.

Clinton, being a smart person and an astute politician, did not use old ideological arguments to do away with New Deal restrictions on the banking system, which had been in place ever since the Great Depression threatened the survival of capitalism. His were the words of technocrats, arguing that modern technology, globalization, and the increased sophistication of traders meant the old concerns and restrictions were outdated. By “modernizing” the economy, so the promise went, we would free powerful creative energies and create new wealth for a broad spectrum of Americans—not to mention boosting the Democratic Party enormously, both politically and financially.

And it worked: Traditional banks freed by the dissolution of New Deal regulations became much more aggressive in investing deposits, snapping up financial services companies in a binge of acquisitions. These giant conglomerates then bet long on a broad and limitless expansion of the economy, making credit easy and driving up the stock and real estate markets to unseen heights. Increasingly complicated yet wildly profitable securities—especially so-called over-the-counter derivatives (OTC), which, as their name suggests, are financial instruments derived from other assets or products—proved irresistible to global investors, even though few really understood what they were buying. Those transactions in suspect derivatives were negotiated in markets that had been freed from the obligations of government regulation and would grow in the year 2009 to more than $600 trillion.

Beginning in the early ‘90s, this innovative system for buying and selling debt grew from a boutique, almost experimental, Wall Street business model to something so large that, when it collapsed a little more than a decade later, it would cause a global recession. Along the way, only a few people possessed enough knowledge and integrity to point out that the growth and profits it was generating were, in fact, too good to be true.

Until it all fell apart in such grand fashion, turning some of the most prestigious companies in the history of capitalism into bankrupt beggars, all the key players in the derivatives markets were happy as pigs in excrement. At the bottom, a plethora of aggressive lenders was only too happy to sign up folks for mortgages and other loans they could not afford because those loans could be bundled and sold in the market as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). The investment banks were thrilled to have those new CDOs to sell, their clients liked the absurdly high returns being paid—even if they really had no clear idea what they were buying—and the “swap” sellers figured they were taking no risk at all, since the economy seemed to have entered a phase in which it had only one direction: up.

Of course, this was ridiculous on the face of it. Could it really be so easy? What was the catch? Never mind that, you spoiler! Not only were those making the millions and billions off the OTC derivatives market ecstatic, so were the politicians, bought off by Wall Street, who were sitting in the driver’s seat while the bubble was inflating. With credit so easy, consumers went on a binge, buying everything in sight, which in turn was a boon to the bricks-and-mortar economy. Blown upward by all this “irrational exuberance,” as then Federal Reserve Bank chair Alan Greenspan noted in one of his more honest moments, the stock market soared, creating the era of e-trade and a middle-class that eagerly awaited each quarterly 401(k) report.

Later, in the rubble, consumer borrowers would be scapegoated for the crash. This is the same logic as blaming passengers of a discount airline for their deaths if it turned out the plane had been flown by a monkey. Shouldn’t they have known they should pay more? In reality, the gushing profits of the collateralized debt markets meant the original lenders had no motive to actually vet the recipients—they wouldn’t be trying to collect the debt themselves anyway. Instead, they would do almost anything to entreat consumers to borrow far beyond their means, reassuring them in a booming economy they’d be suckers not to buy, buy, buy.

That this madness was allowed to develop without significant government supervision or critical media interest, despite the inherent instability and predictable future damage of a system of growth predicated on its own inevitability, is a tribute to the almost limitless power of Wall Street lobbyists and the corruption of political leaders who did their bidding while sacrificing the public’s interest.

While much has been made of the baffling complexity of the new market structures at the heart of the banking meltdown, there were informed and prescient observers who in real time saw through these gimmicks. The potential for damage was thus known inside the halls of power to those who cared to know, if only because of heroines like gutsy regulator Brooksley Born, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996 to 1999. When they attempted to sound the alarm, however, they were ignored, or worse. Simply put, the rewards in both financial remuneration and advanced careers were such that those in a position to profit went along with great enthusiasm. Those who objected, like Born, were summarily crushed.

Of the leaders responsible, five names come prominently to mind: Alan Greenspan, the longtime head of the Federal Reserve; Robert Rubin, who served as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration; Lawrence Summers, who succeeded him in that capacity; and the two top Republicans in Congress back in the 1990s dealing with finance, Phil Gramm and James Leach.

Arrayed most prominently against them, far, far down the DC power ladder, were two female regulators, Born and Sheila Bair (an appointee of Bush I and II and retained as FDIC chair by Obama). They never had a chance, though; they were facing a juggernaut: The combined power of the Wall Street lobbyists allied with popular President Clinton, who staked his legacy on reassuring the titans of finance a Democrat could serve their interests better than any Republican.

Clinton’s role was decisive in turning Ronald Reagan’s obsession with an unfettered free market into law. Reagan, that fading actor recast so effectively as great propagandist for the unregulated market—“get government off our backs” was his patented rallying cry—was far more successful at deregulating smokestack industries than the financial markets. It would take a new breed of “triangulating” technocrat Democrats to really dismantle the carefully built net designed, after the last Great Depression, to restrain Wall Street from its pattern of periodic self-immolations.

Clinton betrayed the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms that capitalism needed to be saved from its own excess in order to survive, that the free market would remain free only if it was properly regulated in the public interest. The great and terrible irony of capitalism is that if left unfettered, it inexorably engineers its own demise, through either revolution or economic collapse. The guardians of capitalism’s survival are thus not the self-proclaimed free-marketers, who, in defiance of the pragmatic Adam Smith himself, want to chop away at all government restraints on corporate actions, but rather liberals, at least those in the mode of FDR, who seek to harness its awesome power while keeping its workings palatable to a civilized and progressive society.

Government regulation of the market economy arose during the New Deal out of a desire to save capitalism rather than destroy it. Whether it was child labor in dark coal mines, the exploitation of racially segregated human beings to pick cotton, or the unfathomable devastation of the Great Depression, the brutal creativity of the pure profit motive has always posed a stark challenge to our belief that we are moral creatures. The modern bureaucratic governments of the developed world were built, unconsciously, as a bulwark, something big enough to occasionally stand up to the power of uncontrolled market forces, much as a referee must show the yellow card to a young headstrong athlete.

Link to Story

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Pope Fail: Speak No Evil — Vatican Slams The Lid On Talking About Sex Abuse

The pope’s special commission to root out sex abuse in the church goes from bad to worse as one monsignor tells new bishops they’re under no obligation to report abuse to police.

By Barbie Latza Nadeau
The Daily Beast (2/11/16)

ROME — One might think that a commission designed to rid the Catholic Church of its predator priests and try to heal decades of suffering by sex abuse victims might actually be involved in, well, doing just that.

On the contrary, it would seem that Pope Francis’s special Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that he created in 2014 is not exactly getting its hands dirty when it comes to actually teaching bishops how to deal with the problems it has been tasked to deal with.

Writing in The Boston Globe’s Crux website, Vatican expert John Allen points an accusatory finger at the commission, led by a prominent Boston cardinal.

“What’s the point of creating a commission to promote best practices, and putting one of the Church’s most credible leaders on the abuse issue, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, in charge of it, and yet not having it address the new leaders who will have to implement those practices?” Allen asks on the heels of the commission’s third meeting in Rome, which wrapped up last weekend.

Shifting responsibility

During the conference, as Allen first reported, a French monsignor with controversial views on homosexuality argued that bishops should have no obligation to report abuse of minors and that the onus should fall on victims and their families.

To be fair, the church does have a training program that has been in place for 15 years for new bishops to learn about theology and therapy for perverted priests. Allen says around 30 percent of the prelates worldwide have taken the course, which is a fairly high number considering how large the Catholic church is and how far into the margins many of its parishes are.

The problem, though, is that the training course in place is not being updated or in any way improved by the presence of the special commission, which, one might think, would consider teaching new bishops how to spot and handle abuse a top priority.

It’s not clear whether there is just a lapse when it comes to integrating commissions and groups that actually do the work, or if it is because of a more intentional oversight. Before the commission started its meetings last week, they secretly gathered at the Santa Marta Domus, where Pope Francis lives, to watch the Academy Award-nominated movie Spotlight, about The Boston Globe’s stellar reporting on exposing the sex abuse scandal in the Boston diocese.

The news of the “unofficial screening” came out when Peter Saunders, one of two child sex abuse survivors on the commission, told the Los Angeles Times that he also wished Pope Francis might see it so he truly understood the full extent of the cover-up in dioceses like Boston.

“The film is extremely worrying about the cover-up of abuse in the Catholic Church, and I think it would be a good moment for the pope to see it,” Saunders said. The pope did not attend, and the next day, Saunders was asked to take a leave of absence from the commission.

Lack of enforcement

“It was decided” that Saunders would take a leave of absence to “consider how he might best support the commission’s work,” the Vatican said in announcing the move. Saunders held his own press conference and told reporters that he wouldn’t step down until and unless Francis himself asked him.

Saunders had been increasingly frustrated with the commission’s slow pace, telling the media that their work was futile. “The last meeting in October was a non-event,” he said. “I was told that Rome was not built in a day—but the problem is that it takes seconds to rape a child.”

Other survivors have expressed similar concerns. “The Pope’s abuse panel will issue recommendations. The Pope will adopt them. And nothing will improve. Why? Because there will be no enforcement,” says David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, called SNAP. “Why? Because the church hierarchy is an entitled, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy. No new protocols or policies or procedures will radically undo a centuries-old self-serving structure that rewards clerics who keep a tight lid on child sex crimes and cover-ups.”

Clohessy says the clear answer to this crisis remains outside of the church hierarchy “with victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers speaking up and with police, prosecutors and secular authorities stepping up.”

But if the Vatican’s own special commission can’t even get a word in to help solve the problem, it seems an impossible dream that anyone else might have better luck.

Link to Story

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Tick Tock… Can’t Take Hillary’s Big Money Word With Grain Of Sand

Scan 15

 (Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2016. Open source and free to use with link to www.thedailycall.org )

Tick, Tock Goes the Hillary Clock…

“Like Sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives?” — Days of Our Lives

Hillary Clinton claims she can’t be bought. Not even, she would have us believe, when Wall Street banksters and investment sharpies paid her (and husband Bill) $7.7 million for 39 behind-the-locked-doors private soirees. Their base pay for these cozy consultations run around $5,000/minute … minimum.

Yet she claims she will make Wall Street change? Um, yeah, right…

When asked in the recent New Hampshire Democratic debate if she would release the transcripts of those secret big money talks she said she would “look into it”.

Last Sunday she said she’d release her transcripts if everyone else did. You can watch her here. Spoken like a true leader: “I’ll do it … if everyone else does it!”

America is still waiting…

Link to Waiting For Hillary’s Transcripts Clock


  • Elizabeth Warren: When Senator Clinton First Sided With The Wall Street Bankers Over We The People — The Bill Moyers show has released a youtube video of Elizabeth Warren from 2004. In the clip, then Professor Warren talks about a meeting she had with first lady Hillary Clinton, where they discussed a vampire bankruptcy bill that was passing through Congress. This conversation led to Hillary’s help in getting Bill’s veto of the bill. Warren goes on to say that later, now as a Senator, Hillary voted for this very same same vampire bankruptcy bill. Warren explains that the difference was that now Hillary had received BIG $$$$ donations from the very bankers who would profit from the bill. Warren further says that Hillary now views the bankers as her constituency. … Read the Rest

  • Here’s What Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speaking Contract Looks Like — So what exactly does Hillary Clinton ask for when she gives a paid speech, like the ones she gave at Goldman Sachs? A contract for a speech she gave at the University of Nevada Las Vegas provides some answers.  The contract was obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August, through the state public records law. For that speech in October 2014, Clinton requested two payments of $112,500 … Read the Rest
  • Hillary Clinton Laughs When Asked if She Will Release Transcripts of Her Goldman Sachs Speeches — After Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, I asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away… Read the Rest and 30-Second Video

Posted in 2016-02-13, Newsletter | Comments Off on Tick Tock… Can’t Take Hillary’s Big Money Word With Grain Of Sand

Dept. Of Much Needed Humor — Jeb Bush Assures Pipe-Wielding Thugs He’ll Have The Delegates He Promised Them By Next Week

The Onion (2/11/16)

CHARLESTON, SC—Pleading for more time as the group of men advanced on him in a Charleston alleyway, GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush assured a gang of pipe-wielding thugs Thursday that he would have the delegates he had promised them by next week, sources reported.

“Whoa, whoa, easy, fellas. I know I’m late on this, but I’ll have everything you need after next weekend, I swear,” said the former Florida governor, begging the dark-clad men not to break his kneecaps for failing to place in the top five in a recent Rasmussen Reports nationwide poll of Republican voters. “I’ve only got the three delegates right now, but you know I’m good for the rest of it. My luck’s starting to turn around, I can feel it. I came real close to third place in New Hampshire, so things are starting to break my way. Please, just give me until the 20th and I swear I’ll make this right.”

At press time, Bush was reportedly trying to conceal his freshly bandaged thumbs while greeting supporters at a rally in Columbia.

Link to Story

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Saturday / February 13, 2016

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”

— Confucius, Chinese teacher and philosopher .

(See “The Great American Stickup”, below.)

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Voting For Bernie Sanders Despite The Senator’s Opposition To Reparations


Image result for between the world and me book cover

Democracy Now! (2/10/16)

The acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me,” has written some of the most discussed articles on the presidential race looking at Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and his position on reparations. Coates wrote the articles after Sanders appeared at the Black and Brown Forum in Iowa and said he did not support reparations for slavery because it is too “divisive” an issue. While his critique of Sanders generated headlines, today Coates talks on Democracy Now! about why he still plans to vote for the Vermont senator.

Link to Story and 20-Minute Video

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Friday / February 12, 2016


(See “You Have To Ask Yourself, ‘Why?'”, below.)

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You Have To Ask Yourself, “Why?” — Obama Celebrates Nine Years Of Doing Absolutely Nothing About Money in Politics

By Jon Schwarz
The Intercept (2/10/16)

President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, on Wednesday, nine years to the day after he kicked off his first presidential campaign there, and, just like in 2007, spoke passionately about his desire to reduce the influence of big money in politics.

In 2007, Obama said, “The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests [have] turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. … They think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back.”

On Wednesday, Obama told the Illinois legislature, “We have to reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics that makes people feel like the system is rigged.”

This time, of course, Obama is president and could actually do something about it. There are many actions he could take on his own, without approval from Congress or the courts. In particular, he could issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose any “dark money” contributions to politically active nonprofits.

Obama did mention dark money in his speech, saying that it “drowns out ordinary voices.”

He also mentioned the general concept of taking presidential action on his own, but only for comedic value: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers. … If I did I would have already done them through executive action! That was just a joke, guys.”

Activists have delivered over 1 million signatures to the White House demanding that Obama sign an executive order on dark money. A similar petition set up via the White House website’s system passed the 100,000 signatory threshold requiring the Obama administration to respond.

The White House recently posted a desultory answer to the petition that quotes Obama as saying that “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics”  — but doesn’t acknowledge the petition’s demand that Obama, not “we,” take specific action. Kurt Walters, campaign manager at Rootstrikers and one of the petition’s organizers, called the response “offensive to the millions of Americans demanding an end to secret money influencing elections.”

In retrospect, Obama’s speech nine years ago was full of foreshadowing. “I understand the skepticism,” he said. “After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises. … But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.”

Link to Story


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OMG! Hillary Wears The Same Golden Outfit To Last NIght’s Debate That She Wore At Glitzy Cash Fest With Goldman Sachs CEO

By Mark L. Taylor
The Daily Call (1/12/16)

Sometimes the tiniest of details tell the tale of the largest stories. For example, here is what Hillary wore to last night’s Democratic debate in Milwaukee:


I was a little shocked because here she is wearing the same outfit at a swanky Wall Street big money fundraiser with none other than Goldman Sachs arch bankster CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

(Getty photo)

Okay, some might say this is picky but politics is carried in imagery and the image often betrays the deeper truth papered over by words and gauzy promises that evaporate the moment an election is over.

Given the scandal of Hillary’s $675,000 pay day from Goldman Sachs and her steadfast stonewalling on releasing the transcripts of those speeches, and the millions both she and Bill have hauled home from Wall Street collecting on their $5,000-a-minute corporate pay rate, you’d think this outfit would have been hidden away in the back of the stable house along with Monica Lewinski’s dress.

Posted in 2016-02-12, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off on OMG! Hillary Wears The Same Golden Outfit To Last NIght’s Debate That She Wore At Glitzy Cash Fest With Goldman Sachs CEO