Feeling the Bern

Bernie_SandersA self-described democratic socialist – if elected, Bernie Sanders would be, at 75, the oldest president in US history. Though non-practicing (and widely believed to be atheist), he would also be the first Jewish executive.

Conventional political wisdom says that a septuagenarian socialist Jew, promising political revolution – and to amend the US Constitution – has zero chance of being elected president of the United States. The attack ads practically write themselves: Too old! Free stuff! Big government! Debt! Taxes! Socialist! Non-believer! Hates Israel! ISIS!!!

The President and First Lady enjoy a dance on stage at one of 16 Inaugural Balls
The President and First Lady enjoy a dance on stage at one of 16 Inaugural Balls

hillaryHillary Clinton is perhaps the most front-running, and most qualified, presidential candidate in US history. Bill will always be the first black president to many – contributing to Hillary’s fabled & supposedly impenetrable Super Tuesday Southern firewall, long thought to represent the demise of Sanders’ upstart campaign. Hillary is running as the caretaker of Barack Obama’s legacy, and he’s essentially endorsed her candidacy.

John_Lewis_-_Presidential_Medal_of_FreedomShe has the endorsement of Civil Rights legend John Lewis, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Rev Al Sharpton, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Kerry Washington, Lena Dunham, Will Ferrell, Angie’s List, Planned Parenthood, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, many of the nation’s largest labor unions…

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@GovHowardDean
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@DWStweets

Hillary enjoys a near-5/1 advantage among super-delegates. Democratic National Committee Chair (and Hillary’s 2008 campaign co-chair) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz changed the DNC rules in order to funnel cash to Hillary’s campaign, limited the number of debates to limit Bernie’s free media coverage, and briefly cut off access to Sanders’ own voter data.

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_2Once debates began, Hillary was proclaimed triumphant by corporate media, seemingly before the questions began. While not busily ignoring Bernie Sanders (giving Trump up to 90x more free air time), establishment media treated the senator as though a quaint curmudgeon – a curious little old man who was for some strange reason pointing his fingers & shouting about seemingly any & everything like a soap box-hopping loon in the town square.

Barack_Obama_with_artistic_gymnastic_McKayla_Maroney_2After all, gas prices are incredibly low. In the midst of 70-plus months of job growth, the unemployment rate is sub-5%.The stock market has more than doubled since depths of the crash. The budget deficit has been halved since 2009. Millions of people now have health insurance, as healthcare spending has risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Cannabis is now legal in four states; gay marriage is legal nationwide. We elected our first black president, and we now have the opportunity to elect our first female president.occupy wake up

So why is this Bernie guy rocking the boat? How does he keep rising the polls? He’s gonna to raise taxes! He’s a socialist, for fuck’s sake! Can’t you see?!?

bern3bush defenseWe do see. We’ve been lied to, we’ve rightly lost faith in our institutions, and it’s been decades in the making. From systematic worldwide child-rape & cover-up of pedophile priests, to cops killing our kids in the streets without consequence. Lies about Vietnam & Watergate, to lies about WMDs & al-Qaeda in Iraq. Lies about Hope & Change, to lies about pragmatism & incrementalism. Lies in our history books, to lies in the media.

bern2Our eyes are wide open, and Bernie Sanders is the only candidate painting an accurate picture.

ferguson13Our homes were foreclosed. The ones we kept depreciated to the point we’re underwater on our mortgages. We lost our jobs, and the ones we have now don’t pay as well. We owe trillions in both student & credit card debts. Our fathers are being locked away in prison. Our sons are being shot in the streets. Our brave young men & women are sent into war zones again and again. Our mentally ill often wind up homeless, in prison, and committing suicide. The air we breathe and the water we drink are being polluted & poisoned by the greed & indifference of multinational corporations & governments.

Our roads and bridges are crumbling. We are lagging behind the civilized world on high speed rail, fiber optic internet, energy efficiency… (Jobs, jobs, jobs.)

Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill_2010-05-16Water_pollution_0025Ocean temperatures have risen 4 degrees while seemingly every month & year set new heat records. Oceans & urban waterways are filthy; we’ve overfished sea life to near extinction. The bees and butterflies which pollinate our food are dying off. Increasingly extreme natural disasters & weather patterns leading to global food & water shortages will cause conflict over dwindling resources, which means increased displacement/refugee/humanitarian crises. Growing middle classes in China & India will want to have their turn at burning more & more relatively cheap fossil fuels. Unstable nations such as North Korea & Pakistan have access to nuclear weapons. Down-trodden Muslims are lashing out in anger, causing terrible anguish & suffering (largely among their own faith community).

We have huge (yooge!) problems which need to be addressed, yet our political system – as currently constructed – seems incapable of meeting our increasingly troublesome needs.

Reagan_BoraxoThirty-six years of supply-side Reaganomics have gutted the middle class – have curb-stomped the American Dream. The productivity of American workers keeps rising and rising, yet wages haven’t budged since the late Seventies.

holderBought politicians used tax-payer money to bail out the fraudulent & criminal banksters who brought the world economy to its knees. The DoJ & the AG labeled the banks too big to fail & too big to jail. The Fed is still lavishing Wall Street $80b/mo at near-0% (quantative easing). Literally all of the economic gains since the Great Recession have gone to the wealthiest 1%.

K_Street_-_Evacuation_Route_(7496793860)Those with the top incomes pay less than half what they did when we built the American Dream. Corporate executives, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street speculators pay much lower tax rates than wage earners. GE, Verizon, Time Warner, CBS, GM, Boeing, Mattel, Prudential, PG & E – pay no federal income taxes whatsoever. Big Oil – the most profitable corporations in the history of the world – receive tax subsidies for drilling/exploration. A handful of Big Ag corporations collect 90% of farm subsidies. Trust fund kids inherit the first $5m tax-free. Depreciation of private jets can be written off. The cost of outsourcing American jobs to countries with slave wages can be written off.

cryingWe are the only country without paid maternity leave (save Papua New Guinea); only industrial nation without paid sick leave. We rank last (or next to last) in infant mortality rate, child poverty rate, overall healthcare, and financial mobility among Western nations.

statue toesThat’s not liberty. Not freedom. Not exceptional. Not even sustainable.

war at all costsHalliburtonNorthHoustonDefense contractors, news media, and right-wing politicians want perpetual war. Our military budget is more than the next eight countries combined. Bernie wants to audit defense spending, and put an end to our adopted roll as the world police. Pharmaceutical companies, police unions, private prisons, treatment agencies, legal firms – all want to continue the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

bern7We are told that we can’t afford universal healthcare – that it would explode the national debt – when we know that our current system is the most expensive in the world, and that our Western allies with far smaller economies somehow manage. Private health insurance companies don’t want to become obsolete with single-payer. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to negotiate prescription drug prices with Medicare; or faster-expiring patents. Hospitals don’t want us to see how much they are charging us for Kleenex.

Social_Security_cardWe are told that Social Security must be scaled back in order to be saved. Bernie calls bullshit. He would eliminate the $113k tax cap. The federal government has borrowed over $3 trillion from the SS retirement fund, and disability has decades of solvency with full benefits.amputee vet

Social Security is our most popular government program, and it’s completely socialist. Medicare is socialist, so is Medicaid, as are SNAP benefits, WIC, public schools, buses, parks, libraries, roads & bridges… all socialist.

bern14The American people agree with Bernie on subject after subject. We are opposed to perpetual war, we want to expand SSI, we want Wall Street reform, criminal justice reform, public funding of elections, universal healthcare, free college…

bern5We’re not stupid. We’re not caught up on labels. We don’t live in the same old world of ensconced social circles & stale cable media with their ivory tower, corporate-sponsored logic. The truth, and people who think like we do, are at our fingertips. We know that billionaires and multinational corporations have bribed our politicians to rig the system in their favor. They’ve rigged the tax code to hoard their wealth. They’ve rigged regulatory agencies to freely pollute our planet & gamble with our retirements – to socialize the losses & privatize the gains. They’ve rigged the media to distract us & to lie to us.

charging bullHerein lies our biggest problem, the problem which stands between us and much of what we require: Money in politics. Money in politics affects every other issue. Political bribery has essentially been legalized by the SCOTUS, resulting in ever more-costly elections. (Which goes to corporate media for ad buys, so telling the truth would be very costly.) Politicians have little choice but to bow and kiss the rings of the donor class – and that ain’t you or me. That’s Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag. Every one of them claim that if we just eliminate one more regulation, one more tax, that they will finally unleash the economic beast and trickle down on us all.

bern11They own the politicians. They love the status quo. And they hate Bernie Sanders. Bernie has a forty-year populist record of speaking truth to power. He has no interest in super PAC money from billionaires and special interests. Bernie doesn’t care about Hillary’s emails; doesn’t bother with name-calling or dishonest negative attacks. Bernie Sanders is so uninterested in the superfluous that he once released a political spoken-word folk rock album, and seems to have only recently purchased a comb.bern1

Bernie says what we all know to be true – we’ve lost control of our government. In a true democracy, the will of the people is reflected in public policy. A Princeton study of opinion polls (including incomes) going back to the 1970s showed that the opinions of the American people have zero correlation with public policy (unless the 1% agrees with the rabble). Such is the description of an oligarchy, a plutocracy, a corporatocracy – anything but a representative democracy.

bern20To be clear, simply voting for Bernie this spring and fall won’t be good enough. We don’t elect a dictator. The president needs the cooperation of congress, and divided government is gridlocked government. Bernie needs a majority in congress.  He needs sustained pressure on those elected to change the system they’ve thrived within – to remove the corrupting influence from politics by amending the constitution. (Which requires ratification by 38 states, meaning local elections matter, too.) And to actually show up for the mid-terms.

occupy fuck apathyWe must take an active role if we are to rescue our great nation from the clutches of our corporate overlords. They will kick. They will scream. They will writhe & groan. We must be heard. Whether at the ballot box or the guillotine – there will be revolution.

bern16Eighty-plus percent of Americans (including 80%-plus of both Dems & GOPers alike) believe that there is rampant corruption due to money in politics. Fifty-four percent of Americans (including 51% of Tea Partiers) think we will need a political revolution in the next decade in order to redistribute wealth from the wealthy to the poor, working, & middle-classes. Millennials (under-30) – who’ve grown up in a world of inequity & immobility, of student debt & foreclosures – view Socialism favorably to Capitalism (43% to 32%).

bern13We’re on to them now. The more the corporate media mischaracterize & misrepresent Bernie, the more he is beloved by progressives and independents alike. Their slights & slings only enrage & embolden the believers in this rascally revolutionary. Every super-delegate endorsement sharpens Hillary’s image as the candidate of establishment. Every union & organizational endorsement of Hillary made without first holding a vote of the membership serves to echo Bernie’s message of a stacked deck against the every-man.

bern4Radical? Polls consistently show that Bernie is by far the most concerned with our needs, most authentic, and most trustworthy candidate. Electability? In head-to-head polls, Bernie beats possible GOP opponents by much wider margins than Hillary – across the board. Hillary has 55% unfavorable ratings. She could easily be indicted during the general election. Political favors for Clinton Foundation donors hasn’t yet been scrutinized.

bern18Bernie was at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and was arrested as a student for protesting with the Movement. He was for marriage equality in the 1970s, while Hillary was publicly opposed until 2013. He voted against the Iraq War, she as in support. He was against the Trans Pacific Partnership when Hillary was calling it the gold standard of trade deals. Bernie picketed against NAFTA when Hillary supported it. Bernie has always been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary only recently adopted Bernie’s position. As has often been the case, Hillary was opposed to progressive values when it was convenient, and eventually for progressive values only when convenient.

bern15Bernie says we must fight for what we believe in – Hillary says we must be pragmatic & preserve the status quo. Bernie says we must break up the big banks which are bigger now than before the crash – Hillary says the big banks are just fine as is and have already been reformed by Obama (both authors of the toothless Dodd-Frank now sit on the board of big banks). She brags that she represented Wall Street after 9/11, and told them to cut it out in paid speeches. When Bernie says we need to fight for universal single-payer healthcare, Hillary says we should be pragmatic and surrender to conservatives. When Bernie says we must remove the corrupting influence of money in politics, Hillary scoffs at the very notion of political corruption.

Let Hillary scoff. Let the corporate media establishment scoff. Let them all scoff.Mahatma_Gandhi_Ghp

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mahatma Gandhi

Apple/FBI Squabble Concerns Everything but San Bernardino

Eff_spying_eagleThe most compelling topics are those on which many of us disagree. Liberty & security; nuance & fear – we’re not very good at keeping a sober perspective. We’re easily distracted by shiny objects; easily moved by impulse and emotion.

It is the job of our alphabet boys (and girls) to fight for more access and easier access to our personal information, more intrusion on our civil liberties. That is the role they have taken on, that is their raison d’etre – to keep us safe, of course.

It is expected that intelligence agencies would want to lap up every online search, every chat room discussion, every email exchange, every text, every call, every skype/facetime – to keep us safe…

It is expected that the FBI would want access to a cell phone which could provide evidence the investigation of a terrorist attack.

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_2Unfortunately, it is also expected that the corporate media establishment will utterly fail at their raison d’etre – properly informing the American public. That they would instead exploit our fears in a cynical ploy to exploit our fears for increased ratings. For all of our feigned machismo, the American people are easily exploited by fear – which we simply cannot get enough of. We absolutely adore being terrified, so that we can be swept off of our feet by a strapping authoritarian father-figures who assuage our fears by promising to make the bad men go away.Reagan_Boraxo

airport scanInevitably, chasing away the bogeymen requires our acquiescing liberty for the promise of security. We were warned against such folly by our founding fathers, and yet, such has played out time and again. We were told to fear “Chinamen” so we outlawed opium and denied citizenship. We were told to fear Mexicans, so we (re-branded cannabis and) banned marijuana (sounds more ethnic). We were told to be terrified of the Japanese, so we locked away Japanese-Americans in internment camps and seized their property. We were terrified of black folks practicing their second amendment rights in California, so Saint Reagan signed an assault weapons ban. We were terrified after 9/11, so we started torturing people; we started locking people away without charge; we started assassinating American citizens without trial for saying “death to America.” We make our grandmas & granddads remove their shoes & belts while our sons & daughters are felt up by TSA agents.

Tim_CookNow the FBI is taking Apple to court, and public opinion seems to be split. Is Apple with ISIS? Or is Apple defending our privacy from an intrusive federal government?

For starters, Apple is defending their bottom line – they have shareholders, after all. That said, Apple – specifically Apple CEO Tim Cook – is correct to deny a court order to comply with the FBI in this case.

hooverThe backdrop to all of this, of course, is the fact that the intelligence agencies have done nothing whatsoever to garner any level of trust. Leave aside J. Edgar Hoover, the Red Scare, MLK, the Movement, Watergate… They knew Bin Ladin was preparing to attack us, yet 9/11 still happened. They used falsified & misleading intelligence as evidence to illegally & senselessly invade an uninvolved nation, in Iraq. The Patriot Act immensely expanded their legal authorities (including turning the CIA from a spying agency into a killing agency) with the promise that they would be able to keep us safe. They didn’t see the Boston bombing coming. Didn’t see San Bernardino. (Didn’t see North Korea getting a nuke; didn’t even see the Arab Spring coming.)

Dzhokhar_TsarnaevWhile most of us have been unaware, the Crypto Wars have been waged for decades. Stands to reason, since most of us haven’t had personal devices with encryption capabilities for very long. The past few years though, following every “major” terrorist attack, alphabet boys are trotted onto cable news shows to fret about how that darned encryption might have kept them from preventing the latest attack.James_B._Comey_september_2013

When pressed, they are incapable of pointing to a single attack where either a “backdoor” to encryption (or mass surveillance in general, for that matter) has been used to thwart a major terrorist attack. Not. A. Single. One.

This fact does not keep them, however, from insisting. In this specific case, the FBI is in possession of Syed Farook’s work phone. It is inconceivable that a guy with forethought enough to destroy his personal phone would have used his work phone to communicate with terrorists (he wasn’t associated with any terrorists/organizations, he was simply inspired by online anti-American propaganda). Unfortunately for the FBI, said phone is password protected, and if the password is incorrectly guessed ten times, all data on the device is erased. Thus, the FBI wants Apple to create a backdoor/key in the form of malware that can be uploaded via iOS update which would disable said security function, giving investigators unlimited attempts at guessing the password. While the FBI insists that this “key” would only be used once, this is impossible to guarantee. Tellingly, NY District Attorney Cyrus Vance has 175 more iPhones he can’t wait to unlock – including one belonging to a person suspected of possessing meth – if the court order against Apple is successful (along with numerous other prosecutors, police chiefs, and the like across the nation).

LibertyBellThis isn’t about San Bernardino at all, this isn’t about ISIS, this isn’t about terrorism or national security. The NSA already has access to all of the suspects’ communications. The DOJ already has its case, and the suspect is already dead. This is about legal precedent. The FBI/DOJ points to a law from the 1700s which compels third parties to hand over evidence. This is a different thing entirely. The US government wants to force a private company to develop technology which does not currently exist. Technology which, if created, would undermine the business model of a very profitable corporation. If the US government can compel Apple to undermine their security functions in order to gain access to a given device, so will China, so will Russia. Any government anywhere in the world could (and would immediately) demand access to anyone’s device they happen to be interested in. There would suddenly be numerous “keys” into everyone’s devices all over the world – easy pickings for hackers. The increased security features of each successive iOS model are a major selling point of the product. Undermining product security features at the behest of the government would inevitably lead to a decrease in sales (and trust).

Irregardless, encryption would still be in demand for those interested in privacy for whatever personal reasons. Foreign companies out of FBI reach would fill the gap in the market. The bad guys would simply buy new devices, rendering Apple’s cooperation moot.

Flickr_-_The_U.S._Army_-_Staying_connectedAll of our communications, all of our contacts, our pictures, our passwords, our banking information, our health information – all of it is on our personal devices. We must demand a reasonable expectation to privacy. We must demand that code have first amendment protection. All of this little more than a workaround of that pesky 4thAmendment right to privacy which our alphabet boys so despise.