The Benghazi Report – June 28, 2016

 

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Obviously I am writing this and I have not read the 800 pages in the Benghazi Report. I will wait for the summary assigned to some poor intern who will have to read the whole thing, or perhaps it will be split up and shared out among interns. But I have a few things to say and luckily because of free speech I can say them. Besides the fact that Trey Gowdy always looks about twelve, I have to say, for the record, that despite his seemingly boyish appearance, I do not trust him. He is the king of innuendo. Innuendo is a technique to make someone look guilty when there is not enough evidence to prove that they actually are. I believe that he made his conclusions before the committee was ever convened and that he engineered what went on in the committee to give credence to his interpretation of events. I watched him interview witnesses and he did not let them speak. It was not conducted as an investigation but as a tribunal.

Trey Gowdy says that this report is not about one person, and he is probably telling the truth. This is about elections – the one in 2012 and the one in 2016. Republicans are rabid to win the Presidency and they have proven it by their strategies in the states and in the Congress. The GOP believes that if the Obama administration had stressed that this was a terrorist attack happening on 9/11 then the GOP would have won the 2012 election. If they can prove that the Democrats in office deliberately dithered about their response to the Benghazi attacks because their actions would hurt them in the imminent election, and that our American guys died for reasons of political expediency, it will so disgust Americans that they will have to turn against the Democratic Party and vote for the Republican candidate even if it is Donald Trump. He uses the buck stops with her argument to convict Hillary.

Historically, diplomats have been killed during several different administrations. I have looked it up before. It is in the record. It is still unclear, after listening to the discussion on the news this morning, if a rescue force could have reached Benghazi. The chatter still says that is was impossible. Trey Gowdy asks why we didn’t have troops in the area, as if Libya were the only trouble spot in these chaotic times.

These terrorist attacks apparently happened fast, they were very effective, and they were secret. This certainly has implications for our lack of intelligence, which we have discussed often enough and which still seems to require plenty of attention, our progress more like two steps forward; one step back. It is sad if all that dithering really happened with our troops changing in and out of uniforms four times as reported. If the plane could still have not reached Benghazi on time anyway then at least the dithering did not affect the outcome and is included in the report as a rebuke on guess who.

Gowdy says they do not blame Hillary in the report and although they may not do so in so many words it is baked into the cake so to speak, otherwise why the talk about private emails they were able to get access to. Two committee members issued a report that does blame Hillary and says that Hillary’s leadership was “morally reprehensible”. They did not discuss all of the reasons for their conclusion about Hillary’s character but there is an implication that she was more worried about Libya than she was about our embassy people or that she dithered because this would have changed the outcome of the election (how guilty is Obama you are meant to ask). Either way this ancillary report suggests that these brave men died for reasons of political expediency and that the blame rests with the Democrats who have shown a depraved lack of true patriotic values.

One could propose a counter theory (of the conspiracy variety of course) that this attack seems to have happened at a key moment and that perhaps the GOP, so desperate to hold all the power in Washington, may have ordered this stealth attack so they would win the election – and it would have had just as much basis in fact. Impugning someone’s character in this case cost the American people $7 million dollars for a skewed committee to try to find out what was going on in the black box of Democratic minds during Benghazi. But our brains are not like the black boxes on airplanes. We don’t yet know how to access the contents.

It is still sad and always will be sad to think of these American citizens in a foreign land facing such unequal odds. It is horrific to remember over and over again that they died in the awareness that they would die and that they were not soldiers in a war but were in that country to promote peace and fairness and freedom. America will always mourn these dedicated men.

Elect Women in 2016

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Let us make this the year of the women in politics.  We should elect women in 2016, as many women as possible. The men have not been doing such a good job of it lately. We are divided and we are in a war of wills. It is men, for the most part, who have divided us. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin – all men. Congress is made up of a male majority and has been since our nation’s birth. Women are said to be more communal and more willing to listen and try, as much as possible, to satisfy all parties on any given issue. In fact I am just reading a current nonfiction book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant and the author cites studies that show that women have difficulty succeeding if they are not able to choose an approach that looks communal, as opposed to being perceived as making a bid for personal promotion. Men are not judged in this way.

Our majority male Congress has been unable to set aside personal politics in order to look objectively at our country, in order to make some practical decisions that will unlock this stalemate between the policies of austerity and tough love and the policies of stimulus and compassion, which would allow them to address 21st century problems. They seem stuck in offering only 19th century solutions that look to reproducing a time of past prosperity which cannot be recaptured, when they could be listening and learning about what might work to take us into our real future (They want to reboot a past that only seems rosy in retrospect). There is little reason to look back. Personally the wealthy are doing very well right now. They lament that America just doesn’t feel like the same old America as they stick with old legislation which is clearly producing an unbalanced economy. They will not suddenly be poor even if they change the laws to restore more balance to America’s economy.

Men in Congress right now, and Congress is dominated by Conservative men these days, think that old policies like trickle-down economics, free trade, deregulation, cuts to social programs, privatizing pensions, and busting unions will bring back prosperity but since they have already basically had their way for the past 6 years we can already see that these ideas don’t work. They have our government in a stranglehold however and will not give any other ideas a test drive.

Electing more women to Congress, reasonable, educated women (not women like Sarah Palin) may be just what we need to break the deadlock and let some fresh air float around those fusty old men (actually many of the young ones also seem fusty – just listen to Paul Ryan). Perhaps the women would be less invested in maintaining lockstep adherence to talking points. Perhaps some wiggle room could be found for reform and for legislating for “we the people”, as opposed to worshiping those with way too much money and thinking that they will do what is good for America, when all they really care about doing is shoveling bucks into their own offshore bank accounts.

So I do think we should elect Hillary Clinton, and that she should pick Elizabeth Warren as her VP if she thinks they can work together. And I think we should elect every down-ballot woman who is running – at least the Democrats (and maybe the Republican women also). Rutgers University produces this list of women running in down-ballot elections and they keep it updated so it is a great resource if you want to keep track of how women are doing. I’m a girl. This, I believe, is the year for girl power. Send the ladies to Congress and save America.

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2016 Election: Should One Party Control All Three Branches of Government?

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If we elect a Republican President, we will, for the first time ever give Republicans control of all three branches of government. I might start an argument with this statement, but I can offer justification for it. In the past the Supreme Court has not been counted when determining the balance of power in Washington because the Supreme Court has been held to be nonpartisan. However, if you have been paying attention to politics recently, Republicans and Democrats each give being able to fill the current and any near-term empty seats on the Court with nominees generated by their particular party as a deciding factor in who we should elect.

The Republicans tell their people that appointments to the Supreme Court are the most important reason to elect a Republican President, even if it is Donald Trump. We already have Donald’s list of eleven people that Republicans might like to appoint to the Court during their tenure. Does this sound nonpartisan to you? And of course the Democrats would also like to make the next court appointments. In fact there is a vacancy right now and we do have a Democrat for a President. Obama has played nice and picked a moderate appointee but Republicans will not even give this respected figure consideration.

I do not believe that we can count the Supreme Court or even the Federal Courts as being nonpartisan any longer and this puts justice up for grabs. Whose brand of justice shall we have? The courts are not big prizes for “we the people” in elections because we don’t elect most judges. They are appointed by the President and approved by Congress. They are usually appointed for life which makes the courts a prize that keeps on giving even after your party has left office. Right now the Federal Courts are overwhelmingly in the hands of Conservative appointees and there are many vacancies which should have been filled by President Obama and might have been filled given a more moderate Republican Party. This incarnation of the Republican Party, extreme and very right wing, in take-no-prisoner’s mode, has left many benches empty rather than allow Obama’s appointments to be seated. In this way the GOP turns the courts into a bipartisan branch of our government and they are holding the courts hostage until we elect a Republican President or until they lose their majority.

It is fairly common for one party to control the Executive and Legislative branches of our government but it is difficult to get any information about control of the Supreme Court because the myth remains that it is a nonpartisan body even when everyday evidence suggests that it is not so. Yesterday was a perfect example because the number of justices, usually 9, is down to 8 Supremes so the Court is giving us a string of 4-4 tied decisions on a number of what could have been landmark cases. The fact that there can be a tie proves that the court is bipartisan and, while John Roberts was crossing party lines according to his reading of the law and his conscience, he is less likely to put himself in such a position right now, although he might do so if the case were so important that not deciding it would destroy America. Let’s hope we don’t have to test that out.

I am just trying to make sure that we are all very clear about the ramifications of electing any Republican as our President in 2016, whether it is Mr. Trump or not. If you do this thing (because I will not), unless at least one House of Congress changes its majority party, you will give Republicans carte blanche to enact their entire program which will include things like closing the Department of Education, closing the Department of Commerce, and perhaps a few others in order to drastically downsize government.

The GOP may not immediately make Social Security a voucher program but they will pare our social safety net to the bone and whether you are poor or not, it will affect your life. They will bust our labor unions and they will deregulate Wall Street, banking, and investing and you will let them because they will tell you that it will bring jobs back (which I very much doubt). They will cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans. They will change our health care system by repealing the Affordable Care Act and I am betting we will lose coverage for pre-existing conditions. And if Donald gets his way they will build a wall, leave NATO, and round up illegal immigrants for expulsion. The list is long and you can hear them extol it every day. And they will pack those courts with so many Conservatives that no woman in America will ever be able to choose whether or not she wants to start a family or have another child for decades and we will be finding a lot more religion mixed into our governance.

So I am asking Americans to exercise some restraint and common sense and to not let all three branches of our government fall under the control of one party. There will be no checks; there will be no balances. The GOP will just have their way with us and it will be the end of our grand experiment in Democracy.

(Today, 6/24/2016, the UK decided to Brexit the EU, a decision whose impetus came from emotions very similar to those felt by the American Trump faction. We will have until November to see how such nationalism works for Great Britain. Will humanistic isolation serve them well? Should everyone retire to their separate corners? Does the world need a time out? November is probably too close to give us a true picture of the effects of this stunning move by the people of Great Britain, but we might get some clues. And if we decide to go with the GOP in the 2016 election it comes with lots of other baggage besides nationalism, which takes us back to the question of whether or not we want one party in control of all three branches of our government.)

Implications of Orlando and Beyond

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For a while I loved reading anthropological fiction based on information gleaned from artefacts, but peopled with made-up characters – an entire fleshed-out primitive culture based only on tools, pottery shards, bones, cave drawings and other evidence uncovered at sites where ancient people once lived. Jean Auel was one of my favorite authors in this genre. She wrote Clan of the Cave Bear and all the sequels that followed. Kathleen O’Neal Gear was another favorite writing about early “tribes” of people on the American continent.

The caves where early man lived, and the long houses, offered little privacy, although there was also comfort in proximity. Family groups, separated by their fires had no walls between one family and the next. One author suggested that there was a kind of unwritten rule to “mind your own campfire.” I am sure that this rule was sometimes ignored and that even the earliest people liked to “gossip”, but there were social repercussions for serious disregard of familial privacy. We will come back to this.

On another thread, our government is designed the way it is because our forefathers came from England and Western Europe where government leaders and church leaders engaged in a constant series of struggles to determine which group should have the most power. For many years the church was firmly in charge. But strong monarchs who felt they held their thrones by “divine right” did not worry so much about challenging the Pope. The impact of the see-saw squabbles between powerful forces hit the subjects/citizens hard.

In England alone, one day people were safe as Catholics, but the next monarch was a Protestant and hunted down Catholics. Eventually both of these religions were discarded and the Anglican Church was formed, leaving both devout Catholics and Protestants in jeopardy. Today England has made a successful marriage of church and state, but when the colonists came to America that was not the case either in England or on the continent and so our forefathers legislated the separation of church and state and also freedom of religion.

Except in Spain the Muslim religion was not an issue as America was being born but I still don’t believe that our forefathers would ever have said that only Christians should be free to worship as they please. It does seem clear to most of us that our forebears would not require the Federal government of the United States of America to follow the dictates of any particular religion.

Republicans, who hate that women are free to make their own choices about whether to end a pregnancy or carry a fetus to term, want to make us believe that our forefathers did not actually separate church and state, that they were all Christians, and that the freedom they wrote into our founding documents referred only to Christians. They want to deny the separation of church and state because their case against Roe v. Wade is argued on grounds of Christian morality which is at odds with such a separation. In other words, they want to impose a Fundamentalist interpretation of religion on all of us.

The Republicans also want to exclude all Muslims from immigrating to America because they see possible clashes between Christians and Muslims in America. Lately if seems as if the Crusades were simply put on hold and are now in danger of being resurrected. But the freedom of religion our forefathers laid down in our founding documents is not a qualified freedom; it applies to all. In addition to the rights of women we now have Americans who are unhappy that human rights have been extended to same-sex couples. Many Christians believe God would not like this – it is against the Bible – it is an abomination – it is Sodom and Gomorrah. These folks carry hate and anger in their hearts and fear of their God.

Apparently the Muslim religion finds same-sex relationships unnatural also and they are equally anathema; a sign of a decadent culture that is off the rails and therefore a target-rich situation for a militant “hero” who plans to be rewarded in “the next life”. I suppose some American Christians might be horrified if they could really see the connection they have on this issue with radical Muslims. Although the GOP inveighs against Sharia law, the moral judgments of the two groups are very similar.

So here we have this social group – gay people, LGBT+ or any other identifier – that is a focus of hatred for at least two groups of Fundamentalists that are committing vigilante acts in a country that believes that there is a firm separation between the secular and the religious. They are operating outside the laws of the nation but they believe they are operating within a higher law, the law of their God. (Christians Pro Life groups have murdered abortion providers and have vilified same-sex relationships and radical Muslims might kill almost any Christian but also use same-sex relationships to focus their religious rage.)

I guess we are at a moment when it will be decided whether our societies will be ruled by God or by man. Either way we are still dealing with man’s interpretations of religious laws written tens of centuries ago and documents written several centuries ago. Except that today we have a global population of trillions and complex cultures that have resulted from organizing so many humans, so trying to literally follow laws made for sparsely populated somewhat nomadic desert cultures presents many anomalies, not least of which is who gets to decide what is the appropriate literal interpretation of those ancient laws.

How will we resolve this dilemma – this war of ideals between citizens who believe in the separation of church and state and the human rights of all, and citizens who feel that government is treading on the turf of religion? Granting human rights to folks whose sexual orientation is often genetically coded into their DNA seems appropriate. In fact, in a culture that celebrates freedom, insuring the human rights of all who are not criminals should be desirable. However, for some, granting human rights to some folks turns those who have a religious objection not only into losers but into sinners.

So this whole train of thought brings us back to our very earliest forbears and their unwritten rule to “mind their own campfire.” It is certainly overly simplistic but if people only made it their mantra we might take scary hot- button trends that are escalating and calm them down, defuse them, so that our new refrain could be more “live and let live” and less of a personal/sacred affront that must be avenged to insure an afterlife in whatever heaven one subscribes to. These days we say “mind your own business” and it would be great if people practiced this whenever possible, meaning whenever life or safety are not an issue.

Because our Congress refuses to act, this the best idea I have after the terrible events in Orlando this weekend and it isn’t much against bullets, hate, and fear. But the larger implications of Orlando and beyond tell us that until it is decided just how much religion we want in our government and how many guns it will take to satisfy the Second Amendment it may be best to stay as simple as possible.

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Celebrating Hillary and History

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Bear with me while I do a little celebration for one historical bit of progress made here in June of 2016. We have just managed to win enough votes in the primary for a woman to become the presumptive nominee of a major political party; the Democrats, of course. It is probably difficult for some of you to understand, as we perhaps come at this from different perspectives of age, gender, political persuasion, but to have this happen in my lifetime is even better than flying cars (although I saw a great one the other day on Facebook).

“YIPPEE” (Sorry that just slipped out.)

We have been one of the most backward nations in this regard, perhaps because some of our men (and a surprising number of them are Republicans) think they are cowboys, and they don’t like to give up any of their power. Not wanting to give up power, however, can also be a sign that the strength of these men does not run deep, that they need a level of support which makes them seem unsure of their place, and that they must constantly be on the offensive. I guess they don’t see that this actually makes them look defensive and weak. Please do not accuse me of lumping all men into one category. I see lots of very healthy and evolved men who are loving, supportive, and not at all threatened by women who are good leaders. They just don’t seem to be in Congress right now.

“I’M SO EXCITED…”  (Oops, a hiccup.)

I ask you to bear with me if you wanted Bernie Sanders as our next President (although it sounds like he may still be calling for “the revolution” to win the day in this regard). Bernie doesn’t look like a leader of a revolt to me right now, just someone who can’t accept when he has lost. I have faith that Bernie Sanders will see some of his wishes for the people fulfilled; but he lost, so I doubt he will get total satisfaction unless there truly is a revolution or the super delegates do a 180 degree turn.

Bernie taught us something very important. He taught us that you can run for office without being a millionaire/billionaire if you understand the needs of the people and if you can project your message with power and authenticity. He taught us that there are ways to get big money out of politics, that we don’t need that Citizens United v FEC decision or the deliberate avoidance of any laws to control dark money in politics. This is an area that is ripe for reform and I hope that it is something Hillary will tackle after she wins in November.

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“SO NOT MEH!”

I also ask you to let me have my mini-celebration now, which I hope will turn into a great big one in November because I know that Hillary Clinton is not everyone’s cup of tea. The people who become leaders by catching a wave of a moment in history when their beliefs, experiences, character traits, or passions are resonating are never perfect. Some are beloved, some are not. Some grow on us, some don’t. Apparently a few of those suffragettes were slightly insufferable. So is Hillary to some of you, although I think the women at least should be more sympathetic and understand the sacrifices Hillary had to make to get to this historical position she has just arrived at. She was not born to a wealthy family although she and Bill did find affluence in politics and law (which many see as suspicious, as proof of unethical practices). She went through the same struggles as any mother in those days torn between staying home to raise and enjoy a child or pursuing a career, especially a high-powered career with a grueling schedule. Chelsea seems to have turned out just fine and is still close to both her mom and her dad, perhaps a sign that Hillary and Bill hit the right balance. You might like to read this article from the NYT’s Sunday Review.

We do not assume that every time a man gets wealthy in public office that he must have taken influence money or sold his support to the highest bidder, even though men have a high incidence of unethical behavior in political circles. Why do we have to believe that this woman, who has come this far, cheated and lied to do so? Perhaps many of us believe it because FOX news says it every day, makes little movies about it, propaganda films that are much more ads than they are news. All I can say to the Hillary haters is “stop watching FOX News.”

So, after apologizing to everyone who might be offended in advance, I will do my little end zone dance – not the one that signals we have won the whole game yet, just the one that acknowledges a touchdown, a milestone for women (and men) in United States history. This is a happy moment, and it is one for the history books, so take a moment to acknowledge its importance and give Hillary and History a high five.

YAY! HUZZAH! BRAVO!

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Hillary Clinton: Also a Revolutionary

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In some ways Hillary Clinton is more of a revolutionary than Bernie Sanders. At least she is if you are a woman and/or you have children. Many women spend their lives helping women make ends meet financially, or helping women find ways to feed their children, or helping families get health care, or day care, or care for a disabled child or a child in trouble. These women (and, of course, some men) are social workers. They work hard, they see many sad things, they often have at least a master’s degree, and they are not very well paid for all they do hooking up people in need with the services that offer assistance. Sometimes they must face the fact that there are situations for which there is no assistance and they must live with a sense of failure, sorrow, and guilt. I’m sure there are times when they help people who are demanding and not particularly nice or cooperative and that is also frustrating and stressful.

Hillary Clinton has lived a life of social service despite the fact that she had a law degree and could have had a high-powered law career. But she came of age in a time of activism, a time when wrongs were being righted and that spirit of activism which she found on her college campus has continued to animate her throughout her career, even during her years as first lady. Like other “social workers” she often made considerably less money in order to work on behalf of women and children (even teenagers). Of course, once she married, money was not likely an issue for her as it has been for many of us, but she did not stop and become a lady of leisure, or an empty-headed social butterfly. She always has worked to make life better for all Americans. And even when she became Secretary of State and her world was the whole planet she just simply widened her sphere of activism to include women and children around the globe.

I don’t believe that most of us held on to our activist natures as we aged. Many of us had to work to live and our work place employers did not necessary love activism, although charity was quite acceptable. It became difficult in our adult years to be crusaders because we were either keeping our heads above water and focused on having some independence in our old age or we were sometimes close to or falling over the edge and needed some of the very services that social work provided.

But Hillary Clinton was wealthy enough and stayed independent enough to continue to be an activist almost all of her life. Are female revolutionaries different from men who tend to be more like disrupters? Are their activities perhaps more subtle and not as expansive and cult-like? Perhaps gender helps explain why Hillary’s activism may just be dismissed as women’s work. I don’t know if the same sexism operates here as in other parts of our culture. At least attend for a minute to this list of her accomplishments and although this list is from a left wing media source, the Daily Kos, you will find that it is merely a factual list in which every item has been and can be fact-checked.

  • First ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley College.
    •President of the Wellesley Young Republicans
    •Intern at the House Republican Conference
    •Distinguished graduate of Yale Law School
    •Editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action
    •Appointed to Senator Walter Mondale’s Subcommittee on Migratory Labor.
    •Co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
    •Staff attorney for Children’s Defense Fund
    •Faculty member in the School of Law at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
    •Former Director of the Arkansas Legal Aid Clinic.
    •First female chair of the Legal Services Corporation
    •First female partner at Rose Law Firm.
    •Former civil litigation attorney.
    •Former Law Professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
    •twice listed by The National Law Journal as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America
    •Former First Lady of Arkansas.
    •Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983
    •Chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession
    •twice named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America
    •created Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth
    •led a task force that reformed Arkansas’s education system
    •Board of directors of Wal-Mart and several other corporations
    •Instrumental in passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
    •Promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses
    •Successfully sought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and childhood asthma at the National Institutes of Health
    •Worked to investigate reports of an illness that affected veterans of the Gulf War (now recognized as Gulf War Syndrome)
    •Helped create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice
    •Initiated and shepherded the Adoption and Safe Families Act
    •First FLOTUS in US History to hold a postgraduate degree
    •Traveled to 79 countries during time as FLOTUS
    •Helped create Vital Voices, an international initiative to promote the participation of women in the political processes of their countries.
    •Served on five Senate committees:
    -Committee on Budget (2001–2002)
    -Committee on Armed Services (2003–2009)
    -Committee on Environment and Public Works (2001–2009)
    -Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (2001–2009)
    -Special Committee on Aging.
    •Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
    •Instrumental in securing $21 billion in funding for the World Trade Center site’s redevelopment
    •Leading role in investigating the health issues faced by 9/11 first responders.
    •In the aftermath of September 11th, she worked closely with her senior Senate counterpart from New York, Sen. Charles Schumer, on securing $21.4 billion in funding for the World Trade Center redevelopment.
    • Middle East ceasefire. In November 2012, Secretary of State Clinton brokered a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
    •Introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act, intended to protect children from inappropriate content found in video games.
    •First ex-FLOTUS in US History to be elected to the United States Senate (and re-elected)
    •Two-term New York Senator
    -(senate stats here: https://www.govtrack.us/…)
    -(voting record here: http://votesmart.org/…)
    •Former US Secretary of State
    •GRAMMY Award Winner
    •Author

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/9/17/1422403/-Hillary-Clinton-s-Record-of-Accomplishments

This comparison of Hillary vs Bernie  is perhaps a bit unfair because I don’t have at hand a list of Bernie’s accomplishments, although I will eventually do a search for this. But I will say, that although Bernie’s “revolution” is not only directed at women and children, although he would like to make the economy of America work differently and be fairer in the way money is distributed, I don’t have the sense that Bernie has gotten his hands right into the dough, so to speak, and helped make the pizza. Until recently Bernie served in peaceful anonymity in the ranks of the US Congress and, although he had a consistent point of view, he was not able to impose much of it on the dialogue or make many laws that brought any significant changes for the American people.

Bernie Sanders seems to be in a carpe diem (seize the day) moment and now suddenly at the age of 74 he is grabbing for that powerful seat that he hopes will let him put a new stamp on America. He will turn America from the oligarchy it is becoming back into the democracy it is supposed to be. He will put his hands into the pockets of those who have made themselves wealthy at the people’s expense and he will take some of the filthy lucre back and put it to work giving all of us better lives.

I admit that this sounds pretty good. Yay for revolution. But there are so many questions. Will he have to disband Congress to make this happen, Congress which is at least half full of millionaires? What will the “new” economy be like? Will it be like the “old” economy only fairer? Will Wall Street be gone or will it just be less cutthroat and greedy? If the financiers on Wall Street lose their edge will the American economy still be competitive in the wide world? How much chaos will it take to replace the “Capitalists” in Congress with people who will be determined to keep money out of politics? What will happen if he wins the Presidency and he loses the revolution?

Hillary is a revolutionary who stays within the system, tries to change it from within, fights for fairness through social programs and human services and the education and empowerment of women. Bernie is a revolutionary who wants to blow up the system, to change it to something perhaps unrecognizable. It might be much better than what we have; it might be worse. We are not clear about exactly what he wants to do, what steps he wants to take, what the end product will look like and feel like.

With Hillary we get a passion for people, with Bernie we get a passion for “real” democracy. I may be choosing Hillary because I am a chicken, too chicken to want systemic change. Or I may be choosing Hillary because she will work within the system and try to bring everyone along with her and the system will remain the America we recognize. Perhaps Hillary will not be able to accomplish any of her goals to make life better for average Americans. Perhaps blowing up government or as the Republicans want to do shutting down government are the only choices we are left with. Perhaps we should give one more try to the old way where our elected representatives knuckle down and hammer out laws that truly reflect the needs of the people they serve. But to not elect Hillary Clinton because she is not authentic and not a true activist is to be uninformed about her life and her career.

By Nancy Brisson

 

Bernie Flaws

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I am always talking about what imperfect beings people are. If you’re a believer then it goes right back to those two original forebears of ours, Adam and Eve. They could have left us full of blissful ignorance and innocence but they were weak and so we have dual natures. Each one of us holds the paradoxes within us, in differing proportions, because of so many variables like our nurture in childhood, the social circumstances into which we are born, the cultural context that surrounds us during our relatively short lives.

We hold strengths and at the same time weaknesses, we are good and we are bad, we have talents and things that we seem to have little skill for, we are both stable and unstable at times, happy and depressed, healthy and unhealthy, brilliant and dumb all mixed in an infinite array that makes each one of us unique in spite of our similarities. If you are not a believer it is almost enough to make you believe that the Christian origin story holds more than a kernel of truth. Or we are just made this way?

What we also know to be true is that all of our actions, our inventions, our discoveries, and our endeavors hold the same human paradoxes within them; that they can be used for good or for evil; that they can make our lives worse or better. We know that a flawed human can twist anything to evil purposes or a human with better motives or character can act from strength and get positive results from the same event, invention, idea or strategy. Nuclear energy is probably our clearest example of this – used benignly it can provide power to run the devices that make our lives more comfortable – used as a weapon it can wipe out cities.

We get this stuff on a cosmic level, but we also understand that these same paradoxes operate in our daily lives. So I accept and perhaps you do also that Hillary Clinton is both experienced and flawed. I accept that she made a mistake choosing a private server if only because it gave her many enemies an opening to argue that she was either planning to have a way to hide information or that she is capable of making bad choices, both things we don’t really look for in a person running for President of the United States. However, all Presidents make mistakes given the complex issues they deal with minute to minute. Sometimes we get a leader who seems to make brilliant decisions but we usually don’t know that until we get some historical perspective on their legacy. And from the distance offered by time we are able to see that mistakes were also made.

However it seems that people have difficulty seeing the flaws that Bernie Sanders might have. His message is so consistent and has been for so many years that he seems steady and dedicated. Recent events reveal that Bernie Sanders is starting to show the ways in which his very strengths might also be his weaknesses. Bernie is showing himself to be a bit compulsive these days. He does not seem to be terribly flexible.

He cannot seem to show us the practical details that will allow him to effectively change things in Washington and in America. How does he plan to win new rights for workers? How does he plan to rein in Wall Street without tanking our already hobbled economy? How will he find the money for strengthening benefits? Can he raise the taxes on the wealthy? In almost every area we see the need to change the way wealth moves in America and the need for fairness to equalize privilege. It makes sense to us but Bernie Sanders has not really spelled out how he intends to get us there. So his message may be all to the good, but his vagueness and the way his specifics are sort of stored in the “cloud” and inaccessible may not be all to the good.

And again I suggest that Bernie Sanders is almost coming off a bit obsessive-compulsive lately. He said he would have a fifty state strategy, which is fine, but he doesn’t seem inclined or able to make adjustments for the good of the Democratic Party. I suppose if you are staging a Revolution you need to be a revolutionary, not someone who compromises. But is Bernie’s defensiveness and his meanness actually resulting from an inability to be flexible, to have a certain degree of political nimbleness? He has remained true to socialist principles for so many decades while America wanted nothing to do with socialism.

Personally, I do not believe that socialism is necessary in a democracy because government is already of the people, by the people, and for the people. Where I do agree with Bernie is when he recounts how far away we are from a true democracy. It is not socialism I fight for, it is democracy. In a democracy we don’t need socialism because we are the people and we take care of all the people. But if our democracy is becoming or has already become an oligarchy then Mr. Sanders is right in arguing that the people (all the people) need to take back their government and that this will probably mean making money talk less and every vote count more. However we must accept that if rich folks take their money out of government, which they have shown a willingness to do, there may be fewer things our government can do for ‘we the people’.

But what really bothers me is how Bernie Sanders has seemed more and more like a curmudgeon lately, so intent on his own business that he barely notices what is going on around him. He does not admonish Donald Trump in any sustained way for his outrageous pronouncements and astonishingly unevolved policies. He does not raise money for down-party candidates (except that he did find three worthy souls). He fights with Democratic Party leaders and threatens to bring revolution to the Democratic Convention. He has a right to do these things but they are not done in a manner that suggests strength and composure. They are done with old man bitterness and complaints about bad rules and stacked decks. Instead of sounding like an eventual winner, he just sounds like a sore loser. Bernie Sanders does have flaws and lately he is showing them to us almost every day. If you’re planning to vote for him because you think he is Mr. Wonderful, then I guess you won’t have noticed that he is just looking like Mr. Ticked Off.

Purity

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Purity is probably the word of the day, or the summer, or the year. Panera promises us food that is clean and pure. (I keep picturing a raccoon at a stream washing its food.) I recently read Jonathan Franzen’s book Purity (you can see my review on Goodreads). Bernie Sanders is idolized for his political purity. Conservatives have been testing candidates for purity for ages. In fact Conservatives punish Republicans who don’t toe the Conservative line closely enough by putting up opponents against them in primaries and funding these bought candidates with millionaires’ money, thereby stripping the impure ones of power. It is sort of like being cashiered from the French Foreign Legion and having those buttons cut from your uniform with a sword. Eric Cantor knows all about this.

But Jonathan Franzen and I both have doubts about claims of purity by anyone, given our flawed natures. Our philosophical selves tell us that purity is something that is an ideal worth striving for as long as we realize that it is a goal that probably can only be attained in small matters for limited amounts of time. You may argue that Panera really is removing artificial (manmade) ingredients from its dishes. You may argue that they are trying to choose only the healthiest items from the most organic and natural sources for their offerings and I do not doubt that they giving diners some really trendy choices that attempt to taste good without resorting to the usual American options that are deep fried and generously salted or sugared. Does their ad make me want to eat at Panera? I’m sorry to say it does not but it may be motivating others. Cynically it may just be an advertising ploy to point out the recent difficulties that Chipotle has experienced and to try to tempt their customers to come eat at a place that has not had these kinds of problems.

I recall when my good friend had a young daughter that she wanted to protect from a germy world. We could never be sanitary enough to satisfy her in her campaign to rid her daughter’s world of all bacteria (except the ones in yogurt). We called her The Germinator. She grew up in a country family with 10 children. I’m sure that her family was just like my family with 8 children. My mom never knew that we made mud pies we actually tried to eat. We examined every bug we could find up close and personally. We played for hours on end in the sand pile which could well have been used as a toilet by any number of animals. We waded in ponds full of algae to catch tadpoles. Our exposure to germs actually may have made us healthier. It seems that purity is not always advantageous.

People learn to be compassionate and aware of the shortcomings and the needs of the other people around them by living lives that entail both good times and bad times, both easy times and hard times. Panera cannot protect us from all the impurities that might be in food in these times of corporate crops and too many people and food that travels from distant places and is grown in ways that cannot be completely controlled. Purity seems a bit too “precious” a thing to worry about; a thing that only a society that is a too affluent and too comfortable has time to think about. There are children who survive every day by picking through rubbish on dumps.

I am not saying that we should not applaud people who strive for purity, but I am saying we should be skeptical of people who claim to have captured that elusive thing called purity. I do not believe those Bernie Bros and millennials who worship the purity of Bernie Sanders. Bernie has too much compassion for the less fortunate to have lived a life without painful decisions and hard times. That he is basically a good guy, I believe. That he is pure, I do not. This is the kind of argument that makes Bernie’s followers sound like they are in danger of becoming a cult. Bernie cannot give us a “pure” America. If he did it would not be a society that lived and evolved. It would have to be static. I think I would be as adverse to a “clean and pure” America as I am to that ad that keeps saying how “clean and pure” the food is at Panera’s. Sorry Panera. Sorry Bernie Bros. My apologies millennials.