Friday, June 17, 2016

Editorial: Keep Up the Good Fight

Bernie Sanders will keep his campaign for president going until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, but he knows how to count. Hillary Clinton has outpolled Sanders by more than three million votes in Democratic primaries; she won a majority of states, including most of those that are expected to be battlegrounds in the general election; and she gained a majority of pledged delegates during the primary process. The pledged delegate count was 2,203 for Clinton and 1,828 for Sanders, with another 45 to be distributed in the final primary in D.C. on June 14. And Clinton has the support of a large majority of superdelegates, the party officials who will carry Clinton her over the threshold of 2,383 needed to win the nomination in Philadelphia in late July.

On Meet the Press June 12, Sanders said he looked forward to meeting with Clinton and discussing “whether she will be vigorous in standing up for working families in the middle class, moving aggressively in climate change, health care for all, making public colleges and universities tuition-free … After we have that kind of discussion, and after we can determine whether or not we are going to have a strong and progressive platform,” he said, “I will be able to make other decisions.”

Sanders had started laying off about half of his campaign staff after the June 7 primaries, in which Clinton won four of six states, including California and New Jersey, and got 391 delegates while Sanders got 303. Sanders wants to keep his progressive movement alive and have an impact at the convention July 25-28, with his delegates seeking to write progressive initiatives into the party platform and changing the rules to make it easier for insurgent candidates to run in the future.

Many Sanders supporters are resisting the calls of Democratic officials to unify behind Clinton, but that resistance should erode as Sanders supporters examine the differences between Clinton and Donald Trump, who has used economic populist rhetoric to appeal to working-class voters but whose business record shows disdain, if not contempt, toward workers, small businesses, minorities and women, as well as his penchant for lying, documented by PolitiFact.

Sanders has been successful in promoting issues dear to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. He has even helped rehabilitate the name of socialism, as a New York Times/CBS News poll in November 2015 found that 56% of Democratic primary voters said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy while. 29% took a negative view. Even Clinton supporters approved of socialism, 52% to 32%.

Going into the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton should accommodate Sanders’ progressive positions and make it clear that she is not conceding the working-class voters to Trump and the Republicans. And despite Sanders’ criticism of Clinton’s friendliness to Wall Street contributors, she had a relatively progressive record as a senator from 2001 to 2009. The DW-Nominate analysis of voting records by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal shows Sanders is among the most liberal members of the Senate, but Clinton ranked 11th most liberal in each of the four Congresses in which she served, PHenry noted at in March 2015. Clinton was slightly to the left of Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Barack Obama ranked 23rd most liberal in the 110th Congress (2007-09).

Some white workers may fall for Trump’s line that he wants to make America great again, but they should be aware that Republicans refuse to pay what it costs to maintain that greatness — in funding for public schools and universities to train a new generation of workers, while putting the current jobless back to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure that used to be the envy of the world and building clean energy systems that will prevent the planet from being burned to a crisp before our grandchildren qualify for Social Security — assuming Republicans don’t manage to finally dismantle that jewel of the New Deal.

And Republicans certainly don’t want workers to join unions and bargain collectively so that they can share in the productivity gains that have gone almost entirely to corporate executives and shareholders for the past 40 years. That’s why wages have remained stagnant and the middle class is being squeezed out of existence.

The more Bernie continues to push Hillary to adopt progressive positions that will appeal to the working class, the better for Democrats and the left.

Take Down the Haters’ Firepower

Opportunists seeking to make hay from the Orlando, Fla., massacre ranged from the “Islamic State,” which claimed credit for the attack on the nightclub although the jihadists apparently never heard of the shooter before the deed, to Donald Trump, who blames Muslims for failing to turn in the extremists in their midst and called on President Obama to resign if he failed to blame the attack on “radical Islamic terrorism.” (Obama called the assault “an act of terror,” which would be fully investigated, but focused his remarks chiefly on the loss of lives.)

Omar Mateen’s father said his son (who was born in New York) may have been motivated by his anger at seeing gay men kissing each other in public. If he was a radical Islamic terrorist, he apparently had a lot in common with radical Christians who believe the Bible prescribes death for homosexuals.

In November 2015, homophobic pastor Kevin Swanson hosted Republican presidential candidates Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz at the right-wing National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Before he introduced Cruz, Swanson noted, “Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Yes, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death! His words, not mine!”

Swanson’s homophobia was well-known prior to the conference, Right Wing Watch noted, but that didn’t stop the Republican candidates from showing up to seek his approval.

And if the attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando qualified as a terrorist attack, so was the June 17, 2015, massacre in a Charleston, S.C. church where a white supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof, is charged with killing nine blacks, including the pastor, during a prayer meeting at the 200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof reportedly was trying to spark a race war, but Republicans are silent on siccing the FBI on predominantly Christian white supremacist groups.

Mateen was investigated at least twice by the FBI for possible terrorist connections, but the feds apparently were unable to make a criminal case against him, so while he may have been placed on the terrorist watch list, he was still eligible to buy a semiautomatic assault rifle, high-capacity magazines and a pistol the week before his attack on the nightclub.

Since December 2012, when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with an assault rifle and and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself, there have been at least 1,000 mass shootings in the US, killing at least 1,140 people and wounding 3,942 more, reported. And that’s just a fraction of America’s total firearm deaths, which run more than 32,000 each year. The US has way more gun violence than its peers: According to United Nations data compiled in 2012, the US had 2.97 firearm homicides per 100,000 people, while Switzerland had 0.77, Canada 0.51, France 0.06 and Germany had 0.19.

Last December Republicans rejected, 45-54, an effort to block individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms. Some Republicans complained that it gave too much authority to federal agents who compile those lists. If they don’t want to block gun sales to people who are suspected of criminal or terrorist intentions, but have not been convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor, or have not been diagnosed as mentally unfit, Congress should at least reinstate the ban on assault weapons and/or large-capacity magazines, to limit the damage that a deranged person can inflict. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2016

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Copyright © 2016 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

Selections from the July 1-15, 2016 issue

COVER/Daniel Denvir
White working class gets no respect

Keep up the good fight; Take down the haters’ firepower


Kasich back to being Kasich

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Big ag creates big problems

Vast majority of Dems back major Sanders role;
Coal & gas to begin ‘terminal decline’ in less than a decade;
Vulnerable GOP sens endorse Trump, voters not happy;
Trump claims Orlando shooter was foreign born (from same borough as Tump);
AR-15 weapon of choice for mass murder;
Repubs accused of leaking info on fetal tissue researchers;
Clinton and Sanders ads remained positive;
Blue Cross seeks 60% rate hike in Texas;
New GOP health plan would gut health reform;
Trump pee-pees on fair trade promise;
Texas inmate freed after 22 years on Death Row ...

Our immigration policies are ridiculous

Can’t swallow ‘climate action’? Do right anyway

Two for the price of one

Clinton makes history; Sanders struggle continues

Cult of personality

French support for Mississippi autoworkers

The Hillary problem

I wrote a book the fracking industry doesn’t want you to read

New money is needed to close income gaps

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Phantasmagoria, USA

Robots are good for profits, bad for workers

Be careful what you wish for

Krugman annotated

Book review: Contemporary imperialism

Presidential candidates and virtue ethics

‘The Apprentice’ nominee

MOVIES/Ed Rampell
The bad neighbor policy

It’s come down to Hillary or Trump

and more ...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Is Trump trying to dump the election? Or is he just one crazy, if lucky, narcissist?

By Marc Jampole 

Lately I’ve been wondering if Donald Trump is trying to lose the election.

Maybe he started running as a way to burnish his brand, similar to what Ben Carson evidently was doing. What he wanted to do was raise his awareness, especially among the uneducated, so he could continue to place his name on dubious ventures and sell them to his public at inflated prices.

But then things got out of hand and he found himself alone in what pundits called the “establishment lane,” with every other candidate tacking to the extreme right on social issues, tax and spending policies, Social Security, healthcare and foreign affairs. While Trump jumped to the right of them when it comes to immigration and articulated with extreme explicitness the racism which GOP regulars have whispered in code for 40 years, on many issues he was much more centrist than any of the candidates to whom the news media affixed the “establishment” label. No one said he was in the establishment lane, but take a look at who has won the last two Republican nominations—the most centrist-looking candidates of their election cycle, although both McCain and Romney, just like Trump, advocated lowering taxes even more on the wealthy. No one called Trump establishment, but the relative centrality of many of his positions appealed to Republican voters as much as his outrageous statements and ultra-nationalist and isolationist trade and immigration proposals.

Trump now finds himself as the presumptive candidate and maybe he doesn’t want the daily stress and hassles of the presidency. Maybe he realizes he bit off more than he could chew. Or maybe, like Rubio, Cruz and many other candidates from both sides of the aisle, Trump likes running a lot more than he likes governing.

Whatever the reason, his recent actions have me thinking that he’s throwing the race to Hillary. (And thank goodness for that, since the choice is between a sociopathic narcissist who has failed at many business ventures and perhaps the most qualified candidate in the history of the country.)

How else do you explain him accusing American soldiers as a group of stealing millions of dollars from the army that they were supposed to distribute in Iraq? In one fell swoop, he has alienated active military and veterans alike, groups that should inherently favor the Republican, no matter who he (or hypothetically “she”) may be. It may be the first time ever in history that a candidate for office on any level in any country has maligned soldiers. Not generals, not war leaders, but dogfaces in the field!

And how else can you explain his terrible two-ish temper tantrum against Judge Gonzalo Curiel that lasted a week? Or his pulling the media credentials from media outlets that piss him off, thereby establishing himself as an opponent of free speech? Or his insults of other Republicans who have not fallen in line behind his candidacy?

How else do you explain Trump intimating that Obama is surreptitiously helping the terrorists? Remember that eight years ago when an audience member made a scurrilous accusation about candidate Obama, John McCain immediately corrected the benighted fellow and said that Obama was a patriotic American with whom the Senator happened to disagree. It’s the kind of irresponsible accusation that upsets a lot of right-looking independents and centrist-looking Republicans.

And how else do you explain his lunatic and racist statement that if we had not let the father of the Orlando killer into the country, the killer would not have been in Florida to shoot up a gay night club? This kind of logic would lead to the deportation not just of a generation of new Americans, but of virtually everyone whose ancestors immigrated here. Can’t be too safe!

These recent comments and the strong responses by Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and President Obama have sent Trump’s negatives higher than any candidate of any major party has had in U.S. history. The latest polls show Hillary’s lead growing on him. Meanwhile, more Republicans are distancing themselves from the Donald. Some like Kasich have reiterated their lack of support. Others like Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Bob Dold have rescinded prior endorsements. Bernie Sanders has brought a tremendous number of new voters into the Democratic Party and Hillary shows every signs of doing what it takes to make them happy. I’m the only one saying it now, but I think it’s shaping up to be a Democratic sweep—presidency, Senate and the gerrymandered House.

And yet.

The Orlando tragedy has fortuitously provided Trump with an opportunity to make a tremendous grandstand play that could convince the unsophisticated that he can engineer deals to grow the economy and protect us from terrorism.

As you may know, Republicans have repeatedly blocked legislation that would prevent people on the “no-fly” list of those suspected of having terrorist connections from buying or owning guns.  It looks as if a “no fly, no gun” law would have prevented the Orlando killer from buying the weapon he used to assassinate 49 people and injure scores of others. “No fly, no gun” legislation was one of the two bills for which Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and other Democrats filibustered this week, the other being extending background checks and waiting periods to guns purchased at shows and on the Internet. Not up for consideration is a reinstatement of the ban on assault rifles such as the ones used by the Orlando nightclub and Newtown elementary school massacres.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess whether these basic, common sense gun safety measures will pass the Senate, let alone the House. It depends upon how many Republicans dare to cross the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Believe it or not, Trump has come out in favor of a “no fly, no gun” law. He is scheduled to meet with the NRA in a few days and he says he is going to talk to them about a “no fly, no gun” proposal. What if, after the meeting, the NRA announces that it has dropped its opposition to “no fly, no gun” and Trump takes credit for negotiating a deal that passes legislation which 90% of all Americans, including most gun owners, want? Wouldn’t Trump say that it proves that his master negotiation skills can solve the country’s problems?

With Republican candidates already weakened by the Trump candidacy, many GOP incumbents, especially in blue and purple states, must be feeling the heat for their recalcitrant positions regarding gun legislation that most of their constituents back. Perhaps the NRA will feel it must evolve its position on maintaining the rights of people suspected of terrorism or risk losing the Republican majorities that will keep every other type of gun safety legislation from passing.

But the public may not consider the internal machinations of the gun lobby and Congress when evaluating the success of a “no fly, no gun” law, if the NRA support comes after a meeting with Trump. They may see Trump as the all-conquering hero who got the NRA to compromise and thereby kept guns out of the hands of terrorists. The Trump script for his presidency will be coming true, or at least many voters could see it that way.

It is possible then that by compromising on the most absurdly extremist position it holds, the NRA could give the presidency to Donald Trump, or at the very least get him back on a positive track.
Of course, even if the NRA does give the Donald an early Christmas present, he will still be the same narcissistic sociopath who never censors his thoughts, tends to authoritarian solutions, lies a lot and is ignorant of the basic mechanics of government and the pressing issues facing the country. There will be lots of time between now and November for Trump to insult, lie, get personal and generally demonstrate his inadequacies as a head of state.