Bernie Sanders lacks any transformative vision of peace, international cooperation, the rule of law, or transition to a peaceful economy.

How a Hillary or Bernie Government Would Relate to the World

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

By David Swanson, teleSUR

By world standards, a U.S. government led by President Bernie Sanders would be exceptionally militarized and very much an outlier in terms of its disregard for the standards of international law and its lack of respect for the sovereignty of other nations.

By comparison to a U.S. government led by a hyper-militarist President Hillary Clinton, a Bernie government would be the peaceful, law-abiding, and humanitarian Age of Aquarius.

Senator Sanders has been unwilling to propose any significant reduction in military spending, despite the boon it would be to his campaign, which faces criticism over planned taxes to pay for desired domestic programs. Just stating "I would cut aggressive and counterproductive military weapons and operations," would eliminate the need to ever raise taxes on a non-billionaire to pay for anything ever again, but Sanders won't state that. I've communicated with his campaign, which has declined thus far to tell me what level of military spending Sanders favors, but it seems clear it would not be dramatically different from the world-record levels of spending now current.

Candidate Sanders tells us he would continue to kill people with drones, he would continue the wars but seek more partners and funders abroad. He rather grotesquely wants Saudi Arabia to "get its hands dirty." He also has a long history of justifying military spending as a jobs program, and of merging his support for the needs of veterans with glorification of war making. While he eventually opposed the Gulf War and then the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sanders supported wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

Sanders lacks any transformative vision of peace, international cooperation, the rule of law, or transition to a peaceful economy. He does not propose to eliminate nuclear weapons or join the International Criminal Court or ban weapons in space or stop antagonizing Russia. He's offered no proposal for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, or other diplomatic initiative in Syria / Iraq. There's reason to hope only that a Sanders White House would be a bit less bellicose than Obama's -- and the chief reason to hope that is that Sanders would almost certainly not include Hillary Clinton in his cabinet.

Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 largely because she'd been in the Senate in time to vote for the Iraq invasion, while Barack Obama had not. That they'd both later voted repeatedly to fund that war seemed lost both on those defending Clinton's vote and those claiming Obama for the peace movement.

Prior to 2008 we already knew Clinton's history. She had pushed her husband in a militaristic direction throughout his presidency, including on Yugoslavia and Iraq. The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act had laid the groundwork for the war to come. She's urged Bill Clinton to bomb Kosovo in violation of the U.N. Charter and against the will of Congress. She'd not only voted for the war on Iraq, and against an amendment to pursue inspections first, but she'd promoted all of Bush-Cheney's lies as her own, despite having been well informed of the facts. She'd then continued to defend her actions for years, and to argue for continuing and escalating the war.

In 2006, Democrats had won Congressional victories principally on the public demand to end the war on Iraq. Clinton protégé and future despot of Chicago Rahm Emanuel openly told the Washington Post that the Democrats would keep the war on Iraq going in order to run against it again in 2008, and that's what Hillary Clinton did. In time for the 2008 primaries, she turned against the Iraq war and began lying that she'd never supported it and only ever wanted inspections pursued, a lie she has articulated in recent weeks as well.

None of this has changed in the past 8 years. On top of it we can add the following. Hillary Clinton turned the U.S. State Department into an arm of the military, redefined "diplomacy" to mean the communication of threats of violence, made diplomats work as marketing staff for weapons companies, waived restrictions on arms sales to brutal governments that donated to her personal foundation, led the advocacy for escalation in Afghanistan, led the lobbying for a war to overthrow the government of Libya creating the disaster now found there, backed a military coup in Honduras, defended dictators and torturers in Tunisia and Egypt until the last possible moment, and in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia until the present moment, threatened assault on Iran and lied about Iranian nukes even after finally being compelled to support the nuclear agreement with Iran, supported the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, opposed opportunities for peace in Syria at every turn, and much much more. Clinton had in fact joined Republicans in pushing for the disarmament of Syria as early as 2004. On Afghanistan, Libya, and the attack on Osama bin Laden, Secretary of State Clinton was more hawkish than Secretary of "Defense" Robert Gates.

Much of the additional information we know comes from WikiLeaks which exposed the Clinton State Department as a cynical Machiavellian club for contemptuous rogues out to dominate the world for the sake of corporate profits. The fault here lies not with Chelsea Manning for exposing these outrages, but with Clinton for leading them. But her attitude toward whistleblowers like Manning and Edward Snowden has exposed another difference with Sanders, to Sanders' advantage. A Hillary Clinton administration promises to be as secretive and vindictive as Obama's.

A Sanders White House would not cut off the free weaponry and legal immunity for Israel, but a Clinton White House would expand on those policies, offer unlimited support to openly racist Israeli assaults on and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Sanders has proposed normalizing relations with Iran, while Clinton has denounced that idea and demanded that all (meaning nuclear) options be "on the table." If peace should come to Syria with Assad still in power, Clinton can be expected to continue the line she has already promoted, namely that Obama should have overthrown Assad with massive force long ago. Sanders, in contrast, could be expected to breathe a sigh of relief and focus on domestic matters until the next crisis develops.

While Clinton has accused Sanders of heresy for disagreeing with Obama's disastrous domestic policies, she herself has frequently criticized Obama's foreign policies for being insufficiently militaristic. Clinton does not hide who she is. She's fear mongered 9/11 in a debate. She's giggled jubilantly while bragging about the murder of Muamar Gadaffi. She's suggested the possibility of "obliterating" Iran. She talks up her dedication to the Israeli rightwing in public as well as behind closed doors with donors. Donors like Boeing have successfully hired her, while Secretary of State, to personally market their products to foreign governments.

I've asked the Clinton campaign what her military budget proposal would be, and have thus far heard nothing back, but it's hard to imagine how she could do what she would do without raising it, and it's easy to imagine that her election would boost the campaign to add young women to the selective service draft registry.

Pollsters imagine that Donald Trump's negatives make him easily defeatable, but they imagined that in the primaries as well. Polls also suggest that Hillary would be weaker than Bernie in a general election and that many Bernie supporters might not support Hillary. Imagine an election in which the mad militarist with the comb-over fear mongers Muslims but accurately accuses Clinton of lying about Iraq and helping to create ISIS. Would she counter with the promise of another bigger, better war? Would such a situation create a new opportunity to move public opinion against war? What would peace advocates do? How many would hold their nose and flee the country? What would Henry Kissinger advise?


South Carolina Democratic Party Means Well

Tag: Elections

The chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party called to complain that I was being unfair to him, and maybe he was right. But I'd simply urged the need to avoid any appearance of bias, and if the chairman doesn't understand that, he's in for a heck of a lot more criticism than he's ever imagined. This is his bio on the party website at 11:15 a.m. ET on Friday, February 26, just after he called me:

The Washington Times had prompted Harrison's call with this article:

. . . What his bio on the party’s Web page doesn’t mention, though, is that Mr. Harrison is also a principal at the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by brothers Tony and John Podesta — the same John Podesta who is chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Harrison’s day job is likely to get more scrutiny as the presidential campaign turns to South Carolina and questions continue to swirl about whether the Democratic Party apparatus is fairly treating Mrs. Clinton’s challenger, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. . . .

“If you want to avoid appearances of conflict of interest, you need to be completely open and reveal that,” said David Swanson, a spokesman at Rootsaction.org, a progressive online group that also has organized a petition asking for the ouster of the head of the Democratic National Committee. “Someone can be in favor of one candidate and still conduct a fair primary election, but if they’re hiding that they have close ties — beyond just electoral interest, but with actual monetary interests — that starts to look bad.”

Harrison called me up and recounted his long connections with staffers for Bernie Sanders, and said that he had been the first to invite Sanders to come speak even before he was officially a candidate. Harrison said he'd also had Sanders as the first ever guest in his video series called "Chair Chats." Here's that video:

And here's one with Hillary Clinton, which has about half as many views.

Harrison said he'd offered Sanders the party's resources and conference room, that his own Deputy Executive Director had gone to work for the Sanders campaign, that anything he and the party had done for Clinton they'd done for Sanders, and that I could ask the Sanders campaign and they'd say as much.

I said I was certain they would indeed, whether true or not, but that I had merely answered a reporter's question on one point, that of Harrison's bio on the party site leaving out what he did for a living, namely that he worked for a Clinton-affiliated organization. Amazingly, Harrison claimed not to know whether his bio included that info or not. He blamed me for not investigating it myself, while he himself claimed not to have looked into it either. And he assured me that if I "googled" him I'd see that he worked for the Podesta Group.

But isn't that the point, I asked? If I google Santorum I'll find something else entirely, but that's what Google shows, not what Santorum chooses to display. If everyone can find out that your paycheck comes from a Clinton-associated group, but that's left out of your bio, how does that look? Harrison promised to look into it and to make sure that it said from now on right at the top: "Jamie Harrison, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and Principle at the Podesta Group...."

I said I thought that would be a good idea.

The Podesta Group was founded by John and Tony Podesta, the former serving also as Hillary Clinton's campaign chair.

I explained to Harrison that my concern was not over any actual unfair treatment I knew him to have engaged in, but over the appearance of it in a context that had everyone understandably on the lookout for bias. I pointed out to him that the DNC Chair was quite openly on Hillary Clinton's side, had sought to minimize debates and hide them on Saturday nights and other times of low viewership, had sought to deny Sanders access to his own voter files, had just opened up the Democratic Party to money from corporate lobbyists to benefit one candidate, had refused to release the results in Iowa, etc., and that the Party had its superdelegates lined up for Hillary in open defiance of popular will.

Harrison said he agreed with me that the superdelegate system and the electoral college for that matter should be scrapped. And he agreed with my blaming the DNC, which he pointed out was not the South Carolina Democratic Party.

The funny thing is, after I hung up, I looked at Harrison's bio on the Podesta Group website. That bio is very open about his Democratic Party identifications. And they include this: "Member of the DNC Executive Committee."


The 2016 Election's Obama Problem

Tag: Elections

I was looking for love in all the wrong placesLooking for love in too many facesSearching your eyes, looking for tracesOf what I'm dreaming of  --Waylon Jennings

Why do the Republican presidential debates resemble world wrestling matches without all the formality and politeness?

Why do the Democratic presidential debates always end up with the two candidates deeply respecting the other's admirable efforts to destroy everything decent in the world?

Because the Republicans are going after voters who are thoroughly disgusted with the U.S. government, including the man running it, Barack Obama, while the Democrats are going after voters who are thoroughly disgusted with the U.S. government but in love with the man running it.

Senator Bernie Sanders explains that we need the opposite of what Obama's been doing, then claims to agree with Obama. Why? Because he wants to win over voters who think exactly that, who believe that Obama has done everything wrong but who love Obama despite, or even because, of his disastrous conduct. Sanders knows that many of the same voters feel (that's the key word) the same way about Hillary Clinton.

Pick up a book called I [Heart] Obama by Erin Aubry Kaplan. In it, she explains that she and others she's asked love Obama for his looks, his voice, his poise, his attitude, his facial expressions, and his skin color. She and others she quotes fell in love with him before they'd learned anything about his political performance. And whatever they later learned entirely confirmed their sentiments. If he did something terrible, they imagined he'd tried to do something good. If he failed, they loved his failure and blamed it on his racist opponents. Because racists hate him, one must love him, they feel.

Kaplan hoped for change, but when Obama didn't meet her expectations she condemned anyone so misguided as to complain. Then she blamed the public for not rising up and complaining, without which Obama couldn't very well be expected to do anything, could he? But even when Obama didn't do the right thing, you could be sure he knew what the right thing to do would have been. And that was good enough. Hell, that was better. And if he lied about it, that was better than truth. Even his bullshit smelled sweet. Kaplan writes:

"Does the fact that  his 'Hope/Change' campaign was more a matter of brilliant branding than anything else diminish the fact that hope and change are exactly what black folks need?"

Perish the thought!

Racists would even object to Obama murdering people. Not the Obamaphiles Kaplan quotes: "'I know it's hard for people to look at the drones, to look at why he doesn't do this thing or that thing,' says Ward. 'But the tightrope is one that he has to walk. I have a friend in the South who says she's seen bars with calendars on the walls that count down the days to when Obama gets assassinated.'"

Get it? Racists want to murder Obama, so he should go on murdering all those dark-skinned foreigners, and you should shut up about it and love him even if you hate what he's doing.

Do the old people and black people backing Hillary Clinton in primaries associate her with Obama and his lovable odiousness? Or do they associate her with the Democratic Party and identify with that party as they might with a racial group? Or do they want to feel the warm tingles of watching a woman, instead of a man, pilot the empire over the cliff? Are good people going to double down on tokenism while the fascists prepare to play their trump card?

The answer is, of course, not to elect all white guys. The answer is to end the election obsession, and build a movement. And when we must have an election, elect the best person. Democrats need to stop loving the people who have created everything Sanders wants to fix. Obama and Hillary do not love you back, my friends. They're using you. They have nothing but contempt for you. And if the morning ever comes, you'll hate yourself in it.

Republicans, of course, need to stop bowing down before a fascist clown who openly tells them that he only loves himself and they should love him too. For him, you are beneath contempt, unworthy even of notice. You'd better hope the Democrats don't run the woman you hate against him, because then he'll be president, you'll be the woman scorned, you'll hate yourselves more than the Democrats hate you, and most people will give up hope for the electoral system -- which will of course turn out to be even worse than falling for false hope with a nice smile.


Talk Nation Radio: Harvey Wasserman on the Stripping and Flipping of Elections

Tag: Elections, Talk Nation Radio


Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, drug war, election protection and grassroots politics. He teaches (since 2004) history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio colleges, and is married with five daughters and five grandchildren. Harvey works primarily for the permanent shutdown of the nuclear power industry and the birth of Solartopia, a democratic and socially just green-powered Earth free of all fossil and nuclear fuels. He writes regularly for a wide internet readership through Ecowatchsolartopia.orgfreepress.org and nukefree.org, which he edits. His articles also appear at Commondreams, CounterPunch, HuffingtonPost, Buzzflash and others. He hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show at www.prn.fm. In this show, Harvey discusses the stripping and flipping of U.S. elections.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks


Four Out of Four Pollsters Lack a Clue

Tag: Elections

Thursday evening at the University of Virginia four expert pollsters performed a dramatic act of self-experimentation in which they demonstrated that, using a map and two hands, they would still be incapable of finding their ass.

The brave participants included Glenn Bolger who promotes and does polling for Republican senators, Congress members, and governors at Public Opinion Strategies; Courtney Kennedy who is director of survey research at Pew Research Center; Mark Mellman who promotes and does polling for Democratic senators, Congress members, and governors; and Doug Usher who works for Purple Insights and supports the two political parties the name suggests.

The event was put on by the Center for Politics which was trying to hand out stickers that said "Politics is a good thing." I didn't see anyone accept one. The event had been titled "How Polls Influence Public Opinion," which was why I went. But the moderator, Kyle Kondik, and the four panelists never mentioned that topic. During Q&A someone in the audience asked about it, and was given the answer: Oh, no, polls don't influence the public.

Also, I discovered, the public doesn't influence pollsters. This gang (Usher in particular) described Senator Bernie Sanders as someone who had succeeded with an issue that no one would ever have expected, namely breaking up the big banks. You know who would have expected that issue to succeed? Anyone who had read any polls, or who saw the Occupy movement, or who talked to people, or who read history, or who watched 99 Homes.

The four Demoplicans similarly described Sanders as a person whom nobody would ever have expected to succeed as the messenger of that unexpected issue. You know who would have expected Sanders to succeed? Anyone who followed his high ranking in popularity in Congress and the Senate in the polls, or who watched the reaction to his filibuster.

Despite noting Sander's inexplicable success, these four (Bolger in particular) talked entirely as if the Democratic presidential nomination were guaranteed for Hillary Clinton. The giant crowds, the polls, the Iowa and New Hampshire results: it's as if none of that exists in the minds of these Washingtonians who emerged from the Beltway for this event, two of them apparently getting lost or just stuck in traffic in the process. Bolger did predict that Hillary's victory might be only due to the votes of the superdelegates and predicted a spot of trouble for the Democrats as a result.

Are any of these pollsters aware of what the polls are showing? Are they aware that the public sees and is in fact influenced by such polling results? Bizarrely, they give no indication of such awareness. I think it was Bolger again who said that Donald Trump's amazingly high polling in the area of people who view him negatively makes him very unlikely to win a general election. Bolger said the only Democrat who could lose to some of the non-Trump Republicans would be Hillary Clinton because of her quite high negatives. Bolger then made clear that in saying that Clinton was the only Democrat who could lose, he was contrasting her with imaginary Democrats not actually in the race, but he added parenthetically that of course Bernie Sanders could lose too. Bolger didn't explain why that would be, perhaps because his argument would have fallen apart if he'd looked at any polls.

Mellman pushed on the audience Thursday evening the idea that Bernie Sanders voters would simply back Hillary Clinton if she were nominated. He may have gotten that idea (he didn't say) from articles like the one in the USA Today that said "Most Bernie Sanders voters OK with Hillary Clinton winning." That was the headline, but if you read the article you discovered the claim that 59% of Sanders' supporters would "be OK" with Clinton winning. Think about that for a minute. If Clinton and Sanders split the Democratic Party, and Clinton wins (or "wins" with superdelegates), and then 41% of Sanders' people hit the road because they will not support her, that's a loss of 20.5% of her voters. Goodbye Clinton dynasty! The funny thing is that the poll on which the story was supposedly based never asked the question reported on. What it asked was: "How would you feel if Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee – enthusiastic, satisfied, dissatisfied, or upset?"

Personally, I wouldn't wait, I'd be dissatisfied and upset right away with the poll that asked that question and not a similar question about Bernie Sanders. This is how polling influences public opinion. What percentage of Hillary voters would "be OK" with a Sanders nomination? Who the hell knows! Therefore it's not a news story.

Presumably those who answered "enthusiastic" or "satisfied" were interpreted as "being OK" with a Clinton nomination, but not one person was ever actually asked "Would you support Clinton in the general election no matter whom she runs against?"

During the Q&A I snuck in two questions. Usher had defended extensive reporting on polls because, he said, the alternative would be reporting on who has the most money or lawn signs. Mellman had said that many voters in Nevada are still unaware that Hillary Clinton has an opponent. So, I asked whether it wouldn't be better to report on who the candidates are and what they would do if elected. To that, Mellman gave the usual response that nobody really wants substantive reporting, and Usher replied, I kid you not, that because there are limitless websites showing where the candidates stand there's no need for such stuff on TV or in newspapers.

But, of course, information that doesn't exist doesn't appear on websites. What basic outline of a budget would they propose? Would military spending rise or fall? Should media monopolies be broken up as well as banks? Should torturers finally be prosecuted? Should NAFTA be ended? Should foreign aid be increased? Would they end the use of signing statements to rewrite laws? Who knows!

(Someone has figured out that Ted Cruz wants to add $140 billion per year to military spending, but how do you compare that to the other candidates who've never been asked and never volunteered their own figure?)

I also asked this question: Usually popularity in the polls follows right behind media coverage while the media pretends the reverse is going on. But Sanders got almost no coverage and shot up in the polls and then still got very little coverage. Is this as unprecedented as I think? How has it happened? To that, Mellman changed the subject from polls to primaries and said that Jimmy Carter was given coverage as a reward for winning Iowa. My question remains unanswered.

Kennedy said that polls show that trust in the U.S. government is at an all-time low. I can't imagine why.


What Obama Did While You Were Watching Elections

Tag: Elections, Peace and War, Public Budgets

Pass the popcorn! Wait till I tweet this! Did you see the look on his face?

Ain't elections exciting? We just can't get enough of them, which could be why we've stretched them out to a couple of years each, even though a small crowd of Super Delegates and a couple of state officials with computer skills could quite conceivably decide the whole thing anyway.

Through the course of this marvelous election thus far I've been trying to get any human being to ask any candidate to provide just the most very basic outline of the sort of budget they would propose if president, or at least some hint at the single item in the budget that takes up more than half of it. Do they think military spending should go up, go down, or stay right where it is?

Who knows! Aren't elections wonderful?

I'd even settle for the stupid "gotcha" question in which we find out if any of the candidates knows, even roughly, what percentage of the budget military spending is now.

Why is this topic, although seemingly central, scrupulously avoided?

The candidates all, more or less, agree. None of the candidates brings it up. Nobody in Congress, not even the "progressive" caucus, brings it up. Nobody in the corporate media brings it up. The corporate media outlets see war profiteers as customers who buy ads. The corporate media outlets see war profiteers in the mirror as parts of their corporate families. The fact that the military costs money conflicts with the basic premise of U.S. politics which is that one party wants to spend money on socialistic nonsense while the other party wants to stop spending money and build a bigger military.

Those seem like the obvious answers, but here's another. While you're being entertained by the election, President Obama is proposing a bigger military than ever. Not only is U.S. military spending extremely high by historical standards, but looking at the biggest piece of military spending, which is the budget of the Department of so-called Defense, that department's annual "Green Book" makes clear that it has seen higher spending under President Barack Obama than ever before in history.

Check out the new budget proposal from the President who distracted millions of people from horrendous Bush-Cheney actions with his "peace" talk as a candidate eight years ago. He wants to increase the base Do"D" budget, both the discretionary and the mandatory parts. He wants to increase the extra slush fund of unaccountable money for the Do"D" on top of that. This pot used to be named for wars, but wars have gotten so numerous and embarrassing that it's now called "Overseas Contingency Operations."

When it comes to nuclear weapons, Obama wants to increase spending, but when it comes to other miscellaneous extras for the military, he also wants to increase that. Military retirement spending, on the other hand, he'd like to see go up, while the Veterans Administration spending he proposes to raise. Money for fueling ISIS by fighting it, Obama wants raised by 50%. On increasing hostility with Russia through a military buildup on its border, Obama wants a 400% spending boost. In one analysis, military spending would jump from $997.2 billion this year to $1.04 trillion next year under this proposal.

That's a bit awkward, considering the shade it throws on any piddly little project that does make it into election debates and reporting. The smallest fraction of military spending could pay for the major projects that Senator Bernie Sanders will be endlessly attacked for proposing to raise taxes for.

It's also awkward for the whole Republican/Hillary discussion of how to become more militarized, unlike that pacifist in the White House.

And, of course, it's always awkward to point out that events just go on happening in the world rather than pausing out of respect for some inanity just uttered by Marco Rubio.


Bankers, Preachers, and Fear of President Sanders

Tag: Culture and Society, Elections

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new war in Libya, more war in Syria, permanent war in Afghanistan, climate change crashing over the cliff -- these and other immediate disasters are pursued with one hand, while the magician's other hand distracts us with caucuses, primaries, and super bowls. Remember when insiders said the TPP would die the moment it was made public? Well, what if it was made public during an election season? Bread and circuses, even in Rome, weren't designed to make the people happy but to keep them pacified while all the real energy and treasure went into destroying Carthage and filling the vomitoria of the oligarchs. And it's easier for a good team to make it into the super bowl than for a truly good candidate to make it into corporate election reporting. I deny none of that. And yet ...

The 2015-2016 presidential election has, by some measures, already accomplished more than all the previous elections in my lifetime put together. And it's scaring some of the right people.

If you had claimed in 1969 that it would be possible for presidential candidates in the United States to reject religion before they could reject permanent worldwide military empire, you'd have been laughed right out of the Age of Aquarius.

If you'd prognosticated in 1999 that an independent socialist focused like a laser beam on taxing billionaires and busting up some of their most profitable scams (not to mention taxing many of the rest of us) could grab the lead in a Democratic primary campaign against a Clinton with no intern scandals, you'd have been triangulated right out of your career as you knew it.

And if you'd predicted in 2014 that a candidate virtually ignored by the consolidated corporate media, as consolidated under the Clinton Telecom Act, would surge in the polls, you'd have garnered as much respect as those guys in The Big Short did when they claimed to know more than the high priests of Wall Street.

Bernie Sanders, for all of his dramatic shortcomings, is a phenomenon created by a perfect storm of institutional failure -- by Hillary Clinton's coronation constructed of cards just waiting for someone to suggest that millions of outraged winds breathe on it. Sanders is 6 years older and generations more advanced than his Democratic Party rival.


God Is Dead

"What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" --Friedrich Nietzsche

Sanders' website calls him "secular" and "not particularly religious." His answers to a religion question during a CNN "town hall" this week were typical. A member of the audience asked about religion and race, and Sanders answered only about race. Then the moderator asked again about religion. And this was Sanders' answer, I swear to ... -- well, I just swear:

"It's a guiding principle in my life. Absolutely it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings. I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children that are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can't afford their prescription drugs, you know what? That impacts you, that impacts me, and I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, 'It doesn't matter to me. I got it. I don't care about other people.' So, my spirituality is that we are all in this together, and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That is my very strong spiritual feeling."

It's also my very strong non-spiritual feeling. But that was a typical Bernie answer, one he's given many times, typical even in its focus on only 4% of humanity and on only a particular type of homeless people. Some states, by the way, are making huge strides toward ending the shame of homelessness for veterans, so that soon all homeless people in the United States may be people who have never been part of a mass-murder operation. I point this out not to oppose it. Better more people with homes, no matter how it's done! And I point it out not to quibble with Sanders' statement of generosity and humanism, but to suggest that part of how Sanders slipped a completely irreligious answer past an audience that asked a religious question is that Sanders identified himself with the true U.S. religion, the religion that will be front and center and in the jet noise overhead at the super bowl -- the religion of war, the religion of national exceptionalism. Who can forget Ron Paul being booed in a primary debate for applying the golden rule to non-Americans?

When Sanders is asked explicitly if he "believes in God," he also answers, "What my spirituality is about is that we're all in this together." Exactly what my non-spirituality is about. I think it's safe to assume he'll never be asked if he believes in death (which television sponsors would be pleased by that topic?), so "God" is the question he'll get, and he won't be required to answer it. New Hampshire is the least religious state in the country, but the country as a whole has also moved against religion and even more so against "organized religion." Some of us always preferred the organized part (the community, the music, etc.) to the religion, but the larger trend here is a rejection of elite institutions telling us how to run our lives while demonstrably running the world into the ground. And who has more to answer for in that regard than God?

Rejecting organized religion while proclaiming an individual "spirituality" may be all that is needed, and that is tremendous news. That Sanders has done this while professing an ideology of generosity and solidarity, and winning applause for that, is even better news. Studies find that lack of religion can correlate with greater generosity, as certainly seems to be the case with the Scandinavian societies Sanders points to as models. (Seventeen percent of Swedes, as compared to 65% of U.S. Americans, say religion is "important".)

A majority in the United States say they wouldn't vote for an atheist, but for many atheism, like gender, race, sexual preference, and other identifiers is now a matter of self-identification. Someone must choose to call themselves an atheist. Just having no use for theism doesn't qualify them. The media also seems to have no direct interest in attacking candidates on religion. Nobody pays them to do that. And it doesn't show a lot of potential as a weapon. Donald Trump is seen as the least religious candidate in the field, and some of the most religious voters say they support him and just don't care. In addition, Sanders is a supporter of religious freedom, tolerance, and even tax exemptions. He doesn't fit the mold of the bigoted atheist who finds Islam dangerously more religious than Christianity. The media is also no big fan of Ted Cruz, who's on a Dubya-like mission from God. All of these factors seem to have made it possible to run for president of the United States on a platform of pure enlightenment humanism. I didn't think I'd live to see that.


Most Dangerous Man on Wall Street

Hillary Clinton friend and funder and CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein seems to view Bernie Sanders as President Richard Nixon characterized Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and as President Barack Obama seems to view WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as the most dangerous person in the United States. Sanders' sin, in Blankfein's view, is failure to worship the almighty dollar.

Blankfein is fully aware that his endorsing a candidate would hurt that candidate, but seems not to have thought through the possibility that opposing a candidate might help them. Reportedly, Blankfein suggested this week that "Sanders' attacks on the 'billionaire class' and bankers could be dangerous. 'It has the potential to personalize it, it has the potential to be a dangerous moment. Not just for Wall Street not just for the people who are particularly targeted but for anybody who is a little bit out of line,' Blankfein said."

It sounds like the 1% has a case of 99% envy. Misery loves company, but fear demands it. Think about what Blankfein is claiming. One of the two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton, who has long said explicitly that the Democratic Party should represent banks, has taken $675,000 (or about $5,000 per minute) to give three speeches to Blankfein's company, in which she reportedly reassured them they had nothing to worry about (despite widely known crimes that wrecked the economy of the United States and other nations). Public demands to even see what Clinton told Goldman Sachs have thus far gone unanswered and unechoed in the media, except by Ralph Nader. On Clinton Blankfein has no comment and sees nothing unusual. This is normal, standard, and unquestionable behavior.

But Bernie Sanders proposes to enforce laws, laws against financial trickery, laws against cheating on taxes, laws against monopolization, laws against market manipulation, and new taxes on unearned wealth. Well, this is unacceptable and in fact "dangerous"! It's extreme madness is what it is, according to Blankfein, who depicts Sanders' position as fanatical: "It's a liability to say I'm going to compromise, I'm going to get one millimeter off the extreme position I have and if you do you have to back track and swear to people that you'll never compromise. It's just incredible. It's a moment in history." That it is.

Here's how Bill Clinton reportedly viewed popular resentment of bankers in 2014: "You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again." Of course, nobody had proposed killing bankers. Many had proposed enforcing laws. But that's how bankers view such a proposal, through the lens of fear. They are probably not alone. Sanders is proposing to end fracking and various other disastrous industries, while investing in new ones. He promises to block the TPP, which Clinton -- long a big supporter of it -- merely claims to "oppose" without committing to actually prevent. Sanders wants to tax the very wealthiest, including the 20 individuals who own as much as half the country. He wants to break up monopolies, including on Wall Street, and perhaps in the media -- which is already clearly shaken by the fact that he's advanced in the polls without them.

Health insurance executives can't be feeling too much better than banksters, unless they're wise enough to see the bigger picture. I waited on hold for 30 minutes this week to try to fix the latest SNAFU with my Obamacare, and then a really helpful woman answered who promised she'd fix it. I asked her if she could also back Bernie Sanders to put an end to the industry she worked for. She said yes, indeed.

The wiser minds in the plutocracy should follow that example. Nobody's out to hurt you, only to help you share your hoarded loot with those who worked for it. Your life will be different, but not necessarily worse. It might even be happier.

The more hopelessly greedy minds in much of the U.S. plutocracy, right about now, will start wishing they'd been prescient enough to go into weapons making and war profiteering, that sacred realm that Sanders' spirituality dares not threaten.


It's Hard Not to Be Sexist in Iowa

Tag: Elections

No, the cornfields are not full of dumb blondes (except when Fox News shows up), but it truly is hard not to be sexist in Iowa.

For example, I think it's reprehensible to take tens of millions of dollars from murderous kingdoms and dictatorships and then waive restrictions on selling them weapons including the weapons that Saudi Arabia has been using to slaughter men, women, and children in Yemen. And this makes me a sexist, or so I'm told.

In my view, parroting every war lie of Bush and Cheney was disgusting enough, but then pretending you meant well and didn't understand, even though once the war was begun you voted over and over again to fund it, is literally criminal as well as a moral abomination. Taking so many millions of dollars from war profiteers just makes it worse -- at least in the eyes of us sexist fans of Jill Stein.

Serving the health insurance and drug industries by smashing every attempt for decades to create a civilized health system like those in the rest of the wealthy world is also murderous by any straightforward empirical measure. Millions have died, and many billions of dollars have been diverted from better use as a result. But mentioning it turns out to be sexist. Tasking your daughter to give speeches lying about it shows, on the contrary, deep respect for women.

Pushing policies with your husband to create mass incarceration and then pretending it just happened like the weather, ramming through NAFTA and pushing more corporate trade agreements at every opportunity (but pretending momentarily to oppose the TPP), defending the Wall Street crooks who trashed the economy and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to give them speeches promising to protect them and refusing to make public the transcripts, pressuring the White House for a war on Libya for reasons of oil and looting, facilitating coups in Honduras and Ukraine, stirring up hostilities with Russia, talking of obliterating Iran, insisting on yet more, counterproductive war in Syria and Iraq, pushing for massive bombing in Syria, giggling about murdering Gadaffi and the people (including female people) of the entire region be damned, turning the State Department into a marketing firm for U.S. weapons companies and U.S. fracking companies, taking many millions from corrupting interested parties while claiming to be dead broke, supporting unconstitutional spying and retribution against whistleblowers, corporatizing the Democratic Party and proposing that it should "represent banks," defending any and all of this by yelling "9/11," and suggesting that opposition to any of this makes someone sexist -- that all seems outrageously reprehensible to me.

The people Hillary Clinton would kill, the people she would deprive of healthcare, the students she would deny a free quality education, the families she would deny a decent income, the workers she will deny jobs, the generations she will deny an inhabitable environment -- are they going to feel better because she's a woman?

And how are the poor people of Iowa going to feel if they're responsible for supporting her?


Jill Stein's Platform More Viable Than Bernie's

Tag: Elections

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

I asked Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein about her platform this week and came away believing it had a better chance of winning than Bernie Sanders'. I know that platforms don't run, people do, and they do so within a two-party dominated system. But this already crazy presidential election could turn into a crazier five-way race. And, even if it doesn't, or if it does but still nobody ever learns that Jill Stein exists, there is nonetheless much for us and for the other candidates to learn from her platform.

If you think free college is popular, you should see what young people think of free college and erasing all existing student debt.

If single-payer healthcare with raised taxes (but net savings, if you make it to that fine print) excites voters, how do you think they'd respond to single-payer healthcare with no raised taxes?

If fewer wars and asking Saudi Arabia to do more of the funding and fighting sounds promising, what would you say to no more wars, a 50 percent cut in the $1 trillion/year military spending, no more weapons sales to Saudi Arabia which is doing more than enough killing, thank you, no more free weapons for Israel either, and investment of some of the savings in a massive green energy jobs campaign producing a sustainable energy policy and a full-employment economy?

Senator Bernie Sanders' domestic proposals have got millions excited, but the (unfair and misleading) criticism that he'll raise taxes may be a tragic flaw, and it's one he opens himself up to by refusing to say that he'll cut the military. Stein would cut at least half of the single biggest item in the discretionary budget, an item that takes up at least half of that budget: military spending. She'd cut fossil fuel subsidies, as well, and expect savings to come from healthcare, including as a result of cutting pollution and improving food quality. But the big immediate item is the military. Cutting it is popular with voters, but not with Democratic or Republican presidential candidates. Sanders will be labeled the Tax Man by the corporate media, while Jill Stein will have to be attacked in a different way if she gets mentioned.

"Cutting the military budget is something that we can do right now," Stein told me, "but we want to be clear that we are putting an end to wars for oil – period. And that is part of our core policy of a Green New Deal which creates an emergency program, establishing twenty million living wage jobs, full-time jobs, to green the economy, our energy, food, and transportation systems, building critical infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, etc. This is an emergency program that will get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. So this is a war-time-level mobilization in order to completely detoxify our energy system, and that means both nuclear and fossil fuel. In doing that, we deprive the empire of this major justification for wars and bases all around the world. So we want to be clear that that emphasis is gone, and goading the American public into war so as to feed our fossil fuel energy system – that ends and makes all the more essential and possible the major cutting of the military budget."

Which 50 percent of the military would Stein cut? Two places she named that she would start with (there would have to be much more) are foreign bases (she'd close them) and the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Would she unilaterally scrap U.S. nukes? I asked.

"We don’t even need to do it unilaterally," Stein said, "because the Russians have been begging to revive the process of nuclear disarmament, which the U.S., in its wisdom, undercut. ... The Russians have been persistently trying to restore those nuclear talks for the purpose of disarmament. And that would be step one – is to make major reductions between the U.S. and Russia and then to convene a world forum to put an end to nuclear weapons altogether."

The "war on terror," Stein pointed out, has only created more terror, while costing each U.S. household $75,000. "That’s not going to make people terribly enthusiastic for it, particularly when you point out that all this has done is create failed states, worse terrorist threat, whether you look at the Taliban, the globalization of al-Qaeda, the creation of ISIS. This has been an utter, unmitigated disaster, and the massive refugee crisis which is threatening to tear apart the European Union. This is absolutely unsustainable by any count."

To change U.S. foreign policy, Stein proposed financial reforms unheard of in any presidential debate thus far. She suggested that military and other government contractors should face "pay to play protections" preventing them from "buying their way into policy." Stein explained: "If you establish that anyone who contributes, who provides campaign contributions, or who lobbies is not eligible for contracting with the government, the minute you break that umbilical cord, then the industry loses its power to corral Congress and dictate foreign policy." Stein said such protections could also block U.S. government facilitation of weapons sales to foreign buyers.

"War profiteering should not be allowed," Stein explained, "in the same way that energy profiteering is not compatible with our survival." Ultimately, the big profits, Stein said, are in healthcare: "We spend a trillion dollars plus on the military industrial complex every year, but we spend three trillion and counting every year on the sick care system, which doesn't make us well. It just enables us to tread water while we cope with these disastrous health impacts of the war economy and the fossil fuel economy."

Stein did not hesitate to highlight differences when I asked her about Bernie Sanders. She cited his "support, for example, for the F-35 weapons system which has been an incredible boondoggle." While Sanders would keep killing with drones and "fighting terrorism," Stein calls "fighting terrorism" an oxymoron and points to counterproductive results: "Terrorism is a response to drones that sneak up on you in the night and to night raids and this is where we recruit and we enable ISIS and al-Qaeda to continue expanding ... something Bernie hasn't quite gotten straight by saying the solution here is to turn the Saudis loose; the Saudi's need to 'get their hands dirty'."

"We can actually begin to rein in the Saudis with a weapons embargo and by impounding their bank accounts," Stein said. The same goes for Israel, she added, stressing the need to respect the law. Should the United States join the International Criminal Court, I asked. "Oh, my god, of course!" was Stein's reply. "And the treaty on land mines?" "Of course! My god. Yes. ... There are all sorts of treaties that are ready to move forward. In fact the Soviets and the Chinese have been prime movers in expansion of treaties to prohibit weapons in space and to establish the rule of law in cyberspace."

So, what would President Jill Stein do about ISIS? She answered that question with no hesitation: "Number 1: we don't stop ISIS by doing more of what created ISIS. This is like the elephant in the room that none of the other presidential candidates are willing to acknowledge, even Rand Paul, I might say, surprisingly. So we don't bomb ISIS and try to shoot ISIS out. We've got to stop ISIS in its tracks by ending the funding of ISIS and by ending the arming of ISIS. How do we do that? We do that with a weapons embargo. And so the U.S. can unilaterally move forward on that, but we need to sit down and talk with the Russians as well, and Putin tried to do this.

"You know, Putin, our arch enemy Putin, was actually trying to create a peace process in Syria. ... We need to begin talking with Russia and with other countries. We need to build on our relative détente with Iran to engage them, and we need to bring our allies into the process. Right now, the peace process, as I understand it, is held up by, guess who -- Saudi Arabia, who wants to bring in known terrorist groups as the representatives of the opposition. The Saudis should not be defining the way forward here ... Our ally Turkey needs to understand that their membership in NATO or their position with the U.S. and other allies around the world should not be taken for granted, and that they cannot be in the business either of funding ISIS and related groups through the purchase of their oil [or of] shipping weapons. They also need to close down their border to the movement of the militias."

Stein was sounding an awful lot like the leader of the Labour Party in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, and I asked her about him. "I have already met with Jeremy Corbyn," she said, "when I was in Paris for the climate talks, ... and we had a surprising amount of time to talk and we agreed completely on collaborating on this 'peace offensive,' which is the name we have given to our solution to the problem of ISIS. Peace is not passive. We need an active, interventionist program based on peace which means to stop the flow or arms and money, etc. So, we've already agreed that we see eye-to-eye on foreign policy."

But Corbyn is in office with a shot at becoming prime minister. With the U.S. public completely sold on the hopelessness of third-party bids, at least by non-multi-billionaires, what is Stein's plan for actually becoming president?

"First of all," she says, "there are 43 million young people and not-so-young people who are trapped in debt, in student debt. My campaign is the only campaign that will be on the ballot that will abolish student debt. We did it for the bankers who plunged us into this economic crisis that persists in spite of what they say. And they did that by way of their waste, fraud, and abuse. Yet we bailed them out to the tune of $16 trillion and counting.

"So, isn't it about time we bail out the victims of that waste, fraud, and abuse -- the young people of this country whose leadership and whose civic engagement is essential for blazing the trail to our future? It has always required a fresh generation to re-envision, you know, what our future looks like. So, we need to bail out the young people, for their benefit and for ours. That can be done through another quantitative easing which is relatively simple, does not cost us, essentially expands the money supply in a way that works as a stimulus to the economy, unlike the bailout that they provided to Wall Street which has only created a stimulus for more reckless gambling – waste, fraud, and abuse. ... I have yet to find a young person in debt who doesn't become a missionary for our campaign the minute they learn that we will cancel their debt. ... The 43 million young people – that is a plurality of the vote. In a three-way race, that's enough to win the vote."

Stein also pointed to 25 million Latinos who, she said, "have learned that the Democrats are the party of deportation, of night raids, and of detention, of refugees who are fleeing a crisis in their home countries that we created. How? Through NAFTA, though illegal coups and CIA-sponsored regime changes, and through the drug wars. ... If people want to fix the immigration problem, the answer is, 'Stop causing it.'"

But will Stein be in the debates for the general election? "In my experience," she told me, "all you have to do is have a real conversation, have an open mic, a true presidential debate that actually allows presidential candidates to debate who have broad enough support that they are on the ballot for a majority of Americans and could numerically win the election. We are challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates in court and we will be challenging them soon with a direct action campaign, so stay tuned, because the American public deserves to know about the issues. The American public deserves the right to vote. And they have a right to know who they can vote for and what they are voting about."

Here's audio of the interview that produced this report.

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