Bernie Sanders Fights Back Against Conservative Attacks From Wall Street Journal & Clinton Camp

Sanders Responds WSJ

I imagine it is a good thing that both conservatives and the Clinton campaign now see Bernie Sanders as a threat, with both attacking him from the right.

The Wall Street Journal ran a scare story earlier this week entitled, Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion:

He proposes $1 trillion to repair roads, bridges and airports. His college-affordability program would cost $750 billion over a decade. Smaller programs would provide youth jobs and prevent cuts to private pension plans. He would raise an additional $1.2 trillion in Social Security taxes in order to increase benefits and pay those already promised for 50 years. That would bolster the program but fall short of the 75 years of solvency that is typically what policy makers aim to achieve.

Mr. Sanders says he also would propose an expansion of federal support for child care and preschool, though he hasn’t said how much those programs would cost, and they aren’t included in this total.

His most expensive proposal, by far, is his plan to extend Medicare, the federal health program for seniors, to all Americans.

Sanders has responded, pointing out how a single payer plan would be more cost effective:

“That is not the reality. We will be responding to The Wall Street Journal on that,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell of the overall estimate.

“I think most of the expense that they put in there, the expenditures have to do with the single-payer healthcare system,” he continued. “They significantly exaggerated the cost of that, and they forgot to tell the American people in that article that that means eliminating the costs that you incur with private health insurance.”

Paul Waldman has also defended Sanders in a post entitled, No, Bernie Sanders is not going to bankrupt America to the tune of $18 trillion:

…while Sanders does want to spend significant amounts of money, almost all of it is on things we’re already paying for; he just wants to change how we pay for them. In some ways it’s by spreading out a cost currently borne by a limited number of people to all taxpayers. His plan for free public college would do this: right now, it’s paid for by students and their families, while under Sanders’ plan we’d all pay for it in the same way we all pay for parks or the military or food safety.

But the bulk of what Sanders wants to do is in the first category: to have us pay through taxes for things we’re already paying for in other ways. Depending on your perspective on government, you may think that’s a bad idea. But we shouldn’t treat his proposals as though they’re going to cost us $18 trillion on top of what we’re already paying.

He next discussed single payer systems, leading to this key point:

There’s something else to keep in mind: every single-payer system in the world, and there are many of them of varying flavors, is cheaper than the American health care system. Every single one. So whatever you might say about Sanders’ advocacy for a single-payer system, you can’t say it represents some kind of profligate, free-spending idea that would cost us all terrible amounts of money.

He next discussed spending on infrastructure, and then how much less we would have to spend under Republican tax plans which primarily provide tax cuts to the wealthy:

The conservatives who are acting appalled at the number the Journal came up with are also the same people who never seem to care what a tax cut costs, because they think cutting taxes is a moral and practical good, in the same way that liberals think providing people with health coverage is a moral and practical good. For instance, Jeb Bush recently proposed a tax cut plan whose 10-year cost could be as high as $3.4 trillion. That’s a lot of money that the government wouldn’t be able to spend on the things it’s doing right now, although the campaign argues that we’d get much of that money back in increased revenues because of the spectacular growth the tax cuts would create. If you remember the claims that George W. Bush’s tax cuts would create stunning growth and prosperity for all, you might be just a bit skeptical of the Jeb campaign’s similar assertions. But in any case, we can’t evaluate the value of Jeb’s plan just by saying that $3.4 trillion is a big number. If you knew that the average family in the middle of the income distribution would get less than $1,000 from Jeb’s plan, while the average family in the top one percent would get a tax cut of over $80,000, then you’d have a better sense of whether it’s a good or bad idea.

Sanders not only defended himself against this attack from the right on economics. He has also defended himself against attacks from a Clinton Super PAC in a recent fund raising email.

Attacks from the right from the Clinton camp might become increasingly common. Many liberals have been certain that Clinton’s move to the left was insincere, and that she would move to the right for the general election and if elected. We never guessed she would move towards the right so soon. As I noted last week, Clinton’s support has been falling among liberals, with Clinton now returning to calling herself a centrist to contrast herself with Sanders. Jonathan Allen picked up on this shift more recently writing, While everyone else was talking about her authenticity, Hillary Clinton changed her position.

The revelation that Hillary Clinton is planning to be more spontaneous and authentic brought a booming collective laugh from Republicans, some Democrats, and opinion writers last week. The group guffaw drowned out a related shift in her positioning that is far more important: Now she wants to be known as a moderate.

“You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center,” Clinton said in Ohio September 10, according to CNN. “I plead guilty.”

That’s a tire-squealing turn from the first five months of her campaign, when Clinton emphasized her progressive credentials. She built a policy platform significantly to the left of where many Democrats expected her to stand — in favor of new regulations of the financial services industry, “ending the era of mass incarceration,” and reforming campaign finance laws, to name a few items on her agenda. The focus on populism was described as a newfound affinity for the left, a return to liberal roots, an effort to crowd out the competition, a general election strategy based on energizing Democrats, or some combination thereof. The truth is that Clinton’s record is pretty liberal, except when it comes to national defense and trade.

Now she’s pivoting back toward the centrist label that defined her husband’s campaigns and presidency. The obvious reason for Clinton to switch tacks now is that her initial strategy didn’t work: On the strength of backing from liberals, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has surged to leads in New Hampshire and Iowa. That’s a good reason for her to shake things up a bit, but it’s only part of a story that is more about drawing a contrast with Sanders, sending a signal to her supporters that she’s ready to really fight for the nomination, and making sure that she’s comfortable in the political skin she’s wearing for the rest of the campaign.

Allen caught the general direction of the shift, but missed how conservative her record actually is. Beyond national defense and trade which he mentioned, she has also been rather conservative on civil liberties, the environment, and social/cultural issues. While her views on economics might technically be labeled as liberal, she is far to the right of where Democrats influenced by the views of people such as Elizabeth Warren are now at.

After looking at more wonkish policy matters, Allen hit the key matter with the subtitle: The shift is partly about portraying Sanders as too extreme

By portraying herself as a moderate, Clinton is subtly saying that Sanders is too extreme — that he’s one of the people standing on the sidelines shouting rather than trying to “get something done.” The inference voters are supposed to draw is that would make it harder for Sanders to win the presidency and even harder for him to govern.

Running as a moderate (or to be honest, a conservative) might be more “authentic” for Clinton, but in joining the right wing in calling Sanders too extreme, Clinton is missing the direction much of the country is moving in. As I have pointed out many times before, Bernie Sanders Is The Future Of The Democratic Party. As I’ve also pointed out previously, Sanders’ Views Are Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views.

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Why Liberals Should Support Bernie Sanders And Not Hillary Clinton

Sanders Clinton

Conor Friedersdorf is a little late with this article at The Atlantic in calling for more Democratic candidates to enter the race, but his arguments against nominating Clinton are solid:

Most Democrats regard the Iraq War as a historic disaster. Clinton voted for that conflict. That hawkishness wasn’t a fluke. She pushed for U.S. intervention in Libya without Congressional approval and without anticipating all that has gone wrong in that country. She favored U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war as well. Why haven’t Democrats concluded that she has dangerously bad judgment on foreign policy? She certainly hasn’t done anything to distinguish herself in that realm.

Along with the Iraq War, Democrats disdained George W. Bush for the Patriot Act, his expansive views on executive power, and his awful record on transparency. Clinton voted for the Patriot Act. She shows every sign of embracing a similarly expansive view of executive power. And she took extraordinary steps to shield her emails from federal public-records and freedom of information laws.

Then there are her financial backers.

Many Democrats are sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street and to the notion that wealthy special interests on Wall Street are rigging the system by buying off politicians. Who is more bought off than Clinton? It isn’t just her campaign coffers and her family’s foundation that benefit from Wall Street money. Her family’s private accounts are flush with funds from big banks, including at least one that benefitted from her tenure at State and paid her husband seven figures for a speaking gig. It is naive to think that she won’t look out for the interests of Big Finance in Washington.

And on social issues like gay marriage and police misconduct her approach has been to lag public opinion rather than to lead it toward an embrace of progressive reforms.

These are significant flaws.

Nothing costs more in blood and treasure than dubious wars of choice. In an era of terrorism, it is more important than ever to elevate reliable guardians of civil liberties. Wall Street malfeasance contributed to a painful financial crisis in recent memory…

Bernie Sanders has exposed Clinton’s electoral weakness. Her response to the email scandal has reminded voters how willing she is to dissemble. At the very least, Clinton’s weaknesses suggest that a coronation would be a folly––and one without any apparent upside.

Friedersdorf’s argument elsewhere in the article for more Democrats to challenge Clinton would have made sense months ago, when most Democrats were afraid to enter the race because of the fallacious belief that Clinton’s victory was inevitable. At this point it would be very hard for other candidates to launch a campaign unless they have considerable name recognition and connections, such as Joe Biden or Al Gore. Gore’s name comes up occasionally, but there is no sign he has any real interest, and Biden has not yet decided. Democrats who were afraid of the challenge of taking on Clinton six months ago when they thought her victory was inevitable are unlikely to take up the challenge of entering the nomination battle at this late date.

While this might change if Biden gets in the race or O’Malley’s campaign should come back from the dead, at this time Sanders is the only viable alternative to Clinton. Friedersdorf arguments against Clinton are the reasons why liberals should vote for Bernie Sanders.

This article also reminded me of another article I’d recommend at TruthoutFive Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton. The article summarizes Clinton’s conservative record on Foreign Policy, the Economy, the Environment, Civil Liberties, and Culture War issues. I would add a sixth–government transparency and ethics, but note that this was written in February, before the email and Foundation scandals.

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Occupy Calls Clinton and Most Candidates Unfit To Lead; Sanders Receives Favorable Coverage

Sanders Clinton

The rise of Bernie Sanders has sometimes called a progression from the Occupy Wall Street movement which drew attention to the dangers of income inequality. recently looked at presidential candidates they consider Unfit To Lead. Their arguments against Hillary Clinton:

As the junior U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton voted for not only the USA PATRIOT Act that codified some of the U.S. government’s most intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance programs, but for the Iraq War resolution that led our nation into the bloodiest boondoggle of the 21st century. As a result of Clinton’s vote and the resulting destabilization of Iraq, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died – and Iraq is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world, overrun by Daesh (ISIS) terrorists who have destroyed cultural icons, forced children to become soldiers, raped thousands of women, and committed genocide upon the Yazidi population. Even after the Iraq vote, Clinton still hadn’t backed down from her hawkishness. In 2008, Clinton was quoted saying, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran… we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

As President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton created a culture of corruption within the agency, allowing corporations who donated to her family foundation to benefit from State Department contracts and projects. Clinton propagated fracking in a number of Eastern European countries, allowing Clinton Foundation donors ExxonMobil and Chevron to have a foothold into new markets. Meanwhile, a recent report by David Sirota exposed how Clinton’s State Department approved $165 billion in arms sales to 20 countries whose governments donated millions of dollars to her foundation. Many of those countries, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have reputations of trampling on human rights.

Hillary Clinton has remained ambiguous about how she would handle a future financial crisis as president. While Bernie Sanders has made his positions clear on breaking up the big banks, jailing the bankers responsible for reckless behavior that crashed the economy, and implementing a financial transactions tax to fund jobs creation, Clinton has only chastised Wall Street for “risky behavior” in public. In private, Clinton gave two closed-door speeches to Goldman Sachs, each paying $200,000. So far, the Clinton campaign has raked in at least $46 million from Wall Street, and there’s still a year and a half to go.

Ed Schultz also has pointed out how Clinton has avoided answering questions in contrast to Sanders:

When you ask Bernie Sanders about [the Keystone pipeline], you get an answer. When you ask Bernie Sanders a question about the Trans Pacific Partnership… you get an answer. When you ask Bernie Sanders what he would do to the big banks on Wall Street, you get an answer. When you ask Bernie Sanders about, ‘Do you think that the oil companies should pay their fair share – and continue to get billions in dollars of subsidies from the United States Treasury?’ you get a direct answer.

While economic policy has dominated the campaign, as would be expected with the state of the economy, I am glad Occupy did also discuss some of the non-economic reasons to oppose Clinton, including her support for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and the environment.

The same post is critical of Martin O’Malley for his “zero-tolerance” policies. Bernie Sanders has frequently received favorable coverage from them. Six of the Republican candidates are also discussed, and it seems a safe bet that similar objections apply to the rest. I wonder if the article left out Donald Trump due to not taking his campaign seriously, but that could be a mistake considering how his views resonate with the base, as opposed to Jeb Bush, who the Republicans show no excitement for.

An updated version of this has been posted at The Moderate Voice

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Fox Republican Debate Dominated By The Donald

Fox Debate August 2015

Fox brought in a record 24 million viewers for the first Republican debate on Thursday night , and nobody doubts it was because of Donald Trump. CNN explained what this number means:

For perspective, the first GOP primary debate four years ago, also on Fox, attracted 3.2 million viewers.

The most-watched primary debate that year, broadcast by ABC, reached 7.6 million.

Thursday’s debate audience more than tripled that one.

The audience easily exceeded pretty much everything that’s been on American television this year, from the finale of “The Walking Dead” to the final episode of David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The debate was bigger than all of this year’s NBA Finals and MLB World Series games, and most of the year’s NFL match-ups.

It also trumped Jon Stewart’s Thursday night’s sign-off from “The Daily Show,” which averaged 3.5 million viewers.

Trump is a known ratings magnet. His reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” used to reach 20 million viewers a week. But it has slipped over the years, averaging 6 to 8 million viewers for recent seasons.

The debate, as well as most of the talk afterwards, was about Donald Trump. They might as well have named it Presidential Apprentice. By the end, many viewers might have been expecting to go to the boardroom to see who Trump would fire. Hint–it might not have been one of the candidates considering what he has been saying about Megyn Kelley and the other Fox correspondents. Among the most crude:

Trump was the center of attention from the start when the very first question was a show of hands  as to “who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.” Only Donald Trump raised his hand. (Full transcript of the debate can be found here).

Donald Trump did make a great case for campaign finance reform:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

QUESTION: So what did you get?

TRUMP: And that’s a broken system.

QUESTION: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding.

You know why?

She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

Trump also restated his opposition to the Iraq war but flip-flopped on his previous support for a single payer system. Trump could have been the best candidate in the room if he hadn’t turned into a Tea Party clown.

There were some other moments when Republican candidates deserved credit. This includes Rand Paul criticizing both his fellow Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton for their policies which on sending more arms to middle east:

I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.

This was followed by John Kasich defending taking funds for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare:

First of all, Megyn, you should know that — that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.

Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what?

To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I’d rather get them their medication so they could lead a decent life.

Rand Paul made a another good point when he argued with Chris Christie over NSA surveillance:

The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

Beyond this, we primarily learned from the debates that Republicans hate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood.

I am looking forward to seeing Bernie Sanders debate Hillary Clinton on foreign military intervention and suppression of civil liberties. Clinton’s record on these topics does fit well in the GOP mainstream.

I am hesitant to write about winners because we have learned that the winner of a debate is not based upon the debate itself, but the perception of the candidates after people have listened to the talking heads in the days following the debate. This is further complicated with the Republican Party as most of their voters receive their thoughts from Fox. Criticism from the Fox commentators could make Donald Trump look like a loser, but so far he has managed to survive better than the pundits have predicted, and it is not looking like Fox will be successful against him.

From my perspective, which could be quite different from that of Fox, the winners were John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Kasich barely squeaked into the prime time debate, and the two debates did show that Kasich really did deserve to be there more than Rick Perry, who was excluded, possibly by fudging the results of the polls. Kasich and Jeb Bush looked the most stable in the group. Bush already has his position as top contender after Trump, but now Kasich might replace Scott Walker as the leading challenger to Bush and move into the top tier.

I also downgraded Bush for his discussion of his brother’s policies. It wasn’t faulty intelligence which got us in Iraq as he claimed, but his brother twisting the intelligence to justify the war he wanted to start. Jeb! also seemed oblivious to the fact that ISIS and the other problems now occurring in Iraq are due to his brother destabilizing the region. They all seemed oblivious, when talking about the deficit, to the fact that the deficit is a consequence of George W. Bush both fighting the war on credit and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

The other Republican who looked good, if you ignore his actual views, was Marco Rubio. He could make a good candidate in a television-based campaign. The entry of Trump into the race made it hard for candidates like Rubio to get attention, but he did get a shot at being noticed Thursday.

On the other hand, it seemed a battle throughout the evening between Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz to be the most bat-shit candidate on stage, which was impressive considering that Donald Trump was on the same stage. I was edging towards awarding this to Huckabee, with lines such as, “The purpose of the military is kill people and break things,” until Cruz gave his closing statement, and clinched the title:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to start (sic) persecuting religious liberty, and then intend to cancel the Iran deal, and finally move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.

In contrast, Huckabee went for the laugh as opposed to Cruz’s tirade:

It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls, that doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.

A person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead, and, of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

So, in conclusion, Trump wins for continuing to totally dominate the discussion, Kasich and Rubio had smaller victories which might improve their position if the race should return to be about the more conventional candidates, and Cruz edged Huckabee for the scariest Republican in the room. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders must really have felt happy seeing this debate and the caliber of candidate they might come up against in the general election.

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Desperate Conservatives Calling Bernie Sanders A Nazi

Bernie Sanders National Socialism

Bernie Sanders must be scaring the right wing as calling Sanders a socialist isn’t enough for them. An article from National Review practically calls him a Nazi, along with including some references to Stalin. The article outright claims he is a national socialist, which is just a more polite way to say Nazi:

In the Bernieverse, there’s a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.

The rest of the article isn’t any better. The article accuses Sanders of xenophobia, based upon twisting his views on the adverse effects of  outsourcing jobs overseas, which is especially absurd coming from a conservative movement which thrives on racism and xenophobia.

Later in the article are twisted claims that, “criminalizing things is very much on Bernie’s agenda, beginning with the criminalization of political dissent” and that he would get rid of the First Amendment. This is hardly consistent with Sanders’ actual record on civil liberties. It was also Bernie Sanders who was calling for the repeal of laws by which the government infringes upon the private lives of individuals, going back to his campaign for governor of Vermont in the 1970’s:

Bernie Sanders Letter

In this letter, Sanders complained about the erosion of freedoms under Richard Nixon and wrote: “…there are entirely too many laws which regulate human behavior. Let us oppose all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people. Let’s abolish all laws dealing with abortion, drugs, sexual behavior (adultrey, homosexuality, etc.).”

We know where the right wing stands on such issues. They are truly the ones who not only compromise First Amendment rights, but support “criminalizing things” which vary from their brand of morality.

I would think that just being a self-described democratic socialist would be enough to satisfy the paranoia of the right wing. Maybe they realize that once voters take a close look at Sanders’ economic policies, many Americans would be quite pleased. While the top one percent might object to losing the special favors from government which help them accumulate their wealth, the rest of the country would come out ahead, including those in the private sector. Creating a stronger middle class would be good for capitalism, and Sanders has made it clear he has no objection to the private sector. As I pointed out in May, there was no Red Dawn in Vermont when Sanders became mayor of Burlington. As Politco noted:

In 1988, toward the end of Sanders’ four-term tenure — long after a local Democratic leader predicted the movement that swept Sanders into office would be gone in a decade — the U.S. Conference of Mayors named Burlington the most livable city in the country with a population of under 100,000 (in a tie). Then Sanders’ director of community and economic development succeeded him in the mayor’s office and Inc. Magazine named Burlington the best city in the Northeast for a growing business.

Steve Benen also pointed out this bizarre criticism of Sanders from the right:

Sanders and his supporters will very likely find this criticism infuriating, and with good reason. But what’s striking to me is the fact that the criticism exists at all.
It wasn’t long ago that the Republican establishment and conservative media were content to ignore Sanders and his ideas. If his name came up at all, it was used as a punch-line – Sanders was a liberal caricature, not to be taken seriously.
That’s obviously changed. As Sanders’ crowds grow and his poll standing improves, the Vermonter has positioned himself as worthy of National Review condemnation. To be sure, it’s unpersuasive, needlessly provocative condemnation, but it’s also evidence of a prominent national figure whom the right is no longer inclined to discount as irrelevant.
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Bernie Sanders, Guns, And A Respect For Individual Liberty

Bernie Sanders facebook

Clinton supporters have increasingly been trying to smear Bernie Sanders by claiming he is pro-guns and supports the NRA. Actually the NRA has in various years given him grades of F and D- on gun control measures which he has supported, including bans on assault weapons, restrictions on concealed weapons, ending the “gun-show loophole,” and expanded background checks, plus opposing shortening waiting periods. This is what he said when interviewed by Diane Rehm:

Well, I come from a state which has virtually no gun control. And in Vermont, guns are seen as something people use for hunting, target shooting, antique gun shows. But I realize, and Vermont has realized, that guns in Detroit and Los Angeles are used to shoot at police officers and to commit terrible crimes. So, I believe that we have to do everything we can to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them. Period.

More from that interview, where Sanders contrasted his views with those of Clinton on other issues, was previously posted here.

While there is legitimate room for disagreement on some of his votes, overall Sanders has not been against gun control as some are claiming. His concern for rights of those who desire to use guns in a legitimate manner is a plus in his favor, especially when contrasted with the nanny-state views and support for increased influence of religion in government held by Hillary Clinton.

This libertarian side of Sanders can be also be seen in his opposition to restrictions on same-sex marriage, abortion, and the drug war which was seen when he ran for Governor of Vermont back in the 1970’s. Sanders has not needed to evolve on the issues to oppose such intrusions of government on the private lives of individuals.

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Sanders’ Views Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views

With frontrunner Hillary Clinton having been found to have committed  major ethics violations as Secretary of State, showing a tremendous drop in favorability and trust in the polls, and having views significantly to the right of a Democratic Party which is becoming more liberal, it is time for Plan B. With the momentum being displayed by Bernie Sanders, Plan B just might be Plan Bernie.

While Hillary Clinton is a very poor choice to run in the general election, some fear that Bernie Sanders might have difficulty winning because of calling himself a Democratic Socialist (even if his views are closer to European-style social democrats than socialism). It is questionable if that matters considering that Barack Obama won the general election twice, despite being called a Marxist Socialist by the Republicans. As the Star-Ledger Editorial Board put it, Sanders’ socialism is mainstream:

He has made income inequality a central theme, and he wants to revamp the tax system so that the wealthy pay a larger share. Check and check: Gallup reports that 63 percent call wealth distribution unfair, and 52 percent favor heavier taxes on the rich.

He is scathing about how big money has corrupted politics, and 61 percent of agree that Citizens United should be overturned. That includes 71 percent of Republicans who want to limit campaign contributions.

He wants to reduce student debt, at a time when 79 percent believe that education is no longer affordable for everyone, and 82 percent support creating low-cost loans for education.

He believes government should be proactive to reverse global warming, which is consistent with 71 percent of Americans, while 48 percent of Republicans say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who fights climate change.

He also endorses a $15 federal minimum wage and believes that Wall Street banks should be shrunk, two concepts that poll very well.

Even the term “socialism” doesn’t poll like it used to, because younger voters believe Sanders is espousing a broader social rights agenda. The 18-to-29 bloc even finds socialism (36 percent) almost as favorable as capitalism (39 percent).

Or perhaps they just know that socialist precepts, in large part, represent the civic and cultural foundation of our nation.

Consider: Many things we take for granted today were conceived by leftist coalitions that included Socialists and other Progressives, such as the eight-hour workday, women’s suffrage, Medicare, and Social Security. Some were used as the platform for Eugene Debs’ bid for the White House a century ago, though back then they called it “social insurance.”

Labor rights, decent work conditions, and paid maternity leave were in large part socialist ideas, too, some championed by a Socialist congressman from the lower East Side named Meyer London.

And civil liberty was an ironclad tenet throughout our history – as long as your skin wasn’t a tint darker than the majority – but when we interned Japanese Americans in 1942, one of the loudest objections was voiced by the prominent Socialist of the time, Norman Thomas.

Meanwhile the alternative is Hillary Clinton, who helped George Bush lie the country into the Iraq war with false claims that Saddam had connections to al Qaeda, continued to push for increased military intervention as Secretary of State, is weak on issues including civil liberties, government transparency, and the environment, and shows the influence of her association with the religious right in her positions on social issues. Bernie Sanders’ positions might be more mainstream than Clinton’s, despite her selective attempts to sound more liberal, and are definitely preferable for a Democratic candidate.

Related Posts:
Bernie Sanders Contrasts His Views With Those Of Hillary Clinton
What Bernie Sanders Believes

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Justice Department Subpoenas Blog To Identify Anonymous Commenters

The Justice Department has issued a subpoena against Reason demanding information on the identities of anonymous commentaters. BuzzFeed reports:

The Justice Department has issued a federal grand jury subpoena to Reason, a prominent libertarian publication, to unmask the identity of commenters who made alleged threats against a federal judge.

In the June 2 subpoena, first published by the blog Popehat on Monday, the Justice Department orders Reason to provide a federal grand jury with “any and all identifying information” on the identities of commenters who mused about shooting federal judges and/or feeding them through a wood chipper.

A May 31 article on Reason’s blog about the prosecution of Silk Road founder Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht spurred the anonymous commenters’ vitriol. Ulbricht pleaded for leniency, but a federal judge sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison without parole for setting up the illicit online drug market.

“It’s judges like these that should be taken out back and shot,” one Reason commenter wrote…

The subpoena raises several First Amendment issues, such as whether the comments rise to the level of a “true threat” or are protected free speech. The Supreme Court recently ruled that “true threats” must be made with some knowledge or intent that the threat will be taken seriously.

Kimberly Chow, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the comments on Reason clearly fall within the internet’s regular, if outrageous and often vile, discourse.

“In terms of the comments, everybody knows the internet is a forum where exaggeration and hyperbole take place,” Chow told BuzzFeed News. “These comments are in that category. Nobody believes that these people are going to go and put this judge in a wood chipper.”

Free speech advocates also worry that such subpoenas burden websites with significant legal costs and could have a chilling effect on speech. The subpoena also has specific implications for anonymous speech.

Kyu Youm, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and First Amendment scholar, called the Justice Department subpoena “a misplacement of priorities” in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

“Generally speaking, anonymity is still a part of freedom of expression, and just because the government wants to unmask the commenters does not mean it has a strong case,” Youm said. “At least, if there is doubt as to the validity of the subpoena, anonymity should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

Popehat further criticized the subpoena:

The subpoena raises a few questions:

First, are Those Comments True Threats?

Second, if they are not true threats on their face, does the U.S. Attorney’s Office still have the power to use a grand jury subpoena to identify the commenters?

Third, even if the U.S. Attorney’s Office has the power, should it have that power?

Are the Comments “True Threats?” No. NO. AND HELL NO!

True Threats” are those threats that are outside the protection of the First Amendment; they are not mere political hyperbole or bluster. For instance, in 1967, when Mr. Watts said that if he were drafted the first man he’d want in his rifle sights was President Lyndon B. Johnson, that wasn’t a true threat: it was conditional political hyperbole. In other words, it was mere angry bluster of the sort no reasonable person would take to be a serious threat.3

What of these comments on, then? I submit that they are very clearly not true threats — that this is not even a close call.

True threat analysis always examines context. Here, the context strongly weighs in favor of hyperbole. The comments are on the Internet,  a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and gaseous smack talk.4 The are on a political blog, about a judicial-political story; such stories are widely known to draw such bluster. They are specifically at, a site with excellent content but cursed with a group of commenters who think such trash talk is amusing.

The “threats” do not specify who is going to use violence, or when. They do not offer a plan, other than juvenile mouth-breathing about “wood chippers” and revolutionary firing squads. They do not contain any indication that any of the mouthy commenters has the ability to carry out a threat. Nobody in the thread reacts to them as if they are serious. They are not directed to the judge by email or on a forum she is known to frequent.

Virginia Postrel, a former editor of Reason, in an op-ed at Bloomberg News stressed the civil liberties aspects of the case:

The real threats aren’t coming from the likes of Agammamon and croaker. They’re coming from civil servants in suits. Subpoenaing Reason’s website records, wasting its staff’s time and forcing it to pay legal fees in hopes of imposing even larger legal costs and possibly even a plea bargain (or two on the average Joes who dared to voice their dissident views in angry tones ) sends an intimidating message: It’s dangerous not just to create something like Silk Road. It’s dangerous to defend it, and even more dangerous to attack those who would punish its creator. You may think you have free speech, but we’ll find a way to make you pay.

Yes, this is about civil liberties and our First Amendment rights, not whether you agree with Ulbricht or how you feel about the specific comments. I, along with other bloggers who have commented on the case, would have probably deleted some of the more vile comments which have been cited from our blogs. However that is the decision of the owner of the blog, not something the government should be involved in.

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Obama Acts To Limit Use Of Military Equipment By Police

Police Missouri

The events in Ferguson are primarily remembered for raising national awareness as to the frequency of unarmed black men being killed by police, and how we have two systems of justice. Ferguson also led to people on both the left and right joining together to oppose the militarization of police. President Obama has responded to this concern:

President Obama on Monday banned the federal provision of some types of military-style equipment to local police departments and sharply restricted the availability of others.

The ban is part of Mr. Obama’s push to ease tensions between law enforcement and minority communities in reaction to the crises in Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo.; and other cities.

He took the action after a task force he created in January decided that police departments should be barred from using federal funds to acquire items that include tracked armored vehicles, the highest-caliber firearms and ammunition, and camouflage uniforms. The ban is part of a series of steps the president has made to try to build trust between law enforcement organizations and the citizens they are charged with protecting…

The report from the task force on military equipment cited the police response to the Ferguson unrest as an example of how the “militarization” of police departments can lead to fear and mistrust. In addition to prohibiting some equipment outright, officials said, Mr. Obama accepted the group’s recommendation to impose new restrictions on other military-style items, such as wheeled armored vehicles, pyrotechnics, battering rams and riot gear, and more stringent requirements for training and information collection for departments that acquire them.

“The idea is to make sure that we strike a balance in providing the equipment, which is appropriate and useful and important for local law enforcement agencies to keep the community safe, while at the same time putting standards in place,” said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of Mr. Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

The report represents a two-pronged response to a problem that has emerged as a central predicament for Mr. Obama in recent months. He has struggled to acknowledge the sense of fear, grievance and victimization by the police that dominates many minority communities without seeming to forgive violence or condemn law enforcement with a broad brush.

In doing so, he is grappling with the limits of his power to force changes in police departments around the country, where practices and procedures are varied and the federal government’s ability to influence change can be minimal. The equipment task force stems from an executive order, and its conclusions affect only the material supplied by the federal government, while the policing recommendations are merely a blueprint for what Mr. Obama would like to see happen in jurisdictions throughout the country.

Mr. Obama announced $163 million in grants to encourage police departments to adopt the suggestions. The administration also will launch a “tool kit” for the use of body-worn cameras; the Justice Department created a grant program for law enforcement agencies to purchase them.

The American Civil Liberties Union released this comment:

President Barack Obama announced a ban, effective immediately, on the federal government’s transfer of certain military vehicles and weaponry to local and state police departments in the U.S.

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this comment:

“Through this ban, the president has taken a critical step towards rebuilding trust between police and the people they have pledged to serve. Now, the federal government will no longer be permitted to supply police departments with military weapons and vehicles designed for the battlefield. Grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, armored vehicles – this equipment never belonged in our neighborhoods. In our report War Comes Home, we detailed the devastating impact of militarized policing, with communities of color hit especially hard by the weapons and tactics of war.

“We hope that Congress will protect today’s reforms by making them law.”

While a good start, more work is needed to resolve this problem. Radley Balko has some positive comments on Obama’s announcement (emphasis mine):

This announcement is significant. There are types of objections to how the 1033 Program affects police militarization in America. The first is a practical objection — this equipment was designed for use on the battlefield. There’s just no appropriate domestic application for a tracked tank or for guns that shoot .50-caliber ammunition.

The second objection is more about mindset, symbolism and the kind of society in which we want to live. There are plenty of scenarios under which a police department would legitimately need a bulletproof truck. But there’s really no reason why that truck needs to be an MRAP, or painted camouflage or military green, or designed to look as imposing and intimidating as possible. Imagery is important. It’s an indication of how the police see themselves, how they see the community they serve and how the perceive their relationship with that community. And all of that in turn affects how the community views the police. It isn’t difficult to understand how a cop who is dressed in camouflage who rides around the neighborhood in an MRAP is likely to approach to his job with a different mindset than a cop in traditional police blues who conducts daily foot patrols in the same neighborhood.

From what has been reported, this new initiative addresses these concerns as well and seems to indicate that the Obama administration understands and appreciates that the symbolic component of police militarization is just as important as the practical component. I’m uncomfortable with any military vehicles going to local police. Free societies tend to draw a clear line between cops and soldiers. Blurring that line indicates a failure to appreciate its importance. But this initiative is moving toward reestablishing that line, not moving it or further blurring it. Federal programs are pretty difficult to disband, so a blanket ban was probably never in the cards. Conditioning the acceptance of this gear on increased transparency, accountability and a move toward community policing seems like a good compromise. We’ll either get less use of this military-issued equipment, or we’ll get more and better information about how it’s used. Either outcome is progress.

He also continues to see problems:

There’s no understating the role the 1033 Program played in militarizing U.S. police forces. Though it was codified in the 1990s, the transfer policy existed informally dating back to the early 1980s. So reining it in is important. It sends a clear message that the administration really gets this issue.

That said, most of the militarization today happens outside the 1033 Program. As the Heritage Foundation reported last year, few of the weapons we saw in those iconic images coming out of Ferguson were obtained through 1033. That program created the thirst for militarization, but police agencies can now quench that thirst elsewhere. Since 2003, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments around the country to purchase new military-grade gear. That program now dwarfs the 1033 Program. It has also given rise to a cottage industry of companies that build gear in exchange for those DHS checks. Those companies now have a significant lobbying presence in Washington. I suspect that presence will now only grow stronger. So if the Obama administration really wants to roll back police militarization, this program needs reform, too.

Police agencies also sometimes buy the gear directly from manufacturers. Some purchase gear through donations. In some cases, even individual officers buy their own stuff. There really isn’t much the Obama administration can do about these sources of militarized weapons.

Ultimately, I think going after the symbolism component to militarization is more important than attacking the the practical component. Most police departments are always going to have a SWAT team. Larger departments will have several. So the option to use militarized force will always be available. The key is to get them to opt for it only when it’s appropriate. (A good start would be to remove the incentives to use such force when it isn’t.) Or better yet, to instill a healthy reluctance to use such force at all — to make deescalating conflicts the priority instead of overwhelming them.

The good news is that this new policy suggests that the Obama administration understands this. But the push will have to come from the bottom up, too. The federal government can stop contributing to the problem, but it will be up to local activists, voters and elected officials to actually change it. There will be resistance, from unions, from police advocates and probably from politicians. But police agencies are ultimately answerable to the communities they serve. If a city’s police leadership has adopted use of force policies that don’t conform with a community’s values, the community should demand new leadership. If the city’s politicians don’t comply, then the community should demand new politicians.

Common Dreams has additional opinions here.

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Russ Feingold Needed Back In The Senate

Russ Feingold has announced plans to attempt to win back the Senate seat he lost six years ago in the video above.

“People tell me all the time that our politics and Washington are broken. And that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling the shots,” Feingold says in the video. “They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it’s hard not to agree. But what are we going to do? Get rid of the Senate?

“Actually, no one I’ve listened to says we should throw in the towel and give up — and I don’t think that either,” he adds. “Instead, let’s fight together for change. That means helping to bring back to the U.S. Senate strong independence, bipartisanship and honesty.”

Feingold lost his seat in the Republican sweep of 2010, and is considered to have a better than even chance of winning it back in a presidential election year. It would be unusual in recent years for this to occur:

While Feingold is seen as a very strong candidate with perhaps better than even odds to pick up the seat he lost to Ron Johnson during the 2010 Republican tsunami, his return to the chamber would certainly be a rarity in the modern political era.

Smart Politics first reported in February that only two U.S. Senators have returned to the chamber after losing their seat at the ballot box since 1956.

The last U.S. Senator to be defeated at the ballot box and then later win an election back to the chamber was Washington Republican Slade Gorton

From the beginning of direct elections in 1913 until the mid-1950s, such comebacks were much more common, with 14 defeated ex-U.S. Senators winning back a seat in the chamber…

Feingold’s return to the Senate is very important for those of us who vote Democratic based upon issues such as civil liberties, opposition to unnecessary wars, campaign finance reform, and transparency in government. If Hillary Clinton should win the Democratic nomination as most expect, this would leave us with a choice of both a Democrat and most likely also a Republican who is very conservative on all of these issues. (The lone exception on these issues might be Ron Paul, but he has been flip-flopping to sound like a more conventional Republican).

Russ Feingold has battled with Clinton in the past, and he will hopefully be a strong voice in the Senate for liberalism as opposed to Clintonian conservatism. Feingold would also make a far better presidential candidate than Clinton, but it is understandable he would concentrate on winning back his Senate seat as opposed to an uphill battle for the presidential nomination.

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