SocraticGadfly: 1/31/16 - 2/7/16

February 05, 2016

#FeelTheBern an actual #socialist on #BigAg — Just.Another.Politician.™

Specifically, Bernie Sanders is a both a corporate socialist and a welfare socialist, all in one bill signed into law in 2014 by President Barack Obama.
President Obama added his signature to legislation that will cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits over the next 10 years, causing 850,000 households to lose an average of $90 per month.  
And, like his stance on guns, it shows that, beyond pragmatism, Bernie can be Just.Another.Politician.™ when he feels it is politically necessary. Sometimes that's good, but sometimes that's not.

The 2014 Farm Bill cut a certain program within Department of Agriculture, the Feed and Eat program.

Yes, the link has been passed around the interwebz largely by Clintonistas, of that I have no doubt. But, it's still disconcerting, no matter who's peddling it.

Beyond the cuts, it pretty much left intact U.S. agricultural subsidies. Actually, it moved them to a back door and may have increased them. Those include to the dairy farmers of Vermont who supply Cabot Cheese and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. And, it increases corporate payouts to the privatized operators of ag insurance programs.

Bernie favored this bill, along with a squish like Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow:
“This is a nutrition bill that makes sure families have a safety net just like farmers do,” she said. “The savings in food assistance came solely from addressing fraud and misuse while maintaining the important benefits for families that need temporary help.”
When Democrats spout their version of Reaganesque “waste, fraud and abuse,” but never aim it at the corporatized farmers who benefit, in this case.

Of course, Bernie the corporate welfare guy had plenty of company with Stabenow. Only 9 Senate Dems opposed the bill.

However, to reframe that, nine Senate Democrats not named Bernie Sanders did find room to oppose this bill. It's a nice "meme" to call this a bill the Republicans held hostage. However, given that in places like California, most agriculture is owned by massive corporations, Democrats could have dug in their heels had they so chosen. (More here about corporate agriculture.)

There's yet more here, on America's top 100 landowners. Not all are farmers, but many are "farmers" for tax write-offs, if nothing else. And wingnuts like Phil Anschutz, Walton-in-law Stan Kroenke, the Simplots and others, populate that list heavily. No. 39 on the list, with farm holdings? The good old Koch Brothers. All potential hostages for Dems to get more money for food stamps — had they chosen to take hostages.

The bill's consequences, including for social justice, go beyond America.

Now, dairy, unless made into cheese or ice cream, especially the former, doesn't travel well. But, agricultural subsidies of the U.S. and the European Union penalize farmers in places like sub-Saharan Africa.

And, per that top 100 landowners link, many of them are not only corporatized in the US, but abroad as well. That only adds to the issue of farm subsidies.

This gets back to what I said a week ago about Sanders' one-note trumpet not sounding very much on foreign policy. There are issues of economic justice on fair trade promoting good labor rights and workplace safety rights. There are also issues of economic justice on developed world farm subsidies.

And, on that, as well as on corporate farm welfare, Sanders kind of missed the boat.

Of course, this isn't the good kind of corporate socialism. That good kind would be nationalizing some of our health care services.

Is Sanders "bad"? No. Is the lesser of two evils sometimes a big enough difference that the good is not the enemy of the best? Yes.

At the same time, this is why I remain, for now, a supporter of Sanders in the Democratic primaries only.

#DemDebate for #NHPrimary shows differences, but #MSNBC2016 missed big ones as did #FeelTheBern

First, yes, I agree with the talking heads that this was very good overall.* And, overall, except for Chuck Todd's dumb Veep question at the end, of the two-thirds or so that I caught (had a local political candidates town hall earlier, and was on the job for that!) it was very good of him and Rachel Maddow (more on her below) to largely keep themselves out of being part of the debate.

* = The exception is for talking heads that said afterward that Sanders lost, especially those who viewed this in zero-sum terms, and after first deciding to declare Clinton the winner, then said that by definition, Sanders must be the loser.

Clinton's "artful smear" bullshit, plus her claim that, re Iraq, Special Forces are not combat troops, mark her as losing right there, especially when, yesterday, the Pentagon said Dear Leader had been lying about U.S. troop numbers in Iraq.

They were arguably both winners. Sanders built on Wednesday's town hall in comments that specifically reached out to minorities. He gave a great, reverse-twisted low-key close. He showed himself a skillful politician on Clinton's emails. Clinton looked steady, did the best she could on youth issues, especially given the setting, and probably gave a good "mainstream America" answer on the death penalty. She also continued to look better, in terms of presentation but not content, whenever a debate turns to foreign policy issues. Vermont's alt-weekly, an often-supportive site, yet with a critical eye at all times, agrees that Sanders is still weak here, and that his 1-note trumpet within trumpet remains nothing but "Iraq War vote."

I was glad to hear questions on the Trans Pacific Partnership and other things.

That said, while disappointed, I wasn't surprised that the overrated, left-of-center Democratic liberal Rachel Maddow didn't ask some even tougher ones — ones that would not only have separated Bernie Sanders from Hillary Clinton, but might at the same time have separated Bernie Sanders from Green Party or Socialist Party candidates. (Sorry that we have only the Green Party in Texas.)

Let me give you an example or two.

1. The Honduras coup. It was smooth enough that even I was fooled initially, though I eventually called it a semi-coup. Unlike some left-liberals, I still won't call it a full-blown coup, though, and I'm not sure one side was that much better than the other. That said, the quasi-coup or whatever happened while Clinton was Secretary of State, so if Maddow had asked if it were a coup, we know she would have said no. What would Sanders have said?

2. Farm legislation. Per a more in-depth blog post coming up later today, and now posted, Sanders voted in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill, which cut benefits to a certain class of food stamp recipients — to the tune of about $10 billion over 10 years — while doing little trimming of corporate welfare to corporate agriculture, and in some cases, increasing it, including to Vermont dairy farmers. It would have been nice to have a bifurcated question, asking Clinton how she squares this with her ideas of free trade and Sanders how he squares it with his idea of fair trade. A good follow-up would have been to ask Sanders how supporting this farm bill squares with his crusade against the 1 percent.

I mean, Ted Cruz — in Iowa — said he opposes ethanol subsidies.

Some Sanders diehards have twitched when I've even hinted at talking about this.

Sorry folks, but he's Bernie Sanders, not the Second Coming of either Jesus for the Rapture or Elijah for the Seder. Not accepting that a candidate you're really in the groove for is not only not perfect, but at times is even downright wrong, is not a good thing.

This fake New York Times illustrates a real problem on the lack of questions
beyond the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.
3. As I noted on Twitter, unless I missed something significant in the first one-third of the debate, while we did get questions on ISIS, Iran and Iraq, it's "interesting" that we had none on Israel, let alone on Palestine. Sen. Sanders, next time you talk to or about the King of Jordan, tell the rest of us what King Abdullah says about Palestine and about Israel's Berlin Wall.

The best non-asked question here would have been about Boycott, Divest, Sanctions. Second would have been about the idea being discussed in the E.U. to have Israeli products made in occupied Palestine to so be labeled.

And, Berniecrats, don't bring up that he lost relatives in the Holocaust. First, I know that. Second, so did his brother, who does support BDS.

Let's also not forget that this is the Bernie who booted pro-Palestinian activists from his office and threatened to have them arrested.

4. Part of climate change's issue for the future may be how much world population growth is going to exacerbate it, as well as refugee crises and other things. Sure would have been nice to hear both be asked about this.

5. Is Obama's modernizing of nuclear weapons a good idea in general, or should it be done only in a way that doesn't increase our nuclear throw weight, or the temptation to use it in tactical, not just strategic, situations?

Those are just a few, off the top of my head. The lack of them illustrates, to refudiate wingnuts, that MSNBC ain't a bunch of commies, or even pale pink socialists.

(These would all be, in different variations, great questions for a GOP debate, too.)

That said, back to Mad Cow. Per one Berniac (and yes there are some, and because they're not all "bros" I prefer this term to "Berniebros"), no, she was not asking Clinton all softball questions. Rather, she teed up more than one for Sanders. That said, Chuck Todd asking Clinton if she would consider Sanders as Veep was a definite tee-up for her.

Next, per the last hashtag. Sanders isn't doing bad, in terms of political skills, for exactly how he handled the Clinton emails issue. And, he did a great job of building on last night's town hall with his incarceration and related answers and tying them to minorities without pandering. But maybe, per Andrea Miller, he does lack a killer instinct at times. Yes, he let the crowd boos do his job for him on her "artful smear" bullshit. But, he could have done a little twist of the "integrity" knife after the boos subsided. He could have asked, rhetorically, if it was Henry Kissinger who was among those foreign policy advisers Clinton cited. He could have asked, on her "every Secretary of State" gets paid $675,000, if it was OK to ask Colin Powell that, or something to that end. (Of course, maybe he IS, in which case it backfires a bit.)

The big lack of killer instinct may have been deliberate, and that was not in forcefully demanding the Iowa Democratic Party do a full audit or recount of raw vote numbers, after the caucus clusterfuck and shenanigans. Jeff St. Clair touches further on this. Perhaps Brains is right, that this is Sanders already making nice for his eventual reconciliation. That may come a bit later than he thinks, nonetheless, I believe he's right.

Bill Curry thinks that Sanders really can pull off the revolution. And, yes, it's FOB Bill Curry. Interesting. Maybe he's right. With all the foreign policy and gun-related concerns I still have about Sanders, I hope he is right.

But ... the record says ...

For that matter, why didn't Sanders more forcefully protest the "artful smear" smear?

He's definitely right on that then being time for Plan B, i.e., back to full support of Jill Stein (presuming she is again the Green Party's nominee.

Finally, the Dallas Snooze reminded me of why they only endorse one Democrat, at most, every four years on state-level offices and above. Calling Sanders a debate loser is fucking laughable, Brandi Grissom, perfectly illustrating the Peter Principle at the Belo Mansion. (I made sure to put the "no follow" on that link; no cheap page views for the Snooze from here.)

It also reminded me of how it's part of the #InsideTheMopac media, a Texas version of #InsideTheBeltway folks. That, in turn, reminds me of how they're furiously spinning for Clinton again.

February 04, 2016

Des Moines Register calls shenanigans in the #IowaCaucus (updated)

Voters sign in before the Democratic presidential caucus
at Simpson Barn in Johnston Monday, February 1, 2016.
Brenna Norman/For The Register
This is NOT a conspiracy theory about coin flips, so sit down, Clintonistas.

The Des Moines Register, the paper that endorsed Hillary Clinton, let us note, is saying something is definitely rotten in the state of the Iowa Democratic Party, to the point it's calling for a full audit of Iowa Democratic caucus results. And, per the editorial, so far, Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the party, is digging in her heels and saying no, which is going to add fuel to claims of actual conspiracies.

And, CNN is now picking up on this.

So is, which has a petition drive demanding a recount or audit.

The main point:
First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states.

Is pure and simple.

From there, the Register notes:
Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems

The Sanders campaign is rechecking results on its own, going precinct by precinct, and is already finding inconsistencies, said Rania Batrice, a Sanders spokeswoman. 
So, the need for an audit.

Meanwhile, per McGuire digging in her heels?
Her actions only confirm the suspicions, wild as they might be, of Sanders supporters. Their candidate, after all, is opposed by the party establishment — and wasn’t even a Democrat a few months ago.
Bingo. And, as long as the Democratic hierarchy in Iowa digs in, the more and more willing I am to throw gasoline and extra matches on this tire fire.

And, beyond digging in her heels, she's now outrightly lying.

She's claiming the raw votes aren't available, when they were in 2008. McGuire is claiming that is based on "journalistic estimates." Really, down to the exact number?

Does Pinocchio live in Des Moines?

Finally, to its credit, even though it might affect Iowa’s midwinter economy every four years, the Register calls on (presumably, both parties, eventually), to take a new look at the whole caucus idea.
And, it gets worse. Per a post on the Iowa DP's Facebook page, this comment:
The Iowa Democratic Caucus needs deep reforms. It's bad when the Iowa Republican Caucus is more democratic (every vote actually counts, and the Iowa Republican party actually releases the vote number). Maybe it should be changed to a primary. Either way, the voters deserve better.

Is hugely damning. 

Speaking of Facebook, here's the home page of the Iowa Democratic Party. (Its Twitter account seems pretty inactive.) Go give it hell.

Related? This is yet more reason why I refuse to vote Democratic in the general election. And, I'll trumpet that ever more as part of adding yet other gasoline and matches to fires.

#FeelTheBern, with a dash of #BlackLivesMatter at the #DemTownHall before the #NHPrimary

There we go. Hashtags all in order.

First observation? Sanders sounded his most personable yet of any debate or town hall event. Big plus there. His humorous kneecapping of Donald Trump's conspiracy theorizing was well-played.

Biggest plus beyond the congeniality? Per my second hashtag, his response on policing to an African-American person from the audience. He noted that use of force should always be a last resort, but honestly said that for some cops, it's the first. He said police officers needed to be held just as accountable to the law as anybody else. The rest of his answer was totally spot on.

And, those comments may have helped Sanders land the endorsement of former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Jealous.

Second biggest plus? His response to a New Hampshire state legislator, explaining how he is the real can-do candidate, able to accomplish, and having already accomplished, a lot of things. I've covered this in depth, a week ago. Community housing land bank as Burlington mayor. "Senator (Successful) Amendment" as a senator. And in between.

His worst answer? The ISIS one. Like friend Brains, I think Bernie's too much of a warhawk. I've also covered this in depth, noting that the War on Terror has definite parallels to the War on Drugs. I half-cringed when I heard his "crush ISIS" answer. Indeed, it is exactly things like this that lead me to stress, on this blog, on Facebook, and elsewhere, that as of this time, and for the likely future, I support Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries only.

And, do NOT give me the "but the SCOTUS" or other comments about my looking outside the two-party duopoly.

His second-worst answer was one that was apolitical, but way wrong. It was about opiates.

In reality, fear of the feds leads many doctors to hugely UNDERprescribe properly indicated narcotics. He did people with chronic pain no favors by telling something simply not true. Politicians should be comfortable with saying "I don't know," or just not commenting beyond stereotyped answers.

The spirituality question was semi-horrible. I am not sure if there was any pandering intent on Sanders' part, but as someone not only Jewish, but someone not religiously observant in Judaism, I thought he definitely should NOT have said that we all worship god in our own ways.

Overall grade? A-, if I'm giving letter grades, and starting at the dividing point between GOP and Democrats.


Briefly to Clinton.

First, you're no progressive. This "gatekeeping" is bullshit. Everybody who knows you (and Sen. MBNA, Joe Biden, and Tim Geithner is My Treasury Secretary Obama), knows that, without the help of Bernie Sanders. It's also why I don't use the word regularly any more.

Second, you seemed to be running against the GOP a lot, and either ignoring or running away from Sanders. (A nice try, but a "fail," on making this a one-person race, and with an "it's my turn" unspoken thought.)

Third, your non-answer on why youth aren't even close to supporting you was hilarious. But, it was probably about the best you could do without a self-inflected wound.

Fourth? The answer that you were either too dumb or too lazy to apply critical thinking to the Bush Administration's war on Iraq was like shooting yourself in the foot.

That and her essential non-answer on her $675K bankster speaking fees? She's got a Richard Nixon sized credibility gap.

That said, I'll give her a kudo for the response to the man with end-of-life issues. That said, single-payer health care, presuming it covered hospice costs, is the real answer. An even better answer would be to get beyond any Methodist scruples the likes of Clinton has (or Jewish spiritual scruples Sanders has) about assisted suicide.

I'll also give her a kudo on being personable herself at the end.

Overall grade? A scuffing C-? For a video-related, more spoofy send-up, see my previous post.

February 03, 2016

Let's have video fun with #HillarySoProgressive at the #DemTownHall

I started tuning out Hillary Clinton more and more after her "George Bush hypnotized me into the Iraq War" answer about halfway through. That's because, of course, her actual past, as captured on non-fun video, refudiates her.

I didn't see that video until after the debate, thanks to a retweet by Brains and Eggs.

But, I did start thinking about videos at various points during the debate, and so now, on to the airing of grievances.

First, in relation to the rabbi's two pockets question, we have Gollum and "what has it got in its pocketses"?

Speaking of, doesn't Gollum look a bit like Lloyd Blankfein of GoddamSachs? I have no experience with videoshopping, but in straight photoshopping, could easily make that happen.

Then, thinking of Hilary's neoliberal non-roar? Helen Reddy was probably throwing up in her mouth, wherever she is these days:

Hillary, did you "roar" 675,000 times?

And "Down on Wall Street (stuck in the corner)" is certainly no CCR:

No common touch from her.

Of course, her answers on the Iraq War and her $675K bankster speaking fees only increased her "credibility gap" with me. Speaking of "credibility gap," I thought you'd never ask: