Why Bernie Will Win – Part 4: The BIG Difference

This post is a very easy one to write, because it is, in effect, a simple question: Will Hillary Clinton represent the interests of the working people of America?

Hillary private jetHillary: here is a woman who has “served” as First Lady of Arkansas, then First Lady of the USA, and then as a Senator, and then as Secretary of State. Her professional life has, for all intents and purposes, been a purely political one. And yet, through her connections, her contacts and her skill in manipulating the system, she has managed to parlay this “political career” into a fortune worth $32,000,000.

Bernie_middleBernie Sanders, on the other hand, has been a “real” political animal. During the same period that Hillary was amassing her fortune through an “establishment” political career, Bernie served as a city Mayor, a Congressman and a Senator, all the while running on his famous “Democratic Socialist” platform. The result? Bernie has a net worth of just $330,000.

So here is the question: how is it that two candidates, who many claim have the same priorities and the same goals, could both dedicate their lives to politics, to “fighting for the working families” – and yet one ends up with $32 million, and the other ends up with just $330K?

I think this is a big part of the reason that people do not like the Clintons. They are a political family., they have been making their living in political “service” to their state and then their country for virtually all of their adult lives and yet they have managed to amass an incredible fortune while supposedly “serving” the public.

No one begrudged the Roosevelts their wealth, nor the Kennedys theirs. Even Mitt Romney was generally considered to have “earned” his fortune. And Donald Trump has become famous almost solely for his success as a businessman. In other words, they “earned” their money in the American way.

la-la-na-trump-and-clintonaf-wre0030099313-20141110But the Clintons? They are simply “America’s Political Family.” They have never done anything else. And yet they travel in the same circles as the Trumps and the Romneys, the Kennedys, etc.. Indeed, it is now widely known that the Clintons went to Trump’s last wedding, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka is best friends with Chelsea Clinton.

And this brings us to the Big Difference. Bernie Sanders is a true believer. He is motivated by a genuine desire to help people, to speak truth to power, and as he says so often in his speeches, he wants to use his political position to “take on the billionaire class.”

Clinton-TrumpHillary Clinton, on the other hand, has used her political positions to become PART of that “billionaire class.” And she revels in it. And that is, I think, why people in the US don’t like her. She literally embodies all that is wrong with the calcified, corrupt and money-driven political system that is running America today.

She is, in essence, the poster-girl for Bernie’s “political revolution” and that fact will come out over the course of the campaign.

Feel The Bern!!

NOTE: this post is continued in a very important way HERE.

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Why Bernie Will Win – Part 3: Foreign Policy

No one needs to discuss the differences on Foreign Policy that exist between Bernie and the Republican candidates. Those should be treated as a given. What has not been discussed publicly, however, and what bears real examination, is that these same policy differences exist between Bernie and Hillary Clinton.

Kerry Confirmation Hearing For Secretary of StateHillary often boasts that she had wide and deep support from Republicans when she served as Secretary of State. Given the reactionary and militaristic views of the Republican Party when it comes to Foreign Policy, such a claim should immediately raise red flags for any Democratic voter.

In addition, it is well-known that Hillary voted to support the Bush Administration’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. She has since “admitted” that this was a mistake, and that she had been fooled like so many others. But what if Hillary’s Iraq vote was not a lapse in judgment but rather an expression of her deeper convictions, specifically her support for the neoconservative interventionist policies of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and others? What if Hillary voted “yea” not because of possible WMD, but because deep down she thought that the US had the right – indeed the responsibility – to invade Iraq and install a “friendly” government that would serve America’s strategic aims in that region?

Hillary was a staunch member of the Democratic Leadership Council, an organisation of so-called “New Democrats” of which Bill Clinton was Chairman. The DLC rejected economic populism and believed in “triangulation” – i.e., the co-opting of Conservative social and economic positions in order to win votes among what they perceived to be a conservative-leaning electorate. The DLC was fully behind the disastrous domestic policies that the Clintons pushed (Tough On Crime Bill, DOMA, Destruction of Welfare/dissolution of AFDC). But on Foreign Policy, the DLC was also very conservative, and the DLC signed on with and supported the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) – the cabal of neoconservatives that were behind the Iraq War. And indeed, support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq was the official policy position of the DLC!

In this way, we can say that Hillary’s vote for the Iraq War was not a “blip” or a “mistake” – she was not fooled or bamboozled into voting for war. She was simply voting in the manner in which the DLC and the PNAC wanted her to.

neocon_monstersRobert Kagan, a well-know neocon and one of the architects and proponents of the Iraq war, was one of the principal adherents to the PNAC. This organisation called for the USA, as the sole superpower, to pursue an aggressive program of military intervention and to project “hard power” everywhere to secure America’s preeminent place in the world.

Kagan is a real fan of Hillary, and speaks glowingly about her willingness to pursue interventionist policies. In a 2014 interview with the New York Times, Kagan said of Clinton: “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue …it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

201132163646881140_20Indeed, whenever there has been a choice between diplomacy and war, Hillary has pushed for a military solution. She was the one that urged the US attacks on Libya; she was for being more militarily involved in Syria, arming the so-called “moderate” rebels and even putting in American “advisers.” More recently, she has called for a “No Fly Zone” over Syria – and we know from our experience in Iraq that such as step usually ends up being a prolonged lead up to war.

There were also other telltale votes in the Senate. When a bill came up to limit the use of cluster bombs in heavily populated civilian areas, she crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans against it.

She also joined Republicans in voting against transferring Guantanamo detainees to the US so that the prison could be closed (Bernie voted for it).

Likewise she voted to “Set policy to “combat, contain, and roll back” violent Iranian activities in Iraq – a major increase in military operations in Iraq (Bernie opposed it).

Hillary voted for the incredibly bloated $500 billion Defense Spending Bill in 2008, which Bernie opposed so eloquently and vehemently (see video)

hillary-netanyahu-530x306Let’s make no mistake -Hillary has as much as told us that she would be to the right of Obama on Foreign Policy. She has opposed him numerous times, not just on Syria but also as regards Israel. Hillary has condemned Jimmy Carter’s assessment that the occupied territories represent a new “apartheid”. She has also worked to block Palestine’s recognition as a state in the UN.

And of course she supports the NSA’s spying and thinks Edward Snowden is a traitor that needs to “face the music.”

I don’t know if Clinton’s bellicosity arises from a fear of being perceived as “weak” or “womanish” on foreign policy, or whether she is just another Israel-loving neocon who believes that the US should intervene wherever it wants to. But one thing is sure, and that is she is always the first to push for a military option, and in this way she is a true student of the neoconservatism. If she is president, it is most likely, as Kagan says, that she will pursue what the PNAC called a “Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.”

Hillary_Clinton_with_the_troops_550President Obama recently announced that he will not be bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. The next President will thus need to decide whether or not to leave a permanent military presence in that country or indeed to “double-down” on our commitment with even more troops. There is no doubt also that Iraq will continue to be a cauldron of violence and instability. How will a President Clinton handle these situations? Unfortunately, if past is any prologue, we know that Hillary will listen to the other war hawks and choose the military solution.

When it comes to foreign policy, Bernie can always be expected to give the line that he delivered in the Democratic debate: “I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort.”

Many may be tempted to dismiss this statement as simple oratory or expressing a sentiment rather than arguing a position. But in reality, when Bernie is up there compared with Hillary Clinton, we must realize that it is not a platitude but rather a serious declaration of a major difference in their approach to Foreign Policy. That simple belief that “war is a last resort” may seem axiomatic to Bernie and to us, but it is by no means a given with Hillary Clinton.

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Bernie Sanders Rapid Response Library ver. 2.0 (14 Oct 2015) – facts, figures, comebacks and zingers to fight against the misinformation!

DebateTired of conservative and Clintonista trolls posting smack about our guy? Wish you had some statistics and facts to combat their BS?

Want to set the record straight about Hillary and the First Debate in Las Vegas?

Here is my own “Rapid Response Library” to use as a reference – some facts, figures and opinions – use whatever you think makes sense to you. Cut and paste, modify as needed to shoot down the nattering nabobs of negativism and the Clintonista shock troops wherever they may rear their ugly heads…

Just click the link below to download the PDF.

Bernie Rapid Response Library 2.0

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Dem Debate: Banks v. Guns – A Tale of Two Constituencies

Hillary goes after Bernie on guns; Bernie goes after Hillary on Wall Street and the Big Banks. It’s political tit-for-tat, right?

DebateUnfortunately for Hillary, these arguments are not equal in terms of scope and substance.

As a Congressman and Senator from rural Vermont, Sanders was representing his constituents – hunters and other conservative gun-owners -when he voted the way he did. Likewise, as the junior Senator from New York, Clinton had Wall Street banks as her own constituents, and so one might have understood the fact that she was obligated to represent their interests in the Senate.

The question to be considered NOW, however, is whether a President Sanders would adopt a stronger position gun control when he represents all Americans, and whether a President Clinton would be tough on Wall Street once in the Oval Office.
This question is best answered simply:

• To date, Hillary Clinton has received over $3.5 million in donations from Wall Street banks, with Goldman Sachs giving her almost $1 million for this election alone.

• To date, Bernie Sanders has received $0 from the NRA, and has a D- rating but that group.

THIS outlines the big difference between the two candidates: Hillary Clinton is willing to rant and rave all day about Gun Control, Abortion Rights, Gay Rights, Civil Rights and Climate Change because that is what her rich, elite donor base want her to do. The last thing they want is for Hillary to actually do something to curb their power, influence or wealth.

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Why Bernie Sanders will Win – Part 2: Morality

There is another aspect of the Bernie Sanders campaign of which the establishment political set and the mainstream media seem wholly unaware: his direct and persistent appeal to people’s morality.

Bernie’s full-throated attacks on what he calls “the billionaire class” are widely described as a populist message, designed to appeal to working class moderates on an economic level and liberal intellectuals on a philosophical level. The media frame the Sanders message and the Sanders campaign as straddling these two demographic groups, and they constantly express doubt as to whether Bernie can expand his audience beyond these two cohorts.images-5

What neither the establishment media nor the establishment political class have grasped, however, is the extent to which the Sanders Message is an ecumenical call for a return to MORALITY.

As I described in my previous post on this subject, Bernie’s message is firmly based in economics, and he is addressing economic issues that have not been tackled openly and honestly in over 30 years. The novelty of such a thematic is part of why he has such appeal among voters looking for a fresh dialogue and new ideas. What gives Bernie the ability to win over voters of all stripes, however, is his willingness to ”call out” the ultra-wealthy and the corporations for their rampant GREED.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) talks to tribal members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation during a campaign event at the Meskwaki Nation Settlement near Tama, Iowa, September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) talks to tribal members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation during a campaign event at the Meskwaki Nation Settlement near Tama, Iowa, September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

The 1980’s saw a rise in the perceived importance of wealth and financial power, or what Niall Ferguson, the noted Harvard economist, has described as “The Ascent of Money”. The Reagan Revolution brought with it the idea that our purpose was to become rich, to win, to beat out our competitors not only in our professional lives but everywhere; the 1980’s of Ronald Reagan were the time of the first banking crises, the first bailouts, and the birth of America’s fascination and obsession with the wealthy. “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” debuted in 1984; Dallas and Falcon Crest, the fictitious depiction of two powerful family dynasties, dominated prime time TV. Everyone wanted to be rich. And that was OK because, as Gordon Gekko assured us, “greed is good.”

imagesIn the 2015 of Bernie Sanders, greed is definitely NOT good. As a matter of fact, greed is EVIL. Avarice has once more regained its place among the 7 Deadly Sins, and it is perfectly OK to condemn – on moral grounds – those who are fabulously wealthy yet aspire to even more wealth.

The quasi-religious nature of the moral opprobrium Bernie heaps upon the wealthy and the corporations is no accident, and in his economic jihad Sanders has one incredibly powerful and yet seemingly improbable ally: Pope Francis. Whenever he gets a chance, Bernie gives a shout out to the Pontiff, telling anyone who will listen that Francis is one of his “heroes”. Bernie cites the Pope whenever he is talking about income inequality, climate change, unbridled capitalism, the need to take care of the poor, and what Francis calls “the cult of money.”

When asked, Bernie consistently asserts his popularity among normally conservative constituents. After 25 years of representing some very conservative parts of Vermont, he is not afraid of having substantive discussions and finding common ground. Indeed, Bernie’s latest foray in this area will be when he will address the students at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Apparently every Democratic leader was invited, and Bernie was the only one who responded, and did so positively. In explaining his decision to go to Liberty U, Sanders said “I think it is important … to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues.” That is pure Bernie.

polls_JesusClearsTemple3_0722_805127_poll_xlargeAnd so we have the Sanders recipe for success: a “political revolution” that is fuelled not just by economic themes but by moral dicta. And it is resonating. The Reagan 80’s saw the rise of the so-called “Moral Majority” that quickly turned Americans’ attention away from economic issues and focused them on what Pat Buchanan called the “Culture Wars” over abortion, equal rights, gay marriage, and so on. Bernie is, in many ways, appealing to that same cohort of people who are ready and willing to vote their moral conscience, but he is turning them back to the morality of a massively unfair economic system. Whether he can actually cobble together a “majority” with this moral message remains to be seen, but so far he seems to be hitting the right chords.

READ ALSO: Why Bernie Sanders will Win – Part 1: Economics

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An Open Letter to Howard Dean

Dear Governor Dean, I was a massive supporter of your campaign in 2004. I met you and Al Franken at a fundraiser in a NYC club one night, where we talked about high school wrestling – and I count that as one of my most stellar political memories.

Dean 2004That’s why I was so depressed to hear that you had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. I am sure that you are doing so because you believe she is the only “serious” candidate, with “the best chance to win” – and so on. BUT I DISAGREE. I really believe the old maxim, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” In my 55 years experience, this has always proven to be true: Democrats cannot win an election unless they have a charismatic candidate that is beloved by the base, so that the base turns out in force on Election Day.

Hillary is not that candidate.

Sure, “Email-gate” may pass, and Benghazi is just something that GOP wing-nuts (plus Carly Fiorina) go on about, but Hillary’s favourability ratings as well as her “trustworthiness” ratings are in the toilet. You simply cannot depend on her to galvanize and excite an Obama-like coalition to save the day on November 8, 2016.

Governor, let’s face it: such phrases as “she’s better than what the GOP has” and “think about the Supreme Court” are simply NOT the rallying cries that will get the Democratic base to the polls. And we all know that when people stay home, Democrats lose.

The irony, of course, is that we have seen this all before. Remember the catchphrase from the 2004 election: “dated Dean, married Kerry” ?

We all know how well that “sensible choice” turned out!

Please consider changing your mind and endorsing Bernie Sanders. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you owe it to those of us who believed in you, who supported you, who worked our butts off for you because you represented something new, and fresh, and REAL. You should be standing with us now. And I would even go so far to say that you don’t just owe it to us – you owe it to the country.

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Why Bernie Sanders will Win – Part 1: Economics

The establishment political set and the mainstream media seem to be wholly fixated on writing off Bernie Sanders as an “extreme Left” politician from a “small mostly white State” who is a “self-proclaimed socialist.” And because of these attributes (so the meme goes) he has no chance of winning in the general election – this presumably because America is a “Centrist-Right” or even a “Conservative” country.

They are overlooking some very basic facts of history and socio-economics, as well as politics. It is true that over the past 35 years, “liberal” has been become an epithet, while “conservative” has become an emblem that more and more Americans feel comfortable with. But why is that?

It Started with Reagan
_40239613_podium-ap203Ronald Reagan embodied a strident, “Conservative” persona, rejecting Carter’s namby-pamby “Liberal” identity. The so-called “Reagan Democrats” were drawn to Reagan because he was willing to tell then that they did NOT have to lower their thermostats, drive smaller cars, or switch to the metric system. America was a “shining city on a hill,” whose best days lay ahead. America was perceived as weak in the world, and he, Ronald Reagan, would beef up the military and make America strong again. He played on racial tensions, revving up the “Southern Strategy” that had worked for other Republican candidates since Nixon. And of course Reagan was the first one to propose a Constitutional Amendment to ban abortion.

“God, Guns and Gays”
Since 1980, the idea of what makes a “Conservative” has been framed in mostly non-economic terms. Creationism, Christianity, Abortion, Gay Rights, Gun Control, Affirmative Action – these were the key issues that defined an American as a Conservative. It was never so much about tax cuts and small government, as far as the average voter was concerned. Sure, every Conservative would automatically stand for cutting taxes, but that was an auxiliary, second tier issue that did not engender the type of fervour among the electorate.
Heston
And so, for 30 years, Republicans won elections by putting Gay Marriage, Abortion Rights and other cultural “wedge” issues on the ballot. And they are still using that playbook. The recent GOP debate ranged from terrorism (military) to illegal immigration (racism) and Planned Parenthood (abortion), but never once touched on economic issues.

Cultural “Liberals” Backed by Billionaires -?
The Democrats, for their part, have also happily played into this game. The Democratic Leadership Council, headed by Bill Clinton, co-opted conservative economic principles and left the Democratic Party only a slim playing field on which to oppose Republicans on cultural issues. “Liberal” billionaire donors like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer give to Democrats to support cultural, social or environmental issues – not economic ones. And why not? These are smart men, after all, they know enough not to go against their own economic interests.

“Enough is Enough”
But for just how long can the American voter be asked to vote against his or her own economic interests in order to promote their positions on cultural issues?

images-5We may have the answer to that question this year, in the form of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Sanders is relentless with his concentration on Economic issues, and his rallying cry of “enough is enough” and “the billionaires can’t have it all”. In his speech announcing his candidacy, he spent fully 45% of his time speaking about Economic issues – more than twice as much as any of the other candidates, and almost three times as much time as Hillary Clinton did. Some Republican candidates did not even mention economics in their announcement speeches at all.

American resentment at the growing wealth inequality, the disappearance of the middle class, the harsh reality that most people are moving backwards economically compared to their parents – these are all issues that have been percolating, seething below the surface of the superficial political debate in America. But they are important issues, and when people say that Bernie is “touching a nerve” they vastly underestimate the power of his message: “you have been screwed economically for years by both parties.”

The Old Dogs Won’t Hunt
images-7Now that Gay Marriage is the law of the land, the issue of “Gays” can no longer be used to galvanise the electorate. Now that the Confederate Flag is being struck all throughout the South the old “Southern Strategy” is a dog that will no longer hunt. And with Pope Francis basically issuing statement after statement supporting what are essentially the same arguments Bernie is making, “God” is no longer a wedge issue either. That leaves “Guns” – and Bernie is regarded as a relative moderate on that subject – certainly his common sense arguments, and his coming from a rural state where guns are an integral part of life, will keep that issue off the table.

As an Independent who refuses to take PAC money or billionaires’ donations, Bernie now occupies a unique position in American political history. And I believe history will show that his was the winning ticket.

READ ALSO: Why Bernie Sanders will Win – Part 2: Morality

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Has Hillary Organised Her Own “Vast Conspiracy” with the Help of the DNC?

In 1998 Hillary Clinton claimed there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get her and her husband. It is thus ironic that today Hillary is the beneficiary of another vast conspiracy to sabotage her greatest political threat, Bernie Sanders.

The Media Blackout
It starts with the general lack of media coverage. Bernie is drawing huge crowds, and yet there is no major media coverage. The coverage at all the major networks, as well as at FOX and MSNBC is all about the race for the GOP nomination – and when they talk about the Democrats, they talk about Hillary.

The coverage that does exist is heavily tilted toward Hillary. When you frame the language, you frame the debate, and it does seem that there has been a memo passed to all media outlets, which tells them how to frame the 2016 Democratic primary campaign. It goes something like this:
1.Sanders is a “self-described socialist” who “represents a small rural state” that has “a mostly white population.”
2.Hillary is the “presumptive nominee” with a “prohibitive lead” over the other Democratic candidates (this according to Rachel Maddow).
3.Sanders is tapping into general resentment against establishment politics, “just like Donald Trump.”
4.Sanders thus has only as much chance of winning the Democratic nomination as Trump has of winning the GOP nomination.
5.If elected, Bernie Sanders would have no chance of winning a general election, due to his “extreme” and “radical left wing” views.
6.All stories end with a perfunctory repetition of the meme that Hillary Clinton is bound to be the next Democratic nominee, and it only remains to be seen whether Sanders can “nudge” Hillary to the Left.

Bernie’s “Race Problem”
Another part of the Conspiracy is that of Black Activist and other “Leftist” or “Liberal” groups opposing Bernie Sanders. I am talking about groups that are organized to promote “social justice” such as racial equality, gender equality, and LGBT rights. These are groups that are funded by George Soros, the “leftist” billionaire gave $30 million to Black activist groups – including “Black Lives Matter” in the wake of the tragedy in Ferguson last year.

images-3Since funding these groups, however, Soros has also stepped up his funding of Hillary Clinton, contributing $25,000 to her “Ready for Hillary” SuperPAC, and even sitting on the Board of that PAC, and then giving a whopping $2 Million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC “dedicated to airing ads supporting Clinton and attacking her opponents” according to Politico.

The result of this corrupt campaign “food chain” is that there is now a coordinated effort on the part of several black activists and groups to discredit Bernie Sanders among the general population but especially among Black Americans, in the hopes of denying him support among that key voting block.

In reality, however, it was Hillary Clinton who was an ardent and vocal supporter of her husband’s welfare “reform” and the “tough on crime” bills that destroyed black families and led to the mass incarceration of black youth. If anyone needs to be “held accountable for her actions,” it is Hillary, who famously opined:

Hillary“We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.”

But Hillary continues to get a pass on racial issues – while a Google search for the phrase “Bernie Sanders has a race problem” results in 7 Million hits.

“Protecting Hillary” – Favouritism and Bias by the DNC
Finally, there is the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, which is acting as a de facto “elect Hillary” committee. Unlike the RNC, which is devolved to state and local levels, the DNC is centrally controlled. And the central controller right now is the national Chairman, DWS2Debbie Wasserman Schultz – yes, the same Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was National Co-Chair of the Hillary Clinton Campaign in 2008. Under Wasserman Schultz’s “leadership,” the DNC have taken the unusual step of scheduling only 6 debates, and holding off even starting the debates until October. So while the GOP is in there early and often (11 debates already scheduled) the Democrats seem willing to relinquish the stage and the media coverage in a desperate attempt to deny Bernie Sanders and the other candidates a chance to get their own messages out.

This is very frustrating for Sanders supporters who often see Bernie compared unfavourably with Barack Obama’s position in 2007, knowing that in the 2008 race the DNC had scheduled 17 debates, starting in April 2007, and by October of that year the previously “unknown” Barack Obama had already debated Hillary Clinton debated 9 times

One positive way to look at this, however, is in light of the last time a major party only allowed 6 primary debates: in 1980 the GOP establishment was so afraid of Ronald Reagan and his “radical” and “extreme” conservative views, that they also only allowed 6 debates in order to give Bob Dole and the others a better chance. Well … that worked out OK for Reagan in the end. We can only hope that it will work out as well for Bernie.

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Iran has Reasons to Mistrust US

Look, the Iranians have a good reason to hate and distrust America. They elected a moderate “socialist” secular government in 1953. The government wanted to nationalize the oil industry in Iran, so the CIA had the legitimate, elected leader and his government ousted in a coup, and brought back the Shah, who established a dictatorship with the most vicious secret police the world has ever seen, the SAVAK. Iranians suffered under this regime, and it was open knowledge that this odious regime was forced on them by the US. Mohammad-Reza-Shah-Pahlavi-217x300In yet another instance of “unintended consequences” arising from US intervention in the Middle East, the extreme cruelty and violence of the American puppet, the Shah, led to the rise of the Mullahs.

Just like the US-backed Maliki government in Iraq led to the rise of ISIS.

That is why Bernie is wise to support diplomacy and avoid another disastrous military adventure that will inevitably backfire.

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Bernie vs. Ronnie Part III: This is Getting Weird

Big hullabaloo, brouhaha going on because the Democratic National Committee is only allowing 6 debates in the 2016 primary. Sanders and O’Malley are claiming this is just to “save” Hillary. Indeed, in 2008 they had 20+ debates, and Hillary lost.

Now, the last time any Party only allowed 6 debates in their Primary was – you guessed it, 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the election.

Weird.

216234_640x480

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Bernie vs. Ronnie Part II: A Personal Note

The dismissive attitude with which the Beltway Media as well as political pundits and leaders are treating Bernie Sanders has sounded, in a way, reminiscent of the way in which people – including myself – viewed Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Bernie

People are constantly calling Bernie an “extremist” and a member of the “leftist fringe” whose views represent “radical liberalism”. Bernie Sanders is usually introduced as “a self-described socialist” – as if that alone is enough to disqualify him. They say he comes from a small white, rural Northeastern state and talks with an unapologetic Brooklyn accent, and so he is unfit for the national stage. And he is OLD.

a999reaganalbum_2050081722-30790Likewise, Ronald Reagan was viewed as a “radical conservative” whose views had been too far right for the American mainstream. He was a “cowboy” rancher whose political base was a bunch of white retirees living in Southern California. There was no way he would be taken seriously in the Northern and Eastern States. And he was OLD.

Politically, it was thought that Reagan was out of step: in California he had tried to take the world’s greatest free university system and make it charge tuition. He was rabidly anti-union; he said Medicare would “lead to the destruction of American democracy.” And at a time when everyone was talking about conservation and looming environmental disaster, Reagan was preaching the 1980 equivalent of “drill, baby, drill”.

I remember the summer of 1980 quite well as I had just finished my sophomore year at Harvard and I spent that summer studying and travelling in Europe. Reagan was a favourite topic of conversation. I was often peppered with questions like “who is he? Is he really the actor who starred with that monkey?” and above all, “is he really that much of a conservative?”

Cowboy-reagan-on-missile-by-Melinda-Gebbie

In my Ivy League hubris I assured them of two things: first, I explained that Ronald Reagan was indeed a far-right lunatic and a fascist (a word which really meant something to Europeans, especially then) who was un-American in his beliefs, his militarism and his radical conservatism. Secondly, I told them that they need not worry, because Reagan would never be elected – he was far to the right of Nixon, and he was dangerously bellicose – indeed, I often closed by saying that Reagan’s election would inevitably lead to World War III.

That fall after the election I found myself wondering how many of my European acquaintances were getting their affairs in order, building shelters, or moving to Australia.

The pundits, the media, the common thinking – and I myself – had all been wrong.

Reagan wanted to take the USA back exactly 50 years, to a time before FDR and New Deal Liberalism. Now, Bernie Sanders wants to take the USA back exactly 50 years, to a time before Reagan and Trickle-Down Conservatism.

I am just glad that I have lived long enough to see the pendulum swing back, at long last, towards sanity.

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Bernie versus Ronnie – The Pendulum Swings!!

People wonder why / how Bernie can be so popular — the reason is clear: he has been consistent in his Liberal beliefs for at least 40 years.

Imagine, a politician who is true to his ideals, even when they are not popular; one who stays the course, keeps true to himself, and seizes the right moment when the US public is of the right mind to accept his radically different message.

This politician speaks plainly, has an answer to every question, and is magnificently convincing because he is sincere and well-practised in his delivery, in his positions, in his unabashed embrace of a political philosophy that had been decried as “radical” and “fringe” and “out of the mainstream” for the past decades.

Suddenly, this politician gains traction with the Common Man, who appreciates his honesty, understands his outrage, and has had enough of the “mainstream” political philosophy that has simply stopped working for America.

Yes of course I am talking about Ronald Reagan.

But I think the same holds true for Bernie. He has spent decades in the wilderness. He has endured the long period in which “liberal” was a dirty epithet, and “socialism” even worse. But his time has arrived, and I would bet that we will see “Bernie Republicans” come out and support him.

And after all, why not? Bernie represents the economic interests of what we used to call “Reagan Democrats” – every one of his positions enjoys strong majority support among ALL Americans, regardless of party affiliation. And don’t forget, he still appears on TV with an “I” after his name —he is an Independent, which is to say he is part of what is now the largest political cohort in America.

Bernie is running against a woman with a LOT of baggage, and one who is beholden to what Bernie calls the “billionaire class” … just as Ronnie Reagan was able to dismiss GHW Bush, Bob Dole, John Anderson and others as ”too liberal” and corrupt during the 1980 GOP Primary, Bernie Sanders will also be able to sell himself, ultimately, as “the real deal” – with Hillary being just too conservative and corrupted by her billionaire friends in what is euphemistically called the “Financial Services Industry”.

Yes, my friends, the pendulum is finally swinging. We thought we were seeing a sea change with Obama – but he turned out to be just another lying, opportunistic politician. Bernie is the clear-eyed, consistent, unabashed Liberal that America will love.

Here is a letter from Bernie Sanders from 40 years ago — look at what he is saying!!

Bernie Sanders 40 years ago

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Gonna take a fast train?

Renfe_clase_100
I took a train today from Barcelona to Madrid. The journey was 640 km, or roughly the same distance as from Boston Mass. to Washington DC.

It took 2 hours and 30 minutes. No shit.

Moreover, I did not have to go through all the security, the tra-la-la that surrounds air travel. No, I showed up at the train station in Barcelona 10 minutes before departure and I was on the train and in my seat with plenty of time to spare. Arriving at the downtown train station of Atocha, i had a 5 min. walk to my hotel.

Total time door to door was about 3 hours. No shit.

Imagine if you could travel from Boston to DC in just 3 hours TOTAL time. Can you?

Of course, arriving in the Atocha station made me remember the terrible terrorist attack that killed 191 people there in 2004. The attack occurred just days before the general election, and I think it was crucial in assuring the victory of the opposition party in Spain. Zapatero won, he was anti-Bush and he pulled all the Spanish troops out of the Middle East.

And guess what? Since then, no more terrorist attacks in Spain.

This got me thinking. Sure, the Spaniards “backed down” — sure, they “gave in to the terrorists” – but what does that mean? By “giving in” they simply said “this is not a fight to defend our country, and why should we be involved in this anyway?”

Result: they have peace, and security, and trains that can travel at 200 mph.

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Islam is Not The Enemy (and I cannot believe I have to say this)

This gallery contains 8 photos.

There seems to be a troubling trend in many areas of public discourse that aims to paint Islam as somehow different from other religions in its brutality, barbarism and militarism. This is simply wrong. Islam until recently was a relatively … Continue reading

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What Will Ebola Teach America?

ebola-us

So now we find out that the Texas hospital that hosted the first Ebola case diagnosed in the USA was woefully ill-equipped to handle the disease. The fact that the Liberian man who showed up at the hospital was (a) black and (b) without insurance led to his being sent home and told to “take Tylenol.”

When he showed up 4 days later, he was displaying more serious symptoms and so could not be denied care – but what sort of care did he receive? Obviously substandard.

In a recent press conference call put on by the national nurse’s union, National Nurses United, RoseAnn DeMoro, the director of the group, said: “Our nurses are not protected, they’re not prepared to handle Ebola or any other pandemics … The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place and are not in place anywhere in the United States, as far as we can tell.”

Now 70+ nurses and other healthcare workers have been added to the possible Dallas outbreak. Worst of all, the nurses that handled the Liberian patient, even while he was vomiting and had diarrhea, were then allowed to care for other patients in the facility!

dallasThe Dallas nurses themselves, who had asked that their statement be read aloud by DeMoro, could not speak to the press directly as they had been told they would be fired. This is because the nurses from the Dallas hospital were not union members, but turned to the union as they had nowhere else to go (maybe now they will reconsider unionizing).

Welcome to Red-State America, where bothersome “regulations” have been done away with, and the health care system is designed to make a profit rather than care for people.

obama healthHospitals in the US are under pressure to make a profit, and so it is only natural that corners will be cut, and staffing held to a minimum, and training and other preparatory programs are ignored in order to hold down costs. And the CDC has no authority to make any hospitals comply with the proper procedures – it is up to each facility to decide how much they will do – how much they can afford to do – to protect patients and workers from Ebola.

But hey – Americans don’t trust Washington, right? The Government can’t do anything. Sean Hannity even refused to cover a CDC press conference because, he said, “I don’t trust them.” Yes, they work for that black Muslim communist in the White House, so they must have an agenda.

warmingWe all know that Red State Americans have problems with Science – from Evolution to Climate Change – so why should it be different now? These yahoos are no different than the villagers in West Africa who refused to allow government and NGO doctors to treat them, who actually attacked aid workers, because “they did not trust them” and because Science was such a foreign concept in their society. Germ theory is mumbo jumbo to them. They do not believe in something they cannot see. Sound familiar? It should – I am sure that many Tea Partiers believe the same thing when it comes to greenhouse gases and any of the myriad fracking chemicals now leeching into America’s drinking water.

hannityThank you, Sean, for reinforcing such ignorance.

When it comes to terrorism, Americans do seem to agree that the Government should protect them, and that the Federal Government should spend “whatever it takes” to keep Americans safe. The US has spent TRILLIONS fighting foreign wars to “stop terrorism”. This money was spent even while an average American has only a 1 in 20 million chance of dying by terrorist attack. The odds are much better that you will die of heart disease (1 in 500) or by gunshot (1 in 25,000), but things like better health care and more gun control are now anathema to Americans.

armyThe NIH (National Institutes of Health) have been working on an Ebola vaccine since 2001, but it will come as no surprise to note that they had the NIH has been underfunded over the past decade, to where the Director of the NIH says that they are now 2 years behind where they should be (thanks, Sequestration!).

Will there be outrage? Will people step up and demand that their Government protect them from health threats? We’ll have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, a disease like Ebola is a great equalizer. There has been much talk about “income inequality” in America 0 the gap between rich and poor. mexIf there is an outbreak of Ebola on a grand scale in the US (and I think this likely), then it will cut across economic lines. Will we see the wealthy start to mow their own lawns and care for their own children?

When it comes to disease and health, we are all in it together – despite what the Right may say. And “the best health care system in the world” is nothing but a lie and a sham when only a precious few can afford to use it.

The great English poet John Dunne said it best: “no man is an island.” He was, of course, writing about the Black Plague, where the bodies of the dead were brought out to the tolling of bells. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls,” Dunne admonished, “it tolls for thee.”

Wouldn’t it be great if Americans could claw their way up to that 16th century level of enlightenment?

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

dead

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What Ray Rice and ISIS Have in Common

isisray_rice

Ray Rice, the NFL football player who is now being persecuted for beating a woman unconscious in an Atlantic City Casino elevator, probably thought he was going to get away with it. The security video that first propelled him into the spotlight was shot from outside the elevator and showed him dragging the unconscious woman out of the elevator, but did not show the actual beating that caused her to be unconscious in the first place.

Rice got off lightly – he was suspended for two (2) games, which meant that he only missed the first 10 days of the season. He pled not guilty to the charge of assault and was given the option of a diversionary programme that allows first time offenders to have the charges against them dismissed.

So far, so good.

Then, TMZ released the video that was shot inside the elevator and actually showed Rice pummelling his fiancée … and all hell breaks loose. The public is outraged, the NFL is shocked and appalled, and now Rice is being pilloried and condemned from every corner. His sponsors have dropped him, and merchandisers are buying back Rice merchandise to “get it all off the street.”

This all seems strange, because the fact that Ray Rice had beaten his fiancée into unconsciousness was never in doubt. Everyone from the police, to the NFL, to the public at large knew what had happened in that elevator. It was not until they saw it on video, however, that it actually became REAL.

And now, as the saying goes, “heads must roll.”

Which brings us to ISIS. Everyone knows that this group is savage and unspeakably cruel. They have conducted mass murder on a grand scale. They have killed people in the most gruesome of ways. But the now famously “war-weary” American public resisted all ideas to go after ISIS until the group posted videos of them beheading American journalists.

Just as in the Ray Rice incident, ISIS could have counted on a lack of attention from the US public as long as there were no videos of their dastardly deeds being shared across the Internet. Unlike Rice, however, ISIS did not want to remain unnoticed. They have been constantly challenging the US to intervene, to come meet them on the battlefield, Their greatest wish is to get the US involved on the ground in their neighbourhood, where they reckon they can defeat US ground forces and thus gain even more credibility with the Arab Street and recruit even more would-be Jihadi from around the world.

So what did they do? They made videos actually showing what they were capable of. And the US public, in a rapid reaction that can only be described as Pavlovian, rose to the bait. Obama now has the wind of public opinion at his back, and he can sail on towards another war in the Middle East, giving US defence contractors another mammoth windfall and giving ISIS exactly what they wanted.

Remember that in the world of American foreign policy, beheadings themselves are not cause for action or even condemnation. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the US’s biggest ally in the Arab world, regularly beheads people as a form of punishment. Indeed, the Saudis killed 22 people in August 2014 alone, of which at least 8 were beheaded. The condemned usually have no attorney, and there is often not even a trial – justice is meted out based on “confessions” obtained through torture. You can be beheaded for crimes as minor as adultery or “apostasy” – or as weird as “sorcery” and “witchcraft” (according to Amnesty International). Nice. The irony here, of course, is that Saudi Arabia is now supposed to be one of our major allies in prosecuting the war against ISIS.

What would happen, I wonder, if the Saudi beheadings had been televised, or video’d and placed on YouTube? What would the American public start to think about our great strategic ally?

This phenomenon, alas, is not new. It is widely acknowledged that the turn in US public opinion against the war in Vietnam was due to the fact that it was televised. Unlike all previous conflicts, technology allowed reporters to narrate while the actual carnage was broadcast into America’s living rooms. This is why the Pentagon has since come up with the policy of “embedding” journalists with troop units, so the military can control what the reporters see, hear and do, thereby controlling the images that reach the public eye.

This is also why “whistle-blowers” and “leakers” are being prosecuted so savagely. Would there have ever been such an uproar about Abu Graib if the photos had not made their way to the press?

Likewise, the programmes that have been providing our local police forces with military-grade equipment and even special military training in Israel have been in place for years – but it was not until we saw the photos and footage from Ferguson that it became a major national issue.

On the flip-side of this argument, it seems everyone on both sides of the death penalty debate believes that televising executions would very quickly lead to an abolishment of capital punishment. But again, there is a reason that so much of what our Government does in our name is hidden from the cameras.

So what’s my point? My point is that there has been a major dumbing-down of the public and political discourse in America. What I call “The Great Dumbening” started in the early 80’s (under a President that defined catsup as a vegetable) and has proceeded apace for the past 30 years. And a major part of this dumbing down has been a steady decline in people reading and – more importantly – being able to relate, empathise and form opinions based on non-visual communications.

And alas, the Internet is not really helping in this regard. The writing found on the Internet is formatted for children – “keep it chunky” is the rule – that is, short, choppy, hard-hitting segments punctuated with – you guessed it – graphics and photos.

We are fast approaching something out of a Phillip K. Dick novel, yet another dystopian future where nothing actually happens, nothing is perceived as “real” until we see it in a video format. And that is scary, because visual communication is the easiest to manipulate, censor and control (think Photoshop).

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but just because there is no picture available, does not mean that those thousand words have no value. Indeed, it is often the case that where there are only words, it is even more important that those words be read, understood and acted upon if needed.

When no one has time for words anymore, then Truth becomes whatever happens to be trending on YouTube – and society suffers.

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The “Tipping Point”, Militarised Police, and the Meaning of Ferguson

Ferguson 1

I have been watching trends in the US for some time. Macro-trends, if you will. And in Ferguson I see the confluence of three trends: on one hand, poverty and income inequality, on the other hand, militarised police with armoured vehicles and heavy weapons, all coming together under a patina of racial friction.

Riot police stand guard while demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri

First, let’s look at how America’s police forces have become militarised. It started in 1990 with the National Defense Authorization Act. This act had a section that allowed the Defense Department to transfer military equipment, weapons, ammunition and vehicles to local police departments.

Since then, over 4 billion dollars’ worth of military hardware has been given to local police departments.

Ferguson 2

The militarisation of US police forces was plain to see in how the protests of the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle were met with combat-style “troops”. Since then, we have had 9/11 and a military build-up not seen since Reagan, but unlike in the past, the military hardware that was produced for the Bush wars is now eligible to be given to local police departments once they were no longer needed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

So, as the US draws down their military overseas, they are building up their military forces at home – in the form of “up-armoured” police departments.

cops2

Why is the US militarising its police forces? I believe it is due to a growing consensus at all levels of government that massive political and socio-economic unrest is in the offing.

The Tipping Point

Let’s look at the other end of the equation, what Robert Reich has called “the tipping point”. In Reich’s 2013 documentary “Inequality for All”, Reich makes the point that after 30+ years of growing income inequality, America’s shrinking middle class and the growing masses of “working poor” are approaching a point at which they will simply no longer be willing to accept the idea of trickle-down economics, will stop scapegoating those at the bottom of the economic ladder, and will start to realise that the system is rigged against them.

chart

What happens when a population reaches this tipping point? We have seen it in France in 1789, in Russia in 1917, and elsewhere over history: the people rise up, usually violently, and take on The Powers That Be.

Indeed, many of America’s leaders seem to be as out of touch with the vast majority of their countrymen as the nobility in pre-revolutionary France: Mitt Romney famously advised students that they should start a business, and if they needed money “go borrow it from your parents if you have to.” Amazing advice, really, when 70% of students need to borrow money to even attend college, and then leave college with an average debt $33,000.

Liquidity-Savings-Rate-and-Student-Loans-2

There are other indications. Newt Gingrich famously suggested giving the homeless laptops; Bush The Elder had no idea what milk cost; when Bush the Junior was told by a divorced mother of three that she was working three jobs to make ends meet, he told her that was “fantastic” and “uniquely American.”

Bush

When I hear these things I am reminded of the story of Marie Antoinette, who, when the French people were rioting because they had no bread, famously said, “if they have no bread, let them eat cake.” When the ruling class is so insulated, so removed from the rest of society, bad things happen.

marie

Well, the Powers that Be in the USA are aware of history, and they are not going to risk losing their heads. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1981 says that the US military cannot be deployed against the domestic citizenry. So the obvious workaround to ensure that the rabble remain in their place is to militarise the domestic police forces.

cops

Ferguson is just the latest instance of a group of poor black folk facing white cops with body armour and assault rifles. It is important to remember, however, that the event that triggered the uprising is also tied to the militarisation of police forces: an unarmed teen shot multiple times by a policeman. This is happening all the time. There seems to be no interim step – I mean, do cops even carry billy-clubs anymore? Is there no instance where they can shoot a leg or otherwise use non-lethal force? It often happens that an unarmed person is shot over and over again, to the point where the authorities do not even want to release the body for an autopsy or even a burial due to the outrage that it would provoke (as is the case in Ferguson).

30class-warfare

Politicians and others who defend the obscene wealth inequality in America are constantly accusing their opponents of engaging in “class warfare.” They may want to stop that. After all, there may come a time when the people actually realise that there has been a class war going on in the USA for generations, and their side is losing.

I think for my summer reading I will re-read some of Phillip K. Dick’s more dystopian works. Only this time I will read them not as science fiction, but more as future history.

cruise

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Of Guns and Men

In “Bowling for Columbine“, Michael Moore made the case that the number of guns and the availability of guns is not causal in the number of gun deaths, There are plenty of examples where a country has as many if not more guns per capita than the US (e.g., Canada) yet they have nowhere near the rate of gun deaths.

So if the proliferation of guns isn’t the cause; violent movies are not the cause; and bloody video games are not the cause, what then is the cause of the gun violence that puts America literally off the charts?

Michael Moore believed it was fear: rampant fear and fear-mongering on the part of the media and the culture. Gun sales spiked in 2008 following Obama’s election. Why? FEAR. More and more women (including Adam Lanza’s mom) have guns for “personal protection.” Why? FEAR.

“Snake bites mom” was the headline that Moore used as typical of the fear-mongering news stories. But there are millions of examples. The terror “threat level” (remember that?) was a government-sponsored fear machine. Talk about mushroom clouds, WMD and so on ginned up fear of Iraq … the US is constantly awash in various floods of fear. The so-called “stand your ground” laws are a culmination of this fear principle. People are urged to carry guns in order to use “deadly force” if they even feel themselves threatened by a perceived danger from another person.

It is not the guns themselves. It is the idea that guns may be used by “Good Guys” to kill “Bad Guys.” This idea that using a gun to kill Bad Guys permeates US culture. And so it is no wonder that mentally unstable or even just purely evil people, who feel themselves threatened or aggrieved by society or their peers, turn to gun violence to “get even” or wreak vengeance on their perceived enemies, whom they feel are “Bad Guys.” No one who goes on a rampage does so with the idea that THEY are the Bad Guys. People who are stockpiling military-style weapons and ammo do so because they really believe that the US Government is tyrannical, and hell bent on “stealing” their wealth, their property and/or their freedom. WACO, Ruby Ridge, and other tragedies are viewed as reverential proof of a government whose “jack-bboted thugs” are running roughshod over the populace, and so they feel they must protect themselves. FEAR is the motivating factor.

Minorities, immigrants and other groups are portrayed in the media as dangerous and destructive – more reasons to not only keep arms but use them. Remember Willie Horton?

This is the big difference between the US and other industrialized Western countries. The massacre on the island in Norway and other tragedies in Europe are stark in their anomalous nature. In general, people in Scandinavia (where gun ownership is almost as high as in the US) as well as Canada (where even more people have guns) feel safe and secure; they are not living in constant fear and so they are not “trigger happy.”

If more guns make us more safe (as the NRA argues) then America would already be one of the safest places in the world. This is obviously not the case. In order to curb gun violence in the US, the US must first adopt a different cultural view of the individual and their relationship with society. The idea of “rugged individuals” who must take responsibility for their own protection has a dark side that manifests itself when people – to use a hackneyed but relevant expression – “take the law into their own hands”. Once Americans accept the fact that they live in a civilized society, and come to view not only themselves but others as active participants in that society, gun violence will retreat.

In the meantime, the best course of action is to take the very small step of making it harder for people to obtain weapons that have massive killing power, so that these tragedies, which are still “inevitable” (according to the NRA) will be of a smaller scope, with fewer dead bodies piling up in each killing spree.

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“Takers” versus “Makers” in Today’s GOP

I have been thinking about the GOP – and especially the Romney/Ryan – arguments about “makers versus takers”.

We all know about Romney’s views on “the 47%” . You may have also heard Ryan’s remarks in a similar vein: he puts it at 30% of the US population that are “takers”, dependent on Government and who reject the American ideals of free enterprise and personal responsibility.

In the case of this ticket, and in the case of GOP talking points in general, it is the “risk takers” that are praised – those who, in Romney;s words, “take a chance” and “borrow money from their parents” if they have to, and start a new enterprise.

The Right is never short of praise for these people who are willing to take a risk. And they defend tooth and nail the right of those that succeed to keep as much of their “reward” (money) as possible. These people, we are told, are the heroes of our society, they make America great. Their courage, their skill, their enterprising nature and their willingness to face the potential of failure make them special, and worthy of our praise.

But in the end, aren’t they just “lucky” ? I mean, doesn’t “taking a risk” automatically imply that there is a chance of failure, and those who do succeed in spite of that chance of failure are – to varying degrees – simply “LUCKY”?

The GOP Convention was built on the very disingenuous theme “We Built It” – implying that successful people are alone responsible for their success. Forget about the education, infrastructure, loans and other help they received along the way – is there any one of those entrepreneurs who would NOT describe themselves to at least some degree as having taken a risk?

And yet, the GOP message would not have these successful risk-takers consider themselves to be fortunate. The GOP (under Ryan/Romney) tells them that they are the “makers” and the others are “takers”.

Moreover, they are told to believe that ANYONE could succeed like them, and those that have not succeeded are somehow lacking, somehow inferior. Romney’s stump speech to students exhorts them to all – each and every one – become entrepreneurs, start a business, “take a risk.”

And yet data shows that 34% of all new businesses fail in the first 2 years, and 54% fail in the first 4 years. Faced with statistics like these, is there any way that people with successful businesses should not consider themselves “fortunate” at least to some extent?

This is not open to consideration in today’s GOP. There can be no pity for the poor, the unfortunate, for to do so would mean that they should support social welfare programs. The old Protestant maxim about “there but for the grace of God go I” is seemingly lost in today’s Republican Party (although God remains in prominence). Given the message that the modern Right is spewing (Ayn Rand Objectivism) is it any wonder that we have people like Ryan and Romney putting forth such ideas when they think they are behind closed doors, and speaking to fellow “fortunates” who also deny the role that Lady Luck, Divine Providence, birthright or simple chance have played in their own success?

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Dispatch from Barcelona – First Takes

One of the first things that one notices in Barcelona is the public cleaning and care-taking of the city. Throughout the city, throughout the day and night, an army of cleaners, clad in green and yellow hi-visibility uniforms, patrol the streets, sidewalks, parks and other public spaces, sweeping and washing their way through the barrios. Electric trucks roll down the narrow calles, accompanied by personnel collecting curbside garbage and emptying the sidewalk waste cans (which are ubiquitous – you are never more than 30 metres from a nice trash can with a cigarette stub-out plate attached to it). Here there is no such thing as “trash day” – you can put out your trash any time, any day, and it will be picked up in a timely fashion that same day/night.

Barcelona is an extremely dog-friendly city, one sees all breeds and in all sizes, accompanied by their masters, loping contentedly, stopping to greet other dogs. There is rarely an altercation – all the dogs seem exceedingly friendly and well-mannered (much like the Barcelonians themselves). Dog-poop is, by and large, immediately picked up by the owners, and in the case of those anti-social exceptions, the caca is picked up or hosed away by the aforementioned army of street cleaners.

The parks in Barcelona are also beautiful, and beautifully maintained. On my early morning walks I always see squads of landscapers and gardeners snipping, raking, pruning and watering. Parc Ciutadella, in the Ciutat Vell (Old City) is especially enjoyable not just for the lawns and diverse flora, but also for the gardens, the statues, and the immense Cascadas fountain.

All-in-all, Barcelona is a majestic and wealthy city, and with its broad boulevards and cafe culture, it resembles Paris for sheer beauty. But it is a Paris with better weather, more palm trees, beautiful beaches, affordable rents and much fewer Parisians. And Barcelona is thriving: Everywhere new businesses are opening, the stores and restaurants are full, and the public services exemplary (beating all other European cities I have seen). When you are in Barcelona it is hard to believe that Spain is supposed to be on the verge of economic collapse.

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